A judgment of fact by which the deposit of revealed truth is applied to contingent realities, i.e., to particular persons, objects, and occurrences: e.g., the reigning pontiff is the authentic successor to St. Peter; Vatican II was an ecumenical council; the Canon of the Mass is free from doctrinal error; the propositions contained in a particular book concerning the faith are in error; this version of the Bible faithfully reproduces the sacred writings.
The magisterium may define infallibly such propositions, since it falls within its competence infallibly to guard as well as to explain the revealed deposit for the whole church. Those facts that are necessarily connected with the fulfillment of this office may be infallibly declared as true.
A dogmatic fact is distinguished from a particular fact. The latter is a proposition of a religious truth that does not involve or demand the faith of the whole church: e.g., this host is consecrated; this marriage is valid. In judging such facts the church may be mistaken, since a judgment depends upon fallible elements: e.g., one party to the marriage may have falsified his intention. For such facts the church does not demand an act of faith from all its members.
Bibliography: h. bacht, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 3:456–457. c. journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate, v.1, tr. a. h. c. downes (New York 1955) 341. i. salaverri, Sacrae theologiae summa, ed. fathers of the society of jesus, professors of the theological faculties in spain, 4 v. (Madrid) 1.3:702.
[a. e. green]