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The Magisterium and the Dilemma of Dissent

August 3, AD2017

Magisterium

There used to be a time when many of the world’s Catholic Christians submitted to the Church’s vision of faith and morals. The teaching authority of the Church was respected and trusted by Catholics the world over. However, the 21st century is a different time. There are more baptized Catholics now than ever before. Sadly, many of our brothers and sisters have either not been properly catechized, have become lukewarm to the faith, or have completely lapsed from the faith yet may still make a claim to a sort of Catholic identity.

What Is the Magisterium?

In all three cases, there is a common thread: the opinions of the secular world creep in and replace the Catholic worldview to which these people, at one time, purported to adhere. We call this authority the Magisterium of the Church. Before we continue, it’s necessary that we understand exactly what this Magisterium is. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it in this way:

… [T]his Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully.

Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”, the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms. …

“By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium), … receives … the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. … The People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life.” (CCC 86-87, 93)

Large numbers of Catholics worldwide ignore the Magisterium on a variety of subjects. Since they ignore and dissent from this “sacred teaching authority”, they are faced with a dilemma. If the Church is wrong about any of its teachings, even just one, this is tantamount to admitting that Jesus is a false god, because He allowed the Church He founded to teach error. This brings up a pressing question: are dissenting Catholics ready to admit this?

Case in Point: Contraception

Recently in the news, we have an example of a dissenting Catholic in Melinda Gates, who was baptized Catholic as a child and is the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Gates is very well known for promoting artificial contraception both in the United States and abroad, especially in poorer countries. In a radio interview for the BBC, Gates made it clear that she and the Pope “agree to disagree” on the morality of contraception.

Gates went on to say, “It’s been a while since [the Catholic Church] revisited this topic [of contraception] — but I’m still optimistic that they might [change the teaching] over time.” This is a reference to Blessed Pope Paul VI’s remarkable encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reconfirmed the constant teaching of the Catholic Church:

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means. Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one [i.e., poverty] … (HV 4.2-3).

At this point, I’d like to make clear that we could talk about a number of issues that modern Catholics dissent on; from state sanctioned homosexual marriage to abortion, to in vitro fertilization and cloning, to the benefits of Freemasonry. But as this contraception issue is in the news now, let’s focus on this avenue as we try to show why a rejection of Church teaching on one issue of faith or morals necessarily entails a rejection of Jesus’ Church (not to mention, a rejection of Jesus Himself) as a whole.

Who is Right?

At another point in the interview, Gates opines, “… I think what this pope sees is that if we are going to lift people out of poverty, you have to do the right thing for women.”  By “right thing”, she, of course, means giving and promoting artificial contraception to women in poverty.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. How does Gates gauge whether a certain thing or activity is “right” or not? Does she believe that the Church can make an accurate pronouncement on the morality or sinfulness of a certain action?

Apparently not, as she outright rejects what the Church teaches on contraception. If she believes she is doing “the right thing for women” by promoting contraceptives, then the Church, by doing the opposite in condemning the use of contraceptives, must be doing the wrong thing. Two contradictory things can’t both be right and true. In this case, either Gates is wrong, or Christ in His Church is wrong. And if it’s the latter, all those who profess to be Catholic have quite the dilemma.

The Timeless Teaching of the Church

What reasons does the Catholic Church have to believe that contraception is not the right thing? First off, this has been the timeless teaching of the Church, going back to the Apostolic age Secondly, it’s been reiterated numerous times in the past 2,000 years by the teaching authority of the Church. Most recently was last year by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation: Amoris Laetitia:

… [S]exuality is “ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman” … [and this] union is ordered to procreation “by its very nature”. … From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life. (AL 80)

Thirdly, we can also look to the Catechism, which, through the Magisterium, teaches that contraception is “intrinsically evil”. That’s a pretty serious condemnation. What does the word “intrinsic” exactly mean though? It’s defined as “belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing”. In other words, a contraceptive “action which proposes … to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.” (CCC 2370). Since evil is essentially and intrinsically connected to such an action, it is always sinful to engage in such an action, no matter the context and no matter what era in time one is living in. Compare this language regarding contraception to the Catechism’s condemnation of rape:

Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. … It is always an intrinsically evil act. (CCC 2356)

The Cardinal Difficulty of Dissent

So here’s where the dissenting Catholic has to face this quandary head on. Virtually everyone accepts the Church’s teaching that rape is morally wrong. There is no situation that could ever justify it. If the Church is right here in making such a pronouncement, why is it wrong in declaring the same thing for contraceptive acts? If the Church is indeed wrong in saying that contraception is sinful, as some dissenting Catholics believe, then that means the Church has led mankind into error on matters of faith and morals for centuries and directly contradicts the promise Christ made before His Ascension. It means that Jesus is not Lord, but a liar. It means that He is not the Truth, but a falsifier.

Here’s the promise Jesus made us:

I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; … and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-14)

If the Church has incorrectly been telling people for centuries that contraception is sinful, then the Holy Spirit, who speaks for Christ in His Church, has not guided us into all truth; He’s guided us into error. And an almighty God can never lead us into error, meaning Jesus can’t possibly be that same God.

That is the logical conclusion dissenting Catholics must face when their opinions come under scrutiny. Thankfully, we know the opinions and desires of such people are indeed false. Doctrine can legitimately develop (i.e., the natures of Christ), but a complete rejection or “change” of prior revelation and teaching can never be possible, as is the case with contraception.

Spiritual Formation

Now, ignorance of doctrine could be at play in Mrs. Gates’ case. But that’s no excuse, especially in the Internet age with a wealth of knowledge about the faith at our fingertips. All Catholics have a duty to learn about the faith they profess. Pope St. John Paul II laid things out nicely in his 1988 apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici:

There is no doubt that spiritual formation ought to occupy a privileged place in a person’s life. Everyone is called to grow continually in intimate union with Jesus Christ, in conformity to the Father’s will, in devotion to others in charity and justice. … The situation today points to an ever-increasing urgency for a doctrinal formation of the lay faithful ….

Formation is not the privilege of a few, but a right and duty of all. (CL 60.2-3, 63)

Are we really taking this duty seriously? Or are we purposely being ignorant by not delving into the reasons why the Church teaches what it does? If we continue to be ignorant without learning more about what the Church actually teaches, we enter down a very destructive path, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out in his Summa Theologiae:

…[Some] ignorance is voluntary, either directly, as when a man wishes of to be purposely ignorant of certain things that he may sin the more freely; or indirectly, as when a man, through stress of work or other occupations, neglects to acquire the knowledge which would restrain him from sin. Such negligence renders the ignorance itself voluntary and sinful, provided it be about matters one is bound and able to know. (STh I-II, Q. 76 A.3 co.)

Summary: All or Nothing

If we are duty bound, as St. John Paul explained, to be well-formed in the doctrine of Christ’s Church, we have to make this formation a priority so we can avoid falling into the sin that St. Thomas describes. We can’t keep saying, “Well, I think the Church is wrong here,” while simultaneously neglecting our formation, which leads us to become ignorant of the faith we claim to profess.

Sometimes, people may not fully understand a teaching of the Church and struggle with it, but if they have trust that Jesus is working in the Church, they should not outright reject it. Instead, they keep their trust in Christ’s Church, progressing to a better understanding through prayer. If the Church is wrong on one matter of faith or morals, the whole house of cards falls. It’s time for active dissenters to face their dilemma head on and make a difficult choice: either they are right or Christ is right. As far as Christ and His Church goes, it’s all or nothing. Accepting only some of His teachings as true is nothing but a rejection.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Nicholas is 20-something cradle Catholic who wears many hats, (husband, father, tradesman, religious education catechist, liberal arts college graduate, et al.) and hopes to give a unique perspective on life in the Church as a millennial. His favorite saints include his patron St. Nicholas, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Mary Vianney and St. Athanasius of Alexandria. He currently writes for the Diocese of Joliet's monthly magazine, "Christ Is Our Hope".

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  • Does disagreement with the pope on climate change constitute disagreement with the Magisterium? There is no clarity on this type of thing. When the pope makes pronouncements on climate change, he makes no distinction between climate change and abortion in terms of importance. The Church itself is weaning Catholics away from blind obedience. I like what Saint Paul says in 2Corinthians 1:24: “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.”

    We’re getting back to basics.

  • trap95

    oh let the cardinals elect a woman pope already.. bahhhhahhh

  • BXVI

    There are different levels of teaching. Each requires a different level of assent.
    There is revealed dogma, there is infallibly defined doctrine, there is non-infallible doctrine, and there are prudential judgments. Catholics are required to both believe and follow dogma and infallibly defined doctrine. Failure to either believe or follow these puts one outside the Catholic communion. Obstinate post-baptismal denial of these truths makes one a heretic. These truths must be believed with “divine and Catholic faith”. Many contend that the Church’s teaching on contraception is infallible doctrine.

    “Progressives” place the Church’s teaching on contraception into the non-infallible doctrine category. The Church recognizes that there is a remote possibility of error in its “non-infallible” doctrinal pronouncements. A Catholic may personally question or harbor doubts about such non-infallible doctrinal pronouncements. However, that does not mean they are free do disobey them. They but must still assent to them in the sense that they must obey them and must not publicly oppose them. Doing so puts them outside the Catholic communion. Progressives don’t agree that non-infallible doctrine must be obeyed. They believe that Catholics may “follow their conscience” if they have genuinely tried to accept the Church’s teaching but find that they can’t.

    The Church’s teaching on contraception is either an “infallible doctrine” or a “non-infallible doctrine.” (i.e., it’s not dogma and its not a prudential teaching). Either way, the teaching must be obeyed by a faithful Catholic in order to remain in communion. There has been much talk recently about the primacy of conscience. If the Church’s teaching on contraception is not infallible – meaning it could at least theoretically be wrong – then may I simply “follow my conscience” on this issue and remain in communion? Clearly, the only intellectually honest answer is “no.”

    But take it a step further. A faithful Catholic must accept that the chance that a non-infallible Church doctrine is in error is only a “remote” possibility. So, when weighing this admittedly “remote” possibility against the dictates of my personal conscience, one must consider a few things. Which is more likely – that the Church is wrong, or that I am? And what are the consequences of following my conscience if it turns out that the Church was right? Have I rejected God’s truth through my personal pride, and placed my self outside the Catholic communion! Is it more likely that my conscience is not well-formed and is leading me away from God’s truth? Isn’t this really all about me not wanting to submit to God’s will? And, since the teaching on contraception does not compel me to sin (there is no sin in refusing to contracept), then is not the only sure path to avoiding sin to follow the Church’s teaching?

    • Very well said BXVI. I think Pope St. John Paul II’s words regarding the Magisterium and personal conscience are especially pertinent here, to those that would believe that the Church has erred on many of today’s “hot button issues”:

      “Since the Magisterium of the Church was created by Christ the Lord to enlighten conscience, then to appeal to that conscience precisely to contest the truth of what is taught by the Magisterium implies rejection of the Catholic concept both of the Magisterium and moral conscience. To speak about the inviolable dignity of conscience without further specification, runs the risk of errors…

      “The Church’s Magisterium is among the means which Christ’s redeeming love has provided to avoid this danger of error. In his name it has a real teaching authority. Therefore, it cannot be said that the faithful have embarked on a diligent search for truth if they do not take into account what the Magisterium teaches, or if, by putting it on the same level as any other source of knowledge, one makes oneself judge, or if in doubt, one follows one’s own opinion or that of theologians, preferring it to the sure teaching of the Magisterium.” (Address given to the Participants in the II International Congress of Moral Theology, Nov., 12, 1988, Paragraph 4)

  • James

    So should Catholics obey without thinking? Of so, then what role does conscience play in moral decision making?

    • BXVI

      James, see my post below. Being Catholic means acknowledging that you are not the highest authority. It means submitting to the authority of the Church and agreeing to abide by those teachings (and laws) of the Church that all Catholics are required to believe and accept.

      Where, then, does “conscience” come into play? It comes into play in several areas.

      1. There are many areas of life where the Church provides only general principles to guide us. In such cases, we must rely upon our consciences to help us discern which path of action best conforms to those general principles.

      2. If your conscience leads you to reject the Church’s teaching, then you should examine your conscience to be sure it is well-formed. You can – indeed must – follow the judgment of your (well-formed) conscience. Doing so will almost invariably lead you to accept and follow the Church’s teaching.

      3. No one is going to force you to remain in communion with the Catholic Church. You are free to choose. That’s what “freedom of conscience” means. But, of course, there are eternal consequences for the choices we make in life.

    • Eddie

      The Magesterium can not teach anything contrary to faith and morals so there can be no dissent on articles of faith. Bad clergy, actions that are inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and the Church or corruption must be called out, in those cases, the faithful must exercise their rights as baptized Catholics.

  • Aliquantillus

    I agree with the tenor of this article, but I would say it is necessary to add that during the XXth century the Magisterium of the Church itself has derelicted its duty. Sometimes orthodox doctrine was reaffirmed, for example by Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae. And sometimes radical liberal theologians were disciplined and called to order, as for instance Schillebeeckx and Küng. However, the general picture is that from Vatican II on the Magisterium has been laxist. Sacramental discipline and enforcing doctrine has been neglected on such a large scale, that today, after two full generations, the predicate “Catholic” hardly has any content left. I Nancy Pelosi can call herself Catholic, it is clear that anything goes. Today the situation so bad that to all probability the modernists have a large majority among the Bishops and Cardinals. We have pro-gay prelates, even cardinals who completely embrace the LGBT agenda and combine this with embracing revolutionary social theologies which are in fact nothing else but cultural marxism.

    Even the present Pope seems to view the traditional forms of theology and liturgy as completely obsolete. The Vatican has even ceased to support pro-life and pro-familie manifestations and has withdrawn its representatives from massive pro-family demonstrations in Rome and Paris. In short and speaking in general terms, we have nowadays a Church hierarchy of men pleasers. No wonder that the Church is in disarray and unity is gone.

  • Mara319

    Melinda Gates is powerful only because she is rich…okay, super rich.

    So she’s powerful, so powerful she thinks that by her own power alone, she can change the nature of the Church as Mother and Teacher.

    Much like the politically-powerful Hillary Clinton (who promised to change churches’ teachings on the sanctity of human life had she been elected president), Mrs. Gates believes her financial power extends beyond the material, political and economic realms and into the spiritual and religious. (One hopes she takes her money with her to the grave when she dies.)

    Like Clinton, Gates thinks her super power makes her into a god. Mrs. Gates is a very shallow thinker.

  • captcrisis

    “If the Church is wrong about any of its teachings, even just one, this is tantamount to admitting that Jesus is a false god, because He allowed the Church He founded to teach error.”

    I don’t think anyone believes this, even “traditional” Catholics. I don’t even think the last few Popes believed this either. The Church has issued some teachings in the past that everyone admits now were error. It doesn’t mean Jesus was a false god.

    • Well if “anyone” does not believe this, it’d because they are in denial. Jesus is the Head of the Church, His mystical Body. There is no separating the Church from Jesus Christ. If the Church teaches that something pertaining to faith and morals is true, then to reject that teaching is to reject Jesus. This rejection necessarily holds that the Church, with Jesus as Head (who is supposedly all-knowing and all-good) has taught erroneously. Jesus, who is supposedly the all perfect Hod, can no longer be called Lord, but instead either a liar or a lunatic.

      I would honestly like to know which Church teachings that were proclaimed in the past have been labeled as erroneous. And who exactly is “everyone”? A distinction needs to be made, and I apologize if that distinction wasn’t clear in my essay. The Church cannot err in matters of faith or morals. Abstaining from meat on Fridays in Lent for example is not a matter of faith or morals. However, teachings on contraception, or the Assumption, or the denial of a man’s just wages are matters of faith and morals which me must accept in good faith as true.

      Can you name me two or three teachings that have been revealed to be erroneous, and why they are now considered erroneous?

    • captcrisis

      1) Jews (or anyone who isn’t baptized in the Church) can’t get to heaven. Overruled by Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spies (1965).

      2) The fetus is not “human” until quickening (variously estimated at between 8 and 20 weeks post-coitus). Overruled.

      Some orders of excommunication are now no longer enforced, even though they have never been formally withdrawn. For example, you’re excommunicated if you take the word of a Christian over that of a Jew.

      Also in a number of encyclicals the Church was plainly wrong. See Casti Connubii (1930) which condemned giving women equal legal rights with men; Mirari Vos (1832) which condemned freedom of religion; and Quanta Cura (1864), which condemned democracy.

    • BXVI

      Gaudium et Spies?

    • captcrisis

      Sorry, I was thinking of the James Bond version. “Thunderball” had just come out.

      (yes, “Gaudium et Spes”)

    • Thank you for providing your examples, Capt. Before I continue, I believe you have me at a disadvantage. You know that I am a Catholic Christian. Were you also baptized Catholic? If so, do you still consider yourself to be practicing your Catholic faith today?

      Anyways, lets take a look at what you’ve provided. In reading your post, I think we have a classic case of a misunderstanding. Check out BXVI’s post below. You are misunderstanding at what times the Church speaks infallibly. As I will show below, the Church never spoke of any of the things you posted as infallible teaching which must be definitively held by all Catholic Christians. As BXVI said below,

      “There are different levels of teaching. Each requires a different level of assent.
      There is revealed dogma, there is infallibly defined doctrine, there is non-infallible doctrine, and there are prudential judgments. Catholics are required to both believe and follow dogma and infallibly defined doctrine.”

      The prohibition against contraception falls into this “required” category. Your other examples do not… except your example #1. Here, you have greatly misunderstood what the doctrine of “no salvation outside the Church” actually means. There is NO contradiction or “overruling” between LG or GS and the declaration of this dogma of salvation made at the 12th Ecumenical Council (the Fourth Lateran Council) or Pope Boniface VIII’s papal bull.

      I respectfully suggest that you do some more research into what the Church actually teaches on this subject (as well as your other points), so that you may come to understand what the development of doctrine is. A development is not a contradiction. The Church NEVER taught all Jews and other unbaptized people were denied entry into Heaven. Never. The Church has always remembered Jesus’ words from the Gospel: “they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (John 15:21-22)

      This was reiterated by the Church Fathers, that those who never had the chance to reject Jesus and His Church, the invincibly ignorant, may possibly be saved. LG admits as much. Have you read the final sentences in LG 16?:

      “But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.”

      Key word is that “often” men are deceived. Many outright reject Christ unfortunately, but some (including Jews and Protestants) may be saved due to invincible ignorance. The Church has always taught this. For more info on the historical context of the declaration “No salvation outside the Church” from Pope Boniface VIII’s bull I suggest the following essay. As Disqus doesn’t like when I post links, simply Google “unam sanctum problem resolved”:

      “This is a non sequitur in logic, it does not follow at all that ‘all non-Catholics are damned’ for a number of reasons. The objection also displays a misunderstanding of Catholic teaching and takes the Papal Bull out of context from history and theology.

      “…the last sentence of Unam Sanctam about subjection to the Pope should be understood in an absolute sense of Catholics and interpreted in conjunction with the opening that membership in the Church is also a necessary condition of salvation. Further, I have contended it is impossible to retroject back into the Bull and misapply it by declaring all non-Catholics ‘damned’ without a careful consideration of the whole of Catholic theology on salvation and the Mystical Body of Christ.”

      Also look up Tim Staple’s essay on “No salvation outside the Church” on Catholic Answers.

      Moving on to your second example, you seem to have forgotten that this was never defined dogma, was never taught as doctrine, as was never even a teaching in the first place. This was an opinion that originates from St. Thomas Aquinas, and yes, even saints as great as he are fallible. St. Thomas wasn’t even a bishop, and had no authority to pass his opinion off as that of the Magisterium of the Church. Furthermore, St. Thomas still held that it was gravely sinful to abort a child before “quickening”. Google “Aquinas ensoulment Catholic” and click on the first link for a more thorough rebuttal to your point. Again, the Church never contradicted itself. This is an area of science. Science tells us about the physical world (the beginning of life for instance) and develops and becomes more clear over time. As Cardinal Baronius once said “The bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” This applies here also. The Church teaches us (from the Bible and Tradition) how to live on Earth, not how things on Earth dealing with the natural sciences work. St. Thomas was working with the scientific knowledge of his time and the Church never definitively taught this opinion at any time

      As for your other points, seeing as you misunderstood the teaching on “no salvation outside the Church” and did not recognize that St. Thomas Aquinas was opining and not even teaching with authority as he wasn’t even a bishop… I’m reticent to trust your claim on excommunication for believing a Jew over a Christian. You’ve probably misunderstood this too. Do you have a source for your claim? In any case, let’s assume someone at sometime was excommunicated for this “offense”. It does not in any way follow that the Church ever taught that Catholics must believe this in good faith. The Council of Trent corrected many abuses that resulted from a prelate who was too trigger happy about excommunication. Remember, indulgences were also abused by some within the Church, but the Church never taught that simony was correct, did it? Of course not. The same is true in this case you present. The Church has NEVER taught that one should not accept the word of a Jew under pain of excommunication. Read BXVI’s post again if need be.

      As for the papal documents you quoted, you have to realize that not all papal statements, even those in papal documents, are binding on Catholics as revealed dogma or infallibly defined doctrines. As Fr. Salaverri once wrote: “While he [the Pope] always has full and supreme doctrinal authority, the pope does not always exercise it at its highest level that is at the level of infallibility. As the theologians say, he is like a giant who does not always use his full strength. What follows is this:

      “…It is necessary to know “what degree of assent is due to the decrees of the sovereign pontiff when he is teaching at a level which is not that of infallibility, i.e., when he is not exercising the supreme degree of his doctrinal authority”.

      This was not done so in the three examples of papal documents you cited. These “teachings” are not analogous in any way to the firm and infallible teaching handed down by the Church on such things as the prohibition of contraception and rape.

      As for your specific example regarding Bl. Pope Pius XI, we can see that he made a great deal of good points on the subject. While perhaps antiquated, they are not necessarily erroneous. To quote the Blessed pope himself:

      “This equality of rights which is so much exaggerated and distorted, must indeed be recognized in those rights which belong to the dignity of the human soul and which are proper to the marriage contract and inseparably bound up with wedlock. In such things undoubtedly both parties enjoy the same rights and are bound by the same obligations.” (CC 76)

      As for Gregory XVI, you’re taking his words out of their historical context. Religious liberty means something different today than it did in the 1830’s, and what he is condemning is religious indifferentism. Did Pope Gregory XVI say something wrong when he quoted St. Augustine in MV?: ” But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error.” I don’t think so. The Church still teaches today that true freedom is found in Christ (the Truth shall set you free).

      True freedom does not come from unlimited options, as our secular culture seems to believe today. Same goes for what Bl. Pius IX said in QC regarding “democracy”. There are no contradictions with Church teaching today in these three papal documents, and if you really think there is a contradiction and that these past statements are “erroneous”, perhaps you should keep these words in mind by St. Augustine. Although he was referring to Scripture, his words apply to these older documents (including Pope Boniface’s bull Unam Sanctum) which were issued in past centuries. I encourage you to do more research on the Catholic faith, as it can be seen that your attempt to present instances where the Church has contradicted itself is lacking:

      “If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken’; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood.”

    • captcrisis

      Much to chew on here and thanks for your reply which it must have taken a while to write.

      (Excommunication of those who take the word of a Jew over that of a Christian is Canon 26 of the Third Lateran Council).

    • adam aquinas

      “The Catholic Doctrine of Discovery” ….lead to the genocide of millions of Native Americans….want more?

    • You really need to get some better bait, Adam. But I’ll bite anyways…

      What is this “doctrine of discovery”? Which pope or ecumenical council provided us with a “doctrine of discovery” from the deposit of faith? Was there a specific papal document that TAUGHT this doctrine? How does the “doctrine of Discovery” pertain to faith and morals?

      While I think Jim Kenaston’s comment above was a little off because he wasn’t taking into account the differences in levels of assent that BXVI provided us below, I do think Jim made a very good point you should consider:

      “We [individual Catholics, like all individuals] make many mistakes along the way, though our mistakes are more an indictment of ourselves and our practice rather than an indictment of a master or our Lord.”

      Just because the conquistadors, temporal rulers, and yes even the ordained clergy made big mistakes and sinned grievously against the Native Americans… it doesn’t follow that the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ has taught any erroneous doctrine. Anything evil that representatives of the Church or individual lay Catholics did was indeed done by members of said Church. However, those evil actions reflect the free will that each person has to reject Christ and the doctrines and teachings of the Church revealed to his vicars through the Holy Spirit, and in no way do such actions reflect on the holiness of the Church or on Her Magisterium which interprets what has been handed down to it.

    • James

      Very little of what the Church teaches is considered to be infallible. What is taught in The Creed is infallible. The doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are infallible.

      Just because a teaching is not infallible does not mean it is wrong, though.

  • balloonknot9

    “If the Church is wrong about any of its teachings, even just one, this
    is tantamount to admitting that Jesus is a false god, because He allowed
    the Church He founded to teach error.”

    Yes Jesus founded the Church, and I believe that the faith is true. That being said, the RCC on too many levels is corrupt and does grave damage to the faith. One cannot logically, spiritually say on one hand it is infallible and yet with our own eyes and ears see and hear of the abomination they commit. That is the definition of hypocrisy.

    So what is a catholic to do? We know our faith, believe our faith, but some like myself will not partake of their sins through blind obedience. We are not called to look the other way when “leaders” do evils, conceal those evil, continue to do evils, and to top it off persecute their own members for bringing to light these evils. The laity have not created this quagmire, unless we now share those grave sins because of a false sense of “obedience”.

    This church must go into the desert to purify itself but it never will. It must purge itself of all sinful activity, activity that if we the laity committed would be excommunicated, but somehow believes their station as priest immediately absolves them of all culpability.

    So as a catholic, I and others do have our own ability to question authority, their behavior, and since they dwell in a sinful state can question their motives for what they say. Which brings up another catholic problem that contributes to the problems with faith. They never, ever, speak clearly, plainly, and thoroughly to allow understanding. They always use terms of various meanings, catholicese that clouds what they are saying. How can a message get out to people when no one knows the true meaning of what they are saying? Francis has been a master at double speak.

    For me, the days of infallible father, the benevolence of the RCC, the ability to be righteous leaders bringing the words and love of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have been so damage through their own fault I can and will not trust them ever again which is very painful to admit.

    • Dan

      I think you are conflating two issues here.

      First, have there been atrocities committed my members of the Catholic Church clergy? ABSOLUTELY THERE HAVE BEEN!!! At the end of the day, the Church clergy is composed of men who are capable of sinning. Those who have sinned need to beg for God’s forgiveness, and atone for those sins. The sin of pride also enters into the hearts of men: including the clergy. We all fall and all need God’s grace and forgiveness.

      The fact that the church is composed of sinners, however, doesn’t diminish the teaching authority of the Church. Peter denied Christ three times and yet his letters are still part of the bible. Paul persecuted Christians and yet we still hold his letters to be divinely inspired and part of the Bible as well. Christ himself founded the Church and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail. I for one believe him. I believe he is not going to let his Church lead the faithful astray. Trust in the teachings of the Church.

      God Bless!

    • Eddie

      You are correct, however, bad, self serving clergy who feel untouchable, abuse the faithful, hold us in contempt and enjoy a life of luxury while fleecing the sheep MUST and will be challenged. Failing to vigorously defend the faithful and call a lazy, self serving, prideful clergy to task is our duty. We must never fail to take action for fear of being shunned or attacked when the spiritual welfare of the faithful is at stake because of some nonsensical outdated and incorrect notion that a priest or bishop should not be called to task. If we do then we will have to answer for our sin of omission. Of whom much is given, much will be expected. I choose to be a lion not a sheep when it comes to harmful pastors or bishops. That’s my duty.
      The faithful in too many parishes are being abused in so many ways at the hands of bishops, pastors, clerics and deacons. They get paid if the church is packed or empty. Don’t come? They don’t care just send the money. The Trenton Diocese is mess and so is my parish. But I’ll be there EVERY Sunday because you are right, the gates of hell will not prevail. God bless you.

    • Jim Kenaston

      I couldn’t quite get passed this quote from the article either. From my perspective, I suppose a parallel fallacy might be to say that God is a false god because He allowed humans to live in error. The church is the bride of Christ and depends on Him for her redemption, and she is certainly in need of redemption. I don’t see that error within the church indicts Christ, though error within the church certainly serves as a troubling stumbling block to many. It’s kind of like how the local Jr. High School orchestra’s performance of Mozart shouldn’t be an indictment of Mozart or his music. To mix metaphors, we children of God in the orchestra / church should grow in maturity and increasingly come closer to following the music / following Christ. We make many mistakes along the way, though our mistakes are more an indictment of ourselves and our practice rather than an indictment of a master or our Lord.

    • BXVI

      Yes, evil in the Church is the biggest scandal in the history of mankind after the crucifixion of Christ. Not just prelates, though. We, the laity, have been just as bad if not worse. I have often said that if every Catholic, lay and ordained, lived his faith to the full and with all his energy the Catholic Church would be irresistibly magnetic. The entire world would be Catholic within a decade. So, let’s live it!

    • Eddie

      You are 100% correct. My next two essay deal with these problems specifically in the Diocese of Trenton, NJ. I brought my concerns to the Bishop of Trenton. If they will continue to be true to form I will be ignored, attacked or lied to. I will continue the fight because the faithful are being decimated from the clericalism that reigns supreme, hides behind the collar and thinks we are still in the middle ages. The disrespect, indifference and contempt for the faithful by bad clerics who they deem ignorant will no longer be tolerated by me. They are insulated and even canon law allow too much leeway with flowery nonsense. They think they can not be challenged. I must take action or I’m guilty in participating in their sin. I have many priest friends who are holy and faithful and they admit feeling under attack by bad clerics too. What can the faithful do? Confront the bad cleric first. If that doesn’t work call the Bishop. If that doesn’t work write to the Vatican, if that fails, stay faithful. Continue to assist at mass. Pray for these clerics, offer rosaries and surround yourself with other faithful parishioners. This is not new, but we have weapons. The Blessed Mother, Jesus, the Rosary and social media. Jesus warned us about them. Eucharistic adoration is helpful. I hear the pain in your writing. I understand. We love our Church so much but the smoke of Satan has entered in. Watch Bishop Sheen’s video on the Diabolical on Spiritdaily and pray for his intercession and guidance. I wish all priests were like him. He suffered at the hands of his Cardinal and even now Church hierarchy are stifling his canonization process. Jesus had Judas, we have princes of the Church, wolves not good shepherds. God bless you. I will pray for you. It is terrible what is happening in the Church today. We know how this all ends. Jesus wins.

  • john654

    God Bless You, Nicholas. I call contraception “THE DEATH PILL”.