Dissenters against recent Church teaching–that is, the teaching of the Church since Vatican II and especially Pope Francis’s recent teaching–often try to argue that there are contradictions between the older and the newer teaching.

In my experience, Erick Ybarra is one of the more sophisticated of these dissenters. He has argued not so much that newer magisterial teaching contradicts older teaching, but that, while not strictly contradictory, the “spirit” of newer teaching tends to contradict the “spirit” of older teaching. By making the argument more nebulous in this way, Mr. Ybarra makes it harder to refute and thus gives it a greater appearance of plausibility.

And, it must be acknowledged, there is some plausibility to Mr. Ybarra’s argument. Although I think he is wrong, I do not doubt his good will in attempting to figure out the truth. I can understand why he is convinced by the plausibility of his argument. Some of that plausibility comes from the fact that there is often a significant difference in tone and emphasis between older and newer teaching. There are a number of reasons for this. The doctrine of the Church is that the revelation of God has been deposited with the Church, and that deposit has not changed or been added to since the time of the apostles. However, the Church, like an individual, grows over time in her awareness of the full meaning of what she has been given. And the Holy Spirit guides her as she applies the one deposit of faith to very different circumstances she finds herself in in the world.  

This means that, while the fundamental truths of the faith are unchanging, the development of all the implications of these truths, and the application of them in the life of the Church is constantly in flux, guided by the Holy Spirit. Church teaching is thus like a living organism, which, while maintaining its fundamental foundation and plan all through its life, goes through many changes as it grows and develops and responds to its environment. (See Dei Verbum, especially Chapter II, for the Church’s own articulation of all of this.)  It is this reality that accounts for apparent discrepancies between older and newer teachings in the Church. Seeing older and newer Church teaching as contradictory is analogous to a person who, not knowing the life cycle of some particular organism, mistakenly assigns an adult specimen and an immature specimen of that organism to different species. More understanding of the nature of the species would clear up what is an understandable mistake based on more superficial appearances.

In a new article, Mr. Ybarra argues that the “spirit” of modern Church teaching contradicts the “spirit” of the Scriptures with regard to the salvation and the spiritual condition of non-Catholics. He argues that while Scripture presents non-Christian religion as something evil and erroneous and dramatically calls all people to repent of it and accept the gospel or be damned, modern Church teaching is fuzzy on all of this, teaching effectively that other religions are not so bad but are rather various shades of good, and that it’s really not all that big a deal to be a member of a non-Christian religion, and there’s really not all that pressing a reason to convert to Christianity. He cites modern Church teaching since Vatican II regarding the possibility of salvation that exists for those outside of Christianity. He refers to Pope Francis’s and Bishop Robert Barron’s comments on the salvation even of atheists.

The problem with this argument is that it fails to take into account the doctrinal development of the Church through the ages, and the Spirit’s guidance as the Church seeks to apply the truth to new situations, cultural conditions, and circumstances. It is true that the Church of today does not sound exactly like the Church of the 1st century. There is a very good reason for this: The Church of today isn’t the Church of the 1st century. Yes, it is the same Church, but it is the same Church at different times.  Similarly, I am the same person I was when I was fifteen years old, but if you tried to compare the fifteen-year-old me and the forty-one-year-old me, you would find plenty of significant differences!  

The twenty-first century is a very different time from the 1st century. We live in a largely post-Christian culture, a culture that is jaded in a way that wasn’t true of the 1st-century world, which was a world where Christianity was a new thing never before encountered. We also suffer today from a kind of post-rationalism where we have grown skeptical of the ability of anyone to find truth at all, and we are not interested in listening to what seems to be the unverifiable message of an ancient, outdated religious institution. Especially in the west, we are a culture of people who emerged from centuries of religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, and we are very wary of religious disputes and tend to feel that religion is divisive and unloving. All of these things, and more, have contributed to a culture that requires an encounter with the gospel that is not exactly the same as the encounter that occurred in the 1st century of the Church. That is why the Church needs the Holy Spirit–she needs divine guidance to know how to address a very different world from the one faced by the apostles.

And the Church herself has had two thousand years since the 1st century to grow in her own understanding of all the implications of the revelation she has been given. Her articulation of the gospel to the world has become much richer and more nuanced. Her theology and philosophy have developed from the 1st century through the Fathers through the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment through the twentieth century and down to our own time.  

She has not, in fact, abandoned the message of the Scriptures–that only Christ can save, that one must be connected to the Church to be saved, that rejection of the gospel brings damnation, that the preaching of the gospel is vital to the salvation of the world–but she has a greater appreciation now for how all of this relates to the subjective experience of individuals and the different conditions people can be in in relation to the gospel.

All of these things explain why modern Church teaching is not exactly the same in every way as the teaching of the Church in the Middle Ages, during the time of the Fathers, and even during the time of the apostles in the 1st century.  But, in spite of differences in emphasis, tone, and nuance, the fact remains: There is no contradiction. Even Mr. Ybarra himself seems to mostly admit this. True contradictions cannot be shown to exist. That is why he must resort to more nebulous references to conflicting “spirits”.  It is, in the end, a damning admission for his argument.

For a longer, more detailed, version of this article, see here.

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Mark Hausam lives in Columbia, MO, with his wife Desiree and his nine children, where they are members at Our Lady of Lourdes parish. Mark teaches Theology at Fr. Tolton Catholic High School as well as Philosophy at State Fair Community College in Boonville, MO. He runs a blog at https://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/ and is the author of Why Christianity is True and No Grounds for Divorce: Why Protestants (and Everyone Else) Should Return to the Unity of the Catholic Church.

Has the Modern Church Blunted the Sharp Edge of the Gospel?

30 Responses

  1. Lazurus says:

    I’d between Trent and Vatican II the world’s relationship with the Church changed. Even during Vatican I the world was modern but not quite as hostile. Hence, Vatican II was more conciliatory in tone than anathemizing everything. The “spirit” seems different because even ancient pagans took the search for truth more seriously than the modern man.

    • Mark Hausam says:

      Yes, there is quite a lot of complexity when we think about the relationship between the world and the Church at different times in history. Another thing is that, at Vatican II, the Church decided that, having expressed herself already with regard to many of the errors of modernism, there was also a need to recognize and even learn from some of the good things the world had come to be thinking about during the modern era. I think this is similar to how we see the early Church appropriating Greek philosophy, or how St. Thomas Aquinas appropriated Aristotle.

  2. ONG says:

    The following always comes to mind:

    UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO (Nov. 21, 1964, by Pope St. Paul VI)

    1. The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided.(1) Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.
    1. Cf. 1 Cor. 1 : 13.

    …For although the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace, yet its members fail to live by them with all the fervor that they should, so that the radiance of the Church’s image is less clear in the eyes of our separated brethren and of the world at large, and the growth of God’s kingdom is delayed. All Catholics must therefore aim at Christian perfection(24) and, each according to his station, play his part that the Church may daily be more purified and renewed. For the Church must bear in her own body the humility and dying of Jesus,(25) against the day when Christ will present her to Himself in all her glory without spot or wrinkle.(26)…”
    24. Cf. James 1, 4; Rom. 12, 1-2.
    25. Cf. 2 Cor. 4, 10, Phil. 2, 5-8
    26. Cf. Eph. 5, 27.

  3. jong says:

    Pope Francis recent doctrines on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” is based on the Wisdom of God. All things were created thru the Wisdom of God and will be save by the Wisdom of God too. That’s why this famous phrase that the Dissenters and Rad Trads criticized and twisted, saying that Pope Francis is contradicting the Church Dogma that there’s no need for conversion to Catholicism is a big error on their part.
    Even before Jesus Christ founded His Church, all the people in the OT are saved by the Wisdom of God and Jesus in the NT became the Wisdom of God. So, certainly those who are still outside the Catholic Church will be save by the Wisdom of God. Look how Pope Francis beautifully phrase his teaching and he said “does not go one millimeter beyond the Second Vatican Council.”

    “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.”(Pope Francis) ; the link articles offers history on Inter-religious dialogue and development for a more thorough reference;file:///C:/Users/Dell%20PC/Pictures/monastic%20news%20good%20link1.html

    ” O LORD, how manifold are your works! IN WISDOM HAVE YOU MADE THEM ALL; the earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:1-24 ESV

    “The LORD BY WISDOM founded the earth; BY UNDERSTANDING he established the heavens; BY HIS KNOWLEDGE the deeps broke forth, and the clouds drop down the dew.” Proverbs 3:13-20

    “O God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy,
    who have made all things by your word,
    2 and by your wisdom have formed humankind
    to have dominion over the creatures you have made,
    3 and rule the world in holiness and righteousness,
    and pronounce judgment in uprightness of soul,
    4 give me the wisdom that sits by your throne, (Wisdom9:1-5)

    Look how the teachings of Pope Francis upheld the Vatican II Doctrines stating “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom,..”So, if God willed the diversity of religions thru His Wisdom, in His Wisdom He knows how to save all our brother & sisters especially those People of God who have goodwill and thru no fault of their own have not yet heard the gospel of Christ.

    As King Solomon reminded us, what is the OT people belief how can they be save in the end of his prayer in Wisdom Chapter 9;

    “And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
    and people were taught what pleases you,
    and were saved by wisdom.” (Wisdom9:18)

    The only question is how one can acquire Wisdom like King Solomon possessed? or the NT teachings now becomes different as Jesus Christ became the Wisdom of God(1Corinthian1:24). So, when one seek Wisdom as in James1:5, the Wisdom now is different…As St.Montfort beautifully stated in his book “Love of Eternal Wisdom”, what awaits every believer who really would seek to receive the Wisdom of God like Jesus had witnessed.

    “Wisdom is the Cross, and the Cross is Wisdom”. God bless

  4. Peter Aiello says:

    Changing what is emphasized in the Church is quite different than growing in the full meaning of something. When emphasis is changed to the point where the teaching of what was emphasized before becomes irrelevant, this is more than a growth in understanding.
    An example of this is the emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit in the New Testament Church. This is what contains our peace and strength. Nowadays, the Eucharist and Mary are emphasized in the Church to a much greater degree than they were in the New Testament Church. Neither is able to be a substitute for providing peace and strength from the Holy Spirit even though there are those in the Church who believe so.

  5. Ralph says:

    Many critics of Vatican II fall into the same error that many Protestants do by adopting a view of church history as a fall from a lost golden age. For some Catholics the lost golden age was the pre-Vatican II era while for other Christians it is the time before the Emperor Constantine or some other period in church history.

    Every age has its positives and negatives. We have to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the issues that each age presents to us. Sometimes these issues are familiar and sometimes they are different so the Church’s approach must be different while not straying from the truth of the gospel.

  6. Mark Hausam says:

    Good thoughts!

    I completely agree, Ralph, that the critics of Vatican II are making that same mistake. To go back to the “living organism” analogy, it’s like an adult pining for his youth, which in his mind has become idealized, instead of accepting where his life has brought him and moving forward.

    Peter, I don’t think the Church has changed emphasis to the point that something she before taught as important has become irrelevant. the problem with this sort of criticism, which Erick Ybarra manifests a lot in his articles, is that it is very subjective. There is no objective basis to say that the Church today talks about the Eucharist or Mary “too much”, or that she talks about mercy instead of justice “too much”. What are the objective criteria to determine what is “too much”? It reminds me of Martin Luther, who thought the Book of James should be thrown out of the Bible because it emphasized works “too much” and talked about Christ “too little”. Who was Luther to determine precisely the contours of what Holy Scripture should be like? He tried to trump God’s inspiration on the basis of his own subjective tastes, instead of submitting his taste to God’s inspiration. In the same way, the modern critics tell the Church what to do based on their own subjective tastes, instead of allowing their tastes to be guided by the objective standard of the Church’s teaching.

    • carn says:

      “What are the objective criteria to determine what is “too much”?”

      The objective criteria for “too much” or in better words “false” would be the principle of non-contradiction.

      That criteria might be of no help for Ybarra or Luther, cause undefined “spirit” or personal tastes regarding “emphasized” are irrelevant for non-contradiction.

      The issues with which there is the most “nearness” to a clear violation of non-contradiction are the issues of death penalty (suggesting that the DP is intrinsic evil could be a contradiction to prior Church teaching, especially the one where some Pope required some heretics to affirm principle legitimacy of DP) and absolution of someone having plans for the next days to continue a consensual sexual relationship with a non-spouse (suggesting that one’s past violations of the 6th commandment can be absolved when there is the intent present to violate the 6th again in the coming days, which would contradict that absolution requires intent not to sin again).

      But Pope Francis statements are sufficiently ambiguous about these points, so that one cannot argue beyond reasonable doubt that Pope Francis can only mean the respective position which would be a contradiction.

      “the modern critics tell the Church what to do based on their own subjective tastes”

      A in my opinion not insignificant number of “modern critics” use as far as i can tell to a considerable extent logic as the basis for their criticism. That does not mean that the criticism of such critics is correct. Just that it is not subjective.

    • Peter Aiello says:

      The tangible objective standard that the Church is guided by is Sacred Scripture. Vatican II, in Dei Verbum 21 says: “Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.”
      Then, Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium 12 says: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, (111) [cf. 1 Jn 2:20, 27] cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (8*) [Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 17] they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth.” This is the same discernment that is in 1Corinthians 2:9-16.
      The V2 reference to 1John 2:20, 27 says: “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things…But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”
      Scripture and our own discernment from the Spirit of Truth are parts of what we use to determine what is important in Christianity. We use both the objective and the subjective.

      • ONG says:

        //“from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (8*) [Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 17]//

        We already went over this in the previous articles *several times*, that that phrase in LG 12 does not mean what you want it to mean.

        Moreover, the footnote 8* does not say to Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 17 – check it out if you want to do the search.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        You are correct about supplemental footnote 8.
        LG12 needs to be considered in discussions about inerrancy in the Church; and that lay people are not excluded from the personal influence of the Spirit of Truth in their lives. Lay people need to be aware of it and make use of it.
        Holy Orders does not confer a special discernment that others don’t have. It confers a specific job in the Church

      • ONG says:

        //LG12 needs to be considered in discussions about inerrancy in the Church; and that lay people are not excluded from the personal influence of the Spirit of Truth in their lives.//

        Mark Hausam has answered you extensively already in several separate comments below.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        I’m still trying to figure out the magisterial teaching on what is magisterial and how it gets to be magisterial.

  7. Mark Hausam says:

    Carn, the fact is that there is simply no logical contradiction between what Pope Francis has taught and earlier teaching. With the DP, previous teaching taught that the DP is, in principle, legitimate if it is necessary to protect society. PF has taught that it is not necessary to protect life and society, at least not at this time, and so it is at least currently inadmissible. There’s just no contradiction there, so logic doesn’t give us any license to oppose PF here.

    With Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis has simply taught that sometimes people can be in irregular situations because of confusion while actually trying to do what is right. In such a case, there is a grave sin objectively, but there is no mortal sin (because this requires full understanding and consent of will). In such a case, PF says, it may be, in some cases, permissible for such a person to receive communion while at the same time trying to understand their situation better with their pastor in order to eventually conform better to the objective ideal. There is nothing in this contrary to any previous teaching. PF is continually misrepresented as saying that people can take communion while in mortal sin, but this is not the case.

    So there’s just no contradiction in these cases.

    Peter, the objective standard of interpreting revelation in Catholicism is Scripture and Tradition under the guidance of the Magisterium. By keeping those three together, the Spirit guides the whole Church. But when one member refuses to submit to the Magisterium, he has separated himself from the Church in his thinking and so his thinking no longer enjoys any assurance of protection by the Holy Spirit.

    The idea that Scripture, interpreted by private individuals, can trump Magisterial teaching, is a Protestant heresy. The idea that my subjective opinions or feelings, even if I think them led by the Spirit, can trump Magisterial teaching, is also heretical. The Catholic position is that the whole Church is protected from error only when the whole Church is united to each other and to the Magisterium and in submission to the Magisterium.

    Peter, the Church has addressed your error and condemned your position. Your position does not represent the Catholic faith, nor is it consistent with it. Listen to the context of your quote from Lumen Gentium:

    “12. The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name.(110) The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (8*) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God.(112) Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.”

    Did you catch that? The “sensus fidelium” only applies when “exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience.” You are divorcing the sensus fidelium from obedience, which is a non-Catholic position.

    Or listen to what the Church has told us in Donum Veritatis:

    “35. Dissent sometimes also appeals to a kind of sociological argumentation which holds that the opinion of a large number of Christians would be a direct and adequate expression of the “supernatural sense of the faith”.

    Actually, the opinions of the faithful cannot be purely and simply identified with the “sensus fidei”.(31) The sense of the faith is a property of theological faith; and, as God’s gift which enables one to adhere personally to the Truth, it cannot err. This personal faith is also the faith of the Church since God has given guardianship of the Word to the Church. Consequently, what the believer believes is what the Church believes. The “sensus fidei” implies then by its nature a profound agreement of spirit and heart with the Church, “sentire cum Ecclesia” [“think with the Church”].

    Although theological faith as such then cannot err, the believer can still have erroneous opinions since all his thoughts do not spring from faith.(32) Not all the ideas which circulate among the People of God are compatible with the faith. This is all the more so given that people can be swayed by a public opinion influenced by modern communications media. Not without reason did the Second Vatican Council emphasize the indissoluble bond between the “sensus fidei” and the guidance of God’s People by the magisterium of the Pastors. These two realities cannot be separated.(33) Magisterial interventions serve to guarantee the Church’s unity in the truth of the Lord. They aid her to “abide in the truth” in face of the arbitrary character of changeable opinions and are an expression of obedience to the Word of God.(34) Even when it might seem that they limit the freedom of theologians, these actions, by their fidelity to the faith which has been handed on, establish a deeper freedom which can only come from unity in truth.”

    Did you hear that? The “sensus fidei” cannot be separated from following the guidance of the Magisterium and not dissenting from it. Do you hear the Church condemn your position, Peter? What will you do? Will you submit, or defy the Church and therefore separate yourself from the “sensus fidelium”? If we are going to have productive conversation, it is not helpful to keep bringing up over and over again one’s own opinions without listening when those opinions receive correction. What do you say to the correction the Church gives to you?

    • carn says:

      “So there’s just no contradiction in these cases.”

      I already said, that statements of Pope Francis are not in undeniable contradiction.

      But your explanation runs into a contradiction:

      “PF has taught that it is not necessary to protect life and society,”

      PF did not teach with his authority that it is not necessary, cause his authority is about faith and morals, while his authority does not extent to the question, whether safe prisons exist.

      So as writen the sentence contains – based on the usual understanding of “teach” in connection with “Pope” in that “teach refers to Pope teaching about faith and morals – a contradiction, cause the second part cannot be “taught” in the usual sense of the word in this context.

      The Pope cannot teach that a building is stable. He cannot teach that some walls have no holes. Accordingly, he cannot teach that some prison or some prison system is good enough for security or not.

      Also, to show that this is what Pope Francis intends as his teaching, so that he teaches that now the death penalty is inadmissible, but next week, month, year, decade, century it might change depending on necessity, i think a bit more would be needed. It is one interpretation. But it is not the only one, not the only one offered by papal “defenders” and not the only one offered by Bishops.

      “in some cases”

      The ambiguity i mentioned. As far as i know, there is no indications of any kind how such cases might look like and how cases might look like which are not of that type. Accordingly, there also cannot be a contradiction. If it is left open when something applies and when not, there is no contradiction to prior statements, which have some ruling when it applies and when not.


      “permissible for such a person to receive communion while at the same time trying to understand their situation better with their pastor in order to eventually conform better to the objective ideal.”

      That is not the only interpretation, and not the only interpretation offered by papal “defenders”. So maybe this is meant; maybe not.

    • Peter Aiello says:

      With all of the controversy in today’s Church, whatever magisterial teaching and sensus fidei that there is in the Church is confusing to me. All that I know is that I have to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1Thessalonians 5:21). Scripture, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is a good way for me to monitor what the Church teaches.
      Wading through 2000 years of Church teaching and what the Church says about itself, and determining what is magisterial or not is asking too much. I don’t see where there is unanimous agreement even within the clergy on this.

  8. Mark Hausam says:

    Peter: Yes, lay people have a role and should make use of it. They can help the process of discernment forward for the Church. The bishops can learn a lot from them. But one thing they cannot do is dissent from the Magisterium. They have to submit. If this is clear, there is no objection.

    Carn: The Pope’s authority extends to faith and morals and therefore all things that are connected to them and bound up with them, which often includes matters of fact. In the Jansenist controversy, the Jansenists refused to accept the papal condemnation of Jansen’s book because they said that the Pope had no authority to discern matters of fact–i.e. whether or not heretical claims were made in a particular book. The Pope explicitly condemned their error and reaffirmed that the errors were in Jansen’s book You are committing the same error. It is not your job to decide for the Church where the Pope’s competency begins and ends. If the Pope determines that the application of faith and morals implies certain factual claims, that is his prerogative to make, not yours.

    In fact, the question of whether the Pope’s authority extends to such factual questions is itself a question of doctrine, isn’t it? And who is the authority in matters of doctrine (that is, matters of faith)? You are disputing with the Pope over a matter of doctrine. He says he has competence where you say he does not. If you wish to submit to papal authority in matters of faith and morals, you need to submit to the papal teaching that papal competency extends to matters of fact when they are tied to faith and morals, including the case of determining whether the DP is necessary today.

    For other matters of fact which the Church has competency over because of their connection to faith and morals, see the CDF document Professio Fidei, which lists several examples.

    If you think about it, it is obvious that in order for the Church to have competence in matters of faith and morals, she must have competence over matters of fact. What if I denied that people over 80 are human, and on that grounds advocated for euthanasia for the elderly? Can the Church therefore not say I am wrong, because it is a matter of fact? Of course not. Think of the applicability of this to abortion as well. Or think of any number of examples.

    You say that with the DP and Amoris Laetitia, I am only giving “my interpretation” of the Pope’s meaning. This is not so. I am giving the Pope’s own interpretation. With Amoris Laetitia, the Pope has approved the interpretation of the Buenos Aires bishops who affirmed what I said. On DP, the Pope has affirmed many times that killing is acceptable if necessary to preserve life, and that the lack of necessity for protection is part of what makes the DP unacceptable today. If it was necessary to protect life, it would be permissible. The CDF letter explaining the Catechism change goes into more detail as well. So the DP is not inherently immoral, in all possible circumstances. But it is inadmissible at least today.

    • carn says:

      “If the Pope determines that the application of faith and morals implies certain factual claims, that is his prerogative to make, not yours.”

      Then please accept the logical conclusion, which would be the following:

      Pope declares that “more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizen” without DP.

      Catholic A one day has to check the security of prisons in a professional position, e.g. as an advisor to the authorites, and concludes the following: The systems of detention developed so far do not ensure the due protection of citizens.

      He is per contract required to assess this issue and would be lying and breaking the contract if he didn’t write his professional assesment of the issue to the best of his knowledge.

      The report is published.

      Catholic A gets asked in public about prisons; Catholic A repeats his written conclusion. He gets reminded that the Pope has said otherwise. Catholic A repeats his assertion, cause this is what supposedly is true according to the facts that he found.

      Congatulations, Catholic A is excommunicated automatically per Canon 1364 for committing heresy per Canon 751.

      I do not say that this shows that your argument is wrong.

      I just say, that if you keep saying that your argument is correct, that then you have no choice but to say:

      Yes, Catholic A would be a heretic and that is exactly what the Church teaches and what Pope Francis wants the teaching to be.

      And that is not an irrelevant issue, cause while few claim that safe prisons do not exist, Pope Francis offered also a host of statements about climate change, including large parts of an encyclica, with a number of them about factual issues. So it would not be a hypothetical to say that there are climate change heretics, but it would be certain that there are.

      Again, this does not show that your argument is wrong. but you should own the logical conclusions of your position. That there are with some likelihood (*) some climate heretics right now, guilty of obstinate public denial of some factual matter which the Pope authoriatively taught in Laudato Si. (*We would have to check that on a case by case basis against the entirity of Laudato Si; but i think we will find some Catholic climate skeptics whom would be guilty) And “right now” means not that these people might end up being heretics, but that they are right now guilty of heresy and it is a scandal that neither priest nor bishops act accordingly.

      You agree, that according to what you say, there might climate heretics of the type, which just deny that there is global warming or deny some other thing clearly treated as true in Laudato Si?

      “The CDF letter explaining the Catechism change goes into more detail as well.”

      Yes, it explicitely offers an interpretation DIFFERENT than yours:

      “The new text, following the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II in Evangelium vitæ, affirms that ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes.”

      That is something else than “PF has taught that it is not necessary to protect life and society, at least not at this time, and so it is at least currently inadmissible.”

      Logic gives me permission to say that your interpretation written above and the interpretation given by CDF are not identical. Especially, if something is inadmissible due to human dignity, such inadmissibility would usually not change due to some circumstances, e.g. that certain buildings (aka functioning prisons) exist or do not exist.

      “With Amoris Laetitia, the Pope has approved the interpretation of the Buenos Aires bishops who affirmed what I said.”

      Where in the BA guidelines do i find that:

      “With Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis has simply taught that sometimes people can be in irregular situations because of confusion while actually trying to do what is right. In such a case, there is a grave sin objectively, but there is no mortal sin (because this requires full understanding and consent of will). In such a case, PF says, it may be, in some cases, permissible for such a person to receive communion while at the same time trying to understand their situation better with their pastor in order to eventually conform better to the objective ideal”

      If this is not in the BA guidelines, it is your interpretation until argued that these words have a mostly identical meaning to the words used in the BA guideline.

      BA guideline says:

      “If it comes to be recognized that, in a specific case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), especially when a person believes they would incur a subsequent wrong by harming the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia offers the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351).”

      They do not require the word “confusion”; they do not specify as you do that if someone is “in irregular situations because of confusion while actually trying to do what is right”, that then “there is no mortal sin”.

      BA guidelines just say that there might be situations with sufficient mitgation (implicitely meaning no mortal sin), that are more frequent when the well being of children is involved. According to BA guidelines there might also be circumstances in which a irregular union exists not due to confusion, but yet mitigation is still there due to other aspects.

      Your interpretation and BA guidelines are accordingly not identical. Accordingly, you cannot offer BA guidelines as proof that what you say is what Pope Francis intended.

      And again: Calling out your interpretation as an interpretation due to differences between what you say and what other sources say (here: BA guidelines) is in no way whatsoever an attack on the Pope. Only an attack on what you said.

      To include an attack on the Pope so that you see the difference:

      Pope Francis does not care seem to care whether there are multiply and supposedly correct interpretations of his teaching, even if they are contradicting to each other.

      • Mary Angelica says:

        Carn, you said:

        ” Especially, if something is inadmissible due to human dignity, such inadmissibility would usually not change due to some circumstances, e.g. that certain buildings (aka functioning prisons) exist or do not exist.”

        I don’t think inadmissibility as the Pope uses it here implies that the legitimacy of an action doesn’t change according to the circumstances. As an example: we all agree that you can kill if it is necessary to defend your life and the lives of those around you. However, the nations where killing is necessary decrease significantly depending on the fighting skills and resources of the one doing the defense. I don’t really know how to use a gun, I might shoot to stop a target, but I don’t have the skillset to be concerned about whether I kill an attacker or not. However, suppose I was an officer trained in defusing situations like these. Then I am expected to take care of the situation with as little bloodshed as is necessary, and I will ignore what that means concretely. I might have better aim, I know how a gun works or know how to deal with criminals on a psychological level.

        The way human dignity fits into this is that it is the reason for argument that you should do as little killing as possible to keep a society stable to begin with. That is, because of human dignity, there better be a darn good reason for me to take the life of another… only something like the presentation of other human life as a last resort is proportionate. It is a necessary (though not necessarily sufficient) component in any moral decision that may involve the taking or the preservation of life.

        There are still some issues to b work out here, but I don’t think this is one of them.

  9. Mark Hausam says:

    Peter: You say: “All that I know is that I have to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1Thessalonians 5:21). Scripture, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is a good way for me to monitor what the Church teaches.”

    And that is partly why you are confused. You are approaching the subject like a Protestant. This is not Catholicism. In Catholicism, you can’t trump the Magisterium with Scripture. They have to be in harmony. You have to submit to the Magisterium’s interpretation.

    “Wading through 2000 years of Church teaching and what the Church says about itself, and determining what is magisterial or not is asking too much.”

    Then don’t do it. Stop acting as if it is your job to correct the current Magisterium based on your own personal interpretation of historical texts. That’s not Catholicism. Your confusion would get much better if you approached the subject in a Catholic way.

    “I don’t see where there is unanimous agreement even within the clergy on this.”

    The clergy all agree that what you are doing is wrong, and that we need to submit to the Magisterium. That’s the Catholic position. So why not do it?

    • Peter Aiello says:

      Who represents the magisterium when cardinals and the pope disagree? Do the cardinals mindlessly submit to the pope? Does the pope mindlessly submit to the cardinals even when they can’t agree? Do things become magisterial only when the pope and cardinals agree? What about the archbishops and bishops below them? Do they count? Does the laity count?
      What is the unanimous Catholic position on this?

      • Marthe Lépine says:

        The way I see it is that, in a case when cardinals and the pope disagree, there is nothing wrong for the cardinals and the pope, and also the bishops and archbishops, to have an in-depth discussion, but it is the Pope that makes the final decision, and the Pope has the authority to then make it mandatory for the cardinals, bishops and others in the Church to submit to his decision.

    • jong says:

      The dissenters are guided by the spirit of hermaneutic of suspicion. Will the Holy Spirit inspires a good soul to question the Teaching Authority and Interpretation of Church Magisterium? No.
      There are only two opposing spirit in this world, the Spirit of Truth who is guiding and illuminating the Church vs. the spirit of errors & lies who are sowing confusions to further divisions.
      One simple question, who then inspire the Dissenters to foster hermaneutic of suspicion?

      • Peter Aiello says:

        If the Bible tells me to prove all things, then I need to do that. I guess that I am supposed to be suspicious until my conscience assents.

  10. Marie says:

    Excellent article. When I studied linear algebra and calculus, I never bothered doing work problems when the answer was not provided (except when I had to), for I never knew if I went off course or not. It just took the slightest error to get an entirely different answer. When the answer was given, I would work through the problem and if in the end I got it wrong, which often I did, I knew I made a mistake somewhere, so I’d go back and start again. It was the only way to really tackle it. Most math textbooks have the answers, sometimes even the entire solutions so you can make sure you stay on course. Christ has provided us this gift with our faith through the pope and the Magisterium. It is the only way we can ensure we follow the truth. Like the math, we are still required to think things through, and find a way to understand it. Having the answer is not enough, we must understand. There is no shame in not getting it initially, but to insist we do it our way, and never check the answers because we are certain we did it correctly is a very risky endeavour, especially when given the opportunity to ensure we are right. We have been given this gift, so how will we explain that we just decided to ignore it and go on our own? Who could be so certain they are 100% correct?

    This gift of the pope and the Magisterium is one of the few things in life that provides certainty. Virtually every decision we make we must balance against other decisions, people, circumstances, etc. It can be difficult, and some of our choices do not turn out as planned. We need to embrace this one aspect of life, the most important aspect, and be grateful we need not fear anything about it, as Christ promised us he would protect the truth always. That is a pretty amazing gift to give us.

    • Mark Hausam says:

      Thanks, Marie! Yes, we’ve been given the “teacher’s guide”. It would be foolish not to make use of it, wouldn’t it? Certainly we mustn’t “check out brains at the door,” as they say. But using our brains involves using all the evidence available to us, which includes what God has told us through the Magisterium. To ignore that evidence would be to “check our brains at the door”.

      And yes, the critics are right that we can’t ignore problematic evidence of contradictions if there is any. But we must beware of manufacturing such evidence where there really isn’t any, by giving unnecessarily bad interpretations to what Pope and bishops say, by reading our own ideas into their words and inventing contradictions, by insisting on our own less-than-certain readings of the earlier Tradition or of Scripture as if they were certain and then refusing to submit to Magisterial correction when the Magisterium disagrees with our personal readings and opinions, etc.

  11. Mark Hausam says:

    Carn: A few thoughts:

    1. Denying non-definitive teaching is not technically “heresy” as that is defined in canon law. It is erroneous, but not in the same category as someone denying a definitive teaching which the Church claims is something directly taught in divine revelation. So it’s still wrong, but there are various levels of wrongness we want to keep in mind.

    2. Pope Francis has taught, in his ordinary magisterium, that the DP today is inadmissible, partly because it is not needed to protect people. Part of the reason it is not necessary is because our means of detention today, in the developed world, is sufficient. Since the Pope’s ordinary magisterium is reliable, we ought to accept this claim. What would I say to someone who works in the prisons and claims they are not sufficiently safe to rule out DP? Well, I would ask them why they think so. Perhaps they would tell me about the possibilities that some might escape. Perhaps they would give me some statistics. Perhaps they would cite their own experience with unsafe circumstances. I would probably then ask why he thinks these things indicate there is not a sufficient level of safety to avoid the DP, and how he judges what is sufficient and what is not. I would tell him that what we have here is not an argument over empirical facts regarding prison conditions, but over where we are going to set the bar for the label of “sufficient”. This is not a simple empirical question like “Is there an apple on the table?”. This is a complex quesion involving many factors, and lots of people who know about this subject disagree with each other about how to evaluate the sufficiency of the prison systems relevant to DP. “Sufficient” is not necessarily an absolute term. It doesn’t necessarily imply absolutely no risk. One must weigh existing risks with other facts, all the pros and cons of the DP. So this is a very complex issue. The Pope has weighed in with his opinion, and he has also taught that opinion authoritatively to the Church. Therefore, we are obliged, as Catholics, to follow his opinion. The Pope has required us to believe that the best thinking right now is that conditions are sufficient to avoid DP. Within that parameter, there are lots of possibilities in terms of the specific details one might believe. The prison worker has adequate room to form lots of his own opinions about the objective conditions of the prisons, particularly of his own prison, and to report that to superiors. All he is required to do is submit to the authoritative ruling of the Pope and to form his own opinions in the context of that.

    Let’s say that a prison expert analyzes the situation and comes to wonder if Pope Francis has all the facts. Perhaps there is new research that he thinks needs to be taken into consideration that might require revising our opinions about the necessity of the DP. What should he do? He can write up a report and publish it, not opposing the Pope but raising questions that he believes need further consideration. If he does this with the right attitude, in dialogue but also in submission to the decisions of the Magisterium, he will not be doing wrong, and he might even end up doing a service by helping the Church to learn more of the facts and even perhaps to revise her opinion on the necessity of the DP. So there is a lot of room for individual critical thinking and dialogue here, provided there is an avoidance of opposition to the Magisterium.

    With regard to Laudato Si, Pope Francis teaches many moral truths in it about our need to protect our common home, the poor, etc. His starting point scientifically is the mainstream scientific consensus regarding climate change data and interpretation of that data. Does the Pope require people to accept the mainstream interpretation of the scientific data? Perhaps not. That doesn’t seem to be his focus. What he does call everyone to accept is the need to avoid a throwaway culture, to be concerned for those affected by our actions, to protect our home, etc. So whether some particular person is or is not in conflict with the teachings of Laudato Si would have to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

    With regard to the DP, Pope Francis has said many times, and it comes up in the CDF document and in his revision to the Catechism, that one of the things that makes the DP inadmissible today is that it is not necessary to protect life. Pope Francis has taught that killing can be acceptable if necessary to protect life. The obvious implication here is that if it was the case that the DP was necessary to protect life, then it would be admissible. This is not some stretched interpretation of what the Pope has said; it is his obvious position. So the DP is not ruled out in all hypothetical circumstances, but only under the condition that it not necessary to protect life.

    With regard to Amoris Laetitia, the Buenos Aires bishops and Pope Francis have not indicated that it is objectively right for people to engage in sexual relations with persons who are not their spouse. But sometimes people think it is right, or feel it is right, perhaps because they fear harm to the children, etc. In such cases, their consciences lead them to do what is objectively wrong. I use the word “confusion” to describe this situation, because it is a perfectly accurate word to describe it. Again, my interpretation is not a stretch. It’s simply a description of what they’ve clearly said, whether or not they use exactly the same words. You say Pope Francis doesn’t care that people interpret AL differently. Well, it seems to me he does care, since he clarified that the Buenos Aires bishops had the right interpretation.

    Peter: It’s great that you’re trying to figure out how to understand how the teaching authority of the Church works. It’s evident that you don’t really understand Catholic teaching in this area. The Church has laid out its teaching in this area clearly in a number of places. For, one see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #888-892. For another, see Lumen Gentium 25. For another, see this complex but very thorough explanation from the CDF (it’s the third document in the link). For another, see the Code of Canon Law, #747-755.

    Here is my own summary: “The teaching authority of the Catholic Church resides in the “Magisterium,” which is simply the body of bishops who govern the Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. God has given what I’ll call the “gift of reliability” to the teachers of the Church, so that what they teach in terms of the doctrine of the church (whether of “faith” or “morals”) is accurate and does not lead into error. This gift is not given to individual bishops acting alone, but only to the body of bishops as a whole–so it is possible that individual bishops, or even bishops in groups smaller than the whole of the body of bishops, might teach error, but the body of bishops as a whole can never do so. Also, the Pope, as the head of the church, has the gift of reliability given to him in his own unique office as well, so that he can never teach error when he is exercising his teaching office.

    Sometimes the Church teaches a doctrine definitively–that is, it teaches a doctrine as certainly and irrevocably the correct opinion. This might happen when the bishops come together in an ecumenical council and make definitive decrees or statements, or it might happen as all the bishops in the ordinary exercise of their office agree in teaching a doctrine definitively throughout the world. The Pope might teach a doctrine definitively either by formally defining a doctrine as a dogma (this is the famed ex cathedra declaration) or simply by affirming that a doctrine is the definitive teaching of the Church. When the Church teaches something definitively, since it has the gift of reliability, Catholics are obligated to receive and accept it definitively. Sometimes, however, the Church might teach a doctrine non-definitively–that is, it might teach a doctrine in such a way that it is claimed to be true, or accurate, or good to believe or hold or practice, etc., but not in such a way that it is claimed that the final, unchangeable word on the subject has been given. The doctrine is not claimed as definitely certain or true or unchangeable in its current form. For example, the bishops or the Pope might say, “X is the best way to think about this right now,” or “We should think X right now,” or “So far as we can see at this point, X appears to be true,” or “We should do things in this way right now,” etc. There could be lots of ways such a non-definitive teaching could be given and a variety of degrees of certainty in such pronouncements–context would determine how to interpret any particular statement or teaching. A non-definitive teaching must be accepted and adhered to by Catholics as well. It must be accepted in the way and to the degree it was intended by the Church–again, interpreted by context.”

    The above is from http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-infallibility-of-church.html

    Hopefully that helps a bit. Your error, Peter, seems to be to think that the opinions of the faithful, or their interpretations of Scripture, can sometimes trump the teachings of the Popes and bishops. This is not the case. The “sense of the faithful” only functions when the faithful are in submission to the Magisterium. God guides the whole Church together into truth, not some parts against the others. The Magisterium is protected from error, but the individual faithful are not. The individual faithful must think with the Church, submit to the Magisterium. If they do not, their opinions are no longer part of the “sense of the faithful”. Sometimes the faithful can help the Church think through things. Sometimes the leaders learn from the flock. But this can only happen when there is no attempt by the faithful to rebel against their pastors. So the whole Church works together with everyone doing their own part without interfering with the ministries of the others.

    • jong says:

      Mark Hausam’

      Thank you very much for really attending to all the comments and specifically pointing out how to view contradictions in light of obedience to the Magisterium. I’ve learned a lot from your responses to our beloved critics @carn & Peter Alelio…the grace of humility & submission to Magisterium is really hard nowadays for the well known Dissenters & Dubia Cardinals not to mentioned the seemingly hopeless case for so many Rad Trads channel who continue embracing the Dubia and spreading their errors and violation. As you’ve reference LG25, Catechism of the Catholic Church #888-892. and Code of Canon Law, #747-755..

      I just really wonder why Cardinal Burke, Bishop Schneider, Fr.Gerald Murray, etc.. keep ignoring Catechism,Lumen Gentium and Canon Law considering they have full knowledge and implications of what they are doing by expressing continuous contradictory views against the Magisterium of Pope Francis.

      I honestly think, they all knew they are wrong, as Pope Francis clearly said “they are wrong, but still have to pray for them as members of the Church”. I can only think that they are doing this intentionally and deliberately making them guilty of “delict of heresy” and worst numerous confused followers are embracing their contradictory views as the Truth. They are accomplishing this by synchronizing every Rad Trads channel to spread Fake News and twist the words of Pope Francis on a every issues and continue to feed their viewers of concocted lies & deceptions.

      I think WPI has an article asking, “what is the end game” of this Dissenters? as clearly they will not assent to the Faith of the Magisterium.

      What is their end game? Definitely their end game is not inspired by the Holy Spirit and Our Lady as the Church is guided and protected by Mary & the Holy Spirit.

      Can you share your thoughts on the end game of the Dubia Cardinals and Rad Trads why they keep spreading Fake News and twisting the words of Pope Francis?

    • Peter Aiello says:

      Teaching is one of the gift ministries in Ephesians 4:11. I’m not sure that Christ restricts this gift only to those in the hierarchy.
      When John says in 1John 2:20, 27: “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things…But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him”, he is speaking of a Magisterium that is above the Church magisterium; and we are supposed to be influenced by the unction from the Holy One if we are abiding in Christ. Abiding in Christ is more important than abiding in His Church organization and not having the anointing. The anointing presupposes membership in the organization; but only Christ really knows those who are His. All of this has to be taken into consideration when we examine how we should relate to the Church. I factor all of this in.

      • jong says:

        Peter Alelio
        Since you relied on scriptures, kindly ponder Luk22:32 and Luke10:16.
        Did Jesus promised you that your faith will not fail?
        Did Jesus said “whoever hear you hear Christ”
        The 2000 years Tradition said “the voice of Peter is the Voice of Christ”.
        Can we say the same to you?
        Lastly, to end my point, assuming you got it all right and lets presume that the Magisterium of Pope Francis got it wrong based on your brilliant interpretation of Church Doctrines & Tradition.
        There is one big problem, and this is also the problem of Cardinal Burke et,al and the rest of well known Dissenters, what is that?
        Can you bind them?
        Well, as far as I know in the bible, Jesus only gave the Keys to Peter.
        Did Jesus gave you a Duplicate Keys?

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