Much of the content of this website has been dedicated to the defense of Pope Francis and his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. We’ve striven to demonstrate how both Pope Francis and his teaching are consistent with Catholic tradition. We’ve responded to various arguments and critiques of the document, as well as clarified what it contains. We’ve defended papal primacy and authority, and have argued in favor of the orthodoxy of both Francis and his teachings.

One of the peculiarities of the debate over the exhortation Amoris Laetitia is the fact that many of those who oppose Pope Francis’s teaching are also Catholics who pride themselves on their orthodoxy, who openly advertise that they accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church, and insist that their beliefs are completely in line with Catholic teaching. Many of these Catholics assert that their adherence to Church teaching is what makes them unable to accept Amoris Laetitia’s allowance for some people in irregular marriages to receive the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist in certain cases. They believe that it is their unflappable orthodoxy that has set them in opposition of the pope, and that while the Church has officially taught one thing, the true Catholic teaching aligns with their understanding.

In their opposition to parts of Pope Francis’s exhortation on marriage and the family, many of these Catholics focus on the perceived incompatibility of the document with prior papal teaching. They reject every attempt to reconcile Francis’s change in sacramental discipline with traditional doctrine. They ignore Pope Francis’s insistence that Amoris Laetitia is doctrinally sound and represents a reform in perfect continuity with Church teachings.

In fairness, many of these arguments are persuasive on the surface. It’s clear that allowing some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments when not committing to live as brother and sister (but only when they are not fully culpable for the sin of adultery) represents a change in sacramental discipline, and was a practice deemed impossible by St. John Paul II during his pontificate. Pope Francis reevaluated the issue from a pastoral context, and the outcome was Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. While the chapter presents numerous justifications and explanations for the change in approach, many have not been persuaded by the arguments that defend it.

Of course, insisting on their conclusion — that there is no possible exception to the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving communion (unless there is a commitment by the couple to live as brother and sister) — leads to some potential problems for those who also claim to have complete fidelity to Church teachings. After all, Amoris Laetitia is an official Church document promulgated by the Vicar of Christ to the entire Church. By placing themselves in opposition to the teachings of the document, this puts them in an awkward position.

A simple solution to this conundrum might be to just state, “I disagree with the Church on this issue.” Indeed, most Catholics who disagree with the Church on various doctrines freely admit this. Most of us have Catholic friends and family members who simply state, “I disagree with the Church on that.” Whether the issue is divorce and remarriage, women’s ordination, homosexuality, the need for confession, the infallibility of the pope, or contraception, many Catholics are content to resign themselves to holding a position that does not correspond to official Catholic teachings.

For many conservative and traditional Catholics, however, dissent from the Magisterium is something to be strictly avoided. Judging from social media and the Catholic blogosphere, these champions of “orthodoxy” are swift to harshly condemn any position that does not coincide with their vision of pure, untainted Catholic teaching. For such Catholics, there is hardly a greater sin than straying from orthodoxy. The possibility that they might themselves be dissenters is simply unimaginable. To them, dissenting from a Church teaching isn’t something that good, moral, faithful people do. It’s a failure: a compromise with sin and moral laxity, a character defect or an irrational decision. Dissent, according to this group, is conformity with the world — an attempt to make religion more easy to swallow in the modern age.

For this reason, it’s clear why critics of Amoris Laetitia are determined to insist that they are not dissenting from Catholic teachings. And they have put forth several theories to argue that they are the true upholders of orthodoxy.

In my next piece I will explore and critique the arguments that some Catholics use to justify their belief that their rejection of Amoris Laetitia is orthodox (rather than dissenting), and why these arguments are ultimately unconvincing.

 

Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.

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40 Responses

  1. Katherine Yost says:

    Thank you. Well said!

  2. pat says:

    Let’s just make a plan to check back in 5 years and see if the allowance for some hasn’t turned into permission for all… Then we will be on the “it’s not the pope’s fault” argument.

    Of course, AL lends itself to ‘fill in the blank’ interpretations too. What is good for Divorced is good for gays, pedophiles etc.

    What is really insulting is the claim that the pope is the only one ever to care about people struggling with sin. Before Francis there was no recourse for people in these situations. Of course that’s not true. They just weren’t told difficult situations make it alright. (There were other things they weren’t told too… it all goes into the perception of the man in the pew that doctrine is transient, and there is a new church)

  3. Cree says:

    The only people who are interested in love mercy forgiveness or compassion are those who desire it for themselves sometimes. These virtues aren’t meant to be shared with everyone in different canonical states only with people who view their individual case as special. The last time I checked Christ died for all of us and redeemed all of us. It is our vision of what is redeemable that is limited not Christ’s. Those that are fearful of mercy are to be prayed for.

  4. Chris dorf says:

    Looking forward to the essay.
    In my 58 year lifetime I have seen nothing like this before …this attack on Pope Francis. Essentially they are claiming that Pope Francis is misled and deceived by Satan and is attempting to take the church on to the rocky shore of error. It’s like listening to Steve Bannon and Donald Trump but within the discussions of the Catholic faith.
    May our Savior Jesus Christ help us and his blessed mother intercede for us with the communion of saints has Pope Francis is attacked from all sides.

    • Christopher Lake says:

      Chris,

      While I am a 45-year-old Catholic convert and “revert,” and thus, I have quite a bit less time than your many faithful years in the Church, I echo your thoughts about the attack on Pope Francis from within the Church. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it honestly frightens me that some of my closest Catholic friends have now ceased to defend Pope Francis and have come to regard him with wariness, at best, and open skepticism and/or opposition, at worst.

      I feel almost alone, being an orthodox Catholic who is convinced that the Pope is an orthodox Catholic! The situation would be laughable, hilarious, even– if not for the fact that, even though Francis *is* the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth, so many Catholics are now acting, and speaking, as if they somehow would be better Popes than Francis, because they are convinced that they are “more orthodox” than him! I’m tempted, at times, to laugh about it, because it’s just an outlandish situation… but it’s probably better to tremble, and pray, because I do think that there is a widespread anti-Papal deception in the Church today, and frighteningly, increasing numbers of Catholics are being seduced by it.

      • Marthe Lépine says:

        About being sometimes tempted to laugh about claims that some people are “more orthodox” than Pope Francis: I have read somewhere that Satan does definitely not like being laughed at… Go ahead and laugh, it in fact might be a good way to bring people back to their senses , without using words of antagonism. Of course I am not suggesting to do it “instead” of praying. But it could sometimes be a useful tool.

        • Christopher Lake says:

          Hmm, I had not thought of that perspective, Marthe! It really does seem almost comedic to me, in a way, that so many professing-to-be-serious-Catholics apparently see their own understanding of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as being more “orthodox” than that of Pope Francis. It’s like something out of a surreal Monty Python skit: “The Pope? He’s not a real Catholic! How so? Well, let me tell you with this angry Youtube video that I made, and/or with my anti-Papal blog that has no Magisterial teaching authority in the Church!”

          I would never want to *just* laugh about it though (as you alluded to in your comment)– and I would also never want to laugh about it in a way that would indicate that I am coming to approach it in a cavalier way, as if this “anti-Pope Francis” mentality is just something that I should now just take for granted among many of my brothers and sisters in the Church.

      • Lisa M says:

        Chris,
        You are not the only one who feels alone sometimes! It’s insanity! I have several family members who have jumped on the anti-Francis ship, while the rest of us are in utter disbelief. Just dreading family gatherings over the holidays!

  5. Jane says:

    I have read from Pope John John Paul II that Adam and Eve let trust in their Creator die when they sinned. Could it be that we are letting trust in our Creator die when we refuse to trust the Vicar He has loving sent to us? I am sad to think so. Long live the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Face of Christ to us!

  6. Chris dorf says:

    What seems to be happening is that Conservative Catholics seem to be relying on personal Revelations that they believe in claiming there is a battle within the church and that the smoke of Satan and entered the highest places and they’re trying to pin the things they believe are at the center of it which is attack on the family and human sexuality.

  7. Peter Aiello says:

    I think that many Catholics view orthodoxy as pre-Vatican II Catholicism. V2 appears to redefine orthodoxy as needing to be in line with Scripture, which brings orthodoxy much further back.
    V2, 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.” This may sound too Protestant for many Catholics because they pay more attention to tradition rather than Scripture.
    Before V2, there was no dissent allowed by the laity. The broadening of the concept of the Church in V2 has allowed for all levels to have input. V2’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 quite a statement coming from the magisterium. Our own personal discernment contributes the whole of Church infallibility. If we have the Holy Spirit, we all have a stake in the infallibility of the Church, both clergy and laity.
    The V2 teaching on personal conscience recognizes the importance of individual responsibility for what we believe, and that we are ultimately bound by what we have processed through our personal conscience even if it doesn’t agree with current Church teaching.

    • Matt 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.”

      That’s a constant teaching of the Church that was around before Vatican 2. A doctrine is without error when everyone in the Church (laity, priests, bishops and Pope) agree on it unanimously.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        I agree. This teaching has been in the Church from its very beginnings (Acts 15:23-25); but I was never taught it during my pre-V2 Catholic upbringing and schooling. It is good that it appears in V2. I wouldn’t know where else to find it. I assume that very few Catholics would know.

        • Christopher Lake says:

          Peter,

          By your own admission, you see the Church very much in “pre-Vatican II” and “post-Vatican II” terms, as if the latter constituted a radical rupture of Church teaching with the former. This is in direct contradiction to the way in which the Popes after Vatican II have repeatedly affirmed that the Second Vatican Council and its documents are properly read and interpreted in a spirit of *continuity with, not rupture from*, pre-Vatican II Magisterial teaching.

          The Popes (both pre- and post-Vatican II) have also affirmed that both Scripture and Magisterial Church documents are properly read with “the mind of the Church,” and *not* in a spirit of personal, private interpretation that contradicts the Church’s teaching authority.

          Peter, if you, as a Catholic, are going to simply pick and choose what to believe from the Church, according to your own personal interpretation, then what makes such an approach any different, essentially, from that of a Protestant?

          A few last thoughts before I go out of town for Thanksgiving, for several days, and take a break from commenting here– part of reading Church documents with “the mind of the Church” is being careful to not always read every single sentence of those documents in an overly literalistic way. If every single professing member of the Church *must agree* on a particular official Catholic teaching in order for that teaching to be without error, then the Church would likely never promulgate very many official teachings at all. For example, there are professing Catholics who openly disagree with the teaching of the Immaculate Conception, but the Immaculate Conception is still a Dogma of the faith which we are bound by the Church to believe as Catholics. It is without error, even though some Catholics do dissent from it.

          I wish a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

  8. Christopher Lake says:

    Peter,

    The Catholic Church being in line with, and regulated by, Scripture, simply does not necessarily always equate to the Catholic Church being in line with, and regulated by, *your personal interpretation* of Scripture– *especially* when your personal interpretation of Scripture conflicts (as it often seems to here) with the Church’s authoritative, Magisterial interpretation.

    You’re not going to bring the Church in line with your anti-Catholic interpretations of Scripture and Tradition. It’s just not going to happen. You can keep trying though. Many people have tried to do the same throughout history. The Church keeps teaching– apostolically, authoritatively– all the same, as Christ intended when He founded the Church.

    • Peter Aiello says:

      According to Vatican II, I individually have the capacity for personal discernment and infallibility in my personal reading of Scripture which I can contribute to the total deposit of faith. V2’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.”
      If I am not allowed to have my personal interpretation and conclusions when reading Scripture, how can I contribute them to the whole Church for scrutiny? It is now clear that the Church requires input from both clergy and laity. It wasn’t clear before V2; and it’s still not clear to many Catholics who have not read V2 for themselves. Times have changed for the better.

  9. Chris dorf says:

    Here is what anti-Pope Francis Allen Keyes says:
    “Now, those who are supposed to be the servant of Christ’s servants, preparing and recalling them to the true way He represents, have instead become servants of the world that rejects Him, inclined to favor multifarious ways contrived by human ambition and willfulness. They have themselves become disciples of those God-denying ways.

    So it is not surprising that these clerics and prelates neither see nor make manifest any difference between themselves and such bishops as the openly anti-Christ Chinese Communists are liable to appoint. For isn’t this what they themselves have secretly become? ”
    https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/during-pope-francis-tenure-will-true-faith-surrender-to-the-worlds-false-ho

  10. John Vickery says:

    Nice photo of the lightning strike. I saw a photo like this on a Seventh Day Adventist site. The Adventists may not be as nasty as some of the pope’s enemies from within. The critics of Amoris Laetitia should be a little bit more scandalized by their own presence in the communion line instead of being ‘scandalized’ by the presence of others. And give pastors and their communicants the same respect that you give to the privacy of the confessional.

  11. carn says:

    “a change in sacramental discipline, and was a practice deemed impossible by St. John Paul II during his pontificate. Pope Francis reevaluated the issue from a pastoral context”

    Ok, one of the two was/is wrong.

    Why is it dissent if someone thinks the latter is wrong?
    Why isn’t it dissent if someone thinks the former was wrong?

    • Mike Lewis says:

      The debate over the particular theological justifications for and against AL are beyond the scope of this particular post. As is the discussion about whether AL contradicts John Paul II.

      This post is about WHY those who reject AL won’t simply admit that they dissent from a magisterial teaching, which is the most straightforward response. It seems absurd, on the surface, for a Catholic to oppose the teachings of the pope while maintaining that he’s the one upholding the Church’s teachings. But, to this segment of Catholics, being a “dissenter” is an unfathomable crime. They are stuck in the position of simultaneously attacking official Church teaching and insisting on their perfect fidelity to “true” Catholic teaching.

      But to your points, briefly:

      1) The latter represents a change in sacramental discipline, officially promulgated by legitimate magisterial authority, and thus demands assent.

      2) The former wasn’t wrong. It was an exercise of the magisterium, and (as Francis states in AL) still stands as the general rule.

      As Catholics, we are required to give religious submission to even the non-infallible acts of the Magisterium. You might legitimately PREFER a different approach for prudential reasons, but to condemn the magisterial act as a violation of Truth or doctrine, or to say it is illegitimate is deeply problematic.

      • carn says:

        “2) The former wasn’t wrong.”

        You said:

        “was a practice deemed impossible by St. John Paul II during his pontificate”

        If Pope Francis is correct, then it is AND WAS POSSIBLE. Hence, “deemed impossible” would have been an error.

        The only ways out i see are:

        – the statement “deemed impossible” does not accurately reflect JPII
        – that it was “deemed impossible” by JPII was not teaching by magisteral authority and position of PF is teaching by…
        – the other way round (so JPII teaching is magisterial, while PF is for whatever reason not)
        – none of the two carry much magisteral weight
        – we have one of the potential and probably rather rare cases wherein some magisteral teaching of the “nearly infallible” type is wrong (either JPII or PF or both)

        “It was an exercise of the magisterium, and (as Francis states in AL) still stands as the general rule.”

        That way out is closed, if “deemed impossible” is correct; if magisterium teaches that something is impossible, then it cannot be an organic change of teaching if one day the magisterium declares that the something is not impossible, but rarely possible.

        Impossible excludes that something is possible under very specific circumstances and the other way round.

    • David says:

      Exactly. It is this simple and that’s what people refuse to answer directly. Notice his reply still doesn’t address the contradictions, i.e., the prohibitions of JPII, other aspects that have still been opposed, especially when they are all interconnected, .e.g the general and only rule is because there is no exception. You can’t say part of prior teaching is in force and other parts contradicted. They play with words to cover it up, e.g., “re-evaluated.” Huh? Church teaching is not reevaluated, as though it is never fixed. I’ve never come across that notion. And as though “pastoral” reasons justifies error. This also suggests JPII and B16 and all popes before them were not pastoral, missed the boat, never thought of this possibility, which is utter nonsense. They considered it and explicitly rejected it! More on that below but to get to the “dissenter” issue, A.L. does not actually contain this teaching or discipline, but it is the argentine guidelines that do. Hence, we are not really being asked to assent to this “teaching” of A.L. (Even if it is the case, we still have the attendant problems.) How mere “guidelines,” for a single country, become magisterial by slapping such a label on them post factum is a problem in itself. Furthermore, and this should warrant a whole piece in itself, do we forget that Francis initially denied that A.L. allowed communion for adulterers and that he said he forgot the footnote was even in there? Was he lying, did he later decide to claim it’s in there?

      Just about all of the world’s bishop have not issued any directives conforming to A.L. and/or have even issued ones in “opposition, ” continuing the perennial, and only, teaching & discipline the Church can have. Yes, time may produce more, but it’s very telling that by this time most bishops haven’t made any move. My own bishop and neighboring ones have no plans or see any need to make any changes. The powers that be haven’t made any move to label this as dissent or suggest these bishops are in schism, or asked them to correct anything. And if the answer is that different places allow different things, then there is no binding, universal teaching or discipline that one needs to assent to. And we have the madness of different places teaching different things, of a universal magisterium that is not universal, and thus not even magisterial, i.e., it is the universal “teaching” that it is not universal. So, if Church authority hasn’t said so, how can someone publicly claim people are “dissenting?”

      Are these folks willing to state that let’s say, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, is dissenting or in schism, who has publicly said that Francis’ claim that this is authentic, magisterial teaching is “disturbing,” and his attempt to foist his private will on the faithful (“submit his personal view of things for others to believe.”) Are those who have directives disallowing Francis’ claim, like Archbishop Charles Chaput or Alexander Sample (Portland, OR.), the Bishops of Poland or Kazackhstan, to name but a few? If they are not willing or able to say they are dissenting, they are on very dangerous ground. Of course, I don’t think they would be stupid enough to publicly label a bishop as “dissenting.” And if yes, again, why hasn’t any authority said so?

      As a little aside, but very noteworthy- by many accounts, when he was in buenos aires, bergoglio truly dissented from Church teaching by allowing adulterers to receive communion and instructing his priests to allow it. This explains why he has done what he now has, for one- he didn’t like the teaching; and one wonders at what point did his own dissent cease? Or was he not really in dissent because it was foreseen he would be pope and it was applied retroactively to him?! Or how exactly could one classify his actions?

      This brings us to the why/how of all this: these folks are now starting to openly admit or at least reveal that an absolutist notion of papal will is their foundation: whatever francis says or does it must be followed no matter what; it ultimately doesn’t matter if you can’t explain something, if it’s contradictory, if it leads to any number of problematic conclusions; if Francis has willed it we must obey, no matter what; he is free to contradict his predecessors because he is latest in line temporally, and our job is then to construct a rationalization for it; and included is the notion- clearly wrong- that it is papal will that makes something to be true, valid, authentic. No. Apart from the declaration of authority, the content of what is claimed must be true, part of the deposit of faith, etc. So they are not even bothering so much now with any pretense of argument, but now resort to demonizing people as “dissenters.” It reminds of one leftists who can’t win an argument, so end up calling you names. So, you end up with people who try to gloss over the contradictions with prior teaching to say that it doesn’t matter, ‘it’s 2018 we have a new pope and we obey him.’

      As for a little more on the substance, you then have the problem of prior popes being in error, in this case the entire previous magisterium until Francis. This includes the notion that it is a development. (When you point out the above problems, people who admit it is a change may then say it’s a development, thinking this gets them off the hook.) And the same erroneous absolutist notion of papal authority then applies to any pope, and if prior popes were wrong or could be “reevaluated” then Francis could easily be wrong and the next pope could “reevaluate” things. We then have the unheard of problem- until Francis- of a teaching pendulum swinging back and forth depending on the pope. The prohibitions of JPII and B16 were absolute, including for the reasons behind it, e.g., that it is based upon divine law, the words of Jesus himself, and thus cannot change, or else you result in God being in error and changing his mind. This includes even the disciplinary aspect, which has been explicitly taught to be of divine law. Thus, one also can’t claim this is solely disciplinary and therefore subject to change. (disciplinary does not necessarily mean there is no doctrine tied to it and thus can just as well be different.) I would also argue that even Francis has not claimed it is solely disciplinary and certainly there are others who defend it who don’t take that view. This is revealing in itself- different people take different views, even opposing ones, with the aim of presenting any defense vs. a search for the truth. How one goes from something being “intrinsically impossible” and admitting of no exceptions by God’s command, to being “reevaluated” is inexplicable.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        I approved your comment because you clearly put a lot of work into it. But in accusing me of dodging or glossing over certain points, you skip over the central point of the piece.

        I understand that you are troubled by the teaching, disagree with it, and find it inconsistent with prior teaching. I understand that you do not find the arguments in favor of its doctrinal soundness convincing. I get it.

        But this is the essential fact you are avoiding: the Church has taught it, in an official and magisterial way.

        To put it bluntly: you do not assent to a Magisterial teaching of the Church.

        I accept that you dissent in good conscience and in light of what you believe to be reasonable and true. But your belief is contrary to something promulgated officially by the Vicar of Christ, to the universal Church.

        Focusing on the content of your disagreement does not save you from the implications of the fact that you reject the teaching.

        • carn says:

          “find it inconsistent with prior teaching.”

          The way you worded the prior teaching, there is a contradiction.

          Hence, at least i do not claim that there is some contradiction in teaching and therefore i dissent or whatever.

          I say what you say comprises a contradiction and therefore i dissent to what you say.

          That should probably be ok for catholics to dissent with “wherepeteris”

        • carn says:

          “I get it.”

          No, you don’t.

          Cause there is a glaring interesting claim in David’s text, giving rise to some questions, which should be easy for you to answer, but which you are probably unable to actually address:

          “when he was in buenos aires, bergoglio truly dissented from Church teaching by allowing adulterers to receive communion and instructing his priests to allow it.”

          If true, would Cardinal Bergoglio have been a dissenter?
          As you claim that there was a legitimate development in that issue, at which point in time did Cardinal Bergoglio stop being a dissenter?
          As the teaching of the Church developed regarding this point at earliest with the publication of AL in April 2016, was Pope Francis from March 2013 till April 2016 a dissenter for he was still “owning” whatever pastoral practice he instituted in Buenes Aires by not stopping it as a Pope?

          Before you say, the Pope is judged by no one, sorry, this is no way out regarding the first question, as you are just asked to judge a Cardinal.

          And as half the articles of wherepeteris are about trying to show who is a dissenter, you can also not claim lack of capability and/or willingness to ponder whether Cardinal Bergoglio was a dissenter and at what point in time he stopped being a dissenter.

          @David
          Is there hard evidence for your claim?

          • Mike Lewis says:

            Carn, Francis’s actions in Buenos Aires are completely irrelevant to the doctrine of papal primacy. He is protected, by virtue of the office he now holds, from promulgating errors magisterially.

            That said, orthodoxy is a matter of belief in Catholic teaching, not practice. So even if he didn’t follow every law perfectly, that doesn’t mean he rejected the teaching in principle, or the pope’s authority to lay down the discipline.

  12. David says:

    I am not avoiding the essential fact and you confirm the very point i made: an erroneous idea of papal authority- it is not the declaration of the authority that makes it true, part of the deposit of faith, and the mere will of a pope is not what establishes something as magisterial. I think part of the problem is you don’t have any formal training, as this is not the Catholic position. This is a form of positivism. To take an example, if Francis proclaimed, through a formal document, there are 4 persons in the trinity or contraception is licit, would that be an official, magisterial teaching, requiring assent? According to your thinking it would be, which is absurd, of course. There is and must be something other than mere papal will- because a pope said so- that establishes something as true, magisterial. You also conflate things by saying “the Church” has taught it- no, again the same error in another form- what the Church in toto has always taught is one thing and what Francis has claimed is another. Why is JPII’s teaching not considered “the Church?” This is where you must get into other issues such as the substance of what is claimed. And here is where you commit a logical and theological error- resorting back to, Francis has said so, end of story. That’s circular reasoning. If a teaching is erroneous, and thus not really a teaching, one is not bound to accept it. And, whether a teaching is erroneous or not, is not, cannot be, determined, merely by saying because Francis said so. Again, a vicious circle, if you can see it, and think of the above example about the trinity. Interesting you didn’t answer the questions about why no authority has claimed people are “dissenting” or at odd with the Church’s teaching (and think about why that would be and the corner they might paint themselves into), or if you are willing to declare any bishop as a dissenter, or addressing bergolio’s own real dissent. This brings up another point: if my bishop has refused to adopt it and says the perennial teaching remains and there are no exceptions, and i obey my bishop, am i a dissenter?

  13. David says:

    An an addendum, here are quotes from a just released recent interview with Cardinal Gerhard Muller: Notice his comment about “it is not we who have to be in accord with A.L.: “Amoris Laetitia has to be absolutely in accordance with Revelation, and it is not we who have to be in accord with Amoris Laetitia, at least not in the interpretation which contradicts, in a heretical manner, the Word of God. And it would be an abuse of power to discipline those who insist upon an orthodox interpretation of this encyclical and of all the papal magisterial documents.”

    “The Magisterium of the bishops and of the Pope stand under the Word of God in Holy Scripture and Tradition and serves Him. It is not at all Catholic to say that the Pope as an individual person receives directly from the Holy Spirit the Revelation and that he may now interpret it according to his own whims while all the rest are to follow him blindly and mutely.”

    • Marthe Lépine says:

      Re your last paragraph: It is a Dogma of Catholic faith, that the Pope, by being the Pope, received a gift from the Holy Spirit that prevents him from teaching “on a whim” something that is in error, or as you say “if Francis proclaimed, through a formal document, there are 4 persons in the trinity or contraception is licit, would that be an official, magisterial teaching, requiring assent?” This just cannot happen, as Christ has promised when he promised to be with his Church until the end of times, and that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church. If my memory is correct, this is called the “inerrancy” of the Church, or the protection against error.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Thank you Marthe. That’s the gist. We trust the Church not to officially promulgate anything contrary to faith and morals. That’s the assumption built into the system. I do not believe that a pope will EVER propose something contrary, such as 4 persons in the Trinity.

        That said, if the impossible did happen, and a pope was to clearly propose through the Magisterium that there are four persons in the Trinity, I would not agree with the teaching, but I would not deny that the teaching is Catholic. I would either accept that I was a Catholic who dissented from an official teaching of the Church, or I would leave. I would not usurp the pope’s authority to teach authoritatively on matters of doctrine. If I wanted to reclaim the mantle of Catholic orthodoxy, I would have to assent to the teaching.

        If you believe that Amoris Laetitia’s teaching is absolutely and objectively contrary to the teachings of Jesus and irreconcilable with what you believe to be the Truth of the Christian faith, then your position is one of dissent against an official teaching of the Catholic Church. This is a de facto situation and not a judgement about your intentions or the sincerity of your faith.

        • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

          The argument “What if the Pope taught there are 4 persons of the Trinity?” always struck me as analogous to that ol’ New Atheist argument “If God is omnipotent, can He create a 4-sided triangle?”

          In other words, it is meant as a “Gotcha” kind of argument, but in the end it is self-evidently non-sensical to a Catholic who knows his faith

        • David says:

          Marthe and Mike,

          Wow. And there we have it. If a pope declared there are 4 persons in the trinity, that would still be a valid catholic teaching requiring assent?! In other words, it would be a truth of revelation, a part of the deposit of faith, merely because a pope said it!? That’s utter madness, beyond rationality, and clearly not a Catholic understanding of things. If a teaching is objectively contrary to the teachings of Jesus then it is not a valid teaching, is no teaching at all, and therefore requires no assent. The object of assent is a truth, not the pronouncement of a pope- the pronouncement may or may not contain a truth- and if it isn’t true, there is no proper object to assent to and thus also no dissent. (This is where it helps to have to have some theological training.) Don’t you see this is a form of absolutism, the logical conclusion making a pope above scripture and tradition, that he is not bound by the deposit of faith? Of course, this very idea Francis is above such has even been explicitly voiced by papal confidants and spokesman, so it’s also no surprise to see it. Also, the inerrancy of the pope is very limited. It is the accepted theological opinion that popes can err in the ordinary magisterium, and indeed have in a few historical circumstances. This is also why Francis has avoided teaching the matter explicitly and directly- by way of pointing to guidelines, which don’t actually contain a dogmatic formula- and refusing to answer the dubia, as he knows this would give rise to a smoking gun of trying to teach error.

          • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

            What’s utter madness and beyond rationality is the thought that a Pope *can* teach there are 4 persons in the Trinity, as if that would ever happen.

            And if you want to obey Christ, then you obey His Vicar. There is no contradiction between the two. If you say “I’ll follow Christ, not the Pope”, then you’re not following Christ, but yourself.

            The Pope is not above scripture and tradition, but he is the arbiter of the true interpretation of scripture and tradition. Your personal interpretation of scripture and tradition does not supersede his.

          • Mike Lewis says:

            David, I do not believe a pope will ever (or can ever) teach that there are four persons in the Trinity. Both because the Truth is that there are 3 persons and because the Church is protected from teaching error magisterially. My point is that if something like that was to happen, it means that the Church is not true.

            What Amoris Laetitia’s dissenters are doing is trying to have their cake and eat it too. They are rejecting a teaching that has been promulgated officially and magisterially, but claiming to adhere to the entire magisterium just the same. It can’t be both. They must either assent to the teaching or accept that they dissent from part of the magisterium.

            There are many understandable reasons for wanting to deny being a dissenter, but based on the criteria laid out by the Church, it is dissent.

            Your claim that the Church can err in faith and morals in the magisterium is a theological opinion that is not supported by magisterial teaching, either. Regardless of whether it’s possible, LG25 still requires religious submission of intellect and will to the teaching.

          • Mike Lewis says:

            You seem to take for granted that it’s possible that “true” Catholic teaching can exist completely untethered from the pope. The Catholic Church does not teach that, although there are many non-Catholic groups that do.

  14. Stuart Kenny says:

    If conservatives don’t have to follow Amoris Laetitia, then I don’t have to follow Veritatis Splendor; if conservatives don’t have to follow Laudato Si, then I don’t have to follow Humanae Vitae.

    In what way is the Dubia different from the 95 Theses posted on the Wittenburg Door?

    • Marthe Lépine says:

      It seems to me that, although the content and the subject matter are different, both are much the same – as protestant proclamations go!

  15. Jane says:

    I absolutely love the following quote and read it often. It brings me great comfort and it is from Pope St. Pius X: Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey – that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; one does not oppose to the Pope’s authority that of others, however learned they may be, who differ from him. For however great their learning, they must be lacking in holiness, for there can be no holiness in dissension from the Pope. (Pope St. Pius X, allocution of 18 November 1912, AAS vol. 4 (1912), 695).

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