Dissent in the Catholic Church

There are a lot of ideas and assertions that people will call Catholic teachings and some of those things are more certain than others. So, you’ll get people making a case for why you don’t have to adhere to it and some who will say that it’s a binding doctrine. And so these endless debates persist and those who are absolutely intent on undermining Church teaching at every turn can wedge themselves into that context and sow a lot of confusion.

But, there’s one very disruptive hard fact in the midst of that and it’s the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Now unlike some teachings that could be dragged into the fog of uncertainty, this one is a definite doctrine. There’s no ambiguity about it. Where there is a lot of confusion about it is in what it means.

And so, a lot of people will point to certain things that a Pope might say in a press conference or perhaps the bad moral behaviour of another pope and say, see, there’s no way that doctrine could be true. But that’s not what the doctrine means. It means that when the Pope defines a doctrine of the Church concerning faith or morals, when he speaks in a very specific way, called ex-cathedra, he is preserved from error.

Even though Papal Infallibility has got to be one of the most bold claims to authority in all of humanity, the Church’s definition of it is pretty toned down compared to what the Bible says about it. It’s like Jesus wanted to emphasize this point in the most dramatic fashion possible.

And so in the Gospel of Matthew, he singularizes Simon and renames him Peter, or Cephas in Aramaic, which means rock, and then, without changing the point of address, he gives him the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and says whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.

In other words, your authority to define what is true and good is so absolute, that heaven itself will be compromised if you get it wrong. So, considering God probably has a vested interest in the integrity of Heaven, I expect he’s going to use up some of that omnipotent power of his to make sure that Peter and his successors don’t try to define a heretical doctrine.

So, if you consider yourself a Christian, a follower of Jesus, then there isn’t much flexibility on this question. You either accept what he said and follow it, or you don’t. And that’s an important ultimatum because to follow someone means to admit that you don’t have all the answers and you need the guidance of someone who’s wisdom or knowledge exceeds your own.

But if you’re just picking and choosing from among the things that Jesus said, then you’re not following him… you’re following yourself. You’re still deciding what is right and true. To only follow the things he said when it suits your assumptions is to not follow him. To head the other way when it’s difficult for you to accept, is not following him.

When a doctrine like Papal Infallibility is on the books, to try to expect the Church to reverse any other doctrine so that the faith is a better reflection of your preferences is to try to build something on a contradiction. It’s to cut off the branch you’re sitting on. You can’t do that and then still expect the Church to still be standing. It would represent its own collapse.

And I get that a lot of people who insist on this contradiction haven’t really thought it through and are just doing their thing and following their preferences, so I’m challenging you to think it through. That kind of dissent is a path to ruin for the Church. It’s not a path to reform or progress. It’s the worst kind of regress. Christ built his Church on a rock. That approach would pull the rock out and then be surprised when the whole thing crashes down.

So, what about dissent from other things that a bishop or the Pope might advocate. Well, not everything the pope says or does is infallible so, there is reasonable grounds to correct and even oppose the Pope and precedents for this go all the way back to the Bible. St. Paul rebuked St. Peter over his treatment of gentile converts. At no point was his faithfulness to the Church in question in that incident.

So, while dissent from doctrine is to seek ruin for what is known as Catholicism, dissent and opposition towards the Pope or a bishop who is out of step with the timeless teaching of the faith, can, with diligent prayer and discernment, be a good thing.
One is destructive in its approach, another is constructive. So, as you can probably guess, it’s really important that we’re able to distinguish between them given what’s at stake.

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  1. Brian, once again a well thought out informative video that paints an accurate representation of papal infallibility. On a different note, you probably don't want to go back to the massive controversy in the Church, however, the secular Daily Wire (Ben Shapiro) and guys had an interesting discussion on this topic today starting at about 1hr and 17minutes into the discussion. Would love to hear your additional thoughts on the secular response (whether conservative, liberal, or other perspective). Here is the link: https://youtu.be/8stKpMxDxNg

  2. I will never ever leave the Church and your video has comforted me a lot, we live in a world where Catholics don't realize that we need to support each other while trying to root out the problem. And we have to do this with patience and forethought, we are sometimes very quick to act without thinking of the dire consequences of our actions. Thank you so much for this video even if I'm 5 days too late.

  3. It would seem that prior to the Counsel of Trent, though, the interpretation of that passage varied. I'm not sure what my position on Trent is right now. But I feel like even Pope Francis has pointed out a problem if ideology infecting the Church especially in the United States. We are over-intellectualizing the faith where we stop listening to our consciences because we want the Church to give us a letter of the law to follow.

    We believe that Christ is the Word incarnate. The Divine Logos. In fact, in the extraordinary form of the Mass, we used to read the opening of John's gospel. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God . . . etc. etc." It would seem to mean that any personal encounter with God–even outside of the Church–is an encounter with the Word of God, whether that person recognizes it as possible. Christ says that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As such, being the Way, it is important to recognize that Christ is not a mere teacher of the way to the Father. He IS the way. Thus whatever God communicates to humanity, however obscured by sin, is indeed Christ.

    When Catholics start insisting that feeling spiritually unnourished in their parish isn't a problem, that we need to indulge in a sort of servile obedience of simply going to Mass for it's own sake, I think we view the liturgy as a banging gong. This isn't to deny the dark night of the soul, but to recognize that attending Mass like an obedient robot involves us being less receptive to His grace. We have to open ourselves up and have a healthy relationship with Him.

    Now, this isn't to say I think progressive Catholics have it right. I think their tendency to want to make the liturgy entertaining shows a spiritual poverty. They recognize a problem in Catholicism and throw out the baby with the bath water. And I'm not quite ready to jump ship and decide that I should convert to Orthodoxy and thus bar myself from the Eucharist if I happen to live in an area where the Eucharist is not there. I'd rather receive the Eucharist in an imperfect liturgy than not go.

    But I see the eastern lung of the Church as offering greater wisdom–both in her liturgy and her theology of theosis, etc. I'm not sure WHAT I think about the Council of Trent right now or papal infallibility. But I do find that most Catholics view falling into mortal sin as if it were slipping on a banana peel. Knowing the Church teaches something is not the same thing as knowing something is true. We aren't infallible. All our knowledge is fallible. The infallibility of the Church or the Pope does not make us infallible ourselves.

    I think we're terrified of being wrong though and because of that we try to leap toward infallibility by simply relying too heavily on intellectual assent to the point that we have trouble listening to our consciences when they come into conflict with Church teaching. I think our belief that we can make ourselves infallible through mere intellectual assent is extremely prideful and leads us into grave sins for the sake of avoiding grave sins. And it would seem THIS view is clearer within the eastern viewpoint of things than within the west. So while I do not think we should recognize that the progressive Catholics do not bear much fruit when they try to reinvent the wheel and end up trying to clericalize the laity or looking to anything but our tradition to seek a better reform of the Church with just a blind "Spirit of Vatican II", I think we need to recognize that the western theology of viewing morality in terms of disobedience to a law rather than an illness hampers us spiritual, makes us prone to scrupocity and spiritual vanity.

    Right now, my reason for remaining Catholic is the Eucharist. How can I convert to Orthodoxy if it'd mean baring myself from the sacraments in the Catholic Church. I don't believe God likes the schism between the east and the west.

    I once asked a Catholic priest if the eastern rite Catholics viewed the papacy as we do or JUST ENOUGH to be in communion with us. He said it was "just enough." So right now, I'm looking at the book "Towards a Papacy in Communion." Because this split between the east and the west seems it'll not be healed without humility from both churches.

    I mean, the Pope has only spoken verifably ex Cathedra three times in history. Beyond that, it's all speculative. The Popes seem to be making a point to avoid using the authority to foster unity. And heck, look at how divided Catholicism becomes whenever Francis speaks. I can't imagine him wanting to speak ex cathedra, but if he declared that he did not believe in papal infallibility or that the Church was wrong, you'd have Catholics insisting he's definitely an anti-Pope. It would create more divisions than unite us. And right now, we're like a seperated married couple who hasn't filed for divorce yet. Our communion looks like a joke.

    So regardless, even though I feel progressive Catholics are wrong on a lot of things, I think calling people cafeteria Catholics and setting the answer as being "but see, you're making yourself your own Pope" is rooted in a desire to want to be infallible when it's impossible. You have to be humble enough to accept your own fallibility.

  4. Awesome video. There is an unreal consistency within the church for over 2000. At the same time, unfortunately , dissent in the church has also happed for centuries called heresies. Therefore, nothing new there. It's just we are now instead of writing on papyrus seeing it in FB, blogs, youtube. Part of it is proper formation and understanding of these doctrines and what they are conveying. We see in the Acts, and Epistles of the new testament this struggle in the early days of the church.

  5. Good video but I disagree with the premise. While the instruction that Peter would be infallible is very hard to disagree with. It is biblical and clear… as you say. However, the notion that the Bishop of Rome would inherently acquire that power is not biblically based at all save a very tenuous logical construct.

  6. I understand what you’re saying, but coming from an Orthodox perspective, “infallibility” is a loaded word, and it merely just shows that we are not ready to submit to the diverse history of the Church that protected the Church from heresies from various peoples besides the successor of Peter. The successor of Peter need not exist in order for the Church to continue to be infallibly protected by Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is an unnecessary dogma, and rather anti-dogmatic. That’s why I prefer Orthodoxy. It allows room for flexibility and still adheres to historical honor to Rome without the ahistorical dogma of turning that honor into some sort of dogmatic dogma protector that never really was limited to him.

  7. The reality is a little more complex. I thought that the ordinary magisterium of the Roman Church was binding and not just Ex Cathedra statements? Papal Infallibility is an innovative doctrine and one source of divisive between the Roman Church and Holy Orthodoxy.

  8. This is a short powerful direct answer to Dissenters
    “While exchanges and conflicts of opinion may constitute normal expressions of public life in a representative democracy, moral teaching certainly cannot depend simply upon respect for a process: indeed, it is in no way established by following the rules and deliberative procedures typical of a democracy.Dissent, in the form of carefully orchestrated protests and polemics carried on in the media, is opposed to ecclesial communion and to a correct understanding of the hierarchical constitution of the People of God. Opposition to the teaching of the Church’s Pastors cannot be seen as a legitimate expression either of Christian freedom or of the diversity of the Spirit’s gifts.”(St.John Paul II the Great, Veritatis Splendor)

  9. If the Church reforms it will collapse, got it. (There are non-Catholic interpretations of the 'on this rock' passage you could explore.)
    Everyone questioned Paul's faithfulness, and he paid a heavy price, "all those in Asia turned away from me" 2 Timothy 1:15 I'm sure Peter and the Holy Spirit had something to do with it. So should we protest and expect no reform, or will reform come only with whole-hearted loyalty to the Pope? Confusing, make another video. Also, what form should dissent take exactly? Nice hair.

  10. Pope Honorius was anathematized by an ecumenical council for having taught heresy when answering whether Christ has 1 or 2 Wills, as asked by patriarch Sergius of Constantinople. Honorius case proves that Pope's are not infallible, even when teaching Christian doctrine. BTW, no doctrine was ever 'announced' in an encyclical by a pope. Doctrines were agreed upon unanimously by bishops in ecumenical councils, then adopted by local churches & taught to their people. From the 16th session of the Council fo Constantinople; "…To Honorius, the heretic, anathema!" – ratified by all supsequent Popes until the middle-ages

  11. The holy ghost instructs the elect. The unsaved look to a man for help. The priests look to this man to get him out of town in a hurry or just promote him while in the act of molesting a child. But catholics don't mind.

  12. I think that it would have been beneficial to include in your video the fact that the papacy has thus far made only TWO infallible pronouncements, and both (I think) had only to do with Marian theology (that of her assumption and immaculate conception). I think it would have been important to point that out in order to put into perspective concerning that which Papal infallibility actualy is, versus the common misconception of it.

  13. Dissent in the Church is fidelity to the Catholic Faith, of Paul to Peter, Athanasius to Arius, or Catherine of Siena to Gregory XI http://medieval.ucdavis.edu/20C/Catherine.html Anything else is rebellion, not the remnant given us as a faithful Voice crying in the wilderness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE5LNh8XEIw

    God bless you Brian. Keep up the great witness to the Faith. For this struggle, in these days, you and your viewers were called.

  14. Since the schism, the Roman church has continually made dogmas out of what previously were regarded as speculations. The effect has been to drive a widening rift between Catholics and Orthodox, with Papal Infallibility being the final nail in the coffin of ecumenism.

    Yet the need of the Orthodox for the Papacy has been demonstrated time and time again, the very latest being the current spat over the proposed autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Christians East and West need a Papacy as it was at the time of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, a Papacy that will be universally accepted as referee in cases of dispute. As it is, the Patriarch of Constantinople has been elevating his position to that of a kind of "Eastern Pope", which he is not, and which authority he does not have.

    What needs to happen now is for Rome to abrogate all the doctrines it has promulgated since the schism, as well as its monarchical claim and the post Vatican 2 liturgical reforms which proclaim a different theology of the Eucharist. That would be good for Rome itself; at the same time, the Eastern Orthodox are in need of the Papacy to resolve the endless jurisdictional wrangles and act as a reference point in cases of irregularity.

    Perhaps such a reformed Papacy might emerge out of the present chaos.

  15. catholicism has adapted the church to accommodate a PAGAN society. the VATICAN is worth $400 billion dollars. MORALLY WEAK pope francis defends pedophilia, lesbianism, homosexuality and so many other abominations of the mind and body. catholicism defends SINS, that destroy a civil society, rule of law, family values and sanctity of life. why did GOD destroy; SODOM and GOMORRAH.
    catholicism/vatican uses pagan statues to depict GOD, JESUS and MOTHER MARY.
    abstinence and loyalty to GOD is wonderful. but, not all men and women can resist temptation. apostle PAUL in the BOOK of CORINTHIANS states quiet clearly; "IF THEY CAN NOT CONTROL THEMSELVES, THEY SHOULD GET MARRIED, FOR IT IS BETTER TO MARRY THAN BURN IN LUST AND PASSION. up until the 1300's; priest's were allowed to marry. the vatican got tired of dealing with inheritances once a priest died.

  16. I liked and subscribed. Great video. I did find myself in a "knee-jerk reaction" when the Vigano allegation first surfaced. Videos like this and other communications in different formats help curb such impulses in myself and I would imagine others. Thanks.

  17. The (false) Doctrine of Papal Infallibility split the Roman Catholic Church in the 1800's. The Orthodox and the various Protestant groups won't accept recommunion with it. Matthew's Gospel says NOTHING about successors having such a power. This is contrived to an absurd degree.

  18. I wouldn't go as far as anticlericalism, but more a realisation that just because someone is a cleric does not mean he is automatically a saint or even a good person. There are still saintly priests, monks and bishops however. A couple of franciscan seminarians I personally know give me hope that there still are saintly people in this world.

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