Faithful Dissent from magisterial teaching

In the world today, there is so much unfaithful dissent that some Catholic have begun to think that all dissent is contrary to the Faith.

The unfaithful dissent includes undermining the authority of the Bible, contradicting the Bible, claiming that the Bible is unreliable and full of errors, and other attacks on Scripture, both subtle and not so subtle. Unfaithful dissent includes undermining the idea of Tradition to the point where it becomes meaningless or useless as a guide to the faithful. The reliability of the Fathers, Doctors, and Saints of the Church is also undermined or completely ignored in unfaithful dissent. Having subverted Tradition and Scripture, so that neither is seen as a reliable source of truth or guidance, the unfaithful also attack the Magisterium. They narrow the number of doctrines seen as infallible. They ignore much of what the Magisterium says on any topic, preferring instead philosophers and heterodox theologians. They undermine the authority of the Popes and the Ecumenical Councils. All such dissent is untenable, the work of heretics and virtual apostates, who are Catholic or Christian in name only.

However, faithful dissent is still possible. In fact, faithful dissent is the duty of every faithful member of the Church. Faithful dissent does not include rejecting any of the truths of Tradition or Scripture, nor can it include ideas which undermine or nullify or ignore the force and meaning of those truths. Faithful dissent does not include rejecting any of the truths of the infallible Sacred Magisterium, nor does it include ideas which undermine or nullify or ignore the force and meaning of those truths. Faithful dissent cannot broadly reject the teachings of the fallible Ordinary Magisterium.

What can faithful dissent do? The faithful can argue against particular teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium, when that argument is based on Tradition, or Scripture, or other teachings of the Magisterium. The faithful can choose to adhere to the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium over a particular fallible teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium. Now this most often occurs when one individual Bishops, or perhaps a group of local Bishops, has a teaching that is contrary to the teaching of the universal Church. Occasionally, it may happen that a Pope or a congregation of the Holy See teaches non-infallibly and incorrectly. Even then, any faithful Catholic can dissent from a non-infallible teaching as long as the reason for dissent is based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium.

Faithful dissent cannot be based on reason alone, for reason is damaged by original sin and by personal sin. Nor can it be based on the ideas of modern secular sinful society, (like most unfaithful dissent). Faithful dissent must be based on a more authoritative teaching from infallible Sacred Tradition, or infallible Sacred Scripture, or infallible Sacred Magisterium, or even a more authoritative teaching of Ordinary Magisterium. And faithful dissent must always give the best possible interpretation to the teaching from which it dissents. If anyone uses an uncharitable interpretation of a magisterial teaching to claim faithful dissent, such dissent is neither faithful nor loving. True faithful dissent includes a continuing love, faith, and hope in the Church, its teachings, and its ministers. (Unfaithful dissent tends to be unloving, filled with harshness, bitterness, anger, frustration, resentment, and despair.)

Faithful dissent must also include the understanding that the dissenting Catholic is fallible and may need to amend or retract his or her dissent. The teaching of God contains truths beyond the full reach of the human mind and soul, therefore, any faithful Catholic, dissenting piously from an ordinary teaching, could be in error through a misunderstanding of the mysteries and infinite truths of God.

But those to whom the Magisterium is entrusted must likewise be charitable and loving towards those who piously dissent. For even the Magisterium itself is unable to fully comprehend the mysteries of God.

[Quoted from the article: The Limits of the Magisterium]

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