The Right of the Christian Faithful to Publish

Canon law (Can. 212, n. 3) states that the Christian faithful have the right to express their opinion, on matters pertaining to the good of the Church, to the rest of the faithful. Here is the English text:

“According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”

But based on the Latin text of the same Canon, I would modify the above translation thusly:

“According to the knowledge, competence, and role [praestantia] which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred Pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, with respect for the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their Pastors, and attentive to the common benefit and the dignity of persons.”

The word “prestige” is not a good translation, in this context. It is not the reputation or status that affords a person the right to express an opinion. But the role a person has sometimes requires, other times makes it fitting, to express an opinion where the good of the Church is concerned. Pastors is capitalized in the Latin, indicating primarily the Bishops as pastors, more so than the local parish priest.

Knowledge and competence are important to this assertion by Canon law. There are many Catholics today who presume to teach and correct their fellow Catholics on matters of faith and morals, despite their own ignorance and incompetence. Many times I’ve debated points of moral theology with fellow Catholics online, only to discover that they have never heard of the three fonts of morality, they cannot explain what a moral object is, they are ignorant of the teaching of Veritatis Splendor, and they openly contradict the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There are also a number of priests and laypersons who teach and correct via a blog or other online resource, yet their teachings contain serious errors on faith and morals.

The faithful have a qualified right to express their opinions on religious matters, but they must always do so “with respect for the integrity of faith and morals”. So this right does not extend to opinions that contradict infallible teachings of the Magisterium. I can think of several Catholic online teachers who publish material that directly contradicts infallible teachings of the Church. And they are uncorrectable; no theological argument and no magisterial document seems to them more weighty than their own ideas.

This “respect for the integrity of faith and moral” certainly includes respect for the Pope and for his role and authority to teach and correct all the faithful worldwide. And yet many conservative bloggers and commentators treat Pope Francis as if he were under their authority, and as if they had the role to judge, correct, or even condemn his teaching. The arrogance of this behavior is astounding. But as if that were not enough, these commentators are themselves quite ignorant and incompetent in matter of faith and morals, matters where they presume to judge and correct the Pope. They have little understanding of salvation theology; they have written little (if anything) on the subject. But they immediately claim the Pope is wrong when he writes on this subject. They have no “reverence” toward any of their Pastors, not even toward the chief Pastor of the Church on earth, the Vicar of Christ.

Canon law requires that those who express opinions on important matters of faith and morals have the knowledge, competence, and role that is fitting to their words. But the custom among Catholics online is to teach and correct without knowledge or competence, and even to disregard the roles given to the Pope and the Bishops to teach and correct.

[James 3]
{3:1} My brothers, not many of you should choose to become teachers, knowing that you shall receive a stricter judgment.

Concerning my own writings, I exercise my right and duty under Canon 212 by publishing books, booklets, articles, and various types of online commentary. However, my opinions are supported by theological arguments based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. I research a topic thoroughly, especially in magisterial documents, before writing on that topic. And as an undeserved gift from God, I have the ability to understand and teach theology well. I teach and correct with knowledge and competence, under my role as a theologian, given to me by the grace and providence of God.

Most recently, my writings defend the teachings of Pope Francis on matters of salvation theology, in which he is all but accused of heresy by some Catholics. I have respect for the role of the Pope as our Pastor, and for the good of the souls of my fellow Catholics. But I am justly angry with some Catholics who use the internet (often under cover of anonymity) to contradict Catholic teaching and to promote baseless impious opinions that harm souls, all without any tenable theological argument.

On the subject of eschatology, my writings express my fallible opinions. But I consider that this topic is particularly important to the Christian faithful today, since (as I argue) we stand now on the threshold of the tribulation. However, the Magisterium has few teachings on eschatology, so all are free to disagree with my opinions, on this and any subject, in so far as the Church has no teaching on one particular point or another.

The Church is about to enter into the great apostasy. All manner of ignorant, arrogant, and incompetent false teachers will rise up and reject Pope Francis and his teachings. They will do so without even a basic understanding of magisterial teaching, throughout the ages, on faith, morals, or salvation. But teachers will have the stricter judgment.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Forgiveness and Salvation for Everyone
is now available in print (paperback, 510 pp.) and in Kindle format.

The Catechism of Catholic Ethics
is now available in print (paperback, 752 pp.) and in Kindle format.

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