No Catholic on earth understands the Faith perfectly

Every fallen sinner, who has the theological virtues of love, faith, and hope, who believes and practices the Roman Catholic Faith, has an understanding of Catholicism that includes some misunderstandings along with many limits to what they do understand.

Are you holier than Saint John the Baptist? “Amen I say to you, among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Mt 11:11). No, you are not. Yet John sent his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you he who is to come, or should we expect another?” Are you wiser than Saint Thomas Aquinas? Yet after St. Thomas had a glimpse of the Beatific Vision of God (some type of contemplative experience), he considered all his written works to be like straw by comparison.

One of the most common problems in the Church today is the vast number of Catholics who consider their own understanding of Catholicism to be absolute. They only want to read books and blogs that express their own understanding. They choose for themselves teachers who only tell them what they already believe to be true. They accept no correction, and no theological argument ever seems to them to outweigh their own ideas.

[2 Timothy]
{4:3} For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine, but instead, according to their own desires, they will gather to themselves teachers, with itching ears,
{4:4} and certainly, they will turn their hearing away from the truth, and they will be turned toward fables.

If even the Supreme Pontiff expresses an idea contrary to their own understanding, they immediately assume that the Pope must be wrong. It does not dawn on them to consider that they themselves might have misunderstood something or that their own understanding might be in need of reform and improvement. No one can teach or correct them, not even the Pope or an Ecumenical Council. They have judged and, to one extent or another, have condemned the Second Vatican Council. Their arrogance is unprecedented in the history of the Church.

They are like Adam and Eve, sinning by deciding for themselves what is good and what is evil, according to their own minds and hearts. They have exchanged the pursuit of religious and moral truth — which is the search for the face of God — for a dogmatization and divinization of their own religious ideas and liturgical preferences.

But know this: No Catholic on earth understands the Faith perfectly. And if you say to me, “Well, then, the Pope does not understand the Faith perfectly,” I will reply: Yes, but neither do you. And if you and the Pope disagree on a matter of faith or morals, who is more likely to be correct? Pope Francis has a Ph.D. in theology; he was a professor of theology for many years, a Bishop for many years, a Cardinal for many years. And now he is the Pope. So how is it that so many Catholics, whose credentials are much smaller, consider themselves to possess a much better understanding of Catholicism than the Pope? Even on a merely human level, Pope Francis has a greater depth and breadth of knowledge than the vast majority of his Catholic critics. Then, too, he has the help of the Holy Spirit in understanding and teaching the Faith, more so than any Bishop, and much more so than any non-Bishop.

Pope Francis is a valid successor of Peter, and so he, too, is a Rock on which the Church is founded. Can you say the same about yourself?

Since the time of Vatican II, a conservative Catholic subculture has gradually arisen within the Church. It considers itself to have a better understanding of Catholicism than the Second Vatican Council and the recent Popes. It considers itself to be the true Church, within a larger body of unfaithful Catholics. It considers itself to be infallible in its understanding of Tradition, so much so that it stands as if it were a judge over the Magisterium and over the one true holy Church Herself.

And now this conservative Catholic subculture is lining up in opposition to Pope Francis. When Pope Francis finally does teach a truth from Tradition and Scripture that is contrary to the assumptions and dogmatized opinions of that subculture, many Catholics will have to choose: accept correction or reject the Pope. Unfortunately, from the way that many conservatives are speaking about the Pope already, it seems clear that many will reject the Pope, and cling to the subculture. For they identify themselves as conservatives or traditionalists, and not as Christians or Catholics or disciples of Christ. Their religion has become an expression of conservatism, not an expression of the love of God and neighbor.

We stand now on the threshold of the great apostasy. And it begins when many conservatives reject Pope Francis and depart from the Church.

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

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