The Church is, in one sense, holy and spotless. For Her teachings are guided and guarded by the Holy Spirit, and She has the Son of God as her Head. She is indefectible, and so her teachings and her head, the Roman Pontiff, can never go astray. She is the sole Ark of salvation.
But the Church on earth is, in another sense, injured and ill, due to the sins of her members. The Church is plagued by some of her own members, those who refuse to repent from grave sin. A Catholic Christian who commits actual mortal sin without repentance, remains a Christian and a member of the Church. Such a person might occupy a position of leadership or teaching in the parish, the diocese, or more broadly in the Church.
But among the most harmful sins committed by Roman Catholic members of the one true Church is the sin of teaching heresy. For by this sin, a false version of the Gospel is spread among its members, obscuring their view of the path to salvation, and perhaps leading some of them, even many of them, into grave sins and eventually eternal damnation.
Now you might think that these teachers of heresy would be outsiders, trying to lead the faithful toward some other religion, or that these teachers of heresy would be immediately rejected by both the leaders and the faithful of the Church. But that is not the case.
Instead, many of these teachers of heresy are leaders in the Church. They are popular among the faithful and have the approval of many persons. Some of these teachers of heresy are laypersons — authors, bloggers, speakers, and the like — while others are priests, deacons, and theologians. Some have positions in Catholic universities and colleges, teaching theology. Some teach in the seminaries, so that our future priests are in fact being taught by heretics. And in the vast majority of cases, these teachers of heresy are accepted and applauded. They have good reputations within the Church. They teach blatant heresy, and few souls object or even seem to notice.
Pope Saint John Paul II wrote on this topic in Veritatis Splendor:
“Today, however, it seems necessary to reflect on the whole of the Church’s moral teaching, with the precise goal of recalling certain fundamental truths of Catholic doctrine which, in the present circumstances, risk being distorted or denied. In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church’s moral teachings. It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions.”
“In particular, note should be taken of the lack of harmony between the traditional response of the Church and certain theological positions, encountered even in Seminaries and in Faculties of Theology, with regard to questions of the greatest importance for the Church and for the life of faith of Christians, as well as for the life of society itself.” [Veritatis Splendor 4]
The holy Pontiff says that “even in Seminaries and in Faculties of Theology” there is open dissent against Church teaching. And I can tell you that, since the time that Veritatis Splendor was published, the situation has only worsened. Why is this happening?
My answer is that the leaders of the Church come from its people, and most Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics have fallen into at least material heresy. They do not see the Church as a Teacher at all, nor do they think that the Church has authority to decide questions of faith and morals, and to require belief in Her teachings. They do not believe the teachings of the Church on abortion, abortifacient contraception, and contraception, nor on sexual ethics more generally. They commit objective mortal sins without repentance and without admitting that these acts are gravely immoral. They believe that no type of act is always wrong. They believe that same-sex marriage is a true type of marriage. They practice contraception. They commit a host of grave sexual sins. And they take their beliefs from sinful secular society and from their own minds and hearts, with little or no regard for definitive magisterial teaching.
As long as the “faithful” in the pews adhere to material heresy, and — to be perfectly blunt — do not care at all if their beliefs are heretical, as long as this situation persists, we will have false teachers, who present abject heresy as if it were Church doctrine or sound theology. For these teachers have itching ears — meaning that they speak so as to please their listeners. For example, they know that many Catholics use contraception and see nothing wrong with even abortifacients, so they seek theological excuses to justify contraception and abortion as much as possible, with no regard for the gaze of the Lord upon their souls.
But no only do they teach heresy, they also claim that these heretical ideas are true doctrine. Yes, that is the claim of the present-day teachers of heresy, that they are merely presenting the teaching of the Church, if only it were properly understood just as they explain it. Or else, they present their grave heresies, which openly contradict the definitive teachings of the Magisterium, as if it were a perfectly reasonable, widely-accepted, faithful and devout theological opinion. And their listeners and readers believe this claim (or pretend to believe it, so that they can justify their own sins).
What is most perplexing to me, though, is the popularity of these teachers of heresy among Catholics who seem to be faithful, who seem to strive to believe and practice what the Church teaches. Do they not notice when they are being taught heresy, because they are poorly-catechized? Or have they fallen into the error of thinking that any opinion at all can be held, as long as the person is sincere and well intentioned? And how do persons who publicly teach heresy obtain and retain their good reputation among Catholics? It is a perplexing situation.
These teachers of heresy all seem to have good reputations. They have no trouble at all obtaining and retaining teaching positions in the Church. My readers know from my past posts that I have frequently spoken out against various teachers of heresy. But what surprises me is how little concern believing and practicing Catholics have for this situation.
Truly, the great apostasy in near. And when it begins, do not be surprised.
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