Two Types of False Teachers

False teachers, in Catholicism, are persons who teach grave errors on faith, morals, and/or salvation. There are only two types:
1. Those who teach error mistakenly,
2. Those who know that what they are teaching is objectively false and contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and they teach it anyway, as a fully-deliberate exceedingly-grave lie.

1. These false teachers are found on the left and on the right.

On the left, they openly disagree with Church: mistakenly, arrogantly, often with great culpability. But they tell you what the Church teaches, and then explain that their own understanding is better. Any faithful Catholic knows to steer clear of such persons.

On the right, they claim to be teaching what the Church teaches, but in fact they are distorting, misinterpreting, even radically reinterpreting true doctrine. They turn truth into error, by their own mistakes and misunderstandings. This, too, is the result of arrogance, and sometimes also ignorance or incompetence. Some prominent teacher of Catholicism on the right are simply not fit for the role of teaching the faith, in the same way that a person who is afraid of heights is not fit to be a pilot or an astronaut.

With what degree of culpability all these persons act, only God can say. They teach mistakenly (by definition in this categorization), but with one or another degree of guilt. If you take upon yourself the role of teacher, without first learning the Faith correctly, without ascertaining whether you can do the task without gravely harming souls, you are guilty, in the same way that a person with very shaky hands is guilty, if he chooses to become a surgeon.

This type of false teacher is wretched and pitiable. Perhaps they will arrive in Heaven, after a particularly long stay in Purgatory, during which time they will be shown every single person who was led astray by their false teachings and all the harm that was done. That could take hundreds of years, literally. Some of them end up in Hell.

2. Now in this second category, we are talking about persons, on the left and on the right, who not only know what the Church teaches, but know that the Church is correct. They know that Church teaching is truth. They have not misunderstood. And yet they teach error anyway, deliberately. What I’m saying here is not that they disagree with the Church, and consider the Church to be in error. Instead, they realize that what the Church is teaching is the truth from God and Jesus Christ, and they don’t care. They teach the contrary anyway.

On the left, there are persons who know that Church doctrine is the truth taught by the Bible, by Jesus Christ, and by the Saints, Doctors, Popes, and Councils. And they realize that these teachings are truth. But then they decide to teach the contrary, and to pretend as if they think the Church is wrong. They don’t think that the Church is wrong. They simply knowingly reject that teaching, as it would make their lives unacceptable to them. They don’t want to be a humble worshipper of Jesus Christ. They don’t want to avoid all the grave sins that please them. So they lie. They say that they think the Church is wrong. But in fact, they are choosing to adhere to false doctrines which they fully realize are false.

On the right, there are persons who know well what the Church teaches, and they distort that teaching deliberately. Then they present the grave distortion to the faithful, and tell them that it is the correct understanding of Church teaching. They are deliberately lying. They know what Jesus Christ and His Church teaches, and they would be able to explain it correctly. Sometimes, if you read closely, they slip up and actually do explain it correctly. Then they go on to give an interpretation which mutilates the truths of the Faith by deliberate distortion. Sometimes they openly contradict Church teaching, while claiming that this contradiction is actually what the Church really means. But they know that isn’t true.

This type of false teacher, on the left but especially on the right, is diabolical. When Satan told Eve that God really did want her to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he was lying. He knew that this explanation was false. He told that lie because he wanted Eve, Adam, and humanity to join him in his rebellion against God. And that is what the second type of false teacher is like. They know they are teaching lies. They wish others to join them in their rebellion against God. They simply find the truth to be not to their liking.

Pope Francis on false prophets: “the devil, who is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth.” Yes, that is what these false teachers are like. (Some people think Pope Francis is one of them, but I am certain God would not permit any false teacher to be Pope. Instead, the holy Pontiff has his faults, like any fallen sinner, but he is not a false teacher).

This type of false teacher has not mistakenly held an incorrect theological opinion. They understand the teaching of the Church correctly, and they know that teaching to be truth. Then they lie to the faithful, to trick them into adhering to grave errors on faith, morals, and salvation, so that they will have more persons to join them in rebellion against God.

I have my own opinion, my own perception as to which teachers on the right are actually deliberately teaching grave error. Only a few are in this category. And I can’t prove it. They could always claim that their assertions are sincerely held.

But this type of false teacher does exist, and that I can prove, from the Gospel:

{21:34} Then, when the time of the fruits drew near, he sent his servants to the farmers, so that they might receive its fruits.
{21:35} And the farmers apprehended his servants; they struck one, and killed another, and stoned yet another.
{21:36} Again, he sent other servants, more than
before; and they treated them similarly.
{21:37} Then, at the very end, he sent his son to them, saying: ‘They will revere my son.’
{21:38} But the farmers, seeing the son, said among themselves: ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and then we will have his inheritance.’
{21:39} And apprehending him, they cast him outside the vineyard, and they killed him.

{20:9} Then he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and he loaned it to settlers, and he was on a sojourn for a long time.
{20:10} And in due time, he sent a servant to the farmers, so that they would give to him from the fruit of the vineyard. And they beat him and drove him away, empty-handed.
{20:11} And he continued to send another servant. But beating him and treating him with contempt, they likewise sent him away, empty-handed.
{20:12} And he continued to send a third. And wounding him also, they drove him away.
{20:13} Then the lord of the vineyard said: ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Perhaps when they have seen him, they will respect him.’
{20:14} And when the settlers had seen him, they discussed it among themselves, saying: ‘This one is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance will be ours.’
{20:15} And forcing him outside of the vineyard, they killed him. What, then, will the lord of the vineyard do to them?”

The settlers or farmers are the Jewish leaders. As each prophet was sent by God, he was rejected by the leaders of the Jewish religion. Then God sent His Son. Some of these leaders — not all of those who rejected Jesus, but some few — understood that he was the heir: “This one is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance will be ours.”

Listen closely now. Jesus is saying that some of these leaders knew that He was the Messiah. Of course, they did not understand the Trinity and the Incarnation. But they did understand that Jesus of Nazareth was THE long-awaited Messiah. And they not only rejected him anyway, they had him put to death, so that they could be the ones in charge of deciding what is and is not good, what is and is not truth.

And this parable of Jesus does not apply only to the distant past. Jesus was also saying that, in every time period, some of the teachers mixing among the sheep are wolves in sheep’s clothing, not merely by sincerely mistakenly teaching error, but by doing so deliberately. We are talking here about a lie that is very full in its deliberation — some of these persons have made spreading these lies their life’s work — and very full in knowledge of the falsity and grave immorality of what they are doing. These persons cannot possibly go to Heaven or Purgatory, unless they fully repent. And since their teaching is very public, they would have a moral obligation under penalty of actual mortal sin to repent publicly and correct their errors. Failing this, they are certain to be punished very severely in Hell.

The punishments justly due to them, for leading the faithful into grave error and fully deliberately causing vast harm to many souls, is immense. Child abusers and pornographers will have lesser punishments in Hell than these diabolical false teachers.

But until they are judged by God, they will have a large following, receive approval from many Church leaders, and will be praised as if they are nearly Saints. Part of my happiness in Heaven — if, God willing, I should somehow die in a state of grace — will be to see the just punishment of these false teachers, who chose to teach things they knew to be false and evil and immoral.

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

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5 Responses to Two Types of False Teachers

  1. Matt Z. says:

    In “Love and Responsibility,” St.John Paul II never approves of unnatural sex acts. He talks about the importance of a womans and mans orgasm, how one partner should not be selfish but should try for orgasm simultaneously with ones married spouse. Yet, people are abusing the Popes words to mean orgasm at any cost, even unnatural grave sinful sex acts.

  2. Tom Mazanec says:

    Part of my happiness in Heaven — if, God willing, I should somehow die in a state of grace — will be to see the just punishment of these false teachers, who chose to teach things they knew to be false and evil and immoral.

    Is this a happiness?

  3. Paul M. says:

    You bring up Pope Francis above, and I wonder how in Amoris Laetitia our Pope cannot be, at the very least, teaching error mistakenly when he writes:

    “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” (p. 297).

    How can this idea coexist with the idea that hell exists, the unjust go there, and it’s eternal?


    • Ron Conte says:

      The context was how the Church deals with sinners in this life. The Church should not condemn forever (meaning for the rest of their lives) persons who are divorced and remarried, or LGBT, or whatever. He clearly believes some souls go to Hell: “Convert, there is still time, so that you don’t end up in hell.” and “In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ words are clear in this regard: “But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire”.”

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