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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Dissention

by Catherine Frakas 31 Mar 2001

Dissention QUESTION from Campbell October 1, 2001 I rely heavily upon information from this forum in order to understand Church teaching, so although this may seem nit-picky, I wish to be sure that my understanding is correct.
You wrote:
if you disagree then you are barred from the Sacraments if you are Catholic It was my understanding that if you hold an opinion privately that is contrary to a teaching of the Church, this was morally acceptible provided that you 1) Continue to research on Church teaching and reasoning on the issue, so as to educate your conscience and hopefully convert yourself,
2) Do not attempt to teach in accordance with this private opinion, or try to win others over to your way of thinking (which would constitute heresy), and
3) Do not in action disobey the actual teaching, recognizing and respecting the teaching and governing office of the Church over the people.
Under this understanding, in the case you were addressing in the instance quoted, it would be acceptible for one to personally disagree with the teaching of the Church on birth control, as long as one did not teach others so, did not consider the Church wrong-case closed, and did not actually practice birth control, out of obedience to the legitimate authority of the Church over believers.
Am I mistaken in my understanding, or did you misword your statement?
Respectfully, Jeff.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on October 10, 2001 Dear Mr. Campbell:
I think you have misunderstood my comments. My comments may not have been clear, but I was referring to people who have declared or decided not to believe a doctrine, or who obstinately doubt the doctrine.
The criteria you outline is a person who may have an opinion contrary to the church at the moment but who honestly seeks to reconcile themselves with the church (see your criteria #1) and will accept and obey the church while struggling to understand the doctrine.
People who are doing what you have outlined are not heretics or dissenters. They are honest people who may not understand a doctrine, have an opinion contrary to the Church but yet not an opinion written in stone, and are trying to understand and believe.
In Level 1 Teaching which is dogma if one disbelieves or even obstinately doubts the dogma they are a heretic. A person who disagrees with Level 1 teaching should immediately refrain from taking communion and should seek a priest to resolve this as quickly as possible. This is because if the person continues to hold a contrary opinion on Level 1 teaching they risk becoming a heretic.
In Level 2 Teaching (which MUST be firmly embraced and retained) and in Level 3 Teaching (which MUST be given religious submission of intellect and will) if one teaches or obstinately rejects these Level 2 or 3 teachings and fails to repent of this when warned by the Pope, the bishop, or religious superior may be punished according to the offense including being barred from the Sacraments. Punishment for rejecting Level 2 will be greater and most likely include being barred from the Sacraments because it deals with teachings definitively proposed by the Magisterium and may also be infallible teachings as well. Level 3 Teachings are lesser teachings than Level 2 and are not infallible.
The scenerio you outlined is not someone who rejects but someone who has a contrary opinion in which they are trying to resolve. See the difference?
In the instance of Birth control, it an infallible teaching on Level 2, thus if a person publicly taught that birth control was okay or obstinately rejected the church's teaching on birth control and refused to repent when officially warned by the Church, they would suffer a just penalty (probably being barred from the sacraments).
In the scenerio you outline a person may have a contrary opinion on the teaching on birth control but your fella would refrain from teaching his opinion, or expressing his opinion publicly and is honestly seeking to reconcile the differences of opinion on this. This he is not teaching against the Church nor is he obstinately refusing to accept Church teaching, and while he tried to work this out, he continues to obey the teaching in the meantime. See the difference between the obstinate rejector of the teaching and the person in your scenerio?
But morally, a person who is doubting Level 2 teaching, especially one that is infallible such as birth control, the issue of women priests, etc., should refrain from Communion, in my opinion, until they positively resolve their doubts. Remember, Communion is a sign of unity and agreement and Level 2 teachings are teachings in which we ARE to embrace to be Catholics (even if Level 2 not quite rise to the level of must be believed)
I hope that clears things up a little.
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