Is it Ever OK to Disagree with the Church?

If you have ever witnessed an adult baptism in the Catholic Church, you may have noticed that the candidate for baptism proclaims, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” And all Catholics in communion with the Church should be able to say the same. But what if you disagree with the Church on certain issues or practices?

Recently on Go Ask Your Father™  a listener called to ask at what point it is OK to have a different opinion than the Church on certain issues. The listener used the example of the Latin Mass or married priests, and wondered at what point having an opinion contrary to Church teaching is sinful. Monsignor Stuart Swetland responded:

“This is a great example where we have to make some very careful distinctions. For example, the Church was never a church that only spoke Latin. There were always rites of the Church that never spoke Latin. They still maintain their apostolic origin, but they speak other languages. It was only in the Latin rite that Latin was used regularly. And, even then, the Kyrie is part of our tradition, which is Greek. So that’s more of a prudential judgement about the best way of celebrating liturgy.

As is the question of whether we should ordain men who are married. Priests never get married, that was never allowed, but sometimes in the Church’s history and in some rites in the Catholic Church we have allowed married men to be ordained to the priesthood. Never to the episcopacy, at least since apostolic times. That is, again, a question of prudential judgement.

One can propose, on questions of prudential judgement, arguments that may seem more prudent. Now, one has to accept the decisions of the Church’s hierarchy when it comes to prudential judgments, and follow them. One cannot take matters into their own hands, but one can put forward arguments that would try to make the point.

On matters of faith and morals, matters that aren’t prudential judgement but what we are to believe and how we are to live as Christians, there we have to give what the Second Vatican Council calls, ‘a religious submission of mind and will.’ Sometimes that is translated as ‘a ready and respectful allegiance of mind.’

We have to give a religious assent to the ordinary teachings of the Church. So, if a Catholic says, ‘I’m a Catholic, but I think sometimes it’s OK to directly attack innocent human life,’ that is dissenting from received Church teachings on how we ought to live. It’s never legitimate to directly attack innocent human life. So those have to be received with that religious assent of mind, at least.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

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