It is not permitted for anyone to flippantly deny any authoritative pronouncment of the Church. However, not everything the Church teaches is taught as being revealed. Now the Church is infallible only in defining what is revealed and what is closely related to it (dogmatic facts and the like). Also, even on those questions which are about revealed truth, the Church does not always definiteively pronounce on questions, but may bind Catholics to hold an opinion one way or another on a certian subject. The assent given to these however is not that of divine faith, but simply religious assent of the intellect and will. To hold differently would not be heresy (that is, the virtue of faith would not be lost), but it would be either rash or simply erroneous, and a mortal sin. However, if it could be shown, with weighty reasons, not readily or rashly admitted, that such a decision rests on an error, or is simply wrong, then the obligation of religious assent ceases.
- I have heard that no document itself is infallible, only the doctrines or ideas said to be so within the documents. But what does this say about the Bible??? Is this true???
The first premise is difficult to assess. There are definitions in documents that certainly are an exercise of infalliblity. The definition of the Immaculate Conception in Ineffabilis Deus, for example, is clearly infallible, but the rest of the document is not (although greatly authoritative). So in that sense, it might be true. That a certain document teaches this is or that infallibly is a so-called dogmatic fact, which is to be believed with ecclesiastical faith. This faith is as certain as divine faith.
As regards the Bible: the charism of inspiration is even stronger than that of the infalliblity possessed by the Pope and bishops. Inspiration not only protects from every error, but also so unites the author with God that the work produced is said properly and not merely metaphorically to be written by God Himself. Even of those infallible definitions of the Church, however, we do not say God wrote them, as He did the Bible.
- I have heard that doctrines are not always infallible, but dogmas are. How do we know the difference? Surely abortion isn’t a mega dogma, but surely the Church’s teaching on it is infallible…right???
I’ve heard this too, and it’s not a very good distinction. Catholic doctrine is anything the Catholic Church teaches on matters of faith and morals, or closely related thereto. Those doctrines that the Church teaches as having been supernaturally revealed by God are called dogmas (or dogmata to be proper). Other doctines hold greater or lesser degrees of certainty. Some are held by theologians to be basically dogmas, others simply theological conclusions, i.e., truths derived from revealed articles, but not themselves immediately revealed.
As regards abortion, it is held as a revealed truth of morality that the killing of an innocent person is morally wrong. The Church definitively holds that abortion is a case of this, and thus, this ought to be believed with at least ecclesiastical faith (although given the Tradition of the Church, and passages in Sacred Scripture, it would seem that it is actually divinely revealed, and thus to be believed with divine faith; of course, both are equally certain, so it doesn’t make a terrible difference to the lay person, but nevertheless).
I hope this was helpful,