At what point does a dissenting Catholic become a "practical Protestant"?

An article in the February, 2005 issue of “This Rock” magazine touched on the issue of “practical Protestantism.”

Must a Catholic believe in everything that the Catholic Church formally teaches or risk slipping into practical Protestantism?

Specifically, if a self-professed Catholic disagrees with any of the following seven issues, is he a practical Protestant?

  1. Premarital Sex
  2. Contraception
  3. Sanctity of Life
  4. Papal Infallibility
  5. Real Presence in the Eucharist
  6. Immaculate Conception
  7. Holy Orders for men only

Dear lepanto,

I’m glad you brought this up. The article you mention is titled, “Making Converts of Cradle Catholics" and can be found on by clicking here.

A Catholic is not obliged to fully understand all the teachings of the Catholic Church, but he or she is obliged accept them—including those you have listed. We are obliged to accept not only those teachings defined by the extraordinary Magisterium (which have been dogmatically defined) but all that is taught by the ordinary magisterium ( that which is taught by the pope in union with the bishops). For some it may takes years before they finally see what the Church is saying in its teaching regarding a particular subject. Therefore the person has been accepting that teaching as an act of faith, trusting God without fully understanding. Our Blessed Mother and most of the saints trusted in this way for long periods of their lives. Trusting the Lord without understanding Him is not only an act of humility, it is an act of love….

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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