Each time we say the Credo we profess our belief in the Most Holy Catholic Church. We also profess our belief in the Holy Spirit. Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit does not guide Holy Mother Church, yet directs us individually to work around that Church? Trust in the Holy Spirit without trust in the Magisterium and Papacy is a clear conflict of faith.
And, in that order.
Understanding is not a prequesite to obedience. In fact, obedience in the absence of understanding is one of the most pure sacrifices we can offer, and a pure act of trust and faith in the Holy Spirit to work through the Church. We sacrifice our will, our desire, for that of the Lord’s as passed down through the Church He instituted.
Know the teaching. We have an obligation to learn what the Church says on any issue and to never stop learning. We can look things up in the CCC, Encyclicals, Letters, and we can ask a priest. Surely Scripture plays a role and all of the Vatican doctrines include references to Scripture, in context. Personal interpretation of Scripture alone is a dangerous way to give ourselves freedom of dissent because there are so many variables involved.
Obey the teaching. Once we know the teaching, we are bound by obedience to it otherwise we commit dissent and an act of disobedience. Obedience requires humility; disobedience is rooted in pride, it’s opposite. Both humility and obedience are gateways through which only the Holy Spirit can pass, and are barriers to the devil and the self, which always seeks its own desires sometimes to the point of confusing its own voice with that of God’s. Almost always, it is out of convenience or lack of desire to sacrifice something in humble obedience to the will of God.
Jesus was obedient to the authority of Pontius Pilat because he would not have the authority unless it were granted by the Father. He was obedient to death - death on a cross. Mary was obedient when the angel of the Lord appeared to her, “Let it be done to me according to your Word”. The saints teach us obedience to heroic levels, demonstrating that the Holy Spirit works through others.
**Understand the teaching. **Knowing and understanding are two different things. One can know that contraception of any kind is considered sinful. But, people wrongly conclude that understanding is required for assent. This is not the case at all. Understanding is something we pray for and then continue to learn through reading, listening, talking, and finally just waiting for a response from God. After prayerfully asking for the Holy Spirit to grant us this gift on the subject at hand, it may someday come. Understanding is not a right, but a gift.
When I have struggled with a church teaching, I asked God to help me to understand the “why’s”. Then I set out to find the answers through some hard work. Sometimes I don’t have time right away. On more than one occasion, I have assented to something that was troubling and I did so in my heart as well as in word and action. It was an act of trust. More often than not, I find myself rewarded anywhere from hours to days or weeks later with a deep understanding without having gone through books or other means. I could be standing in a grocery store line when it hits. However, I know that the understanding is something He can decide to give me on his terms, if He so desires I have it at all.
God tests us often. One test He uses is to see if we will have enough trust in His Spirit to assent to something we do not fully understand. This is a critical test to pass.
Many dissenting Catholics (cafeteria Catholics) cannot explain why the Church teaching is what it is, they simply find all the arguments against it. I recently challenged a dissenter this way asking what he could tell me about the teaching and why it was in place. I asked how much time he put in to understanding it, and the answer was, “none.” How sad for some to take up a defense without knowing the how the game is played.