Can Catholics disagree with the Pope or Bishops on immigration/refugee policy, climate change and health care?

Can a Catholic disagree with the statements from a Bishop, Bishops or even the Pope about immigration and refugee policy, climate change and health care, for example, and still be in good standing with the Church? I think you can, because aren’t these issues considered prudential judgements, but I am a bit confused in regards to this.

I will say we must know the area of legitimate disagreement from doctrine.

We must not violate charity. We must not support injustice. But we can disagree on how to balance different concerns in any given situation: prudence.

I personally think and I might be wrong, that the two wrong fundamental dogmas of the American left and right must not be accepted by Catholics.

The left has an absolute dogma on personal liberty, subjecting all, even life, to it. Leads to evil doctrines like Abortion and Euthanasia.

The right has an absolute dogma on private property. Leads to a certain insensitivity to the plight of vulnerable groups in the USA and possibly even outright violations of charity (like supporting the deportation of “dreamers” rather than their regularization: these are people who were brought into the country as children, are American in all but papers and know no other home)

I think Catholics should resist both these false wordly dogmas that place selfishness above charity in one form or another.

But there are of course different concerns that can give rise to legitimate disagreements. I don’t think there are absolutes in most of these matters. But we must be guarded by the law of charity and our church’s social doctrine from falling prey to these prideful dogmas that make men little gods in some form or other (in my opinion).

I understand why many Catholics would be Republican over Democrats: because the values under assault by the left are more important than those under assault by the right.

But it is a mistake to let the right define values for Catholics. Catholics should teach the right proper civil values and not give their unquestioned assent to everything that comes from them.

While the right believes it is always unjust “to take from one to give to another” Catholics know that all property belongs ultimately to God and not to us, even if we hapoen to “own it” at the moment. That the earth was given to all men by God.

Ideologies that make us think it is always unjust for something to be “taken” from us for the good of others, especially vulnerable others, and by responsible lawful authorities, are based on a mistaken belief that the thing belongs to us and us alone in an absolute sense.

Catholics and indeed all believers of the Judaeo-Christian God should resist such a notion. It is prideful.

Perhaps not as much as the one that allows us to think we own our beings, esoecially our bodies, to the extent that we can take a life, our own or others’, or even change our sex, but it is still highly prideful nonetheless.

That’s my opinion. And I don’t mean to offend anyone. If you believe thar personal liberty or private property are so important that they trump life, ours or others’, I think there is a non christian dogma you may have accepted without realizing it. The problem is once we have taken them into our iintellectual framework, it is very hard to let them go.

In my experience, on most forums, the unfortunate reality appears - some use the pope and bishops as a weapon to promote their own selfish agendas and some who oppose such agendas dismiss the pope and bishops as if they’re talking heads. There are spiritual consequences for both; which rarely is acknowledged.

You can do whatever you want, really.

I wouldn’t recommend it. The Pope is the Vicar of Jesus Christ. When he speaks, we should all listen very carefully.

I feel you cannot disagree with the reason the bishop/Pope says what they say.

For example: Catholics must be for the protection of the environment and support immigrants and refugees.

But how we go about protecting the environment, supporting immigrants and refugees can be different.

For example: while I didn’t support Trump in the primary, I do support his policies. Reason: I deeply beleive in the Catholic Principle of Subsidiary, and I believe that the States, counties and local cities can do a much better job for the environment. I believe the federal level should simply have some “general” laws set by Congress regarding the environment and that the EPA should be tasked with policing companies and states who violate the law, not establishing regulations.

In regards to immigrants, I strongly believe that the Church SHOULD help illegals become legal. I also believe that the Church should support expanding legal immigration. And I believe that we need to modernize our immigration system to make it easier to move hear legally. However, I also support a wall (with nice, easy to cross gates in boarder communities and major road crossings) to limit illegal immigration and MOST IMPORTANTLY human trafficking, drug trafficking, and gangs from illegally crossing the border.

In regards to refugees: I believe that refugees should ALWAYS stay either in their own country or a neighboring country. I believe that shipping them across the world, to live in a foreign land, with a foreign language & culture is not ideal. Refugees are not necessarily asylum seekers. Most want to return home. We should be using our money and volunteers to help the “tent cities” and to support the resettlement of people in the Middle East and other areas with similar culture and/or language. In regards to Syria, we should also be helping to send the violence by not supporting the ISIS backed rebels.

A government’s first priority should always be the safety of its own people. And there are ways to greatly help & support others without greatly putting our people at risk. ISIS has sent agents to Europe. Not always to be terrorists, but to radicalize the migrants there and to attempt a “bloodless coup.” ISIS is a waging a covert invasion of the West, and they have been pretty open about it.

Opening our boarders, not only puts Americans in danger, it will also put the good refugees in danger, as they will be caught in the middle.

So long answer, you can disagree with the bishops & Pope on these political matters IF your heart and goal are in the same place as theirs.

God Bless

Cardinal Wuerl answers this way:

“I think he probably recognizes, as popes have always had to recognize, certainly as we bishops have to recognize, there are those who take part of what we say and there are others that take another part of what we say. But we have to keep saying the whole package. We have to keep delivering the entire package.”

“I think that’s what the pope does. And he takes joy in it when you see him delivering a talk, a homily, you see him in the midst of people, he takes great joy in representing the whole faith, the whole package.”

“But there will always be some discussion among people what part they like best and for some, what part they’re going to accept.”

“But the obligation on all of us, if we’re true members of the church and true followers of the Lord, then we take the Lord’s message even when there are parts of it we’re uncomfortable with.”

Those are political positions so yes, you can disagree. I do.

Pope’s change all the time, many will say different things. I think it’s important to listen, but these all seem to be material things.

I do disagree sometimes.

If you are a Catholic, you certainly can’t dismiss any of this. Even if you disagree with a specific technical proposal, it is a prudential judgement of the Holy Father that he has worked out by using established and binding principles of Catholic moral doctrine. You must therefore carefully consider what is being proposed.

Even if an encyclical has to do in part with topics of a scientific nature, encyclicals are among the most solemn and authoritative of magisterial documents (a direct address of the Holy Father with apostolic authority to every Catholic and person of good will on planet Earth).

As such, encyclicals articulate matters of faith and morals based upon the implications of natural knowledge, philosophy, science or “facts” in question, upon which the pope can speak and is speaking authoritatively.

Immigration, care for the environment and the rights of refugees are moral issues. They are not a value-free zone.

So while you may dispute scientific facts, you cannot dispute the moral truths conveyed.

Let’s consider immigration as an example.

The Church will not dictate a specific nation’s immigration legislation.

However, there is a moral principle underlying the questions of immigration and asylum for refugees, precisely because these are questions that deal with a matter of human life and dignity.

Acording to the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself:

**"…The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are ‘sins that cry to heaven’: the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner…"

In traditional Catholic theology, failure to respond compassionately to “the cry of the oppressed foreigner” is one of the ‘Sins that cry to Heaven for Vengeance’:

The four sins that cry to Heaven for Vengeance (or sins that cry to Heaven) (Latin: peccata clamantia) are a list of mortal sins in Catholic moral theology that Catholics believe demand justice from God:[1]

The expression is derived from Genesis 4:10 (“The Lord said to Cain … the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the earth”).
The “blood of Abel”: homicide, infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and matricide[2]
The “sin of the Sodomites”: pride, gluttony, negligence of the poor, abuse of children, and homosexual acts[3][4]
The “cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan”: slavery and marginalization[5]
The “injustice to the wage earner”: taking advantage of and defrauding workers[6]

Or consider European integration.

Every Pope has supported the EU since the 1950s. Pius XII was the first individual to use the term “European Union” and call for it in 1948. You are not under any obligation, obviously, to share that consistently positive assessment and support since it is an opinion, even if an esteemed and venerable one on the part of the Papacy.

But you are obligated to accept that the principle of supranationalism, of having a sphere of authority over that of the nation that is limited by subsidiarity and takes to do with those issues that no nation can cope with on its own, is good in theory - because this is called for on the basis of Thomistic understandings of natural law, among other factors. The EU is an attempt to fulfil this teaching on the European continent. You can regard the EU as a bad attempt, if you like, but you are not at liberty to reject the principle of supranational authority itself.

The encyclicals usually call it a “world political authority,” Pope Pius XII called it a “an organ invested by common consent with supreme power”.

These are all vague terms indicating the moral need for political authority at the global and regional levels, which existed (in the Church’s mind) at least in theory in the middle ages with the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire but which has been lacking since the Treaty of Westphalia came into force in the 17th century.

The popes have consistently taught this in encyclicals. Yet many American Catholics seem to reject this teaching. They inherently dislike supranationalism. My answer? “Tough”.

What I find ironic is that when “liberals” accuse the Church of being anti-woman due to stances on abortion, women priests, etc., that’s considered uncharitable at best.

But when conservatives accuse the Church, or at least the USCCB, of being motivated by a greedy lust for government funding due to its stance on immigration, that’s perfectly legitimate and allowable criticism.

Either that or CAF rules have changed in the past couple months.

ETA: I think both stances are uncharitable, BTW.

Yes, because these are not matters of doctrine. I know what you are asking is not whether we should try to provide things like health care or help the environment but the means to do so.

There is an enormous amount of confusion and miscommunication about this lately.

Our first duty is to the Truth (Jesus) and our consciences, not to the opinion of others no matter what title they have.

That’s a remarkably Protestant individualist notion.

Ecclesiastical “titles” - if you wish to identify our ordained priests and bishops by that term - mean a lot in Catholicism.

I don’t think the bishops are motivated by greed or lust. People’s motives down all sides are not in question, but we really need to get beyond the “good intentions” if we are going to solve problems. Otherwise, we can keep virtue signaling on Facebook and social media as to how righteous we are and the like while nothing gets done. But I’m not interested in that.

The issue in general with Christian leadership, media and left-wing immigrant organizations is they need to do their homework. If they had six years ago, this would not come as a shock to them.

I assume this concern is about America, and it is very clear to me that all the government is now doing is enforcing the laws that are already on the books and tweaking policies that have been around for sometime.

I wouldn’t know since I am not a Protestant. However, Catholics are called to follow their conscience.

That means thinking and not accepting things blindly.

Also “collective salvation” isn’t real and it’s what grievance groups use to obtain resources.


I agree.These issues are their opinions,we are not bound to agree with them

We are called to adhere to the dictates of our conscience, yes but not to believe and do whatever we will.

It is our divinely ordained duty to strive for a “properly formed conscience” that is shaped and informed by the teachings of the Church, so that our conscience is not in error.

The church is the Mystical Body of Christ. It is not a “group ideology” but the transmitter of the Word of God both in its written and unwritten forms, received from the Apostles and preserved through the succession.

You are applying political terminology to the church which is a divine institution.

The “maturation of individual consciences” takes place for a Catholic within the context of the Church and Her sacramental life. We do not grow as Christians apart from the life of the Church. That is an individualistic view of salvation which I find rather strange from a baptized Catholic.

The church is the constitutive basis of our identity. We are embedded in its life and teachings. It is not a “hindrance” that we have to overcome, rather it is an opportunity that we must embrace.

The Second Vatican council in its dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, noted:…entium_en.html

At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right.(85) God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness

All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God’s will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one…

It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature. All the faithful, scattered though they be throughout the world, are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit, and so, he who dwells in Rome knows that the people of India are his members…All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God which in promoting universal peace presages it. And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation…In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.

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