I will be upfront with everyone here.
I grew up in the Catholic Church but was never really a Christian while in it. While in college, after having been challenged by my very Catholic father-in-law, I started examining Christianity and after a year of intense study, I became a true Christian for the first time in my life (thank you very much C.S. Lewis).
That was about 3 years ago or so. Since then, I have been trying to find out the truth about Christianity.
One of the great struggles I have with Catholicism is this:
If the Church’s authority is supposed to be accepted by the faithful at all times…What happens when the Church demands its members engage in immoral activities? For instance, at the Fourth Lateran Council, the Church demanded that secular authorities “exterminate” heretics. Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull of 1520 stated that it was an “error” to teach that burning heretics was against the will of the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul II himself admitted the Church has done some terrible things in its past. Yet, whenever these events have occurred, the Church has demanded obedience from the faithful.
So my question to you is: How can the faithful approach these kinds of situations? If the Church tells me I should exterminate all the heretics (not that I think they would in the future), am I obliged as a Catholic to be obedient? What if the Church says I must do this or be thrown out of the Church?
I am not saying the Church will ask its faithful to burn heretics (those days are behind us I hope), but the same could be said for any command of immorality. How do Catholics know when they should be obedient and when they should reject the authority of the Church? The Catechism and the Canon make it sound like Catholics must always be obedient.
Any sincere help with this would be greatly appreciated. This is a huge stumbling block for me on my way to being Catholic.