Considerations when participating in the Moral Theology sub-forum

Many poor individuals come to this subforum seeking moral guidance on an issue that is concerning them, and most of the (well-meaning) posters here offer mere personal opinion. Very often, the members of this subforum seem to give moral advice without any exposition of moral argument. It’s clear that they are ignorant of sound moral philosophy and Catholic moral theology.That is a problem.

Remember that, as Catholics, our personal opinions are not what determine truth, especially moral and theological truth. Rather, we ought to sentire cum ecclesia, to “think with the Church.” This means that we must not only believe the Creeds and declarations of the ecumenical councils and the infallible pronouncements of the Holy Father, but that we must also hold to the common sentence of the approved theologians (see Pius IX “Tua Libenter”, DZ 1683).

To hold an opinion contrary to the common sentence of the approved theologians would be, at very least, rash and temerarious, if not sinful. Even worse would be to try to hold others to this opinion. And yet, that is what is happening on this subforum.

All of us, and I include myself in this, need to be careful. Giving moral advice is a grave responsibility, and if we are going to continue giving moral advice, we need to become better moral theologians.


Thank you for posting this. You in my opinion your are completely correct. :wink:


I look forward to your contributions in view of the integrity of your comments.

Simple answer:

Quote and provide links to Church documents.

Quote and provide links to statements made by the Pope and published in reputable Catholic publications like the National Catholic Register. That includes Bishops and Archbishops as well.

When a question obviously requires a person, like a priest, to be involved then say that. Yes, sometimes people are afraid but we must tell that that an anonymous internet forum is not the best place to get the right answer or help that they need. Encourage them to make a phone call to talk to a priest.

Finally, all answers must include a reference to the Bible, or Church document or credible source of information, like the Catechism or a Catholic publication.

We cannot - must not - have anyone, Catholic or not, think that our opinion alone is the right answer. Opinions have no place here. When we answer, our answer must come from some Church related source of information that the poster can see for themselves.

Hope this helps,

I agree with each poster above

I think this is sensible as far as it goes, but do you not see how this approach can be abused? It often becomes similar to biblical “proof-texting.” I have seen CAF members reference passages from St. Paul’s epistles to support a categorical condemnation, say, vulgarity. They, apparently, do not know that St. Paul used ancient vulgar words in those same epistles. Their interpretation of those passages would pit St. Paul against himself!

And so, merely providing authoritative references does not avoid the uncritical attitude that has developed among many members. They will simply read into those references their own predetermined views, views that are often more shaped by their personal background and disposition than Catholic morality.

What we need, more than anything, is an education in sound moral philosophy and moral reasoning. That takes time and, yeah, money. I have bought many books on ethics and moral theology, and I will have to find the time to read them all.

The reason I posted this thread is because I became frustrated at all the members giving moral guidance without any exposition of moral reasoning. Many poor individuals have come here with severe concerns over moral issues, and I think many of them have been scandalized by, frankly, the errors in many of the responses to their concerns. Some of these responses, besides not reflecting sound moral theology, are so severe as to unsettle many consciences. Someone recently suggested that vulgarity, for example, is grave matter, which is absolutely ridiculous. Any cursory glance at the Church’s manuals gives the proof.

The only way this is going to change is if the administrators of this forum take steps to improve the forum’s community.

If people wanted just the teachings of the Church a few minutes on Google will provide answers. People generally come to forums because they want more then just the legalities of it, they want personal experience and insight into how the teachings of the Church have effected others.

This is a Catholic forum, so the majority of responses will be in line with Church teaching. Yes, there will be catholics who provide discenting opinion but they are quickly pointed out. The majority of non-Catholics also have their religion or no religion listed.

Its my experience that people want to see Catholic teaching in operation in the daily lives of people like them. Some wordy Church document sometimes doesn’t reach them in the way a person can. The personal opinions and experiences, in line with the Church, are what’s important, and you can only get that on a forum.

I agree to a point. There are a couple problems with this statement though.

  1. If someone has a question on issues regards to their daily life the confessional should be their first stop. People on the forms giving conflicting answers to what or how they, may or may not have sinned is confusing more than anything else. Example: Ron Conte’s version of martial sexuality vs the Church’s.

  2. I have personally noticed a tendency for some to completely rejected documents of the Church because they don’t feel like it agrees with their train of thought as and reject it arbitrarily as “not infallible”.

  3. When someone ask a legalistic question, it requires an legalistic answer. That is where those wordy documents are required.

You are correct, of course :thumbsup:, I was generalising with my response. However, pretty much every thread I’ve seen regarding a person’s morally questioned situation involves at least one post with the phrase “speak to your confessor”.

When a person rejects Church teaching because of their own personal opinion or leanings, it seems to me that forum opinions, confessor’s explanation or documents aren’t going to change that any time soon. And as we’ve all read stories here about confessors who aren’t in line with the Church, then referring to a corrupt confessor when there are correct teachings expressed on the forum, could cause more problems.

As for legalities, perhaps its just me, but I always think that if someone can ask a legalistic question then they can understand legalistic documentation, thus, Google. Its the people who ask questions about NFP for example, that may want forum opinion about what’s a “grave” matter, Church documents don’t tend to provide a list for such.

Words and documents are abused here all the time. People do have recourse to directly Ask An Apologist.

Next, we have people that post here constantly under different names and with weird words under religion that make no sense. It is their mission to cause confusion, cause dissent, divide and - hopefully - conquer a few Catholics to agree with them. The dissenters’ primary tactic is to repeat the same thing over and over again, no matter matter how many times they are properly corrected.

On a forum where I am a moderator, there is a sub-forum that is filled with some of the best/worst, Leftist, Anarchist, Ultra-Liberals on the planet. If the Church is for it, they are against it. If the Church is against something - watch out. I would delete the entire sub-forum, but we’ve decided to keep it since we know where all the ‘difficult’ people are, and where to find their worst comments, instead of having them spread to other sub-forums.


NFP is one of the things I’ve spent a lot of time studying. (That is not meant to be the fallacy of appeal to authority, I rely on official documents.) Those are the topics that tend to draw me in. Not to get off track but "grave"matter isn’t the only way that’s been phrased as a requirement for NFP in official church documentation :slight_smile: ( Just causes, serious reasons, justifiable reason to name a few.) Which honestly does back up your point that personal experience can lend a hand to people seeking answers.

What steps are you suggesting? In case you have not seen it, there is a suggestion box area/forum.

Moderators need to take much more of an active role in shaping the community of the forum. That means closing and removing repetitive threads. Cutting down on the clutter and keeping the same topics on as few threads as possible. Creating sticky threads that have directories to the best threads.Chiding members for their lack of critical posts, encouraging those who do offer good responses. And give those good posters more moderating privileges.

This place is not a confessional. It is a discussion forum. This forum is also not a spiritual director. Discuss is what we do here. Some people discuss more intelligently than others. If there is any short-coming it is that people seek advice in this forum that they should see a priest about. When that happens, there is no shortage of people who will suggest that they seek a priest. I think the moderators do a fine job of allowing a wide latitude of discussion. That is what this place is. This is only a problem when CAF is used in place of talking to a priest.

Quarantine. Great idea!

Nice sticky threads are a good idea.

This board has several topics that appear quite often, so I understand how one wonders why there need to be 5 active threads on that topic at once. I think each person deserves attention to their own situation, so they can experience communicating with and being understood by another person. It depends on if it is a personal type thread or a hypothetical, but even when I bring up a hypothetical, I want a loving interaction with a fellow human being.

Another issue with combining threads is that if the threads are over a certain size before they combine, I usually give up reading them once combined, since it is such a snarl. I no longer know who said what already and I lose track of the individual people I was talking with. So this may be limited by the number of moderators available, so the similar threads are caught in time.

The idea about moderators chiding members for uncritical posts, I hesitate with that one. I would not enjoy posting and chatting in that atmosphere. It would feel cramped and dark. Concerning encouraging those who make good posts, you or I could/should do that, most definitely! :slight_smile: Moderator status not required.

The above post is not in agreement with magisterial teaching. So, ironically, the above post is an example of a well-meaning post offering an erroneous opinion – the same type of thing that the post criticizes.

The main error is in dividing what is to be believed into infallible magisterial teachings and the common opinion of theologians. The Magisterium does not make such a division. Rather, the magisterial division is infallible teachings and non-infallible teachings. The infallible teachings require the full assent of faith (theological assent), the non-infallible teachings require the religious submission of will and intellect (religious assent) (Lumen Gentium, n. 25). The opinion of theologians, even if it is the “common sentence”, does not require assent. One can disagree with a common theological opinion without sin.

Also, this assertion: “we must also hold to the common sentence of the approved theologians (see Pius IX “Tua Libenter”, DZ 1683).” is not actually found in that document. The document cited instead makes the distinction also found in Vatican I and Vatican II, LG 25, between the infallible teachings of Popes and Councils and the infallible teaching of the ordinary and Universal Magisterium:

“Even when it is only a question of the submission owed to divine faith, this cannot be limited merely to points defined by the express decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this Apostolic See; this submission must also be extended to all that has been handed down as divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching authority of the entire Church spread over the whole world, and which, for this reason, Catholic theologians, with a universal and constant consent, regard as being of the faith.” (Pius IX Tua Libenter, DZ 1683)

The works of Catholic theologians are cited as one way to perceive the teachings of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. It does NOT say that their common sentence (or “majority opinion”) requires our assent.

I will not quote the whole there…save space.

Not all that was proposed though in your post is quite on target…

But it is very important to affirm that we are to profess the Catholic Faith…not hold opinions and certainly not pass on opinions that are contrary to such.

And yes this phrase (withdrawn from the particular context of the post) is very important:

sentire cum ecclesia

To think with the Church. Aside from the various kinds of Teachings of the Church --there are various theologies and opinions which are within the realm of orthodoxy. And there are those which are well…not.

Do some well meaning posters offer advice that unknowingly can be said to be not in harmony with the Teachings of the Church or sound Theology?-- yes it certainly happens.

Do some come here from backgrounds or intentions which are not in harmony with the Church …to cause trouble or promote their ideas? --yes certainly that happens too.

Hopefully those in the Forum who recognize such will post a post or 20 that sheds light on the mistaken ideas or counsel.

The hope is that a person receives a “Catholic Answer” but readers need to beware of the nature of the Forum and seek the needful assistance from those who can assist in a fashion that brings actual light to the question (which can include good advice from ones Priest or Bishop etc etc.).

This is a discussion forum open to all who are willing to abide by the rules. The rules do not include a requirement to give 100% accurate information. What is needed is an awareness that many different viewpoints will be represented here, and that one should not look to this forum for definitive answers to important moral questions. Such answers are better sought on the Ask An Apologist area, or even better, as has been stressed over and over, from one’s priest or bishop. Buyer beware.

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