Ron Conte #10
The U.S. Bishops have taught, under the authentic non-infallible magisterium, that there is some possibility of licit dissent from non-infallible teachings.
Some never learn.
**No wonder that Bl John Paul II had to reaffirm that there has never been, and is no, “licit dissent” at his meeting with US Bishops at Our Lady Queen of Angels Minor Seminary, Los Angeles, Sept 16, 1987, before Donum Veritatis (CDF) in 1990. “It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a ‘good Catholic’ and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops of the United States and elsewhere.”
No, this is not consistent with Donum Veritatis precisely because it assumes a “licit dissent” and “which in practice, as far as the theological community was concerned, became ‘the ‘right of public dissent’.” *Battle For the American Church (Revisited), *Ignatius, 1995, Msgr George a Kelly, p 73].
Not only do the U.S. Bishops’ Norms of Licit Theological Dissent, 1968, 51, not rule out public dissent from the Magisterium, but the bishops acquiesced in the public dissent of the unfaithful theologians already raging, as Dr Whitehead shows. It is the laxity in fidelity of too many bishops, and the encouragement of the Vatican at that time in the subsequent Truce of 1968 in the U.S., which allowed the culture of dissent to flourish – in seminaries, parishes, schools and universities.
[See *The Courage To Be Catholic, Chap 3, George Weigel, Basic Books, 2002].
How Dissent Became Institutionalized in the Church in America
by Kenneth D. Whitehead
“In the minds of the bishops in 1968, these Norms of Licit Dissent were perhaps drawn up and included in their Pastoral Letter in order to try to re-impose some measure of episcopal control and oversight over a situation of dissent that had literally already gotten out of hand. Whatever the original intention, however, the Norms only made a bad situation worse. It was simply unreal to speak about dissent that did not “question or impugn the teaching of the Church” when it was the object of the dissent from Humanae Vitae to question and impugn the authority of the Church. Similarly, it was idle to attempt to require that dissent could only be expressed “with propriety,” when the favored method of the dissenters was precisely to challenge the pope’s teaching with maximum publicity, hopefully in or through the mass media.
In short, the Norms were fundamentally misconceived and incoherent; and even if it could be shown that they were in any sense valid, they certainly did not apply to the kind of dissent the Church was facing. Virtually none of the dissent of 1968 and after was carried out in accordance with these Norms or with anything resembling them.
Yet the fact that such Norms could be found in an official bishops’ document served to create the illusion and the justification that, yes, dissent from Church teaching could somehow be “licit.” By admitting that dissent could ever be licit, the bishops simply invited dissenters in all cases to assert that their particular dissent was licit. Any bishop even contemplating disciplining or removing a dissenter henceforth had to admit the plea that the dissent of the latter was, after all, at least arguably licit, according to the bishops’ own criteria. In practice, virtually all dissent was thereby enabled to be considered licit.
Tolerated dissent thus fostered widespread disloyalty to the Church. It fostered dishonesty too, since the pretence had to be maintained that those who were disloyal were not to be judged disloyal under the regime of the Norms.
It was in this fashion, then, that theological dissent from magisterial teaching became virtually “institutionalized” in the Church in the United States. That this was hardly the intention of the bishops does not alter the fact that it was the almost inevitable result of their unwise attempt to lay out official “Norms” for what amounted to simple rejection of the Church’s teaching.
Kenneth D. Whitehead is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education. He has authored or coauthored nine books, as well as many articles, and is the translator of some twenty published books.
Ignatius Press - *The Homiletic & Pastoral Review *
Donum Veritatis, CDF 1990, completely rules out all dissent:
#36. “The freedom of the act of faith cannot justify a right to dissent.”
Even for theologians #37 has this caution:
“Moreover, the theologian who is not disposed to think with the Church (sentire cum Ecclesia) contradicts the commitment he freely and knowingly accepted to teach in the name of the Church.”
#38: “The right conscience of the Catholic theologian presumes not only faith in the Word of God whose riches he must explore, but also love for the Church from whom he receives his mission, and respect for her divinely assisted Magisterium. Setting up a supreme Magisterium of conscience in opposition to the Magisterium of the Church means adopting a principle of free examination incompatible with the economy of Revelation and its transmission in the Church and thus also with a correct understanding of theology and the role of the theologian. The propositions of faith are not the product of mere individual research and free criticism of the Word of God but constitute an ecclesial heritage. If there occur a separation from the Bishops who watch over and keep the apostolic tradition alive, it is the bond with Christ which is irreparably compromised(38).
(38) Cf. Paul VI, Apost. Exhort. Paterna cum benevolentia, n. 4: AAS 67 (1975)15.