Very few things that the Church teaches are under the umbrella of infallibility. But they do come under the umbrella of ordinary authority to which all of us are bound in charity and humility. We have to understand that part of becoming a Catholic is not just accepting what is infallible teaching, but what comes to us through authoritative teaching of the Church.
There was an excellent post on this in the Ask an Apologist thread. I believe it may have been yesterday or the day before. The poster asked if a pope who is a heretic can be deposed and whether or not he should be obeyed. The Apologist explained that even though not everything is infallible, some statements can even be heretical, obedience is still required by canon law. And she explained that being as the authority (in this case the pope) is the highest in the Church, he cannot be deposed and cannot be disobeyed. However, she also explained that the Holy Spirit will not allow a heresy to be taught as dogma, even though it may be taught.
The reason I point out to this particular question that was raised by the poster and so clearly explained by the apologist is because it applies to the doctors and great saints of the Church too. Their authority is not alway part of the infallible magisterium, but it does not fail to be authoritative if the Church subscribes to their teachings and the Church endorses them.
Now, in the case of our holy Father Francis, three encyclicals have endorsed his teaching, his spirituality and his way of life as that of the perfect Christian. This does not place him above all other saints. That would be a sin against the Holy Spirit. What it means is that there are degrees of holiness. While all the saints are holy, this particular saint enjoys the Church’s respect as being the Mirror of Perfection. When the Church gives someone that kind of honor, it is reasonable to expect all Catholics to fall in line with the popes and give that saint the same honor and the same attention to his teachings as do the popes.
In Francis’ case, his teachings were sealed by a Papal Bull by Pope Honorius. This means that they cannot be changed or ignored, because even though they are the words of Francis, not of the pope, they enjoy the backing of papal authority. Remember, we’re referring here to the oridinary authority of the Church when we say papal authority.
That being said, the Church demands that even ordinary papal authority be observed by all Catholics. The Holy See does not take kindly to having its ordinary authority questioned or disagreed with. So when the Church gives the teachings of a saint its backing, it expects the assent of all the faithful.
The point, when it comes to the saints, is that even if they are not infallible, we must give assent when the Church gives assent to their teachings and her approval through a Papal Bull or an encyclical. In Francis’ case his teachings have received approval through both. The same has happened with all of the Doctors and all the founders of the major religious orders of men. All of the founders of the major religious orders of men enjoy the privilege of ordinary authority, not only over their religious orders, but also the laity in this sense. What they teach to their religious is found by the Church to be applicable and without doctrinal error so that it can be taught to the laity and the laity should give assent. Also, the founders of the major religious orders of men and their successors are also Ordinaries, just like a bishop, even if they were not priests, such as Brother Francis. An Ordinary enjoys certain authority and commands certain obedience and respect. The term Ordinary means that he is participates the Church’s “normal” authority. Please forgive my use of the word “normal”. I couldn’t find a better one.
It’s not an issue of one following along with what is wrong like a doormat. It is an issue of showing reverence and respect for the teachings of someone whom the Church acknowledges to have something to teach us and whose teachings the Church recognizes to be in accord with her faith and free of error. Therefore, we cannot say that the teachings of these men and women are ridiculous, when the Church says that they are authoritative and puts Papal Bulls on their writings and confirms their teachings in encyclicals.
I believe the mistake that you made was calling Francis’ teaching “ridiculous”, especially without reading the decree that he wrote. The statement was made at the Chapter of Mats when he handed these decrees to the brothers and the laity who were there. Those decrees were confirme by the Pope as having been revealed to Francis by Jesus himself.
I hope this helps.
Br. JR, OSF