Is it a Mortal sin to Doubt the Teachings of our Church?


I just need a short answer and explanation to why it is or not, but you gals/guys can go ahead and write more things if you gals/guys like. Oh and I’d like to know what’s the difference between questioning about the faith and doubting the faith.


YEARNING4TRUTH asks : "what’s the difference between questioning about the faith and doubting the faith."

Another question about Semantics.

It seems to me that the way you have devised the question is:

  1. Questioning about the Faith … is when a person is looking for more information about her Faith.
  2. Doubting the Faith, is what we ALL do. NOBODY has such a thing as PURE Faith (and, if they could manage to attain that Heavenly state, they cannot remain in that state for very long).

So, the quick-and-easy answer to this is … NO, it it not a Sin to have Doubt.
This can be Doubt of a particular dogma of the Church, or Doubt about the existence of Jesus Christ.

In my years of believing in Jesus Christ, there are moments in time when I can’t believe that God would have just allowed a thing to happen.
Then, BOY, my head swirls around, questioning just about EVERYTHING in my Life, and in my Spiritual Life.
A few minutes (or, possibly a few DAYS) later, the swirling Doubts cease, and I get back to my less-full-of-Doubts existence.

As to Doubting one of the 1000s of Teachings of the Catholic Church …
This issue is MUCH less important than actually having Doubts about Jesus Christ.
So, people can have Doubts about Church Teachings without committing a Mortal Sin (or even a venial Sin).


When presented with these trials, we always have a choice to make: obedience or rebellion.
There is so much information available that explains why Church teaching is as it is and sometimes it takes time to read and process. Twice in my life, I have rebelled against a certain thing, and both times, a year or two later, I realized the wisdom of Holy Mother Church. Today, I choose obedience first and then discovery.

I remember Tim Staples telling a story (as I recall it) about Steve Ray saying, “He just said OK, but I had to examine all the evidence for myself and it took me (a period of time) to conclude that the Church was right. So I learned that Steve is more humble than I am, and I wasted a lot of time.”


When a person questions a teacher, when things don’t seem to make sense or seem not to fit, that is not a sin against the teacher (assuming the teacher is true). When a person tells the teacher he knows the teacher is wrong, then that person is sinning against the teacher (exiting the relationship of teacher - student) and taking the role of “teacher” to himself.

“Anyone who hears you, hears me, anyone who rejects you rejects me”. That is what the teacher told to those he sent, and they teach with that understanding. If we say we know better, then we are exiting the relationship of being students of our teacher, sinning against our teacher.

I personally regard (or, rather, swear my allegiance to the fact) that the doctrine of the Church is correct, whether it makes sense at any given moment as I am learning or not. I also, however, have found that over time the understanding of the questioned doctrine is fully explained. I am Jesus’ student no matter what seems hard to take, and that means I am the Church’s student.

John Martin


The short answer is that anything that is definitively defined must be believed with “divine and Catholic faith” – in other words, you do not do well to doubt it at all. That includes Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and that which has been formally defined by an Ecumenical Council or defined Infallibly by the Pope.

Other things that are declared by the Pope or the (whole) college of bishops regarding faith and morals, but not solemnly defined, as above, must be accepted with “religious submission of the intellect and will”.

The difference between “Divine and Catholic Faith” and “Religious Submission of the Intellect and Will” is that, with the former, you are not allowed to even doubt it. For example, with the Creed: you must not doubt that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, you must not doubt that there will be a resurrection of the dead. You must not doubt that there will be life everlasting.

With the latter, you are allowed to doubt it, but you must submit to it and act according to it. For example, the right to private property is defined by numerous popes, including Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum. You are allowed to doubt that, but you are not to act contrary to it. You could say, “I don’t understand why the Church teaches that private property is to be respected, but I accept that She does and I will act accordingly.”

You can read more on it in the Code of Canon Law, Canons 749-752.

I know I probably gave a longer answer than what you were looking for, but it was necessary to explain the difference between what must be accepted with “Divine and Catholic Faith” and that which must be accepted with a “religious submission of the intellect and will.”

Oh, and one other thing. If you **publicly **dissent against teachings that must be accepted with “Divine and Catholic Faith” – you are a heretic and are automatically excommunicated until such time as that **public **dissent is rectified. If you internally doubt those things, you should, in good conscience, refrain from receiving Holy Communion until such time as you can clearly state that you believe them. Not calling it a “mortal sin”, per se, but if you don’t believe those things, then you really aren’t in communion with the Church. It becomes a mortal sin if your doubt becomes obstinate and you stop seeking the truth and decide for yourself that the Church is wrong.

If you publicly teach against that doctrine that must be submitted to with a “religious submission of the intellect and will”, then you run into problems per Canon 1371. However, as far as I know, you can internally doubt those teachings as long as you don’t take actions that are opposed to that doctrine. Within the internal forum you should still work to resolve any doubts about what the Church teaches as doctrine in any area. Failure to do so can lead you eventually into heresy, which none of us should want.


To deliberately entertain doubts about what the Church teaches, whether through Defined Dogmas or through the Ordinary teaching of the Magisterium would be a mortal sin. Please read the following from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I. Moral Life and the Magisterium of the Church

2032 The Church, the “pillar and bulwark of the truth,” "has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving truth."74 "To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls."75

2033 The Magisterium of the Pastors of the Church in moral matters is ordinarily exercised in catechesis and preaching, with the help of the works of theologians and spiritual authors. Thus from generation to generation, under the aegis and vigilance of the pastors, the “deposit” of Christian moral teaching has been handed on, a deposit composed of a characteristic body of rules, commandments, and virtues proceeding from faith in Christ and animated by charity. Alongside the Creed and the Our Father, the basis for this catechesis has traditionally been the Decalogue which sets out the principles of moral life valid for all men.

2034 The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are "authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice."76 The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.

2035 The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.77

2036 The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation. In recalling the prescriptions of the natural law, the Magisterium of the Church exercises an essential part of its prophetic office of proclaiming to men what they truly are and reminding them of what they should be before God.78

2037 The law of God entrusted to the Church is taught to the faithful as the way of life and truth. the faithful therefore have the right to be instructed in the divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with grace, heal wounded human reason.79 They have the duty of observing the constitutions and decrees conveyed by the legitimate authority of the Church. Even if they concern disciplinary matters, these determinations call for docility in charity.

2038 In the work of teaching and applying Christian morality, the Church needs the dedication of pastors, the knowledge of theologians, and the contribution of all Christians and men of good will. Faith and the practice of the Gospel provide each person with an experience of life “in Christ,” who enlightens him and makes him able to evaluate the divine and human realities according to the Spirit of God.80 Thus the Holy Spirit can use the humblest to enlighten the learned and those in the highest positions.

2039 Ministries should be exercised in a spirit of fraternal service and dedication to the Church, in the name of the Lord.81 At the same time the conscience of each person should avoid confining itself to individualistic considerations in its moral judgments of the person’s own acts. As far as possible conscience should take account of the good of all, as expressed in the moral law, natural and revealed, and consequently in the law of the Church and in the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium on moral questions. Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church.

2040 Thus a true filial spirit toward the Church can develop among Christians. It is the normal flowering of the baptismal grace which has begotten us in the womb of the Church and made us members of the Body of Christ. In her motherly care, the Church grants us the mercy of God which prevails over all our sins and is especially at work in the sacrament of reconciliation. With a mother’s foresight, she also lavishes on us day after day in her liturgy the nourishment of the Word and Eucharist of the Lord.

You will notice in paragraph 2035 that even the Ordinary Teaching of the Magisterium is infallible. This would certainly apply to everything in the Catechism.

To refuse the obedience of Divine and Catholic faith or willing submission of intellect and will ( this applies to the Ordinary Teaching of the Magisterium ), would constitute a mortal sin against the First Commandment.

You must remember that it is not required that you understand how a Dogma could be true or how a particular teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium could be true. In the former case that is usually impossible since most of these are Mysteries. But in the case of the latter, it is usually possible for reasonable people to see and understand the reasons for the teaching. But even in the case of the latter, we must adhere to the teaching through a willing submission of intellect and will, even if we cannot understand the reason. We may not disagree with it, we may not reject it - even within the privacy of our private thoughts. Rather we should strive to understand the reasons.



It depends what you mean.

If you reject or have STUBBORN doubts about an infallible teaching then that is heresy and a mortal sin. With regard to non-infallible teachings it would be a mortal sin but not heresy.

Questioning teachings is not a problem if you want to get a better understanding of the teachings but if you fail to understand them you still have to accept them because Christ gave authority to the Church to teach and in matters of faith and morals the Church cannot be in error.




We must be careful in talking about doubt, since the sense in which it is used in parts of the catechism or Church teaching is not exactly the more common understanding of the word.

Doubt is sinful when it is voluntary and/or obstinate. When it is merely difficulty in accepting certain teachings and remains involuntary, it is not (yet) sinful.

As the catechism says, in quoting Cardinal Newman: “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”

Here is a reference helping to explain the difference:


Doubting the faith doctrines tends to come in the presence of confusion. The best way to clear up doubt is to understand clearly the teaching. The first and foremost teaching to understand about being a Catholic Christian is that the Church does not teach falsehoods, though members of the Church may teach heresy. It is the heresies that tend to promote doubt. Christ promised to protect his Church from the gates of hell. So you may doubt, but your doubts need to be resolved according to the teachings of the Church … at least where the Church has spoken authoritatively. Where the Church has not spoken authoritatively, follow your conscience and the natural law, but doubt even your conscience which may, from time to time, tell you spectacular lies that feed your ego and your desire for pleasure. :wink:


Markomalley #5
The short answer is that anything that is definitively defined must be believed with “divine and Catholic faith”

However, the correct answer is that there are three levels :
1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and requires intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 25), not an assent of faith. [See the Explanatory Note on Ad Tuendam Fidem by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]

From Fr Thomas Dubay, Faith And Certitude, Ignatius Press, 1995:
“They attain truth who love it. One of the chief immoralities is an indifference to truth. It is worse than sexual perversion, said Jesus Himself. Those who reject His representatives are more guilty than perverted Sodom and Gomorrah (Mt 10:14-15). Indifference to truth is nothing less than and indifference to reality and to the Author of reality…One of the too little noticed traits of the saints is their utter commitment to truth.” (p 189-190).

Objective certitude “has three traits. First it is an enlightened assent. One not only knows something, but he also knows why he knows it, and he sees the objective reasons why it is so….[Second] certitude excludes a reasonable fear of being wrong…[Third] certitude is unchangeable. Because it is based on objective reality it is permanent.

Doubt and Difficulty
“A negative doubt is a close relation to ignorance. An opinion is an assent of the mind but with a well-founded fear that the opposite may be true.” With an unhealthy doubt, “a person suspends judgment even when the evidence is conclusive and completely adequate. This is skepticism, intellectual cowardice……A difficulty is a problem, a not-seeing how two realities fit together….a situation we do not yet understand and perhaps will never understand. It is a limitation on our knowledge, a passing or permanent limitation.”

John Henry Cardinal Newman said “ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.” (Apologia pro vita Sua). [Fr Dubay, op. cit. p 82-4].


Hi yearning4truth,

An excellent question. In short, it depends.

If someone is defiant against a specific church teaching that they are required to believe, then yes, that’s a sin.

If someone doesn’t understand a teaching of the church but is actively working to try to better understand it, that’s just normal.

So if there’s a particular teaching you’re struggling with, seek guidance from a priest, pray hard about it, and do research to better understand it. Often I find that people who disagree with a certain church teaching do so out of lack of proper understanding of the teaching.

Sometimes God deliberately withholds understanding of a teaching because he wants you to seek Him out. He wants you to find him by working hard to gain that understanding.

I hope that helps! If you care to, feel free to post new threads about what particular teachings you might be struggling with!


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