I was a sponsor this year and in our RCIA class recently the man leading it says that we are not obligated to believing everything that the church teaches. He says that we are free to choose, with serious consideration, which instructional teachings to obey (one of which is contraception) and that there are only a few items that we must believe (the true presence in the eucharist being one). Being raised catholic, this is new to me, but he says it has always been that way. It seems that he and the catechism are at odds, he states that there has always been some “wiggle room,” however I cannot find that in the catechism. My question is that as catholics should we follow every teaching of the church, or are there some we can pick and choose.
Is it true that Catholics are free to choose, with serious consideration, which Church teachings to obey?
To protect the faith of the Catholic Church against errors:
Catholics are not free to “choose which teachings to obey”. And no, it has not always been this way.
The *Code of Canon Law * no 750 clearly states:
*Can. 750 §1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.
§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firm-ly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.*
Submission of mind and will to the teachings of the Church even when not speaking ex cathedra must be shown (e.g., truths contained in the Catechism, and that artificial contraception is sinful).
Lumen Gentium no 25:
“This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.”
And Vatican II in Gaudium et Spes no. 50) makes it clear that
*“The teaching Church does not invent her doctrines; she is a witness, a custodian, an interpreter, a transmitter. As regards the truths of Christian marriage, she can be called conservative, uncompromising. To those who would urge her to make her faith easier, more in keeping with the tastes of the changing mentality of the times, she answers with the apostles, we cannot.” (Acts. 4:20) *
Is it o.k. to be a cafeteria Catholic? Pope John Paul II says,
*“It is sometimes reported that a large number of Catholics today do not adhere to the teaching of the Catholic Church on a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage. Some are reported as not accepting the clear position on abortion. It has to be noted that there is a tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence to the Church’s moral teaching. 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 of the Bishops in the United States and elsewhere.” * (Pope John Paul II in his speech to the Bishops in 1987)
Can the faithful form their own consciences when it comes to the teachings of the Church? No.
"In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church.(35) For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself."