EWTN’s Fr. John Trigilio gives us some very common sense guidance on the subject:
[INDENT]…On matters of faith and morals, the official teaching of the Church as elucidated by the Magisterium requires that we ACCEPT. We are to give an ASSENT of Faith to all defined dogmas. Rejecting any dogma is DISSENT and it is a serious offense and grave sin. Revelation is the disclosure of supernatural truths by God to man and which are necessary for our salvation. Unlike Science which learns empirical truth by observation and philosophy which discovers rational truth by deductive and inductive reasoning, theology on the other hand, knows religious truth by divine revelation. “From God’s lips to our ears” so to speak.
…We can DISAGREE on non doctrinal issues, however. The prudential judgments of Popes, Bishops, Priests are not infallible. However, disagreement is not synonymous with DISOBEDIENCE. I disagreed occasionally with my dad but his authority was still valid and in force. My assent or lack thereof has no bearing on the veracity of the issue at hand. My compliance was demanded as my father had authority over me and my brothers. Likewise, as a pastor, some of my decisions and policies were not always met with unanimous agreement but my prudential judgment, though fallible, was still authoritative and I had to consider the common good of the entire parish and not just my own or a few others preferences. Bishops often make prudential judgments their priests, deacons, religious and laity disagree about but must obey and respect since he is the lawful shepherd. I do not have to agree nor like every rule I follow, but as long as it is not a sinful or immoral command, I must comply. Only pride can tempt me to make my will the only one I respect.
[/INDENT]I would suggest that, particularly in today’s environment of health care reform, immigration reform, same sex marriage, abortion, and so on, that we all bear his guidance in mind. His entire piece is well worth reading (and that’s why I put it in the Catholic News section, as many of the disputes seem to be here. Moderator: if you believe that it would be more appropriate in another section of the bulletin board, please move it vice deleting it. Thanks).