More Catholic than … Catholic Answers (a play on the more common idiom, “More Catholic than the Pope.”)


More Catholic than … Catholic Answers

The title of this thread is intentionally jarring (to get noticed) and plays upon the more common idiom, “More Catholic than the Pope.”

I am going to offer some of my background. Do not misconstrue this as an attempt to appear a sheep though I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I do not claim to be a sheep, claim to appear a sheep, or … I am an ex-Catholic that finds many reasons to be an ex-Catholic.
That being said, I intend to be as informed about what Catholicism REALLY is and I think it impossible to learn this without input from folks who embrace Catholicism. If Catholicism is God’s church on earth, one is radically unlikely to discover this through the teachings of those who reject Catholicism.
My history:
I grew up in a very liberal parish with a wonderful priest. Through a combination of this liberality and my own pride/arrogance I missed the “specialness” that was the Catholic Church. After attending mass most of the time through college, I just began to explore various Protestant churches and ultimately left. When I realized that Catholicism was much more than I thought it was, I thought it might be possible that I was being called to return to my Catholic faith.
A man who attended an SSPX mass was very clear that I needed to return to Catholicism. As I explored Catholicism I concluded that there were many different views of Catholicism. My SSPX friend became a Sedavacantist during JPII’s pontificate (I do not think JPII had much to do with this, just more study and …). I found other SSPX friends. I found Catholic Answers (Radio, Website, and Message Board). And I recognized that the parish of my youth embraced Vatican II in a way that Catholic Answers, SSPX folks, and Sedavacantists ALL say is inappropriate. During this time, I concluded that the strongest Catholicism was taught be Catholic Answers. Vatican II was a council like those before it, and it was NOT a break with Catholic past. Breaks with the past were not Catholicism, but the “private judgment” of those who rejected Vatican II and/or the Pope were also problematic.


I am questioning what is the strongest Catholicism. Karl Keating was very clear that the Pope should answer the “Dubia Cardinals.” A couple of years ago on Catholic Answers, Jimmy Akin (I think) spoke unusually about the question before the synod concerning the divorced and remarried receiving communion. It was clear to me that the Catholic Answer Catholicism was SOLIDLY on the side that there is no “pastoral judgment” that make adultery acceptable. Catholic Answers Catholicism solidly rejects the path taken by the Archdiocese of Malta (and presumably celebrated by the Pope). It is my opinion that Tim Staples (last year some time) didn’t adequately align what he said with what I Catholic Answers taught me to believe was Catholicism.
I currently believe that during the Pontificate of Pope Francis, the Catholic Answers version of Catholicism is weaker than it was during the Pontificate of JPII. If Pope Francis knows Catholicism, Catholic Answers does not. My childhood priest is a fan of Pope Francis (and also is critical of Catholic Answers). I doubt that the strengthening of the Sedavacantist and Liberal positions make them stronger than what I saw when JPII (and Benedict) was Pope, but they are stronger than they were before because the Pope is not concerned with Historic Christianity like Catholic Answers taught me he should be.
My question and comments here should be viewed as, “What is the strongest Catholic position I can weigh as a non-Catholic?”
I think it VERY likely that if I concluded that the Pope was the Vicar of Christ when JPII was the Pope and I learned Catholicism from Catholic Answers, I would feel some stress associated with Pope Francis; but I would not view this as a reason to cease to be Catholic. I believe all Christians (theists, seekers) must exercise some form of “Private Judgment” when determining which and if they will align themselves with some form of organized religion. Having made that decisions, I think the teachings and leaders of that organized religion should receive some deference (“PRIVATE JUDGEMENT” should cease, but private judgment never will). I would not encourage those who know Catholicism is God’s church to reject this view just because Pope Francis has done things I don’t see as aligning with Catholic Answers Catholicism (or some Catholic might not see as aligning with what they thought Catholicism was). For me personally there are unexpected things that could jar me out of religious commitments I have made, but there is not enough clarity at this point concerning Pope Francis and his teachings that I think this would happen for me.
Charity, TOm


Perhaps my post was too long.
Does the Catholicism of Catholic Answers as taught during the Pontificate of JPII (and Benidict XVI) align with the Catholicism as taught by the words and actions of Pope Francis? If so, how can this be?
If not, what is “true” Catholicism and what should a non-Catholic do to learn it?
Charity, TOm


I am lost, what you said made no sense.

You seem to be under the impression that Catholic Answers is the official teacher of the Faith?

The teacher of the faith is the Church Herself and Her Infallible documents… if you want to learn about Catholicism, no disrespect, but forget Jimmy Akin - how about the Catechism?

Forget Tim Staples - how about the Bible?

Forget the SSPX - read the documents of Vatican II.

If you read the Catechism, the Bible, and the documents of Vatican II (a lot of reading, but possible to do in a few years pretty easily), you will learn infinitely more what Catholicism is than if you spent the same amount of time reading Catholic Answers.

Plus if you read these three volumes, you’d learn from our highest written authority, Sacred Scripture, our other fount of Apostolic Teaching, Sacred Tradition which is embodied in the Catechism, and finally the documents of Vatican II - the Churches official teachings regarding Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition in todays world and the Catholic Truth from the highest Magisterial level.


You really deserve a detailed answer to this. I am going to work on a reply today and tomorrow and post it within 24 hours. You are asking some really good questions that are related to some of the most subtle, yet serious issues facing the Church in the modern world.


There is only one Catholicism.
Yes, we are the same Catholics.

There was really bad formation in the aftermath of Vat II. This had almost nothing really to do with what VII actually said, but with expectations and rumors of the 60s, things like “they’ll get rid of priestly celibacy soon” and other such things, teachers would not like if seminary students would practice devotions or pray the Rosary, it was crazy.
It got really bad, even though VII didn’t say anything to these effects, like, at all.
But, now some groups don’t like VII, partly because of what it actually did, but probably much more likely because of what these rumors and poor teaching and formation did.
“Fake news” is not a new thing. Nowadays there’s all sorts of fake news about the pope.
He’s Catholic just like the other popes.
Catholic Answers agrees, because as Catholics we believe in One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism.



Thank you for your response. I am surprised that what I said “made no sense.”

No, I am not under the impression that Catholic Answers is part of the Magisterium. I know Catholic Answers is a San Diego area apostolate that is “one of the nation’s largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization.” As I said in my opening post, I came to believe that what Catholic Answer taught was the most compelling way to view Catholicism. Clearly they attempted to be faithful to the Magisterium and they deal with the issues Protestants have long hurled at Catholicism. Occasionally they deal with issues from SSPX folks or “liberal Catholics.”

Concerning the CCC. I have read 20% or so of the CCC and probably 20% of the Baltimore Catechism. I reference the CCC when I want to know the Catholic position on something. But I have read 3 books trying to better understand Catholic beliefs highlighted in a single paragraph of the CCC. Books by Cardinal Schonborn (an author of the CCC), Matthew Joseph Scheeben (brilliant theologian), and Dr. Daniel A. Keating (not established like Scheeben yet, but …). My point is that the CCC is a reference work that is a starting point. I do not think it will answer my question for me, but I agree it is important.

Concerning the Bible, I have read it. Most of it multiple times. I will teach the Old Testament in 2018 and the New Testament in 2019. I do not and will not consider my class a Protestant Bible study, but Patrick Madrid has claimed that Protestant Bible studies are “four lane superhighways out of the Catholic Church.” I think the Catholic Church aligns reasonably well with the Bible, but I think a lot of non-Catholic Christian faiths align reasonably well with the Bible. I do not think the Bible will answer my questions, but I believe it is important.

I have this book and have read parts of it:

I find this to be the LEAST helpful and I will tell you why. Vatican II standing alone removed from historic Christianity, Vatican II as the Ecumenical Council standing apart from the 20 ECs that preceded it is POTENTIALLY one of the problems in Catholicism today. I do not think it unfair to say that Vatican II was less explicit in its positions than Trent or many of the previous ECs. Without a fully Catholic hermeneutic Vatican II has been IMO misread by many. Of course maybe the hermeneutic of Cardinal Cupich is fully Catholic or maybe of Cardinal Burke? That is my point anyway.

So, I do not expect to walk away from this thread with “the Catholic Answer,” but I am looking for input. I think your reading list is good and I will continue to read from it.

Charity, TOm


Thank you. I do think these are tough times. You can recommend reading to me too if it is easier.
Charity, TOm


Okay, this is going to be divided into three posts because of the limits on how much I can write…

The main thing I noticed while reading your post was that you do not seem to understand the difference between ecclesiastical law and divine law. (And don’t worry; a lot of people don’t because they’ve never heard of this distinction. I learned about it from studying canon law, and it’s not very complicated). Basically, ecclesiastical law is man-made, while divine law comes from God Himself. An example of an ecclesiastical law can be found canon 378.1 n.3 in the Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church (1983). It states that a priest must be at least thirty-five years old in order to become a bishop. This law can be changed by the pope if he deems it appropriate; in fact, the age requirement for becoming a bishop was only 30 in the old 1917 Code. Ecclesiastical laws can not only be changed, they can also be dispensed in certain circumstances.

Divine laws, however, come from God and cannot be changed. No church authority, even the pope, can change divine law. Therefore, it is not possible for the Church to change her teaching on homosexuality because God Himself declared that this kind of activity is morally wrong.

Catholic Answers as an organization is not the official teaching body of the Church. The Catholicism “taught by Catholic Answer” should be no different than the teachings from Rome, in regard to DIVINE LAW, of dogmatic teachings. Defined dogmas never change and must be true for all time, not just from the point of declaration onward.

However, ecclesiastical laws (practices / disciplines in the Church) can be dispensed from, changed, and even abrogated entirely if the appropriate ecclesiastical authority deems it to be appropriate in a specific circumstance. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for a Catholic to disagree with the Church’s current disciplines without incurring any sin whatsoever. (For example, many Catholics disagree with priestly celibacy.) It would be heresy to disagree with a dogmatic teaching, but perfectly acceptable to disagree with a practice or discipline.

Now that this has been clarified, I will discuss two major things: 1) current issues facing the Church in regard to Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia, and 2) the so-called “traditionalist” movement which grew out of dissatisfaction with the Second Vatican Council and its decrees, including topics such as Sedevacantism.


Part 1

Whether Karl Keating believes that the Pope should respond to the Dubia is irrelevant. That is his opinion and does not ipso facto imply that he believes that Amoris Laetitia contains heresies. Clarification from the Pope is a prudent idea - which includes answering the Dubia, but nothing here concerns dogma so it is not important and does not place Catholic Answers at odds with the Church.

The Church still teaches that adultery is a grave sin. This comes straight from God in the Ten Commandments (divine law). But the Church also knows that there are factors that may come into play in specific circumstances, and not everything is so “black-and-white” in regard to sin. Only mortal sin can condemn one to hell, not venial sins. For a sin to be mortal, it must be a grave matter; one must have full knowledge that the sin is a grave matter; and they must give full consent in spite of the fact that they know what they are going to do is a grave sin.

So it is perfectly possible that a Catholic who divorced and remarried without an annulment could be doing all this without committing a mortal sin! And since only mortal sin bars one from communion, it is possible for the person to receive communion without committing a sacrilege.

What Pope Francis wants is to allow Catholics in these irregular marriages to discern with a confessor to determine whether their actions constituted a mortal sin given their own personal circumstances. While doing this, he changed an ecclesiastical law, but never denied dogma. He never claimed that adultery is not a mortal sin when the conditions for a mortal sin are met.

However, the practice used to be to never allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, no matter the circumstances. The Pope changed this but did not compromise dogma. He changed an ecclesiastical law, which he has the authority to do, but NOT a divine law (which no one has the authority to change).

This “pastoral judgement” is not on whether adultery is a sin, but on whether those who are divorced and remarried but still free from mortal sin due to lack of sufficient knowledge or full consent should be admitted to communion. The Pope said yes, but many Catholics disagree. And since these Catholics only disagree with a practice, this is acceptable.

In my personal opinion, I think this was an imprudent move. While I get that he wants to “show mercy” to divorced and remarried Catholics who are free from mortal sin, it increases the possibility of public scandal. If someone has privately discerned with a confessor that they can receive communion, it cannot be assumed that everyone else would know that. This would make it seem that the Church is allowing adultery by admitting these people to communion.

It’s complicated because while the Church wants to avoid scandal, she also doesn’t want to refuse communion to people to are not in a state of mortal sin, but perceived to be by others who do not understand their circumstances. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Pope’s decision to modify ecclesiastical law, however, does not make them either orthodox or heretical.


I agree with all but your “Fake News” paragraph and I agree in part with that too.
Liberal media is only too happy to claim things about Pope Francis that I think he would reject.
That being said, Karl Keating is not "liberal media."
Father Thomas Weinandy is not “liberal media.” I read and respected Father Weinandy (and references him on this board) long before Pope Francis was Pope.
There is something there. This is not JUST "fake news."
Charity, TOm


Part 2 (this will be divided into two more posts, sorry about that!)

It should be made clear that there are a LOT of misunderstandings about Vatican II. The actual documents are ignored and replaced with a vague and inaccurate notion of the so-called “spirit of Vatican II”. In fact, the council itself poses no problems, and as you said, it not a “break from the past” like some people would like us to believe.

Here the distinction between divine and ecclesiastical law comes into play again. Some traditionalists are in good standing with the Church and may belong to traditional societies approved by the Church. They may simply prefer to have the sacraments in Latin, they may simply like the Tridentine mass better, and they can celebrate / attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Since they simply have a different opinion on these practices and disciplines, they are not heretics or schismatics.

Others are not in full communion with the Church and even deny that Vatican II was a valid council. I was recently in a rather nasty debate (in which I got insulted in nearly every comment the schismatic traditionalist addressed to me) about this. These people believe that the Tridentine mass is dogmatic and cannot be changed, and that Pope Paul VI committed heresy in promulgating his Missale Romanum. There is a lot of complicated information about this matter…if you would like more information, please send me a private message. However, the point here is that some traditionalists have fallen into heresy and schism by asserting that some things are divine laws / dogmas when they really aren’t. When Pope Paul VI promulgated the New Missal, he changed practices, not dogmas!

So - feel free to attend the Latin mass if you wish, but please avoid the SSPX at all costs!

It should first be clarified that there is a difference in talking about individuals who are involved with the SSPX and the institution itself. While the SSPX officially has no canonical status, not everyone involved with the institution has been excommunicated.

The problems arose because of the actions of the SSPX’s Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who consecrated four other priests as bishops without permission from the Pope. Canon 1382 says: “A bishop who consecrates someone a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.” Therefore, Lefebvre, the co-consecrator, and the four new bishops were excommunicated. This was verified by Cardinal Gantin on July 1, 1988.

Canon 751 defines schism as “the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him.” This does not mean than this “withdrawal of submission” has to be ongoing, or about all of the Holy Father’s views. One single act of refusing to submit to the Pope’s authority within one and the same controversy is already considered schism. One can only logically conclude that Lefebvre was in schism.

To be continued…


Part 2 cont’d…

Cardinal Gantin had given Lefebvre a formal canonical warning, stating that Lefebvre’s planned consecrations were against the specific instructions of the Pope himself. He was also very clear in stating that performing the consecrations without a Papal mandate would lead to Lefebvre’s excommunication. Thus, not only is Lefebvre guilty of performing episcopal consecrations without approval, he was also going directly against the Pope’s wishes, and Canon 1629 states: “No appeal is possible against: a judgment of the Supreme Pontiff himself, or a judgment of the Apostolic Signatura.” There are no excuses here.

Many SSPX sympathizers also claim that Lefebvre was not excommunicated because he acted out of necessity. Canon 1323 does not apply here. If Lefebvre was not sure of the applicability of this canon, he did have recourse to other options. Canon 6§2 states: “Insofar as they repeat former law, the canons of this Code must be assessed also in accord with canonical tradition.”

Canonical tradition is clear that grave fear or necessity did not excuse bishops who consecrated others as bishops illicitly or illicitly receive consecration from automatic excommunication. The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office decreed April 9, 1999:

“Episcopus, cuiusvis ritus vel dignitatis, aliquem, neque ab Apostolica Sede nominatum neque ab Eadem expresse confirmaum, consecraus in Episcopum, et qui consecrationem recipit, etsi metu gravi coacti incurrunt ipso facto in excommunicationem Apostolicae Sedi specialissimo modo reservatam.”

(My Latin is far from perfect even though I’ve studied, but from what I do understand the Sacred Congregation basically repeated Canon 1382, that bishops who consecrate illicitly and the bishops who received consecration illicitly are ipso facto excommunicated, and the excommunicated is reserved to the Apostolic See. Only the Pope can lift this excommunication!)

To sum it up: the bishops were definitely excommunicated, so Lefebvre died under excommunication and in schism. The four bishops he consecrated later petitioned to have their excommunications revoked, which Benedict XVI did. However, these bishops have continued to disobey the Pope down to the present day. As for the SSPX as an institution, it still has no canonical status and should first seek to regularize their status before doing anything else, including their ministry and celebration of the sacraments.


Do not become a Sedevacantist at all costs!!!

This is a MASSIVE heresy and schism. Some Sedevacantists believe that there have been no valid popes since as far back as Pius XII. However, if there are no valid popes, then slowly there would no longer be valid cardinals, bishops, and finally even priests and deacons. Without ordained ministry, most of the sacraments cannot be celebrated, and the Church would simply fall apart. However, Christ Himself said the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. Therefore, Sedevacantist beliefs are in contradiction to Christ’s words and the indefectibility of the Church.

Stick with what most will refer to as the “regular” Catholic Church and avoid groups like the SSPX who contradict dogmatic teachings. Groups that have differing opinions on ecclesiastical law are acceptable. Only in making the distinction between divine and ecclesiastical law can we see how Pope Francis’ teachings, such as in Amoris Laetitia do not contradict Church teachings.

Vatican II is a valid council. The documents must be taken seriously, not ignored and replace with a vague, inaccurate “spirit of Vatican II” notion.

These are certainly difficult times and people within the very Church itself are causing division within the Church. These are the people who are the wolves who will try to appear to us as sheep, and we cannot fall into this deception.

I apologize if I sometimes sounded like I was “lecturing” or going on a rant, but given the fact that I have recently been blatantly insulted by schismatics, this is a VERY serious issue, in my opinion. And I even wish the Vatican would focus more attention on this problem, even though there are other problems too. In generally, though, stay faithful to the Church’s Magisterium, and do not be easily swayed by people’s opinions. The Church has survived for 2000 years and is indefectible as Jesus declared, and only by faith can the real sheep survive this crisis.

Pax tecum,
Dorothea Therese



Thank you very much. I hope to restate your position to your satisfaction (because that is what Thomas Aquinas and Thomas Weinandy would do). After that I have things I want to poke on, but I am sure I can do so without “insulting in nearly every comment”
As I understand your posts there are a few things necessary to rightly assess what has been done by Pope Francis and how it relates to the unchanging teachings of the Catholic Church.

  1. The deposit of faith or “divine law” does not change. I suspect you would acknowledge the “Development” thesis of Cardinal Newman, but this is not what is at issue here anyway. Something that is part of the “deposit of faith” would be that the Priest stands “in persona Christi” and this means that they are male.
  2. Ecclesiastical law or the practices of the faith can change. The example you used was the age of bishops. You alluded to “priestly celibacy,” which I usually reference as something that could change (and Eastern Rite Catholic priests can be married and this could change for Roman Rite Catholics too).
  3. Pope Francis has not declared that adultery is not a sin. This is “divine law” and cannot change.
  4. Pope Francis has not declared that an earlier marriage that has not been and/or cannot be annulled is any less binding that it has always been.
  5. Because of #3 and #4, individuals who have sex with someone other than those who they were originally married to (#4) are committing adultery (#3). It does not matter if they have civilly remarried, they are committing adultery.
  6. Pope Francis has not declared that those in mortal sin can now partake of the Eucharist.
  7. Mortal sin requires three things:
    A. Grave matter – adultery is grave matter and this has not changed.
    B. One must KNOW the act is a sin and is grave matter. *
    C. One must give full consent to the sin knowing it is grave matter. This means they must choose the sin freely knowing it is sinful and grave matter.
  8. Pope Francis has not changed anything in #7.
  9. The “ecclesiastical practice” of the church previously was to deny communion to the divorced and remarried (if they were living as husband and wife ie having sex). This practice can be traced to 5, 6, and 7, but …
  10. Due to many factors it is possible that one may have entered into a second marriage (#5) without knowing this act was grave matter thus not satisfying 7b.
  11. In addition to the obviously true #10, upon learning that one is committing adultery (#5) for a variety of reasons one may not be free (7c) to cease marital relations and cease committing adultery.
  12. If 7c or 7b are not met there is no Mortal sin and thus no impact upon communion.
  13. Because of #12 Pope Francis has changed the “ecclesiastical practice” mentioned in #9, but has not changed anything concerning 1-8 and 10-12. Since #9 is a practice, it can change.

*Do you know if one is in grave sin if they freely choose to sin, but they do not recognize that their sin is grave matter. I know I should not do xyz, but I want too. Xyz is gossip or Xyz is to use artificial contraception in a valid marriage.
Do I understand?
Thank you again for your response.
Charity, TOm

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