Not understanding vs disagree

I’ve started to notice that many on here and elsewhere do not say “I disagree with …” but rather “I don’t fully understand” when talking about church teachings that they aren’t in agreement with.

  1. Does this mean that Catholics are not allowed to disagree or reject the church’s teachings?
  2. Does this imply that it’s impossible to understand the reasoning behind a teaching and disagree with or reject them?

Well, that (“I don’t fully understand” etc.) is simply a reasonable attitude to have when one is dealing with anything counterintuitive that simply must be true (given what one already knows). You can find many such examples in Mathematics (for example, 0.999…=1), Physics (just about anything related to Quantum Mechanics or Relativity will do)…

Now, is it possible to understand any of those things fully, and yet reject them? Maybe. But that would make one wrong, perhaps even “maliciously wrong”. Likewise, if one fully understands a Catholic teaching, yet rejects it, then, well, why would someone like that even want to be called a Catholic…? (Excluding various reasons that could be, um, a bit dishonest…)

Catholics are obliged to accept ALL Church teaching (everything a Pope has ever written, and every Ecumenical Council).

However, a Catholic does not incur sin solely by disagreeing with Church teaching. However, there are a number of conditions for this disbelief to not incur sin. First, he must recognize that his disbelief is a flaw that should be corrected (in other words, he must realize that the Church is right, even if he cannot bring himself to believe today). He must make a sincere effort to reform his beliefs (maybe by talking to his pastor or visiting here), and be open to what he learns… He may not advocate or teach his contrary belief.

If these conditions are met, he does not incur sin.

  1. Does this imply that it’s impossible to understand the reasoning behind a teaching and disagree with or reject them?

Understanding and believing are not the same. I understand the reasons for many protestant beliefs, but I don’t believe them.

The OP said** : "I’ve started to notice that many on here and elsewhere do not say “I disagree with …” but rather “I don’t fully understand” when talking about Church teachings that they aren’t in agreement with.

  1. Does this mean that Catholics are not allowed to disagree or reject the Church’s teachings?"**

Obviously this is NO.
Catholics are PERFECTLY allowed to disagree with an interpretation of a Church Teaching that any CAF Poster puts forth.
In fact, they can VIOLENTLY Disagree.
Only when a Teaching is clearly written down in an Official papal document, does it become a issue at all.
And then, (since that document is translated into English) there is STILL much room for determining what the wording in that Document actually means.
And EVEN then, most statements can be interpreted in more than ONE Way.
So, the issue is STILL ripe for disagreements over its interpretation.

And the OP asked** : “2. Does this imply that it’s impossible to understand the reasoning behind a teaching and disagree with or reject them?”**

Obviously, this also is NO.
SOMEONE can “understand the reasoning behind a teaching” … if not, then there could be NO Church Teaching.
No Pope, if he didn’t know the reasoning, would Propound a papal document, setting forth a Church Teaching.
It would be Silly and Stupid.

Yes, Catholics are obliged to assent to all of the Church’s doctrine on faith and morals.

There levels of assent depending on whether we are talking about a dogma or the ordinary magesterium.

As an aside, “everything a Pope has ever written” would not require assent. Popes write various types of documents that have differing levels of authority, scope, and force.


Let’s use an example that is less emotionally charged. You’re in a college course with a professor you hold to be a fully qualified universally recognized expert (like Einstein teaching physics) on the subject matter. Now during the course of the class the professor makes a statement that runs counter to what you assumed was true. Would you say that you disagree with the professor (your knowledge and expertise on the subject matter is equal to the professor’s) or that you don’t understand the professor (the professor’s statement runs counter to what you thought you knew to be the truth)?

You initially accept it of course given the assumption that you haven’t yet had an opportunity to do further research. More than likely you will come to a similar conclusion. However, the difference is that once you investigate and research there is a chance you may have evidence (from the student’s pov) proving that a few of the "fact"s taught are in in error or do not stand up to appropriate peer review.

To immediately reject would be foolish. In your example the acceptance would be tentative at best pending further consideration. But at the end of the research and consideration acceptance is likely but one can not be sure that the conclusion will be to agree and accept … in your example.

Trying to tread lightly while trying to better understand is tricky. :slight_smile:

The analogy isn’t that great given you usually don’t have professors who claim to have authority from God over their subject matter, but you got what I was trying to get across. The two times I’ve come up at odds with Church teachings (death penalty and warfare) I’ve ended up agreeing with the Church after an initial “wait that can’t be right” reaction. I haven’t come across a topic matter that, after doing the required research and reasoning, I disagree with Church teachings over.

yea, I got it.


Personally, I prefer to say ‘I disagree’ where I do. That’s not to say that I think I must be right; it’s just an honest reflection of where I stand on issues.

But I don’t come from a position where I think the Catholic Church I must be right on everything (I don’t trust my ability to recognise perfect truth). If I did then I too would say ‘I don’t understand’.

I think what is most important is that our response be honest.

My opinion is weighed against 2000-years of a good deal of genius guided by the Holy Spirit. If that alone doesn’t humble you, then there will be many difficult conversations. I also never view the Church as them aside from me, but rather as “us”. Being inwardly honest you should question what effects your conscience. But we won’t always receive answers with instant gratification which we agree with, or satisfy, or resolve the conflict, and for many reasons. So patience, humility and charity are absolutely required. The Church has been on the forefront of this perpetual conflict with evil a very long time. Its refuge from chaos through the storm.

Catholics are called to form their consciences to the teachings of the Church.

At first glance, we may disagree, but the spirit of humility tells us to “Wait, listen, read, pray, question…then understand.”

Dad comes out and announces, “No driving the car this weekend.” Before you can tell him you had plans,.he leaves for a few hours.

As you call your friends to cancel your plans, you ask your Mom why Dad did this. She has no clue, she’s just glad you’ll be staying in. She misses you when you’re our with your friends. (Call your Mom!)

Instead of getting prepared for an argument, you wait until Dad comes home to ask.

“Because the sky hook fan belt bleeder nozzle is broken,” he says. “It’s not safe to drive.” You’re grateful he’s looking out for you, but…is a sky hook fan belt bleeder nozzle really important?

Now you could accept it at face value. But you want to know, “What is a sky hook fan belt bleeder nozzle, and why would that affect the car?”

And after dinner, you and your Dad go put to the car and you learn more about the nozzle, as well as the whole engine, and now you’re ready to call your friends and explain why a sky hook fan belt bleeder nozzle is so important. The focus has changed from “I can’t use the car,” to “My dad was protecting me, and guess what I learned?”

How about “I don’t care?”

#1 the filioque. Maybe the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father & the Son or maybe only from the Father. Who knows? Why should anyone go poking a question like that with a stick? I’ll go along with what the Church says because I’m not a theologian & I don’t know enough to agree or disagree – but we’d be better off filing this one under “it’s a mystery”.

#2 Mary’s perpetual virginity and I’m not talking here about the idea that she “never knew man” before or after Christ’s birth but the weird idea that He was born without damaging His mother’s hymen. Please.

With this one the best I can do is not actively disagree. Whether that’s a sin or not I don’t know. I definitely have much more urgent sins to work on. :frowning:

I don’t see the point. Basically we would be talking mysteries of the Church with the Incarnation and Trinity.

Its not a matter of disagreeing, its a matter of admitting they know more than you, and in truth you don’t know? Or you do?

I find the Creed to be the most fascinating conversation as it dates to the first council.

Listen, perhaps its me and a morning coffee thing. But if you believe this “who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man”

If you believe that? Then you’ll surely have to explain to me why the rest isn’t logical. :blush:

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