Room for dissent? The Loyal Dissenting Catholic perspective is sought

I have some very important questions for those of you that would describe yourselves as a Catholic who is not in complete agreement with Rome. I am considering conversion and I’ve seen many apologists and others on the forums answer my questions in a particular way, but I want to know what you guys think. So here goes:

  1. Is there a clear message from the Vatican that a lay Catholic should not receive communion if they disagree with some of the teachings of the Church? From researching the Vatican website and other writings, I cannot find information on what teachings would be classified as infallible or non-infallible. I also have not found any information on how one could be loyal to Rome, but disagree on some teachings. In the case of Charles E. Curran, has he been refused the Eucharist? Or just the privilege to teach Catholic theology? The Church is simply unclear on this.

  2. My most important question is what makes you stay Catholic? Do you feel that disagreeing with Rome puts your salvation in jeopardy? Is there justification for dissent in some areas that even the Vatican would allow?

Please, help, :shrug:


Hi there,
I have to say for me as things have come about that I have found myself at odds with the church I have come to realize that it is me that is wrong. I need to pray and look for understanding and acceptance of what the Chruch teaches.

Well that is the whole issue for so many Christians, regardless if one is Catholic,Protestant,Orthodox,etc,etc. Many wany God/faith to conform to them instead of the other way around. God is about the TRUTH not our feelings and opinions. Salvation is a transformation from a life of sin to a life of righteousness.

I am not a dissenter myself, but perhaps you may find this article useful:

Why I’m Still a Catholic by Fr. Andrew Greely

Fr. Greely dissents from Church teaching in a few areas. I found his article to be quite helpful in answering the question that seems to arise here often: “Why don’t dissenters just leave the Church?”

Fr. Hans Kung only had his teaching authority revoked. He can still say Mass, which obviously entails partaking of the Eucharist.

Right, Nicea, and it is why we, as a part of the Apostolic Church body, have a teaching authority, the Magisterium.Peace , Carlan

Rather than enter the Church in a position of compromising, I would recommend that you take your concerns to God in prayer with an open heart and mind and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. The RCIA is a discernment process also, but you may or may not be ready for it yet. It’s kiind of like in the Bible - “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Examine in your heart what life experiences and emotions are the forces behind the doctrines and teachings you experience as potential stumbling blocks. God bless - you’re in my prayers!:wink:

If you read this piece, take careful note of the tone of the writing, the use of insulting words, and use much, much discernment. This is as much as charity and forum rules allow me to say.:o

Indeed! :smiley:

Over matters of discipline one is free to say I think that needs to be changed. However, they are still to submit to that discipline. On matters of docturine and Dogma dissent is not an option.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Is there an official document where I could find the doctrine and Dogma listed? Are these things listed in the Catechesis book?

Could you also explain the difference between discipline and doctrine/Dogma and possibly provide a source if you have one?

The response to dissent on this website and in this forum is “leave.” My underlying question is, is this the response of Rome?


the CCC is a good source

an example would be :

The Trinity = docturine/Dogma
The sacraments= docturine/dogma
male only priesthood= docturine/dogma

celibate preist= discipline

recieveing the Eucharist in the hand or on the tounge/ kneeling or standing.= discipline

Maybe by some, but I didn’t mean that in what I posted - I meant search your heart more deeply. IMO, one shouldn’t come into the Church with serious reservations anymore than he or she should marry someone unsure if he or she still had an attachment to a former girlfriend/boyfriend and wasn’t sure he/she could be a faithful spouse.

It would be starting out with potential problems from the get-go, if you see what I mean. Why make it more difficult for oneself, and be at greater risk for a broken commitment later on? It sounds as if you are on a spiritual search, which should play itself out, prayerfully and thoughtfully. If you are sincere in your heart, IMO God would want you to be honest with Him, with yourself, and with the Catholic Church.

Another analogy - remember how kids make a promise, but keep their fingers crossed behind their backs? That doesn’t sound like a good state to be in; there’s a lack of integrity there. Better to call oneself a pilgrim than to be holding parts of your heart and mind back. We don’t know what challenges we will face individually, but we can all be certain our faith and loyalties will be tested at some point.

Hope some of this makes sense and is helpful to you.:slight_smile:

‘Dogma’ and ‘doctrine’ are not the same thing, and this teaching isn’t dogmatic. Dogma is a divinely revealed teaching of the church, infallibly proclaimed.

There are also other teachings offered as infallibly held but which have not been said to have been divinely revealed, of which this is one. See the following document by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, regarding the publication of Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (regarding female ordination)::

The key quote is:

A similar process can be observed in the more recent teaching regarding the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men. The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively.

Hence the teaching is definitive but not dogmatic. The subtleties of these distinctions actually require a lot of expertise to fully understand, and just in case anyone’s wondering, I certainly don’t claim to have such expertise, :o

The document is also quite useful in providing a list - although not an exhaustive one - of infallible church teachings. The church has never compiled an exhaustive list of same.

A useful book on this subject is Ludwig Ott’s ‘Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma’ which arranges church teaching into different categories with regard to whether they are dogmatic, doctrinally taught, commonly held opinion but not established teaching, or superstition (and a few grades in between). The book has two limitations, however: firstly it only goes up to the 1950’s, and there have been significant church teachings since then; and secondly, although it is a superb piece of scholarship, there is no absolute or official recognition of its authority by the church, and so the book is technically open to dispute. It is very much recommended, however. I should add, it’s not a fun read! It’s a dense but rewarding reference work.

In more simple terms, doctrine and dogma are teaching, whereas discipline is the application of rules. Disciplinary rules can change, and frequently do. Dogma cannot change, although it can be elaborated upon, better explained or restated for a different audience or in different circumstances. Doctrine is a broader term that encompasses all official church teaching, but only some of this teaching is infallible and dogmatic, whereas some is infallible but not dogmatic, and other official teachings are neither infallible nor dogmatic - at least, not yet.:wink:

We can add to this Sacred Tradition; and less significantly, simple tradition. These relate to matters of established practice or belief that are nevertheless not always officially codified by the church. Again, the Ott volume does a good job of identifying these distinctions.

If you’re struggling with this, you’re in good company. One of the major problems in the church today, in my humble opinion, is that these matters are not well understood (as I’ve said, including by me) and the category errors that result create a great deal of unnecessary tension and unhappiness.

Hope this helps. Best wishes.

No. Or at least, it’s not that straightforward.

A little canon law here - not because its usually the best place to start when answering complex theological questions, but because it provides a good summary of how this works:
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 firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

Can. 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.*


What this means is that we must submit our will to the authority of church teaching. In other words, if the church teaches something and we struggle to believe it, it is our responsibility to try to understand the teaching, and at the very least, to accept that it is validly taught even though we find that difficult. This kind of struggle does not in and of itself equal heresy or apostasy, or require a response of ‘Leave!’.

Note that in canon 751 it specifies ‘truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith’. This suggests that heresy and apostasy only apply to the denial of dogmatic teachings, inasmuch as only dogma is held to be a teaching that is divinely revealed.

Without prejudice to that - and note I said ‘suggests,’ because I’m not a theologian, let alone a specialist in this area - canon 752 then goes on to say that we must submit our wills to the authority of all church teaching, an act which ‘Although not an assent of faith’ is nevertheless a requirement of Catholic living. The ‘not an assent of faith’ point is an admission that the struggle to accept something does not *ipso facto *make one a bad Catholic.

So the key here is: what is the trade-off between accepting the existence of a teaching that we do not fully believe, and how do we dissent from a teaching that is not infallible but to which the church does require submission of will? At different times in the history of the church, it may have been fully permissible to discuss these kind of doubts, or it may have meant a death sentence to even raise them. No death sentence these days, but you may receive less than charitable responses sometimes at least. :wink:

Like I said in my last post, misunderstandings on church teaching create a great deal of unnecessary tension and unhappiness. But the corollary of that is not that its OK to ignore church teachings, and dissent obstinately on key teachings. It isn’t OK. You are allowed to have doubts, however, so long as you work with them sincerely and acknowledge the authority of the church at the different levels at which that authority functions.

I never said that Docturine and dogma were to same only that dissent is not premissible on them. I also never said that the male only priesthood was dogma it is a docutrine. I was just puttin the 2 together as the same rule applies. :thumbsup:

To further muddy the waters a bit (though my desire is not to confuse but to clarify), the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is not an infallible list of infallible doctrines and dogmas. The Catechism is a wonderful teaching guide. As John Paul II said, it is a “sure norm for teaching the faith.” But the contents of the CCC have no more or less doctrinal weight than they do in the original documents upon which the CCC draws from. In other words, the teachings in the CCC derive their authority from Scripture, Tradition, and the documents of the Magisterium, not from the fact that they are in the CCC.

Clear as mud, right? :o

Thanks, this is good advice. I have no intention of being dishonest about my faith or where I have doubts. I don’t want to be in the situation you describe. I’m working to prevent that. :thumbsup:

Thanks OneGod,Ocarm and Joe for being so thorough. The resources and links are very helpful.

you are welcome.

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