[quote="Kirovsakya, post:1, topic:300117"]
What is the appropriate way to council a cradle Roman Catholic who from her earliest years accepted the teachings of the Church wholeheartedly, but no longer agrees that certain RC-specific dogmatic beliefs are required for a Christian’s salvation?
Let us say that the disagreement is over one or more of the major “…believe this, or let him be anathema…” issues of Roman dogma: Immaculate Conception, papal infallibility, purgatory, indulgence, etc.
If that person – in light of all her RC formation and after much prayerful discernment, cannot retain genuine belief in such teachings – should she dishonestly ascent to them in order to be in compliance with the demands of the Church?
Or might it be better for her to – with a clean heart – seek communion with Christ through non-RC Christian community that does not require these beliefs under penalty of sin?
Or is there another option?
I'm addressing this question because I have long struggled with it from the other side of the fence. That is to say, I am drawn to Catholicism in principle, but there are issues (primarily women's ordination) on which I have difficulty accepting the official position. Obviously the situation is a bit different for a prospective convert, because the bar is naturally higher--the default is always to stay where you are. But the principle is the same.
As I understand Catholic teaching, you should always follow your conscience. If your conscience tells you something other than official Church teaching, then there are two possibilities:
- Your conscience is badly formed; or
- What appears to be fixed Church teaching really isn't.
Many conservative Catholics deny the second as a possibility, but it's quite obviously happened in the past on a number of issues, such as, for instance, the execution of heretics. Pretty much any devout Catholic in the sixteenth century would have told you that the Church taught that heretics should be executed.
There's a third possibility, of course, though the Church naturally isn't going to see it as an option:
- The Church is not what it claims to be.
If the dissenting Catholic concludes that 3 is the case, then it would be reasonable for such a person to leave the Church. I suppose they could stay on the ground that they still believed the Church to be *a *Christian Church and simply wanted it to make more modest claims for itself. But that would be a difficult position to be in.
But if you think 2 is the case, then you should stay.
Furthermore, there is nothing "dishonest" about submitting your judgment to that of the Church, if it's not a question of conscience. That's where I am with the women's ordination issue. I can't honestly claim that it's a matter of conscience for me, though I know it is for other people. Maintaining that women are fully equal in dignity to men is a matter of conscience, but I know the Church teaches that. It seems to me that given the Church's teaching on equal dignity, and given various other theological considerations, women ought to be ordained. But the chain of reasoning leading me to this conclusion is fairly complex, leaving open the distinct possibility that I'm mistaken.
Here's another way to tackle this whole question:
All of us rank our beliefs, even if we don't think of it that way. All of us believe some things based on other things and would give up a "lower-ranked" belief if it conflicted with a higher. The question for dissenters, I think, is where they rank
1. Their belief that the Catholic Church is the true Church
2. Their belief that the Catholic Church actually teaches the objectionable doctrine in an authoritative manner; and
3. Their belief that the objectionable doctrine (hereafter OD) is false.
To leave the Church, you'd have to put 1 below both 2 and 3. If 2 were at the bottom, then you could maintain your belief with a good conscience, even if 1 were ranked below 3. If 3 were at the bottom, then submission to the Church would be the obvious course and the relative ranking of 1 and 2 wouldn't matter.
I believe that it is probably my duty to become Catholic, in spite of serious obstacles and many misgivings, because there is no Catholic doctrine for which the above condition (ranking 1 below both 2 and 3) is true. I certainly would not leave the Church if I were already part of it.