Three Questions I Have Been Asked Recently


As I continue my journey through RCIA and share what I am doing with friends, I find myself being asked lots of questions and trying to defend the faith the best I can. Can you please help me with some of these?

1.) Did the “anathemas” pronounced on the schismatics of the Reformation actually damn their souls to hell?

2.) Are the teachings of Church Councils considered infallible?

3.) Does a Catholic have to submit himself body, soul, mind, and spirit to the Pope in order to be considered a part of the Church?

Thanks for your help,


Ask yourself this question: if the Catholic Church’s teachings are, in fact, correct, and therefore, for Catholics, membership in the Church is necessary for salvation… and if the Reformers were Catholics who left the Catholic Church and never returned… then were their souls in peril due to their own actions, or by a pronouncement of the Church?

Additionally, ask yourself: if a Reformer to whom an anathema applied, changed his mind and repented and returned to the Church, would he be “damned to hell”?

2.) Are the teachings of Church Councils considered infallible?

Infallibility is a charism of the Magisterium (i.e., the teaching authority of the Church). So, in terms of teachings on faith and morals, the Church believes that its teachings are true.

3.) Does a Catholic have to submit himself body, soul, mind, and spirit to the Pope in order to be considered a part of the Church?

That’s an interesting formulation. A Catholic is expected to believe certain dogmas and doctrines; other Church teachings are to be held as well. If a Catholic is having a problem understanding or believing something that the Church teaches, it is expected that he would continue respecting the Church’s teaches while he prayerfully continues to inform himself about the teachings…

Thank you.

Can I ask as a follow-up if the teachings of the Magisterium at Church Councils are infallible in the same way that a Pope speaking ex cathedra are? Or is there some kind of distinction?

Can I make a suggestion? The book “Catholicism for Dummies” has a nice section on the magisterium and infallibility. (It also does a good job of explaining a whole lot about the faith.) Mind if I suggest that you pick up a copy and leaf through it? It would be more efficient than recapitulating here what they’ve done a good job of writing there…

(The short answer, though, is that there are ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ expressions of the Magisterium, and conciliar pronouncements and ex cathedra declarations are both examples of the extraordinary magisterium…)

You COULD spend hours and hours reading Catholic books that give explanations on those questions.

OR, you COULD just put those questions on the back shelf of you mind and continue on with RCIA.

Then, at the end of RCIA, or near the end, see if you still have those questions. If you do, you can get the books you need. They are not hard to find. Really they are not.

But, if later on, these questions don’t seem to matter any more, or if you can see the answers to them, just think of all the TIME and struggle you will have saved yourself.

The Catholic Religion is, above all, about an ever-growing connection with the CREATOR. With that connection, everything is solved. Without that connection, nothing is solved no matter how many books you read on apologetics, theology, philosophy, Church history, etc.

SADLY, I’ve seen so many sad Catholic consume their lives by endless STUDY related to questions related to logic, history, and apparent contradictions in Church teachings and in Bible verses. UGH! The Catholic Religion is NOT about being super-ultra LOGICAL. It is about a relationship of LOVE, FAITH and HOPE with your CREATOR.

But, don’t take my word for it. Who am I? I am not God. I am not a priest, bishop, or doctor of theology. Test all this out for yourself in your heart and in your daily life.

Good luck!

Keep in mind that those painful Anathemas also serve to protect the body of church.

I say that as someone who is under serval of those Anathemas. They’re not promulgated by the Catholic church out of spite or judgment, but of love and discernment.

Umm… unless you were baptized a Catholic and then left the Church, no… you’re not. :wink:

Amen! :thumbsup:

On ex cathedra statements, they simply set in stone what is already believed as truth. They normally are made in response to heresy.

Abbreviated for your scrolling convenience!

  1. No. Excommunication is a temporal punishment for sins intended to harness the communal nature of man towards bringing the wayward back to the flock. For all the canonized saints out there, there has never been ANY proclamation of a particular individual being damned. None.

  2. Yup. It’s either outrageous hubris, or it’s the way Jesus designed the Church to be. IMO, it’s awfully hard to argue that human hubris has endured 2,000 years of constant pressure.

  3. Generally no, but on certain things yes. The papacy is a position of servant leadership. For practical matters, he is the head of the church. As a lay catholic, this very rarely means anything to you personally. Catholicism moves at a pace that makes glaciers look hasty. You don’t need to keep a picture of him around, you don’t need to listen to his weekly addresses, you don’t have to cook his favorite food for dinner weekly. But when controversy arises, the smart believer looks for input from Rome. 2,000 years later, the office of St. Peter is still feeding the sheep, as commanded.

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