When is dissent allowed?

Hi all,

When is dissent against Catholic teaching allowed, if ever?

Canon 752 states:

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.

and Canon 753:

Can. 753 Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

Taken together, it seems that a good Catholic cannot disobey any directeive handed down by the Church hierarchy. Is this the case? I agree with the Church on 99.9% of her teachings, but there are a few things that make me uncomfortable. Should I submit myself in humble obedience or is it acceptable to hold a disagreement? How should this be handled?


I think you are allowed to humbly disagree, especially in regard to disciplines of the Church, but any disagreements with doctrine should also be met with humble obedience.

For instance, say you have an disagreement with the Church in regard to Mary’s perpetual virginity. It is okay to say that you disagree, but not okay to say that the Church is wrong. Does that make sense? You cannot teach that which is against Church teaching as truth, but you can say that you disagree.

EDIT: I also want to add that if you do have disagreements with Church teaching, that you should devote personal study of the teaching to find out as much as you can about why the Church teaches what it does on that particular doctrine, because it may just be a big misunderstanding on your part.

I think we’re on shaky ground with dissent against teaching of the church.

There are things like the teaching against using contraception that I don’t understand (Humanae Vitae). But, we are to follow that teaching, nonetheless.

note that there is a very broad and general teaching in the catechism that seems to pop up in so many discussions. Perhaps I am obsessed with it, in some way.

Here it is. CCC 1735

1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors

If you are sinning due to “ignorance” of some sort (and that is perhaps the reason for your dissent), then you should still hang with your faith and try to work it out.

1735 includes “fear” as a reason for perhaps committing a sin of some grave matter.

I was reading a Jewish commentary on this general subject and it had something very interesting.

It said that if you feared for your life, you could commit any sin if you had to , except for four particular sins (if I remember these correctly)

  • worshipping any other god but the one true God
  • blaspheming his holy name
  • murdering another person
  • ruining someone’s reputation

You have to resist doing any of these, even to the point of death. That’s a different take then 1735 – but it gives some perspective on it.

Dissent about what? We can disagree about the Church’s practices and disciplines, although we must accept the bishops’ authority over the Church. That is, no combination of laity and/or priests can overrule the bishops.

We are not free to publicly dissent on essential matters of faith and morals. We cannot edit out parts of the Bible. We cannot disagree with Christ and support divorce and remarriage. We cannot question the Virgin Birth. We cannot say that abortion of innocent children is a private matter.

We could also just ask you what you disagree with and why to see where there might be some misunderstanding.

You should humbly and obediently submit to the authority of the Magisterium. That said, perhaps you should start a thread or two about the things you disagree with so that way you can better understand them and perhaps resolve any doubts you have.

You should always respect the Church and it’s teachings. That said, there are levels of teachings.

Here is a site that I referred my Bible study to.

Basically we can’t disagree with any of the first two levels and call ourselves Catholic. Those teachings include the creed, abortion and women in the priesthood.

We can disagree with the other two levels but we must always respect Church authority. Those include priestly celibacy and the censoring of certain theologians.

Overall, any disagreements you have, I would suggest that you do more studying about it, talk to people about it, maybe post something on here and pray about it. You’re not alone in struggling to understand Church teaching. Church teaching isn’t supposed to be easy.

After all, Jesus came to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Just accept Church teachings, learn to recognize opinions and develop in virtue, especially wisdom and prudence in this case.

Even the Pope has opinions.

Thanks for the excellent replies everyone. This has really helped me. I’ll be following the advice of several posters here and I’ll be starting a separate thread soon detailing exactly what it is I disagree with.

Here’s my new thread on the issue!


Accept everything with humble docility. Understanding will follow.

2039 Ministries should be exercised in a spirit of fraternal service and dedication to the Church, in the name of the Lord. At the same time the conscience of each person should avoid confining itself to individualistic considerations in its moral judgments of the person’s own acts. As far as possible conscience should take account of the good of all, as expressed in the moral law, natural and revealed, and consequently in the law of the Church and in the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium on moral questions. Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church.

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