When Catholics Disagree

Oct 27th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts

The Creed teaches us that there is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”  “One Lord,” says St. Paul, One Faith, One Baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5) In the 4th century, when the Donatists of North Africa claimed to be the one true church, St. Augustine invoked the unity and catholicity of the Church against them: “the verdict of the whole world is conclusive,” he said. Unity has always been a mark of the true Church.  “May they be one,” Jesus prayed, “so that the world may know that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)


So what do you do when Catholics disagree? Recently we have been served with some rather egregious examples. Bishops have called each other out in public.  Reporters offer statistics on how many lay Catholics dissent from Church teaching. The point of such criticism from the media is obvious.  They would have us think that Catholic unity is a fiction. When even bishops disagree, shouldn’t Catholics give up the battle for doctrinal unity? Or should they water it down to the least common denominator?

This attitude misunderstands the nature of Catholic unity. The existence of dissent, even highly placed dissent, does not undo the Church’s unity.  There is one, visible, objective doctrine, taught by the one Church, united under its one visible head (the pope), and celebrated in one common worship (the liturgy).  It is the visible adherence (implicitly or explicitly) to this faith that constitutes the Church’s unity in doctrine.

At any moment, there may be individuals who fail to know clearly the teaching of the Church, those who fail to recognize its necessity, or those who openly dissent from it.  These confused people can be laity, religious, priests, and even bishops or cardinals.  In some cases, a man may believe wrongly through no fault of his own. Yet, he remains implicitly willing to believe whatever the Church teaches. In other cases, a man separates himself from the unity of the Church by formally endorsing heresy.

The unity of the Church can be wounded but never destroyed. Many times in history, members have flaunted, rejected, or distorted the deposit of faith. Sometimes these dissenters have been important members of the hierarchy. After the council of Nicaea (325), for example, large numbers of the clergy and even some of the most prominent bishops failed to support the Nicene Council. Between 325 and 381, “Pseudo-councils” evaded, softened, or even denied the Nicene decision. After one such pseudo-council in 360, St. Jerome lamented, “The whole world groaned to find itself Arian.”  Athanasius the Great (296-373), the defender of Nicaea, was driven into exile. Even Pope Liberius failed to stand up for him. Such confusion is deeply lamentable but is still no threat to the Church’s sublime unity.

Some would have you think that the Church’s teaching today is unclear, but this is absurd. The Magisterium has spoken often on the most controverted contemporary issues.  The Holy Councils of Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II taught the faith with great depth and clarity. We have received two Catechisms: one after Trent (the Roman Catechism), and one after Vatican II (The Catechism of the Catholic Church.) Popes both ancient and modern have not hesitated to correct misunderstandings of Church teaching.  St. John Paul II, in particular, made definitive and authoritative statements about women’s ordination and human sexuality. Pius XII spoke directly about human origins, anthropology, and the implications of Darwinism. Paul VI incurred worldwide scorn (both in an out of the Church) for his authoritative defense of the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception.

The Church’s teaching today is not in question. The Catechism, John Paul II says, is “a sure norm for instruction in the faith.” “Whoever rejects it as a whole,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, “separates himself beyond question from the faith and teaching of the Church.” Pope Francis said, “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church.”

The unity of the Church is a fact and a promise. It can never be destroyed. But like the Church’s holiness, it can be expressed in her members to greater or lesser degrees. We all have an obligation to work for greater unity and charity in the faith. “This treasure,” says the Catechism, “received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer.”

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  1. If there were unity, we would experience it. If you wish to achieve that which you aspire to, then you should be a bit more realistic about where we actually are.

  2. When Catholics disagree they:
    a) schism with the Orthodox;
    b) excommunicate Protestants;
    c) become Lefevbrists or some other breakaway sect.

  3. August (#1)

    If there were unity, we would experience it. If you wish to achieve that which you aspire to, then you should be a bit more realistic about where we actually are.

    I wonder if what you are thinking about is the fact that – as this post is about! – there is disagreement amongst Catholics. If there were unity, we would see more agreement amongst Catholics – is that what you mean?

    If so, I think I would say that unity here means what the philosophers would call ‘form.’ An animal – a dog, say – has a unity. That unity is because there is such an organism as a dog. The dog can be injured – have a leg cut off, say – or sick – have cancer, perhaps; it is still a dog and has the unity of a dog. That unity is, indeed, a wounded unity if it is injured or sick; it is still a unity, and it is so because – and only because – God has created that unity.

    Assembling things from the bottom up won’t achieve unity. A bucket full of marbles has no group-of-marbles unity. And – the Catholic believes – a collection of persons who call themselves Christians, even if they are all in agreement with one another (as, for example, the Reformed Protestant church I helped found and was a member of before I became a Catholic), has not got that sort of organic unity. We are a number of individuals who agree with one another.

    But – the Catholic believes – God has created a Church – only one! – the Catholic Church. It has that unity of form, and cannot lose it, because God has guaranteed it will be there until the end. But it can certainly be wounded. It can have ‘amputations’ (schism), ‘cancer’ (heresy); but it will never die – become corrupt, like the dog which dies.

    If I have misunderstood you, pardon me! And I can well understand that, if you are not a Catholic (or even if you are, in some instances :-)), you will not agree with me. But I thought this might help to illustrate the unity that Catholics are referring to. You may think it is an illusion; obviously we do not. But if it is real, then it is real despite appearances to the contrary.


  4. August (re: #1)

    If there were unity, we would experience it.

    We do experience it, every time we meet other Catholics who affirm the profession of faith we made when we were received into full communion.

    The existence of persons who reject one or more articles of faith does not nullify or destroy the unity shared by those who believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God. Nor among we who share this profession of faith is the unity we share nullified by disagreements between us concerning matters “not of faith.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  5. Irish Presbyterian, (re: #2)

    When Catholics disagree they:
    a) schism with the Orthodox;

    This claim presupposes that Catholics can, while remaining faithful Catholics, enter into schism. But in Catholic doctrine, schism is defined in relation to the pope. See, for example, paragraph 2089 of the Catechism. So while a schism can be formed between Catholics and some other group, according to Catholic doctrine, Catholics as faithful Catholics cannot (and thus did not) enter into schism.

    b) excommunicate Protestants;

    Such excommunications are the result of persons denying some doctrine(s) of the Church. Nobody was forced out who didn’t already by his choice to deny Church doctrine separate himself from the unity of the Church’s doctrine. That’s not an example of a Catholic as a faithful Catholic, being excommunicated.

    c) become Lefevbrists or some other breakaway sect.

    These are persons who went into schism from the Catholic Church, not faithful Catholics who remained in full communion with the Church. David’s claim in this article is not that all Catholics remain faithful Catholics. So pointing to examples of some Catholics not remaining faithful Catholics, as though that is evidence against David’s argument, sets up a straw man. His argument, rather, shows how the Church’s unity is preserved even in cases where bishops in Synod disagree with each other. And each of these cases you raise is fully compatible with David’s point, namely, that the Church retains her unity (even unity of faith) even when bishops in Synod disagree with each other.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  6. What I am suggesting is that the focus on doctrinal and/or philosophical unity is foolishness when there clearly is not unity in person, not locally, and certainly not globally, as we descend into this nightmare of anarcho-tyranny.
    I suspect you do not perceive yourselves as progressives, but in this case you are very much like them, as they insist on acts of solidarity and community which are meaningless if not authentic- or even worse, like when they appear to want to open up the Eucharist to everybody.

    A married couple once broke up, mainly over money. The wife insisted on divorce. I believe, in the past, the church would have barred her from the Eucharist, simply based on her refusal to go back to her husband. This alone is mortal sin. One is not supposed to deny one’s spouse. She doesn’t have to go take up with someone else to be in mortal sin. But now we are ruled by bureaucrats- no priest, it appears, wants to mention this to her, or deny her communion. This is false unity, a veneer beneath which our wounds fester.

  7. August – I know the anxiety and fear of which you speak, but I would encourage you not to be afraid. Our Lord commands us not to be afraid, because He has made great promises to the Church – even when we are confused about what’s happening within her.

    As for your example about the wife, I would say that a “disagreement about mainly money” can actually be quite a few different things: she wants to spend it on clothes and he wants to spend it on food; she wants to spend it on private school and he wants to spend it on cars; she wants to spend it on higher quality food and he wants to spend it on a greater quantity of food; she wants to spend it on food and he wants to waste it on alcohol. Or it could be that it’s a disagreement “mainly about money” because he doesn’t give her access to any of the family’s money because he wants to isolate her from contact with the outside world so he can manipulate, frighten, and abuse her. Or it could be a disagreement “mainly about money” because she won’t let him spend the money on internet porn. These may sound like once-in-a-blue-moon kind of stories, but it happens. I am sincerely glad if you do not know anyone in these circumstances, but sadly, I know of at least a handful.

    Depending upon the circumstances, civil divorce actually might be recommended for her to protect herself and her children from the man squandering all they have. Or maybe she just needs to be told to try a little harder to work it out. I don’t claim to be able to have adequately evaluated every case of civil divorce in the U.S. to determine whether it was a necessary protection for one of the spouses or whether it was simply a failure of fidelity and charity on the part of both. Either way, civil divorce does not mean their marriage is invalid or annulled, it only means that legally she can protect herself and her children, and provide for their legitimate needs. It’s tricky, it’s not always clear what’s really going on in that relationship, and as far as I know, the Church should always require the spouses to maintain the hope of reconciliation – seeking it earnestly and not re-marrying. But the point is that things are not always as they seem in troubled relationships. Sometimes legal separation is a legitimate protection (for either spouse) against the abuse of the other, quite apart from the question of re-marriage. When one spouse (sadly) needs such protection, it would be a grave injustice for the Church to refuse such an individual the consolation of the Eucharist.


  8. David Anders, Bryan, and others interested, there is some interesting discussion brewing at Front Porch Republic, a blog primarily concerned with limits and local life (occasionally, including Catholic agrarianism).

    Some recent posts criticize the Church and it’s doctrine of papal infallibility, arguing that the Church’s actual de facto positions have changed, even if the words on the documents haven’t.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts, or to see some of the CTC folks engage there:

    Initial post arguing that de facto changes in doctrine are taking place, inviting skepticism regarding papal authority: http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2014/10/appropriate-skepticism-papal-authority/

    Filling out the argument that annulment reform constitutes a concession on doctrine: http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2014/10/papal-permissiveness-via-annulment-reform/

  9. If church teaching on these matters is sure, why did Pope Francis convene the Synod and tell Bishops to speak freely? Why not reiterate church teaching and tell the Bishops to get in line behind it regardless of their personal opinions? At a minimum he is courting trouble and asking for dissent to be stirred up.

    And if history shows Pope Francis to be unfaithful, of what help is that to Catholics living in 2014 and trying to make everyday decisions?

    If he can’t be trusted, who within Catholicism can? We all live in the present, we don’t live 100 years in the future with the benefit of hindsight back to today.

    The paradigm is strained.

    If I’m a closeted gay man who is considering leaving my wife in order to live with my male lover, how helpful are comments from bishops that lesson the potential guilt that I might feel over such an act?

    Strictures against homosexuality being eased make it easier on me.

    Strictures against divorce being eased make it easier on me.

    Positive things being said about the caring nature of my new relationship make it easier on me.

    The victims in this scenario would be my wife & children, and they are the ones who the church forgets about in making sin easier to practice.

  10. Hi Erik,

    As the article makes clear (I hope), the prudential failings of bishops and popes and even manifest dissent among members of the hierarchy does nothing to change the objective, clear teaching of the Catholic Church. The Catechism is very accessible and clear, as is the 2000 year history of Catholic moral teaching. However, if some bishop makes of mess of catechesis in his particular field or, worse, if he leads someone to sin, then the words of Jesus might apply: “Better to have a millstone tied around you neck and be thrown into the sea . . . ”

    As to Pope Francis, he said he convened the synod in order to address pastoral challenges for the family in the modern world. He also said, at the outset, that he didn’t want to set the agenda or constrain speech. Why? I don’t honestly know. Was it a good idea? Maybe not. Neither was the Avignon Papacy, or deputizing Tetzle to sell indulgences. Oh well. Providence will see us through. We survived the Blasphemy of Sirmium. I think we can survive the 2014 Synod.

    thanks again,


  11. Erik re#9-

    You said:

    If church teaching on these matters is sure, why did Pope Francis convene the Synod and tell Bishops to speak freely? Why not reiterate church teaching and tell the Bishops to get in line behind it regardless of their personal opinions? At a minimum he is courting trouble and asking for dissent to be stirred up.

    First of all, discussion of pastoral/practical considerations in no way calls into question the clarity of the Church’s moral teaching. Remember, too, that this Synod is about the family. The Church is considering myriad matters pertaining to the place of the family in the modern world. Further, Pope Francis recently spoke to the fact that the Church’s mission is to evangelize. This requires brutal honesty at times. And for those in positions of Church authority, it calls for vulnerability.

    A number of commentators have spoken of the visibility of the Synod being similar to that of the sausage-making process. If the Bishops were instructed to just “get in line” the dialogue would simply not be authentic. And in the end, dishonest dialogue isn’t dialogue at all.

    In my view, the mere fact that the Church has the structure to consider matters in this way, and weather these cultural storms is itself a testament to its divine institution. You may have heard an old anecdote that goes something like this:

    Speaking to a Catholic Cardinal, Napoleon Bonaparte says: “Your eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?” The Cardinal responds: “Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.”

    Thank you.

  12. It is worth noticing that the Catholic understanding of what constitutes schism and how one discerns error is unique in the world in its ability to actually work, and keep working.

    Here is what I mean:

    If we assume that Mohammed really existed as a historical character — I mean, in the fashion described by the hadiths, not as a very-different and quasi-Christian figure whose life was later rewritten for polemical purposes by those caliphs who were ruling during the time the hadiths first emerged — then he surely was the guy with interpretative authority if a dispute arose about how to understand the Koran. But he died without a stable succession plan in place, and thus you get the Shia and the Sunni…just like you would if the followers of David Koresh hadn’t been mostly wiped out. But notice that the dispute was about who should govern…and the nature of the dispute reduces to: The one who’s right about doctrine should govern. But of course “who should govern” is one of the disputed doctrines. The essence of the argument is always: You should agree with us because, as you can see from our arguments, we’re the ones who’ve got it right.

    Among the followers of the post-first-century “rabbinical” Judaism, you have the Orthodox and the Reform and the Conservative, and plenty of subdivisions within each: But the claim to be real Judaism (when the matter is not complicated by making it a racial, rather than a religious, question) is all about who has the right doctrines and practices. Who is following the most faithful interpretation, the most faithfully? And so if an Orthodox Jew remonstrates with his Reform brother about keeping kosher, the one says that the commandments are plain as day and what’s the problem; the other talks about understanding the spirit behind the commandments and their purpose; the first says he understands the spirit behind them just fine, thanks, and why not keep both the spirit and the letter since that’s well within human capacity if one takes G_d seriously…and in the end, each wishes the other would come to his side on the basis that his arguments are correct.

    Protestants don’t, overmuch, try to convert their also-Protestant neighbors to their own subvariant of Protestantism. But when they do, or when Protestants within a particular variant dispute about the doctrinal direction of the denomination, the gist is always: “My argument, as you can easily see, is correct. So you should give up your erroneous view and come join our crowd.” (Or, at least, that’s the way it works when it’s at its best. At its worst, it devolves to: “He is a theological liberal and can’t be trusted to not lead us into heresy” vs. “He is a theological conservative and can’t be trusted not to turn us all into scowling Pharisees.”)

    Now in each of these cases, there is something good to say: The arguer, when he is honest, is arguing about what is true. That is a very good thing! The barbarism of post-modernism could learn a thing or two from it!

    But, to maintain unity in the Body of Christ, it is not enough. To guarantee that divine revelation would not be lost from the earth a century after its revelation, it is not enough. To allow the further implications of that divine revelation to be expanded upon over time instead of already-settled matters needing to be endlessly re-litigated, it is not enough.

    Indeed, we see that it is not enough because it has produced a world-full of religions about whom you cannot say with any great certainty what they believe. Instead, you must ask “who self-identifies as a member of Religion X,” and then ask what that group believes. And when you find there’s lots of variety in what they believe, you must then ask, “Okay, what’s the rough center-of-gravity on each issue?” and cobble together an understanding of the Doctrines of Religion X by determining what most of its adherents believe most of the time.

    And, of course, if any one religion (or denomination) evolves to a point where it has two distinct centers of gravity who find they can’t get along with one another, the religion/denomination splits — whammo, mitosis! — and you end up with at least one new religion/denomination.

    And still! …they disagree with their former confreres about who has the correct interpretation of whatever holy book. You leave one and join the other if you become convinced that the other interpretation is correct.

    In short: THAT kind of doctrinal unity is the kind of thing human minds always invent…just like they invent gods who come to earth and achieve victory for their followers by winning a big battle and smiting the enemy.

    But, as we can see from the examples of Islam and Protestant Christianity and pretty much every other faith that actually bothers to profess a real body of truth, it doesn’t work.

    So the question is: Is Jesus Christ smarter than Mohammed, or David Koresh, or John Calvin?

    If He is not, then He is not God, and we can give up talking about all this nonsense.

    But if He is smarter than Mohammed, et alia, then He will have devised a better standard of unity and a better way to know doctrinal truth than any merely human religion-inventor ever has or could.

    You see, there comes a time when a man can’t investigate any more. A plumber, or a web application developer, or a professional musician just can’t pull up stakes and go back to seminary for a year every time he’s hesitating between two denominations and needs to know which one is right so that he knows which one to join. If generations of often devout and apparently spirit-filled and earnestly truth-seeking men with seminary degrees and expertise in Greek and Hebrew cannot figure it all out well enough to be in perfect doctrinal unity, what hope is there for the layman?

    For all my love of C.S.Lewis and his book Mere Christianity, this is one of the flaws; one of the parts where he did not (because he could not) say enough. He said that we should join a particular communion not because we “like that kind of service better” but rather because we are asking, “Are these doctrines true? Is holiness here?” He’s right, that’s the only way to approach the matter…but the problem is, if a man goes doctrine-by-doctrine with perfect honesty and perfect openness…no matter who he is, he will get stuff wrong. It’s hopeless. Except by accident, he’s almost certain to join the wrong Church.

    Ah, but what if Christ were cleverer than that? As clever as we should expect God to be?

    The Catholic Church teaches that, while anyone baptized a Catholic and not formally apostasizing is, indeed, a Catholic, what he believes is not necessarily Catholicism.

    Catholicism is that faith which is taught as true by the Magisterium of the Church. The Magisterium of the Church is the teaching authority of those bishops who are in Apostolic Succession and who are in communion with the Successor of Peter.

    Whammo. There it is.

    If Catholicism is true, then you know exactly whom to listen to. You listen to the Apostolic Successors who’re in communion with the successor of Peter. If there’s a dispute between them, then you watch that dispute bubble up until it’s settled either in an ecumenical council convened with the approval of Peter’s successor and ratified by same, or by an extraordinary exercise of Petrine authority to “lock what others unlocked, and unlock what others locked, and no-one may unlock what he has locked, or lock what he has unlocked” (c.f. Isaiah 22). Once the final judicial appeal within the Church is exhausted, the matter is settled, and then you know.

    Finally! A voice in the world that can “teach as one with authority, and not as the scribes and Pharisees taught.” Exactly what you would expect from the Body of Christ, you see. Exactly the plan you would expect if Jesus is really God: A system that works.

    Because, you know, the matter is really not about who is obedient. The question is “to whom?” If a man doesn’t really want to obey Jesus Christ, he’s gonna disobey no matter whether he’s a Catholic or a foot-washin’ Baptist. But if a man really wants to obey, it makes a big difference whether he’s a Catholic or a foot-washin’ Baptist. It makes a big difference because the Baptist has no way to know, with certainty, what to obey. The Catholic does. If Baptist-ism is right, then obedience-knowing-you’re-obeying-the-right-thing is actually impossible. But if Catholicism is right, obedience becomes possible.

    And therefore, unity becomes possible.

    For of course, a man who becomes convinced that his Baptist pastor is wrong about XYZ will, likely enough, set up shop down the road preaching what’s right in a house church. Ten years later, “Second Baptist Church” has joined “First Baptist Church,” diagonally not-quite-facing one another across the intersection of Bellevieu and Main.

    But the man who becomes convinced that the Pope and the Magisterium have ruled wrongly on some matter of dogma, and refuses to change his mind, is, well…he may still be a “Catholic” in a certain sense until he formally renounces being one, but what he believes is definitely not Catholicism and he can’t take communion until he repents his error. He has left the unity. Anyone who wishes may be clear about What Is Catholicism and What Is Not Catholicism by merely asking, by writing a letter to the CDF if needed.

    Do you know how you can tell that it works?

    You can tell when you are in the process of becoming Catholic, and you find that one doctrine that, if it were left up to you, you would not have settled it that way.

    And then you say to yourself, “Crap. I’ve looked at this question for months, and read everything I could read, and I still don’t see how the Magisterium came up with that. The explanations I get are obviously compelling for the explainers, but somehow they aren’t for me. Well, the Magisterium was right about everything else. This must be something that I, for some reason, don’t have the life-experience or the wisdom or the information-processing-horsepower to arrive at the correct answer about. It stands to reason there would be something like that. Sigh. I guess I’ll stop banging my intellect against a wall that it’s not sharp enough to break through, and say, Yes to the Church, and through Her, to Jesus Christ. And, Lord, if it’s not too much trouble, would you please help me understand, one of these days, so that I can explain it to others, instead of just having to shrug and say I-dunno-but-it-must-be-right?”

    See what I mean? Obedience becomes possible.

    And through it, unity.

    One faith, One Lord, One baptism.

    Come on in, it’s awful!

    (In both senses of the word.)

  13. Fantastic article David! Thank you so much for writing it. You write:

    ome would have you think that the Church’s teaching today is unclear, but this is absurd. The Magisterium has spoken often on the most controverted contemporary issues. The Holy Councils of Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II taught the faith with great depth and clarity.

    A question for protestants who would contest your argument:

    If Roman Catholic doctrine is so obscure and unclear, how is it that such protestant theologians as Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. RC Sproul, Dr. Michael Horton, and Dr. James White, can recite it so accurately? It doesn’t seem as though our protestant interlocutors are confused about which points to engage with? How is this possible if the Church is as confused and divided as certain protestant polemicists would argue?

  14. Bryan (re: 4),

    We can add something to every article beginning with “I believe”.

    I believe
    I believe by an infused gift of faith.

    If unity is to be more than notional, we must recognize truth in the one who says “I believe”. Are you prepared to affirm the existence of the gift in everyone who says it ?

    Bryan Cross believes every article of faith by an infused gift of faith. Does this signify a revealed truth(s) ? If so, do you believe and profess it because the CC believes, teaches and proclaims it ?

  15. RC,
    “Finally! A voice in the world that can “teach as one with authority, and not as the scribes and Pharisees taught.” Exactly what you would expect from the Body of Christ, you see. Exactly the plan you would expect if Jesus is really God: A system that works.”

    Yup! Congratulations on your journey of discovering the truth.


  16. Eric, (re: #14)

    Are you prepared to affirm the existence of the gift in everyone who says it ?

    I don’t understand the question. Rather than making it about me (i.e. “are you prepared”), it would be better to focus on the point in question, i.e. whether the gift is in everyone who says it.

    Does this signify a revealed truth(s)?

    Nothing about me per se is a “revealed truth.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  17. Bryan (re: 16),

    New question: Do you think every Catholic who says “I believe” has the habit of faith ?

    You wrote:
    Nothing about me per se is a “revealed truth.”

    Nothing about Pope Francis per se is a “revealed truth.” Pope Francis believes every article of faith by an infused gift of faith. You share a unity of faith with him, right ?

  18. Eric,

    Do you think every Catholic who says “I believe” has the habit of faith ?

    I don’t assume that every person who says the words “I believe” has the habit of faith.

    Nothing about Pope Francis per se is a “revealed truth.” Pope Francis believes every article of faith by an infused gift of faith.

    Ok. What’s your point?

    You share a unity of faith with him, right ?

    Yes. Again, what’s your point? This is a forum for dialogue, not interrogation. If you have an argument to make, please lay it out. But I’m not interested in participating in unsolicited interrogation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Bryan (re: 18),

    (1) Individual Catholics profess a unity shared with other Catholic believers, but cannot identify the other believers as believers.

    (2) Baptism, as an instrumental cause of faith, and open profession of the articles of faith are insufficient for identifying believers.

    (3) If Catholic believers, by a habit of faith, cannot be subjects of revealed truths, then certainty of faith is excluded as a way to identify them.

    (4) Catholic doctrine of shared unity is a doctrine of uniformity in visible and exterior features.

  20. Eric, (re: #19)

    One immediate problem with the above argument is that proposition (1) is not true. We can identify other believers as believers.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  21. Bryan,

    If you can identify other believers as believers, then identification includes a knowledge of the habit existing in them. Do you agree ?

  22. Eric, (re: #21)

    Do you agree ?

    Yes. Do you have an argument, or do you intend to interrogate me?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. Bryan,

    I offer my propositions as proof of trying to avoid interrogation. I cannot discover how the Catholic knows the habit is existing in the identified believer. Is it a knowledge only a Catholic can obtain ?

  24. Eric, (re: #23)

    Asking interrogating questions with the intention of criticizing what you [at present] don’t understand is not good faith dialogue. I’m fine with answering authentic good faith questions, from persons who genuinely want to understand. But if a person is instead trying to construct a criticism of my position, and needs my help in order to do so, then he or she isn’t in a position to be making criticisms of my position, and thus his criticisms and questions are not flowing from good faith intentions. CTC is not a forum for that sort of thing, but rather for good faith dialogue. So if you want to understand the Catholic faith, I’ll answer questions of that sort, assuming I can. And if you want to criticize some Catholic position by laying out an argument against it, I’ll sincerely and openly engage that as well. But if you want to recruit me by interrogation to help you construct such an argument, then CTC is not the right place for that.

    Is it a knowledge only a Catholic can obtain ?


    I cannot discover how the Catholic knows the habit is existing in the identified believer.

    If you don’t know how Catholics can know how other Catholics have the habit of faith, then you’re not in a position to be criticizing what you don’t understand. But your stance here at CTC in the 180 comments you’ve made here since February of 2012, has been continually critical of Catholicism. The first necessary step, therefore, to enter into genuine dialogue, is to set aside the critical stance, and adopt instead a very different stance, one in which you are authentically seeking to understand and reach mutual agreement concerning the truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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