I recently finished a debate (?) with a person who said, "The Pope is out of
touch with the wants of Catholics." In that one phrase, the basis of the
'loyal dissent', rests. It isn't what we need, but want. Before I continue,
don't be overly upset that anyone would make such a statement. This person
was taught that. Imagine going to school for 11 years believing that your
notion that 2+2=22 was correct? After all, that could be true for them, who
are we to argue? However, when anyone comes along to try and tell them that
2+2 actually equals 4, we can be assured that they will be very indignant
that anyone would challenge them. However, what is even sadder is that then
they too may well teach that 2+2=22.
What American Catholics (in particular) fail to realize is that, unlike
their elected officials, neither the Pope nor the Magisterium is there to
give is what we want, but rather what we need. This is natural, to a point,
since we are used to our leaders being accountable to our wants and desires.
Otherwise we'd vote them out of office. But we have to remember that the
Church is not a democracy. In fact, Vatican II clearly teaches that the
Church is Hierarchical. (Lumen Gentium, Chap 3)
One of the titles of the Pope is Servus servorum Dei, servant of the
servants of God. Now one may be tempted to think that this title means he is
here to serve us in what we want. But that would be a serious error.
Imagine that you were a servant hired by a powerful person to care for his
children. Who would you be answerable to, him or his children? If, after
receiving instructions from your employer, would you allow his children to do
something that contradicted his instructions?
Another way to see it, would be that you were hired to be the head of his
household. Would you be serving him by letting the household staff do as
they please? Imagine the maids not wanting to do their duties, or the
chauffeur not wanting to drive the car? What would happen? First, you'd be
fired, then them.
So, as the servant of the servants of God, the Pope acts as the head of
the household, making sure the servants do what they are supposed to do. He
acts in the name of the Lord here on earth. His 'power of attorney', if you
This is exactly what the Lord said his duties would entail.
As Dave Armstrong points out in his article " The Pre-Eminence of St.
Peter - 50 New Testament Proofs"; "Matthew 16:19: "And I will give unto thee
the keys of the kingdom of Heaven."
The "power" of the keys has to do with ecclesiastical discipline and
administrative authority with regard to the requirements of the faith, as in
Isaiah 22:22 (see Is 9:6; Jb 12:14; Rv 3:7). From this power flows the use of
censures, excommunication, absolution, baptismal discipline, the imposition
of penances and legislative powers. In the Old Testament, a steward, or prime
minister, is a man who is "over a house" (Gn 41:40; 43:19; 44:4; 1 Kgs 4:6;
16:9; 18:3; 2 Kgs 10:5; 15:5; 18:18; Is 22:15, 20-21).
So the Pope acts as the steward of a household, a man 'over the house',
a prime minister acting on behalf of his king.
What is most fascinating is that even in their dissent against the Pope
and the Church, they go to him for approval. After all, they take a petition
to Rome 'demanding' that their wants be given them. They attempt to act as
though they're writing to their Congressman in an attempt to influence the
next Papal election.
"With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even
to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair
of Peter and to the principal church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has
its source" (St. Cyprian of Carthage; Letters 59:14;[A.D. 253])
They imagine that they can disregard authentic Church teaching if 'they'
disagree with it, and still call themselves a Catholic.
"The Lord says to Peter: 'I say to you,' He says, 'that you are Peter, and
upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not
overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and
whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in Heaven, and whatever
you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in Heaven'" [Matthew 16:18-19]).
On him [Peter] He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to
feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although He assigns a like power to all the
apostles, yet He founded a single chair [cathedra], and He established by His
Own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the
others were also what Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to
Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair.
So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one,
fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold
fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If
he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he
still be confident that he is in the Church?" (St. Cyprian of Carthage ; The
Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition; [A.D. 251]).
Can they say they are still in the Church?
They may claim that their dissent is in good conscience, however;
Following subjectivist conscience is deliberate nonassent. The sin of
deliberate nonassent is committed by those who rationalize their failure to
assent as following their "conscience," using the word in a subjectivist
sense. Conscience truly so-called is formed by moral truth, which can be
known with certitude by the help of the Church's teaching "Conscience" in
a subjectivist sense refers to one's own opinions and preferences, treated as
more authoritative than any practical truth or requirement originating beyond
oneself. But to treat one's own opinions and preferences as more
authoritative than the Church's teaching is deliberate refusal to give that
teaching the assent it deserves; and this refusal is only rationalized, not
justified, by saying: "My conscience tells me it is right for me to do X, so
it is right for me, no matter what the Pope says!" (THE WAY OF THE LORD JESUS
Volume Two LIVING A CHRISTIAN LIFE by Germain Grisez; Chapter 1, Question I:
5. Within Due Limits, One Should Not Withhold Religious Assent, para d)
In fact, Grisez points out that, " Deliberate nonassent is a grave matter.
…….religious assent, although distinct from faith in God, is an act of human
faith grounded in divine faith. Thus, while the sin of deliberate nonassent
is not directly against divine faith, it does violate (without withdrawing)
the commitment of faith, insofar as that is a human commitment not only to
God but to the covenantal communion which is the Church. Because of the
seriousness of this violation in itself, and because it interferes with
ecclesial solidarity, it seems that deliberate nonassent is a grave matter."
(Ibid, para a)
An orthodox priest wrote that:
"Without the Holy Spirit, God is distant,
Christ remains in the past, The Gospel is a dead letter,
The Church is just an organization, Authority is just domination,
Mission is propaganda, Worship a ceremonial, And the Christian way of life a servitude."
So, when we hear those who say that the Church is a patriarchal,
oppressive, organization, bent domination, one has to wonder if they truly
are being led by the Holy Spirit.
"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your
blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that
this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb
outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark on Noah will
perish when the flood prevails" (St. Jerome; Letters 15:2 [A.D. 396]).
"[On this matter of the Pelagians] two councils have already been sent to the
Apostolic See [the Bishop of Rome], and from there rescripts too have come.
The matter is at an end; would that the error too might be at an end!" (St.
Augustine; Sermons 131:10 [A.D. 411]).