Three types of Pseudo-Dogma plague the Church

The infallible teachings of the Roman Catholic Magisterium are termed “formal dogma”. These dogmas are inerrant. They contain important truths on matters of faith, morals, and salvation. They are required beliefs to which the faithful must give the full assent of faith. The post-baptismal, knowing and deliberate, rejection of an infallible dogma is the grave sin of formal heresy.

But this fallen sinful world has its own teachings. These false teachings are sometimes presented as if they were inerrant and as if they were required beliefs. And anyone who disagrees is treated as if they sin gravely by rejecting these false ideas. These false teachings are pseudo-dogmas. They are false harmful ideas presented as if they were infallible required beliefs.

I categorize these pseudo-dogmas or false dogmas into three types, based on the source of the false teaching:

1. secular society
2. false teachers in the Church
3. the mind and heart of the individual

1. Sinful Secular Society

Modern culture has teachings, which it seeks to impose on everyone, regardless of their conscience, personal beliefs, and religion. Whoever refuses to accept these pseudo-dogmas is treated like an outcast and is labeled as a bigot or a hater.

For example, the culture has decided that same-sex marriage is a right, and that any opposition is hatred, bigotry, and, in some cases, a crime.

In another example, the culture has decided that gender is a choice, and that a person can assert any gender, and take any measures to change their gender. All opposition to this set of ideas is strongly condemned by sinful secular society.

The culture has also decided that abortion and contraception are rights, and that companies and organizations must pay for the abortifacient contraception and contraception of their employees.

Sinful secular society has pseudo-dogmas, which it presents as if these false ideas were absolute truth, and whoever opposes those ideas is treated as an enemy of the human race.

Many Catholics have accepted the pseudo-dogmas of sinful secular society, and have rejected any teachings of Jesus and His Church which contradict those pseudo-dogmas.

2. false teachers in the Church

Many false teachings are circulating among Catholics today, teachings whose source is neither secular society, nor Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. These false teachings come from individual Catholic teachers or groups of Catholics. Often several individual teachers express the same idea, and present it to the faithful as if it were a doctrine or dogma of the Magisterium, when in fact it is a grave error. Other times groups of Catholics decide questions of faith, morals, and salvation as if their decisions could not err, regardless of what the Magisterium teaches. These false teachers claim that their own errors are really the doctrines of the Church, or at least a correct understanding of Church doctrine.

For example, some Catholics now claim that we may reasonably hope that no human souls are ever sent to Hell. This false teaching is contrary to the infallible teachings of multiple Ecumenical Councils. And yet it continues to be presented to the faithful as if it were a sound theological opinion. In this way, these false teachers are promoting a grave heresy, under the guise of sound theology. Among these false teachers are Bishop Robert Barron and Mark Shea.

In another example, more than a few Catholic teachers are now claiming a set of grave errors on Church teaching against contraception. They claim that Humanae Vitae contains a substantial translation error which changes the meaning of the magisterial teaching against contraception. The existing Vatican translation condemns contraception regardless of marital state, by using terms such as “sexual intercourse” rather than always using “marital intercourse”. The claim is that an alleged correct translation would substantially change this teaching, so as to limit the condemnation of contraception to marriage. This claim is false, as I’ve explained at length in my past posts and articles. Yet the claim is presented as if it were absolutely certain. These false teachers have succeed in leading astray many souls, convincing them that the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium condemning contraception is limited to the marital state.

But by basing their claim (that contraception is only condemned within marriage) on the allegation of a translation error, they thereby admit that the translation, as now stands and has stood for many years, implies the opposite, that contraception is condemned regardless of marital state.

Another error on contraception, spread by many false teachers, is the claim that a married Catholic woman can use abortifacient contraception, for a medical purpose, and continue to have marital relations, even though these deliberate choices result in the deaths of innocent prenatals. These false teachers have succeeded in convincing Catholic spouses to murder their own unborn children with abortifacients. These false teachers are contradicting the infallible teaching of the Magisterium against abortion and abortifacients, and they are committing formal cooperation with the type of murder called abortion.

Moreover, as many pro-life Christians have correctly stated, so many unborn children are killed by abortion that this grave crime against humanity is not merely a set of murders, but also truly a type of genocide. By promoting and approving of abortifacients, certain Catholic teachers are complicit in the type of genocide called abortion.

In truth, the Magisterium has strongly condemned abortifacient contraception as a type of abortion, making such a choice intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, regardless of the intention or purpose, and the circumstances. The condemnation of abortion and abortifacients as a type of murder is found in recent magisterial documents, such as Evangelium Vitae, but it is also found in the Catechism of the Council of Trent: “married persons who, to prevent conception or procure abortion, have recourse to medicine, are guilty of a most heinous crime ­­ nothing less than wicked conspiracy to commit murder.”

Another false teaching spreading among the faithful is the claim that Catholic spouses can morally engage in unnatural sexual acts. These are acts of grave depravity, and yet many Catholics have publicly approved of these grave sins, and have encouraged Catholic spouses to accept these grave sexual sins as if they were good and holy. This false teaching is presented as if it were absolutely certain, and anyone who opposes the idea is treated with utter contempt.

Another false teaching is the claim that the Bible is only inerrant on matters of faith and morals, or on matters of salvation. The Magisterium has repeatedly condemned this error, and has taught the total inspiration and total inerrancy of Sacred Scripture. Yet many false teachers continue to spread this error, as if it were a dogma.

Yet another false teaching is that only baptized Christians have the gift of spiritual adoption as children of God, and that salvation is rare and difficult among non-Christians. There are many different versions of this error. Some claim that unbaptized prenatals, infants, and young children go to the limbo of Hell when they die, or to limbo as a third final destination (not Heaven or Hell). Some claim that most Catholic Christians go to Hell, and very few non-Catholic Christians or non-Christians are saved as well. Some claim that all atheists go to Hell. This set of errors is often presented as if it were nearly a dogma, and all ideas to the contrary are treated with contempt.

And there are many other false teachings spreading among the faithful. Sometimes the error is from an individual prominent false teacher. Other times the error is from a group, such as traditionalists, liberals, or conservatives. Still other times the error is spread by persons who adhere to certain false private revelations.

These grave errors are accepted by some Catholics, as if the error were dogmatic truth. Then the error poisons that person’s mind against any true doctrine or sound theology that conflicts with the error. It is very difficult, once someone has accepted an error as if it were a dogma, to teach and correct that person. For they automatically assume that all ideas to the contrary of the pseudo-dogma must be error.

3. the dogmatization of personal opinion

Many Catholics treat their own personal opinions, on matters of faith, morals, and salvation, like personal dogmas. Once they decide a question or accept an idea, it is treated as if it were absolute truth; all ideas to the contrary are rejected without any consideration of the possibility that the “personal dogma” might be in error. As a result, such persons are difficult to teach. They do not accept any teaching that conflicts with their own understanding. And they do not accept correction from anyone, not from the Bible, not from any Saint, not from a Pope or Council. They are uncorrectable.

Often, such persons go online to teach these personal dogmas to other Catholics. They have no real theological argument to support these ideas. They cannot show that these ideas are magisterial teaching. And if it is pointed out to them that the Magisterium has taught the contrary, they ignore or radically reinterpret that magisterial teaching.


So it is that a large number of Catholics, perhaps a majority, have fallen into grave error on matters of faith, morals, and salvation. And they do not accept correction because modern culture, or their fellow Catholics, or their own understanding supports these errors. They have dogmatized grave errors.

When the Warning occurs, which false teachers will repent? Which false teachers will obstinately refuse to repent? And which false teachers will die of shock at seeing their sins? Wait and see.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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4 Responses to Three types of Pseudo-Dogma plague the Church

  1. Marcus Aurelius says:

    Ron—do you think it is likely that people who have innumerable sins because they have led a a majority sinful lifestyle, will understand the Warning as (only) a ‘life review’, or will everyone actually come away from the Warning understanding “…these things I do/did are WRONG/against God’s will” ?

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Warning does not review all the sins of a person’s life. It only illuminates the conscience. It does not show the person objective sins that were committed without the realization that these acts were wrong.

  2. Marcus Aurelius says:

    Hmmm…so there is a good chance that many people will misinterpret the Warning—-they will experience the illumination of conscience event, but they may not conclude it was a Judeo-Christian God inspired event….?

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