The Limits of Faithful Dissent – part 2

Non-infallible Teachings

All Catholic Christians are obligated to give the religious submission of will and intellect (ordinary assent) to the non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium. This religious assent is not the full assent of faith, but it is related to it. We believe that the non-infallible teachings have the help of the Holy Spirit, to assist the Church in teaching important truths on faith, morals, and salvation, and also to preserve the non-infallible teachings from serious errors. Some error is possible in a non-infallible teaching, but never to the extent of leading the faithful away from the path of salvation.

All the teachings of the Magisterium are either infallible or non-infallible. No faithful dissent is possible from an infallible teaching, because that teaching cannot err. But some faithful dissent is possible from some non-infallible teachings, because those teachings admit a limited possibility of error. God who is Truth does not require us to adhere to error, even if it is taught by the Magisterium. However, the extent of error possible in non-infallible teachings is limited, and so also is the dissent.

A Catholic Christian is never justified in rejecting all non-infallible teachings, in treating all non-infallible teachings as if they were mere opinion, or in putting his own will and intellect above the non-infallible teaching. The type of assent required is the religious submission of will and intellect, implying that one’s own will and reason must be subjugated to teachings of the faith, even when those teachings are non-infallible.

Most of the dissent in the Church today is unfaithful. There is very little faithful dissent from particular points within non-infallible teachings. Why is there so much dissent? It is because most of the “faithful” are unwilling to submit their will and intellect to the teachings of Jesus through His Church. They are unwilling to put faith above reason. They are unwilling to humbly admit that they are in need of teaching and correction from the Church.

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

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