Question and Answer session (closed)

Again, I’m opening up a post to questions on a wide range of topics in theology. You can ask me general questions on faith, morals, or salvation. You can also ask questions on my writings in particular is eschatology, ethics, and other subjects.

This feature is only for questions that sincerely seek answers. Please do not ask a question merely to have a platform for your own views and arguments. If you think that you know the answer to your own question better than I do, then don’t ask.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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45 Responses to Question and Answer session (closed)

  1. Maurilio says:

    I’m not asking about a Pope teaching material heresy or being automatically removed from the office of Pope.

    Teaching material heresy is about the hypothetical of papal material heresy as an act of papal non-infallible magisterium – of course that’s impossible (as to acts of papal definitive magisterium, these are protected by the dogma of papal ex cathedra infallibility).

    Being automatically removed from the office of Pope is about the hypothetical of papal formal heresy – of course that’s also impossible.

    My question focuses exclusively on the hypothetical of papal material heresy as a private person – not just papal heresy, not just papal material heresy, but papal material heresy as a private person: I would like to be able to offer thorough refutations targeted to this specific notion, because this is the one specific notion of alleged papal heresy that is implied or called for in the heated Seifert debate.

    • Ron Conte says:

      First of all, anyone who teaches, holds, or expresses material heresy, inadvertently and not also as an act of formal heresy, is not guilty of grave sin and not excommunicated. No one is excommunicated for unwittingly expressing material heresy. So papal material heresy in a private opinion would be of little consequence. But I don’t believe that God permits even this low level of error — for the sake of the faithful who might be led astray.

      We are not really talking about Pope Francis. We are talking about what Jesus Christ in His mercy would permit to the head of His body the Church, for the sake of His flock. I don’t believe Christ would permit even mere material heresy, inadvertently, in a private theological opinion.

  2. Matt says:

    A couple is married in a Catholic Church. The couple have several children and after so many years of marriage the marital relations between spouses slows to then hardly ever occuring due to one mostly refusing or when it does occur is listless. Can abandonment of marital relations be grounds for divorce? I know that there are multiple factors to consider in these cases but can the Church grant an annulment for abandonment of marital relations? Bishop Sheen stated in one of his sermons that one can not divorce even if there is complete lack of marital relations. What are your thoughts on this as this is a common problem in marriages? I recall our local parish priest mentioning that spouses are obligated to have marital relations and he recommended at least once a week.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Council of Trent taught that marriage does not become invalid (justifying an annulment) even if one person commits adultery. So denying marital relations, which is a lesser sin (unless there is a proportionate reason) does not justify an annulment. Spouses have an obligation to have relations with one another, though there are a number of circumstances to consider. One spouse may refuse the other for not reason on any occasion, for a light reason for a limited period of time, for a weightier reason for a longer period of time. Both spouses may agree to give up relations if they are past the age of bearing children and there is no danger of falling into sexual sin.

  3. Maurilio says:

    I totally agree it appears to be be highly inconvenient for Christ’s flock if He permitted even private material heresy to the visible head of His body.

    Also, it is highly problematic, from the standpoint of supernatural anthropology, to assume that the same person who bears the Petrine charism that makes him incapable of heresy when functioning magisterially is left devoid of ultimate protection when not functioning magisterially, for then the Petrine charism would remain totally dormant, as if on stand-by, and cause a split in the Pope’s personality, a sort of supernatural schizophrenia within the infused virtue of faith of the person of the Pope.

    I’m just looking for the ultimate proof that such a hypothetical is actually impossible.

    In any case, under the hypothetical, no one on earth would be able to declare infallibly that the matter in question is indeed heretical, but the Pope himself or one of his successors, or the body of bishops, e.g. an Ecumenical Council, in communion and in agreement with the Pope himself or with one of his successors: “The First See is judged by no one” (“Prima Sedes a nemine iudicatur”).

  4. Mark P. says:

    Ron, in regards to the upcoming same-sex marriage vote in Australia, one of the local bishops there stated that [“It should be an opportunity for us to witness to our deep commitment to the ideal of Christian marriage,” he said. “But it should also be an opportunity for us to listen to what the Spirit is saying through the signs of the times.”] (the quote is from CruxNow). This particular bishop says that marriage is a free choice for everyone to make, whether or not it is in line with Catholic teaching. My question is, is it a type of heresy (and if so what is the name for it) to imply that the Holy Spirit would allow something contrary to what the Father and Son have revealed to us? I see this type of statement often, that the “Spirit” is somehow telling the Church to adapt to the times. As if the Holy Spirit was not a person of the Trinity, but instead was a representation of popular thought who operates separately from the Father and Son. But this seems impossible and contrary to any understanding of the Trinity. Thank you.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t think that expression implies that the Spirit disagrees with the Father and Son (which would be an heretical idea). But it does imply that God is approving of grave sin and grave error on faith and morals, which is a type of heresy. The Spirit is not saying that we should listen to the voice of sinful secular society.
      {23:2} You shall not follow the crowd in doing evil. Neither shall you go astray in judgment, by agreeing with the majority opinion, apart from the truth.

      {6:22} Blessed shall you be when men will have hated you, and when they will have separated you and reproached you, and thrown out your name as if evil, because of the Son of man.
      {6:23} Be glad in that day and exult. For behold, your reward is great in heaven. For these same things their fathers did to the prophets.

      {6:26} Woe to you when men will have blessed you. For these same things their fathers did to the false prophets.

  5. Mark P. says:

    Ron, at what point is a practicing Catholic considered to have understood a Church teaching such that they can no longer commit only an objective mortal sin, but an actual moral sin? Is the grasp of understanding a teaching expected by reception of the sacraments, or is it more an intellectual and interior understanding of a teaching known only to God? We know that virtually all Catholics know “of” the Church’s teachings on contraception, for instance, yet many of them go against this teaching. Yet in not all cases might these be actual mortal sins. And to what degree does the Church itself play in the culpability of these persons, if the teaching was never really communicated to them clearly? Thank you.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It is not enough to establish the full knowledge needed for actual mortal sin that the person knows that the Church teaches something is gravely immoral. The person must realize and believe, in their conscience, that the act is gravely immoral. Some Catholics sincerely think that the Church is wrong on contraception or divorce and remarriage, and so, perhaps, they are not guilty of actual mortal sin, as suggested in AL. There is some culpability for lack of understanding on moral teachings, or for lack of adherence on the part of some teachers (priests, theologians, others) who have undermined or contradicted Church teaching, making certain points seem in dispute, when they are definitive teachings.

  6. Matt says:

    I’ve had Masses said for hardened sinners in my family tree and friends. Also I’ve had Masses said for those suffering particular long term illnesses. Nearly all the relatives are baptized and confirmed Catholics. There are various Catholic Associations run by Priests where one can request a Mass with a small stipend and then you can donate for their missionary work. By having Masses offered this way, these persons don’t know I’ve done this for them as otherwise having a Mass said for them at the local Church their names would be published in the Sunday bulletin. I want to have Mass said for them privately. Also they don’t know I’ve done this for them.

    Now to my question. I have found that with some persons that suffer from illnesses I’ve seen miraculous changes in their lives after Masses have been said for them. However, for others that are hardened sinners I’ve seen them become ever more hardened and their state of affairs becomes worse. Why does Masses said for someone results in miraculous changes but with others I see them getting worse? Isn’t the Mass the greatest of all prayers? I don’t want to give up on them and I continue to have Masses offered for them.

    • Ron Conte says:

      See my previous comments on grace. God never uses his all-powerful grace in such a way as to extinguish free will. But when God offers graces, as a result of a Mass, they can reject those graces. But I don’t think they are necessarily getting worse as a result of having Masses said for them.

    • Marco says:


      Considering that this is the question and answer session I hope that you’ll correct me if I’m wrong: what do you think about what happened to Bruno Cornacchiola, a man who made the first Fridays devotion and was converted because of it ?

      If we look at things from the point of view of a “weak” Grace this would be unexplainable.

      I believe that God can, without forcing or extinguishing free will, cause a conversion of even the most hardened sinner, and Cornacchiola’s case seems to prove it, expecially if you look at what the Holy Virgin said when She explained the reason of Cornacchiola’s conversion.

      Even Fr.Most, which is not a “classical” thomist, said that God can act in two ways:

      1) in the ordinary mode: God sends me a grace which, with no help
      from me, causes two things: it causes me to see something as good
      (cf. 2 Cor 3:5), it makes me well disposed toward it. At this juncture where I could reject the grace, if I merely make no decision against it, then grace continues in its course,
      and “works in me both the will and the doing (cf. Phil 2:13). If, on the other hand, I make decision against such a Grace, it will have no effect and I will remain in a state of mortal sin or i will commit a mortal sin (if i’m in the state of Grace);

      2: In the extraordinary mode: God sends a grace, but the man resists
      it or has made himself blind, by much sinning, so he does not even
      perceive the good thought of what God wills and which grace tries
      to make clear in his mind. Such a thought is needed to start the
      process, but, according to 2 Cor 3:5: “We are not sufficient to
      think anything of ourselves, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency
      is from God.” In the ordinary mode, God would simply permit that resistance
      to have its effect, but in the extraordinary mode, He forestalls
      resistance or cancels it out. If He does this, that is, if He
      forestalls resistance or cancels it out, then the first decision on
      what is to happen does not come from the man as it would normally,
      in accord with CG 3:159 which says a man can impede, with which
      St. Paul agrees in 2 Cor 6:1: “We urge you not to receive the grace
      of God in vain. Instead, in the extraordinary mode the decision on
      whether it will be effective or not comes from God. If God forestalls the resistance or cancels
      it out, then the first decision comes from God, not from the man.
      This is in accordance with what Thomas said in I – II, 112.3: “If it
      is the intention of God who moves that man, whose heart He is
      moving, should receive grace, he infallibly receives it.” But
      that, being a diminution of freedom, has to be extraordinary, since
      God normally observes His grant of free will.

      This is the thesis of Fr Most and i believe he is correct, otherwise Jesus’ promises regarding the Sacred Heart Devotion or the fifteen prayers of Saint Bridget would be preposterous, because even if he promises that anyone that made those devotions would not die in a state of mortal sin, at the end of the day this would not be true, and God would have lied.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t agree. But the Comments section is not a place for theological debates.

    • Marco says:


      You don’t agree that God can convert even a very hardened sinner to further proof his Mercy? And what do you think about what happened to Cornacchiola and Saint Augustine? His mother’s prayers were the reason for his conversion, because Saint Monica; with her prayers, impetrated from God the Grace of conversion for his son.

      And yet we know that God doesn’t stop to call sinners to repentance, so Saint Monica, with her prayers, impetrated something “more”, something more effective, with which God converted an hardenned sinner.

      The same can be said for Cornacchiola, if we take into account that the Holy Virgin said that without the grace that he earned with the devotion of the first fridays he would have been lost.

      I know that nobody has to to subscribe to the thomistic teaching about intrinsically efficacious Grace, but as far as I know, it’s well established that God can convert everyone, if not with intrinsically efficacious Grace, with “congruous Graces”.

      When the Holy Virgin said, at Fatima, that many souls are lost because nobody prayed for them, She was logically implying that those souls COULD have been converted, if someone had prayed for them and gained for them Grace.

      I mean, with those words she was implying that those souls died unrepentant and they are condemned as a result, bu they could have been converted. They were not “unreedeemable”, otherwise the Holy Virgin would have said “many souls are lost because no matter how much you prayed for them, they are so hardened that even my Son can’t convert them”.

    • Marco says:


      I wantv with your permission, to take advantage of this “question and answer session”, because it’s clear that in the topic on conversion and Catholicism you don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to start a theological debate, I just wish logical answers to my questions.

      In that topic you wrote that if God arranges things so that we will want to accept his Grace by our free will, then our free will is not truly free.

      Ron, I really don’t want to sound (much less be) condescending, and I hope you believe me, but the more I think about it the more I don’t understand this statement.

      Could you please explain why if God, who knows us better than we’ll ever do, gives us a Grace which He knows we won’t reject by our free will, then our free will would not be truly free?

      Because i really don’t understand why do you say such a thing.

      If God, for example, on account of prayers of others gives to an hardened sinner a grace which he won’t reject, or he will put said sinner in a situation which will lead this sinner to conversion, why this would be a destruction of free will?

      Did God destroy Saint Paul’s free will with His Grace? Of course not, and yet Saint Paul was on the way to perdition, and he would have been lost if God hadn’t intervened with His Grace.

      And when the Holy Virgin said that many souls are lost because nodoby prays for them wasn’t She logically implying that said souls would have received graces which would have lead them to conversion, had someone prayed for them?

      And saying that if someone had prayed for a soul said soul would have been saved, it doesn’t mean that God would have in fact arranged things in a way that would have made sure that this soul obtains contrition for her sin and eventually salvation?

      Following what you said in the other topic, this would a imply a “free will not truly free”, because those words clearly imply that someone died in mortal sin could have, and would have, been saved, in a different situation and if someone had obtained, by the Grace of God, Grace for him.

      I really wish that you answer me on these questions, because a lot of things don’t add up when it comes to the modern concept of Grace if confronted with the words of the Saints, the Holy Virgin, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself.

      I would be really glad and grateful if you answered me.

      God bless.

    • Ron Conte says:

      You are arguing from a few bits of information, and ignoring the body of teachings on grace by the Magisterium. Your arguments are therefore not valid. It may seem as if grace MUST work a certain way, given those few points. But it is not so.I can’t explain grace and freewill to you in a comment. It is a complex area of inquiry in theology.

      In summary: Prevenient grace involves no cooperation; it is God operating. We cannot refuse prevenient grace. But subsequent grace does require cooperation; we can refuse subsequent grace. It is an infallible teaching of Trent that we can refuse subsequent grace. It doesn’t matter how many devotions of whatever type are said. God does not arrange things so that we absolutely will accept and cooperate with subsequent grace. Paul could have said No, to the grace of God. A person for whom you offer various devotion can say No to God. Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ despite having Christ himself teaching him and praying for him to the Father.

      If you disagree, that’s fine. But I will not read or post anymore comments on this topic. Do some more studying if you are interested in learning more.

    • Marco says:

      Ron, you clearly misunderstood what I said. I’ve never said that God trumps our free will, what i was trying is that God can protect us from sin, expecially at the hour of our death.

      By that I mean, when a person prays for the grace of final perseverance, he is also praying that death will come in a timely manner, when his soul is in righteous standing before God.

      According to Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, final perseverance is basically God practicing his stewardship or loving care over our souls. It is, “an ever watchful superintendence of us on the part of our All-Merciful Lord, removing temptations which He sees will be fatal to us, comforting us at those times when we are in particular peril, whether from our negligence or other cause, and ordering the course of our life so that we may die at a time when He sees that we are in the state of grace.”

      So, for example, God could make someone die before this person faced a grave temptation which would have made him/her sin mortally, and go to hell.

      That’s what I meant when i said that God can arrange things in such a way that someone will in fact be saved.

      When we pray in the Our Father, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (cf. CCC nos. 2849, 2854), and in the Hail Mary, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death” aren’t we praying for the gift of an Holy death? And praying for such a gift doesn’t imply that God has the power to make it happen (otherwise we would be praying in vain)?

      That’s what I meant.

      I really don’t know why you believe that I was saying that God doesn’t respect our free will. If i die before facing a grace temptation which would have lead me to hell because God, in His providence, delivered me from such an evil, making me die in the right moment, or if God, in His providence, makes happen in my life an event which will lead me to die repentant from an actual mortal sin (repentance which would not have happened if it wasn’t for this particular gift of God), would you say that he destroyed my free will?

      Because that’s what i meant when i said what i said. Maybe the fact that I’m talking in a language which is not my mothertongue didn’t allow me to explain myself in a proper way, and i’m sorry for this, but i would like to know if you disagree with what i said in this post.

      I’ve never said or tought that God arranges things in a way that we “can’t” refuse his Grace. Never. But to say that we can do something is different to say that we will actually do something in a given situation.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Stop bothering me about this topic. You have a very limited understanding of grace, and your questions can’t be answered within your own limited knowledge. And I can’t give you an extensive lesson on grace in the comment boxes.

    • Marco says:

      “If i die before facing a *grace* temptation”


    • Marco says:

      And i want to add one last observation (i’m sorry Ron but this topic is crucial): you always talk about Judas as if he wasn’t possible to saved without God trumping his free will. But, unless Judas was in a state of actual mortal sin his entire life (which is impossible because before the age of reason he couldn’t commit an actual mortal sin and even after the age of reason it would be extremely farfetched to assume that he was living in a state of actual mortal sin his entire life), God could have actually saved him, but making him die when he was in the state of Grace.

      Is this disputable? Because if it is, I’m ready to retract, but if it isn’t, we’ll, that’s the all point behind what i was saying. And i didn’t even talk about efficacious Grace on purpouse, because even if we assume the most libertarian view of free will ever conceivable, it doesn’t follow that Judas was “impossible” to save by God.

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