Will Joy of Truth solve the Church’s problem with false teachers?

“Those who teach matters touching on faith and morals are to be conscious of their duty to carry out their work in full communion with the authentic Magisterium of the Church, above all, with that of the Roman Pontiff.”

“a) true freedom in teaching is necessarily contained within the limits of God’s Word, as this is constantly taught by the Church’s Magisterium;

b) likewise, true freedom in research is necessarily based upon firm adherence to God’s Word and deference to the Church’s Magisterium, whose duty it is to interpret authentically the Word of God.”

“In studying and teaching the Catholic doctrine, fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church is always to be emphasized.”

“From this it follows that there must be in these Faculties that adherence by which they are joined to the full doctrine of Christ, whose authentic guardian and interpreter has always been through the ages the Magisterium of the Church.”

“The study of Sacred Scripture is, as it were, the soul of Theology, which rests upon the written Word of God together with living Tradition, as its perpetual foundation.”

“Theology must doubtless be rooted and grounded in sacred Scripture and in the living tradition, but for this very reason it must simultaneously accompany cultural and social processes, and particularly difficult transitions.”

“Those who teach matters touching on faith and morals are to be conscious of their duty to carry out their work in full communion with the authentic Magisterium of the Church, above all, with that of the Roman Pontiff.”

“Article 27. § 1 Those who teach disciplines concerning faith or morals must receive, after making their profession of faith,[78] a canonical mission from the Chancellor or his delegate, for they do not teach on their own authority but by virtue of the mission they have received from the Church. The other teachers must receive permission to teach from the Chancellor or his delegate.

§ 2. All teachers, before they are given a permanent post or before they are promoted to the highest category of teacher, or else in both cases, as the Statutes are to state, must receive a declaration of nihil obstat from the Holy See.”

My Commentary

The above rules will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem, rampant in theology faculties, noted in Veritatis Splendor, whereby teachers of theology of the highest rank teach abject heresy and laugh when they are criticized for these grave errors on faith and morals.

Pope Saint John Paul II: “In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church’s moral teachings. It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions.”

“Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church’s moral teachings are found simply unacceptable”

“In particular, note should be taken of the lack of harmony between the traditional response of the Church and certain theological positions, encountered even in Seminaries and in Faculties of Theology, with regard to questions of the greatest importance for the Church and for the life of faith of Christians, as well as for the life of society itself.” [Veritatis Splendor 4]

Since Veritatis Splendor (1993), things have only gotten worse in the Church. Grave errors on faith, morals, and salvation are promoted using the internet, often by anonymous online commentators. In addition, a subset of teachers of theology have decided to present their errors as if these were merely a correct interpretation of magisterial teaching. Abject heresy is said to be the teaching of the Church. And their peers in theology seldom speak out, and then only mildly and briefly.

Requiring a nihil obstat from the Holy See, and that various other criteria be met, will have no effect, as these false teachers already have the approval of Bishops and their peers in theology faculties. Reputation and approval from peers and from one’s audience have substituted for faithfulness to the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. And nearly every theology professor feels free to rewrite any teaching of the Magisterial, or to radically reinterpret magisterial teaching, so as to claim that their own foolish ideas and grave errors are Church teaching.

Requiring the profession of faith has not worked to rid the Church of false teachers at any level. There are still horror stories from the faithful about grave errors being taught in RCIA classes or in sermons by priests and deacons. There are still many theology faculties at supposedly Catholic universities, which have more heretics than faithful teachers.

Will the signatories to the Filial Correction be fired from their teaching positions? They should be, as they have accused the Roman Pontiff of propagating heresies, and this accusation is incompatible with the profession of faith.

Will Germain Grisez be rebuked by his peers or by anyone in authority in the Church for his public unreserved approval of direct abortions, not only when the life of the mother is at issue, but also when the pregnancy would merely be a burden to her health or her mental health? Not a chance. He doesn’t need the “nihil obstat” from the Holy See, he has the approval of the conservative Catholic subculture, which is treated by conservative Catholics as a higher form of approval.

What about teachers of grave error who have no positions at theology faculties? They do not fall under this Apostolic Constitution. So-called Catholic apologists, various bloggers and spiritual authors, as well as individuals who have developed their own fervent following — as if they were head of their own little Church — will continue unabated. Quite frankly, there are too many false teachers in the world, many of them anonymous, for the Holy See and the Bishops to correct. And many Bishops are not up to the task; their understanding of the faith is weak.

Consider Bishop Robert Barron, who teaches the grave heresy that “perhaps” we may “reasonably hope” that all human souls eventually go to Heaven. This idea is contrary to the clear and definitive teachings of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and contrary to several different dogmatic teachings by Ecumenical Councils. And yet he openly teaches this claim, without correction, and he is permitted to continue as Bishop and to teach the faithful through a book and DVD set.

Theology faculties have largely become irrelevant in present-day theological disputations. The internet is where theology is being argued; the internet is where theological propositions reach the faithful and take root, for better or worse. And the collection of persons teaching the faith online is ridiculous. Unqualified anonymous teachers present grave errors with the baseless assertion that these errors are magisterial teaching, and the faithful accept these error like dogma. And this Apostolic Constitution does nothing to address that problem.

And then you have the problem of persons like Gregory Popcak and Christopher West, who make a popular appeal, based almost entirely on rhetoric, which promotes grave sexual sins within marriage (and outside of marriage). They have developed their own following. West has set up his own “institute”, the purpose of which is to teach his own novel and sinful ideas — essentially teaching sexual ethics without the ethics — under the guise of teaching Pope Saint John Paul II’s theology of the body. These false teachers are modern-day Nicolaitans, promoting grave sexual sins by means of the false claim that these ideas came from a prominent faithful teacher — Nicholas, one of the first deacons, or Pope Saint John Paul II.

A different problem occurs in the case of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (Fr. Z.), who may or may not have a Ph.D. in theology, but who teaches a devout following of traditionalists. He has ridiculed and contemned Pope Francis so many times it would be difficult to make a count. He also treats liberal Catholics and anyone who disagrees with his point of view with utter contempt and derision. He is, in effect, the head of his own little Church. And if or when he finally decides to call the Roman Pontiff a heretic and depart from communion with the one true Church, he will certainly drag many weak souls down to Hell with him.

I see no hope for healing for the Church, wounded by very many false teachers, who have much support from the conservative Catholic subculture, even as they teach grave errors on faith, morals, and salvation. This Apostolic Constitution does not address the real problem, which is false teachers harming the faithful apart from theology faculties. A professor of theology teaching master’s degree candidates might have dozens of students, not hundreds. A popular Catholic blogger can reach tens of thousands. The well-researched theological study published by a theology professor reaches several academics, who promptly forget it. An unresearched blogpost filled with grave errors leads astray thousands. And few among the faithful seem to care if their teachers depart from Church teaching, as long as their teaching is appealing to them.

Then, when it is a question of grave sin, the Catholic laity — being lax in prayer, self-denial, and catechetical study — instantly accept any opinion, no matter how absurd, if it justifies their grave sexual sins as well as their use of contraception and abortifacients. The bias is so severe that an anonymous post, which is literally incoherent in grammar and sentence structure as well as in theology, is greatly preferred over a post, which presents a theological argument based on the clear teachings of Saints, Doctors, and the Magisterium.

Many of the most popular conservative Catholic teachers are automatically excommunicated for formal heresy or formal schism — and no one notices but God. Many of these popular teachers are not in the state of grace, have not been in the state of grace for many years, and do not want to return to the state of grace. They are so filled with pride and attachment to grave sin, that they despise anything that would deprive them of these evils, especially true repentance and the resultant indwelling of the Trinity.

And I believe that some few false teachers, not most of them, but only a few, clearly understand that they are teaching grave error, contrary to the teaching of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, and they teach it anyway, with full knowledge and full deliberation of their grave errors. And they also lie to the faithful, claiming that these errors are a correct understanding of Divine Revelation and magisterial teaching, when the know that it is not.

There is a certain nicety that prevails in disputes among some Catholic authors, which refuses to call heresy heresy, refuses to call schism schism, and treats wolves in sheep’s clothing as if they were shepherds. Then there is another attitude, among certain authors, to ignore any teaching contrary to their own point of view. The opposing view does not exist. So not only do they present their own grave errors as if they were the correct interpretation of Church teaching, they make it seem as if it is the only legitimate interpretation. Other interpretations are treated as non-existent, and authors who defend the classical understanding of magisterial teaching, they refuse to name. They don’t want their readers to consider both points of view. So while I name authors who disagree with me, and link to their articles, they do not do the same. I suspect that among certain authors, three in number, this is due to an explicit conversation and agreement among them.

On one occasion, an author wrote a nice article discussing different points of view on whether a Catholic employer can comply with the Contraception Mandate and pay for health plans that include contraception. And my name and post were mentioned and linked to, in that article. Then suddenly all mention of my position, which was essentially the same as that of the author, was erased. I surmise that someone contacted the author and informed them that: We don’t mention Ron Conte. We don’t link to his articles. He criticizes us and that is a violation of the 11th commandment, You shall not criticize fellow conservatives. Or words to that effect.

Subsequently, one author or another would write an article, and I would next post a criticism, detailing the errors I see in that article. What happens next? That same author writes a follow-up, taking account of my criticism, but without mentioning my name or article or position. That has happened multiple times with different authors. So, what exactly is going on here?

Certain persons are leaders in the conservative Catholic subculture, and they do not present to their readers a fair explanation of the current state of theology on the questions they address. They pretend that opposing views and their authors do not exist.

“Well, Mr. Conte accuses us or our friends of teaching heresy.” If you don’t want to be accused of teaching heresy, stop contradicting the infallible teachings of the Church. And if you value your friendship with another Catholic more so than you value the souls being led into heresy, then you no longer have friendship with Christ.

Then there are certain Catholics who run websites presenting Catholic blog posts and articles to the faithful. In particular, Kevin Knight at NewAdvent.org and Steve Skojec of OnePeterFive.com. They happily promote blog posts and articles advancing heresy (Kevin), or openly resisting Pope Francis (Steve), but they don’t want their readers to learn of the opposing point of view by faithful authors. Even if they don’t write heretical or schismatic material themselves, they are responsible for harming souls by the material they approve for their sites. And if they knowingly approve of heretical or schismatic material, that constitutes formal cooperation.

I have lots more to say on this subject. I’m still considering naming names, in particular the names of certain persons who teach heresy and therefore are unworthy to receive Communion under Canon 915.

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

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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8 Responses to Will Joy of Truth solve the Church’s problem with false teachers?

  1. Tom Mazanec says:

    I have a number of Catholic sites bookmarked on my computer, including the ones you mention. I have links to everything from Catholics for Choice on the left to Sedevacantist and Geocentric sites on the right. However, I take almost all of them with a grain of salt when I read them (including yours). I rely on the Catechism for the final word.

  2. Mark P. says:

    I am not a “geocentrist” in the sense that I hold the view that the sun and other planets revolve around the earth. But our scientific study of the planets and their motion around our star just describes the physical reality of the paths they take. In terms of meaning, ultimately, the physical motion of one object around another is arbitrary. Does the sun “need” the other planets for anything? No. But the earth needs the sun, and the sun provides for the earth. The sun “serves” the earth. Is either the greater creation? Both are necessary and part of God’s creation. The tiniest insect has more complexity of life than the sun; but that small life is dependent on the sun. I cannot survive without my heart, but the whole of my body is greater than the heart. The heart serves to keep my body alive, but the composite of our bodies do not exist just to support the organs of hearts.

  3. Fr Joseph says:

    Ron I was wondering if you could expound briefly on the heretical points of Christopher West and Gregory Popcak. Thank you.

  4. Bob says:

    Perhaps you might want to include half of all of Ireland’s priests in your list of false teachers?

    Half of all of the priests in Ireland belong to an organisation called the Association of Catholic Priests. They want female ordination, and the overthrow of Catholic sexual teaching on contraception, homosexual acts and other intrinsically evil acts.


    • Ron Conte says:

      A large percentage of priests and religious do reject one teaching of the Church or another. I don’t think it is half, but it is an unfortunately large number.

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