The topic of wifely obedience used to be one in which conservative Catholics held the traditional view. A wife should be subordinate, obedience, and submissive to her husband. This is not the worldly version of each of those words, but the Christian version. Still, the husband is the leader of the family, and in the marriage, he is the head of his wife. Therefore, he does have a leadership role even just between the two of them, and then of course if there are children, he leads the whole family. And this inequality of roles, not of persons, would have been the case even if mankind had not fallen (as St. Thomas teaches).
This difference in roles within marriage is the clear teaching of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, of the Saints and of the Magisterium (e.g. Casti Connubii). And conservative Catholics used to maintain this teaching, in contradiction to liberals.
But as the last few decades have passed, popular conservative Catholic leaders have slowly moved the goalpost of conservatism toward the liberal end of the filed. They have gradually accepted one error after another, errors formerly found only among liberals: justifying contraception in various ways, undermining Church teaching on intrinsically evil acts, justifying grave sexual sins, and accepting one teaching of sinful secular society after another.
This process has occurred for a number of reasons. First, priests and theologians have not taken their proper roles in teaching the faithful. Corruption among theologians is rampant. Many of these theologians have been accepted by conservatives, perhaps because they reached out to the faithful in popular books, in talks, and on the internet, or perhaps because they impressed the faithful with personality and charisma, rather than with sound theology. Conservative Catholics began to choose for themselves teachers who would justify grave sin.
Theology of the body is partly to blame for this process of decay. By mentioning the term “theology of the body” and the name “John Paul II”, conservatives are able to reject the traditional teaching of the Church, without any theological argument. The true theology of the body of Pope Saint John Paul II is one theological and philosophical argument after another. The false version, promoted by every ignorant Catholic who was willing to abandon truth in order to obtain fame, merely asserts one error after another. The only argument is the phrase “theology of the body” and the name of the holy Pope. In this way, they are like the Nicolaitans, who asserted grave errors on sexual ethics by using the name of one of the first deacons, Nicolas.
Theology of the body should teach the basic principles of ethics, should teach sexual ethics, and should defend the teaching of the Church on wifely submission and many other related topics of marriage and family. But it does not. Rather, it has become a vehicle to transport grave errors from sinful secular society into the conservative wing of the Church.
Gradually, the conservative teachers with the most prominence became those with the least faithfulness, but the most personal appeal. And they have been leading the faithful astray for many years. Then Pope Francis was elected. Before his election, conservative Catholics had already usurped the Magisterium, believing the majority opinion within the conservative Catholic subculture, rather than Church teaching. And so, when a liberal Pope was elected, they quickly became his opposition. Why should they obey him, or learn from him, when they are a magisterium unto themselves?
But God is putting conservative Catholics to the test, to see if they really are as faithful as they claim. They are not. They have no love for truth. They have chosen for themselves teachers of grave error. They have promoted a distorted version of Catholicism via the internet. They do not even bother presenting a theological argument for any of their positions. Instead, they simply explain what the supposedly correct point of view is, and their listeners accept it without regard for Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium.
Scripture itself has been abandoned by conservatives. They explain away or ignore whatever they dislike in the Bible. They no longer accept the dogma of total inspiration and total inerrancy. They have become a Bible unto themselves.
A case in point is found in a recent post by Dr. Ed Peters — one of very many examples of abandoning Church teaching and substituting one’s own ideas. There, he rejects the dogma of direct and immediate primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff over each and all the faithful. He claims that the Pope can teach, by his own authority, infallibly — but not non-infallibly. Supposedly, when the Pope wishes to teach a non-infallible teaching, he is unable unless the Bishops also teach the same idea. Since Popes usually do not teach infallibly, this permits Peters to reject any teaching of any Pope he dislikes, with few exceptions. It is an utter rebellion against papal authority. And his article on the subject is a public declaration of heresy and schism.
What happened next? Nothing. Robert Fastiggi objected to Peters’ position. So did I. I could not find anyone else who even noticed this extreme heresy and this public schismatic act. Conservative Catholics like Peters, since he hits conservative talking points, from time to time, in his blog. And that is all they care about. “Tell us what we want to hear, and we will pretend you are holy, wise, and faithful.” That is their attitude.
Jimmy Akin is another example of this problem. Over the years, he has taught abject heresy on transubstantiation, confessing in kind and number, salvation, intrinsically evil acts, contraception, baptism, along with many lesser errors. His writings in Catholicism are highly incompetent. He has nothing more than a high school diploma and some time in a Protestant seminary. But he entertains, and he hits the conservative talking points.
And there are other examples, of course. Any Catholic who tells conservatives what they wish to hear quickly rises to prominence. And by this process of sinful conservatives choosing unfaithful teachers, they have gradually rejected dogma, doctrine, and sound theology.
It has reached the point where popular conservative Catholic leaders can openly teach heresy and openly commit schism, with no backlash from their conservative readers and listeners. They can’t distinguish heresy from doctrine, or they don’t care to distinguish the one from the other.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian