The Roman Pontiff has the authority to teach and to guide the faithful directly and immediately, not only through intermediaries. When the Pope teaches, we are absolutely required to believe what he teaches; when the Pope orders, we are absolutely required to obey what he decides. We are not able to say, in the face of a papal teaching or decision on discipline, that we will obey only our local Bishop or priest, in what he says the teaching means or the order requires. It is heresy to say that the faithful do not have an absolute obligation to accept the decisions under both keys, teachings and disciplines, from the Roman Pontiffs, the Ecumenical Councils, and the body of Bishops led by the Pope. It is heresy to propose that the faithful may, if they wished instead, simply believe and obey whatever their favorite individual Bishop, priest, theologian, or subculture interprets those decisions on doctrine and discipline to mean.
This is the heresy of “secondary sources only”. The term comes from a requirement in Wikipedia, which some interpret to mean that articles on Catholicism cannot cite the teachings of the Church directly as proof of what the Church teaches, but instead can only cite what various theologians explain those teachings as meaning. Whether or not this is a good idea for an online encyclopedia is not at issue. The problem occurs when the faithful adopt a similar point of view, and refuse to accept what the Church directly teaches and orders, preferring instead to accept only what a subculture, such as traditionalism, tells them are the teachings and disciplines of the Church. This allows persons, who lack the charisms given only to the Roman Pontiffs as individuals and to the Bishops as a body, to usurp the Keys of Peter. This allows heretical groups to rise up within the Church, built around sets of theologians, priests, and speakers/authors, each claiming to be orthodox based on those intermediaries between them and the true Shepherds of the Church.
The faithful are required to learn the faith not only through clergy and theologians and other teachers, but always first and foremost from the Magisterium directly, and from Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture both directly and through the Magisterium. It is a grave heresy to substitute whatever the majority opinion of theologians may be for what Tradition, Scripture, and the living Magisterium actually decide.
For example, the First Vatican Council teaches that the Apostolic See is without blemish, and that each Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith. This teaching must be accepted by the faithful just as the Council presents the teaching. We are not permitted, under pain of heresy, to look instead to a subset of theologians (whose opinions we prefer) so as to fend off or explain away this teaching.
Those who wish to accuse Pope Francis of failing in faith or of sullying the See of Peter sometimes reference various theologians who, subsequent to Vatican I, rejected the above teaching. That is unfaithfulness to Christ. When did Jesus say that the Church was founded on theologians or the majority opinion of some subculture (liberal, conservative, or other) as upon a Rock? He did not. We are not to substitute the opinions of anyone for the direct teachings and decisions of the Pope alone or the Holy See or the body of Bishops led by the Pope. A theologian or priest might help you to understand what the Magisterium is teaching. But be careful not to fall into the error of believing what they say in direct contradiction to the Popes, Councils, or body of Bishops led by the Pope. You have an obligation to try to understand what the Magisterium is teaching directly from the Magisterium, not only through intermediaries.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.