Bad dissent/good dissent

A traditionalist rant on why it’s OK to denounce heresy and also find fault with the Pope, Vatican II and what not else:

Today people lump all disputes with superiors together and call them “dissent.” That’s a mistake because it confuses questions of truth and obedience to rightful authority with the question of whether one gets along with the higher-ups. It turns everything into a trial of political strength and will. People today don’t like language like “error” that clearly makes truth the final standard, because they find it excluding and oppressive. The alternative to truth as a standard, though, is force. Why is that better?

So truth should be the standard, and if something is erroneous or heretical it should be called that. Vocal concern about heresy is thought to be a manifestation of fear and lack of trust in God and our fellow believers. “Heresy hunting” is considered antisocial and destructive. If that’s true, though, how come it’s religious communities with definite dogmas and disciplines that have endured and changed lives? The blurring of dogma and its replacement by “expertise” that the Church has seen since Vatican II has served the career interests of mid-level Church functionaries, because it has discredited the authority of their hierarchical superiors and the habits of ordinary believers, and so put them in the driver’s seat. Who else has it benefitted?

Treating loyalty to the Pope and hierarchy as the essence of loyal Catholicism also confuses the issue of truth. Loyal Catholicism is loyalty to truth, not simply a matter of what one’s superiors have been saying recently. Papal and episcopal pronouncements have varying degrees of authority. Not all of them bind equally, some don’t bind at all, and now as always our duty is to follow our informed conscience. Objecting to the liturgical innovations of Paul VI or to the views of John Paul II on the EU or for that matter on married priests or even capital punishment is not the same as rejecting their views on contraception, which are simply those the Church has had always and everywhere.

Something similar might be said about ecumenical councils. The Vatican II fathers may or may not have been prudent in deciding to reform the liturgy and take a broader view of ecumenism. Either way, they had authority to make pastoral decisions and we should be slow to find fault with them. Nonetheless, we’re not obligated to believe such decisions were made or carried out correctly, and in a proper case—for example, if the decisions appear to have led to a series of catastrophes that our pastors seem reluctant to recognize and deal with—we may be bound in conscience to make known our views on the subject.


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