The scandal of Catholic professions of faith

Last night I read a Washington Post story that gave me reason to revisit my Lutheran confirmation rite. After a reading from the Gospel of Matthew, the catechumen is then directed to answer some very serious questions about what he or she believes. The structure of the rite is that as the pastor asks the questions “Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty” and “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord?” and so and so forth, the response is to quote from the Apostles’ Creed, one of the earliest confessions of Christian faith. The final five questions are:

Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God?

Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?

Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?

Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?

Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?

Did you catch those last two questions? We say we intend to suffer even death rather than fall away from our confession of faith.

So it’s funny (or sad) that I was almost scared to mention these rites since they are so much more intense than what the Arlington Diocese is taking heat for in the story “Arlington Diocese parishioners question need for fidelity oath.”

Now, by the use of the plural “parishioners,” don’t get the idea that it’s more people than the number of nuns on that partisan bus tour that got the gushy coverage from the Post last week. It’s apparently not:

Kathleen Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply woven through her. So when her Arlington parish asked for volunteers last summer to teach Sunday school, she felt called by the Holy Spirit to say yes.

A year later, the 52-year-old computer scientist feels the same spirit calling her to say no.

Last month, Riley joined at least four other Sunday school teachers and resigned from her post at St. Ann’s parish after a letter arrived at her home requiring her — and all teachers in the Arlington Catholic Diocese — to submit “of will and intellect” to all of the teachings of church leaders.

Now, one thing I really wanted to know from this story was the precise wording of this letter. My understanding of the particular Catholic view of the authority of their church leaders is such that I’m not surprised they’d ask their doctrinal teachers to submit to it. I don’t hold to that understanding of church authority, which is why I’m Lutheran and not Catholic. But I could imagine a letter that was either totally expected for any Catholic or somewhat unexpected. I just needed more precise details.

Instead of more details, though, we get the following direct quotes from the big bad document:

“of will and intellect”

“profession of faith”

“believe everything”

And that’s it! It’s possible the fidelity oath also includes the line ““profess our faith in the risen Lord.” but I think that is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI or from a diocesan spokesman. I wasn’t quite sure. Actually, I think “profession of faith” might be the title of the document, rather than a line from it.

Now, the reporter does tell us, as in the excerpt above, that the oath is to submit to “all of the teachings of church leaders” but I’m not entirely sure what that means. I can’t imagine a better time to just link to the entire letter. Or, if that’s not possible for some reason, we really need more than nine words (six if we’re not counting prepositions and conjunctions). And “of will and intellect” and “believe everything” might be all we have from the body of the oath.

None of those quotes give us the information we need to be independent judges of the document, do they? We basically have to accept the summaries provided by the reporter. And all reporting and writing includes summarizing, but this strikes me as a bit much.

The Arlington Diocese, which includes nearly a half-million Catholics across northern and eastern Virginia, is one of a small but growing number that are starting to demand fidelity oaths.

Ah, the old “small but growing number” thing. I always wonder, when I come across that phrase: What does that mean? Anyway, the phrase “demand fidelity oaths” might be more comfortable in a Dan Brown novel than an impartial journalism piece, but we learn that in Baker, Ore., Catholics are expected to agree that abortion is a sin and personal disagreement is not an option. In Oakland, Calif., some church leaders are expected to say they “affirm and believe” official church teaching on marriage, and hell and, gasp, chastity.

The reporter summarizes for us that the Arlington folks are supposed to commit not, as we were told in the lede, to “all of the teachings of church leaders” but to “‘believe everything’ the bishops characterize as divinely revealed.” These two things are different, another reason why the actual text would be helpful. We’re told that Arlington’s top doctrine official says it includes religious freedom, although he’s not quoted saying as much.

After we get through the first nine paragraphs, we hear from the Diocese and someone who supports the letters. So if you make it down that far into the story, you get a different perspective:

“The church is foremost a communion, not a building,” said the Rev. Paul deLadurantaye, Arlington’s head of education and liturgy. “And the church’s teaching is meant to be a service, not to coerce or oppress. … This is just to say the church is a reliable guide, more reliable in these matters than what I read elsewhere. There’s something more transcendent than just my own judgment.”

Diocesan spokesman Michael Donohue said the letter was sent to parishes this spring in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s direction that churches worldwide celebrate this year’s 50th anniversary of the start of Vatican II in various ways, including those that “profess our faith in the risen Lord.”

The reporter asks Donohue, who said it was uncontroversial, about polls showing Catholics use contraception. He says he would find it hard to believe that anyone who opposed church teaching on the matter would want to teach church teaching on the matter. Then we get this perspective from the reporter:

But for some, particularly more liberal Catholics, the oaths are an alarming effort to stamp out debate in the church at a time when it is bleeding members and clergy in the West. They note that church leaders’ views have changed over the centuries on various subjects, including contraception.

An alarming effort! To stamp out debate! At a time when the church is bleeding members! Yikes. And, actually, Roman Catholic church leaders’ views haven’t really changed over the years on contraception. I mean, has that church ever officially supported contraception? It’s been a pretty consistent public teaching since the first century. If you’re going to assert a claim such as that, you need to back it up. Or don’t use the word “note” to describe a particular viewpoint that is not settled, at the very, very least.

The “some” in question is, apparently, Riley, again.  Only one other person opposed to the statement of faith is quoted (although I notice a picture accompanying the story does feature one of the other four people). I did appreciate this quote from Riley, which really explains her motivation:

“I’m just shocked, I can’t believe they’re asking me to sign this,” said Riley, who said she may keep her own children out of the parish education program in the fall. “The bishops are human, and sometimes their judgment is not God’s judgment. We always have to be vigilant about that. The Holy Spirit gives us the responsibility to look into our own consciences.”

Anyway, we’re then told, passively, that St. Ann’s “is considered a community that deliberately doesn’t focus on such hot-button issues as abortion and same-sex relationships.” I’ve actually visited this church, as one of my best friends attends there. She attends because she lives within walking distance. She finds it almost unbearably “wishy-washy” (as she puts it) and won’t send her children to the parish school there for related issues. Maybe I should have her gather three friends and phone up the Washington Post!

The other disgruntled parishioner we hear from in the story also provides great quotes explaining her motivation. But they only made me wish I could read the actual document all the more. Rosemarie Zagarri is quoted describing the hot-button-avoiding church as an “oasis of humanity” and:

Zagarri said the oath was a “slap in the face” to Catholics who have remained active and close to the church despite controversies.

“Although I fully understand the authoritative role of the Catholic hierarchy in defining the teachings of the faith, in my view only a person who is willing to abandon her own reason and judgment, or who is willing to go against the dictates of her own conscience, can agree to sign such a document,” she wrote to Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde.

“This is not in the spirit of what people go to a Catholic church for, which is community and a loving, welcoming environment. It’s exclusionary, a suppression of dissent, let’s all line up and be the army of God,” Zagarri said in an interview for this article.

We get a quote from a woman who teaches elsewhere in the Arlington Diocese. She supports the oath and says that if others are struggling with something the bishops have said, that’s fine, but that you shouldn’t be teaching others.

The article ends by drawing a parallel between the the Arlington Diocese’s oath and bishops who obeyed Nazis during World War II.

Image of rosary via Shutterstock.

Print Friendly

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    The article ends by drawing a parallel between the the Arlington Diocese’s oath and bishops who obeyed Nazis during World War II.

    Of course that’s how it ends! How else is an article which quotes people who claim they’re being asked to give up their freedom to think and act for themselves supposed to end?!? “Brangelina! Obama! God! Exclamation points!” Bishops! Nazis! Oaths! Exclamation points!

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    On another point, Mollie, I can assure you that a Catholic profession of faith does not include the phrase, “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Every year at Easter we renew the profession of faith from our baptism and that kind of dire statement is not included in it. I took an oath of fidelity when I was the editor of The Catholic Times in the Diocese of La Crosse under then-Bishop Raymond Burke and there was no similar statement in it. So I can tell you that the Diocese of Arlington wasn’t going to extract such a thing from religious education teachers.

    Yes, it’s funny isn’t it how the MSM just can’t ever seem to get around to either reading or telling their audience what these official texts actually say. If they were to do that, I suppose, they would only be helping to disseminate that awful, horrible thing — religious truth.

  • Julia

    Nuzzi said he keeps a photo on his desk from the 1940s that shows all the German bishops in their garb, doing the Nazi salute.

    I would really like to see this photo of ALL the German Catholic bishops doing a Nazi salute.

  • http://blog.archny.org/steppingout/ Ed Mechmann

    The profession of faith in question is probably this, which is required of all seminary professors, pastors, and certain curial officials. It’s a very mild profession — essentially the Apostle’s Creed, plus the teachings of the Church.

    All the teachers are being asked is if they adhere to what the Church has proposed for belief by Catholics. If they’re Catholic religion teachers, shouldn’t that be easy?

  • Kristen

    The main change here is that for many decades, pastors have NOT asked teachers to confirm that they intend to teach the specific doctrines of the Church.

    The bishops turned a blind eye to it, seeing it as passive disobedience. So, now we have a whole generation of adults who would be hard pressed to explain WHY the Church teaches certain doctrines, but are quick to exclaim that they themselves of course do not believe what the church teaches. But of COURSE they are Catholic.

  • Jon in the Nati

    I would really like to see this photo of ALL the German Catholic bishops doing a Nazi salute.

    While I attach -zero- significance to the existence of these photos, there are pictures that show some bishops and priests making the Deutschergruss. There is also an oft-circulated picture of a young Fr. Ratzinger blessing someone, which is often cropped to make it appear as though he is making the same gesture.

    Whether there are any pictures of “all the German Catholic bishops” doing the same, I haven’t the foggiest idea and I don’t much care.

    So yes, Catholics, Germans, Nazis, Hitler, Pius XII, Holocaust, loyalty oaths, cult of personality, paranoia, suppression of dissent, inquisition, etc, etc.

  • Tim

    Somehow I doubt the Catholic profession of faith requires that Catholics “confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church” as the author claims.

    The author apparently did not try too hard to research the subject. Hard to give credibility to the rest of the article, in my opinion.

  • Spencerian

    The article points out the modern challenges involving any faith, those who consider themselves authorized to teach, change or not change teachings, and the confusion between free will and individualism. That is–if the writer deigned to convey “the authority” in an accurate light.

    The article posits that defining your own interpretation of church instruction is a good thing. That’s not to be confused with questioning a teaching but supporting it as you discern it’s meaning. Why doesn’t the article take the position that the authority in question is RIGHT and then source data that supports the authority?

    After all, when a police officer tells a typical reporter of an arrest, the reporter does honor the authority of the officer and thus the presumption of truth in matters of criminal law. Are Catholic teachings and canon law so hard to understand as civil law? Why are religious authorities considered oppressive and not as competent than a lone person that has no authority in that area?

  • Jon in the Nati

    Somehow I doubt the Catholic profession of faith requires that Catholics “confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church” as the author claims.

    The author apparently did not try too hard to research the subject.

    Mollie is a Missouri Synod Lutheran, and not at all shy about it. She was comparing the stringency of the profession of faith in her church to the alleged ‘fidelity oaths’ now apparently required of some Catholics.

    You apparently did not try to hard to read the article.

  • Martha

    I look forward to the day when volunteer teachers of first aid courses will be able to instruct their pupils that the Western system of anatomy is incorrect, or when lifeguards will not be required to be able to swim, or a member of the Flat Earth Society is not debarred from being a geography teacher in our schools.

    Why, oh wny, do these various institutions insist on loyalty oaths and professions of adherence to their tenets? Why stifle the free and democratic expression of belief?

  • Martha

    God bless Google, because the Diocese of Arlington webpage had nothing about any oath, but it seems the Sinister Right-Wing Conspiracy Groups* are on the case already. The text of the nefarious, infamous, fidelity/loyalty oath imposed by the jackbooted hordes of the bishop’s gauleiters is as follows:

    “I, _________, with firm faith believe and profess each and every thing that is contained in the Symbol of Faith, namely:

    I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

    I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

    Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.”

    So you have to profess the Creed and accede to the Magisterium. Oh, the humanity! And just to clear things up a bit; the article mentioned the HHS mandate. The bishops, when speaking of the imposition of the mandate, are exercising the ordinary (non-infallible) magisterium when they exhort Catholics to resistance and protest against a political action. On the other hand, they are exercising the infallible sacred magisterium (the ordinary and universal magisterium) when they teach that Catholics may not use artificial contraception.

    So our Sunday School teachers/cathecists in Arlington or elsewhere are not being bound under oath never to vote Democrat or belong to that party but they are required not to teach that the use of contraception is acceptable as a free exercise of conscience (without seeking advice or information from a priest or qualified spiritual authority as to extraordinary circumstances) – in short, not to teach doctrine contrary to the doctrine of the Church.

    (*Not intended to be serious description of entity or entities on this site.)

  • Chris Jones

    Sheesh.

    If you want to teach religion in the Catholic Church, teach the Catholic religion. If you want to teach your own religion, start your own church. It’s a free country.

    But it’s not a “free Church” and was never intended to be. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    MARTHA:

    I found a different text, located on a parish website in the Arlington Diocese.

    It is included in a follow-up post I just put up:

    http://www.getreligion.org/2012/07/modern-loyalty-oaths-vs-all-those-ancient-doctrines/

  • ee

    The text of the full letters from the Bishop and Dr. Zagarri’s response are in fact linked in the third paragraph of the article.

  • christopher

    In case you wanted to know, here is the official Vatican oath
    on fidelity that the pope asked all bishops to require be signed and agreed to by anyone who is working in a capacity where they may be considered to be speaking for the church.

    http://www.doctrinafidei.va/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_1998_professio-fidei_en.html

    I suspect this is most likely the document in question…

  • http://authenticbioethics.blogspot.com AuthenticBioethics

    The text that Martha supplies is the Oath of Fidelity taken by theologians and teachers of religion at Catholic colleges and universities that abide by Canon Law, regarding the Mandatum. Which is to say, a small minority of them: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/16007/ There are well over 200 “Catholic” colleges and universities in the US. I worked at one of them for a while, and Martha’s text is what I remember the teachers of theology and philosophy taking. Non-Catholic faculty (that is of non-theology courses) promised not to contradict the authority of the Pope and the Magisterium but were not required themselves to adhere to Catholic teaching.

    If you can’t make that sort of oath as a Catholic and as a teacher in a Catholic institution, you really do not belong as a teacher in a Catholic institution. Look, if it were an organization devoted to training people to excel in the Democrat party, would they not want to weed out, say, pro-lifers? Is it oppressive?

    Honestly, the one thing about the article that I consider good news is that teachers like the heroine of the story have decided to move on and move out of their positions in Catholic education. They can believe what they want, and teach what they want, but on their own time — and let’s see if anyone is willing to pay them for it.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    By the way, I’m not sure how it works in the printed issue but online, there is now an interactive media area showing the actual letter.

    If you’re interested, you should check it out.

  • Erin

    Catholic religion teacher here (RCIA, religious ed for adult converts), in the neighboring Archdiocese of Washington. We don’t have to make a profession of faith per se, but we have to be practicing Catholics and active members of our parish, and it’s absolutely understood that our role is to teach what the Church teaches, not what our personal opinion is. I can’t see how one could possibly be qualified to (or, frankly, desire to) teach Catholic religious ed without understanding that the Church is the institution created by God to bring Truth to the world.

    At any rate, it’s one heck of a Catholic educator who, upon having a complaint about the way things are done in her diocese, turns to the press instead of her bishop. It’s a shame that the WaPo couldn’t be bothered to interview other Catholic educators, because most of us here in DC and, I suspect, in Arlington too would be more than happy to profess our faith to a reporter.

    Mollie, as an aside, when adults who were baptized in other Christian denominations or Churches join the Catholic church, they renew their baptismal vows (usually in the Apostles Creed formula) and add the following profession of faith: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

    Sorry if this posts twice but it disappeared the first time.

  • Erin

    Also, I think “put her at odds with the leaders of her church” (and shouldn’t that be Church?) is a nice euphemism for “put herself out of communion with the Church”.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Here’s a whole page of pictures proving the (wicked) Catholic Church to be a “Nazi cult”.

    http://alamoministries.com/content/english/Antichrist/nazigallery/photogallery.html

    Ok, I read the article, but most of the good bads have been noted in the previous comments. However, there are still a couple of bads to mention:

    If you want to complain about the “bleeding” of members, you might want to look at the churches that hold the fort on the left side of the aisle. Is it true the Episcopal Church is losing 2-3% membership a year? It might also help to look – honestly – at what makes churches grow (hint: doctrinal clarity is a big factor).

    The article consistently confuses the wisdom, or lack of wisdom, of bishops and priests with the teaching authority of the Church. Which is why all the business about German clergy collaborating with the Nazi regime is such garbage. Of course some clergy collaborated although I do wonder if saluting the American flag is a sign of collaboration with unjust wars and western materialism. Well, never mind that. It was fun to see a mainstream source fall to Godwin’s Law.

    The Church, not merely her present leadership, stands against the murder of unborn children. As tmatt notes in the other post, this won’t be changing.

    And for a freebie, some reporter somewhere might want to read the Concordat between Hitler and the Vatican. It’s short and interesting, but more useful for anti-Catholic polemics if you haven’t actually read it.

  • MJBubba

    As a Missouri-Synod Lutheran, I appreciate clarity. It is easy to find and know what the Roman Catholic Magisterium teaches. Likewise my LCMS.
    I find that there are plenty of denominations where doctrinal positions are unclear or are flexible to an astounding extent. It appears that only the latter position towards matters of doctrine is acceptable to the Washington Post.

  • Fr. John W. Morris

    What is wrong with the Catholic Church expecting its Christian education teachers to teach what the Catholic Church believes?
    I expect the Sunday School teachers in my parish to teach what the Orthodox Church believes. Religious freedom includes the right of a religious organization to maintain the integrity of its doctrine.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • DearbornGuy

    Heavens! We expect Catholic Sunday school teachers to teach Catholicism? What’s next? Expecting our Catholic grade school and high school teachers to teach the Faith as well? What is this world coming to? Must have been another slow day in DC for the Post to find a couple of horrified Sunday school teachers.

  • Thinkling

    Wow.

    This is simple truth-in-advertising. There is no story -here- beyond a few folks indulging to obtain their 15 minutes of fame, being celebritesquely provocative.

    A true in-depth story might have shown how bad Catholic catechetical education has been in the past generation or so, and how there is a case to be made this should have been done all along. Not unlike the CDF/LCWR stories where some folks’ surprise took the form of finally (as opposed to the more reported the nerve).

    Mollie, in addition to the Apostles’ Creed, Catholics recognize (profess every Mass, in fact) the Nicene Creed, Martha #11′s large quoted paragraph is an older rendition of it. Near the end one professes I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church (emph mine). The oaths being requested that I have read so far all simply follow logically from assent to that line of the Creed, in particular what apostolic means. Failure to take the oaths can thus only reflect either internal inconsistency (they do not assent to all of the Nicene Creed, not a good thing if you are a Catholic BTW), or an embarrassment to bear witness to their faith in this way.

  • http://returntorome.com Francis Beckwith

    Odd, I take away an entirely different lesson from the photo on Fr. Nuzi’s desk: the Church and its members should be careful not to allow their mission to be compromised by secular philosophies antithetical to the Church. Ironically, that is precisely what the “Arlington-five” have done, they have allowed contemporary understandings of theology–personal, private, preference driven, and non-cognitive–to drive their understanding of their faith. This is not intellectual freedom; it is solitary confinement in a egopapist prison.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    I have add something. Having been raised Baptist and lived most of my life in Baptist Central (north Texas), “profession of faith” has a pretty specific meaning that you don’t usually associate with Catholics.
    :-)

  • Bill Hocter

    “Profession of faith” or roughly synonymous translations of the term appears to have arisen at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), perhaps earlier. At any rate, it appears to predate both the Reformation and the great State of Texas.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed

  • Kim Rodgers

    The issue is about conscience.
    In the Roman Catholic Church conscience is paramount.
    They are asking teachers to submit their will, intellect and sometimes their conscience.
    In the fidelity oath from Baker Oregon: “I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience in this matter.”

    This is contrary to what Pope Benedict stated before becoming a cardinal.

    He stated:

    “OVER the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed BEFORE ALL ELSE, even if necessary AGAINST the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism”.
    Joseph Ratzinger, 1967
    (in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II )

    I do not fault Molly because she is LCMS although I find it ironical that she defends the conservative magisterium of the Catholic church when they, and those conservative catholics who have responded here, know very well that the Catholic church does not consider the LCMS to be a true and Apostolic church but a “deficient” church.
    Also, I guess those conservative catholics here do not know their religion very well either since conscience is paramount, even over the magisterium.

  • JM

    Kim R:

    See Newman’s example and teaching on conscience. He would side with the Diocese, as would Benedict, despite your quotation. It is not a simple teaching, but it is a clear one. If you take the time to sort it out. It would be nice if the Bishops would do this too.

  • Thinkling

    JM, indeed. There is no contradiction with Ratzinger’s statement, because there are different types of “ecclesiastical authority”, with different scopes of authority.

    I’ll eat my hat if WaPo ever accurately depicts those differences in an ostensible news piece.

  • Kim Rodgers

    Ratziner is clear, conscience is “obeyed before all else”… and is beyond the claim of the “official
    Church”".
    Newman held that sensus fidelum (of the laity) was considered infallible even when confronted with Church teaching. The Arian controversy was one such example when the laity responded in force against the Church when it’s leaders were accepting of Arianism.

  • macker

    The bishop of Baker,OR has every right to assure himself that none of his religious teachers will be teaching from a personal perspective at odds with his church’s body of faith.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Kim, I presume you’re including me in that group of “conservative catholics here [who] do not know their religion very well either since conscience is paramount, even over the magisterium.” I have a bachelor’s in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and have been writing and studying about the Catholic faith ever since graduation in 1984. I think I know my faith pretty well.

    What then-Father Ratzinger wrote back in 1967 was his personal opinion at the time. It has no teaching authority for anyone, even though that same man is now the Pope. What does have teaching authority is the Catechism of the Catholic Church which says, “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.”

    In other words, Bishop Vasa telling people they can’t get their formation on the Catholic faith from places other than the Catholic Church isn’t telling them to violate their consciences. It’s telling them to form their consciences correctly.