Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours — and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.”
C.S. Lewis The Screwtape letters VII
One of the oldest teachings of the church is the danger of the sin of pride. It is listed as the first of the deadly sins. It a sin that damned Angels and regularly damns men.
The irony and the danger of this sin is the clever ways that the Devil uses it to strike. One of the most clever cards played is using the difference between a wrong opinion (completely not sinful) and a wrong action (very very sinful).
There are plenty of faithful catholics, who attend mass, who receive the sacraments who might, on a personal level, disagree with a particular doctrine or teaching of the church.
A great example of this came from the late Synod on the family where several Cardinals expressed their opinion that the church should consider revising the rules concerning how the church deals with divorced & remarried catholics.
By its nature a synod or a council is a place of debate and man being a thinking and reasoning creature will naturally analyze situations and come to conclusions based on experience, thus while I disagree with Cardinal Kasper’s opinion on the subject I presume that he was advancing this opinion from pure motives:
It could very well be that Cardinal Kasper and those like him truly believe relaxing the rules for communion on divorced and/or gay couples will win souls for Christ, it may be they consider such moves reforms in the best tradition of the mercy of Christ, while I strongly disagree with this foolishness I presume that’s a question of error rather than sin.
Now as long as this is expressed as part of the synod debate or given as a private personal opinion that opinion is not in itself sinful or even written as an argument that’s not a problem and that’s one of the two traps for the faithful,
In the example above PolBECath was quite correct that the Cardinal was lying concerning a recorded statement. (If you don’t know the story you need to read this this and this). However to call him a “heretic” is the trap that is being laid for us who strongly disagree with the Cardinal’s opinion
A “Heretic” is defined at Meriam Webster.com as:
a dissenter from established religious dogma; especially : a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church who disavows a revealed truth
While Cardinal Kaspar’s actions concerning the Pentin matter were objectively sinful, his opinions concerning how do deal with divorced Catholics, expressed as such, does not and will not cross over to heresy until and unless he
1. Disavows or defies the current teaching/doctrines of the church
2. Uses his authority as a prince of the church to teach and encourage others to defy the current doctrine of the church.
3. Proclaims as a prince of the church that the doctrine and teaching of the church is in error.
As long as he doesn’t cross that line not only is he not a “heretic” his opinion doesn’t even constitute a sin and thus judging him a “heretic” would be committing both the sin of calumny, the sin of “judging” and the sin of pride.
Now let’s say he crosses the line, let’s say that the church decides, as it is likely to do, to maintain the current rules concerning communion for divorced catholics following the wise advice of the five Cardinals. If and when this happens if Cardinal Kaspar or Cardinal Reinhard Marx or others choose to defy said teaching, they would at that point, in fact be committing the sin of heresy.
And if they did so and did not choose to repent then they would be modern versions of Luther and Henry VIII substituting their judgement for that of the Holy Spirit and the church it guides, no different that a Georgia Walker in Kansas or so-called “Bishop” Bridget Mary Meehan.
The consequences of substituting your judgement for the church’s judgement are dire. One of my biggest regrets was accepting advice directly contrary to the teaching of the church from a priest who gave it to me went to him with a problem. You not only sin, you lead others into the same swamp.
But even if they do this and earn the critique or even excommunication from the church that doesn’t mean the Devil will not be setting the trap of pride for those who do not copy their errors as Christ himself warned us:
He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Remember these sins and errors are no different than any other, completely forgivable by sacramental confession. Even one who is excommunicated can return to full communion with Rome (Fr. Leonard Feeney being an excellent example of this.) The trick is, rather patting oneself on the back is to approach God with the humility of the sinners we all are.
Set as your goal to speak, write, live and pray toward the goal of salvation for ourselves and others. In doing so we will be avoiding the Prideful traps set for us and work for the day, where as St. Pope John Paul II wrote That They May Be One.