Is it possible to be a believing Catholic yet disobey the teaching authority of the church?

Questions (from a reader):

  1. An FB friend posted online: ‘I don’t have any problem’s with God, just his fan club.’  He reacted to the news about the CBCP being against the anti-discrimination bill.  I think the question is: Would you need the Church (by extension, trust, and obedience to its bishops) to be a Catholic and believe in God?


In his Rules for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church, St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote:

The Thirteenth Rule. To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What I see as white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his Spouse, there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the salvation of our souls. For it is by the same Spirit and Lord of ours who gave the ten commandments that our holy Mother Church is guided and governed.

The hierarchical church–pope, bishops, and priests–received its ministry from the apostles through a succession of laying of hands (ordination).  Jesus said to his 72 disciples whom he sent to all of Israel: “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Lk 10:16).  Such is the authority of those whom Christ sent.  An ambassador of the king represents the king and bears his word.  If you reject the word of the king’s ambassador, you reject the king.  In the same way, since the priests, bishops, and pope are the ambassadors of Christ our King, if we don’t listen to them, we also do not listen to Christ, thereby rejecting him and the one who sent Him (the Father).  Thus, it is impossible to be Catholic and not to listen to the Church.

It would be well to reread the Catechism regarding the faithful’s assent of faith to the Church’s Magisterium or Teaching Authority:

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent”422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.