QUESTION OR DISSENT?
When the Angel Gabriel informed Mary that she was to become the Mother of God, she questioned him by saying: "How can this be, since I know not man?" This was a very licit question from a young maiden to an unknown messenger. When Gabriel explained how it would take place, she replied: "I am the servant of the Lord. Be it done to me as you say." She didn't understand so she questioned. The messenger from God explained and she acquiesced, in total obedience to the Will of God. She did not dissent! (Luke, 1: 34, 35, 38)
St. Augustine had questions about the Immaculate Conception of Mary. They were based on knowledge that she had been conceived through normal sexual intercourse, and therefor original sin would have been transmitted with life at conception. He believed that the removal of original sin took place shortly after her conception, prior to her birth. He was joined in this question by many great minds such as Saints Albert the Great, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas. It must be remembered that at that time it was a belief of faith, but had not been defined as a dogma and they were therefor not in dissent.
When Pope Pius IX wrote Ubi Primum on Feb. 2, 1849 to his bishops, he asked them to inform him how their priests and faithful felt about making a dogmatic proclamation on the Immaculate Conception; they replied very positively, but it was not unanimous. When the pronouncement was made in 1854, although there had been questions, there was no dissent!
St. Cyprian had questions concerning baptism of heretics. When instructed by Pope St. Stephan (254-257) in the correct teaching of the Church, he obeyed. He did not dissent!
Early in the 4th century, Arius, a priest of Alexandria, questioned the hypostatic union (This means the union of the divine and the human natures in the one body of Jesus Christ.). He was joined in this question by many prominent theologians of the time. He was instructed by his bishop, Alexander, to stop distributing his book called Thalia but he refused to obey. He questioned, was informed, denied Church teaching and was excommunicated in 319. He was a dissenter! It was many centuries before this heresy was completely eradicated from Church circles.
These are only a very few examples of questions that have arisen about our faith in the almost 20 centuries of our Church's history. When the questions are presented by faithful Catholics and answered by the proper authority, faithful Catholics obey, for they will not disobey the Magisterium (Teaching authority of the Church).
Today we have many people who question the teachings of our Holy Mother Church. When they are informed of the proper teaching they just ignore it, acting as if they know more than the Divinely inspired Magisterium. Each year the dissenters in our Church are leading many souls astray.
A prime example of this dissent was the reaction of many bishops and priests to the encyclical: Humanae Vitae, issued on July 29, 1968 by Pope Paul VI. The encyclical forbids the use of artificial contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. It is in perfect harmony with Vatican II and Church teaching over the centuries, even in the Old Testament, yet vast numbers of bishops and priests did not accept it.
Over the decades since the publication of Humanae Vitae the moral pollution that has infested our society can be attributed to the lack of morality resulting from the high percentage of prelates who completely ignore Church teaching on sexual matters.
Pope Pius XII, in 1950 issued Humanae Generis, in which he cautioned us against distorting Catholic truth in order to accommodate societal desires. He was very wise, indeed!
Most theologians over the years since its issuance, have come to accept Humanae Vitae as a correct teaching of the Church, for they have been eye witnesses to the moral and physical decay which has been the result of dissent from its teachings. It has led to abortions, marital infidelities, divorces in record-breaking numbers, destruction of exemplary family life and the abandoning of innocent children by either one or both parents. We have a great many priests who completely ignore Humanae Vitae by saying: "follow your own conscience." They very carefully ignore the instruction of the Church that a conscience must be properly formed and informed in order to follow it without committing sin. They also ignore the fact that it is their duty to properly inform the faithful of Church teaching in matters of faith and morals.
IN MY OPINION, they are usually afraid of stepping on toes and losing some of the collection basket! In various churches that I have visited around the country I have been privileged to witness so many beautiful homilies on the value of human life from conception to natural death. They were based on the current day's readings and Gospel, as Vatican II instructed them to be. When was the last time you heard the words contraception, euthanasia, abortion, and infanticide (partial birth abortion) from your pulpit?
In Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II again spoke of the perils posed to morality by the 'contraceptive mentality.' In article 13 he wrote: "It is frequently [erroneously] asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion. The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception. When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded." He goes on further in article 13 to say: "Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected.
Along this same line of thought, we should ponder the words of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical: Veritatis Splendor, (the Splendor of Truth), where he quotes the Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy: "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time will come when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
We can now see very clearly how important assent is necessary in order to remain faithful Catholics. We are permitted to question, but when the answer we are given is not exactly what we expected, we are not permitted to dissent and still consider ourselves loyal Catholics!!!
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