A Syllabus of Internet Theology Errors

The Digital Age is a period of both gain and loss. In just a few short years, the world has become both as small as one’s hometown and many times more hostile and strange. What is most concerning is not the possibility that one might accumulate information to the detriment of wisdom but that, through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, and the like, almost anyone is capable of projecting their opinions to the masses, regardless of whether their data is accurate or their opinion well-formed and properly nuanced. As Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Jared Cohen, the founder and director of Google Ideas, wrote in their book The New Digital Age, “We have only begun to encounter the realities of a connected world: the good, the bad and the worrisome.”[1]

The City of God, says Augustine, is “interwoven and intermixed” with the City of Man here on earth.[2] Thus, naturally, the Church is herself a child of every age in the sense that she, as a people, is simultaneously both an active agent and passive recipient of the culture, technology, and social trends of the wider society in which she exists.

In light of our digital era it should come as no surprise that the Catholic Church in America is now dealing with the rise of social media platforms which serve as a pulpit from which Catholic priests and laity can reach a wider population. Although there is nothing novel about some members of the Church (typically clergy) speaking publicly and disseminating widely their thoughts and opinions about this or that theological topic or the current state of ecclesial affairs, what is new is the level to which this has been ratcheted up in the last five years.

Like any cultural phenomenon that is not objectively immoral, there is nothing per se problematic with the wide-ranging and rapid rise of public theological commentators. In and of itself, it can be and has been a blessing for the Church when done well. This would, of course, entail that their work is accomplished in a spirit of faith, charity, and humility, with intellectual honesty and appropriately nuanced perspectives, and in communion with the Church and her Magisterium, which is herself subservient to the Word of God.

There are certainly many exemplars of such an undertaking, but in recent years, and especially during the pandemic, there has been a considerable increase in the number of Catholic voices in the digital square who have adopted a hermeneutic of skepticism and cynicism with respect to the Second Vatican Council and the postconciliar papacies. Their opinions and judgments are often lacking in requisite nuance and balance, and they often cast their public personas as the trusted authority on all things Catholic.

In light of these circumstances, it is timely to reflect anew on not only the nature of theology and the vocation of the theologian in general but also to offer some constructive ideas on how one should publicly teach the faith and the proclaim the Gospel in the Digital Age, since this is undoubtedly a point of contention in our present American Catholic moment.

The Nature of Catholic Theology

While the Catholic Church professes that the basic content of the faith has been known, believed, and lived since the days of Christ and the Apostles, the history of Catholicism witnesses to the fact that the finer details, the explicit formulation and articulation, the development of public rites, the deeper meaning of revelation, and its various implications have not always had ready-made, divinely revealed answers and forms. This is clearly the case when one considers the fact that the Bible is not an instruction manual with detailed answers to every possible question; that divine revelation issues forth from the inner life of God; that his plan for salvation is gratuitous and in no way discernible apart from his free decision; and that this divine revelation enters into the world of mankind, which is defined by its historicity, development, and human limitations.

For these reasons and more, Christ wisely instituted a living, divinely guaranteed teaching authority in the Church, the Magisterium, which safeguards, develops, and proclaims the Word of God communicated to his chosen people of the Old Testament and the Church of the New Testament. This Magisterium, which consists of the successor of Peter and those bishops who are in communion with him, is intrinsic to the nature of the Church and is given the prerogative of authoritatively teaching the whole of the Church so that the deposit of faith might not only be preserved from error but also be fructified and proclaimed to the world.

While the Magisterium consists of both the pope and the bishops, it is the pope who stands at the center as the chief shepherd and the “servant of the servants of God.” The pope occupies the See of St. Peter, which “always remains unblemished by any error,” and, as Vatican I asserts in,

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine.[3]

Since theology is, by its nature, “faith seeking understanding” and this objective faith is divinely guaranteed and known by virtue of the Word of God authoritatively interpreted and safeguarded by the Spirit-endowed Magisterium, it goes without saying that theology is dependent upon and subservient to the authoritative Magisterium of the Church. This was true in the Patristic Age, the Medieval Age, the Modern Age, and it is true today, for there is only one Magisterium that exists throughout salvation history just as there is only one Church.

The authoritative nature of the Magisterium is significant because it, along with the Word of God contained in the Scriptures and Tradition, forms the basic foundation upon which faith and theology are dependent. It is non-negotiable, a sine qua non, for the practice of Catholic theology. Without recognition of this basic authority of the Magisterium, Catholic theology cannot get off the ground and true discussion becomes a highly individualistic enterprise. To quote the theologian Paul Griffiths in his 2014 address to the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) on the nature of theological disagreement:

If you think that Catholic theology is not a discourse based upon authority, it will come easily to you to reject the constraint of your own theological practices by such authorities, whether they be living bishops or formulations of doctrine from the archive. And such rejections are commonplace among North American Catholic theologians; this Society has been the principal public voice supporting them.[4]

One of the great ironies today is that several theologians who are using their social media platforms to publicly dissent from and question the authority of the Magisterium are those who would never darken the doorstep of the CTSA because of their self-proclaimed orthodoxy and fidelity to the Church. Other public Catholic voices would not frequent CTSA meetings because they are not actually theologians themselves.

Doing Theology in the Public Square

This is, in broad strokes, what theology is and how it is related to the Magisterium. These are the fundamentals that seem to have been forgotten by some public theologians and theological commentators with increasingly large followings.

Theologians, however, should not merely repeat that which has been written in the Scriptures, lived in the Tradition, or proclaimed by the Magisterium. Theology does entail a genuinely creative element insofar as it more deeply explores that which has been revealed by God and taught by the Magisterium, relating it to the whole realm of human knowledge so that the treasures of revelation might be better understood, loved, and lived in our present moment.

Since it belongs to the prerogative of the Magisterium primarily to guard the deposit of faith against corruptions, the theologian (especially the public theologian) should be deeply concerned that his or her work be presented in such a way that it not only remains faithful to the Word of God situated within the breadth of the Church’s theological tradition up to the present day but also that it not usurp the authority of the living Magisterium, who alone has the ability to define the content, and relegate the practice, of the faith.

Furthermore, the obedience owed to the Magisterium includes not only those instances when it has infallibly defined a given doctrine in a special way—either by virtue of a clear declaration of an ecumenical council or an ex cathedra papal statement—but also when it has spoken authoritatively but not definitively. To quote Donum Veritatis §23:

When the Magisterium, not intending to act “definitively,” teaches a doctrine to aid a better understanding of Revelation and make explicit its contents, or to recall how some teaching is in conformity with the truths of faith, or finally to guard against ideas that are incompatible with these truths, the response called for is that of the religious submission of will and intellect. This kind of response cannot be simply exterior or disciplinary but must be understood within the logic of faith and under the impulse of obedience to the faith.

This basic truth is not a novel invention of the recent Magisterium. It was also recognized by Pius IX, who, in his Syllabus of Errors of 1864, condemned the following proposition: “The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church.”[5]

While it is necessary for theologians (and all Catholics) to accept the authoritative pronouncements of the Magisterium, this does not mean that serious disagreements cannot be raised concerning those issues which remain non-definitively defined but demand a “religious submission of intellect and will.” As Donum Veritatis §24 states:

The willingness to submit loyally to the teaching of the Magisterium on matters per se not irreformable must be the rule. It can happen, however, that a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions.

Such questioning, however, must be done not only with great seriousness, depth of research, and sincere fidelity to the Church of both yesterday and today, but also privately to members of the Magisterium and within the sphere of academic theological journals and publications, which are read primarily, if not exclusively, by professionally trained theologians, thereby preventing the very real possibility of producing genuine scandal and confusion. To quote Donum Veritatis again:

If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian's part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented. He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties. His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments.

In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the “mass media,” but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth.

Since it has been divinely revealed that the Holy Spirit remains the guardian of the integrity of the faith through the Magisterium and the Church at large, there is absolutely no reason to make public one’s private difficulties and hangups if they could reasonably lead to a scandal in the Church. Regardless of whether or not this is done in good faith, such things do more harm than good to the Church.

If one engages in public teaching and commentary, especially when the audience is the Catholic faithful as found on social media platforms, he or she must pay attentive care to not only provide a balanced, nuanced account of the faith but to also not set oneself up as an alternative authority and magisterium in opposition to the one true Magisterium instituted by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. It is mind-boggling that self-proclaimed orthodox Catholics must be reminded of this very basic fact, for to challenge the Magisterium of today is to challenge the Magisterium of every age.

Some Pastoral Observations

In Donum Veritatis, one of the concerns of the CDF is the growth of professional theologians as a “parallel magisterium,” which gives its own structure, arguments, authority, and concerns to matters of the faith. Obviously, there can only be a single, true Magisterium, and it resides amongst the pope and the bishops. But there is a risk, both for the public Catholic and for the Catholic public, to grant obedience and authority not to the proper Magisterium but to this parallel magisterium. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. 

The first reason is visibility. Even in the contemporary digital environment, the Vatican, CDF, and other official groups like the USCCB do not yet have ways of making a sizable imprint into the digital continent. The Vatican has a website, and anyone who knows what they are looking for can access official Church documents on a given subject. But one almost needs a decoder ring at times to jump through the right digital hoops. Here, public theologians can offer a profoundly important service of helping direct the faithful to the Magisterium and her teaching organs. Teaching and expounding on new documents and helping people be aware of them is a great service. But this is a double-edged sword. Because Catholic commentators with big social media footholds are so easily seen, and because official magisterial sources can be so obscurely hidden, the public theological commentator often has a bigger audience and a greater presence in the minds of lay faithful, skeptics, potential converts, etc. The visibility of Catholic social media personalities, then, gives them a responsibility to speak clearly, faithfully, charitably, and to avoid scandal.

A second issue is the frequency and consistency of the internet age. Online, the pace of production is an important part of its viability. If there is not new content on a regular and predictable basis, then an online outfit loses its audience. To be visible, digital apostolates of whatever variety need to have a predictable and rather frequent schedule of new content. For the most popular Catholic commentators, this means always having something to say. 

Here, there is a real danger, and it is difficult to say whether the danger is greater for the producer of the content or the consumer. Here also, the official Magisterium is, almost by definition, behind the competition. The Church moves, by necessity, at a much slower pace than the one the frenetic and competitive online environment calls for. The CDF will never have the kind of online presence that popular public theologians maintain. And it is here again that there is a danger for confusion, a crossing of the streams in the minds and hearts of the public audience.

If someone sees a steady stream of Catholic, theological content that is widely shared by thousands of people and which is written or produced in a way that is meant to be passively and comfortably consumed (and which projects a certain confidence and clarity), it can easily lead one to associate this as a reliable “source of Catholic thought.” The visibility and the frequency, in conjunction with the social media angle, make it easier for certain thinkers to build up an image of themselves as an authoritative voice. After all, if tens of thousands of people shared this article, or if a given public Catholic personality has hundreds of thousands of subscribers on social media, they must be reliable, right?

This is an important pastoral issue for the Church to pay attention to. Indeed, Bishop Robert Barron, who has his own wildly successful digital media apostolate, recently called for bishops to take a more active role in helping provide guidance in this realm. Despite his suggestion, there has not been any wide-ranging follow-through yet. One reason for the lack of response, perhaps, is that most bishops (Bishop Barron here is an exception) are not media or tech-savvy. Still, it ought to be at least in the realm of possibility for a bishop to use his episcopal authority in a way that, if not punishing the wayward theologian, warns and advises the faithful of the diocese not to trust a particular source. Such a proposal has clear foundation in the Church’s Code of Canon Law. As Canon 823 §1 states:

In order to preserve the integrity of the truths of faith and morals, the pastors of the Church have the duty and right to be watchful so that no harm is done to the faith or morals of the Christian faithful through writings or the use of instruments of social communication. They also have the duty and right to demand that writings to be published by the Christian faithful which touch upon faith or morals be submitted to their judgment and have the duty and right to condemn writings which harm correct faith or good morals.

As a member of the Catholic faithful, Catholic commentators have the responsibility to dutifully respect the dictates of ecclesiastical law for the sake of the common good of the Church. Just as many have campaigned for the removal of “Catholic” from the title of universities or other groups which have deviated from their true mission, there is good reason to find a similar strategy to help lay (and ordained) Catholics know which online sources are reliable and which are not. 

A third issue is that many of the more popular internet “theologians,” at least in the U.S., have increasingly built their audience and their authority around what might charitably be called a suspicious reading of the Second Vatican Council. But this hermeneutic of suspicion spans beyond just an ecumenical council. It includes a sweeping critique of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a rejection of postconciliar papal encyclicals, and even a suspicion of recent canonizations of the postconciliar popes. A segment of these so-called “theologians” frequently make critiquing the Novus Ordo and the Council the center of their endeavors. This is not to say that encouraging lay faithful to read the Catechism of the Council of Trent is necessarily a bad idea; however, if the call to study earlier sources is coupled with an implicit or explicit rejection of an ecumenical council, this is a much more serious problem. 

An additional concern is that many of the criticisms levied against Vatican II hold little to no water when carefully examined. However, precisely because of the digital format of a podcast or YouTube channel, there is little to no chance for an untrained lay person to reflect and examine the issues for themselves. Whether the public “theologian” uses his own academic training as an assurance of his orthodoxy (though most of them are not theologians in the proper sense but only philosophers or canon lawyers playacting as theologians) or his or her love of tradition, in many cases the arguments and claims being made have already been shown to be false, but most lay people without any theological training do not know where to turn.[6]

A Historical Parallel

As the Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us: “There is nothing new under the sun.” So it should not be a surprise to find a parallel case of our current American Catholic moment in the history of the Church. The current situation of internet “theologians” with large followings questioning the legitimacy of a council in favor of their own personal interpretations of the history and tradition of the Church and impugning the authority of the Pope and the Magisterium finds a good analogue in Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger and the Old Catholic movement of the late nineteenth century, although the technology was certainly less advanced and the primary protagonist much more learned.

In both cases, there is an ecumenical council of the Church which issued certain teachings that were met with suspicion and outright rejection by some rather than the assent of divine faith and the charitable submission of intellect and will. To push the analogue even further, in both cases there was the public accusation that the ecumenical Council broke continuity with its past and created a wholly new Church. While it is uncertain where the dissenting Catholic commentators of our own day will end up, by their rejection of Vatican I a sizable group of “Old”—as opposed to “Roman”—Catholics splintered off from communion with the Church. Where charity, clarity, and prudence are abandoned, schism often follows close behind.

In reaction to the First Vatican Council’s declaration concerning papal infallibility, a group of Catholics in Germany and other nearby countries inspired by the witness and testimony of Döllinger formed a schismatic group now known as the Old Catholics. In order to convey his disagreement and influence the Magisterium, he wrote public letters under the pseudonyms “Janus” and “Quirinus” before the Council and, after Vatican I, he wrote an open letter to his ordinary, Archbishop Scherr, which was subsequently published internationally, publicly stating his unwillingness to consent to the newly defined dogma because he perceived it as an historical novelty contrary to the tradition of the Church![7] In his view and the view of those who joined the movement, the teaching of Vatican I created a “new” Catholic Church. (Does this sound familiar?) Johann Friedrich, a fellow dissenter and member of theology faculty at Munich, presented the exchange between Archbishop Scherr and Döllinger following the declaration of papal infallibility as follows:

Archbishop: “Let us now begin to work again for our Holy Church.”

Döllinger: “Indeed, for the Church of old.”

Archbishop: “There is only one Church that is neither new nor old.”

Döllinger: “They [at the Council] have made a new Church.”[8]

In the minds of Döllinger and the Old Catholics , they were simply trying to maintain the older tradition and teachings that came before the Council and to avoid introducing a novelty into the deposit of faith. However, as Pope Pius X once counseled:

Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the cunning statements of those who persistently claim to wish to be with the Church, to love the Church, to fight so that people do not leave Her . . . but judge them by their works. If they despise the shepherds of the Church and even the Pope, if they attempt all means of evading their authority in order to elude their directives and judgments . . . then about which Church do these men mean to speak? Certainly not about that established on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.[9]

By refusing to submit to the living Magisterium, they refused to submit to the one Church instituted by Christ and founded upon St. Peter to which they supposedly professed fidelity. Of course, in the ensuing years after 1870, the Old Catholics critiqued the Church not just over infallibility but also over issues such as ordination, marriage, ecumenism, and many other progressive issues. Today, the Old Catholic group holds a wide range of doctrines that run counter to the Magisterium. But what underlies the break with the Magisterium, whether in a “progressive” or in a “historical” direction, is the same in both cases: a lack of obedience and submission to the authority of the Church. 

We live in an era with a better understanding of Church history than any other age, and, as John Cavadini has noted in a recent essay, Vatican II is not alone in its requiring further clarification and commentary because of a period of postconciliar controversy. What is different, and more dangerous, about the phenomenon of internet theologians is their ability to reach beyond a specific geographical area and to create a sort of groundswell of support that can lend them a sense of credibility. This is precisely what Donum Veritatis describes in §39:

Polling public opinion to determine the proper thing to think or do, opposing the Magisterium by exerting the pressure of public opinion, making the excuse of a “consensus” among theologians, maintaining that the theologian is the prophetical spokesman of a “base” or autonomous community which would be the source of all truth, all this indicates a grave loss of the sense of truth and of the sense of the Church.

In the contemporary crisis, just as in the Old Catholic schism, there is a tendency to identify a popular base of support for the “real” teaching of the Church which is set in opposition to the official workings of the Magisterium. But whether this desire to maintain a distinct faith apart from the Church is animated by a desire to retain what is old or to find a new path, the end result is the same: one loses a vision of what Catholic truth is and of how the Church functions. 

Public Theology in a Digital Age

In light of what has been presented here, how should theologians engage the Church and the world in the public square of the Digital Age, and how might the Church take a more active role in combating this pressing issue? For starters, if someone is actually going to do public theology, then it is necessary that he or she actually abide by the fundamental tenets of the nature of Catholic theology itself and its relationship that it has to the life of the Church as a whole. As we have already said, theology is faith seeking understanding and this faith that is seeking to understand and to be understood is already deeply shaped by the authoritative Magisterium which clarifies, defines, and expounds upon the sometimes unclear meaning of that which has been divinely revealed. And so, even though it is always possible for a theologian to raise concerns or questions about a given Magisterial teaching, it is never licit to either publicly call into question the authority of the Magisterium or to sow seeds of doubt, nor is it licit to sever theology from the authority of the living Magisterium in such a way that theology now has direct access to the Word of God without Magisterial clarification, guidance, and intervention. This is not a Catholic but, rather, a Protestant position.

Furthermore, it would be equally illicit for a theologian to contest the authority of the Magisterium today by appealing to the authority of the Magisterium from 100, 200, or 1,000 years ago. Such a position has obvious difficulties, the first of which is that the authority of Magisterium from the past is the very authority which is at question concerning the Magisterium of the present. However, to undercut the authority of the Magisterium today is to also undercut her authority from the past, and to uphold the authority of the Magisterium from the past would necessarily mean to uphold it in the present. For a Catholic theologian to call into question the authority of the Magisterium is to cease doing Catholic theology.

How might the institutional Church contribute to a solution to our current problems? One possible response to this phenomenon is, as mentioned above, to increase the theological literacy of the lay faithful. If social media Catholic commentators have such a wide audience, then this is a sign that there is a desire for theological content. The Church, then, through such institutions as parishes, schools, seminaries, and colleges, must take seriously the desire for theological training and find a way to fill that need. Studying theology as a lay person is possible now more than ever, both in terms of the availability of theological degrees from accredited Catholic institutions and the informal, continuing education model. 

Our alma mater, Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, LA, contributes effectively to this mission. In the past decade, there have been over a hundred laity who have received professional theological formation, and many more attend free events aimed at a more popular base. Even in circumstances where semi-formal training is not available, the average lay Catholic should be encouraged at the parish level to engage in a basic study of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which offers a solid grounding in, and an orthodox interpretation of, the Second Vatican Council. If the Protestant faithful can study the Westminster Catechism, surely we Catholics can read our own Catechism!

A second response for the Church to consider is the role of discipline and oversight. It is common parlance to describe the internet as a “digital content” or “digital areopagus.” Indeed, there are great fruits borne from theological discourse conducted through the internet. This digital content can be a place of encounter with those who have a yearning for truth, those faithful who have sincere questions about the teachings of the Church, and even bystanders who just want to see what Catholicism is all about. But it is important to realize that not all public-facing theological content serves the common good. Some of the division, slander, and faulty arguments that get the most traction and views can really be causes of significant scandal and confusion. If the internet is a digital continent, then there must be a concerted effort at shepherding the sheep and guarding the flock from the wolves. 

A third response, in line with Bishop Barron’s suggestion outlined above, is a digital mandatum. This would be a way of bestowing recognition and approval on particular online apostolates from their local ordinary. In this way, bishops would not have to spend time singling out every dangerous online apostolate and trying to reprimand them. That would be a tiresome and almost certainly unfruitful process. But if the bishops were to seek out good voices to draw attention to and grant them a sort of digital nihil obstat, such as in the yellow check system proposed by Gladden Pappin and Gregory Caridi, then the lay faithful would know which sources were reliable. Of course this means a regular updating and vetting of content, lest a reliable source slowly drift into dangerous territory. 

Fourth, there is the question of censorship. In a digital age it may seem utterly absurd to consider the idea of censorship. Certainly, no bishop can expect an effective censoring process for a digital apostolate. However, a local ordinary can exercise his pastoral concern for his flock (and indeed, those of the wider Church) by speaking publicly about theologians whose online views and activity betrays their authentic function. Asking groups to remove the use of the word “Catholic” or warning the faithful of dangerous content may not stop the production of new material. But one can hardly imagine that ignoring wayward public theologians will contribute to the salvation of souls. Since there is no “digital diocese,” the local ordinary ought to make a public statement against particularly troubling public voices.

One thinks here of diocesan newspapers with movie reviews in the past. Publishing recommended films to avoid did not prevent everyone from seeing harmful material. But it was a good faith effort to prevent scandal. It is hard to see why bishops could argue, in our time, for a policy of silence in the face of rising confusion and vitriol. Certainly some steps need to be taken to both protect the faithful, give guidance to prospective Catholics who are looking for authentic Catholic teaching, and perhaps most importantly, to call the voices of these theologians back into communion with the Church when they are in danger of losing that communion.

We hope this essay serves as a step forward in seeing some of the problems that face us as a Church clearly, so that wayward Catholic commentators and theologians might become part of the solution rather than the problem. But we do not want to cast aspersions on all those involved in trying to make an impact on social media through their Catholic witness of life and theological reflections and musings. Whether those doing so are professional theologians or dedicated Catholics without theological credentials, great good is possible!

But, especially after the theological disasters of 2020, we can no longer pretend that ignoring the problematic corners of this developing frontier will do anyone any good. The Church must respond, and there is a role for all of us, not merely the bishops. Lay Catholics and academics, especially, need to counter some of the damage as best they can, and it starts with facing up to the situation as it really is and remaining close to Christ by being a faithful son or daughter of the Church.

[1] Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives (New York: Vintage, 2014), 7. Cf. Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise, The Federalist, Jan. 17, 2014.

[2] Augustine, Concerning the City of God against the Pagans, trans. by Henry Bettenson (London, Penguin Books, 2003), I.35.

[3] Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, §4.6-7

[4] Paul Griffiths, “Theological Disagreement: What It Is & How To Do It,” CTSA Proceedings 69 (2014).

[5] Pius IX, The Syllabus of Errors #22. Cf. also Lumen Gentium, 25: “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking” (italics ours).

[6] For serious engagement with the documents of Vatican II via a hermeneutic of continuity and reform, cf. Matthew Lamb and Matthew Levering, eds. Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition (Oxford: OUP, 2008); Matthew Lamb and Matthew Levering, eds., The Reception of Vatican II (Oxford: OUP, 2007); David L. Schindler and Nicholas Healy Jr., Freedom, Truth, and Human Dignity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans., 2015); Ormond Rush, The Vision of Vatican II (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2019; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus; John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint (25 May 1995).

[7] Thomas Albert Howard, The Pope and the Professor (Oxford: OUP, 2017), 161.

[8] Johann Friedrich, Ignaz von Döllinger: Sein Leben auf Grund seines schriftlichen Nachlasses, Volume III (Munich: C. H. Beck, 199-1901), 347-358, in Howard, The Pope and the Professor, 154. As Howard writes, Döllinger even wrote to Lord Acton and expressed a vague hope that a future council would correct the errors of Vatican I. Cf. Robert W. Caruso, The Old Catholic Church (Berkley, CA: Apocryphile, 2009), Julie Byrne, The Other Catholics (New York: Columbia, 2016)

[9] Pius X, Allocution of May 10, 1909, AAS 463-464.

Featured Image: Hugo Simberg, The Wounded Angel, 1903; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100.


Luke Arredondo and Jordan Haddad

Luke Arredondo is the Director of Faith Formation for the St. Philip Institute of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Tyler, TX. Prior to his work in Tyler, Luke studied religious ethics at Florida State University and Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.

Jordan Haddad is the Director of Lay Ministry Programs and Lay Formation, as well as Associate Professor of Dogmatic Theology, at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He is also a PhD candidate in Systematic Theology at The Catholic University of America.

Read more by Luke Arredondo and Jordan Haddad