In times of great confusion, such as our own day, many Catholics are baffled on how to react.

questionSome claim that we must obey our leaders no matter what, and that to voice the slightest disagreement with them is a manifestation of disrespect and disobedience. Not only is this way of thinking incorrect, it also paralyzes Catholics into inaction and heightens their confusion. What we hope to demonstrate is that, according to the Saints, and according to the consistent teaching of the Church, Catholics are bound to resist even prelates if they deviate from the unchanging doctrine and Tradition of the Catholic Church.

Many also believe that it is impossible for a Supreme Pontiff to deviate in any way from the straight and narrow. This is partially correct. The Holy Ghost will always protect a Pope from defining error as truth, for example, from teaching error in an ex cathedra pronouncement. (1) That is certain. But it is demonstrable from the teachings and writings of the Saints that even the highest authority in the Church may fail in his duty and may drift into deviations from Church Teaching.

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Should Francis change his name to Pope Archibald Bunker I?

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has grabbed headlines with his off-the-cuff homilies, crowd-pleasing one-liners and lengthy interviews during which he has pontificated on everything from the church’s “obsession” with rules to how he won’t judge gays. But his chattiness has gotten him into some trouble, and the Vatican has gone into damage-control mode to clarify, correct or put his comments into context. Here’s a look at some of Francis’ more eyebrow-raising comments, and the efforts by the Vatican’s spin doctors to address them.

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On the Mystery of Iniquity and the Stubbornness of (we) the Stiff-Necked

Let’s consider a short text from Proverbs to illustrate the grave and mysterious problem of “anomia,” of being lawless, of being stubbornly impenitent and persisting in disregard and even contempt of God’s Law:

He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. (Prov 29:1)

Consider this text in three stages (with acknowledgment to Rev. Adrian Rogers who preached a sermon on this I’ve never forgotten. The alliterated structure here is his, the content is mine):

1. Spiritual Direction– Note how the text describes us as being often reproved. God sends us endless messages always urging us to repentance, to, to turn toward Him, to call on Him, to learn obedience, and to rejoice in the salvation he offers. He whispers, he urges, and he calls. No one who ever went to Hell, went there without being “often reproved.” The Hebrew word is תּוֹכֵחָה (towkechah) means chastisement, correction, refutation, proof, argument, reasoning, rebuke, or reproof. Well, you get the idea, God is pleading with us to come to him, to accept his Kingdom and the Kingdom values that underlie it. He does this in many ways…

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Archbishop of San Francisco once again sets Pelosi straight

In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”

Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.

Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.

However, human freedom does not legitimate bad moral choices, nor does it justify a stance that all moral choices are good if they are free: “The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1740) Christian belief in human freedom recognizes that we are called but not compelled by God to choose constantly the values of the Gospel—faith, hope, love, mercy, justice, forgiveness, integrity and compassion.

It is entirely incompatible with Catholic teaching to conclude that our freedom of will justifies choices that are radically contrary to the Gospel—racism, infidelity, abortion, theft. Freedom of will is the capacity to act with moral responsibility; it is not the ability to determine arbitrarily what constitutes moral right.

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