The Holy Spirit is not the author of the confusion in the Catholic Church – so who is?

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In his magnificent book The Devastated Vineyard (1973), Dietrich von Hildebrand warned against a false loyalty to the Church hierarchy in which Catholics uncritically accept every word and action of their bishop, while failing to acknowledge the harm that may be done to the Church by those words and actions:

A third false response, and perhaps the most dangerous one, would be to imagine that there is no destruction of the vineyard of the Lord, that it only seems so to us — our task as laymen is simply to adhere with complete loyalty to whatever our bishop says….

At the basis of this attitude is a false idea of loyalty to the hierarchy. When the pope speaks ex cathedra on faith or morals, then unconditional acceptance and submission is required of every Catholic. But it is false to extend this loyalty to encyclicals in which new theses are proposed. This is not to deny that the magisterium of the Church extends much farther than the dogmas. If an encyclical deals with a question of faith or morals and is based on the tradition of the holy Church — that is, expresses something which the Church has always taught — then we should humbly accept its teaching. This is the case with the encyclical Humanae Vitae: although we do not have here the strict infallibility of a defined dogma, the content of the encyclical nevertheless belongs to that sphere of the Church’s magisterium which we must accept as true.

But there are many encyclicals which deal with very different (e.g., sociological) questions and which express a response of the Church to certain new conditions. Thus the encyclical of the great Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, with its idea of a corporate state, differs on sociological questions with encyclicals of Paul VI. But when it is a question of practical ordinances such as concordats, or the suppression of the Jesuit order by Pope Clement XIV, or the introduction of the new missal, or the rearrangement of the Church calendar, or the new rubrics for the liturgy, then our obedience (as Vatican I declares), but by no means our agreement, is required….

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