You Catholics are stupid you know? You mindlessly believe whatever the Church tells you to and do whatever the Pope tells you to do. You are sheeple.
I cannot tell you how often I hear something along these lines. Are we required to believe whatever the Church tells us? Well, as with most things with our faith the answer is a mix between yes and no.
Catholics are required to believe 100% of what the Church teaches on faith and morals. This is a nonnegotiable. You cannot believe something contrary to what the Church teaches in these areas and still be Catholic no matter what you call yourself. We believe this because we believe the promise Jesus made to this Church, his Church, that he would be with us until the end of the age and that even the gates of the underworld would not prevail against us. We believe that the Church is infallible in these matters because Jesus would not allow her to enter into error.
Infallible is a word that means without error. We believe that our Pope, by his appointed position as head disciple of the disciples, is infallible. Does this mean that we believe that the Pope is without error in all things? Absolutely not. The Pope’s infallibility only extends to his official teaching done from the Chair of Peter in union with his bishops on matters of faith or morals. When it comes to something like the sanctity of human marriage he cannot be wrong. When it comes to something like what flavor of ice cream is best, what color papal robe to wear to bed after Labor Day, or in the case of Pope Francis, global warming, he is subject to the same possibility of being wrong as any of us.
The Church has never changed a single one of her teachings in the area of faith and morals, ever. What Jesus taught the twelve is the exact same thing the Church teaches today. A truth is a truth and, like God, is not subject to change. The Church may use different words today and may have clarified teachings but the teachings themselves are the same. Words and definitions of words change with the culture and so the Church must always update her teachings with each generation. An author who marries himself to a generation will be widowed in the next.
As Catholics we are required to believe 100% of what the Church teaches. That does not mean we cannot question those teachings. Indeed, the path to understanding comes through question, through seeking to understand. The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary that she was to conceive Jesus. She did not blindly say ok. She asked how. How can this be? How, why, and who are all valid questions anyone who is seeking knowledge should ask but we do not start with rejection. We start by accepting a statement and then seek to understand it. God is good. Ok. Why is God good?
Unfortunately in the culture in which we live in today, especially in America, everyone is their own pope. Everyone is an expert in every subject even if they know absolutely nothing about the subject at hand. It must be true; I read it on the internet. Instead of seeking to understand a truth we form our own opinion on it based upon what is most desirable to us. Then our opinion becomes fact for us and nothing sways us from it, even the truth. We have an entire generation of people who now stand up and say “I believe” in Mass on Sunday but then get to the parking lot and say “But the Church is wrong on…”
Are we called to have blind faith? Not at all. The truth is out there. We just have to open ourselves up to it. Not only does the Church teach what Christ passed down to us but she goes to extremes to teach the hows and the whys. Many people don’t want to know the whys because then they wouldn’t have an excuse to disbelieve. The more I learn about this faith the more beautiful and brilliantly genius it becomes. The more I learn the more it becomes abundantly clear that it was the hand of God who designed this faith. I want to proclaim from the mountain tops so everyone can find what I have found.
Instead, what I encounter most of the time are closed minded people who have already determined for themselves what truth is and will not seek to understand. Who really has the blind faith?
My heart is full because the tomb is empty.