Christ Obeys The Priest

Do men, specifically priests, have authority over God Almighty?
“The supreme power of the priestly office is the power of consecrating...Indeed, it is equal to that of Jesus Christ...When the priest pronounces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man...Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary [who is said to be all but almighty herself]...The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest's command. ” - (John A. O'Brien, Ph.D., LL.D., The Faith of Millions, 255-256 , O'Brien. Nihtt obstat: Rev. Lawrence Gollner, Censor Librorum Imprimatur: Leo A. Pursley, Bishop of Fort Wayne,-South Bend, March 16, 1974
We see this quote thrown at us often, and what did Fr. O'Brien mean by these words?  Quite simply, when the priest consecrates the Eucharist he is obeying the command from Jesus Christ to "Do this..." and when he "does this..." then that which was mere bread, Jesus comes down out of Heaven and changes the substance of the bread into the substance of Himself.  The substance of that which was mere wine becomes the substance of His Most Precious Blood.  The "humble obedience" which Fr. O'Brien refers to is God remaining consistent to His own command.  If God did not "obey" the priest's command then the command of Jesus telling our first priests to "do this..." becomes a lie, because if God does not "obey" then when the priest holds up the Sacred Host and/or Sacred Chalice and declares "this IS My body..." and "this IS My blood..." it would be a lie - and that would make Jesus' command to them meaningless and also a lie.

"How this ['And he was carried in his own hands'] should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. FOR CHRIST WAS CARRIED IN HIS OWN HANDS, WHEN, REFERRING TO HIS OWN BODY, HE SAID: 'THIS IS MY BODY.' FOR HE CARRIED THAT BODY IN HIS HANDS." (St. Augustine, Psalms 33:1:10)  This quote and more from St. Augustine found here:  Was St. Augustine Catholic?

Ten Areas of Deception of Catholics Part IV

I have now dealt with five of the "Ten Areas of Deception" in my previous three posts: Part I, dealt with the first 2 "deceptions", Part II dealt with the third "deception, followed by Part III dealt with some of the anonymous Protestant's problems with Mary and a couple of Marian sacramentals: the Rosary and the Brown Scapular.

*****************Part IV Begins here:
On to the next statements.
Next the anonymous author of the tract said:
[6] Catholics think the sacraments are a means of them receiving grace needed for salvation.
I would just like to preface my statements under this so-called "deception", that I do not believe any of his statements are indeed deceptions. However, Catholics do think the Sacraments are a means of receiving grace. Why? Because every single one of the Sacraments was instituted by Jesus Christ to give grace.

This Sacrament was instituted by Christ and is necessary to be "born again" in "water and the spirit."

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15, 16)
Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit." (John 3:5, 6)

The Catholic believes that the commands of Jesus are "the standard of Christian conduct." (Notes for Matt. 28:20) Jesus commanded the apostles to Baptize with His power. He gave them the power and the command to baptize. All Christians should take that seriously.

St. Peter took this commandment very seriously:

Peter [said] to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2: 38,39)
Baptism was an important command of Our Lord Jesus to all Christians. It was instituted in the Church at the very beginning.

"She and her household had been baptized" (Acts 16:15)
"Then he and all his family were baptized at once." (Acts 16:33)

"Crispus, the synagogue official, came to believe in the Lord along with his entire household, and many of the Corinthians who heard believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8)

Whole households/families were baptized. This was to make them Christians; the entire family, men, women, children, were baptized as Jesus had commanded.
"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit." (I Cor. 12:13)
We were meant to be one in this baptism; it was both saving and unifying.
"Who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him." (I Peter 3:20-22)
Baptism saves. Those who actually study scripture, let alone Christian history will understand that. What else can be said about it? Why do some who call themselves Christians deny its value in the plan of salvation? If you are not baptized according to Jesus Christ's word, are you "saved?" In my opinion, you would be hard pressed to say "yes" if you believe in Scripture.

This Sacrament completes Baptism with a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit and strengthens the Christian for their mission. This happened at Pentecost; the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles  and, by the way, they went out and eventually baptized about 3,000 people that day. 
"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you." (John 14:16, 17)
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit. It was a gift of the Spirit from the Father and the Son (or through the Son as the Orthodox would put it).  And, the apostles received the Holy Spirit 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus Christ.
And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:3)
The early Christians received charismatic gifts or signs that the Holy Spirit was present. For instance, the apostles spoke in tongues--the languages of the people waiting to hear them speak. The laying on of hands was the passing on of the Holy Spirit by the apostles, which is the Sacrament of Confirmation.
"Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit." (Acts 8:17)
"And when Paul laid [his] hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied." (Acts 19: 6)
This laying on of hands is how the Holy Spirit was given to each successive generations of Christians. Today, the bishop lays his hands on the Confirmation candidates and they receive the renewing and strengthening of the Holy Spirit as promised us by Jesus Christ Himself.

What more is there to say about the Eucharist; Christ said it all. We, Catholics, believe what He said. It has been explained over and over and over by Catholic apologists since the beginning of the Church.

It is obvious to us that this Sacrament was instituted by Christ. The earliest account of the Sacrament in the Church is from the first letter of Paul to the Church at Corinth (I Corinthians) which scholars believe was written before the Gospel account.
"For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is My body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself."
(I Cor. 11:23-29)
Here we see how much St. Paul believes in the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If one does not discern the body and blood of the Lord, one brings judgment on oneself. How could a symbol bring judgment on anyone? There is no equivocation on this in Paul's account of the Eucharist and how it was passed down to him, and how he was passed it down to the church in Corinth.

But beyond St. Paul's account of the Tradition of passing down the Eucharist and its form, we see how Christ instituted this Himself, in His own words, witnessed by St. Matthew, one of His chosen.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to His disciples said, “Take and eat; this is My body.” Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.” (Matthew 26:26-29)
This is a straight forward command by Jesus (which "should be the standard of Christian conduct") "This is My Body" He did not say "This is a symbol of My body." He said, "This IS My Body." For Catholics, it is just that simple--He said it; we believe it. He also said the wine was "My blood of the covenant..." He did not say it was a symbol of His blood; He said it WAS His blood. For Catholics, it is just that simple--He said it; we believe it. (Yes, I repeated that on purpose.)

We also believe that John chapter six tells us how He explained the what the Eucharist would mean to His apostles before the Last Supper; what it means to us now.

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me and this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.
The Jews murmured about Him because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know His father and mother? Then how can He say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: 'They shall all by taught by God.' Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from Heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [His] flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:32-58)
Here the true Bible-believers, Catholics, believe Jesus and take Him at His word. See how many times He says EAT and DRINK, which one must do to have life. We take His explanation of Himself, the Bread from Heaven, at His word.
Then many of His disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it? (John 6:60)
If the disciples (not the 12 apostles) thought that He was speaking symbolically, why would they have a problem with it? It is obvious to those who have an open mind and heart that they were having a hard time accepting what He said because they took His words literally. In ancient times, telling the people to eat His flesh symbolically, would be the equivalent of someone saying "Bite me" today. It would have been an insult and the disciples could not imagine He was insulting them; He must therefore, have meant it literally.

The passage goes on:
Since Jesus knew that His disciples were murmuring about this, He said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?  It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” (John 6:61-65)
He asked them, as many Catholics asked Protestants, "Does this shock you?" What would be shocking if He was speaking symbolically? It would be insulting, as I stated previously, but it would not be shocking. Some Protestants like to explain it away by stating that Jesus said that the flesh is of no avail. Do Protestants really believe JESUS'S FLESH is of no avail? Then why in the world would one believe that Jesus was the savior of the world? If HIS FLESH is of no avail then what was the point of His dying on the cross? There would be no point. When He says flesh is of no avail, He is talking about the world versus the spirit. The words that he spoke which are "spirit and life" are His words that HE is the Bread from Heaven, that if we do not EAT His Flesh (bread) and DRINK His blood (wine) we cannot have LIFE. We believe Him.

We believe Jesus Christ at His word and believe, upon penalty of judgment, that He gave us His Flesh and His blood to consume; It is that which gives us eternal life. And, yes, the old accusation of cannibalism is a very old one. The early church had been accused of killing babies and eating them at their ceremonies. Not only was it not true then, it is not true today. And, no, the Body and Blood of Christ do not go through our digestive system to be excreted--one of the nastiest accusations a Protestant said on CDF once. Just as some nutrients are absorbed in the mouth before going to the stomach, so the Presence and Spirit of Jesus Christ becomes part of our souls before we even swallow the bread and wine. We don't excrete Christ; we become one with Him in Spirit and Truth.

The last statement under this "deception" says,
Such false teaching has also placed the Catholic in the mind set of thinking he must remain in the Catholic system to go to Penance and get communion (Holy Eucharist), which they also think should be worshiped as God.
i) It is not false teaching; it is Christ's teaching.
ii) The Catholic Church is not a "system"; it is the Body of Christ.
iii) I will touch on Penance next.
iv) Think about this: IF one believes that the Real Presence of Jesus is in the Bread, and IF one believes that means that it has transubstantiated (changed substance) into Jesus' real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, why wouldn't one worship Jesus in the flesh? It only makes common sense. We worship Christ in the Flesh--not a piece of bread; as it is no longer bread but Jesus.

"I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:19)
Jesus gave the power to forgive sins to His apostles. In the above verse, He is speaking to St. Peter. He gave St. Peter the authority to forgive or not forgive.  What is forgiven on Earth is forgiven in Heaven.

In a different incidence after the Resurrection, Jesus Christ gave this power to all the apostles:
[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  (John 20: 21-23)
Here He gave an even more clear command. The apostles were sent out by Him as the Father had sent Him. He breathed the Holy Spirit on them and gave them a clear statement that they were to have the power to forgive sins. It is as clear as a blue sky.

And for the information of the Protestant, the priest is a physical representative of Jesus Christ in the confessional. There is nothing more comforting the actually hearing the words, "You are forgiven." It is relieving to hear it out loud. The Lord gave us five senses, hearing being one of them, and they enhance our spiritual experience in the church.


Christ and late His apostles healed the sick. Christ even brought people back from the dead.

People brought to Him all those who were sick and begged Him that they might touch only the tassel on His cloak, and as many as touched it were healed. (Matthew 14:35b-36)

"They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:13)

The tradition of anointing the sick is clear in this passage:

"Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5:14-15)

The Catechism explains this Tradition very well:

1511 The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick:

This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord.125  125 Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14-15.125 Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14-15.

1512 From ancient times in the liturgical traditions of both East and West, we have testimonies to the practice of anointings of the sick with blessed oil. Over the centuries the Anointing of the Sick was conferred more and more exclusively on those at the point of death. Because of this it received the name "Extreme Unction." Notwithstanding this evolution the liturgy has never failed to beg the Lord that the sick person may recover his health if it would be conducive to his salvation.126  126 Cf. Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1696.
1513 The Apostolic Constitution Sacram unctionem infirmorum,127 following upon the Second Vatican Council,128 established that henceforth, in the Roman Rite, the following be observed: 127 Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Sacram unctionem infirmorum, November 30, 1972.
128 Cf. SC 73.

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with duly blessed oil - pressed from olives or from other plants - saying, only once: "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up."129  129 Cf. CIC, Can. 847 § 1.123 Jas 5:14-15.

It may help healing or it may prepare the sick for death, note that sins are forgiven in this Sacrament. St. James outlines the healing Sacrament clearly. Again, Catholics take this Scriptural Tradition literally. Asking the Lord for healing certainly is not a "deception".

The threefold division of sacred ministers (bishops, priests and deacons)  prefigured in the Old Law (high priest, priests, Levites) is clearly revealed in Scripture. Yet, most so-called "bible-believing" Protestant churches do not have them. (Rev. Donovan, EWTN contributor)
The Sacrament was pre-figured in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the Church.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. (Acts 6:3-6)
Here we see the twelve in a dilemma; they were too busy and needed men to help them. So they chose seven men to help with "serv[ing] at table", in other words the Eucharist, and laid hands on them and prayed over them. Those chosen became priests anointed by the bishops (apostles).
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3)
Here is another incident of the laying on of hands and sending. Here Barnabas and Saul are made priests to help in the work at Antioch.

And, the tradition of celibate priests came from the fact that they gave their whole lives to Christ and His Kingdom. It is also implicit in Scripture:
 [His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”                  (Matt. 19:10-12)

Here are other Scriptures describing the qualifications of the bishops (and priests) and deacons, and the use of this gift of the laying on of hands: 1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-9; 1 Tim. 4:14; 1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Tim. 5:17-19; 1 Tim. 5:22.

 Marriage is, as St. Paul states, a mystery (mysterion).  The Latin word used to translate mysterion is "sacramentum". The sacraments are mysteries (as Eastern Christians still call them), for  one thing is visible and something else is known by faith. By faith, matrimony is a sign of Christ and the Church, as well as a special calling. Mt. 19:10-11; Eph. 5:31-32.
 “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband. (Eph. 5:31-33;  Paul is quoting Jesus as testified to  in Matt. 19:5 and Mark 10:7,8)
These definitions and Scripture lists are from an EWTN article written by Rev. Colin Donovan called Sacraments in Scripture.

The anonymous author also said,
Because Catholics have been taught this way, they are trusting in the sacraments for salvation instead of the Lord Jesus as the Bible declares. 
On the contrary, we don't "trust in the sacraments for salvation instead of the Lord Jesus Christ." Each and every one of the Sacraments was instituted by Christ and attested to in the Scriptures. In obedience to our Lord, we depend on Him for our salvation. One of the things I don't understand about supposed "Bible-believing Christians" is that they don't actually obey Christ's commands in the Bible, ie, "Go into all nations...baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." In "trusting" in the Sacraments we are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ironically, the author does not cite a lick of Scripture in his condemnation of Catholicism here.) The dependence on the Sacraments is not a "deception"; his is a false premise.

[7] Catholics confess their sins to a priest instead of to God.
Indeed Catholics do not confess their sins to a priest instead of to God. Confession in the Sacrament is confessing to God. This, again, is a false premise.  He (the anonymous author) said,
 "We can go directly to God, without a priest or Mary and get forgiven, if we go in repentance, sincerity and humility" (Luke 18:13,14)
This statement, to me, would seem to be the opposite of humility. Yes, we can "go directly to God" but we can also use the means of Confession He instituted. (See discussion above on the Sacraments).

And, I am not sure what he is trying to emphasize by citing the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. All who come to the Sacrament of Confession come in humility. One who is not humble and sincerely sorry is not, I suspect, going to go any where near the confessional, anyway.

I would counter his statement with these:
If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.        (James 5:15b,16)
Paul believes he was given the "ministry of reconciliation".
And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18,19)
Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ.  2 Cor 2:10
The Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the "ministry of reconciliation."42 The apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making his appeal" through him and pleading: "Be reconciled to God."43  42 2 Cor 5:18. 43 2 Cor 5:20. CCC 1442

Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: "All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly."54 54 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. Ex 20:17; Mt 5:28.
When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, "for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know."55  55 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. St. Jerome, In Eccl. 10,11:PL 23:1096CCC 1456
Yes, we can go directly to God, but we can also go to the priest. He stands in the place of Jesus in the Sacraments, especially confession. Jesus is saying, "Your sins are forgiven you." It is powerful to hear those words.


[8]  Catholics who read and believe the Fatima Visions are dangerously thinking that Mary is our refuge and the way that will lead them to God.
[9] Many Catholics are just hoping to enter Purgatory and there get purged of their sins to afterwards go to Heaven.
[10] Catholics have been lethally misinformed about how to show their love for the Lord Jesus.

When may a Catholic disagree with Pope Francis?

Cathmom5's introduction: The following post was used in the Catholic Debate Forum discussion on whether or not Catholics are allowed to disagree with the opinions or non-infallible writings of Catholic magisterium. Mr. Conte’s post on When May a Catholic Disagree with Pope Francis? was used to dispute an atheist's argument that if a Catholic work has an imprimatur by a member of the Papal Biblical Commission, a Catholic had no right to disagree with it. As many members tried to point out, an imprimatur simply means "it may be printed." It basically means the bishop gave permission to the author to go ahead and print the project.  A Nihil Obstat says that there is nothing offensive or nothing to offend a Catholic in the book. Neither is a stamp proclaiming the work as  official Catholic teaching, but nothing seems to convince the atheistic of the error of his interpretation of Catholic phrases, documents, and doctrine. He believes he knows everything there is to know about what Catholics believe, and no one can tell him otherwise. The point several people have tried to make is that Catholics are free to disagree with a commentary; a commentary is not compulsory belief. All that aside, even if were "official" Catholic Teaching, I would not agree with his interpretation of what it said in the JBC or how he tried to apply it to an issue that had nothing to do with the commentary entry.

Anyway, I thought this article by Mr. Ron Conte was an excellent explanation of how and when a Catholic may disagree with the Catholic Magisterium (Pope Francis specifically, but it can and does apply to the magisterium in general).  I will make some comments to Mr. Conte's post just for purposes of pointing out some anti-Catholic people (Protestant, atheist, what have you) who like to claim that Catholics are mindless drones, or at the very least not allowed to think for themselves.

When May a Catholic Disagree with Pope Francis?
Pope Francis is a valid Pope. He is currently the only Roman Pontiff of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI validly resigned, and so he is no longer the Pope; that is why he is called “Pope emeritus”. Any Catholic who rejects Pope Francis as the valid and sole current Pope of the one true Church is in a state of formal schism, is automatically excommunicated, and may not receive any of the Sacraments (except Confession, once he is repentant). If you reject the Pope, you have separated yourself from formal communion with the Catholic Church.
One thing that Catholics are not allowed to disagree on is the Pope. The pope is elected by the College of Cardinals through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The process has been formalized and streamlined over the centuries but the ceremony does not take away the work of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Catholics are not allowed to disagree with the Holy Spirit. As Mr. Conte said, the Catholic who does not recognize the current, validly elected pope is in schism (no longer a Catholic). Unfortunately, there are many of them out there now--claiming to be Catholic but claim there is no valid pope. They are wrong and no longer Catholic.

For Catholics who accept Pope Francis as the valid Roman Pontiff, some disagreement is possible without heresy, schism, or other grave sin.
So here Mr. Conte wants to make it clear that not all of what the pope says is binding on all Catholics. Not everything he says is infallible. In other words, we are allowed to use our own brain. The following are conditions under which we may disagree.
1. Personal Opinion
When Pope Francis expresses his personal opinion on a matter of faith or morals (or any other topic), and given that the Magisterium has no definitive teaching on the subject, the faithful Catholic is free to disagree.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote and published a book entitled, Jesus of Nazareth: from the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. In the preface of that book, he writes:
“It goes without saying that this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium, but is solely an expression of my personal search ‘for the face of the Lord’ (cf. Ps 27:8). Everyone is free, then, to contradict me. I would only ask my readers for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding.” [1]
Here Pope Benedict XVI gives us a good example to follow concerning the expression of theological opinions by the Bishops and the Pope. Such expressions, no matter how emphatically they may be phrased, are not an exercise of the Magisterium, and so are not binding on the faithful. All are free to disagree with the Pope in any personal opinion that he expresses: about Jesus, about matters of faith and morals, and certainly on other matters.
Caveat: In all likelihood, the opinion of the Pope on any matter pertaining to faith or morals is better than your opinion. The mere opinion of the Pope is fallible, but so are all your opinions.
The pope's personal opinions, personal devotions, prayers, etc. are his own. Of course, I'd think that his opinion pulls much more weight than mine. Pope St. John Paul II's opinion on the death penalty made me look at it differently, and I eventually changed my opinions in line with his.  Eventually, he included his teaching on the subject in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) in 1995. This encyclical lends even more weight to his teaching. See below under prudential judgment.

2. Prudential Judgment
When Pope Francis issues a judgment of the prudential order, under his authority as Pope, but as a judgment not a teaching, the faithful Catholic is free to disagree.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” [2]
Caveat: An official decision of the Pope under his temporal authority (the type of Church authority that exercises prudential judgment) may still be binding on you as a Catholic. So, for example, if the Pope changes the form of the Mass, you are free to think that the changes are imprudent, but you are not free to reject the Mass on that basis. Or if the Pope changes the rules for reception of Communion, you are free to argue that the changes are imprudent, but you are not free to reject the Mass or the Pope on that basis.
The changes in the Mass since Vatican II have been the basis of much disgruntlement among "radical traditionalists" sometimes called "rad-trads". These people refuse to go to Mass when the novus ordo (new order) Mass is said. They seek out traditional Latin Mass for the most part. The Latin Mass, per se is certainly not a bad thing, but neither is the Novus ordo. Since the radical changes to the new Mass in the 70's, the American Bishops have been working on tweaking the Mass, making it closer to the Latin Mass. The updates have been good. The point is that no practicing Catholic is allowed to forego Mass because there is not a Mass nearby that they believe is the right one. Even if you believe that everyone should attend a Latin Mass, you cannot skip Mass while on vacation just because you can't find a Latin Mass.

3. Non-infallible Teachings
Each and every teaching of the Magisterium falls into one of two categories: infallible or non-infallible. It is a common misunderstanding to think that all teachings of the Magisterium are entirely without error.
Pope John Paul II: “With respect to the non-infallible expressions of the authentic magisterium of the Church, these should be received with religious submission of mind and will.” [3]
The non-infallible teachings are reliable and have only a limited possibility of error, but they are NOT infallible. The errors possible in non-infallible teachings never reach to the extent of leading the faithful away from the path of salvation. But non-infallible teachings are non-irreformable. They are subject to a limited possibility of correction, improvement, and change.
“There exist in the Church a lawful freedom of inquiry and of thought and also general norms of licit dissent.” [4]
Here we see a very specific statement on when we have freedom of thought! from Pope St. John Paul II. "There exist in the Church a lawful freedom of inquiry and thought and also general noms of licit dissent." There is no doubt we are allowed to think for ourselves.
Non-infallible teachings are subject to a limited possibility of error and reform; therefore, they do not require the full assent of faith, but a lesser type of assent called the “religious submission of mind and will” [5]. What this means is that you are generally required to believe the non-infallible teachings of the Church. But there is some room for faithful dissent, called “licit theological dissent” [4]. To whatever extent a teaching might err, the faithful are free to disagree. God who is Truth never requires assent to false or erroneous ideas.
The non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium are full of truth. The number, type, and extent of the possible errors is quite limited.
An example of an error in a non-infallible teaching is found in the first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the definition of lying, which erroneously stated that an assertion is only a lie if the person (to whom you are speaking) has a right to the truth. That claim was removed from the second edition.
Caveat: The basis for the disagreement must be Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, or teachings of the Magisterium of greater authority. Most Catholics who reject a non-infallible teaching of the Magisterium have no legitimate basis for that rejection.
Pay attention to this caveat. Well stated Mr. Conte.
4. Infallible Teachings
The infallible teachings are free from all possibility of error due to the work of the Holy Spirit. The infallible teachings require your full assent with the virtue of faith; obstinate disagreement is the grave sin of heresy.
The infallible Magisterium is exercised in any of three ways:
a. Papal Infallibility
b. Conciliar Infallibility
c. the ordinary and universal Magisterium
To reject an infallible teaching of the Magisterium is material heresy. To do so knowingly and deliberately is the grave sin of formal heresy, which includes the penalty of automatic excommunication. If Pope Francis or any other valid Pope teaches something under any type of infallibility, you are required to give that teaching the full assent of faith. Otherwise, you commit heresy and formally separate yourself from the one true Church.
Caveat: Do not be fooled by those blind guides who claim that the Pope can commit heresy himself, and thereby lose his authority. Doctor of the Church Saint Robert Bellarmine held it to be “probable” that the Pope could never commit heresy personally, nor teach heresy in any way. He also held it to be “certain” that the Pope could never define a heresy as a teaching to be believed by the whole Church.
The foolish today claim that IF a Pope teaches heresy in a way that would seem to fall under infallibility, the teaching is nullified because the Pope fell into heresy. To the contrary, Saint Bellarmine believed that a Pope could NEVER teach heresy in a way that would seem to fall under infallibility.
If all of this is true of the pope, so much more so does it apply to priests, bishops, archbishops, and Cardinals. We are free to disagree on opinion. 

by Ronald L. Conte Jr.  Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the
Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.
[1] Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p. xxiv.
[2] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion, General Principles (sent by Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and made public in July, 2004), n. 3;
[3] Address of Pope John Paul II to the Bishops from the United States on their ‘Ad Limina’ visit, 15 October 1988, n. 5.
[4] National Conference of Catholic Bishops (predecessor to the USCCB), Human Life in Our Day, “Norms of Licit Theological Dissent” n. 49 to 54;
[5] Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, n. 25.

 I received permission by email on 6/26/2016 to reprint Mr. Conte’s post. 

Recently the pope made comments about marriage and co-habitation. Some of his comments were misunderstood, but some of them were outright wrong. Here is a discussion about the pope's comments on The World Over, a news program on EWTN:
Just in case it resets, the discussion starts about 27:51. Both guests Robert Royal, and Fr. Gerald Murray, disagree strongly with the pope's words. Guess what, they are free to do so, and under the category of "non-infallible teachings we see that they do have legitimate reasons to disagree with him. The pope was not making an official proclamation nor was he teaching on faith and morals from the chair of Peter. We are allowed to disagree with the pope when his teaching seems to conflict tradition Catholic teaching. We have had unorthodox popes in the past, and the magesterium has disagreed with a pope or two in the past, but the Church's dogmas and doctrines have never been changed in any material way by any reigning pope.

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