The Father William Most Collection
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
Many today have trouble sorting things out. For this it is very necessary to know and watch three distinctions; they concern doctrine, legislation, and prudence or good judgement.
First we should believe the teachings of the Church, not because of the reasons given in an official document. No, it all depends on teaching authority, given by Christ when He said, more than once, such things as: "He who hears you hears me."
Second, we should obey commands or laws unless they are immoral. The Pope of course has not given any immoral commands. But there have been and are orders to use textbooks for Catholic schools that do not convey the faith, or even contradict it. One should refrain from obeying, so far as possible. Now it may be necessary for a sound teacher to be very careful. This does not mean teaching any false doctrine at any time for any reason. It may call on him/her to hold back on teaching sound things. Better to have half a loaf than none. If a teacher would insist on more than the traffic will bear, we might have a completely unsound teacher put in instead.
Third is the matter of prudence or good judgment. There is no promise of Christ, there is no claim by the Church, to divine protection on prudence or good judgment. So if we think something is not done prudently - we need to watch out: our prudential judgment is not infallibly right either! - we are not breaking with the Church if we think it imprudent. All the evidence we need comes from past Church history, which shows gross cases of bad judgment.
As we said, it is very necessary to know these three things. If one does not, then disagreeing on prudence, where it is permissible, may lead one to drift over the border, and to beak on the other two, where a break is not permitted.
Those who call themselves "liberal" are in many cases most illiberal. They demand and enforce their own views, even contrary to the Church, and tolerate no difference. They claim an infallibility greater than that of the Pope.