Are there really any “doubtful matters” concerning which we may disagree?

But the common saying, expressed in various ways and attributed
to various authors, must be recalled with approval: in essentials,
unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.

Pope John XXIII: Ad Petri Cathedram (1959)

But there really are no “doubtful matters”, are there? I mean according to us, not according to the Church. And charity?

Catholics really notice when fundamentalist1 thump the Bible and say: “You don’t disagree with me, you disagree with Scripture!”…when we are disagreeing with their mistaken interpretation of Scripture.

Catholics are, of course, completely different: instead of the “Scripture”, we often say the “Magisterium” (which includes the Bible)…when somebody is not disagreeing with the Magisterium at all, but rather with our questionable view of it.

When you talk to an orthodox, well-formed Catholic, they of course understand the very limited nature of infallibility: and they can explain the limits very well! But then, many will start explaining those limitations away until it sounds like they are claiming that every single comma in Vatican II was placed there directly by God, and that every sneeze of a current Pope is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 😄

  1. “Fundamentalist” instantly creates a useful image–but, alas, not a completely fair one. “Fundamentalism” was a sincere effort to address the problems of Protestant private interpretation: e.g., having 100 people with 200 different views about the meaning of a passage of Scripture. 😀 The approach did not work, but it should not be misunderstood.

2 thoughts on “Are there really any “doubtful matters” concerning which we may disagree?

Leave a Reply