Making the mistake of calling faithful criticism dissent (Deacon Nick Donnelly)

by Deacon Nick Donnelly
Over the past two years our world as Catholics has been turned upside down, to the point that we are often called ‘dissenters’, ‘ideologues’ or ‘fundamentalists’ for upholding the Faith of the Church as contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’ve come to the conclusion that these labels are being increasingly used by those seeking to change Church teaching in order to intimidate, dismiss and exclude faithful Catholics from public discussions about the doctrines of the Church.
The ‘progressive’ Catholic magazine The Tablet recently accused Catholics of dissent when they expressed concerns about Pope Francis’ pontificate. Michael Sean Winters wrote:
‘I’m reluctant to use the word hypocrisy, but remember when some of these conservatives were calling others in the Church ‘Cinos’ [Catholics in Name Only], ‘Catholyks’, and ‘Cafeteria Catholics’? Now they [Conservative Catholics] are dissenters because some teachings of Pope Francis don’t conform to the interests of American conservatism’.
Michael Winters concludes that these conservative dissenters should be feared because they could ‘organise resistance and destructive efforts to separate elements of the Church from the Holy Father’.
Cardinal Wuerl calls faithful Catholics dissenters
Such attacks against faithful Catholics have become commonplace from Catholic journals that oppose many of the Church’s doctrines, especially on sexual morality. But a new, and totally unexpected development, is cardinals and bishops espousing the same hostility by calling faithful Catholics ‘dissenters’. Cardinal Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, used his blog to launch an attack on Catholics critical about recent developments in the Church, which has been interpreted as a criticism of Cardinal Burke:
‘As I was watching the Holy Father on TV, my inbox was filling with a number of emails including an interview and an article by brother bishops who are less than enthusiastic about Pope Francis. Those emails reminded me of a much, much earlier time in my life when I first experienced dissent from the teaching and practice of a pope. ‘
Why disagreeing with Pope Francis at times is not dissent?
Cardinal Wuerl and other critics of faithful Catholics make a basic mistake when they characterise as ‘dissenters’ those who in any way disagree with, or criticise, Pope Francis. They are mistakenly elevating all the Holy Fathers words and actions to the level of magisterial teaching. Pope Francis himself has indicated that his daily homilies at St Martha’s and his interviews with the press must not be considered magisterial teaching. Fr Lombardi, the Director of the Holy See’s press office, has explained that this is the reason why they do not broadcast Pope Francis’s daily homilies:

‘We must insist on the fact that, in all of the Pope’s activities, the difference between different situations and celebrations, as well as the different levels of authority of his words, must be understood and respected.’
Pope Francis even indicates that his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is not a magisterial teaching when he sets out the ‘Scope and Limits of the Exhortation’. The Holy Father writes, ‘Nor do I believe that the papal Magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world.’ (16). As Cardinal Burke explains, by stating that Evangelii Gaudium is not an exercise of the papal Magisterium it should be seen as an ‘expression of the pope’s personal thinking’ which we receive with respect, but do not interpret as teaching ‘an official doctrine’.

For this reason Cardinal Wuerl and Michael Sean Winters are misrepresenting the meaning of the word ‘dissent’ when they apply it to all disagreement with, and criticism of, Pope Francis. Such disagreement and criticism would only be ‘dissent’ if expressed against Pope Francis’ exercise of the papal Magisterium. The Second Vatican Council Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, makes clear the attitude we must take to any genuine exercise of the Magisterium by Pope Francis:
‘Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme Magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.’ (LG 25).
Simply put, all the faithful have an obligation to make a ‘religious submission of mind and will’ when Pope Francis exercises his supreme Magisterium as a witness ‘to divine and Catholic truth’ in matters of faith and morals. Having said this, it is important that we always listen to Pope Francis’ non-magisterial words with attention and respect as the Successor of St Peter.
We must be vigilant that any disagreement with the Holy Father does not descend into calumny and detraction which are mortal sins. I’m sad to say that I’ve seen some Catholic blogs that post tirades of vitriol and hate against the Holy Father which are gravely immoral and fill me with concern for the mental health and eternal destiny of the authors.
Not only dissenters, but also fundamentalists
Over the past two years not only have faithful Catholics been dismissed as dissenters, but we have also been stigmatised as ‘fundamentalists’. In 2014, Cardinal Kasper accused faithful clergy and laity who uphold the Church’s teaching on marriage and adultery of espousing a ‘theological fundamentalism which is not Catholic’. By characterising faithful Catholics as ‘fundamentalists’ Cardinal Kasper appears to be seeking to portray those who defend the Church’s doctrine as having something in common with the intolerance, hate and violence that is the root cause of terrorism. By using the pejorative ‘fundamentalist’ Kasper is clearly attempting to discredit and nullify all who uphold the doctrines of the Church.

I have personally witnessed the opponents of the Catholic faith attempt to discredit and exclude from public discourse those who uphold her doctrines by using the label ‘fundamentalist’. In 2007 I worked closely with Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue on his pastoral renewal programme Fit for Mission?, part of which included his publication of Fit for Mission? Schools, that set out his directives on safeguarding the Catholic ethos of schools. Among other things, Bishop Patrick insisted that Catholic schools must teach the Church’s doctrine on sexual morality and chastity, while also prohibiting the teaching of the ‘safe sex’ contraceptive mentality to children.

Barry Sheerman MP, the Chairman of the House of Commons select committee for Children, Schools and Families took great exception to the fact of a Catholic bishop publicly insisting that Catholic schools teach the Catholic Faith to Catholic children. Barry Sheerman expressed his outrage in the anti-Catholic newspapers The Observer and The Guardian newspapers:

‘’It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops.’

Back in 2007 I would never have imagined that seven years later a cardinal attending an Extraordinary Synod on marriage and the family would use the same accusation of fundamentalism against fellow bishops and the faithful for upholding doctrine. It seems to me that Cardinal Kasper likewise objects to Catholics being serious about their faith.
Living in hope of reconciliation?
I’m concerned that this ‘demonisation’ of faithful Catholics for resisting the pressure to accept adultery, and sex outside of marriage in all its immoral forms, will only increase as we approach the 2015 synod. I also fear that the attacks against Cardinal Burke and the other faithful cardinals will become more personal and violent. We have already witnessed the spokesman for the Canadian Basilian Order, Fr Timothy Scott, post an obscene tweet demanding that Cardinal Burke ‘shut up’.

The French ‘progressive’ Catholic magazine, Golias, has taken this hostility towards faithful Catholics to its natural conclusion by demanding that Catholics like Cardinal Burke should be driven out of the Church by the ‘authorities’ as soon as possible.

I take consolation from the example of St Athanasius of Alexandria who was ‘demonised’ and persecuted for his steadfast fidelity to the doctrines of the Church. We must hope that like St Athanasius our resolute and loving witness to the truth will eventually lead to the conversion of our accusers, as occurred in St Athanasius’ life-time. In his ‘History of the Arians’ St Athanasius recounts the reconciliation he was able to reach, through the grace of God, through his example:

‘How many enemies repented! How many apologised who had formerly accused him falsely! How many who formerly hated him, now showed affection for him! How many of those who had written against him, recanted their assertions. Many also who had sided with the Arians, not through choice but by necessity, came by night and apologised themselves. They anathematized the Arian heresy, and besought him to pardon them, because, although through the plots and calumnies of these men they appeared physically at their side, yet in their hearts they held communion with Athanasius, and were always with him. Believe me, this is true.’ (Triumph of Athanasius).

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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36 Responses to Making the mistake of calling faithful criticism dissent (Deacon Nick Donnelly)

  1. Deacon Nick.It is great that I can read you again.Your writings are brilliant and I admire your tenacious Faith! Protect the Pope is when I first heard of you and you uphold the One Holy Catholic Faith in a manner lacking in many in the Church.Are you a tutor at the Buckfast Abbey School of The Annunciation ?I want to go to Buckfast and spend some time in prayer and study this summer.How can I catch up on your writings ?Our Lady will crush the satans head!The liberals don’t believe anything except themselves.God Bless. I live in Newport ,Shropshire.St Peter and Pauls Catholic Church is were I attend Mass,also Latin Mass in Swynnerton and the sspx in Tunstall!! God Bess .Philip Johnson.


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    Deacon Donnelly always has pearls to cast our way. Too bad that some here – old and recent arrivals – will trample them underfoot before turning to attack others here who respect him. That’s how I see it anyway.


  3. Darling says:

    Can anyone shed clear light on the words here?. Important Catholic Church figures (the Diocese of Lancaster) have made statements with Deacon Donnelly’s agreement. I have no opinion at all for I am confused. I think the best of DD – but others who know more than I have expressed caution. Why has Donnelly been suppressed? Why did he stand down? How can I see this issue?

    (thanks to JH for publicising this troubling matter)

    « Wake up call – proper adoration of Christ in the Eucharist Prof Tina Beattie – “If she’s a Catholic, I’m a banana.” »

    Diocese of Lancaster’s statement about Deacon Nick Donnelly
    The Bishop’s office of the Diocese of Lancaster has kindly sent Nick the statement they issued to the press about him and Protect the Pope which is copied below.

    “After learning that a notice had been placed upon the Protect the Pope website on 7 March saying: ‘Deacon Nick stands down from Protect the Pope for a period of prayer and reflection’ the Bishop’s Office at the Diocese of Lancaster was able to confirm that Bishop Campbell had recently requested Deacon Nick Donnelly to voluntarily pause from placing new posts on the Protect the Pope site.

    Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that the Bishop asked Deacon Nick to use this pause to enter into a period of prayer and reflection on the duties involved for ordained bloggers/website administrators to truth, charity and unity in the Church.

    Deacon Nick has agreed to the Bishop’s request at this time”.


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    Someday perhaps, Darling, now that you’ve retired from the sweatshops, you can learn how to use links, or better yet, explain clearly the point you’re getting at. As you say, others know more than you, but my problem is figuring out what you ‘think’ you know, meagre as it may be.


  5. Deacon Nick Donnelly says:

    Dear friends, Christ has Risen. Thank you for your comments and questions. Hopefully I will have time to reply to them tomorrow. My home is wonderfully full of family who have come up to stay with us for Easter. God bless, Deacon Nick


  6. ginnyfree says:

    In this very way we get to practice Jesus’ admonishment that when we are struck on one cheek, to turn the other no matter who is doing the slapping. God bless. Ginnyfree.


  7. Brother Burrito says:

    Darling, it has come to my attention that everyone of your comments has come from a different IP address.

    This is very fishy online behaviour, and has won you an all expenses paid stay in the troll tank, until you mend your ways.

    All your future comments will be pre-moderated.


  8. JabbaPapa says:

    A superb and well-balanced article, Deacon Nick — and the notion that the Holy Father might somehow be an alien to the Tradition of the Catholic Faith is quite clearly absurd.

    The Pope’s actions from his personal charity do not cancel out the Masses he has given ad orientem, nor his defence of the orthodoxy, nor his apostolic Grace.


  9. Darling says:

    Thank you BB.

    While you have a go at me, one of your number is in big trouble and you FAIL to help. I tried to help. JH is in crisis. Don’t you read the signs? YOU HAVE FAILED. God help you if you don’t.get it. Mend my ways? My good Lord! You are pathological, anti life.

    JH is suicidal – you do nothing. Nothing. Damn you as a useless person. You will never post this because you are false. You care nothing for life.; you are anti Catholic. God forgive you. I can’t for I am weak.

    I have no idea who you are are or where you come from, yet you berate me for the same. Do you have any idea of internet security? No you don’t . Don’t you know that your site is accessed daily by others? You stupid fool. You are the enemy of the Church because of stupidity.

    Shame on you and let’s call it a day. Hide your shame and suppress this message. There’s nothing worse than quislings and cowards like you. But dishonesty is the worst.


    SHAME you inadequate person. Archbishop Romero gave his life for feeble rats like you.



  10. Brother Burrito says:

    The pretence of Darling is unveiled as I let his comment through.


  11. Tom Fisher says:

    April 8, 2015 22:28.

    What the blazes? Shocked.


  12. johnhenrycn says:

    Why am I always usually in the right? My cross, I suppose.


  13. johnhenrycn says:

    …one good thing… Deacon D can now get on with other things more important than replying to the one critically insane (or insanely critical) comment aimed his way on this thread.


  14. johnhenrycn says:

    Hey! What’s with the “thumbs down”? I thought dahlink didn’t approve of them?


  15. Tom Fisher says:

    Hmm, I suspect Darling can still down vote?


  16. johnhenrycn says:

    Okay…here’s my final *thought* for today (please Toad, don’t tempt me): Dahlink is a pseudonym for another very emotional person (from Austria) who has reason to dislike me and who’s taken a vow to never comment here again, but who still rankles at the thought of my unwarranted aspersions on his good name? I’m probably overestimating my importance in said self-exile’s thought process, but there you go, and goodnight.


  17. Tom Fisher says:

    Something weird is going on, at the time of writing “Darlings” horrible rant has 3 up votes. Seems fishy

    My home is wonderfully full of family who have come up to stay with us for Easter. God bless, Deacon Nick

    As was mine, my office became a bedroom. I had to move to the local pub. (Joke). Bless you too.


  18. JabbaPapa says:

    Hmm, I suspect Darling can still down vote?

    Multiple times.

    It’s a trademark of his …


  19. kathleen says:

    Dear All,

    We believe this most obnoxious commenter, going under the name of “Darling” this time, is an old troll who has been attacking this blog pretty much since it started. He has appeared here sporadically over the years using various monikers (a.k.a. sock puppets), craftily writing a preliminary innocuous comment to first get through pre-moderation, but soon revealing the same extreme left-wing, quarrelsome, offensive and verbally aggressive behaviour. Like here (^) above, he always ends up spewing pure venomous hatred towards anyone who tackles him even mildly.
    We do not know why he does this to us; why he tries to ruin interesting articles and rub everyone up the wrong way, but he is clearly unbalanced and in need of medical help. Please pray for him.

    P.S. No JH, it is not who you think it is; this commenter is not from Austria.


  20. geoffkiernan says:

    Ah Yes….the comment, ‘Shut the F….. Up’ , I believe it was, by ‘Father’ Timothy Scott demonstrates what lies just below the surface of a true dissenter.
    I suspect Darling is another one…


  21. johnhenrycn says:

    So glad, Kathleen, that Tribunis hasn’t come back to take revenge on me. Ask him, if you see him, what he thinks of this joke when I next see my Jewish sister-in-law:

    -What does a Jewish mother say when she tickles her new born baby daughter?
    -Gucci, Gucci, Gucci.


  22. JabbaPapa says:

    No, Geoff, just another tedious evangelical atheist Oxonian troll … 😦


  23. GC says:

    I seem to recall this “fundamentalist” epithet from the late 80s and early 90s. It’s been around a while now and so isn’t as amusing as it was previously. A bit hoary and old-hat.

    The use of this word to describe faithful Catholics predates the violent “Islamic fundamentalism” that became very prominent in the early 2000s. I don’t think then in the 80s and 90s it had so much the meaning of “terrorist”, but rather the idea of “misfit”, “simpleton”, “theological illiterate” etc. At around that time, maybe a little earlier, I heard a Blessed Sacrament priest who, in his brief homily in a famous city church at a 7 a.m. weekday Mass, called Pope John Paul II a “Polish peasant”, who would have to change his ways. I suppose then in the late 70s that didn’t betoken “dissent” from the Pope, but “faithful criticism”, no doubt.

    The most amusing early use of this “fundamentalist” epithet in order to try to wound orthodox Catholics, that I remember anyhow, was when a now elderly ex-MSC priest called Cardinal Pell (then Bishop Pell) this on national TV in 1991:

    “Having heard Pell’s defence of the Vatican, Collins finally lost patience and told him he was a Catholic ‘fundamentalist.’ Pell [then a Melbourne auxiliary bishop] rejected the ‘put-down’ with icy restraint that barely concealed his anger.”


  24. another very emotional person (from Austria)
    A bias against Austrians, JH?… Or only against Austrian Monarchists?… Please explain.

    P.S. No JH, it is not who you think it is; this commenter is not from Austria.
    Neither in fact am I (though I wish I were).


  25. johnhenrycn says:

    THR, please stop changing your blog name and avatar – v. confusing. Regarding your ‘point’ about bias, it’s not all about you. There used to be another pretend Austrian (a Jewish one) commenting here. You are not the only wannabe lonely goatherd in the world:

    The hills are alive (not) with your adolescent dreams about a resurgent Hapsburg Empire.


  26. johnhenrycn says:

    …although it’s only right to also concede that you are an intelligent, and more than fairly well read adolescent goatherd.


  27. GC says:

    JH, Forbes has recently reported the 10 “most liveable cities” in the world according to the 2015 Mercer Quality of Living Survey . Vienna is at the top and seven of the 10 were historically cities of the Holy Roman Empire. Neat coincidence that and lonely goatherds don’t appear to be an entirely bad thing.


  28. kathleen says:

    Deacon Nick Donnelly really hits the nail on the head, doesn’t he? Who has not been lambasted by some “progressive” or “liberal” Catholic for our defence of one or other Catholic teaching at some time? I think most orthodox Catholics know all about having names like “fundamentalist” or suchlike thrown at them. Though what Deacon Nick himself, and other loyal and prominent members of the Church have had to suffer for their valiant stand for Truth, makes our own ‘crown on thorns’ for not compromising our Faith, pretty small in comparison.

    It is very disheartening to have to confront this type of faithlessness from fellow Catholics who should know better, for it’s not as if we do not have more than enough real ‘enemies’ in the world to have to deal with.


  29. kathleen says:

    JH, are you vying with Toad for the title of “CP&S royal court jester”? 😉

    You should go over to the ‘Roman Christendom’ blog to take a look at some recent outstandingly good posts by Tribunus about this holy season. You will be pleasantly surprised.
    Tribunus, Jewish?? Nope; he only said his mother’s family was. Tribunus is Catholic to the core. (As I know you are too. 🙂 )


  30. geoffkiernan says:

    Jabba at 2.23……An atheist? … okay he/she fooled me there for a minute. Proves how deceptive the father of lies can be….


  31. johnhenrycn says:

    Kathleen (10:01) is trying to remind me in the nicest possible way to mind my manners, and that this blog is not a free-for-all. Reminder received with thanks.


  32. THR, please stop changing your blog name and avatar –
    I only changed it once, when I launched the website for the HRM. My original blog was a temporary referral place which you’re still welcome to visit, run by a different organization with which I am affiliated. As for my avatar, that is the only one I use. Please excuse me, I’ve got to get back to my herd…


  33. GC says:

    Yes, THR, keep working on those 10 most liveable cities of the future. I notice Vancouver, but one of the top ten, is not a former Holy Imperial city, but is somewhere in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls; JH territory, in short.


  34. toadspittle says:

    “I notice Vancouver, but one of the top ten, is not a former Holy Imperial city, but is somewhere in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls; “

    Do you think Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon are in the same “vicinity,” GC? Or that either, or both. are remotely within the “vicinity” of Vancouver?
    I suppose you mean they are all in the “vicinity” of Mexico.
    Or something. I suppose they are, in a way.
    I don’t know.


  35. GC says:

    I do apologise, Toad. For us over here we only know the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. Lots of selfies of sundry compatriots I’ve seen at there. Toledo Ohio is a complete mystery, except that it’s a five hour drive from Niagara Falls via Detroit. Have we missed something?


  36. toadspittle says:

    Toledo Ohio, is a complete mystery to everyone, GC. You are not alone.
    Although both Niagara and the G.C. are well worth seeing. (and Vancouver.)
    …Despite Oscar Wilde not being dazzled by The Falls. “What! Aren’t you impressed by that vast and spectacular torrent of water cascading down?” asked an indignant native, “Well, there doesn’t seem anywhere else for it to go,” said Oscar. He then compounded with the comment, “Niagara Falls must be the second major disappointment of married life.”


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