By Dr. William Marra Ph.D.
My great teacher, Dietrich von Hildebrande wrote four outstanding books on the present crisis in the Church. Recently, his latest book, The Charitable Anathema was published. I wish we could mail a copy to Rome. A chapter in this book contains one of the most important lectures he ever gave to the Roman Forum. It concerns the difference between belief and obedience. He called it the critical difference. It was masterful.
The point is this: if there is a problem on a question of truth, and there’s a big dispute, and finally Rome speaks (invoking its infallible authority) and says, “This statement must be believed de fide”. Then this is the end of the dispute. Roma locuta causa finita. Rome has spoken, the case is finished. That is the end of it. Therefore, we owe assent of belief to statements of truth.
However, practical decisions of Churchmen, even the highest authorities; the Pope, bishops, priests are something quite different. We do not say, for example, that a command of a Pope or decision of a Pope to call a council is true or not. We can say that it is wise or not ... it is opportune or not. Such a decision in no way asks us to assent to its truth. It asks us to obey the command or commands that pertain to us. This is what von Hildebrande meant by difference between belief and obedience. And we Catholics are never obliged to believe that a given command, or given decision of anyone, including the Pope, is necessarily that of the Holy Ghost. (Read more here.....)