The Catholic Church is led by the magisterium—the Pope and the bishops in communion with him, with the priests passing on the teaching in the parish level—who have the authority and the responsibility to teach the Catholic faith, and to determine what is and what is not in keeping with the Catholic faith. The rest of us cooperate in this teaching mission to the extent that we accurately present the Church teaching. It stands to reason that the Pope and the bishops can’t be everywhere at once, and the lay Catholic needs to explain and defend the faith.
However, once Catholics try to establish a “Catholic ministry” that is in actual opposition to the teaching of the Church as passed on by the Pope and bishops in communion with, they are no longer faithful Catholics, but hijackers.These hijackers appeal to figures of renown within the Church and Church documents to either give credibility to their own position, or to discredit the teachers of the magisterium who teach something they dislike.
Of course what they think the Church should be conveniently reflects their own behaviors and rejects the views of the Church when she teaches against the preferred behavior. Thus we see Catholics openly treat bishops with contempt when they teach and give heed to Catholic bloggers who have no authority to claim that their views represent authentic Catholicism.
When we see Catholic blogss treating the Pope with open contempt because they dislike Laudato Si, that is a clear sign that the person is a hijacker and not presenting an authentic Catholic teaching. When we see Catholics dismissing the authority of the bishops to teach on the death penalty or the defense of marriage, that too is a clear sign that the attacker is a hijacker. Heed the warning signs—such a person is attempting to make themselves a counter-magisterium and take the faith to a new generation.
The fact is the Pope has authority over things far beyond making ex cathedra statements. As the Vatican I document, Pastor Æternus, says:
If then any shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection or direction, and not full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those things which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world; or assert that he possesses merely the principal part, and not all the fullness of this supreme power; or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the Churches and over each and all the pastors of the faithful; let him be anathema. (Chapter III)
This doesn’t mean the Pope or the bishop has the right to “say whatever the hell he wants,” of course. But nobody is claiming he can in the first place. Such accusations that he is doing so only demonstrates that the accuser has nothing more than a superficial understanding about the Church teaching he or she disputes. If one looks at Pope Francis and his teachings, one will find the same concepts being used by his predecessors.
For example, the Church has never supported indiscriminate capitalism, indiscriminate use of the environment, indiscriminate use of the death penalty or war. But hijackers use the either-or fallacy in order to portray the Pope or bishops as holding the contrary position. If the Pope speaks of the evils of unrestrained capitalism, that is seen as endorsing socialism (which the Church condemns). When the Church condemns the abuse of the environment, she is accused of being on the side of Al Gore. When she speaks against particular wars and particular applications of the death penalty, she is accused of contradicting previous Popes and bishops.
But the either-or fallacy fails because the contradiction to a universal claim is not the opposite universal claim (All men are honest vs. no men are honest). The contradiction is done by demonstrating that some things or people do not fall into that universal claim. If one claims that all capitalism is good, one doesn’t refute it by claiming no capitalism is good. One can refute it simply by proving Some capitalism is not good. There’s a huge difference.
The Church, in challenging the world, is not saying that all things in a category are bad. She doesn’t teach (contrary to modern claims) that All Sex is bad. She teaches that sex taken out of its proper context is bad. The content in which it is good is marriage between one man and one woman in a lifelong relationship which is open to the possibility of offspring. But hijackers misrepresent her position into saying that because the Church does not say “all sex is good,” it means she teaches “no sex is good,” and encourage people to rebel against the Church—but the rebellion is against something that does not exist.
Ultimately, the obligation of the Catholic is to discern the sources they use for information about the Church. If the sources are putting themselves in opposition to the magisterium and claiming they are giving you the “true story” about the Church or claim that they are being more like Jesus than the magisterium, you can be certain that they are simply hijacking the label of Catholic to give their position of rebellion an illusion of credibility. We have to reject these false teachers.
This is done by studying the faith, so that when we run into hijackers, we can discern their distortions. We also have to look to the Pope and the bishops with trust as having the authority to teach in a binding way and recognizing that when our understanding runs afoul of the Church teaching, we have to be very careful when we are tempted to label our own interpretation as true and the magisterium is false. Remember, God didn’t give us the charism of infallibility.