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Q & A with Father Anthony

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Do I have to decide to be conservative or liberal before I choose a vocation?

Vito asks:

Dear Fr Anthony,

Since I`ve started discerning a priestly vocation, I`ve learned about the different sides that exist in Catholic theology. There are those who feel a more conservative stance is needed, others feel that a more liberal stance is required to keep up with the times.

Are these just politics within the church that I should ignore while I discern, or are these serious concerns that I should decide upon before I choose a vocation? I don`t want to worry about "which side" a parish or religious community takes, but is that important information to know?


Dear Vito,

Above all things we first have to seek the truth. There are certain truths that derive from God's revelation in Christ which the Church has uncovered over the centuries (the divinity of Christ, the oneness of God, the reality of the Sacraments, the place and privileges of Mary, the Pope's charism of infallibility, the grave nature of certain sins, are some but not all of them). All these we must uphold if we are to be true to Christ, and so they are not a matter of Church politics nor are they optional -we must accept them wholeheartedly and unreservedly if we are to be true followers of Christ. Of course, we may have to find new ways to teach them in different societies, cultures and circumstances but we cannot change the message, only the delivery.

Besides these established truths there are other theological and doctrinal questions that have not been settled yet (for example, did Mary die or not before her Assumption) and still others that are a matter of personal preference (for example, one licit form of the liturgy over another) where of course there can be legitimate diversity of opinions among faithful Catholics.

The complications arise when a person thinks that something which is in fact settled is not, and therefore he thinks he is free to hold his own, differing personal opinion when in fact he is simply mistaken and outside the truth (for example, a person who thinks masturbation is not sinful).

So, as you discern your vocation you should definitely continue to study your Catholic faith as deeply as possible, using good sources such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Compendium of the Catechism. Get some guidance from an informed and balanced priest or layman as to what materials to study, and fortunately today there is a wealth of very helpful recorded and written material for the serious student.

As regards worrying about which side a parish or religious order takes, a particular parish will not matter unless you are taking your religious education there, while if you are interested in a religious order or diocesan seminary you have the right to receive there a formation that is totally in agreement with the Church’s teachings and what she has indelibly inscribed on the tablets of her fidelity to Christ. It is quite reasonable to discuss this point with the appropriate vocation director.

God bless.

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