Just something I’ve been thinking about.
Catholics are often accused of having the Church “think for them”, but the more I’ve learned about Catholicism the more I’ve realized that there is, in fact, a LOT of room for disagreement.
Let’s take the afterlife. Most Catholics know that Purgatory is a doctrine. Few people actually realize how broad the doctrine is. The Eastern Catholic Church is forgotten a lot, and they would disagree a LOT with Catholics on what, exactly, being in Purgatory actually means. Going off of memory, they conceive of it as something like a journey to Heaven, aided by the prayers of the faithful, where one undergoes a process where they become more like God before they can reach Heaven. As Article V of the Treaty of Brest states, “We shall not debate about purgatory…”. All Catholics are required to believe are two things: 1) There is a place of transition/transformation for those en-route to Heaven, and 2) prayer is efficacious for the dead who are in this state. Otherwise, what goes on is fair game for disagreement.
The death penalty is another good example. Catholics DO have to believe that the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral, but that doesn’t mean that Catholics can’t have substantial disagreement about how often it should be allowed. The Catechism’s view, endorsed by Saint John Paul II, basically makes the death penalty so rare that it’s virtually impossible to justify. Others, like me, think that it’s not being used often enough (in the States at least).
And lying is another one. Natural law theorists (like me) claim that lying is always and every time wrong. Certain Catholics sometimes make the distinction that you can lie to people not “owed” the truth. This disagreement doesn’t constitute heresy. That doesn’t mean one side isn’t wrong – just that neither side is heretical.
The point here is that the claim that Catholics are mindless drones is definitely an incorrect one, and in fact disagreement can be perfectly valid. It’s understandable why people don’t realize that, but there you go.