REMNANT COMMENT: As we descend further through the Vatican II looking glass, the official Vatican newspaper has printed an article wherein Fr. Pie-Ninot lectures us that we are forbidden to dissent from an Apostolic Exhortation which itself dissents from the perennial Catholic Magisterium. In other words, we are not allowed to dissent from Pope Francis’ dissent. This notion is, of course, preposterous.
The Catholic teaching that Donum Veritatis echoes is that we are bound to assent to non-infallible papal teachings. Obviously, this teaching assumes that said non-infallible papal teachings do not contradict infallible and perennial Catholic teaching on the sacraments of Matrimony, Penance, and Holy Communion. Otherwise the entire theological teaching structure of the Church falls to pieces.
As the German Jesuit Christian Pesch (d. 1925) writes:
(…) one must assent to the decrees of the Roman congregations, as long as it does not become positively sure that they have erred. Since the Congregations, per se, do not furnish an absolutely certain argument in favor of a given doctrine, one may or even must investigate the reasons for that doctrine. And thus, either it will come to pass that such a doctrine will be gradually accepted in the whole Church, attaining in this way the condition of infallibility, or it will happen that the error is little by little detected. For, since the religious assent referred to is not based on a metaphysical certainty, but only a moral and general one, it does not exclude all suspicion of error. For this reason, as soon as there arises sufficient motives for doubt, the assent will be prudently suspended: nevertheless, as long as such motives for doubt do not arise, the authority of the Congregations is sufficient to oblige one to assent. The same principles apply without difficulty to the declarations which the Supreme Pontiff emits without involving his supreme authority, as well as the decisions of the other ecclesiastical superiors who are not infallible.[i]
Theologian Franciscus Diekamp similarly states:
These non infallible acts of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff do not oblige one to believe, and do not postulate an absolute and definitive subjection. But it behooves one to adhere with a religious and internal assent to such decisions, since they constitute acts of the supreme Magisterium of the Church, and are founded upon solid natural and supernatural reasons. The obligation to adhere to them can only begin to terminate in case, and this only occurs very rarely, [when] a man [who is] fit to judge such a question, after a repeated and very diligent analysis of all the arguments, arrives at the conviction that an error has been introduced into the decision.[ii]
And Merkelbach, a renowned Dominican moralist, agrees. In his Summa Theologiae Moralis, he wrote:
When the Church does not teach with her infallible authority, the doctrine proposed is not, as such, unreformable; for this reason, if per accidens, in a hypothesis which is however very rare, after a very careful examination of the matter, it appears to someone that there exist very grave reasons contrary to the doctrine thus proposed, it will be licit, without falling into temerity, to suspend internal assent (…)[iii]