My new favorite Pope Benedict XVI Quote

“It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free. Cardinal Newman realized this, and he left us an outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth by following that ‘kindly light’ wherever it led him, even at considerable personal cost. Great writers and communicators of his stature and integrity are needed in the Church today, and it is my hope that devotion to him will inspire many to follow in his footsteps.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the Bishops of England and Wales
Visit “ad limina apostolorum,” January, 2010

Amen and amen. That first sentence says it all.

And, Stateside, it seems to me that there are a couple of National Catholic publications in America that really need to wrap their minds around this truth, though I am not holding my breath in anticipation of that.


  1. Crowe

    'course not. They will, without noting the inherent irony, just say the Pope is wrong on that, and that dissent is the highest form of patriotism… or some such.

  2. Patrick

    Nice use of italics, I loved this quote the first time I saw it, but I forgot the complete context, speaking about Newman. It certainly was at "considerable personal cost."

  3. Anonymous

    Is there a list compiled of organizations or publications claiming to be Catholic, but not holding to the true teachings of the Church? I would really like to be able to steer clear of suspect Catholic thought.

  4. Paul

    I would hope that people would be able to have more intelligent discussions, but Truth is not popular, at least not in London. I personally can't wait to see the Pope this weekend (I am fortunate to be able to attend both the Hyde Park vigil and the Sunday Mass – leaving at 2AM 🙂 ). But some others in the UK are not so happy, and the press has been rather negative too. I wrote a short rant on Monday:

  5. Anonymous

    "suspect Catholic thought"If it is "suspect" – it ain't Catholic."For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

  6. Tim H.

    >>>Is there a list compiled of >>>organizations or publications claiming >>>to be Catholic, but not holding to >>>the true teachings of the Church?I doubt it. I can tell you that National Catholic Reporter is one you should steer away from. They are actually anti-catholic. Some other sites state that they adhere to the teaching of the magesterium yet allow individual columnists to lob oblique (and not so oblique) insults at non-Catholics and aethiests. Controversy, anger and insults, while having little to do with Christianity or Christ, certainly does drive readership and thereby ad revenue. All I can offer is that you will know them by their fruit. Read the reader responses to the articles and you will quickly get the idea what the site is all about. -Tim-

  7. Anonymous

    Good start – Seems like taking the time to help his flock understand the difference between dissent and dialog would help our country's tenor of debate, would help guide Catholics in how to disagree and love, indeed would help discourage judgment of brothers and sisters in Catholicism and, rather, working to find ways to speak with even those who disagree but who will, no matter how annoying or kookoo their views, still enter the Kingdom alongside ourselves.

  8. doanli aka "orange blossom"

    Heh heh…I love the word "mature" put in that sentence because it's so true.Long live Pope Benedict! Love him!

  9. SentimentalGent

    To anonymous, I don't know if there is a specific list of good and bad Catholic groups or media, but you can find out much at Its "Site Reviews" section has reviews of websites from organizations and/or publications. You can get a pretty good idea there. Plus lots of great news coverage and commentary (My favorite is "Off the Record." Check it out.

  10. Joe Heschmeyer

    Anonymous @ 8:50, Catholic Culture does Site Reviews — you can find it at – they are a pretty good barometer for determining whether a "Catholic" site is edifying or destructive for your faith.

  11. Anonymous

    Just for the record, the Vatican puts the Address on 01 February, 2010, rather than January.Peace.

  12. Gabriella

    VIVA IL PAPA!!I love that picture of him even more…that's the first time I have ever seen the Holy Father actually holding the Keys to the Kingdom!(in his right hand)How perfectly suited to the quote! You sure know how to pick 'em, Patrick.

  13. Anonymous

    Sorry, but last time I checked no one appointed you the arbiter of what is dissent and what is fidelity. So you don't get to condemn the NCR, America, Commonweal or any other Catholic publication. As one who came later to the Catholic church, perhaps you ought to show a little humility.

  14. Patrick Madrid

    Sorry, but no one appointed you the arbiter of what I may and may not express an opinion on. So, buzz off.But before you go, let me correct another error of yours. I happen to be a life-long Catholic (50 years), not a convert. I did not "come later" to the Church.As one who doesn't have the courage to post your public potshots at others under your *real name,* it is you yourself who ought to show a little humility.

  15. Frank

    Amen, Patrick.Also, as a convert, may I say I am more than tired of my brother and sister Catholics who, having been given the great gift of our Church only by accident of birth, seem to think that makes them superior to those such as myself who were led by the Holy Spirit to the Church later in life? (You have never said or even hinted at any such thing yourself, of course…). And since we are about to witness the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, need we remind some of these folks that Cardinal Newman himself was a convert?

  16. gkhillis

    I begin simply by saying that I'm a great admirer of Benedict as a pope and as a theologian. I am also an avid student of Blessed Newman.I have a quick question for you, Patrick. What do you think Benedict means by 'dissent'? I ask because I'm concerned you're misreading our pope above. Neither Benedict nor Blessed Newman understand/understood the church to be a dictatorship, nor do/did they advocate blind obedience to the magisterium. Both believe(d) strongly in the importance of constructive theological and moral discussion, and even disagreement. What neither are/were interested in is the kind of discussion or disagreement that lacks the humility that comes with a recognition that one may indeed be wrong. I am genuinely curious as to whether you can envision the possibility that someone may both recognize and respect the authority of the magisterium and yet humbly submit theologically and morally rigorous arguments that may be in divergence from the magisterium. Prideful dissent is indeed a problem. But a humble dialogue and dissent that recognizes the authority of the magisterium and a desire to contribute to the church's ongoing pursuit and grasp for truth, goodness, and beauty is something that is a hallmark of the Catholic church. The church is not a democracy, this is true. But it is not a dictatorship, either. And the value of theological discussion and disagreement is a time-honored and valued part of the church's ongoing theological discourse.Thus, I disagree with the way you characterize some of the Catholic publications of the U.S. Very few that I have read are actively opposed to the magisterium. Rather, the vast majority recognize the authority of the magisterium while at the same time contributing to the theological and moral reflection that should be undertaken by all of us.So…what do you think Benedict means by 'dissent'?

  17. Patrick Madrid

    Gkhillis, thank you for your comments.I think that what Pope Benedict means by "dissent" can be adequately surmised by his objections to the dissent propagated by Thomas Reese, S.J., former editor of America Magazine. When an ostensibly Catholic publication continually agitates for a reversal of Church teaching on issues such as "gay marriage," the "ordination of women," fetal stem-cell research, homosexual priests, etc., I would say that constitutes dissent; that is what got Fr. Reese into trouble, and that is what I understand Pope Benedict to mean when he speaks of "dissent. I'll take this occasion to emphasize his comment:"It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate."It seems very clear to me what he means. And if you disagree with what I wrote above, I guess my question to you would be, "What do *you* think he means by 'dissent' if by that he does not have in mind the issues that led to Reese quitting his position under pressure from the CDF?"P.S. Just for context, here are a couple of articles which elaborate on the Reese issue, though from different vantage points:


    Pomposity on steroids. Despite Mr Madrid's effort to add fluff to the word "dissent"–it boils down to don't "disagree with me" because the Church is always correct when the Bishop of Rome declares such. There is nothing to contribute except praise, agreement and support and that isn't mature.

  19. Patrick Madrid

    Hoo, boy. Tom Wilson, I have to wonder what you mean by "mature" here and how well you really understand what constitutes faithful assent to Catholic teaching. Judging from your comment above, my guess is: "not all that much."As a remedy, I suggest you read and think about paragraph's 84-100 and 150-163 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  20. gkhillis

    Sorry for the delay in responding.Patrick, I think the issue of dissent is a much more complicated issue than perhaps you give it credit for (though I could be wrong in my reading of you). And I think it is more complicated because it appears to me that the Church does not understand all disagreement with Church teaching to be 'dissent,' or at least the kind of dissent that receives sanction. The Church has long understood that theologians can and should have the freedom and ability to stretch the boundaries of theological and moral thought, as it were. This, of course, comes with the proviso that such theological exploration be done in humble obedience to Church teaching. Such obedience is not simply towing the line, but is much more nuanced than that. It is humbly submitting to ecclesial authority while at the same time using one's theological and historical expertise sometimes to challenge ideas. It becomes dissent, it appears to me, when pride enters the equation, and ecclesial authority is no longer recognized nor appreciated. This is the theological equivalent of walking a tight-rope, and is a difficult one. But it is a tight-rope that Blessed Newman walked very capably and wisely, as can be discovered with a careful examination of his life and writings.It should not be forgotten that Pope Benedict, as you know, was and is a theological heavyweight, a theologian of remarkable skill and thought. My reading of Ratzinger/Benedict is admittedly incomplete. But what I have read indicates to me that he takes Newman as an exemplar of the kind of humble, yet challenging, theological work that should characterize the work of theologians today.So, in answer to your question, 'dissent' is measured and should be judged (and is often judged) by the presence or lack of humility, particularly in relation to ecclesial authority. This, of course, is a very difficult thing to judge; i.e., it is not as black and white as perhaps you or others want it to be. But this appears to me to be the way in which dissent has been judged throughout much of Church history, and to be the way in which it continues to be judged ideally.However, as I should admit given all that I've said about humility, I could very well be wrong. I'd be interested in your opinion.

  21. Laura

    Amen Patrick. I took the the Holy Father to mean those who no are acting not against debate-able issues in the Church, but total disobedience to Church Teaching. It is not dissent to disagree with the Church on issues, however it is dissent to act on those feeling. Obedience to the Church is our foundation. It most always take top priority which often can be a difficult struggle. Mature debate is always encouraged. Everyone must search for a greater understanding of God, and they must continue this always throughout their life.

  22. Laura

    Also, I too remembered this quote while watching EWTN's coverage. I then looked up the Homliy and to read it. This quote also touched me.

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