What are the consequences according to the Catholic Church for members of the Catholic Church in case of not believing in all dogmas?

For example

  • Rejecting the notion of the bodily ascension or assumption into heaven (alive) as introduced in 1950
  • Not believing in Transubstantiation during Eucharist but understanding it as a symbolic act like the Lutherans do

All other teachings and dogmas would be believed.

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  • 1
    We have a related question here Feb 17, 2017 at 14:31
  • How do you understand the difference between a dogma and its formal definition? For example, the fact that the Holy Spirit is truly and wholly God was not formally defined for a super long time, but it was always believed and taught (i.e. it was a dogma) by the Church.
    – Michael
    May 10, 2017 at 8:38
  • Also, how would you understand "believing"?
    – Michael
    May 10, 2017 at 12:21
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    While Lutherans do not support Transubstantiation, describing their understanding as symbolic is completely inaccurate.
    – bradimus
    Oct 31, 2017 at 22:48

4 Answers 4


This is an interesting question. Many people are not particularly clear on what dogmas really are and why they are important. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

The dogmas of the faith

88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.

Therefore, dogmas are those propositions which Christians are obliged (that is, they must) to believe irrevocably. They are truths which, if not believed, bring down the whole edifice of the Faith and make it empty.

The Code of Canon Law further states:

Can. 749 §1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.

§2. The college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively.

§3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.

Can. 750 §1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.

§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

That is to say, the Supreme Pontiff may "proclaim by definitive act" or an Ecumenical Council may "declare (...) that a doctrine (...) is to be held definitely," or else all bishops may "agree" that a doctrine "is to be held definitely"; and such a "definite" doctrine must, by force of Canon 750, be believed by all, since they are required to safeguard and expound on the Deposit of the Faith — otherwise they would not be declared definitely.

Finally, Canon 751 defines heresy as a baptised Christian refusing to believe those definite teachings, which are to be believe "with divine and Catholic faith." In particular, refusing to believe in the Real Presence (as the Reformed do, but not the Lutherans, who believe in Consubstantiation rather than Transubstantiation) means denying the Sacramental and saving power of Holy Communion, which is a very grave matter to Catholics as a whole.

As for the Assumption of Our Lady (the one defined in 1950 by the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus), it was the result of the consensus of all Bishops, even though it was defined by the Holy Father. Here is the relevant passage:

  1. And, since we were dealing with a matter of such great moment and of such importance, we considered it opportune to ask all our venerable brethren in the episcopate directly and authoritatively that each of them should make known to us his mind in a formal statement. Hence, on May 1, 1946, we gave them our letter "Deiparae Virginis Mariae," a letter in which these words are contained: "Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?"

  2. But those whom "the Holy Spirit has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God"(4) gave an almost unanimous affirmative response to both these questions. This "outstanding agreement of the Catholic prelates and the faithful,"(5) affirming that the bodily Assumption of God's Mother into heaven can be defined as a dogma of faith, since it shows us the concordant teaching of the Church's ordinary doctrinal authority and the concordant faith of the Christian people which the same doctrinal authority sustains and directs, thus by itself and in an entirely certain and infallible way, manifests this privilege as a truth revealed by God and contained in that divine deposit which Christ has delivered to his Spouse to be guarded faithfully and to be taught infallibly.(6)

That is to say, the definition of the Dogma of the Assumption showcases the agreement of the Church, which by Christ's promise, has been protected from error through the action of the Holy Spirit; and denying this dogma implies necessarily that the Church can and does err and is thus not protected from error, falsifying the Christ's words in Mt 16:18, and putting in check all other doctrines which the Church holds, from the Trinity to the Resurrection to the remission of sins and salvation.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Feb 18, 2017 at 14:26
  • "They are truths which, if not believed, bring down the whole edifice of the Faith and make it empty." So the consequence to a Catholic believer of not believing all dogmas is that the Catholic Church fails. That doesn't answer the question IMO.
    – SLM
    Mar 28, 2018 at 20:01
  • If (and I say if) a Dogma was actually incorrect, the Church professing said Dogma will have trapped itself. Jun 22, 2022 at 12:33

Adapted from this answer:

The Church's Theological Notes or Qualifications

Listed below are the so-called theological notes and their associated censures from the table in Sixtus Cartechini, S.J.'s 1951 work De Valore Notarum Theologicarum (On the Value of the Theological Notes), which confessors have used when dealing with erudite penitents. (It's also available in Italian translation.) The theological notes are a way of classifying the proximity of a theological proposition to revelation. (For a good history of the development of these notes, see The development of the theological censures after the Council of Trent: (1563-1709) by John Cahill, O.P.)

The "Effects of denial" for each note are the consequences of denying the corresponding theological note:

For example, the Assumption of Mary and the transubstantiation are both dogmas; thus, one mortally sins in denying them and is automatically excommunicated when one's heresy is manifested publicly.

  1. Theological note: Dogma.
    Equivalent terms: Dogma of faith; de fide, de fide Catholica; de fide divina et Catholica.
    Explanation: A truth proposed by the Church as revealed by God.
    Examples: The Immaculate Conception; all the contents of the Athanasian Creed.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: Heresy
    Effects of denial: Mortal sin committed directly against the virtue of faith, and, if the heresy is outwardly professed, excommunication is automatically incurred and membership of the Church forfeited.
    Remarks: A dogma can be proposed either by a solemn definition of pope or council, or by the Ordinary Magisterium, as in the case of the Athanasian Creed, to which the church has manifested her solemn commitment by its long-standing liturgical and practical use and commendation.
  2. Theological Note: Doctrine of ecclesiastical faith
    Equivalent term: De fide ecclesiastica definita
    Explanation: A truth not directly revealed by God but closely connected with Divine revelation and infallibly proposed by the Magisterium.
    Example: The lawfulness of communion under one kind.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: Heresy against ecclesiastical faith.
    Effects of denial: Mortal sin directly against faith, and, if publicly professed, automatic excommunication and forfeiture of membership of Church.
    Remarks: It is a dogma that the Church's infallibility extends to truths in this sphere, so one who denies them denies implicitly a dogma or Divine faith.
  3. Theological Note: Truth of Divine faith.
    Equivalent term: De fide divina.
    Explanation: A truth revealed by God but not certainly proposed as such by the Church.
    Example: Christ claimed from the beginning of His public life to be the Messias.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: Error (in faith).
    Effects of denial: Mortal sin directly against faith, but no loss of Church membership. May incur a canonical penalty.
  4. Theological Note: Proximate to faith.
    Explanation: A doctrine all but unanimously held as revealed by God.
    Example: Christ possessed the Beatific Vision throughout his life on earth.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: Proximate to error.
    Effects of denial: Mortal sin indirectly against faith.
  5. Theological Note: Theologically certain.
    Equivalent term: Dogmatic fact; theological conclusion.
    Explanation: A truth logically following from one proposition which is Divinely revealed and another which is historically certain.
    Example: Legitimacy of Pope Pius XI.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: Error (in theology).
    Effects of denial: Mortal sin against faith.
  6. Theological Note: Catholic doctrine.
    Equivalent term: Catholic teaching.
    Explanation: A truth authentically taught by the Ordinary Magisterium but not as revealed or intimately connected with revelation.
    Example: Invalidity of Anglican Orders; validity of Baptism conferred by heretic or Jews.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: Temerarious.
    Effects of denial: Mortal sin indirectly against faith.
    Remarks: The expression Catholic doctrine is sometimes applied to truths of a higher order also, but never of a lower one. In some cases the appropriate censure may be graver than "temerarious".
  7. Theological Note: Certain.
    Equivalent term: Common; theologically certain.
    Explanation: A truth unanimously held by all schools of theologians which is derived from revealed truth, but by more than one step of reasoning.
    Example: The true and strict causality of the sacraments.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: Temerarious.
    Effects of denial: Usually, mortal sin of temerity.
    Remarks: Proportionately grave reason can sometimes justify an individual who has carefully studied the evidence in dissenting from such a proposition; since it is not completely impossible for all the theological schools to err on such a matter, although it would be highly unusual and contrary to an extremely weighty presumption.
  8. Theological Note: Safe.
    Explanation: Affirmed in doctrinal decrees of Roman Congregations.
    Example: That Christ will not reign visibly on earth for a thousand years after Antichrist.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: Unsafe/temerarious.
    Effects of denial: Mortal sin of disobedience and perhaps imprudence.
    Remarks: Exterior assent is absolutely required and interior assent is normally required, since, though not infallible, the Congregations possess true doctrinal authority and the protective guidance of the Holy Ghost.
  9. Theological Note: Very common/commoner.
    Explanation: The most solidly founded or best attested theological opinion on a disputed subject.
    Example: Antichrist will be of the tribe of Dan.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: None.
    Effects of denial: None.
    Remarks: Very common or commoner opinions can be mistaken and there is no obligation to follow them though prudence inclines us to favour them as a general policy. It should be noted that an opinion which is "very common" is less well established than one which is "common" which implies moral unanimity of theological schools.
  10. Theological Note: Probable.
    Explanation: A theological opinion which is well founded either on the grounds of its intrinsic coherence or the extrinsic weight of authority favouring it.
    Example: Judas received Holy Communion at the Last Supper. Judas did not receive Holy Communion at the Last Supper.
    Censure attached to contradictory proposition: None.
    Effects of denial: None.
    Remarks: The better founded of two conflicting opinions is referred to as more probable; but Catholics are free to prefer some other opinion for any good reason.
  • That's all very good and correct, but probably a contemporary reader needs to know that the Church still has not abandoned its concept of mortal sin requiring assent + knowledge, and the practical reality of grave impediment.
    – Michael
    May 10, 2017 at 8:58
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    Does "denial" here mean the same as "not believing" in the OP?
    – Michael
    May 10, 2017 at 15:05
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    @Michael Denial means to know something and actively disbelieve it. One is not excommunicated for ignorance or a genuine misunderstanding, but one does need to know the faith to be a member of the Church (cf. Mystici Corporis Christi §22) in the first place.
    – Geremia
    May 11, 2017 at 2:21
  • OK. And how would you define the terms "know the faith"? E.g. in the case of infants who are 100% "members of the Church" through Baptism? Or Catechumens who the new Catechism states are also part of the Church?
    – Michael
    May 11, 2017 at 6:11
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    @Michael Here's the exact part I was referring to: Mystici Corporis Christi §22: "those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith". One needs to know the faith to profess it. Baptized infants do not actually know the faith; they only potentially know it, and the potentiality must actualized by the Catholic family the belong to. Catechumens are not members of the Church because they lack baptism; however, they can be saved.
    – Geremia
    May 11, 2017 at 19:31

To directly answer the question:

TL;DR - no. The long answer:

For most people, either

a) this wouldn't happen because there is only one "teaching" you can consciously accept and assent to, not a pile of disconnected "teachings" (you "physically" couldn't make yourself believe everything the Church believes & teaches but leave out one or two specific things because then you would find contradictions in everything else or you would choose to stop thinking about it);


b) should you stop your train of thought / inquiry short of full certainty and assent, there would be no serious (immediate!) consequences (in the long term, who knows?) because faith is not a yes/no binary but a relationship with the Mystery in the Person of Jesus Christ. As many of the answers here note, "mortal sin" (THE bad consequence according to the Church) requires not only ticking a box next to a proposition but 1) full knowledge, and 2) free assent, as well as 3) grave matter. Most people will never achieve a) and b) because of the way modern life is set up (the Church itself is not free from that entirely).

Even 3) is not just about "believing the core stuff" but rather the whole act itself; did you just not get something, get tired / bored, or did you full on deny and repudiate the Faith? Or anything in between? The Church looks at objective facts, not theoretical positions.

I will add references as required in due time as it take a little effort, but all of this can be found in the new Catechism available for free online.


First link - "The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ."

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    "TL;DR - no."-What do you mean by that?
    – royskatt
    May 10, 2017 at 13:41
  • "Too long' didn't read" = TL;DR. For those who want a short, snappy answer. The rest of my answer is the long form (details and rationale).
    – Michael
    May 10, 2017 at 14:42

88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these. Catechism of the Catholic Church

This marian dogma [assumption of Mary] was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950 on his Encyclical Munificentissimus Deus. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/mary/general-information/the-four-marian-dogmas/

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. -ibid-

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent." -ibid-

So, the Catholic Church defines dogma as something that obliges the Christian people to believe. The assumption of Mary is a dogma. If one doesn't believe it, and dies in that state of mortal sin, they teach that the Christian goes to hell.

  • Yeah, not really: "(a)The assumption of Mary is a dogma. If one doesn't believe it (b), and dies in that state of mortal sin (c), they teach that the Christian goes to hell." a is true, b is a possibility, c does not follow in probably 99.99999% of real-life cases. Mortal sin requires 1) knowledge, 2) freedom and 3) grave matter... check e.g. the relevant section of the new Catechism.
    – Michael
    May 10, 2017 at 8:31
  • You've added nothing to the conversation since you pointed to something, but don't quote it, and merely imply a ghost answer. Do you have something besides your opinion?
    – SLM
    May 10, 2017 at 14:25
  • I'm not sure what you mean. The answer in fact quotes the definition I referred to - I wanted to update my comment but the 5 minute window passed. Mortal sin only obtains when all three conditions are met (as you can read above starting at "1857"); that is probably not the case here.
    – Michael
    May 10, 2017 at 14:45
  • I'm not actually disagreeing with any of the propositions, rather asking for a definition of the term "believe" as used here. If someone doesn't really understand a particular dogma, or doesn't even understand why they need to understand and apply it, can one really talk about a mortal sin?
    – Michael
    May 10, 2017 at 14:48
  • Simple. To believe is to say amen. The Catholic Church says the Assumption of Mary is a dogma binding on all Christian people. Do you say "amen" or not? Do you believe it? If not, they teach you are in mortal sin. If you die in that state, the Christian goes to hell.
    – SLM
    May 11, 2017 at 14:50

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