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I am a life-long Catholic. At almost all of the Catholic Churches I have attended over the years, the priests there have given sermons based on various Biblical passages/parables which have always been in line with the official teachings and dogmas of the Catholic Church.

This is one particular priest, however, at one of the local Catholic Churches in my area who has for many years made it a point to often give his own take/interpretation on Biblical passages/parables. One of the favorite things he likes to say at the beginning of his sermons is, "I know what all of you have heard preached about this particular Biblical passage/parable since you were a little kid, but now I want all of you to consider this about it...".

He then goes on to explain how the official/traditional Catholic teaching about a particular Biblical passage/parable has either been wrong or misinterpreted, and then explains what his take/his interpretation on the Biblical passage/parable is and why we should accept it.

I personally consider this priest's many 'alternate' takes/interpretations on Biblical passages/parables to be cases of heresy and I am seriously thinking of contacting the local bishop in my area to request that he appoint someone to start investigating this priest for possible cases of heresy.

I am wondering however if it is my religious duty to first confront him about it face-to-face, or if I have a religious duty to report it to the bishop, or if I have a religious duty to first form a church prayer group which will pray to Jesus each day asking Him to enlighten this priest’s mind to the heresy he has likely been committing. Our group could then wait and see if he starts to preach sermons that are in line with the official teachings and dogmas of the Catholic Church.

Do Catholics have a religious duty to report possible cases of heresy committed by a priest to their local bishop?

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    Is this priest really saying "the official teaching is wrong and you should accept mine instead"? Or is he saying "I offer a possible unusual interpretation, and I encourage you to learn to think by yourself and to question the things you think you know"? The former sounds bad, but the latter actually sounds good.
    – Stef
    Nov 17, 2023 at 11:10
  • @Stef, there have actually been many times where he has said that the traditional interpretation of a particular Biblical passage/parable by most Catholic priests/theologians in the past had been wrong and he then gave a lengthy explanation as to why those priests/theologians had been wrong and why his interpretation was the correct one. I wish I had hard copies of his past sermons so that I could copy and paste excerpts from them into this thread.
    – user57467
    Nov 17, 2023 at 13:18
  • I wonder if he is trying to correct opinions where members of the congregation are clinging to old traditional attitudes that the Church no longer insists on. If he is actually teaching heresy you have the right to report him, and a duty to follow your conscience in the matter. (disclaimer, I am not a Catholic however). Nov 17, 2023 at 16:37

1 Answer 1

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Do Catholics have a religious duty to report possible cases of heresy committed by a priest to their local bishop?

Canon Law states the following:

Can. 1364 — § 1. An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, without prejudice to the provision of can. 194 § 1 n. 2; he or she may also be punished with the penalties mentioned in can. 1336 §§ 2-4.

§ 2. If a long-standing contempt or the gravity of scandal calls for it, other penalties may be added, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.

Can. 1365 — A person who, apart from the case mentioned in canon 1364 § 1, teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff, or by an Ecumenical Council, or obstinately rejects the teaching mentioned in canon 750 § 2 or canon 752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or the Ordinary, does not retract, is to be punished with a censure and deprivation of office; to these sanctions others mentioned in can. 1336 §§ 2-4 may be added.

Thus if we hear a teaching that is contrary to the faith, the faithful may approach their local ordinary of the matter. The People of God may manifest their concerns about the actions or teachings to their bishops and even the pope as the Supreme Pastor. This is backed up by Canon Law:

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

What you are suggesting, I have done. But to be honest, please remain polite and courteous when engaging ecclesiastical authority. Being rude or hot headed will not do you any favours. I would recommend that you do it by email, as it leaves an electronic paper trail.

Also, be sure of your facts and lay out your case with humility and firmness at the same time.

Do not always expect a reply! Some bishops will get the message and make the necessary corrections without letting you know. This is how my case got resolved.

If you feel comfortable speaking to the priest in question about it, you may. I personally went directly to the bishop.

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    Unless I am mistaken, OP wishes to know if making this report is mandatory (that is, it would be a sin to leave it undone). If my understanding of the question is correct, then while this answer is helpful it does not address the question asked.
    – EvilSnack
    Nov 17, 2023 at 20:18
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    @EvilSnack My quote of Canon Law 212 §3 states the following: "According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church..."
    – Ken Graham
    Nov 17, 2023 at 22:04

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