Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

“You must change your profession” – CS Lewis

November 28th, 2011, Promulgated by b a

Dave Armstrong posted this on facebook today and I thought it worthy of sharing here.

C. S. LEWIS ON DISSENTING PRIESTS “It is your duty to to fix the lines (of doctrine) clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of the other.”

(“Christian Apologetics,” Easter 1945; reprinted in “God in the Dock,” 89-90)


26 Responses to ““You must change your profession” – CS Lewis”

  1. Giovanni says:

    I like this post and must say I agree with it. If a priest disagrees with the dogma of the church he should consider a new profession. I also sense the agenda behind this post… I can’t help but think this most recent post is aimed at discrediting priests who hold views contrary to current church teachings. Now, while I said I agree with this post as it relates to solid, or dogmatic church teachings there are other issues that are not central to our faith as Christians that priests can question, and even disagree with. The way they disagree is the important part… they must do it so that it respects the teaching authority of the church while still following their own concience (not being less or thinking in a lesser way than God created them for). We are a big tent and there is room for many views… not all issues are doctrinal. Please let me know your thoughts and if I’m reading into this post too much… I very well may be. 🙂

  2. Richard Thomas says:

    On another note, can anyone give me a web site to help explain the reasons for the New Translation. I would like it so I can try to look intelligent when a modernist priest or lay person complains about it. Thanks.

  3. Giovanni says:

    @ Richard… The USCCB has a good website with commonly asked questions for the new translation:

    I hope this helps.

  4. Scott W. says:

    Now, while I said I agree with this post as it relates to solid, or dogmatic church teachings there are other issues that are not central to our faith as Christians that priests can question

    As always, I would need a specific issue, but briefly:

    That Our Lord was born on December 25th–not doctrinally binding.
    That the universe revolves around the earth–not ever doctrinally binding.

    That direct and deliberate abortion is always wrong–doctrinally binding
    The the sacrament of Holy Orders is reserved to males only–doctrinally binding.
    That all sexual acts other than between a man and women married to each other are offenses against chastity–doctrinally binding.
    The four Marian dogmas–doctrinally binding.

  5. Ben Anderson says:

    excellent, Scott! Giovanni, if I ever express my opinion on a topic in which there is room for legitimate debate, please know that it goes without saying that it is only my opinion and that I respect others’ opinions. My agenda is to be simply Catholic.

    if you really want to dig deep, check out DOR seminarian David Tedesche’s audio series:

  6. JBCatholic says:

    @ Giovanni- As I was reading through your post I was wondering what you meant by saying, “discrediting priests who hold views contrary to current church teachings.”? When you use the word “current”, it makes me think that you believe that Church teaching is changing, or that it can change, ie. what is in vogue today in Church teaching can be something different in a few years if the “powers that be” see it fit. I believe that your sentiments sound something like Minimalism; the belief that only those things that have been dogmatically defined via an extraordinary action of the Churches magisterium are necessary for faith while the ordinary teachings of the magisterium can be taken or left with no damage to the substance of Christs’ Church. Would you mind commenting further?

  7. snowshoes says:

    Excellent post and Scott, a most clear and charitable response. Also magisterial teachings on the Sacred Liturgy to include the new Sacramentary are absolutely binding. To disobey and not use it, or to intentionally “mess up” some of the words, through a lack of diligence, is not permissible in any situation. See the New Theological Movement post on this subject to see some of the conditions under which the Eucharist is not confected. Canon law is absolutely binding, such as the canon stating that a parish must be headed by an ordained priest or bishop. Many are called but few are chosen, and even if we are unfaithful, God is faithful (meaning of course that He will deny us if we deny Him). These are frightening warnings of Our Lord. Please read the sermons of St. Jean Marie Vianney, preferably in the French, but they are chastening enough in translation. As JB wisely points out, we must obey ALL the teachings of the Church. What do you think of a son who only obeys when his father yells? He’s not a good son, he doesn’t love his father. Happy Feast of St. Andrew! St. Andrew, pray for us sinners.

  8. Giovanni says:

    @ Scott and JBCatholic thank you for asking me to clarify. Issues might include, for example, slavery, or capital punishment. These were issues that the hierarchy defended… at times even practiced right in the Vatican. However, John Paul II said that slavery is intrinsically evil and when he said no to abortion… he also said no to medical assisted suicide and capital punishment (because people like Sr. Helen Prejean stood up for change). Now, I don’t beleive that doctrine changes on a whim… it does, however, evolve and develop more with time (the church is and has always been for life but it took awhile for that to include condemning capital punishment). This is because we believe in the God who is constantly revealing himself… not the God who is revealed. More of the full picture of God becomes available to us both as individuals and as a church body with time.

    @JBCatholic… I see your concern regarding only beleiving those things that are part of church dogma. Please don’t think that I treat or that I would encourage others to take non dogmatic church teachings lightly. All teachings should be taken seriously and only after serious thought, prayer, and council should one take a step to reform or expand upon church teaching (As the church has always taught…. etc).

  9. Ben Anderson says:

    This is because we believe in the God who is constantly revealing himself

    Giovanni, that statement flat wrong for us Catholics. I’ll try and find some sources for you later.

  10. Giovanni says:

    I meant it as it relates to the Holy Spirit revealing God’s Will (Truth) to us… And that doesn’t happen to us all at the same rate… I don’t know if this is a Church teaching just thought of it being somewhat of an intuitive conclusion based on my own knowledge of the role of the Spririt. However, I don’t feel that it deminishes the rest of my post if we took that part out.

  11. Giovanni says:

    PS… I look forward to seeing what you find… as revelation isn’t something I know a great deal about and I would appreciate some useful reading on the subject!

  12. JLo says:

    The Church is so rich, so vast in Tradition and teachings, with so long a history to plumb (right through the Old Testament books which prefigured it), that priests and other leaders of the Faith should find their time and talents completely filled with passing on to those in their care all that IS the Church, all its riches. Along with spending much time talking to God, such duties should fill a life lived in service to the Church.

    Giovanni and dissidents might well consider that perhaps time is wasted, is frivolously spent, when pursuing ideas above one’s pay grade. We have theologians who pursue such studies; and the good ones, the ones who love Holy Mother Church, do so with all reverence, striving to leave personal penchants aside. I personally would be sore pressed to spend time daydreaming; I need more prayer time!

    Some of the dissidents we are all familiar with are lightweights in the realm of intellect, and I think Lewis had it just right about how they need to justify their bogus actions. I find leaders of the Church who spend their time gazing at their navels entertaining thoughts of what their lower nature wishes was so, to be sad and lost and sorely in need of more prayer time; but like Lewis, I think they should not continue to identify themselves as priests, deacons, religious, etc.

    I recently read a statement attributed to His Eminence Carlo Maria Martini: every time that “God has been rejected, that his meaning has been lost or diminished, or he has been presented incorrectly, this has initiated movement toward more or less latent forms of decadence of man and of social co-existence itself.”

    That’s a heavy load for dissident priests, bishops and others to carry into Eternity.

    Church dissidents are not brave trailblazers struggling with profound thoughts, and woe to those who reject, diminish, and incorrectly present the Church to the faithful in their charge. Unfortunately, that woe which belongs to them is felt by all of us.


  13. Giovanni says:

    JLo I appreciate what you are saying, however, living in the real world… I believe my time spent on this earth should be spent addressing issues that affect the Church and it’s members today. Today’s issues and the churches response to them are not all written in stone, nor are they fully expanded upon… they are far more fluid… was slavery not an important moral issue that needed to be dealt with… Didn’t segragation need people like Fr. Ted Hesburgh to stand up and defend the faith when Bishops in the US turned a blind eye? I love my Church, but it’s leadership is not a flawless perfect body always acting in a christian manner. For me it is not the doctrine or disiplines I often questions as much as it is how we as cathlics sometimes approach doctrine.

  14. Ben Anderson says:

    from the CCC

    There will be no further Revelation

    66 “The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”28 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

    67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

    Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations”.

    From what you’ve said to clarify, it sounds like you understand this. Newman’s “Essay on the Development of Doctrine” seems to be the go-to resource, but I’ll admit I haven’t read it. I don’t disagree with your last comment, but I’m wondering what issues you might be thinking about. Also, the original post was about doctrines, so I’m not sure how this relates (not that it has to).

  15. annonymouse says:

    Giovanni – you are misled about the Church’s teaching on capital punishment. The Church recognizes that the state may have the legitimate need to exercise capital punishment. To be sure, the Church teaches that the frequency of the state’s legitimate use of capital punishment should range from rarely to never, and closer to never, but it’s a misstatement to say that the Church condemns capital punishment.

    Abortion, on the other hand, is always and everywhere condemned by the Church – no exceptions.

    To your credit, you didn’t bring up tired, old Galileo in your examples of past Church teachings gone awry.

  16. JLo says:

    Dear Giovanni,

    We are “living in the real world”, for sure, but my view of how to live in it is vastly different from yours.

    I believe “my time spent on this earth” is best spent on the roads Christ mapped out. That is a full-time and sometimes arduous endeavor, to be sure, so I am so very grateful that the Church has provided real, tried-and-true safe routes to the goal we all share… i.e., fully living in glory with God as his children. I wish you well on your particular route.


  17. Raymond F. Rice says:


    Way back in the twelfth or thirteenth century, the Dominican Fathers held that Mary was not immaculately conceived. This was challenged by Blessed Duns Scotus who maintained that she was an immaculate conception along with Jesus. The principle of the immaculate conception was there in the Church, but the issue had to be debated and discussed to better understand it and clarify it. The principle may not be evolving but our understanding of it may be and it may take a while for everyone to get on the same “page”.

  18. Raymond F. Rice says:


    When I was a young student in the previous century (LOL), I asked a priest if Mary was the mediatrix of all graces. His answer was that she probably was but it would take the Church a while to understand the principle and to definitively state it.

  19. Scott W. says:

    anonymouse answered well on capital punishment. As far as slavery, every time the Church addressed chattel slavery magisterially (and my emphasis is important), it condemned it; so it is irrelevent whether churchmen defended or practiced it unless one can show that it was done as a matter of using authority to bind the faithful about faith or morals. I’ll save everyone time–they never did that.

  20. Giovanni says:

    @annonymouse… thanks! My point, though, was to show an evolution in how the church responds to issues (even doctrinal issues) I don’t think that can be disputed… we can say doctrine doesn’t understand but we as individuals and as a group evolve and expand upon our understanding of that doctrine… today our understanding of certain issues is different than in the past.

    While I agree with you that the church has always opposed abortion it’s not with quite the consistency you imply. Early on an abortion was more evidence of sexual sin (engaging in sexual intercourse while not being reponsible enough to take on the responsibilities involved or in an uncommited relationship) not so much murder. Aquinas didn’t believe ensoulment happened at the moment of conception. Later, we came to understand that it was at the moment of conception that one receives a soul (at least this is my understanding… always open for correction) and abortion became a much more grave sin. Maybe someone can find more (better) information to clear this up. I’d like a more full history of how the church has viewed abortion.

    @Ben thank you for recommending Newman’s work. And good source.. can’t go wrong witht the CCC 🙂

    @Raymond… I appreciate the insight!

  21. Giovanni says:

    @annonymouse sorry I reread what you wrote… What you said was correct the church always does condemn direct abortion. And I realize my question on that topic goes way beyond the scope of the originial post… perhaps someone could point me to an older post that discusses the history ofthe churches views on abortion..

  22. annonymouse says:

    Raymond – I, for one, hope the Church never promulgates a doctrine that says that “Mary is the mediatrix of all graces” as Jesus Christ is the mediator, not his human mother Mary.

    I have great devotion to Our Blessed Mother, and I believe she has great powers to lead us to her Son, and I seek her intercession constantly. But I get very wary about efforts to elevate her to a (real or perceived) equivalent status with her Son, Jesus Christ, who is true man and TRUE GOD.

  23. Raymond F. Rice says:

    C S Lewis lived in his later life as a protestant and died a protestant. Is this quotation referring to his co-religious clergy? If he has a protestant persuasion, how can we trust him for the truth??

    Can’t we find something from the more orthodox Chesterton???

  24. Ben Anderson says:

    It is true that Lewis never made his way into the Catholic Church. However, he was one of the most influential Christian minds of the 20th century. He is also highly esteemed among one of Catholic America’s most influential minds – Peter Kreeft. Nevertheless, it’s just a quote – take it or leave it. It has no merit based on whether Lewis said it or Joe Schmo off the street. I just thought it articulated a point rather well.

  25. Ben Anderson says:

    It should also be noted that Lewis was much closer to Catholicism than what most Americans think of Protestantism.

  26. Giovanni says:

    Very good point, Ben! He was certainly very close to the Catholic church (in idea’s at least)… partly due to his deep connections/relationship with Tolkien. And many of his thoughts/arguments (explicitly catholic or not) are certainly worth reading as he had a brilliant Christian mind. I find his conversion to be a powerful witness. All christians can be thankful for this mans works.

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