Let me see whether I can clarify something. You don’t have to like a pope. You don’t have to like the way he talks to reporters, the way he addresses people in public, or the kinds of shoes he wears. You don’t even have to like the approach he takes to various topics. But you do have to respect the teaching authority of his office when he exercises that authority officially.
In making this claim, I’m merely echoing Pope Saint John Paul II who in Ad Tuendam Fidem, a document composed with the explicit intention “of protecting the faith (ad tuendam fidem) of the Catholic Church against errors arising from certain members of the Christian faithful,” considered it “absolutely necessary to add to the existing texts of the Code of Canon Law. . .new norms which expressly impose the obligation of upholding truths proposed in a definitive way by the Magisterium of the Church.”
Thus in the Church’s Profession of Faith, one finds this affirmation: “Moreover I adhere with submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.” Indeed, according to Lumen Gentium, this religious submission of intellect and will “must be shown in such a way that [the Holy Father’s] supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, and the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. . .[which] may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”
A Catholic who is disappointed with the pope is a disappointed Catholic. This is a common enough state of affairs in Church history. But a Catholic who imagines that he or she participates more fully in the charism of magisterial authority granted by the Holy Spirit to the pope than does the pope himself – and who decides that he or she has the authority to set the spiritual standard by which the official teaching of a papacy can be judged (and judged a failure) – is making the mistake Martin Luther made. It is the same mistake many modern liberal theologians make. They have made themselves the authority, the touchstone, the standard; and the pope, whoever he is, should, they insist, bring himself into accord with what they think or be spit out like a piece of rotten fruit. This is the way of folly and division.