Cognitive Dissonance

Reblogged from Tradicat

I was on my way to the forum one day when ...

In some recent discussions about the documents of Vatican II, I recently encountered an interesting aspect of human behaviour.

The whole argument started when I stated that one way the Church could solve this crisis would be a correction (rewriting) of the documents of the Council.

The discussion segued in a number of different directions until Catholicam Replied:

You entirely miss the point. This so called council is full of heresy, ambiquity, blashphemies, and in some places outright falsehoods.
As such, it cannot be a work of the Church. Just as the Novus Ordo is a foreign body injected into the life of the Church, so is this false council.
Therefore the Church must eventually condemn this council for what it is.The True Church of Christ does not "learn" lessons. She is perfect and KNOWS. What She knows, is imparted directly by Christ, Who is all truth and knowledge.
Catholicam went on further to say:
So you believe it was a true Council,You then must believe it to be a work of the Church.Which would mean that the Church can promote heresy and error.
and on another thread as an example supporting his above claims:
Lumen Gentium: "But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the ONE and merciful God"
To say that the Church of Christ prays to, or adores a solitary pagan God is indeed a blasphemy against the Holy Trinity, and the First Commandment.

To counter this, I presented the following quotations:

12 Q. Who are infidels? A. Infidels are those who have not been baptized and do not believe in Jesus Christ, because they either believe in and worship false gods as idolaters do, or though admitting one true God, they do not believe in the Messiah, neither as already come in the Person of Jesus Christ, nor as to come; for instance, Mohammedans and the like.  (Catechism of Pope St. Pius X)

Infidel: in ecclesiastical language those who by baptism have received faith in Jesus Christ and have pledged Him their fidelity and called the faithful, so the name infidel is given to those who have not been baptized. The term applies not only to all who are ignorant of the true God, such as pagans of various kinds, but also to those who adore Him but do not recognize Jesus Christ, as Jews, Mohammed; strictly speaking it may be used of catechumens also, though in early ages they were called Christians; for it is only through baptism that one can enter into the ranks of the faithful.  (Catholic Encyclopedia)
On purpose I concealed the origin of these two quotations.

Catholicam's response:
That is liberal ecumenist hogwash, straight from Vatican II. ...This is an entire waste of time.

When I revealed the source ... his reply:
I told you, I am through discussing this with you. It is an entirely fruitless effort, and a waste of time.

In this line of reasoning I noticed a stark resemblance to the continued shouts from some Traditionalists that Bishop Fellay of the SSPX is/has sold out the Traditionalist.

When I pondered it further, I noted some similarities in discussions when I challenged some assertions made by modern Catholics concerning actions of Bl. Pope John Paul II. For example kissing the Koran.

I have the end of the Mayan calendar to thank for providing a clue to the behaviour.  I came across an article titled "The End of the World. Again".  

It recounted the 'real world' psychology experiment in which a number of alien visitation cultists awaited the end of the world, while being observed by a number of psychologist infiltrators. They were there to observe the reactions of the cultists when the world did not end.

The timing of the cataclysm is very precise, the psychologists noted. How will the Seekers react when it doesn't happen? According to cognitive dissonance theory, that should depend on the strength of a person's commitment to the prophecy. Some members were only loosely affiliated and they had made no stronger commitment than attending meetings. They should be able to acknowledge the prophecy's failure, the psychologists believed. But some had quit jobs, abandoned apartments, left spouses, and encouraged others to do the same. Their commitment was massive. If cognitive dissonance theory were correct, these people would rationalize like mad, become even more convinced of the truth of the prophecy, and seek validation of their beliefs by stepping up efforts to convert others.
Which is precisely what happened. Leon Festinger and his colleagues turned their observations into a renowned book, When Prophecy Fails, which helped make cognitive dissonance theory a foundation of modern psychology.
The diagram below illustrates the basic steps of the theory:

  1. A person holds a belief  (whether it is misguided or not is a different point)
  2. An action contradicts the belief that is held.  It can be an action of the person themselves, or of someone external.
  3. This contradiction creates and increase in dissonance felt by the person.
  4. They have three options to relieve this intellectual discomfort
    1. Change their belief
    2. Change the action
    3. Change their perception of the action
  5. Putting one of these three items into practice reduces the intellectual discomfort. (I wonder if it extends to the spiritual domain as well).

There are four examples that I want to review (mostly for myself).

  1. The Documents of V2 contain Heresy, Blasphemy, etc
  2. The Sellout Prophecy
  3. The Kissing of the Koran
  4. The Miracle at Fatima

The Documents of the Second Vatican Council

As described above Catholicam holds a belief (strong?) that the documents of the Second Vatican Council, in a wholesale manner "promote heresy and error". 

As noted when I presented factual proof that his belief is in contradiction with what the Church has taught, since he could not change the action, nor his belief, he simply abandoned the argument.

I intend to examine his belief (outlined below) in the thesis that he implies in another posting - particularly point #2 and #1. 

(PS. This may not be an accurate reflection of Catholicam's sentiments as he has claimed to not be a sedevacantist on Ignis Ardens ... )
  1. true Council of the Catholic Church (a work of the Church) cannot promote heresy and error. 
  2. That Second Vatican Council DID promote heresy and error, 
  3. therefore since the Church can't do such an action,
  4. and only the Pope's approbation of the documents makes them valid, 
  5. then the Pope can't be Pope.

SSPX Sell Out Prophecy

A paraphrase of this prophecy is that Bishop Fellay is going to sell out the SSPX by signing an agreement with Rome.

The belief in this case appears to be the Bishop Fellay has abandoned the founding principles of the SSPX.   Linked with it appears to be a strong commitment to the idea that Rome must convert back to Tradition before any canonical solution for the SSPX can be considered.  There are other elements that are mixed up as well, such as a subjective weakening of the stance of the SSPX, liberalization etc.  Some ascribe this belief to a core principle of the SSPX, the Chapter of 2006, Archbishop Lefebvre etc.

In June 2012, there was a meeting between Bishop Fellay and the then head of the CDF, Cardinal Levada.  In it Bishop Fellay was given a document to 'sign' (ie agree to) which involved a compromise (sellout).  Bishop Fellay did not sign.  This is the action.

When confronted with this contradiction between belief and action, there were three choices as described above. Firstly, they have no way of changing the action because it is a historical fact.  Secondly, for whatever reason, they are unwilling (some even unrational) to change their belief with regards to Bishop Fellay.  This leave the third option, alter the perception of the action and then go and convert the masses.

The ways in which the perception of the action was altered varied from person to person. Some wrote that a deal was done, but 'they' are just waiting to spring it on the unsuspecting SSPX.  Others have put forth that Bishop Fellay has made it his priority to seek an agreement regardless of the compromise. Others warp what Bishop Fellay said earlier in order to support their altered perception of the action.  This was done in a variety of ways, such as focusing on certain elements of speeches of the founder of the SSPX (Archbishop Lefebvre), and Bishop Fellay, while ignoring other aspects that don't support their beleif. 

The list goes on.

This contradiction between the belief and action appears to have created such a strong dissonance in a number of members (a Bishop and Priests) and faithful of the SSPX that aspects of organizational culture came into play. 


On the part of the clergy their conviction was strong enough that they took actions that resulted in their expulsion. Those faithful that have no alternative for the sacraments seem, from what I've read of their comments, bitter and resentful.  Some are seeking to 'convert' others to their way of thinking.

This fits well with the theory.  It is a scary thought that people's behaviour can, in general, be predicted with such accuracy.

Kissing the Koran

The incident of the kissing of the Koran by Bl. Pope John Paul II is a major issue for some Catholics.

I've witnessed the conflict first hand that they under go when confronted with an action that stands in stark contradiction to their belief the Bl. Pope John Paul II could do no wrong.

The result is normally the third option. 

In online discussions, as noted in the case of Catholicam, when faced with the fact that their belief is wrong they simply abandon the argument.

In a face-to-face conversation, where I challenged a Catholic on this action, after 10 minutes of strong forceful argumentation, he agreed that it was the wrong thing to do.

But the pain and discomfort he felt was mainfest on his face and in he body language.

Miracle at Fatima

The miracle at Fatima obviously represents a reinforcing action for believing Catholics.  For unbelievers it was a wakeup call.  

A child predicts a miracle will happen on a certain day.

The miracle happens and is witnessed by thousands of people, both at the site and in the local region.

Faced with these unchangeable facts the unbelievers have two options: Change their belief, or change the perception of the action.

Because of their commitments in their life, many choose the latter, even today.


People don't change strongly held beliefs easily.  

This is a lesson for all Traditional Catholics, make sure you are 125% right in your understanding of what the Church Teaches at a detailed level.  Then use Charity in your discussions because changing beliefs is painful, it is the Truth of the Church that we must bring forth, not our own perception of it.

Understanding what the Church Teaches, as the Church understands Her Teachings and not as we would wish them to be understood is vital in this combat.


Psychology Today - Cognitive Dissonance

Simply Psychology - Cognitive Dissonance

What is cognitive dissonance?

Definition: Cognitive dissonance


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