Then why have a CDF?
CDF - Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. It used to be called the Holy Office. Letters, instructions, notices, etc. are indeed binding for Catholics. Where did I get that idea? I was taught that when I learned the Creed as a child. I also profess it when I recite the Act of Faith:
O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons,Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teachesbecause you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this faith I intend to live and die. Amen.
Over the years spiritual directors have told me I do not need to read encyclicals or documents from the Vatican, or this or that teaching isn't necessary for me to be concerned about - because it usually did not pertain to me or my situation. I get that.
However, sometimes there are notifications from the CDF on issues related to popular piety, as well as faith and morals which do pertain to me. Though addressed to 'Bishops' these documents may be necessary for a lay person to know. For example, notices as to the authenticity concerning mystics and private revelations, as well as instruction to avoid the same, may be very necessary to know. The prohibitions such as 'do not conduct pilgrimages' or 'do not sponsor this or that mystic and their locutions' are not only necessary to know, but they are binding.
It is not uncommon, even for priests and devout laity who follow such dubious private revelations to object to the judgment issued by the CDF, as well as to insist it is not binding and is certainly not condemned. We see that in the cases of Vassula Ryden and Christina Gallagher, and the Medjugorje road show.
Now I'm told instruction from the CDF, in the form of 'Letters to Bishops' correcting this or that misunderstanding are not binding on the faithful. How many Catholics have been taught that the teaching on contraception is not binding, as well? Therefore I suppose I cannot be surprised that one can contradict CDF instructions and statements on faith and morals, anymore than be surprised Humanae Vitae is ignored by many Catholics.
I may give more importance than I should to some things the Pope and CDF have said, but when I do, it is because it resonates deeply with me, and accords with my conscience. I attribute it to the sacrament of confirmation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of counsel, which is closely allied to the virtue of prudence. Hence I see the necessity of submission of the intellect and will to what is taught, albeit not explicitly defined.
Canon 752: While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the college of Bishops, exercising their authentic
declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ's faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.
Works for me.