Sunday, June 26, 2011

Even So...

In light of my last post about the troublesome anti-bishop mentality in America, some may be wondering about my thoughts on the bishops concerning the fiasco in New York where Catholic Andrew Cuomo has enthusiastically signed gay "marriage" into law (I hope to write more directly on this topic later).  Edward Peters, for example makes a good case for canonical action against Governor Cuomo.  It is certainly a serious public act in defiance of what the Church believes is right, and indeed, I do hope that the bishops of New York will take action.

However, the question is: what if they do not?  Would this not prove the point of those who accuse the bishops of corruption?  Well, no.  Moreover, that is the wrong question to ask.  This is not a case where the bishops of the United States can take collective action.  Nor can the bishops of New York State as a whole take action.  If you read the documents of the Council of Trent (among others) you can see that the bishop in Diocese [A] does not have the authority to act against a person in Diocese [B].

Ultimately it is the bishop of Albany who has the authority to take action – even though we might wish Archbishop Dolan had jurisdiction (We've had a similar issue a generation ago with Mario Cuomo not being under the jurisdiction of Cardinal O'Connor).  So we should be praying for Bishop Hubbard to make a wise decision concerning this issue of public scandal.

But there is always the question of "what if he doesn't?"

Well, that would be unfortunate indeed, though I believe my points I made in the previous article (linked above) would hold to be valid.  We would need to be careful that we have all the facts before issuing any objection and not assume that because no public action took place that no action took place.

This isn't an argument to justify inaction.  I believe that under canon 212, we do have the right and the responsibility to make our concerns known in the face of such a scandal.

A bishop ultimately has to render an account to God for the way he shepherds his diocese, and an affront like this is surely something which requires shepherding.  However, even if a bishop fails to act as he should it is not just to accuse all bishops for the inaction of one.

So I would say faithful Catholics should be prayerful and respectful, recognizing that just because action does not take place immediately or publicly does not mean "the bishops" as a whole are corrupt.  As for Bishop Hubbard of Albany, our first thought to be to pray for him to do the right thing in light of the grave scandal and the salvation of Governor Cuomo's soul,  and not to whip out a stopwatch and say after a short period, "he did nothing… that proves the bishops are corrupt!"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

With Great Concern: Thoughts on the Anti-Bishop Mentality among Some of the Faithful


The recent civil war on the internet which has erupted among Catholics brings to my attention that it is actually a symptom of a deeper problem, and that is the growing issue of division among some Catholics seeking to be faithful to the Church.

12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Kephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

One mindset seems to believe there is widespread corruption among the hierarchy of the Church, and very few can be trusted to do the right thing. This isn’t merely an attitude of arrogance – the “do what I think is right or you’re a modernist heretic” mindset. There are also those individuals who do look at the remaining dissention within the Church, who rightly recognizes that it is a bad thing, and think it must have a cause among those who lead the Church. They then think that if the bishops were doing their jobs rightly, we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

What disturbs me most about this mindset is that it seems to be a spirit of dissention which confuses the lawful authority of the office of the bishop with the individual who holds it. If the individual falls into sin, makes a bad choice or even makes a different choice from the one we would personally like, it seems that there are some who would dare to say we can ignore their authority as a bishop.

A Personal Experience

I recall encountering this mindset for the first time in the lead up to the 1996 elections when Pat Robertson was going about with his Christian Coalition and trying to form a group for Catholics (I think it was called Catholic Alliance). One bishop, citing canon law, made a statement reminding the faithful that no group could call itself Catholic without the approval of the Church, and this group had not even sought approval from the Church.

I recall bringing this up at the campus (I was doing my Masters degree at this time) group Human Life Concerns where certain members were trying to encourage all of us to join Catholic Alliance. In response, one of the members made a dismissive response saying the bishop in question was “totally liberal” and we didn’t have to listen to him.

I was deeply troubled by this because it was a bishop who was exercising his office to clarify what the Church position was (not his own opinion) on this subject and he was treated dismissively because this individual had a low opinion of this bishop and “the bishops” in general.

A Fallacy of Bifurcation

An underlying problem with the mindset is the dividing the issue into two areas – but the two areas are not mutually exclusive. This is the mindset of either [A] or [B]. Either we can side with the person in defiance of the bishop, or we can side with “corruption within the Church.” The reason this is a false argument is that it is possible that one can say neither [A] nor [B]. I can for example deplore the dissent among certain priests, religious and laity and also reject the claim that we can disobey a bishop and still be faithful Catholics.

The Bishops are Successors to the Apostles

The problem I have with the antipathy towards the bishops by those who claim that they are faithful to the Church is that it ignores a rather crucial part of the Church teaching, and that is the bishops are not employees of the Church but are successors to the Apostles. Vatican II points out:

27. Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them (58*) by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant.(169) This power, which they personally exercise in Christ's name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate. (Lumen Gentium)

So, when the bishop acts as the head of his flock, he is to be heeded by those under his care. That is inescapable. Refusal to obey the rightful authority of a bishop means one is dissenting against what they dislike. St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to the Smyrnaeans, writes:

Chapter VIII.—Let Nothing Be Done Without the Bishop.

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

Chapter IX.—Honour the Bishop.

Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for ye are worthy. Ye have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. Ye have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while ye endure all things, ye shall attain unto Him.

—St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans

From the earliest days of the Church, the importance of the Bishop was recognized. Acting in harmony with the bishop is seen as good. Acting against the bishop or without him is deemed wrong. This is something to keep in mind. Do we carry on the practice of faithful Catholics when we reject the authority of bishops we dislike or disagree with?

Rights and Duties of the Faithful

At this point some may accuse me of saying that all the faithful should shut up and mindlessly obey the Church. I would in fact reject this accusation. The Church does indeed speak on what we are to do in terms of dealing with difficult situations.

Canon Law brings out that we the faithful of the Church have rights and duties in terms of our relation to the Church. We are to obey the lawful authority of the Church, but have the right and at times the obligation to make known our needs to those entrusted with our spiritual health.

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. (Code of Canon Law)

So the Church does not say “Shut up and take it,” in response to problems within the Church. However, we are to obey the pastors who act in the role of ruling the Church, and when we must make known our needs and concerns we must do so in a manner which is reverent and dignified.

Thoughts on Galatians Chapter 2

Members of the SSPX I have encountered love to cite Galatians 2: 11-15 to justify their disobedience to the Pope. They claim they are like St. Paul withstanding St. Peter to his face on an issue where they claim the Pope is wrong. Others use this to justify opposing their bishop, claiming they are following the example of St. Paul. There is a problem with this however.

Let’s look at the passage from Galatians 2:

11 And when Kephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong.

12 For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised.

13 And the rest of the Jews (also) acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

14 But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Kephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

St. Paul is calling to mind a flaw in St. Peter’s behavior, not his teaching. His personal actions warrant a rebuke. St. Paul is not disobeying St. Peter because this is not an issue of obedience.  So it cannot be used to argue that we can defy the bishop when he acts as head of his diocese.

St. Thomas Aquinas and Correcting a Superior

St. Thomas Aquinas brings forth an excellent exposition of what the correction of a superior entails:

I answer that, A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.

Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Tim. 5:1): "An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father." Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church. (Summa Theologica II-IIa Question 33: Article 4)

The act of correcting a superior requires charity, gentleness and respect. Angry, rude and disrespectful accusations are not a part of such a charitable correction. St. Paul demonstrates the attitude which St. Thomas Aquinas discusses. He is not rude and abusive. He brings the facts of where Peter goes wrong in his personal behavior, but does so respectfully.

Recognizing that Our Way is not the Only Way

Another problem to be aware of is that just because we have a preferred solution to a problem does not mean only our situation is right. I may personally prefer that our bishops punt the dissenters out so hard that they bounce on landing. However I need to recognize that, because the Church acts with the mentality of saving those who are in dissent from her, the Bishop may have a valid reason for undertaking a different action than we do.

The Need to Recognize the Possibility of Personal Error and Partisanship

We must also recognize that before judging a bishop we must be certain we have all the relative facts. If our understanding is flawed, our conclusion will be flawed as well. It probably reflects our original sin, that it is easier for us to think someone else errs than that we err.

Likewise we need to recognize that a similarity between a Catholic position and a political party plank does not mean that the bishops are “liberal” or “conservative.” We need to realize the one who is partisan may be us.

If we do not realize this, we run the risk of dogmatizing our personal beliefs and mistaking them for the beliefs of the Church.

You Cannot Draw a Universal Conclusion from a Limited Sample

Another problem is the tendency to argue from the bad decisions of certain bishops that the whole is corrupt. Now there are bishops who do wrong and do disagree with the teaching of the Church. However, it does not follow that all bishops are bad because of this.

To have a valid argument which makes a universal conclusion, one needs a universal premise (All [A] is [B]). If you don’t have this Universal premise, you cannot draw a universal conclusion. To make an argument about the whole, you have two options.

You can either say:

  1. All [A] is [B]
  2. All [B] is [C]
  3. Therefore All [A] is [C]

Or you can say:

  1. All [A] is [B]
  2. No [B] is [C]
  3. Therefore No [A] is [C]

Any other valid form of argument can only speak of “Some,” not the whole. Even that requires one universal statement (Either “All [A] is [B]” or “No [A] is [B]”) to go with the limited statement (“Some [B] is [C]” or “Some [B] is not [C]”) to make a valid conclusion (Therefore some [A] is [C] or Therefore some [A] is NOT [C]).

Otherwise, the argument cannot be said prove its point.

So to apply this to the case of the Church, if one wants to say that ALL Bishops are bad, or to say NO bishops are good, that person has to establish universal premises and show that the premises are true

Begging the Question

This brings us to our next error to consider. This is the failure to establish that a claim is true, but merely assume to be proven what needs proof:

  1. The Church is falling into error by doing [X].
  2. If the Church wasn’t in error, she wouldn’t do [X]

We call this Begging the Question because we can ask, “On what basis do you say [X] is wrong?” Or “On what basis do you say the Church is doing [X]?” If [X] isn’t wrong or if the Church isn’t doing [X], then the argument doesn’t work.

If someone tells me “All Bishops are corrupt,” I have a right to ask that be proven. I don’t have to take your word for it. We can look at the Church teaching on [A] and see if it is being violated by the bishop (as opposed to being handled differently than we would like).

I suspect this is why so many “appeals to Rome” against some Bishop fail. The allegation is made, the Church looks at it and recognizes that the accuser does not realize their allegation does not establish real wrongdoing.

Confusing Partisanship with Doctrine

We also need to be aware that just because a bishop formulates a response for his diocese which seems to come close to a political plank for one of our parties does not mean the bishop is acting out of sympathies for one party or another. The Catholic Church opposes abortion. Not because the Catholic Church is “right wing” but because the Catholic Church believes that the unborn children are human beings. The Catholic Church does not oppose the anti-immigrant laws in America because they favor the Democratic Party, but because they believe these actions go against the obligation to treat each person as a child of God.

We have to judge the political parties by Church teaching, not Church teachings by political ideology. We also have to recognize that the rejection of one extreme does not mean the acceptance of the other extreme. For example, the rejection of pure socialism is not an endorsement of laissez faire capitalism, and the rejection of laissez faire capitalism is not an endorsement of socialism.

Overlooking our own lack of knowledge and potential to err

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there are many who assume the Church teaches a thing when she does not, or does not realize that their own views are far stricter (or far more lenient) than the Church teaching.

I’ve personally experienced people hear me say [A], then reason “If [A] then [X]. If [X] then [C]. Therefore he supports [C].” I then get accused of holding [C] when I actually reject [C]. The false accusation is based on the assumption that premise [X] follows from holding [A] without checking to see if I actually agree that [X] follows from [A].

This also happens in the Church. For example some argue:

  • If a bad priest appears to unchecked in a diocese, it means the bishop is doing nothing.
  • If the bishop is doing nothing, it means he sympathizes with the bad priest.
  • Therefore the bishop is corrupt/heretical etc.

The problem is, just because we don’t see a response does not mean an absence of response. If we do not know how the proper procedure, if we are focused on punishment while the bishop is focused on redemption, then it is possible that we can judge a bishop out of ignorance.

So the question is first, do we know all the facts of the case? If we do not, educating ourselves is necessary.


The anti-magisterial attitude among certain Catholics is a danger which needs to be recognized. Yes some bishops do wrong and need to be corrected. However, others do not do wrong but are accused of being wrong because the individual thinks a case should be handled differently. Also the whole is often judged on the failings of a few.

I don’t feel we need to justify a bishop who does wrong through choice or through a mistaken judgment. However, we do need to realize that it is entirely unjust to judge the whole on the basis of what we think is correct, without verifying that our knowledge is correct.

Nobody wants to admit their knowledge is lacking on a topic important to them. For those who seek to be faithful Catholics, having to admit not knowing is difficult — it’s as if we feel we are admitting we are less faithful than we thought. But that simply isn’t true.

Once we realize we don’t know a thing, we can begin to learn. However, so long as we stubbornly cling to thinking we know all there is to know about a situation, the result is clinging to error. It is dangerous for a person to assume he is not blind and therefore is allowed to judge.

40 Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains. (John 9:40-41)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.

So by their fruits you will know them.”

Today's Gospel Reading

I've noticed that blogs written by people who believe Fr. Corapi did wrong to leave the active ministry have received a lot of comments by his supporters.  Let's be frank.  These comments are vicious ad hominems which attack the bloggers for being judgmental – and ironically they themselves are judging the motives of the bloggers, the bishop, the religious superiors of Fr. Corapi's order, accusing them of all sorts of things.

It is something which comes to mind when I consider today's Gospel reading.  If such comments reflect the fruits of Fr. Corapi's ministry, what does it say of the tree?  (Now keep in mind I have no idea what percentage of those following Fr. Corapi's new activities behave in such a way, so I will not say all are guilty or even most.  They might turn out to be a small minority behaving in a way which is not approved of by Fr. Corapi).

So let's look at this.

If it is condemnable to judge the actions of Fr. Corapi it is also condemnable to judge the actions of those who write about him.  Yet there are a certain portion of his supporters who angrily attack anyone who dares say Fr. Corapi is in the wrong to do as he did, accusing the bloggers of bad will.

I must call this hypocrisy.  You who condemn judging.  Do you judge?  What gives you the right to judge in return?  Why are they wrong to do so and you right to do so?

Moreover, do you judge the whole Church as being in error except for your tiny little corner of it?  Is that not the kind of judging you condemn in those who believe Fr. Corapi is in the wrong?

Are you sure you do not have a beam in your eye, while trying to remove the mote in the eye of another?

Now, if you truly believe that Fr. Corapi is in the right and those thinking he did the wrong thing are in error, if you truly believe the bishop who began the investigation against him did so from bad motives, then demonstrate how this is so in a factual manner.  Those who criticize Fr. Corapi's leaving active ministry can point to real wrongs he did (regardless of whether or not he is innocent of the charges of misconduct).  Can you do the same without relying on Fr. Corapi's ipse dixit?

So let us behave like civilized individuals.  Both those who believe he did wrong and those who did not are essentially people who try to be faithful Catholics, and do stumble at times.  This vicious sort of attack of a bishop and of bloggers is unworthy behavior of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ.

Let us behave in a way of Christian brotherhood even when we disagree, lest we supply the enemies of the Church with ammunition while we turn on each other.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Uncivil War

It's somewhat sad seeing the split, between Catholics who try to be faithful, over Fr. Corapi.  It seems there are two positions.

  1. Fr. Corapi is a wonderful person who is being grossly mistreated by the Church.
  2. Fr. Corapi is a self-promoting egoist who abandoned his vocation when the going got rough.

I think both positions are guilty of partisanship.  Group #1 tends to focus on the bashing of the US bishops.  Group #2 tends to focus on the bashing of those who criticize the Magisterium.

The problem is, partisanship does not bring us to the truth.  This current dispute only serves to deepen mistrust between those Catholics who seek to be faithful.  People on the same side are (theologically speaking) shooting at each other – a Civil War.

One thing I think causes confusion is the overlooking of the fact that there are two issues – issues which are being blending into one.

The two issues are:

  1. Fr. Corapi either did or did not engage in misconduct towards his accuser.
  2. Fr. Corapi either did wrong or did not to wrong in terms of his leaving the active ministry of the priesthood in favor of becoming a private pundit.

This leaves us with four possibilities:

  • He did engage in misconduct and he did wrong to leave the active ministry to become a pundit.
  • He did not engage in misconduct and he did wrong to leave the active ministry to become a pundit.
  • He did engage in misconduct and did not do wrong to leave the active ministry to become a pundit.
  • He did not engage in misconduct and did not do wrong to leave the active ministry to become a pundit.

This would make him one of the following:

  • A knave looking out for #1
  • Rash by bailing out instead of trusting God
  • Cutting his losses and getting out
  • Heroically continuing his mission the only way he can

Of these, only one can be considered honorable.  The other three do not reflect well on his character.

Since we do not know whether he is guilty or innocent in terms of misconduct (SOLT has not yet determined the credibility of the accuser… and no longer can now that he has left the ministry of the priesthood), the only thing we can ask is whether he did right or wrong in leaving his ministry.  Now I admit that I do not know the proper procedure or whether he is following it, so I really cannot at this time determine his guilt or innocence in leaving the active ministry… though I do recognize that the Church has the right and the responsibility to assess both issues.

I would say this however.  Regardless of whether or not the current policy of automatic suspension until the truth is found is unjust [which is cited by Fr. Corapi and his defenders], we cannot justify doing wrong in response to wrong being done.  So I must say I must disagree with those bloggers and commentators who claim he is justified simply because they think the policy unjust.

I think we need to remember not to engage in rash judgment on one hand and not justify wrong being done in response to doing wrong.

Thus I ask that we who seek to be faithful Catholics stop this Civil War and instead do our best to learn the truth before making accusations.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Reflections on Fr. Corapi's Statement


Father John Corapi announced today that, "I am not going to be involved in public ministry as a priest any longer."

He says he has been falsely accused, and perhaps he has been.  I neither know him nor his accuser well enough to make an informed judgment.  So let me make clear that I do not operate on the assumption he is guilty.  That would be a rash judgment on my part to do so.  For that matter, I do not operate on the assumption his accuser is lying – for the same reason.

Having been falsely accused myself (of something entirely different), I know the pain that an unjust accusation can cause a person, and how hard it can be to actually let go, no matter how badly you want to forgive.  So it is quite possible he is innocent and the embittered tone comes through pain.

Yet, even acknowledging this, his statement deeply troubles me.

If I understand him correctly, it seems he is unwilling to give up speaking and writing even though he is suspended from doing so as a priest.  He says, "Through writing and broadcasting we hope to continue to dispense truth and hope to a world so much in need of it."

Fr. Corapi seems determined to continue in speaking on topics as a private individual. As an American with freedom of speech, he has that right. The Church will not abduct him in the middle of the night.

However, his past authority is through his being an ordained priest speaking as a priest. Now, he signs off his statement with "John Corapi (once called “father,” now “The Black Sheep Dog”)." It seems he will essentially be one more voice in the blogosphere, with no more authority to his words than any other pundit.  His personal knowledge and holiness may serve him well in this task, but the fact remains he will be nothing more than one more man with an opinion.

Fr. Corapi writes:

I shall continue, black sheep that I am, to speak; and sheep dog that I am, to guard the sheep—this time around not just in the Church, but also in the entire world. I am, indeed, not ready to be extinguished. Under the name “The Black Sheep Dog,” I shall be with you through radio broadcasts and writing. My autobiography, “The Black Sheep Dog,” is almost ready for publication. My topics will be broader than in the past, and my audience likewise is apt to be broader. I’ll do what I can under the circumstances.

Father Corapi seems to have no faith in being vindicated in time, writing, "I cannot give a lengthy explanation of what has transpired, but I can tell you that the most likely outcome is that they leave me suspended indefinitely and just let me fade away."

Names like Padre Pio, Cardinal Henri de Lubac and Cardinal Yves Congar flit before my mind as I read his statement. These were priests who fell under suspicion and underwent years of hardship, being silenced before being ultimately cleared of the charges brought against them. Sometimes religious superiors seeking to "err on the side of caution" do in fact act imprudently at times – a sad consequence of original sin.

Yet Padre Pio, Cardinal de Lubac and Cardinal Congar submitted to the demands of their superiors and did not go and publicly announce a parting of ways and a continuing of a personal ministry.

Fr. Corapi is continuing on, as he says, and bearing no ill will towards the Church.  I certainly pray this is true.

However, his statement seems to be embittered… the writings of a man who feels betrayed and is trying to keep his anger under control as it eats away from within.

As I said above, I can relate to this, having been falsely accused before.

However, I know from this  experience that when the anger eats away at you from within, it will consume you if it is not mastered.  I also know I am too weak to master the anger.  It is only through prayer that peace can come.

Thus each day, I find it necessary to pray the Litany of Humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

I do not know the state of Fr. Corapi's conscience.  Nor do I pretend to know his ultimate motives.  But I do pray that he act with patience and wisdom, and not from wrath.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recommended Article: The Establishment Clause

I've been working on an article about the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause in terms of the oft-cited "Separation of Church and State."

However, today I see that the blog Outside the Asylum has an article on this subject which seems far superior to my own efforts on the subject.

So instead, I'll just refer you over to this article then:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Intolerant Tolerance


Recently, in the news, there have been reports of certain politicians seeking to ban “discrimination” against homosexuals by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation. One effect of such a law would be to force Christian institutions out of running adoption agencies, unless they go against what they believe to be right and commanded by God.

The interesting thing about it is this sort of action is done in the name of Tolerance. To oppose allowing people to do certain things on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation is called Intolerance and those groups practicing what is labeled “intolerance” is to be opposed and the groups who practice it are not to be… tolerated.

What it Means to Tolerate – or to be Intolerant

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

—Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Let's start with the actual definition of the term. Tolerate is defined as:


■ v.

1 allow the existence or occurrence of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference.

2 endure (someone or something unpleasant) with forbearance.

(Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.)

It's a significant point. One tolerates something which they do not like and allows it to exist without interference. The contrary would then be Intolerance:


adj. (often intolerant of) not tolerant of views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.

(Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.)

So from a strict definition, anyone who refuses to allow the views, beliefs or behavior different from one’s own to exist without interference is intolerant.


They [La Prensa] accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it.

PJ O'Rourke, Holidays in Hell (quoting a Sandinista Official [Nelba Blandón]).

The irony shows up when one considers the opposition to groups labeled as Intolerant. Such groups are to be opposed in their beliefs and laws are proposed or passed which seek to force such “intolerant” groups to either change their views or cease to function in a certain sphere of influence.

Such opposition cannot be considered to be allowing the existence without interference, and in fact seeks to reduce their ability to operate in public while practicing their views.

This is of course the definition of Intolerance however. If Tolerance is to be an absolute value, then those who champion tolerance are in fact intolerant and must be opposed.

Looking at the Real Issue

This is what happens when slogans and propaganda replace rational discourse however. Tolerance and Intolerance are in fact labels to promote one point of view and vilify another. What we need to do is to look behind the labels and see what is actually being championed.

Let's consider the following groups, for example (especially chosen for their repugnance):

  1. Pedophiles
  2. Terrorists
  3. Serial Killers
  4. Nazis
  5. Rapists

If it is true that All Intolerance is Wrong, then it follows that any attempt to interfere with the groups listed above is wrong.

However, I think any sane person however would reject the idea of the rights of the groups listed above to practice without restriction.  Indeed, we would consider anyone who thinks their behavior right to be morally or mentally disordered.

That's where the problem lies. If there is something which is recognized as always wrong, not merely wrong in certain circumstances, then it follows that one ought never to tolerate that which is always wrong.

So the real issue which masquerades behind the label of tolerance is an assumption that a certain moral view is correct, and those who disagree with it are morally wrong in doing so. The person who labels another’s beliefs as intolerant is actually saying they think the person’s beliefs are morally wrong.

On Moral Rightness and Wrongness

To say an action is morally right, morally neutral or morally wrong is actually to appeal to some sort of absolute which transcends culture. Genocide was not morally right in Nazi Germany from 1933-1945 just because the society leaders accepted it. Ethnic Cleansing was not right when it was practiced in Bosnia after the breakup of Yugoslavia.

We condemn these actions, not because the Nazis or the Serbs were intolerant, but because they were doing something – targeting racial and religious minorities for persecution – which we condemn as always wrong.

So if accepting the activities of a group as being morally acceptable or morally neutral is required in some cases (such as ethnic or religious minorities), and not right in other circumstances (tolerating pedophiles) it means one group is doing something unobjectionable and another is doing something wrong.

This requires us to ask, what makes an act right? On what authority is one group to claim that [X] is an absolute good or evil?

Authority and Reason

To the Christian, the belief that there are acts which can never be justified and some acts which are good is obligatory. We believe that God has structured the universe where Good reflects His nature and evil contradicts it. Also, Good is beneficial to us while Evil harms us. We believe that good and evil can be known by all individuals and this knowledge is distinct from our passions and wants. Our knowledge of good and evil can be deadened by indulging our passions and ignoring our conscience.

The Christian stance on good and evil is not a mere “the Bible says so” stance. Saint Thomas Aquinas pointed out (Summa Contra Gentiles I: Chapter 2, #3) that it does no good to point to the Bible as an authority if someone does not accept the Bible as authoritative, and we must make use of natural reason to justify what we believe.

That of course cuts both ways. If someone says “I reject Christian teaching and believe we must do [X] instead,” then it is not enough for them to insist on it from their own say so (called ipse dixit – claiming the truth of something based solely on their own say-so). They must also make use of natural reason to justify their authority.

Practicing What is Preached

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

—GK Chesterton

Failure to understand why Christians believe as they do does not make Christians bigoted, but it does make those who use the labels bigoted by failing to consider why they feel they must act as they do.

I think this is important to stress here. If Christians are accused of imposing their views on others (as is done on issues such as abortion or Gay “marriage”) then it follows that those who would try to force their views on Christian institutions are guilty of the same – they are hypocritical if imposing values they disagree with is something to be considered wrong.

Thus the person who invokes the propaganda term of tolerance as a reason for opposing Christian values is not practicing what he preaches. To paraphrase Peter Kreeft, if they practice what they preach, they’ll stop preaching. However, if they think issues like abortion and homosexual acts are morally acceptable and those who disagree are morally in the wrong, they must recognize that moral absolutes do exist and they must offer their own defense as to why their values are correct.

They must let those arguments face the challenges of those who disagree instead of stooping to ad hominem attacks, calling those who disagree with them “racist,” “homophobe,” “intolerant,” and the like. 

Otherwise such opposition to Christian beliefs can be justly called both hypocritical and intolerant – in the true sense of the word.