Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Conveniently Overlooking the Second Step


One slight problem in the reasoning…

I've been seeing an evolution on the hostility to Pope Francis lately. Lately, the accusation on some blogs is to argue that the Pope is constantly making bad statements and we're constantly being challenged to "explain away" what he said.

Basically, it works this way:

  • Step 1: Declare that the Pope is teaching in contradiction to the Tradition of the Church
  • Step 2: ???
  • Step 3: Declare the Pope is in error.

What is left out is step 2… proving that the critic is correctly interpreting the Tradition of the Church.

The thing is, such a claim is begging the question. It assumes that the critic's view of Catholicism is the correct one, and any views which goes against the view of the critic is in error--even when the person who does it is the Pope.

It is begging the question because the point to be proved is that the critic is correct on what Catholicism teaches while that which the Pope teaches is incorrect before the Pope can be denounced.

In other words, the critic needs to demonstrate that his or her interpretation of older teachings which he or she uses to justify their stand is the correct interpretation, and that his or her interpretation of what the current Pope says is correct.

If either, or both, interpretation is incorrect then it means that the critic does not accurately judge what is authentically Catholic.

Unfortunately, too many people don't realize that views need to be evaluated objectively before they presume that the magisterium under Pope Francis is teaching error. Either they don't realize the possibility of their own being in error, or they don't realize that they are uncritically following someone else who might be in error.

Who has the authority to bind and loose? The Pope and those successors of the Apostles in communion with him. Who gave them that authority? Jesus Christ (Matt 16:18, Matt 18:18). Will Jesus Christ bind sin and loose truth in Heaven? No. So it is reasonable to accept that when the Magisterium teaches something we are bound to give assent to (not to be confused with private opinions of course), He will not let them bind us into following something contrary to what we need to do to be saved.

That's not to say some people will not misunderstand and twist what the Church teaching is to justify their own errors. But think of this. We know that many groups fell away from the Church because they believed that the Scriptures or the Patristic writings or other writings meant something it did not. They still do today.

So, the question to the person who claims the Magisterium is in error while they are not is: How do you know you interpreted these things correctly and the Magisterium did not? If the person interprets it wrong, it is they who fall away from the Church, holding (perhaps obstinately) on to error and rejecting correction.

The blogger, the disobedient bishop, the crackpot seer who tells you he knows the true interpretation of Church teaching while the lawful authority appointed by Christ does not, that's too ridiculous to consider. When Pope St. Pius X says or does A and Pope Francis says or does B, I want to see that the critic has correctly interpreted both A and B and that A and B actually are incompatible before I take the word of the critic that they are in conflict.

Of course, the critic is reduced to arguing in a circle. His or her argument is based on his or her interpretation of the words in question. How do we know that the interpretation by the critic is correct? Because that's what the text says. But how do we know that this is what the text means? Because that is the critic's interpretation. etc., etc., etc.

It's remarkably similar to Biblical literalism among Fundamentalists. They condemn the Catholic Church on what they think the Scriptures say and what they think the Catholic Church teaches. They skip the second step, proving that their interpretations of both are correct, and move on to step three, denouncing us.

It's also (ironically) similar to groups like We Are Church and movements like The Spirit of Vatican II. They claim that the Magisterium gets it wrong, but what they condemn is based entirely on their own interpretation--which is the point that needs to be scrutinized.

It's up to us not to let them get away with it and deceive us by claiming more than they can justify. There is a step 2, which they have to prove before their criticism of Magisterial teaching can be denounced.

Any idiot can create a blog and write about religion. I should know. I am a blogger who writes about religion. I could technically write whatever the hell I want and pass it off as Church teaching. but my conscience requires me to my best to accurately describe and defend the Catholic faith to the best of my knowledge and ability, recognizing the authority of the Church as judging my views, not the reverse.

But I am not infallible and my blog does not have the authority to bind or loose. The closest I can come is to point to what the Church says, with the caveat that if what I say seems to go against Church teaching (God forbid!), you should side with the Magisterium under with the authority of the Pope and not with me.

That also applies to every other critic of the Church. Don't let them get away with skipping step two when they attack the Church.

No comments:

Post a Comment