Thursday, April 30, 2015

Abusus non tollit Usum: Thoughts on An Argument Trying to Refute the Defense of Marriage

As we wait for the Supreme Court to decide the fate of “same sex marriage,” I have seen an argument pop up in different places which tries to refute the defense of traditional marriage. This argument isn’t new, but I haven’t seen it for a few years. This arguments points to the cheapening of marriage as we know it in society with easy divorce, marriage for superficial reasons and the like. Some have argued that people with same sex attraction who want to marry have a higher esteem for marriage than heterosexuals because of the abuses that goes on in marriage today. I have seen both promoters of “same sex marriage” and Christians use it (the former for trying to justify their agenda, the latter trying to say “we’re all to blame here!”)

That argument is fundamentally flawed, but unless a person understands the issue, he or she can be easily led astray by it.

The problem can be summed up under the legal maxim abusus non tollit usum: “abuse does not take away use,” meaning that the fact that a thing may be abused or improperly used from a moral point of view does not justify its destruction, non-use, or non-application. I would argue that trying to redefine the meaning of marriage qualifies as the destruction of the original purpose.

In other words, the fact that many people have cheapened the true meaning of marriage (both now and in the past) through abuse does not justify the changing of the meaning of marriage. It means that we tighten up the meaning of marriage so as to eliminate the abuses and reinforcing the true means of marriage—which is what the Catholic Church has been doing every time there has been an attempt to distort the meaning of marriage. She has always stood for lifelong marriage between one man and one woman open to the transmission of life to a new generation. 

The proposal that “same sex marriage” proponents have "deeper respect" for marriage is a bit of a non sequitur (literally “it does not follow,” basically it means introducing something irrelevant to the discussion). Any attempt to redefine the intention of marriage is wrong—whether that wrong is the multiple divorces and remarriages of a Hollywood Actor/Actress or whether that wrong is trying to define marriage as existing between two people of the same gender. The invocation of “deeper respect” is misleading because it tries to sneak the idea of “same sex marriage” as if it were part of the proper understanding of marriage, when it is not.

Ultimately, the cheapening of marriage. is in reducing it to merely an emotional bond that lasts only as long as both partners feel such a bond—denying that marriage is a lifelong commitment which is open to procreation and raising the children born from this marriage. Any concept of marriage which does not recognize these characteristics is cheapening marriage—and the nature of “same sex marriage” is nothing more than an emotional bond. It’s unfortunate that marriage today is reduced to sentiment, but the solution is to defend what marriage is intended to be in all cases, not to redefine it in order to appease sentimentality.

Does respect for marriage need to be deepened in the West? It sure does. Are things like divorce/remarriage, adultery and fornication cheapening how the public views marriage? They sure do. Do these things justify reconsidering “same sex marriage?” They absolutely do NOT. The Christian who recognizes marriage as created by God has a duty to stand with the Church in defending marriage against false ideas and attempts to redefine it.

And that’s why we have to stand and speak out the truth (with compassion of course), even if the whole world hates us for it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don't Panic

Don t panic

The situation of the religious freedom in America is certainly as bleak as it has ever been in our history. The three branches of government take it as a given that they have the authority to rule on matters that involve religious obligation and to dictate to believers which of their beliefs are valid and which are not. The general trend here is to force religion out of the public square under the assumption that anything with a religious motivation cannot be used to set policy. (That’s the Genetic fallacy by the way). Between the government and the influential shapers of public opinion, people are being led to the view that unpopular religious teaching is based on intolerance (poisoning the well fallacy) and any religious opposition to an issue is portrayed as the equivalent of the racist opposition to civil rights in the 1960s (false analogy fallacy).

The result is, we are now in a situation where religion can be restricted outside of the most narrow redefinitions. The rights of people who profess belief in the Christian moral teachings and the institutions or businesses they establish is denied on the grounds that their belief is merely a repugnant intolerance (Begging the Question fallacy). We could soon see an even more overt attack where Christian individuals and institutions affiliated with churches have no right to refuse to do something their religious beliefs condemn, and thus suffer lawsuits, fines and prosecutions. It’s the kind of behavior we hitherto associated with Communist governments and long said “It can’t happen here—our Constitution prevents it."

The world may end up unjustly oppressing the Church in ways we can’t even guess at right now (Who would have thought, eight years ago, we’d be where we are today?), and individuals need to consider the strong possibility that persecution will afflict them personally, as opposed to something that only happens to people far away. But, as bleak as things are, we must avoid the attitudes of panicking and assuming that the world will defeat the Church. We must certainly avoid the attitude of “if only the bishops had done something, this wouldn’t have happened!” (Hypothesis contrary to fact fallacy).

(Don’t Act Like This)

We Christians may end up losing this battle. But God will win this war. The thing to remember is that if the government here decides to interfere with our seeking to be true to Our Lord, this is not a defeat for God. This has happened before, when persecutions lasted hundreds of years. Reading Butler’s unabridged Lives of the Saints, shows us the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, Islam and Reformation England where being a member of the Church was a punishable offense—often by death. There are many records of saints who were unjustly hauled before the courts and given the choice between going along with the unjust demands of the state and suffering for putting God first.

We, individually, cannot change the state. All we can do is to bear witness to our faith in God, and show we would rather suffer evil at the hands of men than do evil in the sight of God. Tertullian once said The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. When we show our determination to follow God, and show love for those who hate us, God uses that to bring more people of good will to Him.

So while we may be angry at the injustices done to us and the slanders directed against what we believe, we must make sure that how we live in Christ bears witness. We cannot hate our persecutors. Our task is to love and to continue to teach the world of Christ—even when the world hates and persecutes us for it.

So let us continue to pray for the conversion of our nation, and pray that we may live as God calls us, regardless of what may come. Let us continue to bear witness so people may see the love of Christ in us.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Propaganda and Lies: Portraying Christianity as Malicious

Propaganda:  information of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular or point of view or to misrepresent an opposing point of view.

With the Supreme Court ready to hear arguments on Tuesday concerning the “right” to “gay marriage,” there is a real push to portray Christianity—or at least those denominations who have not caved in on the issue of saying marriage can only exist between one man and one woman—as enemies of the state who have to be opposed for the “public good.” To hear the rhetoric used, one would get the impression that it is the Christians who are trying to impose their beliefs on others.

But if one actually went beyond the rhetoric and loaded terms, one would see that the ones actually seeking to impose their beliefs on others are the ones who are taking Christians to court with the intention of forcing them to do what they believe is morally wrong. What we are actually getting here is the attempt to force Christians to either accept “same sex marriage” as morally the same as marriage between one man and one woman, or be targeted by lawsuits, loss of business and loss of jobs. It seems it is only a matter of time before those people who refuse to go along wind up being prosecuted.

When one actually looks at the accusations which are being made against Christians, it is clear that these charges have no basis in fact, and are instead logical fallacies which are aimed at swaying people emotionally and intimidating the people they disagree with.

The fact is, we deny the charges that we have hatred for people with same-sex attraction. While I am sure you could dig up some individual who does hate them using all the offensive words that makes a perfect soundbite, we would deny that his hatred is caused by Christian belief. There are always extremists out there. There are always lawbreakers out there. But in every other case, people recognize that the extremist recognizes the whole. A person who claimed that all African Americans were felons, all Hispanics were illegal aliens, or all Muslims were terrorists would be denounced as intolerant. However, when a person argues that “all Christians are homophobic,” they are making the same gross stereotypes that they would condemn in every other case.

Christian teaching on sexual morality is not arbitrary. It is not made with the malicious desire to “persecute” people with same sex attraction or women or the divorced. It is made with the intention of showing people how they must live if they would seek out what is good and avoid what is harmful. We do believe in God, and we do believe His commandments are designed to move us towards what is good for us and away from what is harmful. In terms of sexual morality, the concept of the sexual act is not recreational, but aimed at the creation of the family—both in procreation and in furthering the bond between husband and wife. The family (mother, father, children) is the basic unit of a society. New individuals are born, raised with the values needed to hold society together, and then pass them on to another generation. Actions that distort the purpose of the sexual act are called sinful—not because some prelate dislikes them, but because they destroy the entire purpose of the sexual act.

Thus the Church condemns many acts that go against the true purpose, from the acts that few people recognize as harmful any longer (such as masturbation or fornication) to the extremes like rape and necrophilia that no sane person denies is evil. The morality of sexual acts is not changed by time or popular opinion. If God has said some act is wrong, then it is wrong, even if modern TV portrays it as if nothing was harmful about it. The Church condemnation of acts has nothing to do with hatred of people. On the contrary, it is based on the concern for the well-being of the individual who does them.

Some people try to challenge this assertion by labelling it as “imposing values or beliefs on others.” That’s pretty hypocritical however. If imposing views on others is wrong, then people should stop trying to impose their views on Christians. But if people think that some actions have to be opposed then, recognize that we have the same right. (See HERE for an expanded view on the subject). After all, isn’t the idea that “same sex marriage” should be allowed a value or belief?

The truth of the matter is that the the people seeking to portray Christianity as “pushing their beliefs on others” or of “hatred” are actually guilty of that accusation. Right now, it is the proponents of “same sex marriage” who are trying to impose their beliefs on others, and show a virulent hatred of Christians who stand up for their beliefs (look at the forum comments for example). 

Trying to coerce our businesses, schools and hospitals into accepting same sex attraction as normal is not a defense of civil rights. The freedom of religion is a civil right. (read the 1st Amendment). This coercion, using propaganda and false statements to make our beliefs appear to be malicious is an attack on civil rights. No Christian—except perhaps for an extremist—intends to deny people with same sex attraction the right to goods and services that are available to any person. But Christians who believe that certain actions are morally wrong will not take part in anything that gives the impression that they support it. So we won’t recognize “same sex marriage” or abortion or divorce and remarriage. This refusal is not based on malice. It’s based on a belief that we must do good and reject evil—and help the people trapped in the evil to understand why it is wrong.

To twist the truth so as to make people believe something that is not true is to speak falsely. When a person knows they are speaking falsely, that is a lie. We Christians deny we bear any malice for the people who commit the actions we must call sins.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Do Not Tax Collectors Do the Same?


Sermon on the Mount(“You have heard that it was said…”)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?* 48 So be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)


When the Vatican announced the importance of continuing to dialogue with Muslims, (see Is dialogue with Islam possible? Yes, and it's needed now more than ever, Vatican says :: Catholic News Agency (CNA) for the story), there was a strong reaction from some individuals on Facebook who were no doubt responding with the barbarities of ISIS in mind. These individuals said things to the effect that the Vatican was living in a dream world. Some of them took the rhetoric further, calling Muslims in general “animals” and “children of Satan.” Some say that any Muslim speaking about peace is a liar because of what the Qur’an says.

These individuals were not part of the “New Atheism” who bear a hatred for anything religious. No, they were Catholics who were angry at the thought of Muslims being treated in any way other than with an iron fist because of the barbaric behavior against Christians. They viewed any reaching out to Muslims in dialogue in this case as capitulation or religious indifferentism—basically ignoring the suffering of Christians. Some even go so far as to declare that we do not need to reach out to Muslims because they have "knowingly rejected Christ."

Preliminary Notes That Shouldn’t Have To Be Said

I shouldn’t have to profess my faith as a preliminary, but many people fall for the either-or fallacy and assume that the opposite of being hostile to Muslims is to profess their beliefs. So I have to preempt accusations by stating where I stand:

I am a member of the Catholic Church through the grace of God, being baptized as an infant. I choose to remain in the Catholic Church because I believe she is the Church established by Christ. I fully accept the Nicene Creed and profess a belief in God as Trinity. I recognize the authority of the Church to teach and seek to obey what the Church has taught. I recognize that the leadership of the Church is given to the Pope and the bishops as the successors of St. Peter and the Apostles.

Because I believe that truth cannot contradict truth, and because Christianity and Islam contradict each other on the nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it logically follows that I cannot accept Islam as being true—because I believe Jesus is God, I cannot accept claims from the Qur’an which claims He is no more than a human prophet. I have read the Qur’an, but I do not believe it is a divinely inspired book in any way.

Hopefully this should preempt any false accusations that I am religiously indifferent or secretly holding Muslim beliefs.

Islamophobia vs. Opposing Wrong Done By Certain Muslims

I’m on record as saying the -phobia label is used to vilify people for opposing acts as being morally wrong. That’s also part of the either-or fallacy in the sense of “Either you accept us as equally valid or you’re a bigot.” One can oppose something as being morally wrong without hating the person who is affiliated with such a group. It is the failure to recognize this fact that has made America such a dangerous place to speak publicly. Not dangerous in the sense of “mobs killing you for saying the wrong thing” (or at least not yet), but dangerous in the sense of “you can lose your job, be sued or be prosecuted if someone dislikes what you say."

The danger of classifying any opposition as a -phobia is that it makes it difficult for people to openly discuss the issues of what is true and what is false. Nowadays this is seen as “intolerance.”

That being said, it is possible for individuals to lose sight of the difference between those who do evil and “guilt by association.” Those people do simply hate a person for what group or category they fall under. That mindset is wrong in the eyes of the Catholic Church. We are to love the person who wrongs us, and to forgive—because God has forgiven us for our wrongs:

21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 *Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 24 *When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 25 Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. 26 *At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ 27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. 28 When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.* He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. 31 Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. 32 His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ 34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.* 35 * So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

So, when a Catholic is hostile to another solely on the grounds of his or her existence in a group (as opposed to saying an act is wrong, but still loving the person who commits it) and feels they should not be shown any human decency, such a person is not behaving as they are supposed to behave as Catholic Christians. 

Catholics May Not Hate or Wish Evil on Anyone—They Must Forgive and Seek to Bring People to Christ

It is acceptable to be angry at injustice. It is acceptable to want evil to be stopped. It is also acceptable for Christians to defend themselves from attackers. However, we are forbidden to hate those who persecute us. Hatred is the wanting of evil to befall a person. If someone wrongs us, we are required to forgive them, and continue to seek their good. As the Catechism says:

2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God’s compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.145 (2262)

That means when people hate us and want to harm us, we cannot hope for disaster to befall them and their families. We are to pray for their conversion and reach out to them. This isn’t just some “Vatican II invention” or modern naïveté. The history of our Church witnesses to it. Consider this portion of today’s First Reading (4/24/15):

10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, 12 and [in a vision] he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay [his] hands on him, that he may regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, 16 and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, 19 and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength. He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. (Acts 9:10-20)

Just ask, what would have happened if Ananias had decided that Saul of Tarsus was a “child of Satan” and refused to go to him? What if the early Christians had refused to go to the pagan Romans who persecuted them? The fact is, God has called us to go out to the whole world (28:18-20), and He did not make any exceptions allowing us to pick and choose who we reach out to.

On Dialogue

Dialogue is defined as “a discussion between two or more people or groups, especially one directed toward exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem.” When conflicts arise, it is easier to get a solution by discussing how to deal with them without resorting to violence. It is also part of the requirement of missionary activity, as the Catechism says:

856 The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel. Believers can profit from this dialogue by learning to appreciate better “those elements of truth and grace which are found among peoples, and which are, as it were, a secret presence of God.” They proclaim the Good News to those who do not know it, in order to consolidate, complete, and raise up the truth and the goodness that God has distributed among men and nations, and to purify them from error and evil “for the glory of God, the confusion of the demon, and the happiness of man.”361 (839; 843)

St. John Paul II wrote:

55. Inter-religious dialogue is a part of the Church’s evangelizing mission. Understood as a method and means of mutual knowledge and enrichment, dialogue is not in opposition to the mission ad gentes; indeed, it has special links with that mission and is one of its expressions. This mission, in fact, is addressed to those who do not know Christ and his Gospel, and who belong for the most part to other religions. In Christ, God calls all peoples to himself and he wishes to share with them the fullness of his revelation and love. He does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression, even when they contain “gaps, insufficiencies and errors.” All of this has been given ample emphasis by the Council and the subsequent Magisterium, without detracting in any way from the fact that salvation comes from Christ and that dialogue does not dispense from evangelization.

In the light of the economy of salvation, the Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in interreligious dialogue. Instead, she feels the need to link the two in the context of her mission ad gentes. These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated or regarded as identical, as though they were interchangeable. (Redemptoris Missio 55)

In other words, it is far better to carry out the mission activity of the Church when relations between Christians and non-Christians is peaceful than it is over gunfire.


To the people who call the Muslims “animals” or “children of Satan,” who reject dialogue with them, I ask you this? Are we or are we not called to evangelize all nations? The answer is, we are called to evangelize. I ask you also, which is in keeping with evangelizing those who hate us? Showing love and respect to those we reach out to? Or showing hatred and contempt?

In calling for us to not give up on dialogue, the Church is not “living in a dream world,” or “compromising.” The Church is following the teaching of Christ. No matter how much people may hate us, we cannot hate them. We must love them. Otherwise, we’re no better than the pagans and tax collectors.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Path of Denial: On Denying the Teaching Authority of the Church

As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Do ye therefore all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one. (Ignatius of Antioch [AD 50-107] Chapter VII. Epistle to the Magnesians)


“The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 62.

The Path of Denial

Very few people become heretics or schismatics by thinking, “I know I am in error, but I don’t care.” They are convinced that their views are correct, but they have encountered opposition from the teaching authority of the Church which tells them that their belief or behavior is not in keeping with the Catholic faith. When a person runs into this situation, they have two choices:

  1. Accept the authority of the Church and reject the behavior/belief which goes against it.
  2. Reject the authority of the Church and accept the behavior/belief which goes against it.

If the person chooses the first possibility, they remain with their relationship with God and the Church intact. But if the person chooses the second possibility, their relationship with God and the Church is damaged.

Many times a person who goes ahead with this damaged relationship does not want to admit that their choice is the cause of it. So they claim that the fault of the break is somewhere else, and their position is on the right side of the break. Someone else must be found then to be in the wrong. Of course, most people don’t want to say that God is to blame for this break (those that do seem to be suffering from some great hurt and despair). So they try to redefine things so God is portrayed as being on their side. Therefore if the Church goes against what they want, then they conclude that the Church teaching must be against God—otherwise the Church would be siding with them. In many cases, this is where the person leaves the Church. Either they pick a denomination which permits them to behave as they choose, or they leave their faith altogether. It is a tragic thing, based on the idea that they cannot possibly be in the wrong.

However, some people do not want to deny the Church outright. For whatever reason, they want remain associated to the Church. So, they see the people who are Catholics who think like them as the “true Church,” while the teaching authority of the Church which rejects their belief or behavior as against the faith of the Church  must have fallen into error. Therefore the Church must change to match their beliefs. Otherwise, the actual teaching authority of the Church is believed not to bind.

The Path of Denial is Not Limited to A Certain Ideology

You will notice I did not equate any specific belief with this path of Denial. I avoided this because it is easy to fall into the error of thinking that only one kind of mindset can do this. Depending on the reader’s views, it is easy to project the person one disagrees with as being guilty of this error. But the fact is, the conservative and the liberal both can fall into this way of thinking. For example, both the traditionalist and the modernist can point to Vatican II and allege betrayal. The traditionalist alleges betrayal in claiming that Vatican II contradicted the past teaching of the Church. The modernist alleges betrayal in claiming that Blessed Paul VI and his successors have rejected Vatican II and turned back to the time before the Council.

Logic tells us that the Popes cannot simultaneously be traditionalist and modernist—the two positions are contraries. They can’t both be true. However, since they are contraries and not contradictories, they can both be false. The Pope can be neither traditionalist nor modernist, and to accuse him of being in those camps when he is not would be speaking falsely.

Likewise, even though the traditionalist and the modernist are in opposition to each other, that does not mean that one of them might be right. If one of them errs on the side of rigorism and the other errs on the side of laxity, then both do err.

Two Logical Problems

The first logical problem in this attempt to put the Church on the wrong side of the individual’s break with the Church teaching is the fallacy of begging the question. It is a fallacy which attempts to prove something, but when the person supplies arguments to justify their conclusion, those arguments presume that the conclusion is true—which is what they have to prove in the first place. Thus, the Church is alleged to be in error because she teaches X is wrong. Why is that error? Because X is asserted to be right but the Church disagrees.

See the problem? The whole argument asserts that if the Church was not in error, she would teach X was right, but never shows why the Church is in error for teaching X is wrong. A person who rejects the claim that “the Church is in error because she teaches X is wrong,” can rightly say that the argument proves nothing.

The second logical problem is similar. The fallacy is called Ipse Dixit (literally “He said” or “He himself said it”). This fallacy makes an assertion, but does not prove it. The speaker expects the listener to accept as “the way things are.” But the problem is, just because a person can say a thing does not mean the statement is true. People have the right to ask “Where the hell did you get that idea from?"

So when we see advocates of Same Sex “marriage” allege that “God doesn’t care about what two people in love with each other do!” or the SSPXer allege that “the Novus Ordo [sic] Mass is intrinsically invalid,” these are ipse dixit statements. Just because you say them doesn’t mean we have to believe your assertion. What gives you the right to say it is true?

The Authority of the Church vs. the Authority of the Challenger

Now, when a person is an expert in a field and speaks on his or her area of expertise, that may be considered authoritative. But if a person is not an expert or if the person is an expert in an unrelated field, then that person’s assertions have no authoritative value. Now authority can be defined as, “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.” Since we are speaking about the Catholic Church, when we talk about authority, we are talking about who has the authority to make binding decisions on those who profess membership of the Catholic Church."

Now, while non-Catholics may disagree with the assertions of the Catholic Church, those people cannot be considered authorities when it comes to the question of who speaks for the Church. Nor can I the writer or you the reader consider ourselves authorities who speak for the Church. We can only point to the official teachings of the Church. If I were to personally declare that wearing purple was sinful, the wise person would ask where I got that idea from. Once it turned out that I made up that declaration on my own, it would be exposed as having no authority to bind.

So when it comes to the cacophony of people claiming to know how best to carry out the teaching of the Catholic Church, we have to stop and ask who was given that right to teach, to forgive sins and to otherwise bind and loose? The fact is, as Catholics we believe that this authority is given to the successor of St. Peter, the Pope and the successors of the Apostles, those bishops in communion with him. This has been taught from the beginning of the Church in the first century AD to the present. There is no time when the Pope and the bishops in communion with Him did not have the authority and responsibility to determine how the deposit of faith was to be understood.

That’s an important thing to remember because many people think they can just pull out a Bible passage or a Church document, claim that the teaching authority of the Church today contradicts it and conclude that this means the teaching authority of the Church is in error. But that is begging the question and ipse dixit again—on what grounds do they prove their interpretation of these passages is the correct one while the magisterial teaching is not? They assume that their interpretation is correct. That leads to this sort of dialogue:

Me: Why is that interpretation correct?
Challenger: Because that’s what the text says.
Me: How do we know your interpretation of the text is correct?
Challenger: Because that’s what the text says.

But the claim that the person is interpreting correctly against the Church is not something we can accept on their say so. We believe contra Protestantism that the Catholic Church has a visible authority which makes the ultimate decision on what is authentic interpretation of Church teaching. So, the one rejecting the Church teaching authority, insisting on their own interpretation instead is insisting on something they cannot actually prove—only assert ipse dixit.

Since we know that Our Lord gave His Apostles and their successors the authority to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18) and made clear that whoever rejected them rejected Him (Luke 10:16), it follows that no interpretation of Scripture or Church document can be considered authentic if it contradicts the teaching of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. A person has free will to reject such a belief of course. But if one wants to reject this teaching, then how can they call their own interpretation “Catholic”?

The name “Catholic” comes from the Greek κατα ὀλος (kata holos—universal, with respect to the whole). So, if the person wants to hold their view in spite of the Church teaching, that’s individual, not Catholic. But if the person wants to claim that their interpretation applies to the whole Church, we can ask them what right they have to claim authority for binding and loosing in opposition to the Pope and bishops in communion with him—who were specifically entrusted with this responsibility and authority by Our Lord.

That’s ultimately the problem in the arguments of the person who claims to be right while the Magisterium is wrong—they have absolutely no authority to judge that the magisterium is wrong when it teaches authoritatively nor to interpret Church documents contrary to the magisterial interpretation. Their statements are ipse dixit. As the Catechism says:

889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.” (92)

890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms: (851; 1785)

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.… The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

When the Church teaches (as opposed to an offered opinion), obedience is required. The Pope has not taught anybody that they must sin or must refuse to do good. Nor has he denied any teaching of the faith. So accusations that He has done so are nothing more than slander/libel.

But… But What About the Bad Priests, Bishops and Popes?

God’s promise of protecting the Church is not intended to make our clergy impeccable. We have had shepherds who behaved unworthily of their office to be sure. This seems to be where the rejection of the Church authority comes from. Yes, we have had bishops, priests and nuns who have sinned by commission or omission to cast doubt on the faith of the Church. But the problem is, the sins of the clergy and laity do not mean the magisterium itself is in error. It means some of those entrusted to be shepherds have failed in their task. But just because some have failed does not mean all have failed.

People who think that now is the worst it has ever been need to become more acquainted with Church history. During the 4th century AD, there was a time when a majority of Christendom fell into the Arian history. But the minority that retained the faith was centered around the Bishop of Rome and those in the Church who followed Him. That was a pattern which repeated throughout history. Even when whole regions fell into error, the truth was defended by the Pope and those who followed him. Where Peter was, there was the Church teaching the truth. This was not on account of their holiness, but the fact that the Church established by Christ was built with Peter as the rock and Jesus promised that He would be with this Church always and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

That doesn’t mean that Popes made impeccable decisions in matters that don’t involve faith and morals. Nor does it mean that the Popes always chose the best options in handling things. But when they formally taught, they never taught error. They never taught that sin was good. They never denied the faith or taught something contrary to it.

Those people who allege that the Popes did, are again making an ipse dixit claim based on their personal interpretations of Scripture and Church documents with no authority to back up their claims. 

The False Teachers Are Those Catholics Who Deny The Authority of the Pope and Bishops

So, since the person who claims to be a faithful Catholic must adhere to the teachings of the Church, and the Church teaches that the Pope and bishops are to obeyed when they teach authoritatively (which is NOT limited to ex cathedra statements), then, logically, a person who claims to be a faithful Catholic must obey the Pope and bishops when they intend to teach the Church. If a person denies they have this authority, they cannot be considered a faithful Catholic.

So when the SSPXer proclaims that the Pope is in error, or when the “100 influential Catholics” in San Francisco sign an open letter trying to get an Archbishop removed from his position, these people are denying the successors to the Apostles who Jesus has given the authority to shepherd the Church. They cannot be considered an “alternate opinion.” They must not be followed as if they possessed the truth on how to be authentically Catholic.

Yes there are roles for those of us who are not Popes and bishops in knowing, loving and serving Christ. We can indeed work to promote and defend the faith—but if we act apart from and against the Pope and the bishops, we are not loving Christ, but rejecting Him. And Our Lord gave us stern warnings about what would happen to those who did not do God's will:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,* but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Musings on an Encounter With An SSPXer...

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.


Catechism of the Catholic Church

I find that when encountering a member of the SSPX (Society of St. Pius X) or a sympathizer of the group, they try to portray themselves as reasonable Catholics. But when pressed on how Church teaching requires them to give obedience to the teachings of the current Pope and those in communion with him, it quickly disintegrates into a claim that faithful Catholics have the right to compare the teachings of the Church today with the older teachings of the Church. If they decide that the two are different, they claim the right to disobey the living magisterium in favor of past documents.

Begging the question11

The problem with this argument is it assumes as true what needs to be proven—that their interpretation of the past Church documents is correct and the current Pope and bishops in communion with him are not. In other words, begging the question. The argument makes use of premises that assume the conclusion is true. The real irony here is that the SSPX, determined to save the Church from being “Protestantized” (a common allegation being that Vatican II introduced Protestant error into the Mass and Church teaching) is actually employing the same argument that Martin Luther did—that the Church had fallen into error because her understanding of Scripture did not match his understanding of Scripture. So if Martin Luther was wrong to put his interpretation above the authority of the Church (which the SSPX would argue), then it is also wrong for the SSPX to do so.

There’s another problem with the SSPX attack on the authority of the Church from Vatican II on. If the Church taught error in something that binds the faithful then we have a problem which far exceeds the question of the form of the Mass and how ecumenism is to be practiced. We have a very real problem that forces us to ask, “How then do we know that the Church did not fall into error in a previous Council or Papal teaching? Someone could ask whether Vatican I erred in defining Papal Infallibility or Nicea I in defending the Trinity against the Arians. Once you claim that an Ecumenical Council can teach error, you open the floodgates of relativism, where each person decides for himself or herself what is true and what is not in Catholic teaching.

Either we believe God protects His Church under the Pope from teaching error in all ages, or we cannot be certain He protected the Church at all. The Church herself has always taught that her formal teaching, where she intends to teach the faithful (which includes encyclicals and apostolic exhortations) is binding. We can’t set aside Vatican II any more than a modernist can set aside Humanae Vitae.

In addition, we have this problem: Isn’t it possible that the people who see contradiction between older Church documents and the current teaching have missed the point of the original teaching, the current teaching or even both? To claim that they have properly understood both and can see a contradiction again requires proof that they have interpreted both, otherwise it's begging the question again. 

Ultimately, when I run into a supporter of the SSPX in a forum or on Facebook, I think the real issue is that they have lost faith in God protecting the Church because the Church did not interpret the past teachings the way they think it ought to have been interpreted. They have elevated their preferences to being infallible doctrines while the successors of those whom Christ gave authority over the Church are presumed to be heretical or incompetent. That’s a terribly blinding pride which keeps them from seeing what they are denying—the promise of Christ to be with His Church always and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. That’s a promise He made to St. Peter, and we believe He has been faithful in keeping it with every one of his successors, including Pope Francis.

Think of that when encountering a supporter of the SSPX, or someone who justifies their disobedience to the Pope today in the name of what they think the Church was in the past. Think of that and pray for them.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Is Religious Freedom a "Rearguard" Argument? Some Brief Thoughts

I came across a few articles saying that speaking about the defense of the Church teachings as a Religious Freedom issue is a “rearguard” movement. Since rearguard is a term used to describe defense during a retreat, it is clear this is a negative description. The arguments I have seen claim that if we try to defend “religious freedoms” against “human rights,” people are going to decide that it is “intolerance vs. tolerance.” These people who describe it as a rearguard action say that we need to start promoting the right and wrong aspects. 

I tend to disagree with this, because I think this argument makes a logical error. The argument that instead of arguing religious freedom, we need to argue right/wrong is technically an either-or fallacy. We need to do both, but which argument we give depends entirely on who is the target audience.

The Church teaching on right and wrong is always present. We speak against certain things because they are wrong. If the Church were somehow to be entirely indifferent on something, we wouldn’t bother to defend it. Such arguments work well with people of good will who are seeking the truth and want to live it. But there’s one problem with the right and wrong argument—it really doesn’t reach the people who believe in moral relativism. For the person who denies right and wrong—particularly if the moral claims come too close to home with the person’s lifestyle—such arguments are going to be ignored.

That’s where the Constitutional arguments are needed. Such people need to be shown that once a regime decides it can set aside rights to benefit a cause it supports, another regime which replaces it can make use of the same tactic to benefit the cause it supports. To such people, one needs to show that the only way to be protected from that arbitrary behavior is to make sure that nobody gets away with setting aside the real Constitutional rights in favor of fictional rights.

The point is, before we can get people to listen to the right and wrong arguments, we have to get them to listen in the first place. So, for those who do listen, we do need to explain why X is wrong. But for those who don’t listen, we need to get them to think about how this whole heavy-handed approach by the government sets a precedent that can be used against them by a future government which is just as unscrupulous as the one we currently have which supports what they don’t like using the same tactics.

In other words, we need to reach out to all people to encourage them to break away from the unthinking mob mindset, but the starting place is going to be different depending on who is being spoken to. If they’re unwilling to listen to the moral arguments of right and wrong, we need to start at another level where they are willing to listen.

Otherwise, they won’t listen at all.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Prodigal Son and Mercy Misunderstood

Doing my morning readings/studies, I noticed a trend of mercy and love in the varied works I read (Scripture, Patristics, Catechism, Saints, Church documents) that are synched together like well crafted gears (which makes sense, considering Who designed the system). It starts with God’s love for us, even though we misuse our free will for evil. God wants us to be reconciled to Him and He pursues us to bring us back to Him, knowing what will make us truly happy—though He never violates our free will. Even in the Old Testament, so often misinterpreted as having a harsh and vindictive God, shows God pleading with His people to cease sinning and turn back to Him so He can forgive them and give them His blessings.

Unfortunately, our responses do not match His generous and unselfish love for us. He calls everyone to turn to Him and follow Him, but it seems that we want to put conditions on that call. Those conditions either want to limit the requirements for us personally being His followers or put limits on who else can turn to Him. In other words, we can sum these two mindsets as:

  1. “I want God’s mercy without having to be sorry!”
  2. “I don’t want those people here unless they’re as good as ME!”

Both positions make a mockery of God’s mercy and create a perverted image of God that non-believers can point to and mock. (And I should note here that it is quite possible for us to be in both categories at once).

“I Want God’s Mercy Without Having To Be Sorry!"

Loving and following Our Lord requires changing our lives in order to be like Him (John 14:15, 1 John 5:1-5). God created us to seek out the greatest good—Himself. He gives us free will because He wants us to love us by His own choice, not as mindless drones. He has designed us in such a way that living in accordance to what is good benefits us, and living in opposition to that good harms us—even if it pleases us in the short term. Understood like that, people who want the Church to change her teachings are wanting the impossible. They want what God has forbade as evil to be redefined as good, as if the labels of good and evil were arbitrary decisions a human being chose to apply to behaviors at a whim.

Sin is something real. It destroys our relationship with God. It can condemn us to hell. It is something so serious, that Our Lord died on a Cross so we could be saved from it. His action is a gift we can either choose or reject. Accepting His salvation means we need to turn our life around and live as He calls us to live, and when we fall into sin, we need to change direction and turn back to God, trying to the best of our ability to stop doing what separates us from God, praying for His grace to do so, and making use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

That behavior is exactly the opposite of the person who demands that the Church change her teachings. That’s not metanoia. That’s demanding that reality change to suit the individual—in other words, putting the self above God and saying, “I’ll follow God, but He (or his Church) has to change to suit me.” It’s as if the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) returned home and expected to be treated as normal, like nothing ever happened, thinking he was still entitled to the Father’s inheritance, despite the fact that he’d squandered it. What they want is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace, which wants the benefits of Jesus dying for us without the call to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-27).

The thing is people who are becoming increasingly hostile to Christian teaching—especially those who try to claim that it is against what Jesus would want—is that such hostility fails to understand what the mercy of God is. This mercy is creating a way for each sinner to be brought back to God. This way is not mean that anybody who thinks “Jesus was a nice guy” is allowed to do whatever he or she wants to do. This way is making it possible for the sinner who repents to find forgiveness for his or her sins.

We see this in the Gospels. Sinners who have done wrong change their hearts and their ways and find forgiveness. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more (John 8:11). We are to go and sin no more. If we do sin and again break our relationship with God, He has created the Sacrament of Reconciliation (John 20:23) that our relationship with God may be healed anew as often as we seek Him with a sincere heart. THAT’s mercy!

“I Don’t Want Those People Here Unless They’re As Good as ME!"

In one sense, critics of the Church have it right. There are people who do act judgmentally towards sinners. They are people who get scandalized when the Pope reaches out to an atheist or someone flaunting their same sex behavior. They get scandalized when bishops speak about treating illegal aliens with human dignity. They believe the proper response to the sinner should be strong warnings and excommunications, assuming all people who have a sin they do not are people of wickedness, worse then them and therefore not welcome in the Church.

What we’re doing here is seen in the parable of the merciless servant (Matthew 18:21-35), the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) and it’s the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). It presumes that so long as we are not as bad as the people we presume are worse than us, we have no reason to change our behavior. It presumes that we should be praised and those not like us should be condemned.

The problem with that view is it overlooks the fact that we are in the Church and trying to live faithfully in the first place because of God’s grace and the people God put into our lives to bring us about. It also overlooks the fact that we are not perfect people, but still sinners in need of salvation. But mainly it overlooks the fact that Jesus did die so that we might be saved. So every person—the illegal alien, the pro-abortion politician, the same sex activist—falls into the category of people we need to be reached out to. Even when we are spurned and hated, we cannot give upon trying to reach out to them. Even the penalty of excommunication is aimed at showing the sinner the need to turn back and repent—it is NOT intended to be an amputation of a sinner to be eternally cut off from God.

Ultimately, this mindset forgets Jesus’ words to St. Peter about how many times we are to forgive. Seventy times seven—that doesn’t mean a limit of 490 times but always (Matthew 18:21-22).

It’s Not About “The Other Side,” It’s About Us.

Of course, people get defensive about such things. It’s easy to see such behavior in others, but if someone dares say our own behavior is going wrong, we get outraged and point to the behavior of others. This is why I said above that it is quite possible for us to be in both categories at once. We are shown that our behavior is wrong and we start getting angry: How dare you judge me! I’m much better than those people!

But that’s to miss the point. None of us here can claim to be without sin. So we cannot look down on others who are in sin. They are our brothers and sisters who need our love even as we stand up for the truth. On the other side, none of us can claim that we know better than the magisterium what the teaching of the magisterium should be. So maybe we’re not openly supporting changing the Church teaching on sexual morality—but are we willing to be obedient to the Church on her social teaching? Or is our approach Mater Si, Magister No?

Essentially, we need to be certain that we are open to the Church and willing to obey her, and at the same time, be willing to reach out to the sinner. We must neither refuse to repent nor refuse to reach out, even if the person we reach out to refuses to turn back to God. That’s the message of Pope Francis, the message of the Church and the message of Christ.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mercy and Misunderstanding

Prodigal Son(The Return of the Prodigal Son, James Tissot)

The Bull Misericordiae Vultus, announcing a jubilee beginning with Advent 2015, has been released to mixed response. The response tends to be based on how one understands concepts like mercy and justice. With the modern tendency towards turning these terms into buzzwords, people tend to interpret the reports as if they were political rhetoric, and either approve or disapprove based on what the buzzwords mean. But we need to realize that mercy and justice have much deeper meanings in the Church, and this bull needs to be read with the understanding that the Church has for these words.

Summary of the Bull

Pope Francis published the Bull Misericordiae Vultus (“Face of Mercy” if Google Translate got it right) announcing the jubilee year of mercy. The text and the concept is a beautiful one. It seeks to tear down the barriers which keep people from turning back to God—the kind of thing where people have encountered bad experiences in the Church which leave them fearful or resentful of turning to the Church. Some might feel they cannot be saved because of fear. Others may have encountered bad experiences with members of the Church which lead them to think the experience is the norm.

The Pope recognizes that there must be more to evangelization than admonition. There must be “respect and love” and “encouraging remedies" (MV #4). The bull is a message of urging encouragement, stressing God’s love for the sinner and calling the sinner to be reconciled and healed by God. He points out Jesus’ compassion for the people who seek Him and provided for their deepest needs. He stresses how Jesus’ parables show God as a Father who never rests until He finds the lost and brings them back. Such mercy is not only for the institutional Church to deal out in the Sacraments. We are all called to show mercy to others because mercy was first shown to us by God (MV #9).

The bull speaks about how we as human beings judge only superficially, not knowing the depths of the soul that the Father can see. We are to accept the good in each person and forgive. It calls on us to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, reminding us of God judging us based on whether we have aided those in need, whether physical or spiritual. The Pope insists on confessors being “authentic signs of the Father’s mercy” (MV #17), behaving as the father in the parable of the prodigal son—running out to meet the son despite the fact that he has squandered his inheritance, and expressing the joy of his return.

Then, in what seems to be a part overlooked in this bull, the Pope reminds people that justice and mercy are not contradictory, but “two dimensions of a single reality” (MV #20). Justice gives the individual what is rightly due, and God is the Judge. Justice, avoiding legalism, is seen as “faithful abandonment of oneself to God’s will.” Our Lord sought to break down the legalistic view that divides people into the just and the sinners—seeking to reach out to all sinners, offering the salvation. We have to go beyond considering the border of goodness as “formal respect for the law.” Mercy is God reaching out to the sinner to give him a new opportunity (MV #21) to repent and believe.

Reflections on What It Calls Us to Be

The bull is very insightful and should be read as a reminder of what God is calling us to be. It certainly strikes me as a challenge for a Catholic blogger. We need to avoid being barriers to people seeking mercy, and that means we must be careful in not choosing rhetoric that leaves a person believing that God is unapproachable or that we do not want them to return to the Church. Even when our blog is based on defending the teachings of the Church unpopular in modern culture (sexual morality or social justice depending on the ideological outlook), we have to do so in a way that does not leave the reader who happens to be at odds with the Church either defiant or despairing.

It means we have to avoid putting people into “us” and “them” categories or “saints” and “sinners” categories where we put ourselves in the category of the “good" and others in the category of “you horrible people!” It means we have to be showing people how to return to Christ’s Church and live rightly, not writing angry articles about how the bishops need to throw out some person or another. That’s not to say we have to capitulate on dissent (see below), but it does mean we have to stop acting like the angry guard dog on a chain barking and growling at everything that is out of the ordinary, failing to distinguish between the hostile intruder and the person needing help.

What this Document is Not Saying

However, one thing we need to remember is that a call for mercy and not judgment on our part does not mean changing Church teaching from “X is a sin” to “X is not a sin.” God has called us to live in a certain way which reflects His goodness. Accepting mercy means thinking like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, saying "O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The person who seeks mercy knows they have done wrong and wants to return to a healthy relationship. The person who does not accept that they have done wrong may want to return to a healthy relationship, but he or she is refusing to seek mercy.

So, the Pope is calling on those of us in the Church who have sought and received mercy from God, to show mercy to those who are at odds with us or the Church (see Matthew 18 23-35). That doesn’t mean that we are to call evil good. It means we are to act like the father of the prodigal son and embrace the returning sinner. The Church cannot say that abortion, contraception, same-sex acts etc. are no longer sins, because God has made clear that loving Him means keeping the commandments (see John 14:15 and 1 John 5:1-6).

So the person who hopes or fears that this jubilee of mercy is going to be changing the teaching of the Church, that is simply false. This isn’t a matter of letting people do whatever the hell they want. This is a matter of shepherds going out to find the lost sheep, and rejoicing when it is found and returned. We can't be saying “Stay out until you can behave!” It is a case of saying “Please come back to God who loves you!” Some may refuse the offer of mercy, but we can’t stop seeking to lead them back. If they refuse and die in their refusal, that is for God to judge. But if we don’t seek them out and try to bring them back, we too will be judged (see Ezekiel 33:1-18).

So, this document is not saying “The Church must change her teaching” or “you must let people do what they want.” It is saying we can’t write people off as irredeemable. We have to keep trying to reach them, avoiding the judgment that says “I’ve done enough—to hell with you!” That strikes me as key here. mercy neither means “Stop saying that what I do is a sin!” nor “That’s the limit and I don’t have to reach out to you anymore!” Even the Church penalty of excommunication is not done so as to amputate a diseased limb, but as to show the person how serious the sin is in hopes of bringing them back. It’s a tool to be used like a scalpel—not a sledgehammer.


What seems most important to remember is the Pope is not calling for moral laxity. He’s calling for a change of heart, both in the sinner estranged from God and His Church, and in the person who has already been converted by His grace. To the person estranged, the Pope is calling for them to accept God’s mercy and return to Him and His Church. To those who have received God’s mercy, God is calling us to be merciful to those who wrong us and to not stand in the door to keep those we dislike away from reconciliation.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

CSI: Catholic "Scandal" Instigation

While it has been most obvious during the pontificate of Pope Francis, the Church has had a problem for awhile. That problem is certain Catholics taking incidents and blowing them up into scandals to promote their own agendas. Whether that agenda is one of a liberal advocacy of changing Church teaching or whether it is a conservative advocacy of reverting practices to the way they were before Vatican II, the tactic is to take an event involving a member of the Church and changing that member into a hero or a villain and claim that if only we had changed/not changed things in the Church, things would be better.

In other words, one faction cannot put the blame only on the other faction. Both are trying to use news reports to promote their agenda. Nobody ever seems to ask how the Church can be dominated by liberals (the conservative allegation) and conservatives (the liberal allegation) at the same time. But this is the world of CSI—Catholic “Scandal” Instigation.

YH11 1

The most common form works in reaction to the major news coverage. The media reports on something happening in the Church with only superficial interpretation at best (usually, it’s completely uninformed speculation). We get a soundbite quote from someone in the Church which is aimed at either promoting a futile hope in the Church changing her teaching or at casting a member of the Church or Church teaching in a negative light. Members of the CSI immediately jump on the story assuming it is true as written. The Church is attacked for being either terribly heartless or terribly lenient. Bishops and even the Pope gets attacked if the story gives the CSI member a negative feeling.

We can consider the first year of Pope Francis. The media was taking soundbites from interviews or Church documents with no reference to why the Pope said or wrote such things. Unlike previous pontificates where such soundbites were used to show the Popes in a negative light, these were used to make it seem like the Pope was willing to change Church teaching from “X is forbidden” to “X is allowed.” Those who wanted to believe it rejoiced. Those who didn’t want to believe it, but did so anyway, reacted with horror. The internet spilled over with some Catholics denouncing the Pope as a heretic while others, long dissenting, portrayed themselves as being right all the time while the Church "finally caught up with the times” while the bishops were “in opposition” to the Pope.

The problem was, nobody actually asked the question of “Did the Pope actually say that in the first place?” Once a full transcript or the actual Papal document was released, it turned out that while the line existed, it was in the middle of a paragraph that was demonstrating fully orthodox Catholic teaching. Of course, once the correct context was released, the people who supported the alleged new teaching ignored this context and continued to repeat the original out of context story, while those who opposed it either pretended the whole affair never happened or else made it seem as if their overreaction was the Pope’s fault (Two common retorts: “Every time the Pope speaks, the Vatican has to do damage control!” and “The Pope needs to speak more clearly!”).

Another way is to take a negative story about the Church and make it sound like the bishop is guilty of supporting something monstrous. Two examples recently were:

  1. To take an incident in San Francisco and make it seem like Archbishop Cordileone was directly responsible for deliberately turning water on the homeless (the accusation of it being deliberate based solely on the claim of an anonymous report), never considering the possibility that auxiliary bishop William Justice (who made the decision) was telling the truth and had installed an ineffective system for washing hazardous waste out from corners and doorways.
  2. To take a case in New Jersey was put on paid leave while an investigation took place over a public statement made on Facebook that could have been seen as misrepresenting Church teaching and make it seem as if Bishop Paul Bootkowski was firing because of her defending the Christian understanding of marriage while ignoring the fact that the first half of her statement was problematic and ignoring the fact that she wasn’t fired. (In fact, she’s been reinstated).

In both cases, the bishops were essentially slandered/libeled and both were accused of bad will and acting against the teaching of the Church. In neither case does evidence exist for the accusations. But the attacks live on and the Church is undermined.

In this, I was struck by something written by Fr. Alban Butler in his Lives of the Saints concerning Pope Leo the Great:

St. Leo laid down this important maxim for the rule of his conduct, never to give any decision, especially to the prejudice of another, before he had examined into the affair with great caution and exactness, and most carefully taken all informations possible.


[Alban Butler, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, vol. 2 (New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1903), 66.]

It makes me wonder why people continue to do this. When it comes to making a decision about doing right and wrong, why do we continue to assume we have all the facts before assuming the worst? We have seen often enough that the media, for whatever reason (ignorance or malice), constantly gets the reports wrong that we ought to beware of trusting the media in reporting on the Church at all. But people keep falling for it.

CB Football11

It seems to me that the problem is that people are willing to believe the worst about those they dislike or distrust. Conservatives mistrust the Pope and many bishops as sympathizing with liberalism, willing to undermine the Church. Liberals dislike the Church teachings on sexual morality and believe those who support it must be cold hearted and capable of cruelty (It should be noted that there seems to be a growing recognition that the Pope is not going to change doctrine and a gradual disillusionment with him). Both seem willing to undermine those in the Church who seem openly against their views.

We need to beware of the danger of jumping rashly on a news report. Nowadays, it’s all about being the first to report a breaking story. Reporters with little to no knowledge about the teachings of the Church can easily misinterpret the nuances of a Papal statement and report something wildly inaccurate. But we who are Catholic do not have the excuse of not knowing. We know that the Church teaching requires our assent. We trust that the Church is protected by God. Yet we continue to trust uninformed sources and let them form our opinions on the Church.

That has to stop. We have an obligation to think and assess before speaking. We’re not doing it. That failure is undermining of trust in the Church. Our first task is to give a favorable interpretation if possible. If not possible, we are to ask the one we are scandalized by for how they understand their own statement. Only then does correction take place—but even then with humility and love.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Conscience, Obligation and Decisions


I came across an article, A Note from Creator Cakes | Andrew Walker | First Things from Facebook, which seems to have received popular support from Catholics whose views I ordinarily think are good. However, I personally find the article troubling because of what it seems to imply. Now maybe the article expressed a point badly and did not mean to advocate going against conscience. But I see some comments which seem to indicate that people are interpreting it this way, and so I feel like I need to speak out on what troubles me.

The Premise of the Article

The basic premise of the article is a fictional letter from what I assume is a fictional bakery. The fictional letter expresses the concern of the owners who are trying to run their business in accord with their religious beliefs. In response to the fact that business owners lose whenever they refuse to cooperate with a “same sex wedding,” they intend to set forth the following policy:

We've decided that if asked, we will provide a cake at a same-sex wedding ceremony. But we will take every dollar from that sale and donate it to an organization fighting to protect and advance religious liberty—organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom, Manhattan Declaration, or the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

No organization, company or person should be compelled to participate in events or speech that conflict with their convictions. This is a basic freedom we thought was afforded under our constitution. But our culture is beginning to turn its back on its rich legacy of protecting dissenting viewpoints. If Caesar insists that bakers must be made to bake cakes or else close up shop, we’re going to see to it that Caesar’s edicts get undermined by channeling resources designed to fight Caesar.

So, we will serve same-sex wedding services. We will do so unhappily and with a bothered conscience. But if we must do so with a bothered conscience, we reserve the right as a condition of the marketplace to bother others' consciences as well. If we are coerced into baking for events we disagree with, we will return the favor and use the funds of those we disagree with to fund the organizations they disagree with.

I have seen certain Catholics cheer this article, saying the article should be a template for Christian businesses. But when I read this, I find myself thinking, “Wait! Do you realize what are you saying?"

Conscience and Not Doing Evil

Let’s lay down some basics first, and look at the Church teaching on conscience

What troubles me about this article is this: The Catholic Church teaches that we may never do evil so good comes of it. The Catechism says:

1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it. [Emphasis added

The writer of the article creates the situation of a baker forced to act against a troubled conscience but intends to mitigate it by donating the proceeds from such sales to groups which defend marriage. That is pretty much the essence of "doing evil so that good may come of it.” The question that first needs to be asked is: Does the baker believe that participating in a “same sex wedding” is wrong? If so, then to do what one believes to be wrong cannot be justified, regardless of the circumstances and intention. Again, the Catechism:

1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving). (2479; 596)

1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil. (1735)

I find that the Youcat[*] has some good insights into conscience as well:

295 What is conscience?

Conscience is the inner voice in a man that moves him to do good under any circumstances and to avoid evil by all means. At the same time it is the ability to distinguish the one from the other. In the conscience God speaks to man. [1776–1779]

Conscience is compared with an inner voice in which God manifests himself in a man. God is the one who becomes apparent in the conscience. When we say, “I cannot reconcile that with my conscience”, this means for a Christian, “I cannot do that in the sight of my Creator!” Many people have gone to jail or been executed because they were true to their conscience.  120, 290–292, 312, 333

"Anything that is done against conscience is a sin."



"To do violence to people’s conscience means to harm them seriously, to deal an extremely painful blow to their dignity. In a certain sense it is worse than killing them."


(1881–1963, the Pope who convoked the Second Vatican Council)

I believe the witness of the Church tells us that the conscience is to be obeyed when it tells us “I must do this!” or “I must not do this.” The conscience must be formed within the Church so it may be accurate (avoiding both scrupulosity and laxity), but deliberately choosing to go against the conscience can never be justified.

The Example of the Martyrs

As Catholics we have a history of facing rulers who have said we must obey them or face the consequences. We have a collection of saints who gave witness by dying or by suffering in other ways rather than obey government edicts which go against what they believed to be morally wrong. Whether it was the Romans who demanded that the saints burn incense to the emperors or whether it was the Persians who demanded the saints worship the sun, these saints looked to their love of God and their conscience and decided they had to obey God over man when what man demanded exceeded his rightful authority (see Acts 5:29). This was even at the consequence of suffering torture and often execution. 

Now, in America, I don’t expect torture and execution to happen unless America falls much further into moral collapse. Because we pride ourselves as a nation of law, I expect the persecution to come through the law and through unjust judicial rulings that provide a fig leaf for unjust applications of the law. So instead of executions in the arena, we can look to lawsuits, fines, injunctions and prosecutions.

With this in mind, I ask people to think about what the First Things (fictional) proposal is saying. In saying, "So, we will serve same-sex wedding services. We will do so unhappily and with a bothered conscience. But if we must do so with a bothered conscience, we reserve the right as a condition of the marketplace to bother others' consciences as well,” what we are seeing is not a praiseworthy thing, but a capitulation with the intent to use the results of the capitulation to defend Christians from needing to capitulate in the future.

It’s as if the martyrs took up the promised reward for denying their faith and applied that reward to protecting Christians in the future from denying their faith. Our Lord’s question echoes through the ages:

23 Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?" (Luke 9:23-25)

The Ultimate Goal

We need to remember the ultimate goal of our life is to know, love and serve God. We do this by keeping His commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). We must also keep in mind that the ultimate goal is not reached in this life, but the next life. Thus we endure suffering in this life for His sake, rather than lose the next life by putting ourselves over His commands. Some may pay a harder price than others. In such cases, those who have suffered less should help those who suffered more.

However, when we have to choose between The Lord and ourselves, we cannot choose ourselves—even if we seek to do good with the gain we receive from choosing ourselves over God. Every one of us will have to make this decision in some way. Let us pray that we be given the strength to do what is right and not what is easier.


[*] I understand some Catholics look at the Youcat derisively. However, given the CDF has given it’s approval and Benedict XVI has also shown his approval (saying in the introduction, “So I invite you: Study this Catechism! That is my heartfelt desire.”), I find that the trust I have for those who approve far outweighs the trust I have of those who disapprove. Please keep this in mind. God Bless.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


In the modern culture wars, I see two positions that I think show a failure to understand the issue. The first are the opponents of Catholic teaching who claim that the Church is on “the wrong side of history” and will either need to change or go extinct. The second is the Catholics who seem to fear that the first group is correct and, not wanting this to happen, shout for the Pope and the Bishops to do something “before we lose the culture war.” The problem with both positions is that they lose track of the timeframes. They see what is happening right now and assume that it will continue. But when we look at history, we find that threats against the Church are not handled in months and years, but often over centuries.

The first group has it wrong because the popularity of an issue has no bearing on the rightness of a position or the longevity of the position. The wrong side of history claim is basically an appeal to popularity fallacy. It ignores the fact that things like Fascism were once considered the wave of the future and those who refused to embrace it would ultimately be swept aside into irrelevance. I don’t invoke fascism for mere rhetorical effect. During the Great Depression, many saw it as the way to solve the economic crisis and predicted that democracy was an outmoded form of government doomed to die out. The mindset focuses on the immediate popularity and influence of a movement and assumes that these will continue indefinitely. It overlooks the fact that as people learn the downside of things, they can begin to dislike the cause. Once that happens, it can only be maintained by the use of force (People grew disillusioned by fascism, but by then it was in place and could maintain itself through violence). 

The second group has it wrong because they assume that the immediate success of those attacking the Church is a sign of how the whole of society thinks. Their response is one of panic. They want the Pope and bishops to start excommunicating people, assuming that the existence of this attack means the magisterium is too soft. Sometimes it is assumed that in the "golden age" of the Church, the Pope gave a decree and the faithful jumped in line, putting an end to error or dissent. But in reality, this never happened.

Historically, we know that the Catholic Church has had to fight battles over the course of centuries. The Arians should have been defeated after the First Nicene Council in AD 325, but as St. Jerome pointed out (Dialogue with the Luciferians #19), that shortly afterwards “the Nicene Faith stood condemned by acclamation. The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian." St. Augustine expressed his frustration at the fact that the heresy of Pelagianism was continuing to be obstinate in spite of the fact that the Pope had ruled against them more than once:

For already have two councils on this question been sent to the Apostolic see; and rescripts also have come from thence. The question has been brought to an issue; would that their error may sometime be brought to an issue too! Therefore do we advise that they may take heed, we teach that they may be instructed, we pray that they may be changed. (Sermon LXXXI)


[Augustine of Hippo, “Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament,” in Saint Augustine: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. R. G. MacMullen, vol. 6, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 504.]

(This is where the paraphrase “Rome has spoken, the cause is finished” came from).

The point is, the Pope does not simply make heresy vanish by a decree. It takes years, decades, even centuries of faithful Catholics defending the true Church teaching before the error is given up. For the Catholic to assume failure because the dissent does not immediately stop shows that they don’t understand what really happened in times past.

Contrary to what seems to believed today, the Culture War is not being lost—it is being fought. The devil deceives and those deceived proclaim their victory over the Church, while at the same time, the devil seeks to discourage those who remain faithful by undermining their trust in those God has given the authority to lead and teach. We need to avoid being deceived. We need to avoid despair. We need to remember that the battle against the demons and the people misled by them is not one to be fought in a day or a week. It is to be fought as long as we live until Christ comes again.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Idol Worship 2015

“I die the king's faithful servant, but God's first.”

― St. Thomas More, before his execution.

When I read about the accounts of martyrdom in the early history of Christianity, one constant theme comes through. A group, holding unpopular views, found itself hated by people who misunderstood and misrepresented their teachings. The response of the government officials was not necessarily aimed at exterminating the individuals. It was aimed at using coercion to bring these people in line with the commonly accepted behavior. The pagan governments did not care about who these Christians worshipped, so long as they were willing to accept the edicts of the governments. Magistrates would try to persuade the Christians to just burn a pinch of incense to the Emperor or some other god which the state saw as a symbol of accepting their authority. If they refused, tortures were used to “persuade” compliance. If that failed, execution of the Christians would follow.

Christians to the lions(“To the Lions with the Christians!” An Early Example of the Need for Religious Freedom)

But the problem was this. Christians were perfectly willing to be loyal citizens, obeying the lawfully established magistrates, paying taxes and so on. But they were not willing to give to human beings the authority which belonged to God. This means when a human ruler demanded obedience that exceeded his authority to demand, the Christians felt obligated to put their obedience to God first. In other words, Christians recognized that the state did not have the moral authority to command a Christian to do something they believe to be morally wrong or to forbid them from complying with what their religion compels them to do. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this as:

2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” “We must obey God rather than men”:49 (1903; 2313; 450; 1901)

When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.

It is a good balance. On one side, the Christian cannot do what he or she knows is morally wrong. But on the other side, just because the government may overstep their authority on some areas does not give one free rein to disobey everything. Unfortunately, the overstepping Government often considers itself able to do whatever it has the force to compel, and seeks to target those who will not obey them in matters they have no authority over.

St Margaret V+M(Often the Ultimate Result of Putting Obedience to God First)

Thus, we had the first conflicts with Church and state. The state demanded that they be given the highest level of obedience and any other loyalties that an individual might have would have to be subject to the demands of the state. To disagree would be considered treason. During the centuries, governments have changed, but the basic assumption of the state was that religion had to be subject to the state and whoever would not conform was an enemy. Followers of the Christian faith thus found themselves targeted.

Anti Christian sign in Federal Plaza Chicago Andrew Ciscel(“To the Lions With the Christians”—Modern Version)

We pride ourselves today for standing up for freedom, and thinking we would never support things that the ancients did. But when you think of it, the fact is that only the types of idols and the means of coercion have changed, while the existence of idols and coercion remains. Nowadays, the idols people demand worship over are causes, not statues. Nowadays, the penalties are lawsuits and prosecutions, not torture and executions. But when you think about it, the attitudes are the same. The state and the populace demands that the civic values be put first, and only those religious beliefs that do not come in conflict with these demands are tolerated. Thus people have no problem with Jews and Muslims refusing to eat pork. They don’t care if Christians believe in the Trinity. But once the beliefs of a religion require a Christian to say “this is wrong, and I will not do it,” and all feigned tolerance for religion disappears. They want them fined, sued and prosecuted just as much as the ancients wanted them tortured and executed.

Of course, they never come out and say such things directly. Usually, they try to say Christians are hateful people. In ancient times, they were “enemies of humanity,” and accused of committing orgies and cannibalism and poisoning the aqueducts—all of them false. In modern times, they’re accused of intolerance and hatred—again, all of them false.

In the Second Century, St. Justin Martyr could write to the emperor of the time (Antonius Pius) and say:

But lest any one think that this is an unreasonable and reckless utterance, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve; [or rather, indeed, we ourselves will punish them.] But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you, for the sake of a wicked rumour, to wrong blameless men, and indeed rather yourselves, who think fit to direct affairs, not by judgment, but by passion. And every sober-minded person will declare this to be the only fair and equitable adjustment, namely, that the subjects render an unexceptional account of their own life and doctrine; and that, on the other hand, the rulers should give their decision in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy. For thus would both rulers and ruled reap benefit. For even one of the ancients somewhere said, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.” It is our task, therefore, to afford to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings, lest, on account of those who are accustomed to be ignorant of our affairs, we should incur the penalty due to them for mental blindness; and it is your business, when you hear us, to be found, as reason demands, good judges. For if, when ye have learned the truth, you do not what is just, you will be before God without excuse.


[Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” Chapter 3, in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 163.]

In other words, St. Justin Martyr called on people to not assume Christians were guilty of allegations simply because they were Christians. He didn’t deny that Christians could do evil (and said those who did could be punished), but he denied that a Christian who lived according to the faith would be guilty of the accusations made.

In modern times, the same situation applies. We too can ask the modern persecutors to investigate the charges of against Christian moral teaching and see if they are motivated by hatred or not. We too can ask that people investigate and follow the truth to avoid having to appear before God without excuse. But like then (he was called St. Justin Martyr for a reason—being flogged and beheaded in AD 165), society prefers to repeat the false charges to justify their hostility. Because if they actually investigated the charges, they might be required to recognize that the accusations were false and perhaps there is more to the Christian belief than people think.

They might learn (like the pagans of Rome eventually did) that once they looked past the false accusations, that the Christian teachings were true, had good justification and needed to be followed by people of good will seeking to do what was right. Then of course, they’d have to change their ways and live according to what was right. That’s probably why people are more willing to believe the false accusations—because it feels easier to attack the messenger than to turn away from sins and resist inclinations which lead one towards sinful acts.

The culture wars of today are ultimately a case of the world demanding that it be obeyed in everything vs. the Christian which says that a government must be obeyed in some things, but not when it goes so far as to infringe on changing what is good and evil. Our history of totalitarian governments of the 20th century are proof that what a government decrees can be evil. Governments have shown that they cannot be trusted to consistently make good decisions in terms of what one must do (consider for example, the Supreme Court defended laws supporting slavery and segregation.

But, like the first centuries that Christianity existed, there are governments who insist that Christians recognize the idols that the state or the society accept but we know are morally wrong. We cannot bow to those idols, whether this is the literal sense or in the sense of accepting laws that try to legitimize what we know is morally wrong.