Saturday, October 31, 2015

Apples and Oranges: Ross Douthat and Discussion vs. Bad Behavior on the Internet

(See: Ross Douthat and the Catholic Academy | and To the editor of the New York Times… | Daily Theology)

So, after certain Catholic academics protested to the New York Times that Mr. Douthat wasn’t qualified to talk about theology and indicating that the NYT should dump him, Bishop Robert Barron wrote a thoughtful response. The main thesis was that while there was a lot to object to in what Mr. Douthat said, his writings were not against the rules of being a political commentator for the Times. He pointed out that the critics should try to refute him, not try to silence him—that we shouldn’t try to silence views that make us uncomfortable. That’s certainly well said in this day and age of modern censorship against what one dislikes hearing—The Catholic Church seems to be a constant target of this.

Unfortunately, after the Bishop’s essay was published, certain Catholics began referring to it in the same out of context way as “same sex marriage” advocates began referring to the Pope’s words “Who am I to judge?” out of context. Blog sites and Facebook pages began to see this cited when the moderators continued to enforce their policies against abusive language and calumny against the Church.

This is the nuance people are missing. Ross Douthat is offensive in my eyes, but he is not showing up on people’s Facebook pages and posting abusive comments about the Pope and the Church against the policy of the Facebook page or blog. He is a paid writer for the NYT who wants to have a conservative editorial writer on board. That he is controversial is probably a good thing in the eyes of the staff.

Wonka Douthat

Now personally, I seldom have had to block anybody on my blog (I’m not all that well known), but I do have policies which are not the same as the New York Times. I am fine with people disagreeing with the Church, but I do insist on people being respectful of the Church, the Pope and bishops, and of myself personally even when they disagree. In enforcing this policy, I don’t believe I am censoring anybody. In other words, you’re free to state in your comment that you disagree with the Church or with me, and in such a case, I’ll do my best to explain why I hold the position I do. But you’re not free to be abusive in doing so.

With this in mind, I think some people have missed the point of Bishop Barron’s article. He’s not giving a sanction to saying whatever the hell you want. Ross Douthat did not violate the policies of the NYT in his articles. So trying to appeal to the paper to fire him is an attempt to silence without refutation, and that’s not good. I’m of the opinion that Douthat should be refuted (I did so a year ago, HERE). But the blogger or the person who administrates a Facebook page can decide they don’t see any good in allowing a person to hijack their platform to promote something they find offensive, and that’s not censorship.

However, Mr. Douthat may find that his bishop may have something to say about his antics, and that’s not censorship either! Just because he has not violated the rules of being an opinion writer doesn’t mean he has not violated the rules of being a Catholic. People do have the right (provided it is done respectfully) to appeal to their bishop to address needs, and if they think Douthat is causing a scandal, they can take it up with his bishop. But in doing so, we have to recognize that the bishop may decide on a different way to handle things.

I think we need to make this distinction: We individuals can and should refute people promoting error. We shouldn’t use underhanded means of eliminating things we don’t want to hear. But, if we think something is morally a scandal, we can bring it to the attention of the bishop so long as we recognize his authority to decide how to handle it, and that is not censorship. We also have to realize that our freedom to say whatever we want does not trump the rules of the site we choose to comment on or share posts on. If we exceed the rules of the site, we can face consequences and those consequences are not censorship.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Quick Quips—Our Perceptions and God's

Once again, it’s time for Quick Quips where I offer short reflections that I can’t really drag out into a full blog entry.

Does “Everybody” Know Anything at All?


  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Protestant—except the actual Protestants…
  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Liberal—except the actual Liberals…
  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Conservative—except the actual Conservatives…
  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Modernist—except the actual Modernists…
  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Traditionalist—except the actual Traditionalists…

Basically everybody attributes to the Church a position that they associate with their foes, but those foes disagree with the accusation that the Church has embraced their own views. So maybe instead of assuming that the Church is siding with their foes, maybe everybody should consider the possibility that the Church is not changing for the worse—but rather is just calling for each one of us to change and turn to Our Lord...

Reflections on Psalm 95

Psalm 95 is the Psalm used most often in the opening (Invitatory) of the Liturgy of the Hours. It basically puts us in our place before God. It can be easy to sometimes pray it on autopilot if you have it memorized. At other times, things catch my attention. Today, what caught my attention was:

Today, listen to the voice of the Lord:
Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness,
when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me,
Although they had seen all of my works.

Forty years I endured that generation.
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray
and they do not know my ways.
”So I swore in my anger,
“They shall not enter into my rest.”

I thought about how they challenged and provoked God even though they had seen His works—they did so by finding alternate solutions. They wanted a golden calf, they wanted to go back to Egypt, they wanted a new leader. They wanted the most gain at the least cost. So when God called on them to follow His commands, they were looking for alternate solutions that let them put the most comfort or the least pain compared to what God was guiding them to.

It makes me wonder. Are we perhaps acting like the Hebrews when we complain about the direction of the Church? Why can’t we compromise? Why can’t we go back to the way things were? Why can’t we have a different leader? If we are, perhaps we need to think about what God does with those who grumble. Now God loves us unconditionally, irrevocably as the Pope said in a beautiful homily today, but sometimes He has cause to act sternly with us.


There are always problems with individuals in the Church and, if we’re wise, we’ll realize we’re among the individuals causing problems. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as the role models that the Church should follow if it wants to be right and start thinking about how we stand before Him, and whether we are really any better than the Hebrews in the Exodus or the Pharisees confronting Our Lord. Let us not grow stubborn. Let us not convince ourselves that our preferences are better than God’s call.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Intersection of Our Concerns With Truth and Charity

Catholics on Facebook and the Blogs seem to be at sixes and sevens over the state of the Church. On one hand, the Pope and the bishops are the successors to the Apostles and, as such, possess an office worthy of our love and respect when they teach. On the other hand, we have to deal with scandalous statements by some of these successors to the Apostles that seem to be appalling. The question we have to ask is: Where the line is to be drawn? How do we express our concerns without sinning against truth and charity? What makes things harder is the fact that some people, in expressing their concerns, seem to think scandalous behaviors by some justify an indictment against the whole Church.

So, we have an issue of discernment here. We want to reject the noxious weeds—whether scandalous statements by Cardinals Kasper and Daneels or scandalous statements by Catholic bloggers who reject the legitimate authority of the Church when they dislike it—without stifling legitimate petitions for redress. This discernment is one of recognizing where truth and charity intersect with our concerns. 

The issue of truth requires us to make sure that we say of what is, that it is and of what is not, that it is not (to borrow from Aristotle). But, before we can say “X is true” or “Y is false,” we have to actually know that “X is true” or “Y is false.” That’s where the problem arises. Often we tend to think that we know something, but that something is actually based on a false assumption. For example, we assume meanings to words that the speaker does not assume—because the meaning of the word has a broader meaning than the interpreter assumes. In such a case, we impute a negative meaning to the speaker and accuse him of holding that position. For example, the accusation that the Pope is a Marxist or a Liberation Theologian based on his critique of laissez faire capitalism is based on the assumption that his rhetoric has Marxist meanings. Likewise, the person who hears the Pope say “Who am I to judge” and creates out of thin air a claim that the Pope is “changing” the teaching on homosexuality. Quick research could have revealed the source of the quote—which makes that interpretation impossible.

In both cases, people assumed they knew what the Pope meant, solely based on the individual assumption on what the words mean. But truth requires us to go beyond our assumptions and find out if [What we think we know] = [The Truth]. If we do not search out the truth, we are most likely either skirting the edge of Rash Judgment or have already fallen over into outright calumny:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity. (1753)

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 594–595.

That brings us to scrutinizing our concerns with charity. Are we prepared to consider the possibility that a bishop isn’t acting out of bad will jut because his way of handling things isn’t the same as ours, and that we might think differently if we had his information? Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes there is no alternative interpretation possible. But when we reach that level (and remember our obligation to seek the truth requires us to ask whether our assumptions are true) then we have to correct with love. That is often neglected. How many people who rightly recognize that the Church is not a democracy, become quite “democratic” in dishing out abuse to the clergy they dislike? How many people actually consider St. Thomas Aquinas’ words:

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


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


Reply Obj. 1. It would seem that a subject touches his prelate inordinately when he upbraids him with insolence, as also when he speaks ill of him: and this is signified by God’s condemnation of those who touched the mount and the ark. (Summa Theologica STh., II-II q.33 a.4 resp.–ad 1)


 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne).

With all seriousness, where is this gentleness and respect? People are willing to insult a bishop or even the Pope with what St. Thomas Aquinas calls “Impudence and harshness,” never seeking to discover whether there might be misinterpretation by one’s personal reading or by the source one gets their information from.

That’s ultimately the problem. Whether it is a conservative Catholic who disagrees with the Pope, a liberal who disagrees with the bishop, (or, recently, the academic who wants to get Ross Douthat fired from his position), we find one of three problems:

  1. The attack lacks truth
  2. The attack lacks charity
  3. The attack lacks both truth and charity.

Whenever we feel the need to write about a problem with the Church, or a leader of the Church, we have the obligation to seek the truth, to be charitable in how we interact with those we disagree with and make sure we do respect those in authority when expressing our concerns. Otherwise, our behavior is not praiseworthy, but shameful. This is something we all need to practice—I’m sure some of my readers are looking at what I’ve written and are rolling their eyes over my own blind spots in this area. Yes, I have to work on this too."So let us show love and respect for the Pope and bishops when we are troubled with the behavior of some, and let us show love and respect for our fellow Catholics with whom we disagree with. Let us make sure that we seek out the truth and not merely the views of our preferred news sites. Let us show charity, and not disdain for those we disagree with.

Otherwise, we may find that the measure we used will be used against us (Matthew 7:2)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Distinguishing This From That

There’s been some Facebook and blogging debates going on about the authority of the teaching of the Church and infallibility. Unfortunately, some of this discussion is muddled because of a confusion of two issues: The issue of obedience and the issue of infallibility. Some, in attempting to argue against obedience to the Church in an issue they dislike, try to explain away binding authority this way. They begin by pointing out that the ordinary magisterium is not formally protected from error in the same way that an ex cathedra statement is protected. They point out that technically, the rest of the Church teachings are non infallible. Now that is true. The ex cathedra statement is a special magisterial action, and it has special protections, given the level of authority they invoke.

But, then the fallacy of equivocation comes into play.  Because the teachings of the ordinary magisterium are non infallible, it is argued that they are in fact “fallible,” and the word is stretched into the claim that the Pope or the bishop is teaching error and must be resisted. That is a distortion of the Church teaching. Everything that was eventually defined infallibly by the Church was previously taught by the ordinary magisterium. The infallible definition essentially made the ordinary magisterium more specific. But people were still obligated to obey the ordinary magisterial teaching before it was defined ex cathedra.

So the Catholics who believe the Papal teaching is not error object to this argument. They say that the teaching is not in error and that God is with the Church, protecting her from teaching error in matters of faith and morals in which the faithful are obligated to obey. At this time, we see another example of equivocation. When we say that the Church is protected from teaching error in matters of faith and morals, some try to turn this onto a claim that “the ordinary magisterium is infallible.” But claiming the Church is protected from teaching error is not the same as claiming that the Ordinary teaching of the Church is ex cathedra statement. This can get muddled of course. Some Catholics may start using the term “infallible” when they mean “protected from error” as a kind of shorthand, and that plays into the hands of the dissenting Catholic who accuses him of “Papolatry" or "Ultramontanism."

It’s easy to do. I’ve done it too, and we shouldn’t. But the problem is, this confusion over shorthand is not saying every utterance of the Pope is infallible, and it is unethical to accuse such Catholics of dong so.

What we need to remember is that the Pope’s teaching is not automatically prone to error as a part of the Ordinary Magisterium. Transubstantiation was not formally defined until AD 1215. That does not mean that Transubstantiation was an opinion that could be in error before AD 1215. Berengarius of Tours was condemned in AD 1079—which was 136 years before the definition in AD 1215. But, if one wants to deny that an Ordinary Magisterium statement is binding and wants to claim that any such statement is prone to error, then that person is effectively arguing that everything us up for grabs until such a time that it is defined ex cathedra. But that would be absurd.

The problem is, the Church very seldom uses an ex cathedra definition to proclaim her teachings. It is normally when there is a serious rebellion against the ordinary magisterium of the Church that the extraordinary magisterium is deemed as necessary. Those people who reject the authority of the ordinary magisterium of the Church are still committing the sin of schism. Our Canon Law tells us:

can. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.


can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.


can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.


can. 754† All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and to proscribe erroneous opinions, particularly those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops puts forth.


 Code of Canon Law: New English Translation (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1998), 247–248.

Notice what these canons cover here—Ordinary Magisterium. We are bound to obey the authentic magisterium of the Church, even when it is not an ex cathedra pronunciation. Moreover, the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

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.


 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 236.

Note that term—Divine assistance. God provides assistance to the Pope and the bishops in communion with him when using the ordinary magisterium of faith and morals. That doesn’t mean we have a finished product in the sense of the ex cathedra pronunciation. There is still room to become more precise as time goes by. But the Church has Divine Assistance

What follows from this is that we can trust God to prevent the Church from teaching that homosexuality is OK or that the divorced and remarried can receive the Eucharist. Individual Catholics (even individual Catholic bishops) can err, and err badly. But we can trust the magisterium not to err in her binding teaching. We don’t have this trust because of the quality of the individuals in office. We have this trust because of the fidelity of Our Lord to His promises. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Other Side of Bad Catholic Blogging

Uniform polyhedron 43 h01(There’s more than two sides to Problems with Catholic Blogging...)



I've had a lot to say about the bloggers gone bad in the Radical Traditionalist sense. But I have become more aware of another bad trend in Catholic blogging—the abuse of one's reputation as a Catholic blogger to promote a particular opinion on how to best obey Church teaching, treating other opinions on how to best obey Church teaching as if it was the sign of a cafeteria Catholic. I say that such Catholics abuse their reputation because people do look to them to explain the faith and defend it. So when they use their blog as a platform to attack people who disagree with them and treat this difference of opinion on ways and means as if the person who disagrees are actively choosing to disobey the Church, they alienate the faithful into thinking the Church has no place for them.

Making A Distinction

Now we have to make a distinction of course. When the Church teaches “We must do X,” or “We must not do Y,” then the Catholic who tries to undermine these teachings or tries to say that one may disobey the teaching of the Church are being faithless Catholics. The refusal to do this is rejection of the authority that our Lord gave to the Church:

can. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.


 Code of Canon Law: New English Translation (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1998), 247.

So the person who tries to justify their disobedience to the Church teaching on sexual morality, abortion, social justice or any other area cannot be said to be having a disagreement on ways and means obeying the Church. This applies to the liberal politician who says they are more “pro-life” than the person who opposes abortion, and it applies to the radical traditionalist who says they can disobey the Church because they are being faithful to an “earlier” tradition.

But if two people agree that the Church teaching must be obeyed, but have two different ideas on how to best follow that teaching, the person who prefers method A has no right to denounce the person who prefers method B. He has even less right to accuse the person who supports method B of all the abuses that he thinks comes from not supporting method A.

This happens in many different ways. For example, the person who accuses a supporter of gun ownership rights as “not really being pro-life” (that’s a No true Scotsman fallacy by the way) or the person who favors a strong stand against abortion treating bishops who try a gentler approach as if they were secretly supportive—these things are twisting the Church teaching in such a way to make the it seem that disagreement with them is disagreement with the Church. But the person isn’t disagreeing with the Church. They are disagreeing with the claim that there is only one way to obey the Church teaching.

The Fruit of This Abuse Is to Alienate the Faithful

So this is an abuse of the credibility one has as a Catholic blogger when it is used to promote a certain preference tends to be harmful to the Church. In essence, it leads people to think that the Church is limited to one ideological view and has no place for them when the actual alienation is with the rash judgment of the blogger. I think we need to keep this in mind. Most of us recognize that it is scandal to try to tell people that it is all right to reject the Church teaching. But some overlook the fact that it is also scandal to tell people that they are sinning when they actually agree with the Church but disagree with us on the ways and means of obedience.

We who want to be Catholic bloggers (as opposed to bloggers who are Catholic—there is a difference), whose purpose of writing is to exhort people to be faithful to the teachings of the Church, need to distinguish between what the Church teaches and how we would prefer for that teaching to be lived out. The former is to spread our Lord’s teachings. The latter is to usurp the authority of the Church for our own purposes and can lead people into rejecting the Church without cause.

Let us as bloggers always keep in mind the words of Our Lord:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come! (Matthew 18:6-7)

If we drive people away from the faith because we cannot distinguish between our preferences and the teaching of the Church, we will answer for it. So let us always consider our words—especially when we are angry over something. Let us always pray that what we publish is in keeping with what Our Lord wants us to publish—defending the faith but showing love and compassion in doing so.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Troubling Trends in Catholic Blogging

Before I begin, I’d like to share two passages from the First Epistle of St. Peter:

19 For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. 20 But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. (1 Peter 2:19-20)


14 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14-17)

I share these two passages because they show there is a difference between being mistreated on account of doing right and being mistreated on account of behaving badly. Unfortunately, it seems some Catholic blogs fail to make this distinction. 

Catholic blogging, particularly that of the apologetics type, involves people offering their insights into the Catholic faith and the Church. However, we possess no authority ourselves. The best we can do is to point to what the teaching of the Church is and encouraging people to follow it. We can explain why we think that the Church authority properly applied should lead to a certain way of acting, but we have to recognize that there certainly is a difference between others disagreeing with us and others disagreeing with The Church. The former is no sin. The latter is—but it is the task of the Church, not the blogger, to determine how to handle such behavior.

Unfortunately, this distinction is not being made. There is a growing number of blogs which fail to consider that there can be different legitimate ways to approach how to apply the Catholic teaching to the world (I wrote about that HERE). The attitude is that if the person we see as an adversary does not support the same tactics I do, he or she is a person to be opposed. Moreover, even when the person is at odds with the Church, we act as if this gives us a license to set aside Christian charity.

That would be great

We have to consider the witness we make in our behavior and in our words. If we behave contemptuously of those we disagree with, do we bear witness to the teaching of the Church? Or do we bear false witness by leading people who read our blogs and our comments to think, “Man, Catholics are jerks”?

For example, there seems to be a growing tendency by some Catholic bloggers to push things on blog comments or Facebook until they get banned, and then treat the banning as a mark of honor in defending the faith. The problem is, sometimes I find myself appalled by what they said and did in the lead up to their getting banned or blocked. Labels like heretic or wrongheaded are sometimes hurled. Insinuations are sometimes made as to the intelligence or the good faith of the target. Then they profess to be shocked, shocked to find “partisan” behavior going on.

What is not said is that most of us would probably ban/block others who behaved in a similar manner to us.

Now perhaps some people might object that they are merely practicing the spiritual works of mercy of admonishing sinners when they attack someone they disagree with. But I think that St. Francis de Sales had some good words on the topic in his work, Of the Love of God:

When that great master of theology S. Thomas Aquinas lay in his last sickness at Fosse-neuve, the Cistercian monks around asked him to expound the Canticles to them, as S. Bernard had done. To which the Saint replied, “Dear fathers, give me the mind of S. Bernard, and I will expound the sacred words as he did!” Even so, if we poor weak Christians are called upon to put forth zealous wrath like those great saints we read of in the Scriptures, it behoves us to answer, “Give us their spirit and their light, and we will do as they did.” It is not every one that knows when or how to be angry.


Those holy men were under God’s immediate inspiration, and therefore they could exercise their wrath fearlessly, inasmuch as the same Spirit Which kindled restrained it within due limits. Such anger is not that “wrath of man” of which S. James says that it “worketh not the righteousness of God.” Although S. Paul calls the Galatians “foolish,” and withstood S. Peter “to the face,” is that any reason why we should sit in judgment on nations, censure and abuse our superiors? We are not so many S. Pauls! But bitter, sharp, hasty men not unfrequently give way to their own tempers and dislikes under the cloak of zeal, and are consumed of their own fire, falsely calling it from heaven. On one side an ambitious man would fain have us believe that he only seeks the mitre out of zeal for souls; on the other a harsh censor bids us accept his slanders and backbiting as the utterance of a zealous mind.


 Francis de Sales, Of the Love of God, trans. H. L. Sidney Lear (London: Rivingtons, 1888), 351.

In other words, even if we have the example of St. Paul in mind in calling out to others, that doesn’t mean we are following his example when we respond in a harsh way. We can do wrong because: just because St. Paul can be doing the will of God in shocking someone to their senses does not mean we are also doing His will in rebuking a sinner. Even if the person is doing wrong, that doesn’t mean we are doing right in how we admonish.

It’s not the purpose of my blog to single out anybody in particular (while I sometimes fail, my personal policy is not to write a blog against individuals but rather attitudes). Rather I offer my concern in order to let people consider their actions without feeling specifically targeted. It is my hope here to emulate Proverbs 15:1 though I acknowledge I can have my own blind spots. 

We the Catholic bloggers should encourage each other so that people may see that we act out of love of Christ and not think our behavior is a mark against the Church. And, if anybody should think this article is an example of not practicing what I preach, I ask your pardon.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Reflections on Firearm Controversies and the Church

(See: To gun violence, Archbishop Cupich says 'Enough!' - Chicago Tribune, USCCB Testimony before Congress 2013and Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action)

The Second Amendment is one of these things that people tend to fall into the either-or fallacy. Either one supports their perspective or one supports all sorts of horrible things. For the person who believes more legislation is needed to prevent gun massacres, people who oppose them are seen as callously disregarding suffering in the name of politics. For the person who believes that there are legitimate reasons to own firearms, the calls for legislation and restrictions are seen as a confiscation which punishes the legitimate gun owner. There is no middle ground in this rhetoric.

But what I don’t see in this dualistic debate is taking people on each side and asking them, “What do you think needs to be done to change this?” There is no dialogue to try to find a solution that both sides can work with that protects the innocent and keeps lethal weapons out of the hands of those likely to misuse them. In saying this, I am not saying “Can’t we all get along?” The problem is, neither side strikes me as wanting to compromise. To the person who thinks personal ownership of firearms is the cause of the problem, it appears that they will not be happy with anything less than a model for gun ownership along the lines of European limits. To the person who believes that personal ownership of firearms is necessary for defense against criminals or a government turned dictatorial, they will not hear any proposal for limits.

This is why I do not blame the Obama administration or the NRA—I actually blame both of them for contributing to the problem, demonizing the other side and not willing to achieve a compromise. Indeed, any possibility of compromise is seen as ignoring what one side holds important.

So, people continue to die from violence. Statistically, that number probably will never be reduced to zero, regardless of whether we outlaw every firearm in America or arm every individual in America with firearms. So we need to avoid two types of thinking:

  1. Thinking that if only we eliminate all firearms, everybody will be safe.
  2. Thinking that defending the Second Amendment means we can’t have any restrictions.

It is this mindset that the Church has to face when it weighs in on the issue. The American bishops recognize that some restrictions are necessary, but they also speak on how there needs to be more than only restrictions. Now, there is not any official document which teaches “Catholics must support X on pain of sin.” I don’t expect there ever will be either. The Church rarely speaks by saying “support this bit of legislation!” Rather the USCCB sets forth what she sees as important considerations and encourages lawmakers to apply them to their work.

Now, the USCCB does actually make some good points in talking about the culture of violence—it demonstrates that firearms by themselves do not cause the situation we have been in since the 1990s, and that we need to address these core issues. Again, this is not an either-or issue. It’s not a matter of either addressing core issues OR restricting guns. It’s a both-and situation. We need to both address the culture of violence and keep firearms out of the hands of people most likely to use these firearms to harm innocents. I think the weakness with the current approach is that the bishops sometimes are not precise enough in their language, allowing partisans on both sides to either make it sound like the Church endorses their position or to vilify the Church.

For example Archbishop Cupich, wrote today in the Chicago Tribune. He rightly speaks about the issue of the Second Amendment, saying, "Surely there is a middle ground between the original intent of the amendment and the carnage we see today.” That’s very true, and I applaud this. But, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. He speaks about needing “reasonable legislation” and “better gun controls.” But what does that mean? This can span the range from “keep them out of the hands of crazies” to “ban them outright.” That uncertainty leads people assuming things based on their own political beliefs.

The whole problem, as I see it, is the polarized society we have cannot come to an agreement on what is “reasonable” or “better.” As a result we see people acting offended or self-righteous over the Archbishop’s words.

Now, the right of self defense is recognized by the Catholic Church. Indeed, the Catechism says:

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor.… The one is intended, the other is not.” (1737)

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: (2196)

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.… Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.

So the question is, how does one reconcile the Catholic recognition of self defense as legitimate, the Second Amendment and calls for firearm restrictions? I think we Catholics in America do need to have our own discussion on the issue, guided by the bishops. That means we need to set aside our own political preferences and set aside demonizing people who think differently on the issue. I mean Archbishop Cupich takes a position (but not using his teaching authority as bishop in doing so) that might be more politically “liberal” than what I am comfortable with, but what he has to say is not to be written off as “partisan” and rejected out of hand. He is certainly not heretical or holding a position inimical to Catholic teaching. 

Ultimately, I think the problem in America is we have become so polarized that we no longer trust anyone who does not share our position. The result is we no longer have any way of finding a compromise that protects the innocents while keeping lethal weapons out of the hands of those who are dangerous. I think ultimately, we need to understand the scope of our responsibilities in order to stake out an informed position. I think the bishops can indeed help us understand how to do so. They have a lot to say which is worth studying. But to do so more effectively, I think it would help for them to avoid vague terms that can be misinterpreted.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ancient Fallacies: Begging the Question and Anti-Francis Attacks

So looking for a bit of entertainment, I watched a couple of episodes of Ancient Aliens. The basic premise (for people with enough common sense to stay away) is that aliens could have visited Earth, provided technology to build monuments, fought battles, influenced events described in the Bible and so on. The main problem with the show is that the featured individuals arguing their points assume their premises are true, when they actually have to be proven. The things they assume as following from the claim of aliens can only be considered as a link if the original premise is true in the first place. It’s the begging the question fallacy.

Aliens(Most people recognize this is bad reasoning)

Aristotle, over two thousand years ago, described what was wrong with this way of thinking:

16 To beg and assume the original question is a species of failure to demonstrate the problem proposed; but this [30] happens in many ways. A man may not reason syllogistically at all, or he may argue from premisses which are less known or equally unknown, or he may establish the antecedent by means of its consequents; for demonstration proceeds from what is more certain and is prior. Now begging the question is none of these: but since we get to know some things naturally through themselves, and other things [35] by means of something else (the first principles through themselves, what is subordinate to them through something else), whenever a man tries to prove what is not self-evident by means of itself, then he begs the original question. This may be done by assuming what is in question at once; it is also possible to make a transition to [40] other things which would naturally be proved through the [65a] thesis proposed, and demonstrate it through them, e.g. if A should be proved through B, and B through C, though it was natural that C should be proved through A: for it turns out that those who reason thus are proving A by means of itself. This is what those persons do who suppose [5] that they are constructing parallel straight lines: for they fail to see that they are assuming facts which it is impossible to demonstrate unless the parallels exist. So it turns out that those who reason thus merely say a particular thing is, if it is: in this way everything will be self-evident. But that is impossible.


 Aristotle, “ANALYTICA PRIORA,” in The Works of Aristotle, ed. W. D. Ross, trans. A. J. Jenkinson, vol. 1 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1928).

Basically, this fallacy happens when one assumes something is true without proving it to be true and then cites things as examples of this assumption—but they are only valid examples if the original claim is true. If the original claim is not established as true, then the “examples” cannot be established as supporting the allegation,

Unfortunately, since 2013, many Catholics have been plagued by this fallacy in their approach to Pope Francis. The begging the question comes around by alleging that the Pope is a liberal, or a heretic, or both. For this allegation to have any merit, it has to be proven. Otherwise it is merely an unproven assertion. Once we recognize this, all of the “scandalous behavior” vanishes away. 

For example, the Pope speaks out on the ecology, the plight of refugees and the death penalty. People acting on the assumption that the Pope is speaking on these issues in this way because he is a liberal—which is the point to be proven in the first place. But if the Pope has any other reason for speaking out on these issues besides a partisan political concern, then the citation of these stands are not a confirmation of his political slant. The ultimate result of the begging the question fallacy in this case is that certain Catholics are assuming the Pope is the enemy of the faith for irrational reasons. If one reads the works of Pope Francis’ predecessors in office, once can see they were not liberal and yet they spoke against the same things that Pope Francis spoke against.

Because people beg the question in assuming the Pope is a liberal/heretic, they assume his words and actions in his US visit and the ongoing synod on the family have a liberal/heretical meaning. So, he didn’t mention abortion directly to the President or Congress—he must be a liberal! He spoke about the death penalty and immigration—he must be a liberal! He wants to find ways to reach out to the divorced/remarried and the people with same sex attraction—he must want to change Church teaching! The Vatican issued a statement indicating that the Pope’s visit with Kim Davis was not as significant as reported—he must be a liberal!

Liberal pope(Many Catholics don’t realize this is bad reasoning even though it is the same as above)

ALL of these arguments have been made and all of them require the accuser that he did these things because he was liberal and not assume that he is liberal and therefore all of his actions have that intention. But, if there is any basis for it other than assume that only a liberal would support those positions, then one must stop making the allegation—the claim is unsupported.

Thus people complaining about the Pope’s visit to America and complaining about the synod need to stop their accusations. They have no basis for their claim. Everything they are working themselves into a rage over comes from assuming there are parallels when there are none and assuming that certain positions can only be explained by a politically leftist Pope. Since the claims cannot be supported, the people who repeat them are using a fallacy, not reason when they attack the Pope.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

If You Believe This, Then Why BE a Christian in the First Place?

(See: Does Pope Francis fear God? On the Synod of the Family and the fracturing of the Catholic Church.)

So, a Catholic writer, in a conservative magazine, wrote the following:

In the next three weeks, I fully expect the leadership of my own One Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church to fall into apostasy, at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family that begins today in Rome. This is the outcome Pope Francis has shaped over the entirety of his pontificate, and particularly with his recent appointments. An event like this —heresy promulgated by the Pope and his bishops — is believed by most Catholics to be impossible. But they should be prepared for it anyway. This is not an ordinary religious conference, but one to be dreaded.

The question that comes to my mind when I read this is, why in the hell would anyone be a part of a Church that can fall into apostasy? If the Church at the level of binding and loosing can fall into apostasy, then it cannot be—and never was—a Church established by God. 

I don’t use this as rhetoric or as a click-bait opener. Rather, I see it as a problem with people who have so confused their political preferences and media misinterpretations of the Church teaching, that they no longer believe that God is with His Church, but instead believe that they themselves cannot err.


Such a Catholic has to consider the ramifications of their anti-Francis mindset. If one recognizes that Jesus Christ is God and that the Catholic Church was the Church that Our Lord willed to establish in Matthew 16:18, then it follows that the promises He made about the Church will be kept. If a person denies one or both of these tenets of the faith, their faith is deficient.

Let’s think about it. If Jesus is God and the Church He established is the Catholic Church then he promised that the Church, built on the rock of Peter, would not see the gates of Hell prevail against it, and He promised that He would be with His Church always (Matthew 28:20). If the authority of the Church, which has the authority to bind and loose, should fall into error then we have to recognize one of two possibilities:

  1. That Jesus could not keep His promises.
  2. That Jesus did not mean it in the sense that the Church has taught.

If Jesus could not keep His promises, then He is not God and our Catholic faith is in vain. We might as well go and seek admittance to Judaism if we wanted to still believe in the God of the Bible, but being a Christian would be nothing more than being a Platonist—a philosophy of doing good which is right some of the time. If Jesus did keep His promises, but the Catholic Church misinterpreted these promises, then she is a blind guide leading the blind into a ditch. We could never know when she got it right about being a Christian and when she did not. Was she wrong in Vatican II? Vatican I? Trent? Nicea? We could not know whether it was the Trinitarians or the Arians got it right, the Catholics or the Protestants and so on. We could only have opinions on who got it right—solely based on our own hunches and preferences.

In either case, the results of the synod would be irrelevant. Whether the Church upheld the traditional teachings on marriage, or called for polygamous homosexual divorce would be irrelevant, because the Church would have no authority whatsoever.

It only makes sense to be a Catholic if we believe that Our Lord protects the Church from teaching error when she teaches. We are bound to give assent not only in her ex cathedra pronunciations, but in her teachings of the ordinary magisterium as well. As the Catechism says:

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.

If we are bound to give assent even to the ordinary magisterium, then again we have two possibilities:

  1. God will bind error and loose truth if the Church so decrees.
  2. God will prevent the Church from binding error and loosing truth.

The first choice is asinine. The God who came to save us from our sins would certainly not say that sin is OK if the Church gives its sanction. But given that Our Lord equates rejection of His Church with rejection of Him (see Matthew 18:17 and Luke 10:16), obedience to those He has put in charge is not an option. But since human beings are weak and sinful, God must have a way which ensures that they do not lead people into sin.

Even if we should see the synod become another “robber council,” (which I do not expect), we can have faith that the Pope would block such things from becoming teaching. Think about it. St. Paul said that to receive the Eucharist unworthily would be eating and drinking judgment on themselves (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). If the Church should sanction people in mortal sin receiving the Eucharist, that would be a case of binding error and loosing truth. 

It is because I have faith in Our Lord that I do not fear that the magisterium of the Church will teach error. The leaders of the Church can indeed be sinful and weak. They can enact rules that are ineffective and falter in the face of opposition. Thus we need to pray for them. But even if some individual bishops or even regions should fall into error (it has happened in our History), the Church will not call evil good.

The person who believes that the Church will embrace error and change her teachings on good and evil needs to ask himself or herself this: If the Church is not protected from teaching error, then why even be a Catholic at all?

Catholic Bloggers Behaving Badly

In these times, the most problematic issues involve the open advocating of disobedience to the magisterium. That needs to be opposed of course because it can lead Catholics into denying the authority of the Church and lose faith in the promises of Our Lord. So it is natural for Catholic bloggers to focus on this, standing up to say “This behavior is not ‘good’ Catholicism. It is schismatic."

But that being said, it is possible for a Catholic to do harm in other ways, even if they practice the faith without dissenting. In other words, how one presents the message can actually alienate people away from seeking the truth. For example, the Church makes clear that we have moral obligations to aid the poor and the refugees. A Catholic who chooses to reject the teaching does wrong. However, when Catholics disagree on the ways and means of carrying out Church teaching, it is certainly wrong to accuse them of being bad Catholics for thinking another strategy is better than the popular one.

In other words, two faithful Catholics can have different ideas on how to implement social justice but, provided that they accept the authority of the Church and strive to obey her teachings, can have different ideas on how to carry out that teaching. So when a blogger should happen to label people as being indifferent to suffering or racist because they have a different idea on how to deal with illegal immigration, that accusation is unjust if the other person agrees with the Church teaching and is trying to follow it. Likewise, when it comes to an issue like gun violence, there can be legitimate differences of opinions on how to solve it. But to label the person who disagrees with banning all guns as lying or being indifferent to suffering, that does not help spread the Catholic faith—it merely causes scandal by leading someone who agrees with the Church position to think he or she has no place in the Church.

So we have to discern. If two people support the Church teaching on X, but disagree on how to best follow teaching X, neither person is a heretic. But on the other hand, if one person supports the Church teaching on X while a second rejects that teaching on X, the second person cannot pretend to be a good Catholic so long as they reject the Church teaching.

This problem is compounded when abusive language is added to the mix. When we defend Pope Francis and his method of teaching, we certainly would be wise in emulating his example. When people are running afoul of Church teaching, the Pope reaches out with mercy and compassion. We should go and do likewise. That doesn’t mean tolerate bad actions as if they were good. That means we show the sinner how to change their ways without acting like a jerk over it. But if the person agrees with the Church teaching but has a different take on what approach to use, to be abusive is to behave shamefully. There can be many different ministries with the same end.

So in addition to defending the faith, we must defend it rightly and charitably. If blogger A presents the Church teaching rightly, but acts like a jerk about how he does so, then he causes harm, alienating our fellow believers and driving them away from their own mission. That’s damaging and more likely to drive the believers from the Church than to serve Our Lord’s will.

But on the other hand, we cannot confuse our political beliefs with our faith. Do our politics reflect our faith? Or do our politics shape our belief? If we choose option #2, we are choosing wrong, making an idol out of our politics.

But let’s be reasonable. Seeking a just and merciful solution to illegal immigration does not mean supporting a blanket amnesty. Opposing gun violence does not mean that only supporting a ban on all firearms is compatible with the Catholic faith. Standing up for the Church teaching on the death penalty or just war does not mean there will be perfect agreement on whether a particular instance of the death penalty is just or a particular war is just.

So let’s stop with the sarcastic remarks about “the thing that used to be conservatism” or accusing people who question the value of welfare as it is currently being implemented as being “not truly pro-life.” There is a difference between The Church Teaching and what I think needs to be done to carry it out. The former is not up for debate. The latter sometimes is.

If we make this mistake, we will have to answer for corrupting the message of the Church and for those we alienate for no good reason. Let us remember the words of the Church on Rash Judgment:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.


 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 594.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Out of Control and Missing the Point

The Pope’s visit to America confirms what I long knew—the media and the politicians don’t understand the meaning of religion, treating it as one more political viewpoint. It also confirmed what I long suspected but hoped was actually false—that a large portion of American Catholics view religion in the same sense as the media and politicians. The result of this mindset is that the average person praises or laments what the Pope says or does in light of his or her political convictions and not on the basis of the Christian faith.

St. Paul wrote about this way of thinking in his letter to the Philippians:

17 Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. 18 For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)

Our calling as Christians supersedes our preferences in politics. Politics necessarily involves earthly things. Our faith involves approaching this world according to the bigger picture of what God calls us to do with the fact of our life after death always kept firmly in mind. So, to judge the Pope’s words and actions by political preference is to pervert the Christian message, committing sacrilege according to the sense of treating holy things as profane.

Unfortunately, America is very dualistic. We think things are either liberal or conservative and create a logical error called denying the antecedent. That error works as follows:

  • The Pope is conservative or liberal.
  • Not conservative.
  • Therefore liberal.
The argument overlooks the possibility of “none of the above” being an answer.
Hes with Me
Unfortunately, the American view of politics has determined that concern for the environment or the treatment of immigrants to be “liberal” and the defense of life and marriage to be “conservative.” That’s how it plays with our political parties. But actually, the Catholic Church has a body of teaching that can point to both liberals and conservatives and say “you’re wrong about that.” In addition, she can say to both, “You’re right on this, but for the wrong reason."

When the Pope meets with the President, meets with Congress, meets with the Little Sisters of the Poor, meets with a former student (who happens to be actively homosexual), meets with Kim Davis—these things are all given a political meaning, even though the Pope intended no such thing by them. Then they take offense by the fact that the Pope did not use his addresses to condemn the President or Congress.

But, since the Pope did not intend a political message, the people who wanted one with him endorsing their position got angry when he took a stand against their position. People who hate Kim Davis were angry that he did not denounce her. People who support her were angry that he didn’t tell supporters of “same sex marriage” to literally go to hell.

Essentially they wanted him to be something he had no intention of being, and got disappointed because he didn’t satisfy their desire to see their foes "put in their place.” The thing is, Jesus didn’t set out to put people in their place. He came to call them to repentance. It was only with the self-righteous, the ones who behaved in a hypocritical manner, that he ended up "putting them in their place."

The Pope isn’t Jesus, of course. (With the anti-Catholics out there who think we do believe that, it unfortunately has to be said). But he is following the example Our Lord gave for us to follow. He’s essentially offering Our Lord’s mercy to the sinners. When we want the Pope to praise us and denounce the sinners we despise, we behave as hypocrites—and it was the hypocrites that Our Lord openly denounced.

I think that in trying to play “Capture the Flag” with the Pope, people assumed that if he would only “say more” about topic X, other people would go along. Really? Why should it be any different under Pope Francis than it was under his predecessors. Blessed Paul VI on contraception, St. John Paul II on a whole raft of issues. likewise Benedict XVI. They’ve been speaking out since 1963 on sexual issues, economic issues, life issues and so on. There’s been no variation in message. Sollicitudo rei Socialis and Caritas in Veritate say the same thing as Evangelic Gaudium—they all draw on Paul VI and Populorum Progressio (and Sollicitudo rei Socialis #34 mirrors Laudato Si).Despite this fact, people haven’t changed. The pro-abortion politicians have been this way throughout the past four pontificates. The people who think social justice is a code word for “socialism” still think so. If the Pope has so much influence over sinners that he can change them with a word, then why haven’t they been changed already?

No, America is out of control and missing the point. They think the Papal message is political policy and if the Pope says something similar, it is assumed that the Pope validated their entire platform. If the Pope said something in opposition, he’s a foreigner who should stick to religion and “stay out of politics.” (It’s hypocritical—basically a case of “It’s OK if he agrees with me, bad if he doesn’t.”) Catholics missing the point and out of control are making things worse. We’re called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. If we’re acting as worldly and partisan as everyone else, we are failing to share the Gospel with the world. 

American Catholics who think of themselves as orthodox need to get back in control and get the point. Otherwise, they are causing great harm in their dissent and disobedience while patting themselves on the back for being “faithful."