Saturday, March 7, 2020

Replacing the Quest For Truth With the Rejections of What We Dislike

In this age of the smartphone, we get reports of events quickly. That might be a good thing except for one problem: Many things reported are not reported accurately but people tend to believe the first accounts that they hear… especially if it goes along with what they want to hear. An inaccurate news source that fits a preferred narrative is believed and a truthful challenge to it is considered false.

I see this happening in reports about the Pope. The false narrative is that “the Pope is a liberal.” Both Catholics that want him to be a liberal because they erroneously think that the Church should change, and Catholics that want him to be a liberal because they are hostile to his changes in discipline and want an excuse to deny his authority. Both factions accept false reports about what the Pope says if it fits their needs but not true reports that don’t fit.

We tend to approach politics in a similar manner. We’re willing to believe the worst possible reports about a politicians and parties we dislike and consider the negative stories about a politician we like as lies. If a news source from “the other side” criticizes one of their own, we treat it as “proof” that our platform is 100% right.

This is not a call to uncritically accept everything from all sources. We need to be aware of biases and harmful ideologies in what we read. The problem is, we tend to only apply scrutiny to sources that say something we dislike. We only give a source credibility when it suits us and reject what that source says when it doesn’t. We seldom apply it to the sources that always say what we want to hear. 

Since Christianity involves loving God and doing what is right in His sight while rejecting evil, thinking in that way is extremely dangerous. Why? Because we become like the Pharisees who were convinced of their own righteousness, blind to the fact that they too needed to change. 

As Catholics, we recognize that Christ is God, and He gave the Church the authority to teach in His name. But once we do recognize it, we are without excuse if we refuse to obey, or look for excuses to argue that the Church lacks authority in areas we dislike. The Church is quite clear on this. As the Code of 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.
This is not merely on the say-so of the Church. We believe it on the say-so of Christ. He established His Church (Matthew 16:18), gave it binding authority (Matthew 16:19, 18:18, 28:18-20, John 20:23) and made clear that there were consequences for rejecting His Church (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). Treating an act of teaching by the magisterium as if it were opinion or error is a dangerous action. Because we are rejecting Christ in our disobedience.

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