Showing posts with label “civil unions”. Show all posts
Showing posts with label “civil unions”. Show all posts

Friday, October 23, 2020

We Have Apparently Learned Nothing in the Last Ten Years

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)

Did you hear the one about the media reporting on the Pope saying something that was contrary to Church teaching? No, I am not talking about Pope Francis in 2020. I am talking about Benedict XVI back in 2010 who was reported as “changing” Church teaching to allow people with AIDS to use condoms. One example of that time can be found HERE.

Of course, what Benedict XVI said was entirely different than reported:

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being. 

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

(Pope Benedict XVI. Light Of The World (p. 112). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.)

Things have not changed in the media in those ten years between then and now. This is not the first time I brought this up of course. I discussed the distortion around Benedict XVI back in 2010 and every time since. We should know by now that even when people had access to the true statement, those guilty of misrepresentation denied that they had done anything wrong and the misrepresentation continued.

But despite the ten years of experience we have had in the media getting nuance flat out wrong, once again, the media took a quote from the Holy Father out of context. And, once again, Catholics used that misrepresentation as an excuse to push their own agenda—whether trying to change Church teaching or bash the Pope—and once again people are saying that the Pope is to blame for “not speaking clearly.” I do not see a need to go over why the stories were wrong. There are several good ones worth reading that have already been written.

This debunking has been effective enough that even the secular media now widely acknowledges that the director of the movie Francesco spliced quotes together and the line of civil unions came from a different part of a 2019 interview in Mexico than the rest of the segment that has people outraged. Nobody knows the context of the line yet. But that has not stopped people from inventing a “new teaching” or blaming the Pope for this unethical editing… as if anyone would come across well if someone with an agenda took our quotes apart and resequenced them.

So, let me be clear. Catholics like myself who defend the Pope, do not do so because we support a “change in teaching.” Rather, we reject those claims that he intends to change teaching as being false.

This leads to the question which another round of false claims should lead Catholics to ask: Why do we never learn from past repetitions of our same damned error? Every single time the Pope is accused of promoting error or going against past teaching, and every single time it involves the eisegesis that is put into his words by people who either want to promote a teaching or want to undermine the Pope. 

I am inclined to think this is typical of certain “anti” groups. Whether anti-Francis Catholics, anti-Catholics, anti-Semites, anti-Muslims etc., we see two factors. First, ignorance about what the target believes. Second, a false belief that the person or group is capable of whatever the accusation is. The most repugnant version of this behavior is the “ritual sacrifice” calumnies against the Jews. But we see all sorts of bizarre lies told about others too.  In this case, like the others, we see people who are ignorant of what Pope Francis has said but believe him—in a positive or negative sense—to be willing and capable of doing what he is accused of doing.

When such ignorance§ is in play, questioning the allegation as seen as “explaining away” or “denial.” But the fact remains: People are assuming things based on what they want to believe, accepting only those accounts that confirm what they think. Then, as those accounts they follow exaggerate further, people become absolutely convinced that this deformation is revealing more “truth” about the ignorant assumptions they assume are true.

But we do not do this in other areas. If Candidate A says something false about Candidate B, Candidate B’s partisans will not rest until the lie is exposed. But Candidate B’s partisans will not do this about the Pope if the false narrative is what they want to believe. The problem is our knowledge of “fake news” and other unethical reporting when it harms what we favor, shows that we are aware that this tactic exists. And since we are aware, we have an obligation to determine whether a claim is true before repeating it, regardless of whether it is about our ally or our enemy. But where is the attempt “to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it”? Where is the attempt to “ask how the other understands it”? The Catholic teaching demands that we do this before accusing the Pope of error. But everybody jumps right to assuming what they hear is true.

And then, when debunked, those who rashly judged or calumniated blame the Pope for their own failure. They say he should have spoken more clearly, when in fact, these people chose to believe what they wanted to hear and explain away* every correction as “spin.”

We should be aware of this: The virtually faster than light spread of error arose with the smartphone#. Reporters with no grasp of the nuances in theology report the shocking and try to get it out first. The refutation takes longer and is not widely covered. But that does not make the Pope to blame. But, since we do know that this kind of behavior exists, our ignorance is vincible if we repeat what we cannot confirm.

And if our ignorance is vincible, we will have to answer for it at the Final Judgment. Let us remember what the Church has taught in Gaudium et Spes #16:

Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.

We cannot hide our rash judgment behind an appeal that we did not know when we have the obligation not to speak unless we do know the truth. We should have learned that over the last ten years. If we have not, then let us start now before it is too late!



(†) As a note of interest, back in 2010, certain Catholics accused me of being “right wing” and “in denial” about this so-called “change in teaching” when I debunked it.

(‡) Let me make clear that I do not try to equate the consequences of the calumnies against Jews with the calumnies against Pope Francis or the Church. Of course, Catholics have not suffered for lies about them the way the Jews suffered for the lies told about them. I merely cite the “blood libel” as an example of how lies can be widely believed for centuries.

(§) I do not use the term “ignorance” pejoratively. Properly understood, “ignorance” means “lacking knowledge or awareness in general, or (often ignorant of) uninformed about or unaware of a specific subject or fact” according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. The Catholic Church uses the terms “invincible ignorance” or “vincible ignorance” to determine whether it was impossible to know something or whether the person who did not know was negligent in failing to learn.

(*) The irony is, they claim that debunking of their errors is the “explaining away.”

(#) Reporters were ignorant before the Smartphone too. During the pontificate of St. John Paul II, reporters were scouring every document in the hopes of finding a “change” in Church teaching. But since everything was printed back then, reporters could not get access before the documents were released… which meant the priests and bishops had them too. Back then, reporters would contact parishes and dioceses for context and comments. That no longer happens today.