Showing posts with label bias. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bias. Show all posts

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Look to Your Own Beam First


“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Those involved in factional fighting might pretend to be acting for the “good of the Church,” but the reality is they are selectively quoting what the Church teaches to discredit their political opponents. Then, when challenged over the sins of their own side, they argue that “the stakes are too high” to worry about that at this time. The problem is this way of thinking will never find the “right time” to challenge their own faction. There will always be a perceived crisis that prevents us from looking to reform ourselves.

But we are called to change ourselves regardless of what others do. Our Lord tells us:

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)

Yes, teaching others to reject evil is part of the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). But if we will not do what we expect others to do, we will answer for it.

This gets worse as Catholics misidentify Church teaching and political preference. The result is accusing Catholics on the “other side” of wrongdoing, while never asking themselves about their own behavior.

10 I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

Recently, the war between the Original Pro-Life Movement (hereafter OPLM) and the New Pro-Life Movement (hereafter NPLM) has flared up again. It is not a new conflict. It happens in America with every change of a Presidential party in power. One party thinks that abortion is a “human right.” The other recognizes it is not. Catholics, of course, can never licitly support abortion… even though some Catholics do.

The battle of the OPLM and the NPLM basically comes down to how abortion should be weighted when it comes to the moral obligations of voting. Both factions are caricatures of what the Right to Life means. The OPLM generally argues that abortion is the worst evil of our times, and we can never licitly vote for a candidate or party that supports legalized abortion. The NPLM tends to argue that since the other social justice issues are a part of the Seamless Garment of Life, we need to elevate them in the discussion. Unfortunately, the practical result of this factionalism is that the OPLM argues that “the stakes are too high” to hold candidates accountable for issues other than abortion, while the NPLM argues that “the stakes are too high” to worry about abortion. The OPLM Catholic tends to vote Republican regardless of that party’s failings and the NPLM Catholic tends to vote Democrat regardless of that party’s failings.

Both factions are quick to point out the failures of the other side. But, neither does more than pay lip service to their own side’s failures. The result is, hostility and self-righteousness grow apace.

The fact is, the Catholic Church does indeed teach that the Right to Life is the first right. However, her teaching shows that both factions have gone wrong:

In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of the rights of the human person. It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change—let alone eliminate—them because such rights find their source in God himself.

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

The Church has never yielded in the face of all the violations that the right to life of every human being has received, and continues to receive, both from individuals and from those in authority. The human being is entitled to such rights, in every phase of development, from conception until natural death; and in every condition, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor. The Second Vatican Council openly proclaimed: “All offences against life itself, such as every kind of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and willful suicide; all violations of the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures; all offences against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, degrading working conditions where men are treated as mere tools for profit rather than free and responsible persons; all these and the like are certainly criminal: they poison human society; and they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”. (Christifideles Laici 38)

So, on one hand, Catholics cannot limit the right to life to abortion. On the other hand, Catholics cannot reduce the importance of abortion… it is listed next to murder and genocide, after all. Moreover, certain rights are considered secondary to the right to life. So, while rights to housing and healthcare are important, we cannot sacrifice the obligation to oppose abortion to them.

I would say that contra the OPLM, we do have an obligation to speak out against more than abortion. But contra the NPLM, we also have an obligation to oppose abortion as the first assault on the right to life.

Therefore, I think the assaults on the bishops are unjust. The OPLM is wrong in saying that the bishops ignore abortion. They are not. But the NPLM is wrong in claiming that the bishops were obsessed with abortion and neglecting the other issues. Anybody paying attention to the USCCB releases showed they spoke about all the issues Americans were wrong over… but they were always attacked for not speaking about Y, when the focus of the debate was X.

Let us face the facts: when a Presidential administration is in line with Church teaching on X but wrong on Y, the bishops will tend to focus on Y. If the administration is in the wrong on abortion, the bishops will speak out on abortion. If the administration is in the wrong on immigration, the bishops will speak out on immigration. They are not behaving in a partisan manner. I would say that the person accusing them of being partisan is the one who is biased. 

We can see this OPLM v. NPLM factionalism in play with the USCCB expressing concern over Biden and abortion. Both factions will pick out their heroes and villains on how they face the fact of a pro-abortion Catholic President… the first in US history§.

And I think that is the key to the situation. America has had pro-abortion presidents before and Catholic pro-abortion politicians before. But this is the first time we have had a Catholic pro-abortion President in the United States. So, the US bishops are dealing with something entirely new#.

So, it does not help when the OPLM and NPLM are picking out heroes and villains from the bishops. Yes, the bishops are publicly divided over what should be done, and that should not be. Yes, we do need a solution on how to handle it. And yes, all of us (including me) have ideas on what that solution should be. But our response should be prayer for them to reach a wise decision, not accusing the bishops we disagree with of bad will. Because of this, I say that the OPLM and NPLM need to spend more time considering the beam in their own eyes and less on the splinter in the eye of their foes. It might help coming to a non-partisan response that helps the bishops instead of hindering them.

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(†) Relatively speaking. Often, a political party will support an action that the Church teaches but do so with a different motive.

(‡) “Pro-Choice” is a propaganda term where the party tries to separate the claimed personal feelings of the politician from what he does, even though the claimed personal feelings have no impact on what he freely chooses to do. We should not use the term.

(§) Remember, when the first Catholic President was elected, Roe v. Wade was over ten years away, so it was not a factor.

(#) Canon 1405 does limit the judging of a chief executive of a country to the Pope. But that is beyond the scope of this article and will need to be addressed another time. Briefly, it can be used to interpret the meaning of the Ladaria letter as saying that the bishops need to be unified and talking to Biden privately before bringing it before the Pope. It does not mean that those bishops wanting to move beyond the status quo are wrong. Also, keep in mind this canon was not part of the revision of canon law.

 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Is It Really So?

Awhile back, I was reading about St. Paul VI. The account pointed out that there was a ten year gap between his last encyclical (Humanae Vitae) and his death in 1978. The conclusion drawn was that he was so shaken by the response to Humanae Vitae, that he withdrew for ten years into a sort of isolation while the Church fell into chaos.

There was a major problem with this conclusion though: it wasn’t true. Yes, Humanae Vitae was his last encyclical. But it wasn’t his last teaching. The 1970s were filled with Apostolic Constitutions and Motu Proprio on different topics, implementing Vatican II and dealing with the rebellion that arose in the late 1960s. Not to mention his unprecedented travels [§].

This example of Church history should remind us that if you only look at part of the data instead of the whole picture, you’re going to reach a false conclusion. The Church has 2000 years of history which need to be understood when assessing what is going on. If we look at only parts of it, we won’t correctly interpret it.

I bring up this example to make a point about how people portray the Church. If someone only tells part of the story with part of the data, it could turn out that the story they tell about the Church is false. If someone tells part of the story about the Church prior to Vatican II, focusing on the strongest elements alone, it will appear as if that period was a “golden age.” It wasn’t. Or if someone takes the words of Pope Francis out of context, omitting the things he says and does that defend the moral teaching of the Church, it will sound like he’s a heretic.

But you can use this tactic with any age of the Church to make it sound good or bad. You can make a saint sound demonic or a heresiarch sound faithful. Ultimately, that’s how you can detect the bias. If someone consistently takes quotes out of context to fit the narrative, it’s most plausible to suspect that the person is devoted to a narrative about the Church instead of the Church as she is.

The Church as she is will, of course, have sin and sinners in every age. Every Pope will have his flaws. But there will also be saints in every age, and the Popes will have their strong points as well. The accurate evaluations will recognize both. The biased version will omit whatever goes against their preferred interpretation. We should keep this in mind when we read accounts trying to set one era of the Church against another.
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[§] We tend to think of St. John Paul II as the first to make these trips, and indeed he definitely traveled the furthest so far. But St. Paul VI was the first modern Pope to travel.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Reflecting on Seeking Truth

Introduction 

My blog’s Facebook page suddenly got a lot more active. I’m fielding a lot more comments and messages in the past week than I did in the past three months. The common theme of this interaction was the issue of truth. Whether asking what it was or arguing about whose theory is true, people show a belief that truth exists and a sincere desire to know and live out what is true. 

Since truth cannot contradict truth, when we encounter conflicting claims, they can’t both be true. However they can both be false. This means that we can’t argue that rejecting one claim means the other must automatically be true. Aristotle famously defined truth as “to say of what is that it is, and to say of what is not that it is not.” If we want to do this, we must investigate what things are.

This article will not be an exhaustive treatment of truth or logic, but I will mention some things I think are in danger of being forgotten.

The Authority of Our Lord and His Church to teach Truth

As Christians, we believe Our Lord Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light. So we must live in accord with His teaching. As Catholics, we believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Our Lord established (Matthew 16:18) and made necessary (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). So we must live in accord with the Church teaching if we would be faithful to Him (John 14:15). The ones who determine what is compatible with these teachings are the magisterium—the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. They bind and loose (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). This office exists regardless of the sinfulness of the men holding the office. We trust that God protects His Church from teaching error (Matthew 16:18, 28:19-20). Because of this, any attempts to separate loving God from obeying His Church does not live according to the truth.

This becomes challenging when some members of the magisterium do grievous wrong. But we are not excused. Our Lord anticipated the teacher who did evil when he said in Matthew 23:2–3: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” When the bishops exercise their office in communion with the Pope, their personal sinfulness is not an exemption from obedience.


Avoiding Things That Lead to False Conclusions 

There are all sorts of things that can mislead. They don’t have to be deliberate lies. A person can think they sound reasonable. But if the argument has false premises or bad logic, the conclusions are unproven. For example, if “proof” of a claim depends on the claim being true, those proofs aren’t proof. That’s begging the question. If a person calls his opponent a liar at the beginning and turns his audience to suspicion of his opponent, that’s turning people away from considering all sides, that’s poisoning the well. If a person conjures up strong emotions to sway the audience to a desired conclusion, that’s an appeal to emotion fallacy.

Moreover, a person can lie about or be mistaken over facts. If they speak falsely, they cannot prove a conclusion.

There are many ways to mislead. But the person misleading might think it is true. Someone untrained in logic or mistaken about facts can sincerely go wrong without intending to mislead. But we have to investigate claims—especially accusations of wrongdoing—to determine if they are true. 

The Credibility Issue

Some sources are more reliable than others. Sources that shows repeated ignorance, deception, or bias are seen as more dubious and their claims are given less weight than informed sources which strive to be accurate and balanced. While we can’t just outright reject a claim solely based on the origin (that’s the genetic fallacy), we can certainly question the claim of a dubious source.

The Evidence Issue

If I make a shocking claim, you shouldn’t accept it just because I said so (ipse dixit). We have to ask whether it happened or happened under the circumstances claimed. A lack of evidence isn’t proof that it didn’t happen. But neither can silence be used to prove it did (“nobody denies it....”) A lack of evidence means nothing more than a lack of evidence. It doesn’t prove somebody destroyed evidence. It doesn’t prove that the person making the claim is a liar. It just proves... nothing.

A variant of this is the “everybody knows” claims. You can’t interview “Everybody.” We need to talk to a credible witness or an expert. “Everyone” may have heard, but not everyone is a witness. People talk, rumors expand. Do they have any basis? Or is it hearsay? Except in rare circumstances (like the “dying declaration”) you can’t testify what someone else told you. The person who saw it has to testify.

Nobody likes a dead end. We like things to be resolved. But real life sometimes can’t provide what we need to prove something. Criminals walk free. Society endures that on the grounds that it is better that a guilty man go free than an innocent man be punished. In terms of reason, we would say: if we can’t prove a man is guilty, the courts can’t say he’s been proven guilty.

Putting it Together 

So, when it comes to evaluating a claim, we have certain restrictions that push us to the truth. We must accept the Christian-Catholic view on right and wrong. We must identify things that could mislead us and reject them. We must consider the reliability of the one who makes a claim and whether evidence backs it up. If one or more of these things are absent, we cannot declare that claim “proven true.”

Applying This to the Scandals 

Going by what Christ and His Church had taught, rash judgment is closed to us. We cannot assume malfeasance unless malfeasance is proven. Based on logic, we cannot use bad reasoning that leads us or others to wrong conclusions. In terms of credibility, we cannot rely on sources known to be unreliable or biased to form the basis of our views. In terms of evidence, we must rely on what is proven, not on what is claimed.

The problem I see is, in America at least, a vocal portion of Catholic Social Media is ignoring these things. Many are allowing their preferences and biases to shape their opinion and treat it as fact. A person who has a longstanding hostility to the Pope or has indiscriminately read biased sources are swallowing up whatever fits their ideology.

I don’t object to seeking the truth. But there is a strong tendency towards rash judgment that must be rejected. If we would be unbiased, we must be willing to consider the idea that the Pope is not guilty of accusations against him—something that seems to be sadly lacking on what I see in social media (which probably means I have to start unfollowing the worst offenders).

Conclusion 

Is there wrongdoing in the Church? Of course. Even before McCarrick and the Pennsylvania report, that was clear. There will always be wrongdoing in the Church. That doesn’t mean we should be complacent about it. In each era of Church history, there are always things that need reform. This era is no different. 

But in assessing where the wrongdoing is and curing it, it requires us to be open to finding the truth and eliminating things that lead us astray. This is a requirement for everyone. The person who assumes that only the person who disagrees with us need to do this is not looking for the truth.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Resources to get unedited stories from the Vatican

Several people have been asking me about the statements the media make from Vatican press releases. So I thought I ought to share some resources I use to counteract the mainstream media distortions.

For a daily email, you can go HERE to sign up with Vatican Information Service.

If you have a tablet, I recommend The Pope App for Android or iPad.

Given the media's rather suspicious reporting of the Pope, I recommend these highly.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Partisan Secularism

I've been thinking about the concept of the "Separation of Church and State." In theory, it means the government gives neither favor nor hindrance to any religion.  Yet, in practice it means that the state silences religion when it comes to the matters of public affairs and shows favor to secularism which is antagonistic to religion.

So essentially, in America, we have a view which says institutions which believe in God should have no say in speaking on issues involving legislation while those which either deny the existence of God or else treat it as unimportant are allowed to interfere to the extent they choose without restriction.

So when one considers this, we can see that we have a legal system in America which stands the first amendment on its head.  Churches have to be careful about speaking out on abortion or gay marriage lest they suffer tax penalties for "lobbying."  Yet non-religious organizations can lobby without concern. 

I find it interesting that one common response I've seen in comboxes is the concept that since we're not treated like religion is being treated in China, we're not being treated wrongly.  Such a view is an either-or fallacy.

  1. Either Religion in America is [persecuted like it is in China] or it is [not treated unfairly]. (Either [A] or [B]).
  2. Religion in America is not [persecuted like it is in China] (Not [A])
  3. Therefore it is [not treated unfairly]. (Therefore [B])

The error of such a view is that one need not reach the levels of persecution in China to treat religion unfairly.

What is overlooked is that in modern times, religion is viewed as yet another institution when it comes to denying the existence and authority of God (it is not given any special heed) on one hand but treated as "pushing their views on others" when it comes to speaking out on the problems of society.

Essentially this means that a secular group is permitted to seek to influence others but a religious group is not.

When one view is permitted to act and speak freely but another is not allowed to do the same, we call this unjust and showing partiality.  We call it partisan.

Yet this partisanship and partiality exists in America today.  Religion is not free.  This doesn't mean we're overtly persecuted (as some atheists have mockingly used as a straw man).  However, it does mean the state has shown itself to show partiality to secularism – giving them a free range to speak and act while restricting how churches may speak out on issues concerning the nation.  When secular institutions which favor homosexual couples adopting children and restrict religious institutions which say this is wrong, this is in fact partisan behavior in favor of secular beliefs.

This is why I believe America is no longer a free nation in terms of religion.  Yes, I am free to write this blog, yes there is Catholic radio and TV out there which can broadcast without interference.  However, when the state shows partiality to one side it follows the other side is either hindered or not given the same rights.