Showing posts with label conservative. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conservative. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Media and Our Conception of the Catholic Faith

An Example of People Ignoring Media Claims About the Church

It’s become common now for the media to make comments about different people and events in the Church that show how they do not understand what the Church teaches. Take for example the article "Woman claims role as Kansas City’s first female Catholic priest | The Kansas City Star.” According to Catholic teaching, only a male can be ordained to the priesthood. St. John Paul II has made it quite clear:

4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful. (emphasis added)

So, when we read in articles about women claiming to be ordained and the media treating this as fact, a person who has been paying attention to Church teaching knows that the opposite has been taught by the Church. He or she knows that this is not some new sort of teaching. We recognize that the media is to blame for this, and people who try to promote this as an example of change for the Church are either grossly uninformed about the Church or else are pushing an agenda against Church teaching.

That much seems obvious. We don’t see the National Catholic Reporter or Rorate Cæli (to name the extremes) talking about how wonderful/terrible it is that the Church is “changing” her teaching. 

Too Many Instances of People Accepting Media Claims About the Church—When it Suits Them

So, I find it curious that so many Catholics seeking to be faithful are willing to treat media reports as true when they call Pope Francis a liberal and claim he is overturning Church teaching. Anyone who looks at what his predecessors have said on a topic will find no conflicts, but at most a different way of explaining the Church teaching. The theme of the Pope’s preaching is reaching out to sinners, seeking to bring them back to God. He has said absolutely nothing about changing the faith. He has only said that it’s not enough to stop with stating what is forbidden, and we need to think about how to bring those people in a sinful situation back to the Church. He has repeatedly said that when it comes to Church teaching, he is a faithful son of the Church—on precisely the issues he has been accused of favoring a change.

So it seems clear that anyone who is trying to allege the Pope is changing the Church teaching is either grossly uninformed on what he said and what the Church says probably relying on the MSM and the opinion sites (religious and secular) which are treating the MSM as accurate.

Now of course, we want to avoid the genetic fallacy rejecting any news solely because it comes from a certain source. But we do need to consider the accuracy of a source—how knowledgable it is—when it attempts to report "breaking news” on the Church (which usually comes across looking like THIS). We also want to avoid the argument from ignorance fallacy where we think that because we haven’t heard about a response to a misleading story that it wasn’t responded to.

Instead of Looking to the Church, People Look to the Media Caricature to Confirm What They Already Decided

The antidote to such antics is to look for the Church accounts of things. There are some sites which do a good job of reporting what was actually said, even to the point of providing transcripts (such as Vatican Information Service or ZENIT). I have found that whenever the rapid reporting of the MSM pronounces that the Church under Pope Francis is “changing Church teaching,” it is disproven within a few days at the most. That is why we cannot accept the MSM reporting on the Church at face value. They are acting from lack of understanding and perhaps bias (hoping that the Church will change her views as if they were a political platform).

Basically, when we look for an explanation of the Church teaching, we should turn to the Church, not away from the Church for a reliable answer. That’s not what is being done anymore. When a political pundit defines the Church in terms of his or her own bias, that’s not a reliable answer, but people are using these things to confirm their own views and justify what they were going to do anyway. Whether it’s a political liberal who wants to see a Church transforming into what he or she wants it to be, or whether it’s a conservative who is looking for an excuse to legitimize their rejection of Pope Francis, we are experiencing a situation where instead of being faithful Catholics looking to the Church, we are seeing Catholics who are affirming the Church only when it suits them, and denying it when they run afoul of the teachings.


If liberals want to trumpet their support for Pope Francis, then let them heed his teachings as a “Son of the Church.” If conservatives want to portray themselves as faithful to the Church, then let them start giving assent to the teachings of the current successor of St. Peter, trusting that Our Lord will not fail in His promise to protect the Church under the successor of St. Peter.

If people decide to ignore these things and instead pick and choose what it means to be a Catholic, then that’s hypocrisy—and both liberal and conservative are guilty of the same disobedience, even if they dissent on different grounds. Cafeteria Catholicism is not only a behavior of one political faction.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Conservative Op-Ed Writer and the Precipice

I came across a rather bizarre article in the New York Times about the Church. That in itself is not too unusual for that paper. What made it even stranger was the advocacy of disobedience by conservative Catholics. In "The Pope and the Precipice,” we see conservative columnist Ross Douthat opine that the Pope is supporting change on the Church teaching on sexuality and the votes on the final relatio was intended as a rebuke of the Pope . . . and perhaps it should be.

He writes the following:

Francis is charismatic, popular, widely beloved. He has, until this point, faced strong criticism only from the church’s traditionalist fringe, and managed to unite most Catholics in admiration for his ministry. There are ways that he can shape the church without calling doctrine into question, and avenues he can explore (annulment reform, in particular) that would bring more people back to the sacraments without a crisis. He can be, as he clearly wishes to be, a progressive pope, a pope of social justice — and he does not have to break the church to do it.

But if he seems to be choosing the more dangerous path — if he moves to reassign potential critics in the hierarchy, if he seems to be stacking the next synod’s ranks with supporters of a sweeping change — then conservative Catholics will need a cleareyed understanding of the situation.

They can certainly persist in the belief that God protects the church from self-contradiction. But they might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.

Mr. Douthat would have us believe that the Pope really believes the Church teaching must change:

But something very different is happening under Pope Francis. In his public words and gestures, through the men he’s elevated and the debates he’s encouraged, this pope has repeatedly signaled a desire to rethink issues where Catholic teaching is in clear tension with Western social life — sex and marriage, divorce and homosexuality.


Yes, Francis has taken no formal position on the issues currently in play. But all his moves point in a pro-change direction — and it simply defies belief that men appointed by the pope would have proposed departures on controversial issues without a sense that Francis would approve.

 He believes that the Pope can err unless opposed, and he fears a schism can occur if the Pope changes the teaching (see HERE)

I think his understanding of God’s role in all of this seems to be a defective one. If the Pope changes a teaching in such a way that it says that a sin is not a sin, or that public sinners may receive the Eucharist, this is a matter involving salvation—if the Pope teaches wrongly in this matter, it is something that will endanger the souls of many. If the Pope could do that, we could never trust a teaching of the Church. We could never know when the Church taught error and could never be sure we could trust a teaching.

But if this be true, then either the Catholic Church has misunderstood the meaning of Christ’s promises or it means Christ could not keep His promises. Either way, the Church teaching on same sex attraction would be the least of our worries because it means the Church already has taught gravely serious error.

So this is the precipice Mr. Douthat is standing in front of. He’s convinced that the Pope will choose wrongly unless he is challenged. Once you take that step it’s a long way down, because it makes you the arbiter of right and wrong and the judge of the Church. That way lies the dissension, rebellion and schism that he fears. Basically it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy brought on from wanting to avoid it.

But I believe Mr. Douthat grossly misreads the intent of Pope Francis. He is not a “hippy-dip” liberal. He has a record of writings and actions which show he has spent his time defending the Church teaching.

If you read what he has to say, in context, we see that he has always defended the Church teaching from those who would change things. Consider four years ago, (three years before he became Pope), then Cardinal Bergoglio took a stand leading the Church in Argentina against the attempts to legalize same-sex marriage. The article cites him as saying:

He wrote: “In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

Cardinal Bergoglio continued: “Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

These are not the words of a man who supports a change in Church teaching.

Mr. Douthat’s problem is not that he’s a false Catholic. I won’t accuse him of being a heretic or a schismatic. He seems very sincere in his faith, wanting to be obedient to the Church. The problem is that he sees things in one possible way, and that way is the belief that Pope Francis is what the liberals claim him to be.

As for myself, I don’t fear the catastrophes he does, and this is for two reasons:

  1. I believe that Jesus Christ is still watching over His Church (which is found in communion with the successor of St. Peter) and will not permit her to teach error.
  2. I believe Pope Francis loves God and loves the Church and is determined to be a good servant of Christ.

Because of that, I cannot accept his thesis. There may be a schism if certain Catholics are deceived into trusting their own wisdom over Christ’s and believe that the Church will teach error. But this won’t be the Pope’s fault. This will be the fault of those who lost their faith in Christ, and see the Church as a battleground of factions.

So, I keep praying for the Pope every day, and trust in God to give him the needed grace to serve faithfully.

Forget the role of Our Lord and Savior, and you put yourself on a precipice . . . the only way to avoid a fall is to get off the ledge.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Reflection on Factions "More Catholic Than the Pope."

24 Since we have heard that some of our number [who went out] without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, 25 we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts15:24–26).

(Preliminary Note. It’s easy to assume “Either A or B.” So I expect some readers might be tempted to think that I write this because I emphasize with “the other side.” That would be a mistake. I seek to be a faithful son of the Church and I believe that God will protect her from teaching error. I write about this sort of faction because it seems to be a greater threat to Catholics who seek to do what is right than the factions who falsely claim Church teaching can be disobeyed without sin. Please keep this in mind when reading.)

The Catholic blogosphere has been going berserk during the extraordinary synod, as I mentioned in past articles, but I think this is only a symptom of a larger problem afflicting the Catholics trying to be faithful. The problem is that a certain faction of these Catholics have confused the essence of the Church with the accidents (in the sense of a property of a thing that is not essential to its nature) of the Church. The assumption is this: This faction assumes that its preferences are part of the doctrine of the Church. When the preferences of this faction are changed by the Church, it is assumed that the Church is changing doctrine. 

This is a dangerous attitude to take however. It assumes that the Church can err, while this faction cannot err, when it comes to determining truth. It’s as if everything Our Lord had to say about the authority of the Church and the role of Peter was meaningless, or became void at a certain point in history (usually presumed to be Vatican II). They tend to be vague on exactly when, and or to what extent error exists—perhaps because if they were specific, they would reveal their own denial of Catholic doctrine.

If this faction kept to itself like a sect, they would only be a menace to itself. But the truth is, they give the appearance of being knowledgable, orthodox Catholics and there are many Catholics out there who want to live faithfully, but do not feel confident in their knowledge on how to live as a faithful Catholic. These Catholics look to this faction as a guide on how to practice the Catholic faith. The result is these seeking Catholics are deceived into thinking that the guidance from this faction is authentic Catholicism, when in fact it is Catholic belief mixed in with the preferences of their mentors.

They succeed because there are people out there who do distort doctrine and try to change teaching. There are people who are public sinners and seem to suffer no ill effects from the Church. It’s pretty easy to insinuate that the reason they don’t seem to suffer consequences because there must be “sympathy” for their position. Essentially the real dissent is used as a “guilt by association."

When you have such a distorted teaching, things tend to snowball. Every time the Church changes one of the practices, she is accused of being unfaithful to the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Before too long, you have a case where the teaching authority of the Pope and the bishops is seen as suspect and every time they make a decision, it is scrutinized for potential errors.

This is essentially the problem I am seeing with the conservative Catholics in the English speaking regions of the world. The magisterium is being judged by a faction that is politically conservative and tends to equate political conservatism with Catholic teaching. When the Church teaching seems to “deviate” from the politically conservative, she is accused of betraying Sacred Tradition.

The problem is, the Church has not changed her teaching, and has never betrayed the Scriptures nor Sacred Tradition. The Pope and bishops in communion with her have the authority to assess the Church teaching, making sure the teaching of Christ can be understood by each generation. So the authority and the responsibility falls on the magisterium. But, if the magisterium has the authority and responsibility, we have to trust that God has a role in preventing the Church from teaching error in matters pertaining to salvation. Otherwise, we could never know when the Church was teaching accurately and when she was not. For example, if Vatican II is considered suspect on whether it teaches error, we have no way of knowing that Vatican I or Trent was free of error.

Once you understand this, the reaction to Pope Francis becomes obvious. We had gotten used to two European Popes who were academics. They were very similar in style, and were very effective on teaching the what we were called to do and why. They were succeeded by a Pope from a different continent and experience. Pope Francis did not teach differently than St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He merely shifted the emphasis to acting . . . taking the teachings of his predecessors as a given.

3 popes one teachng

There’s nothing in Pope Francis’ documents on social justice that wasn’t found in the writings of his predecessors. It’s just that he has a different style of presentation.

Unfortunately, some people believe there is a break. In comparison to the public perception of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis is considered to be undignified. Because of course St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI never did anything undignified . . . 


Pope sombrero marc 2177327k

The difference between Pope Francis and his predecessors is really . . . nothing more than the fact that his style is slightly more blunt.

So, this is the issue with these factions. They are angry with the Church because they believe that the Church should behave differently than it does. They confuse their preferences with doctrine and end up suspecting the Pope of being a secret Marxist or a secret Modernist. They go out with no mandate from the Church and teach their preferences and suspicions as truth, and their error spreads to those who think they are correctly teaching the faith.

The thing to remember is, Christ has had strong warnings for those who do these things. 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’  Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others.  Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!  

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. (Matt 23:13–28)

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Insidious Poison of Rash Judgment

I follow many religious blogs. One thing that I find disturbing is the growing expectation that the Church under Pope Francis will take a wrong turn. Now, it's one thing to have opinions on ways of carrying out the Church teaching -- so long as it is done with respect and obedience to the successors of St. Peter and the Apostles.

However, it is quite a different matter when one places himself or herself as a judge over the teachings of the Church. That is, essentially, a vote of no confidence to the promises of Christ.

If Jesus is who we believe Him to be, then we can have faith that He will protect the Church under the Pope from teaching error in matters of faith and morals... even if branches of the Church should fall away.

Yes there have been times when we've had ineffectual or even bad popes. No, I don't think Pope Francis falls into these categories. But even when we did have such popes, they were protected from teaching error. Whenever there were divisions in the Church, our safety was in following the See of Peter. Not those in opposition to it.

So why are people thinking the Holy Spirit is on a coffee break during the pontificate of Pope Francis? Think about it... God protected His Church from even men like Alexander VI, John XII and Benedict IX. Pope Francis is certainly NOT a Pope like them. He is clearly a man who loves God and seeks to serve Him. Do you really think God will let him teach error?

I am inclined to think that the Pope is making them uncomfortable because he is hitting close to home. Yes, it's quite clear that the Church teaching is incompatible with modern liberalism. But Pope Francis is reminding them that conservatism is also incompatible -- that both political leanings fall short of what God commands us to do. Both political factions justify their positions as the right thing to do and demonize their opponents, but both have wrong ideas which we must reject.

Because following Christ isn't a matter of thinking "well I support A, B, and C and oppose D, E and F so I'm good enough." Following Christ covers the A-Z of our lives. I see Pope Francis reminding us of G-Z in our obligations. Our problem is we push everything into one of two categories, conservative and liberal. If anything sounds similar, we automatically categorize it as all-or-nothing supporting conservative or liberal agendas.

Now sometimes the Pope's "off the cuff" style may lead some to misinterpret what he said, or wrongly extrapolate on what they think this will mean. But we have an obligation to avoid rash judgment and calumny here:

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. (Catechism of the Catholic Church).

That means assuming that the Pope is some kind of leftist based on personal or media (which has proven to be untrustworthy) interpretation of his words is rash judgment and, if he spreads this view and leads others to believe it, they commit  calumny.

It's an insidious poison that seems to be afflicting some of those Catholics seeking to be faithful... The poison that makes them doubt the rock Jesus built His Church on.

Think about it the next time someone proclaims the Church is turning leftward or rightward.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thoughts on the Pope's Second Interview

Thus far, the mainstream media seems to pay little attention (as of yet) to the Pope's second interview -- probably because there wasn't much to misrepresent. A few commentators on the Internet seem to have missed the point however, either implying or accusing that the Pope is guilty of outright relativism.

That's understandable though. A few statements in there initially gave me a WTF? kind of reaction, almost looking as if the Pope took a relativist view of truth, when he said:

" Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place."

Rereading the interview, I don't think that is a correct interpretation.

What the Pope is talking about is that all individuals are obligated to seek out the truth. See, a lot of people take an argument from silence approach to conscience -- "I don't feel anything wrong so it must be OK."

But that isn't conscience. Conscience says "I must do X" or "I must not do Y." Conscience can be wrongly informed,  yes. But the erroneous conscience still commands the person who does not know better.

But too many people are willing to rationalize away their conscience out of fear, expedience, ambition or other reasons. But what if  Germans in Nazi Germany had heeded this when they were told to do evil?  What if the woman considering abortion listened to her conscience instead of her fear?

The Pope is speaking to an atheist, not to a practicing Catholic. The atheist does not have an understanding of the complete truth as Catholics do. He can't say, "listen to the Church," because they don't recognize the authority of the Church. But he can appeal to the conscience because that is at least a common point of reference.

But the thing is, conscience requires one to seek and follow the truth. The man or woman who does not seek out whether they err are doing wrong. The person who, through no fault of their own, does not realize the importance of Christianity won't be condemned for that. But he or she will be judged if they refuse to seek out what is true.

As Catholics we should understand this, and not bash the Pope for trying to help an atheist begin to see his obligations.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The American Bishops, Pius XII and their Detractors

I really don't write much any more to be sure.  My life has been more complicated these past few months.  That doesn't mean I'm not keeping up with what is going on in the world.  Mostly I lurk and pass links on to relatives and friends on Facebook to articles I think helps explain or exhort.  In doing this, I tend to catch the trends of the Catholic blogosphere.

Unfortunately, there is a trend arising among certain conservative Catholics taking issue with the response of the American Bishops towards the Obama administration's attack on religious freedom, and this trend is the claim that if the Bishops were serious they would have done more and continue to do more then they are.

The general thrust of this claim runs as follows:

  1. If the bishops were serious they would do [X].
  2. The bishops are not doing [X].
  3. Therefore the bishops are not serious.

[X] can be the excommunication of certain quisling Catholics in government or speaking out more from the ambo about what the Church really teaches.  The fact that the bishops do not appear to be doing these things is taken as grounds for criticism.

I've written on this before, and I believe the points I made are relevant here as well.

I believe both criticisms are wrong now, just as they were wrong in attacking the Bishops of New York back in July.

I think one of the problems here is the fact that these conservative Catholics are making the same attack on American Bishops that liberals made against Pope Pius XII during WWII.  That argument was that if Pius XII really [Opposed the Nazis, Wanted to save the Jews] he would [Excommunicate Hitler, Spoke publically denouncing the Nazis].  He didn't [Excommunicate Hitler, Speak publically denouncing the Nazis]. Therefore he didn't oppose the Nazis or want to save the Jews.

That's the kind of argument against Pope Pius XII that shows up in Hochhuth's play The Deputy and John Cornwell's book Hitler's Pope and gets repeated constantly despite evidence that the Pope was more interested in saving Jews than in rhetoric which would not only fail to accomplish something positive, but also probably accelerate greater levels of evil.

In other words, while excommunicating Hitler or denouncing the Nazis by name were one possible approach for Pope Pius XII to take, he chose a different approach – one that often required private communication and secrecy – to oppose Hitler and save Jews.  It would be wrong to claim that Pius XII was indifferent or pro-Nazi or ineffectual just because his plan of action did not match our approval.

I believe that this same error is being committed by those conservative Catholics who are belittling the efforts of our Bishops (every Catholic diocese in the US has condemned the Obama administration's action).

The problem is, these complaints are unjust.  Logically, they are the fallacy of Ignoratio Elenchi (irrelevant conclusion).  While one may prefer the bishops taking a hard, "**** You!" approach to the Obama administration and those quisling Catholics who support him, those arguments favoring such an approach do not in fact reach the conclusion that the bishops are doing nothing or not enough.

We really need to recognize that when it comes to barring from communion, it doesn't always work.  Kathleen Sebelius is already barred (since 2008) from receiving communion, and that seems to have no effect whatsoever on her acting in defiance of the Catholic faith she claims allegiance to.  Are we supposed to believe that excommunication is automatically going to change the minds of Pelosi or Biden or the Catholic senators who voted against religious freedom?  Might they not use it as propaganda to argue "Look!  The Bishops are trying to control the government!"?

Now I believe that canonical sanctions would be good as a warning to those Catholics in the government that they are endangering their immortal souls, but I do not believe that we can justly argue that because the bishops have not opted to take this route that they are failing in their task as bishops.

As for the speaking out accusation, can any informed Catholic claim that they do not know what the Catholic Church teaches on the issue of contraception?  Every bishop who leads a diocese has come out against the Obama administration.  They are speaking out publicly and to the government saying, "This is wrong."

Those Catholics who still employ contraception or vote in favor of contraception and abortion do not do so out of invincible ignorance, but out of defiance or out of laziness to discover the truth.  Did we not have Humanae VitaeVeritatis SplendorEvangelium Vitae?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church?

We have the continual witness of the Church, and the bishops are public with affirming the teaching of the Church.  Any Catholic can learn what the Church teaches with ease.  It is simply a matter of being willing to look.

So as Catholics, let us cease our useless murmuring about how everything would be fine if the bishops would only do [X].  Yes it is legitimate to favor certain approaches (so long as they are compatible with the Church).  But we must remember: Before claiming the bishops aren't doing "enough" we must ask ourselves whether we have the full knowledge to declare what we think should be done is automatically the only approach that can be taken.

Otherwise our treatment of the bishops become as ignorant as the attacks on Pope Pius XII.