Showing posts with label dialogue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dialogue. Show all posts

Monday, February 27, 2023

It’s Iimi! That Was… Unexpected

With Krysta in trouble, Kismetta going to Foothill for Arabic class, and Paula at a doctor’s appointment, Iimi is alone when Mike shows up looking to fight... or is it just to talk? Will it be the same old story? Or will people say, “That was… unexpected”

Post-Comic Notes:

We’re now seeing some results from when Mike sat in with the Socratic Club. If Mike seems less irritable than before, I don’t like caricatures. So, we’re seeing a little bit of what he’s like in a one-on-one discussion, getting hints from his past.

You may have noticed that the school exterior has a new model. That’s because I needed the ability to rotate and change angles. Besides, the stock Comipo art has a lower resolution than I need.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

It’s Iimi! Coffee Clash!

When Kismetta invited Iimi to hang out with Najiyah to talk over coffee, the two of them thought it would be a good chance for Iimi to get to know Najiyah on the personal level. But Najiyah brought her own

Agenda. How will the girls respond when an informal get together becomes a Coffee Clash?

Preliminary Note: Please remember, the intolerance of Najiyah Ayad is not intended to reflect all Muslims. She is like Saul as a Fundamentalist or Daryl as a Radical Traditionalist, assuming the worst of their opponents.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

It’s Iimi! Trust and Dialogue

When Pope Francis spoke to diplomats, he mentioned "Cancel Culture" (he used the English word) as one of the dangers of this time. He described the phenomenon as we know it in the west. It would be easy to think that "Only they do that but We do not," and conclude that We do not need to change.


The Problem with that kind of thinking is that the Pope's remedy is something we all should do but tend to neglect when we interact with others we disagree with: The Willingness to take part in... TRUST AND DIALOGUE.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

It’s Iimi: Maybe I Was Born A Tree, Because I Will Dialogue

The encyclical Fratelli Tutti has been released and Iimi-tan is bombarded with questions about it. The objections leveled against the Pope in this comic we’re all ones I personally encountered on Facebook. What irritates Iimi-tan (and me) is that the complaints not only show that the critic didn’t read it (or read it very superficially), but that the critic doesn’t understand the actual Catholic teaching.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Obligation to Understand is a Two-Way Street

When the seven days were nearly completed, the Jews from the province of Asia noticed him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd, and laid hands on him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us. This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place, and what is more, he has even brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this sacred place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him and supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. The whole city was in turmoil with people rushing together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the gates were closed. (Acts 21:27–30)

In our factionalized nation, the question of “how do we change something?” too often overlooks the question of are the demands unjust? If the demand is unjust, then it is wrong to make the demand and wrong to give into it. However, just because a demand is unjust does not mean the underlying need behind it is unjust. For example, the demand for abortion as a “right” is unjust, and we cannot compromise over opposition. But there is a legitimate need behind the demand—proper health care and support for pregnant women and families—that must be met.

We can approach it the other way too. In these times, there is a legitimate need to correct racial injustices have existed for far too long. But not every demand that comes from this need is just. For example, the demands to remove or destroy religious imagery on the grounds that they symbolize some sort of injustice in the eyes of the mob is an unjust demand. Unlike many Confederate monuments and symbols, Catholics don’t have religious monuments erected as a way of saying “@#$% you!” to certain groups of people. Statues to St. Junipero Serra and St. Louis IX (both targeted by mobs) exist to honor saints for their examples of holiness.

Similar to the passage from Acts, cited above, people react to what they think they know and the result is often injustice.

Of course, we as Catholics, can’t say “I neither understand nor care to understand your concern.” But in this crisis, I don’t think that our Catholic leaders are doing this. I believe our bishops have issued a strong witness against racial injustice not only after the George Floyd case, but actually before. Do individual Catholics sometimes say shocking things? Yes, tragically. But when they do so, they are not acting with the approval of the Church.

I think this is an important distinction to make. We are (rightly) reminded that the extremists in a group does not automatically mean the group as a whole is extremist. To assume otherwise is the fallacy of composition. But that’s a two-way street. The Catholic Church has sometimes been slow to get the news of injustice, especially in the days before modern technology, but she has never sided with those who defend what is morally wrong. For example, we recognize St. Bartolom√© de las Casas as a saint for his work defending the moral treatment of slaves and Native Americans, but we don’t praise those who defended the wrongdoing. We recognize that the Church condemned racial slavery from the first appearance—before Europeans first encountered the Americas to be precise—when Eugene IV condemned the Portuguese enslaving the natives of the Canary Islands in 1435, saying:

And no less do We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands, and made captives since the time of their capture, and who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free, and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of money. If this is not done when the fifteen days have passed, they incur the sentence of excommunication by the act itself, from which they cannot be absolved, except at the point of death, even by the Holy See, or by any Spanish bishop, or by the aforementioned Ferdinand, unless they have first given freedom to these captive persons and restored their goods. We will that like sentence of excommunication be incurred by one and all who attempt to capture, sell, or subject to slavery, baptized residents of the Canary Islands, or those who are freely seeking Baptism, from which excommunication cannot be absolved except as was stated above.

This is not the language of supporting slavery. It is language showing that since the onset of the racial slave trade, the Church has condemned it… but lacked the ability to make godless men care about their evils§. They could only try to convert those men.

I suspect the demagogues and their mobs know nothing about the true history of the Church in facing certain evils. If that ignorance was invincible (having no way of being corrected), they could be without blame for wrongly thinking that what they did was right. But if they could have known if they took the trouble to look (cf. Gaudium et Spes #16), then acting out of ignorance is not excused.

For our part, we as Catholics in the pews do need to help in spreading the truth about what we believe to correct those who have a false belief about us. So, yes, we do need to look at ourselves and see if we have failed. That can be individually or as a whole—including ourselves. But let’s not use “we” in the sense of “everybody else” when we say “We Catholics have failed to do X.” It may turn out that we are allowing our own preferences about what we would prefer the Church to do to become an indictment of the Church for something she is not guilty of.

But often, we have been denied the chance to demonstrate what we do believe. Falsehoods dating back to the Protestant Reformation are still believed. Our moral beliefs are treated as bigotry, and our attempts to engage the world are sometimes treated as “explaining away” what they think is fact. In that case, we no longer have the two-way street of dialogue. We have “shut up and listen,” where we are given an ultimatum to concede whatever is demanded or be labeled “bigoted” or “anti-woman” or any other false accusation they care to throw at us.

As human beings, every person who is a member of the Church is a sinner who continually has a need to repent and turn back to God. So of course, anybody looking for dirt on a member of the Church will find it (I’m certainly glad my “young and stupid” days preceded the internet, for example). But we can’t assume that the behavior of some is the behavior of all; we can’t assume that a past attitude is carried on today; we can’t assume that what we think words mean is what is actually intended.

And if we in the Church can’t, neither can those who attack us. That’s the two-way street that’s being ignored.



(†) I make this qualification because, if I understand it correctly, at least one statue exists (or perhaps existed) that honored a former Confederate officer for his charitable work done after the Civil War. This is different from the defiant erection of certain statues because of their actions supporting succession.

(‡) The arguments used by Catholic slave owners in the Pre-Civil War United States used arguments that are remarkably similar to those used by pro-abortion Catholics today… a dishonest legalism that attempted to twist the meaning of words.

(§) This wasn’t a one-time thing either. Saints like Bartolom√© de las Casas and others would refuse absolution to the inhumane slave owners. But like the abortion issue today, when people don’t care about the consequences of automatic excommunication, The Church can’t really do anything to physically impose their will.

Friday, September 20, 2019

On the Need For Dialogue

Therefore, let us not be provoked with these men, let us not use anger as an excuse, but let us talk with them gently and with kindness. Nothing is more forceful and effective than treatment which is gentle and kind. This is why Paul told us to hold fast to such conduct with all the earnestness of our hearts when he said: “The servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome but must be kindly toward all.” He did not say “only to your brothers,” but “toward all.” And again, when he said: “Let your gentleness be known,” he did not say “to your brothers,” but “to all men.” What good does it do you, he means, if you love those who love you? 

(St. John Chrysostom, On the Incomprehensible Nature of God. Homily 1.40)

While doing the somewhat irritating task of studying non-Catholic Christian theologies, I came across this “interesting” claim from an Eastern Orthodox professor about what Catholics supposedly believe:

A natural consequence of this is the attempt of Roman Catholics to dematerialize as much as possible the offered gifts of the Eucharist, since they represent symbolically the completed transubstantiation. The bread of the Eucharist is not the everyday bread of people; they have replaced it with “hosts”, an unleavened, almost transparent preparation. And they deprive the laity of sharing in the cup, because the taste of the wine is dangerously opposed to the idea of transubstantiation. (Yannaris, Christos. Elements of Faith: An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith)

To which, the informed Catholic is tempted to respond in this manner:

The reason we are tempted respond this way (and the reason I call studying non-Catholic theology “irritating”) is because the author of the book is either grossly ignorant or deliberately deceptive about what Catholics believe to the point of being insulting.

In doing so, he invented a ridiculous reason to explain why we “believe” something so foolish. But Catholic belief on Transubstantiation does not have anything to do with what Professor Yannaris falsely claims we believe.

[Excursus: Before going forward, I want to make something clear. When I say these writings—described or quotedin this article—speak falsely or falsehoods about us, it doesn’t mean that I automatically accuse them of deliberately lying. I leave it to God to judge whether they who speak falsely lied or simply erred. Rather, based on Aristotle’s definition of truth, the person who says of what is, that it is not, or says of what is not, that it is, speaks falsely. All lies are falsehoods, but not all falsehoods are lies. A lie is when a person knowingly says what is false. But a person who believes a falsehood is true or repeats it without investigating whether or not it is true does not lie, but still speaks falsely. Whatever their culpability, because Catholics do not believe what they accuse us of, these claims should be rejected as false by all people of good will.]

We have the same problems when modern anti-Catholics repeat the falsehoods of Luther, Calvin, and others. They speak falsely about what we believe, take Scripture and Patristics out of context [¥], and invent a false motive for why we “believe” them. It seems like a huge poisoning the well fallacy used to turn the reader against considering the Catholic perspective before they ever encounter it. 

For example, Calvin’s misrepresentation of Catholic concepts of repentance as external works (for example, Insitutes of the Christian Religion Book III Chapter 4) and his claims of what we believe about Confession are plain and simple falsehoods, misquoting people like St. Thomas Aquinas to make it seem as if the Catholic Church invented doctrines, either ignoring or being ignorant of the fact that the Saint anticipated and answered his objections 300 years previously.

Ironically, Luther was quite angry at those who dared to misrepresent him. In his introduction to the Smalcald Articles [€] he writes (The Annotated Luther, volume 2, p. 425):

I must tell a story. A doctor sent from France was here in Wittenberg. He stated publicly in our presence that his king was persuaded beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was no church, no government, and no marriage among us, but rather that everyone carried on with each other like cattle, and all did what they wanted. Now imagine, how will those people, who in their writings have represented as pure truth such gross lies to the king and to other countries, face us on that day before the judgment seat of Christ? Christ, the Lord and Judge of us all, surely knows that they lie and have lied. They will have to hear his judgment again; that I know for sure.

Yet, he and Calvin did exactly that with Catholic teachings. Luther was correct in saying that those speaking falsely would be judged. But he apparently didn’t ask questions about whether what he said was true. As Our Lord said in Matthew 7:2, For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

Unfortunately, some Catholics are guilty of doing what anti-Catholics do to us. Some are perfectly willing to yank quotes out of context and repeat things as truth without investigating whether they were actually said or what they meant. Then there’s the Catholics who commit the same calumny against Muslims that 19th and 20th century Americans used against us [*]. If it’s wrong for non-Catholics to misrepresent us, then logically we must not misrepresent them either. As the Catechism points out:

2464 The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth. Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant.

I think this is where the oft maligned concept of dialogue comes into play. Dialogue is not a stealth attempt to make the Catholic Church “Protestant” (a popular charge from the anti-Vatican II crowd). Dialogue [#] is “discussion directed towards exploration of a subject or resolution of a problem” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). The Catholic Church enters discussion with other groups to eliminate misunderstandings and resolve needless religious conflicts with the aim of working to restore communion. The Code of Canon Law makes this obligation clear:

can. 755 §1.† It is above all for the entire college of bishops and the Apostolic See to foster and direct among Catholics the ecumenical movement whose purpose is the restoration among all Christians of the unity which the Church is bound to promote by the will of Christ.

That doesn’t mean all problems will vanish once everyone understands what we believe and why. There will cases where the accurately understood beliefs of those involved in dialogue will conflict with each other. For example, the Catholic Church professes: “We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men” (Dignitatis Humanae #1) and “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved” (Lumen Gentium #14). So, Catholics cannot say that we have “part of” the truth and the “whole” will only be found in coming together.

This is obviously going to be a stumbling block. Faithful Catholics cannot deny these teachings or try to undermine them [^], while those who believe that the Catholic Church is in error and think that dialogue means we want them to embrace error will be scandalized. Many Christian denominations and non-Christian religions think we’re arrogant to make the claim that the fullness of truth is found in the Catholic Church. At the same time, those Catholics who either don’t know or don’t believe that Vatican II reaffirms the past teachings about her nature fear we're going to “give away the store.” If we’re going to avoid needless conflict and perhaps close gaps between us, we need to make sure that all parties involved understand what the others believe and why, even if we disagree afterwards. As St. John Paul II put it during his June 26, 1985 audience: “On our part we shall make our entire commitment of prayer and of work for unity, by seeking the ways of truth in charity.”

But that unity can only happen if we [§] talk to each other instead of at each other; if we strive to understand what the other parties believe and why, instead of merely inserting our own meaning into something we don’t understand. That’s why the Church takes part in dialogue. And that’s why we must not treat it as some sort of “capitulation to error” when we take part. Because if the Church doesn’t take part, how will those who accuse us learn that their charges against us are false? And if they never learn that their charges are false, how can we hope to restore communion?


[¥] Reading Luther’s The Babylonian Captivity, I am struck by how brazenly he makes ipse dixit, argument from silence, and begging the question fallacies in claiming that the Scriptures that contradict him don’t count (e.g. “In the first place the sixth chapter of John must be entirely excluded from this discussion, since it does not refer to the sacrament in a single syllable” The Annotated Luther vol 3, p. 21) when it is precisely his assertions that need to be proven in the first place.

[€] The accusations in the Smalcald Articles are so bizarre that I find myself wondering just how bad Luther’s priestly formation was in his monastery that he could possibly believe the Church taught these things. If he wasn’t knowingly distorting things to justify his schism, it certainly explains why the Council of Trent insisted on a reform of priestly formation.

[*] No, they didn’t worry about a Catholic al-qaida. But they did worry about Al Capone.

[#] Technically, dialogue between different groups of Christians is “ecumenism.” Dialogue with non-Christians is “religious dialogue.”

[^] To make it clear to those who might misunderstand me, I fully believe and profess these things that the Church teaches.

[§] When I say “we,” I don’t mean individual Catholics should decide for themselves what the “real truth” is, ignoring what the Church teaches. The Church wisely warns against casual and uncritical reading of works hostile to the Church to prevent people from making a shipwreck of their faith. Too many think that if they don’t know an answer to a challenge, that means there is no answer. I suspect that many ex-Catholics are in this category.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Marching For Whatever You Already Support

What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"
(Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth)


This past weekend we saw a March For Our Lives over gun violence in our nation. Youth and their supporters marched for an end to school shootings. Unfortunately, the March and the reactions to it confirm one tragic fact about America—most people have already made up their minds about what it all means and anyone who disagrees is considered a tool or a willing accomplice of all that is evil. Whoever disagrees is a terrible person who doesn’t care about children dying or having a dictatorship (choose whichever fits your own narrative.

I, like everyone else, have opinions about the March and what is right and wrong. But I don’t intend to discuss my views in this blog—I see the purpose of my blogging as urging people to follow the teaching of the Church, not to argue that my preferences are Church teaching. Trying to interject my personal political views into this would be counterproductive.

Three Questions Everyone Must Ask

As I see it, a Catholic view of any political protest requires us to ask three questions:
  1. What is it that is being opposed?
  2. What is proposed to replace it?
  3. Is the assessment of what is condemned and the proposed solution just?
In my experience, people are very vocal about #1, rather vague about #2, and almost never answer #3. It’s easy to rail against what you dislike, but proposals to replace it tend to be reduced to platitudes about previously held beliefs (in this case “ban guns” vs. “right to self defense”). Almost nobody seems to ask whether there are problems with their solutions that must be addressed; almost nobody asks whether their treatment of the other side is calumny or rash judgment.

The result is nobody is dialoguing about what should be done. Where did existing laws fail to work? Where did laws conflict with each other? Where were laws absent? This is where we should start. We should be asking where laws need to be better enforced, reformed, or created. Instead we have people either saying “we need no new laws” or “we must make laws” without showing that the position will actually make a more just society. Each side just assumes their side is reasonable and never addresses concerns. Dialogue is replaced by ad hominem arguments and personal attacks.

Everybody is angry that things are the way they are. Everybody wants things to change. But nobody is willing to ask if they need to change for the good of others.

Now Let’s Apply This Generally

At this point I should reveal my “bait and switch.” I mentioned the March For Our Lives because it is recent and controversial. But every problem I mentioned above is found in every demonstration. It’s hard to see it when it is a demonstration we approve of. For example, as a Catholic I fully support the annual March For Life that happens on the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade. But I do acknowledge that it’s easy to downplay legitimate fears. We can never compromise on the fact that abortion is intrinsically evil. But I do notice that the articles that address the fears of the other side are fewer than the moral outrage articles [†]. Even though we must reject any solution that accepts abortion as a “right,” we do need to address the fears that lead some to think that they “need” a right to abortion.

In every issue where people are divided, we must ask what is true among the claims and what must be done about the concerns. That doesn’t mean a fallacy of compromise however. If I claim you owe me $50,000 and you say you owe me nothing, the just solution is not you paying me $25,000. If I speak truthfully, then you do owe me $50,000 and splitting it in half is an injustice. But if I speak falsely and you owe me nothing then it would be unjust to make you pay at all.

So we cannot compromise on the Christian obligation to seek out and follow what is true and right. But we cannot ignore legitimate concerns either—even if we cannot accept intrinsically evil or unjustly applied solutions. This means we have to evaluate our political views in light of Church teaching, rejecting whatever contradicts it. But we can’t just write off legitimate concerns that lead people to false conclusions or legitimate conclusions we disagree with.

The Example of Pope Pius XI

For example, in 1937, Pope Pius XI wrote a scathing encyclical on Atheistic Communism (Divini Redemptoris). He showed why it was incompatible with Christianity. But, after doing that, he then said we had to ask why people were turning to it as an option. He wrote:

38. It may be said in all truth that the Church, like Christ, goes through the centuries doing good to all. There would be today neither Socialism nor Communism if the rulers of the nations had not scorned the teachings and maternal warnings of the Church. On the bases of liberalism and laicism they wished to build other social edifices which, powerful and imposing as they seemed at first, all too soon revealed the weakness of their foundations, and today are crumbling one after another before our eyes, as everything must crumble that is not grounded on the one corner stone which is Christ Jesus. 

39. This, Venerable Brethren, is the doctrine of the Church, which alone in the social as in all other fields can offer real light and assure salvation in the face of Communistic ideology. But this doctrine must be consistently reduced to practice in every-day life, according to the admonition of St. .James the Apostle: "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."[21] The most urgent need of the present day is therefore the energetic and timely application of remedies which will effectively ward off the catastrophe that daily grows more threatening. We cherish the firm hope that the fanaticism with which the sons of darkness work day and night at their materialistic and atheistic propaganda will at least serve the holy purpose of stimulating the sons of light to a like and even greater zeal for the honor of the Divine Majesty.

In other words, it’s not enough to just point to the Church teaching. It has to be lived. Whether we are heading off useless arguments over the best ways to apply Christian teaching or whether we are opposing error, we have to live out the compassion and love that forms our faith. That means we can’t just say, “I disagree, so to hell with you!” The Church didn’t just condemn communism. She said we must live the truth in response. Likewise, it’s not enough to just condemn abortion. We have to work to make it unnecessary as well as unthinkable. Nor is it enough to merely condemn guns or emphasize the right to self defense. We have to work on identifying and eliminating what makes us unsafe.

Applying Our Faith

Of course the existence of sin and concupiscence means we will never eliminate these things on our own. There will always be someone who chooses to do evil by whatever means he or she can find.  Some of them may even deceive themselves into thinking they are doing good. Others will twist arguments to make it appear they are promoting good. Some may even try to say the Church should keep out of what they label “political issues.” But the Church rejects that view. In Vatican II (Apostolicam Actuositatem), we are told:

5. Christ’s redemptive work, while essentially concerned with the salvation of men, includes also the renewal of the whole temporal order. Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to men but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. In fulfilling this mission of the Church, the Christian laity exercise their apostolate both in the Church and in the world, in both the spiritual and the temporal orders. These orders, although distinct, are so connected in the singular plan of God that He Himself intends to raise up the whole world again in Christ and to make it a new creation, initially on earth and completely on the last day. In both orders the layman, being simultaneously a believer and a citizen, should be continuously led by the same Christian conscience.

We can’t divide the world into “holy and secular” and treat it as if the Church has no place in the latter. In seeking to make the world a better place, we have to live our Christian beliefs and temper our political views so they are modified by our faith. We can’t just demonize and condemn. Nor can we say “I don’t care about your concerns.” We have to provide Christian solutions to the real fears of others—even if we cannot accept their solutions. And, if we can’t accept their solutions on account of our moral obligations, we must work to show them a better way: in love and not like “Now look you stupid jerk!”

No doubt we will be rejected by many. But we must remember that the saints also encountered such hatred (and, in the case of martyrs, encountered worse) in converting the nations. They didn’t give up, even though conversion of a nation took centuries. We shouldn’t give up either. America needs conversion. But we should make sure that where there is intrinsic evil, we teach in love why we must reject it, and where there is dispute over political solutions we must have the willingness to investigate where the true and just solutions lie, and not just demand that whoever does not embrace our politics embraces evil by default.


[†] It is a lie to say that pro-lifers “don’t care” about these other issues, however.