Showing posts with label dishonesty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dishonesty. Show all posts

Thursday, August 27, 2020

What Happens When Catholic Voters Are Dishonest?

CAN. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

CAN. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

CAN. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

CAN. 754† All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and to proscribe erroneous opinions, particularly those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops puts forth.

Over the past two weeks, the USCCB have issued statements on different moral teachings… abortion, the death penalty, the treatment of migrants, religious freedom and the like. Right on the heels of the Democratic and Republic Conventions, these statements seem aimed at reminding American Catholics about what the Church requires of them.

And, right on schedule, American Catholics come out of the woodwork to denounce those statements, claiming they are ignoring (often they accuse of the Bishops of deliberately ignoring) other issues that these critics think is more important. When the bishops condemn abortion, those Catholics planning to vote for a pro-abortion candidate accuse them of ignoring the other teachings. When they condemn the death penalty, those Catholics who plan to vote for a candidate who supports it accuse the bishops of ignoring abortion… which they just spoke about the day previously.

When this happens, it is hard to avoid wondering if a portion of these Catholic voters are either culpably ignorant or outright dishonest§. By saying this, I don’t mean dishonest in the sense of “not believing in God.” Rather I mean dishonest in the sense of not honestly seeking to examine one’s conscience and see if their behavior is against what Catholics are called to be.

I have seen some Catholics proclaim to be faithful while refusing to give assent to the Pope (that’s dissent at best, if not de facto schism). I’ve seen others proclaim to be “Pope Francis Catholics” while being openly contemptuous of the bishops who repeat his teachings. More often than not, you can tell which of them plan to vote Democrat and which plan to vote Republican while claiming to be the only Catholics to follow the Church correctly. Catholics of these factional views try to claim their political views are doctrine, while doctrine their party is afoul of is “opinion” or “prudential judgement.

We need to remember that Jesus Christ has established the Catholic Church under the visible head of St. Peter and his successors—up to and including the current Pope—and the bishops in communion with him. If an individual bishop or a group of bishops act against that communion, they do not act with any authority. But when a bishop teaches, we are bound to give “to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops” (Canon 753).

This is where we run into the dishonesty test. If a Catholic who, upon being instructed by the Pope or his bishop on a certain matter, immediately searches for reasons not to obey… such a Catholic is not being honest. He is guilty of what Our Lord condemned in the attitude of the Pharisees, looking for legalistic excuses not to follow God’s teachings and there are consequences for that attitude (cf. Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16).

Whether the Pope or bishop speaks out on an intrinsic evil like abortion, or a morally neutral act carried out with evil intention or consequence, we don’t get to decide whether to obey or not. Either we obey or we are not faithful Catholics… no matter how hard we politically fight those we see as enemies of the Church.

It should be noted that such prohibitions are not limited to matters of dogma. The Church can also bind in matters of discipline and governance. For example, there was never anything evil about eating meat. But the Church decreed for centuries that we must not eat meat on Fridays as an act of penance. Those Catholics who did eat meat on Fridays were not guilty of sin simply because they ate meat, but because they refused to accept the penitential discipline laid down. These acts of governance can be changed as needed. But we don’t get to pass judgment on those acts of governance and decide whether or not we will follow them.

This is where every Catholic needs to look at their behavior. If the response to the authoritative act of Pope or bishops is to look for ways to evade that obligation, we are being dishonest. If we point out the sins of others who we politically oppose while doing the same thing, we are being dishonest.

And if we are dishonest, we are not giving the obligatory assent. Once we start down that road, we will end up facing judgment for it. If we are unrepentant in our disobedience, we do risk hell. That is the end result of being dishonest with ourselves. And if (God forbid!) we face that judgment for not keeping God’s commands, the things we did do will be of no avail. As Our Lord, Jesus Christ said:

“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. 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?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:21–23).

…and we will have no honest excuse if we do not give the obedience God commands us to give to His Church.


(§) This is of course something for God to judge and the individual Catholic’s confessor to assess. I will not “name names” or accuse individuals of being guilty. All I hope to do is get people to think about it.

(†) I hate this term. Not because of any hostility to the Pope, but because virtually all of the Catholics I have encountered who use it hijack it to cover their political views which are actually in opposition to what the Pope has said.

(‡) I’ve discussed that HERE.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Non Serviam, 2017 Style?

A troubling trend that shows political ideology leading to dissent from Church teaching is not limited to one faction is the contempt directed against the Pope and bishops over their reaffirmation of the Catholic moral obligation to help the immigrant and the refugee. Instead of listening to those entrusted with binding and loosing, we’re seeing some Catholics respond as if they were patronizingly speaking to a grossly uneducated person giving an unwelcome opinion. The bishops get lectures on what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote and what the Catechism says about the right of governments to make decisions on these matters. But the bishops are not offering their personal opinions here. They are citing Church teaching to say that the disputed policy does not fulfill our obligation to help those in need. Since they are teaching, then we are bound to listen…

can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.


Code of Canon Law: New English Translation (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1998), 247.

What we are seeing is a continuation of the old American Catholic antics where factions within the Church treat Church teaching as a biased and uninformed opinion “proving” the bishops must be “liberal.” Ironically, this faction spent the last 8 years denouncing another faction within the Church which accused the bishops as being “the Republican Party at Prayer” because they reaffirmed the Catholic teaching on life and sexual morality.

It leads me to ponder this point—what kind of witness to we leave when we condemn others for not following Church teaching while refusing to follow it ourselves when it goes against our political beliefs? It is one thing to (charitably) disagree among ourselves on the best way to follow Church teaching when the Church teaches, “We must do X; we must not do Y.” But when the bishops reaffirm that a political policy goes against the prohibition on doing Y, supporting Y is not a difference of opinion but a rejection of the authority of the Church—and Our Lord is quite clear that this rejection is a rejection of Him (Luke 10:16, Matthew 18:17-18).

If we follow Church teaching only when it matches what we want to do anyway, rejecting it when it doesn’t, we are not obeying the Church and following God. Instead, we’re proclaiming to the world that Church teaching is a matter of convenience—obey when it was what you were going to do anyway, and ignore it without consequences when it is not. When we do this, we’re behaving like any other “personally oppose but…” Catholic out there, forgetting that John 14:15 and Matthew 7:21-23 are directed at us, not just “other people.”

This is not a call for us to be mindless sheep, doing whatever we are told regardless of whether it is right or wrong. This is about recognizing who has the final say in determining how Church teaching applies to the situations of our times. It’s about recognizing that we’re not just called to be Christians when it is convenient and leaving it behind when it is not. The magisterium has the authority to determine when a behavior or a belief is compatible with what God calls us to be. The Church doesn’t demand we support a certain political party, or agree with a certain program. But she does tell us that when a state, a party, a program, or a person does evil or supports it, we cannot give our consent to it while claiming it is compatible with our faith.

When we say, “The Church is wrong on X,” we are refusing to obey the One who gave the Church her authority. If we happen to agree with the Church 99% of the time but still insist on choosing when we will or will not obey, we are giving the same non serviam (“I will not serve”) the devil gave to God. This is true regardless of whether our dissent is based on politics or on religious preference.

We need to remember that when we profess to be Christians, but refuse to follow the Church Our Lord established, we are in danger of hearing at the Final Judgment: ”I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:23b)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dissent Masquerading as Conscience

People seem to think conscience is how we feel about something. If we like something, it is not a violation of our conscience. If we dislike it, we believe it goes against conscience. From there, anyone who tries to make a moral judgment of an act is accused of “violating a person’s conscience.” That’s a false understanding though. Conscience isn’t a feeling or a preference. A feeling says “I feel fine about this.” Conscience says, “You must not do that.” In fact, conscience often compels us to go against what we want to do and tells us what we must do. The Catechism describes conscience as:

1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law: (1749)

Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise.… [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.

When conscience tells us something is morally wrong, we cannot disobey our conscience and perform that act. But that being said, conscience is not an infallible guide. Whether through (among other things) ignorance, cultural blind spot, or falling into vicious habit, we can become deaf to the call of conscience or even wind up thinking evil is good. The person who, through no fault of their own, is ignorant about some moral truth (called invincible ignorance), does not sin in following a conscience in error. But if a person could learn if they bothered to look does not have this excuse and has some level of guilt for their actions. As Gaudium et Spes #16 tells us:

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

As Catholics, we need to remember we do not have the excuse of invincible ignorance. We profess that the Catholic Church was founded by Our Lord who gave her the authority to teach in his name. We believe that she shows us how to truly live the Christian life (Matthew 28:20). If we do not avail ourselves of this gift from Our Lord, we are without excuse for the wrong we do. As Lumen Gentium #13 tells us,

They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.

What this means is, when the Church teaches how we need to live, we cannot appeal to conscience against the magisterium. We measure the formation of our conscience against the teaching of the Church, not the teaching of the Church against our conscience. When a bishop speaks out on the morality of a subject, he is not violating our conscience if it makes us feel uncomfortable. If he’s making us feel uncomfortable, perhaps he is awakening an awareness of where we have gone lax. But as Catholics we believe those who lead the Church have the authority and responsibility to speak out, as the Catechism teaches:

2032 The Church, the “pillar and bulwark of the truth,” “has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving truth.” “To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls.”


2033 The Magisterium of the Pastors of the Church in moral matters is ordinarily exercised in catechesis and preaching, with the help of the works of theologians and spiritual authors. Thus from generation to generation, under the aegis and vigilance of the pastors, the “deposit” of Christian moral teaching has been handed on, a deposit composed of a characteristic body of rules, commandments, and virtues proceeding from faith in Christ and animated by charity. Alongside the Creed and the Our Father, the basis for this catechesis has traditionally been the Decalogue which sets out the principles of moral life valid for all men.

2034 The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are “authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.” The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.

So, to argue that those entrusted with forming our consciences are violating them, because they teach that X is wrong, is to speak dissent as well as nonsense. 

Even if a bishop should speak with a lack of charity or gentleness in his teaching (as opposed to the person in the wrong being offended), this does not take away from his teaching office. Of course the bishop or priest should be careful not to discourage the sinner when he speaks out against the sin, but harsh words do not change truth into falsehood. Remember, we’re not talking about priests or bishops teaching heresy or other dissent. We’re talking about teaching what we are bound to believe.

[Edit: Reader Colin Leicht made a good point on Facebook that bears addressing. A bishop or priest who, on account of fearing to hurt our feelings, avoided teaching the truth would be preventing us from forming our conscience properly.]

But what if he does not speak as a bishop? It happens at times. Archbishop Chaput recently wrote on the sorry plight of this election, speaking it as “thoughts from a brother in the faith, not as teachings from an archbishop.” In such a case, he makes clear that he is not making a binding teaching, but speaking just as a fellow Catholic. Even here, we should treat the bishop’s words with respect, recognizing his personal learning and the personal grace provided him by God. In doing so, he explains the problems we should think about and we would be foolish not to consider what he says. I won’t put what he says on par with a teaching from the Pope. But I find his words helpful all the same.

Because the Church forms our conscience properly, we cannot claim conscience as an excuse to disobey the teaching authority of the Church. When the bishop teaches in communion with the Pope and says “X is a sin,” Catholics cannot accuse him of violating conscience with their teaching. If we find that what our feelings and preferences tell us go against Church teaching, that is a sign that our own conscience is malformed and needs to be corrected.

Monday, August 3, 2015


15 Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech. 16 They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. 17 Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” 18 Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. 20 He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” 21 They replied, “Caesar’s.”* At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 22 When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away. (Matthew 22:15-22)

A popular attack today in response to Christian moral teaching making inroads against the worldly view is to take an aspect of the Christian message, give it a personal interpretation, and then label Christians who do not believe that personal interpretation to be valid as hypocrites. This is how we see the citation of Pope Francis’ saying “Who am I to judge?” being (wrongly) interpreted and thrown in the face of Catholics (like the US Bishops) who oppose “same sex marriage.” We see Matthew 7:1 being thrown at Christians who say an action is morally wrong, accusing them of being judgmental.

The tactic is popular because they give a soundbite that sounds convincing to the uninformed or misinformed person and seems to "put Christians in their place,” (a popular comment on Facebook). But the problem is, nobody bothers to question whether the personal interpretation is true. After all, it is only if the interpretation is true that one can justly accuse Christians of hypocrisy on the issue.

Once we recognize this, it becomes obvious that the personal interpretation cannot be an objective standard for assessing the truth. There are simply too many contradictory “personal interpretations” out there and in a contradiction, both positions cannot be true. The correct interpretation corresponds with the intended teaching. If the intended teaching is, “X is a sin,” the personal interpretation that “X is not a sin” must logically be false. So, when a person seeks to cite Scripture, Church teaching or a statement by the Pope to entrap a Christian in a complex question, the first question must be, “Is this personal interpretation accurate?” If it is not, it is just a cheap soundbite which leaves us with the tedious task of explaining why the argument is false and trying to explain the truth while being accused of “explaining away challenges."

So, when someone throws Matthew 7:1 at us, throws “Who am I to judge?” at us or if Joan Chittister or her cronies throw Catholic Social teaching at us, the person of good will has to ask, “Is this being cited in context? Is it being used accurately?"

Actually, in Matthew 7:1, we know it is not because in the very same chapter, Jesus did judge behavior—the parable of pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6), the Narrow Gate (Matthew 7:13-14), the False Prophets (Matthew 7:15-20) and so on. Jesus condemns judgment that says “This person is beyond redemption.” But He did command that we choose good, reject evil and teach the nations to live according to His will (Matthew 28:19-20).

Likewise, when Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” is used, a reading of the transcript will show he was speaking about an individual who was reported to have a notorious past but had since repented. Likewise the dredged up Joan Chittister quote, because the Church recognizes there can be many ways of carrying out the Church’s pro-life mission, and we are not all bound to one tactic. But, no matter how many taxes one supports, nothing can be considered “truly pro-life” that supports abortion as a right.

Once we recognize the fact that the interpretation can only be accurate when it corresponds with reality, we have to ask, “Who has the authority to determine what interpretation of Scripture, Church teaching or Papal quote is authentic and which is not?” For the Catholic, we believe that the Pope and the bishops in communion with him have been given that responsibility and authority from Our Lord.

Certainly a person can reject the authority of the Church—not in the sense of “rightly reject,” but in the sense that Cardinal Ximenez and company won’t show up at their door...

…but the fact that such dissenters reject the authority of the Church does not make their view true. Such a person has to prove that their alternate view corresponds with reality. Unfortunately, they never do. So the person of good will has to investigate such cheap shot soundbites and see if the “gotcha” is actually valid. Such a person needs to realize that speculation is not the same thing as an authoritative source of what the Church believes.

Friday, February 6, 2015

TFTD: How Dare Those Catholics Require Catholic Schools to Act Catholic?

Hypocrisy Much

The intolerant often have a way of appearing reasonable. They appeal to some sort of value that they think everyone should agree with, frame the debate in this way, and then treat everyone who disagrees with their premises as being the hate filled ones. That’s the case in the editorial "Catholic Church infringing on personal lives | Guest Columns | San Francisco | San Francisco Examiner.” The allegation is Archbishop Cordlileone of San Francisco is infringing on the rights of individuals by insisting that people who serve in Catholic run institutions actually support (or at least not publicly oppose) the Church teaching to avoid misleading students about what is right and wrong. That’s entirely reasonable. The Catholic Church has always rejected the idea of education being compartmentalized. She believes that education needs an overall approach which teaches moral values—it’s not a case of just saying “learn these values at home."

So, the Church insists that if a person wants to work for a Catholic school, they need to avoid giving the appearance of rejecting the values of the Church. If one can’t accept that, they should look for another place of business. That’s common sense. If a fundamentalist Protestant school insisted that I sign an agreement that said I acknowledged the Bible as the sole rule of faith, I would have to reject that condition. If I lied and then was caught out promoting a view contrary to the group’s views, I would have no right to object to being fired.

However, we tend to have groups of activists seeking to force change on the Church. Where we believe that a behavior is not compatible with God’s commandments, these groups wrongly assume that these teachings are nothing more than unsavory political positions which can and should be changed. They attempt the "grassroots level” attempts to change the thinking of the youth in the hopes of converting them to their way of thinking.

In other words, when it is their own values in question, these activists insist that everyone respect the values of others. But when it comes to values they dislike, they refuse to respect those values, and call them intolerance. That’s a self contradiction. If one demands that everyone respect the values of others, that includes the views they dislike. If it’s wrong for us to judge their way of thinking, it’s wrong of them to judge our way of thinking. So, if their proclaimed value system is based on “tolerance,” they should practice what they preach and stop trying to force change on the Church.

Now sometimes a counter-charge arises here. That’s to accuse us of being hypocritical. They allege that because we’re not being tolerant of behaviors, we are being hypocritical. The problem is, we don’t claim a moral relativism or tolerating all views as equally valid. We believe all people are required to seek the truth and follow it. If a person refuses to seek the truth, or refuses to follow the truth once found, that is not a good thing.

That’s a perfectly rational view. We reject, for example, the idea that one human being is superior to another as false. Because of that, we reject ideas that allow one class of people to have power over another group of people because of their claim to greater importance. We reject racism because we believe all races are equal in the eyes in God. We reject abortion, because we deny that the unborn person is less of a person than the born person. Without this kind of thinking, a person would have nothing to say to the totalitarian except, “I dislike your system.” Here’s a thought exercise… imagine some group like the Nazis use the same arguments as modern activists to claim people have no right judge them. If you say, “tolerate unpopular views,” you have to tolerate them. If you believe some views are wrong and don’t have to be accepted, then you can morally oppose such views, providing the reasons you believe it is wrong.

The Church does provide her reasons for saying that things are wrong. But the response to those reasons is insults and labels (ad hominem attacks). Indeed, many people do not even know these reasons—they just assume that the only possible reason for opposing them is hatred. That’s ironic because refusal to consider any other possibilities is intolerance.

In addition to these attacks, we see such accusers trying to make the Church teaching seem to be in opposition to Pope Francis. In a particularly repugnant example, the San Francisco Chronicle takes Papal soundbites out of context and tries to make it sound like there is opposition. But the Pope has affirmed that when it comes to the Church teaching, he “is a son of the Church.” Indeed, he continues to defend the Christian understanding of marriage. So again, the tactic is to define things in such a way that makes any opposition look hateful—but it is false.

Keep that in mind as you encounter charges of bigotry against Catholics.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Beckoning Their Foes to the Exit? The Curious Case of the Media and Slanted Reporting on the Church

Article: US cardinal slams Pope Francis over softer approach to homosexuality | Daily Mail Online

I have been writing about the conservative grumbling about the synod and some of the rhetoric about the faithful opposing Pope Francis. Of course I think it is a dangerous thing to make oneself a judge over whether the Pope is faithful or not. But the drumbeat of the media is interesting as well. It seems that they are not content to report on disgruntled Catholics, but want to stir up their discontent as well.

There have been several news reports about “conservative” cardinals “opposing” the Pope because of his “changing" the teaching of the Church. But the headlines don’t match what the cardinals actually say. There are no rebukes of Pope Francis. There are no changes to the teaching of the Church. What is being said is that some members of the laity are confused about the reports about the synod.

So, what we have seems to be a three step attack:

  1. Media misreports words of Pope or synod to give impression of changing Church teaching.
  2. Media misreports words of bishops to give impression of rebellion.
  3. Media encourages thoughts of conservative Catholics wanting to leave the Church.

Basically, it looks as if they’re making the Church to look bad enough (from a conservative perspective) that the faithful won’t trust the magisterium, and perhaps want to leave—encouraging an exodus from the Church (whether physical or mental), leaving it to those with a liberal perspective. It’s a media participation in the devil’s plans to encourage the orthodox Catholics to doubt God’s role in the Church.

It seems to be working. I have seen certain Catholic news sites turn from accurately reporting the facts to assuming that the media reports are true, reacting in horror, doubting the Pope, thinking the Church will change her teaching. I have seen Catholic bloggers turn from defending the faith to assuming that the Pope is changing it. I have seen some apologists go from defending the Church from misrepresentation to complaining that they have to defend the Church from misrepresentation—blaming the Pope for the media irresponsibility.

When that happens, it becomes easy for the average Catholic to become demoralized, thinking the teaching authority of the Church is being overwhelmed with error.

To prevent this, faithful Catholics need to be informed so they can recognize the difference between the actual teachings and interviews with the Magisterium. It’s time to stop taking media reports (whether mainstream media or political commentary from either faction) as if they were accurately reporting the news. None of these have shown themselves to be reliable in assessing what is going on. Once a source has shown itself unreliable in accuracy, we need to investigate what they claim, rather than taking it at face value.

Otherwise, we give the devil the opportunity to try to separate us from our faith.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Compassion, Misdirected: The Dangers of Losing Sight of What is True

Ted Olson, a conservative, is known because he changed his views from supporting traditional marriage to favoring so called “same sex marriage.” In the article, "Ted Olson: 'Point of no return' on gay marriage passed,” he tells us that his position is one of compassion and motivated by the hardships it would cause. Unfortunately, his position is logically flawed and based on a desire to help those in a way that cannot be justified.

Compassion, Misdirected

Ted Olson said:

"I do not believe that the United States Supreme Court could rule that all of those laws prohibiting marriage are suddenly constitutional after all these individuals have gotten married and their rights have changed," he said in an interview on Capital Download. "To have that snatched away, it seems to me, would be inhuman; it would be cruel; and it would be inconsistent with what the Supreme Court has said about these issues in the cases that it has rendered."

The article also cites him as saying:

Waiting for the process in lower courts to open the door to gay marriage in all 50 states "would not be good enough because it's not now," Olson said on USA TODAY's weekly video newsmaker series. "When will that happen? And how much misery and how much suffering do individuals in this country have to experience before that happens?"

I find his argument rather dubious to say the least. It starts with begging the question, that it was right for these judges to suddenly decide that it was a violation of civil rights to limit marriage between one man and one woman . . . in all this time, there has never been an argument that doesn’t start from assuming that opposition is rooted in intolerance (which is the point to be proven). 

Moreover, to argue that,

  1. judicial decrees that same-sex relationships can be called marriage are invoked, and
  2. reversing the decisions by the Supreme Court would cause “suffering”, therefore,
  3. The Supreme Court needs to back these rulings to decree same-sex relationships can be called “marriage”
is also to argue in a circle that begins and ends with judicial decrees that assume, but do not prove, that same-sex relationships can be called marriage.

There is another problem here: when judicial activism which makes a bad decision, people will of course be affected when they rush to take advantage of the change and then find out that the judge was wrong. But that is not the issue to be considered. Invoking the “suffering” caused if the Supreme Court were to reverse the decision is to employ the Red Herring fallacy. Assessing the laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman needs to be based on the nature of marriage and whether a judge has the right to change it, not irrelevant appeals to who is affected—slave owners were affected by the abolition of slavery, but nobody would think that fact was relevant to the question of whether people should own slaves in the first place. 

Finally, that Red Herring also uses the appeal to pity fallacy in his argument. The fact that the overturning of judicial abuse might cause pain to people given false hope is not a valid reason to allow a judicial ruling to stand if it is an abuse of power. If the issue is whether or not a judge did wrong, the fact that some benefitted by the judge’s wrongdoing is not a good reason for letting the wrongdoing stand.

Justice Depends on Truth

The solution, however, is not to reach a false conclusion on account of having compassion for those who are suffering and wanting to prevent it. I’m sure Olson is sincere. But his sincerity needs to be based on the truth of the matter, and that truth is to be found in recognizing what is the nature of marriage, and not allowing people to redefine marriage in such a way which goes against the truth of what marriage is.

So those who want to argue that marriage should be redefined have to establish a definition explaining their position and answering the objections—and calling those who object “homophobes” is not an explanation of their position. It’s an ad hominem.

We have to keep the truth in mind when showing compassion—that’s not always easy, but it is important. There’s no doubt that people with same sex attraction feel the same need for love that people with heterosexual attraction have. But the problem is, not all desires for love and not all sexual impulses are proper expressions of love. Most people, for example, realize that sexual affection between an adult and a child is always wrong, and no matter what the feelings the people involved may have, we cannot sanction such relationships that are wrong. So, we have to find solutions which address what is true, and provide guidance for those living in falsehood. In this example, the truth will not permit a sexual relationship between an adult and a child, and this example serves to show why we cannot redefine marriage just because some people are affected by this line that cannot be crossed.

I believe that’s what Pope Francis is really looking for with the extraordinary synod just past and the upcoming ordinary synod of next year. How do we reach out with compassion to those in conflict with what is right? He’s been on record in pointing out that what the modern world calls marriage is not marriage (the media can’t spin this one so this gets ignored). He certainly wants to help people in relationships which are contrary to what God wants, but recognizing that the truth requires people to live as God wants, he cannot redefine marriage and tell them that a lie is true.


Olson’s arguments are not addressing the truth of the matter. They are focussing on how unhappy some will be if the laws redefining same sex marriage are overturned. But truth comes first. Man cannot live a lie. Trying to make a lie into the truth to protect people from being unhappy is compassion misdirected.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Does It Matter?

Some who try to denigrate Church teaching they disagree with try to portray it as a small matter. The argument goes that issue X is minor and the only people to make a big deal out of it is a pendantic Church obsessed with minor details.

There are two problems with this however:

First, Christ Himself pointed out that:

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. (Luke 16:10)

So what does that say about a person who excuses his wrong by saying that it is only a small matter?

Second, just because someone downplays the importance something does not mean it is a minor thing. In the 1987 movie RoboCop, we saw a lawyer trying to downplay a criminal charge: "Attempted murder? It's not like he killed someone. This is a clear violation of my client's civil rights." The problem of course is that just because the criminal didn't do one crime doesn't mean he did no crime.

Likewise, some try to argue that because their action is not as serious a sin as X, it ought not to be considered a sin at all. That doesn't follow.

Either way, the person who makes excuses to reject the teaching authority of the Church tends to show themselves likely to excuse their violating other obligations.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We Used To Call This Indoctrination…

When an opponent declares, "I will not come over to your side," I calmly say, "Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.


—Adolph Hitler.  November 6, 1933


My sister-in-law told me about an event called "Day of Silence" put on my a group called GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network).  While this information came too late for me to write about this as a warning before it happened, I can at least comment on this so people of good will can be aware of what can only be described as propaganda aimed at indoctrinating the youth.

The claimed purpose of this event is to protest against bullying in the public schools.  However, when one looks at the materials, what we see is a concerted effort to undermine the moral teaching authority of parents and their religious faiths through misrepresentation and bad logic.  It is intended to push a radical agenda which portrays "alternate sexual preferences" as merely a matter of taste and not morality.  Because this activity happens in schools, it aims its agenda at people who are considered vulnerable with no chance defending the family religious beliefs until after the fact.

The designed exercises seem aimed to presenting their views as true while pressuring youth who know what is right to cave in or keep silent.

My sister-in-law tells me she kept her son home from school on the day of the event (4/19/13).  After reading the material, I can only conclude she is a very wise woman.  While I only found out about this event after the fact, I still think it is good to write about this so that people may be aware of this in the future and consider how they might protect their children from overt indoctrination.

Because there is so much to consider, I will focus mainly on one area of attack which happens to be my area of expertise.

Undermining Religious Beliefs of a Family

One example of their tactics in indoctrination is to ask whether Jesus condemned homosexuality in the Bible.  They answer that Jesus did not condemn homosexuality.  They point out that these condemnations show up in Paul and in the Old Testament.  The intended conclusion they want to draw is that if Jesus was opposed to homosexuality, He would have condemned it by name.

The problem is, by this logic, Jesus never condemned bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia or the like.  He never condemned incest either.  Come to think of it, He never mentioned consent either, so rape is theoretically OK by this argument. 

So are we to assume that Jesus was an "anything goes" type of person?  If we accept this kind of argument, we have to assume Jesus was in favor of all sorts of sexual behavior – behavior that promoters of homosexuality get extremely angry over when we point this out.

Actually the "Jesus never said anything about [X]… therefore [X] is ok" argument is a logical fallacy called "argument from silence."  The reason this fallacy makes the argument invalid is because silence neither proves support or hostility.  However, we can find out what Jesus thought about marriage from other things He said.  For example, Matthew 19 tells us:

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 19: 4-6)

So what we see is that while Jesus never explicitly condemned homosexuality by name, he explicitly declares that God's intention (from the beginning [see Matt 19:8]) is for man and woman to be married in a lifelong relationship.

What this shows is we have people who are willing to misrepresent what Jesus taught in order to undermine the family beliefs and convictions.


So here's why you should be alarmed, whether you have children in school or not.  People who are willing to misrepresent what a person says in order to make a point are behaving dishonestly.  Even if one disagrees with Christian teaching on sexual morality, a person of good will should want to condemn a deliberate misrepresentation made in order to deceive someone (called sophistry).

If a group claims to want tolerance and dialogue, they should be open to seeking out the best possible representation of both sides to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.  But if they misrepresent, if they use false arguments, if they intimidate in order to get young people to support their position then we do not have tolerance and dialogue.

Instead we have indoctrination and propaganda.

People of good will should be aware of the fact that this sort of event engages in unscrupulous tactics to push an agenda that parents have every right to oppose.  Parents who oppose such events should be supported, and schools who try to allow such events should be opposed.