Showing posts with label equivocation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label equivocation. Show all posts

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dissenter's Deception

And since, by the divine right of apostolic primacy, one Roman Pontiff is placed over the universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful,* and that in all causes the decision of which belongs to the Church recourse may be had to his tribunal,† but that none may reopen the judgement of the Apostolic See, than whose authority there is no greater, nor can any lawfully review its judgement.‡ Wherefore they err from the right path of truth who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgements of the Roman Pontiffs to an Œcumenical Council, as to an authority higher than that of the Roman Pontiff.


If then any shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection or direction, and not full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those things which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world; or assert that he possesses merely the principal part, and not all the fullness of this supreme power; or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the Churches and over each and all the pastors of the faithful; let him be anathema.


[Pastor Æternus Chapter III. First Vatican Council]

I’ve been reading a book, What Went Wrong With Vatican II by Ralph McInerny that leaves me with a strange sense of déjà vu. The main premise is the rejection of authority in the 1960s did not come about because of Vatican II, but because of Humanae Vitae. A good portion of this book deals with the fact that the Pope made a binding teaching of the ordinary magisterium which people did not like, and to justify their dislike, they invented a theology  which never had been taught before which claimed the right to judge the teachings of the Church and reject those which they did not wish to follow.

The déjà vu portion comes when I see what liberal dissenters did in 1968 in rejecting magisterial authority—and see just how similar their arguments are to the arguments used by radical traditionalists today in rejecting the magisterial authority of the Church when it makes decisions they dislike.

The basic premise of both groups of dissent is in the argument that when the Pope makes a teaching which is not ex cathedra, it is fallible and therefore not binding. Liberal dissent used this argument from the 1960s on in trying to undermine the teaching authority of the Church when it came to sexual matters. It was argued that because the Church teaching on contraception was not made in an infallible pronunciation like the pronunciation of dogmas in 1854 (The Immaculate Conception) and 1950 (The Assumption of Mary), there could be error in it. Playing on the fear of uncertainty, a string of spurious reasoning was created:

  1. This document was not infallible, therefore it is fallible. 
  2. Because it is fallible, it contains error.
  3. We cannot be bound to follow error.
  4. Therefore we cannot be bound to follow this document.

The whole string is laden with error. It starts out with the development of the “Either-Or” fallacy by way of giving an equivocal meaning to the word fallible. The meaning is, generally speaking, “capable of error.” All of humanity is fallible by nature. But dissenters like to manipulate the meaning to make it sound like it means “containing error.” Thus the argument is made that, “if it’s not infallible, I don’t have to obey it.” But the problem is, dissenters are giving infallibility a meaning that is too narrow, while giving fallibility a meaning which is too broad. The fact is, the Church does not teach that one may ignore a teaching which is not made ex cathedra. The truth is quite the opposite.

What the faithful are bound to accept is not limited to the ex cathedra pronunciation—those are intentionally rare and the Popes govern by other methods. Indeed, the Church has taught that there are two means of teaching—both of which are binding. The Catechism says:

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.… The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

Regardless of whether the Pope is speaking on contraception, abortion, economics or ecology (or other topics involving faith and morals), if he teaches in a way that is not ex cathedra, he is still teaching in a way which binds us to obey. As the 1983 Code of Canon Law says:

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.

So, the teaching of the Church is something we must give the obedience and assent of faith to, making a religious submission of intellect and will, and avoiding those things that are contrary to this teaching. Unfortunately, many confuse a teaching which is not done in a “definitive manner” with a mere opinion. But there is a massive difference. A Pope can offer his opinion on the best way to carry out the Church teaching on social justice, but that is different than the Pope teaching that social justice requires economics to be carried out with ethics.

So the dissent from the radicals in the 1960s to the present against the Church is no different than the dissent of the modern anti-Francis mindset of today. Both reject the authority of the Church to interfere with behavior they do not want to change. Both want to give the impression of being faithful in a larger sense by being disobedient in a “smaller” sense. Both feel that it’s both the other side and the magisterium who are the problem.

The fact is, being a faithful Catholic requires that we are obedient to those who have the authority to determine what is in keeping with the Deposit of Faith and what is not. If we refuse to be obedient, then regardless of our work on the defense of marriage, social justice, life issues or any other area, we are being faithless and usurping the authority of the successors of the Apostles. Such people can claim to be faithful, but they are deceiving both themselves and others.

Monday, June 23, 2014

More Thoughts on Judging

I have a friend who on occasion asks questions about the Catholic faith that on the surface seem simple, but on reflection actually have fascinating implications and makes me seek a deeper understanding of an aspect of the faith. This is another one of those times.  I imagine if it were not for his questions, my faith would be shallower and so would this blog. 


He asks me about the Pope's recent sermon on judgment in light of his strong words against the Mafia this weekend: 


The Pope himself just judged the actions of the mafia and excommunicated them. He must see that as a different form of judgment? 


In general,  the whole idea of not judging is a tough one to get my head around. Clearly, there are times that we should stand up against a wrong that is being done and clearly as Christians there are times when correcting a brother or sister is a duty. So when is "judging" allowable? And what is the Pope saying? 


It's a reasonable question. Judgment is a word which is equivocal (having more than one meaning). So if a person means judgment in one way while a second hears the word with another meaning, people will get confused. 


The meanings of Judgment are: 


Judgement (also judgment) 

  ■ noun 

    1      the ability to make considered decisions or form sensible opinions. 

      ▶      an opinion or conclusion. 

      ▶      a decision of a law court or judge. 

Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). 


So, Judgment can mean discernment on one hand, and making a ruling on the other. How does Jesus intend it to be understood? 


In the Gospel reading for today, we see Matthew 7:1-5: 


1 “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. 2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. 3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? 5 You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.  


New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 7:1–5. 


If we interpret judging in this part of the Gospel to mean "the ability to make considered conclusions" about the right and wrong of an act, then that leads to the absurd conclusion that Jesus contradicts himself (Remember Matthew 11:21 and Matthew 23:13-36 shows Jesus making some very strong denunciations of wrongdoers). He warns us to do good and avoid evil. We cannot do that without making considered conclusions about what acts are good and what acts are evil. 


So much for the modern relativist interpretation. 


But, if we consider the passage to mean "Don't think of yourself as having the authority to determine how God will ultimately sentence this man or woman, don't think you can just write off and ostracize the sinner. You have don't have the authority to judge. Instead you have the obligation to speak out so the person repents (read Ezekiel 33. God warns us that we can't be silent in the face of evil). 


So we can't write off the Catholic politicians who cause scandal. It may turn out that after we try to bring them back, they refuse us, but that doesn't free us from the obligation to try (See Ezekiel 33:7-9). The Christian has to let himself be the tool for God’s grace to reach out to the people of the world who do evil. We can’t be like Jonah in the Old Testament who took off in the opposite direction to avoid giving God’s warning to Nineveh.   


So, to use the recent denunciation of the crimes of the Mafia as an example, I see Pope Francis saying IF you do not repent, THEN you will be damned. The judging would say “This person is not repenting. Therefore he is damned.”  What Pope Francis is saying is judging in the proper sense. He's not writing off the members of this Mafia family as irredeemable. he sees them as in need of salvation and uses his authority as the Vicar of Christ to authoritatively warn them that their actions are in contradiction to the faith they belong to but ignore.   


Or consider another example. On rare occasions, we get a person who gets it in his head that it is OK to target an abortionist for murder. Abortion is wrong. Warning the abortionist that abortion is wrong is not judging in the sense that Christ condemned. Telling him or her that they can repent and turn their lives around is not judgment... 


...but deliberately targeting the individual for murder is being judgmental. It's determining that the abortionist will never change his or her ways and so it is better to kill the person than to try to convert the person. 


The existence of people like Bernard Nathanson and Abby Johnson are examples of why the killing of abortionists is wrong. We cannot know who will repent and who will not. But the reason Jesus forbids us to tear up the weeds is that we might tear up some of the wheat with them:

24 He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. 26 When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. 27 The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”


New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 13:24–30.

Consider also that if Jesus meant judging in the sense of "the ability to make considered conclusions," then there would be no way to warn a person of evil. Ezekiel 33 would be nonsense. But if Jesus meant it in the sense of  "Don't presume to know the ultimate fate of these men and woman," then the Pope's actions are quite prophetic in the true sense of the word. He's warning these men and women that their actions will have consequences: IF you do not repent, THEN you will not be saved.  


The Judging condemned by Jesus removes the IF... THEN, and changes it to "You do not repent. Therefore you will not be saved. So I'm going to write you off as a loss." 


All of us have the beam in our eye where we must face the warning: IF you do not repent, THEN you will not be saved. If we do not acknowledge and deal with this beam—our own need to repent—how can we guide someone else to repent? 


Hopefully, this is shows that Pope Francis does not contradict himself when on one hand he warns the Mafia and on the other hand speaks against judging. He calls for us to intercede for the sinner as Jesus intercedes for us, but not to take God's role and condemn and carry out the sentence.