Showing posts with label libel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label libel. Show all posts

Friday, May 15, 2020

Truth, Whether Convenient or Not

As we in the United States continue the lunacy that we call the election season, I notice a certain problem—where we see many people willing to make excuses for the factions that they support in a crisis but assume the worst possible motives for the factions they oppose. That’s not to say that the factions are equally valid of course. It’s quite possible to have one faction be correct on an issue and a second be wrong. But it overlooks the possibility of people being sincere in their error, or that the difference is one of policy, not of right and wrong.

This is a behavior which Catholics cannot condone. While sometimes we might have the right to conceal a truth rightly held in confidence, we’re never permitted to spread a falsehood to benefit our friends or harm our foes. This means we need to consider the reliability and biases of our sources before repeating what we hear. Regardless what we think of Trump, Pelosi, or Ocasio-Cortez, we don’t have the right to accuse them of things we don’t know are true, even if we rightly oppose what they stand for or against.

Let’s face it. There’s a lot of news going around with the COVID-19, where people are willing to accuse Trump of crimes against humanity for wanting to end the quarantine, or accusing the Democrats of creating a dictatorship for wanting to continue it. But these accusations strike me as wanting to denigrate the opponent when there is an election at stake, not as an accurate criticism of the actual policy.

In short, we’re seeing people replace a search for truth with propaganda. And as long as we’re willing to hear the propaganda we want to hear while deriding the truth we don’t want to hear as “fake news” we are likely overlook injustice as long as it suits us… and then turn around and get angry for the other faction using those precedents we set against us. That’s the recipe for an unjust society.

A just society requires us to determine whether a claim made is true or not, and reaching a conclusion that addresses the truth we don’t want to hear. For example, what are we to make of the coronavirus quarantine when we don’t have good numbers on how virulent it is or whether our policies are “flattening the curve” as the popular saying goes? We see people in some countries lifting the quarantines and we want to know why we’re still having restrictions. Whether someone is “reckless” for wanting to lift the quarantine or “totalitarian” for wanting to be more cautious depends on the truth of how dangerous or benign the coronavirus is. Our preference for one party or another doesn’t allow us to “shade” the truth to our favor.

Regardless of our political preferences, we have an obligation to make sure that our defenses for our faction or accusations against the opposing faction are truth.  If they’re not truth, we must not use them. If we’re not sure if they’re true, we must not present them as if they are true. We must not rely on the mindset of “I wouldn’t put it past him/her.”  Anti-Catholics have come up with all sorts of slanders against us based on that way of thinking. And since we must not do unto others what we do not want them to do to us, assuming guilt based on what we think someone is capable of is rash judgment.

In saying this, I’m not advocating the misuse of Matthew 7:1 where people think not judging means “let them do whatever they want.” I mean we must not assume guilt without actual evidence of guilt, nor assume motive without proof that this is the actual motive. 

Some people might protest, saying “we’ll never prove anything that way!” But these people should realize how they sound when they say that. This is saying that suspicion is good enough to convict when this is exactly what Our Lord condemns when He says not to judge. Our conspiracy theories—no, not only nuts follow them—are not proof of wrongdoing.

That doesn’t mean passivity in the face of wrongdoing. But it does mean that we must avoid begging the question where the “proof” we used to justify our accusations depend entirely on the accusation being true in the first place.

Yes, our politicians seem to be a disreputable bunch nowadays. But that in itself is not proof of wrongdoing. And even if one is guilty of wrongdoing, we must not impute the motives that are based on how we see their character. We must determine the truth before judging… even if nobody else does, because we profess to be Christians, and the God we know, love, and serve forbids us to do otherwise.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

To Speak the Truth

Introduction

People who know me know that I like Aristotle’s definition of truth. It is a simple definition and it lays out parameters for understanding the reality of what is said:

To say that what is is not, or that what is not is, is false; but to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true; and therefore also he who says that a thing is or is not will say either what is true or what is false. (Metaphysics 1011b.20–39)


Aristotle, Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vols.17, 18, Translated by Hugh Tredennick. (Medford, MA: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1933, 1989).

So, when we speak, what we say either corresponds to reality or it does not. Unfortunately, society today does not seem to care for discovering what corresponds with reality. Rather many people prefer an interpretation of events that justifies themselves and puts those they agree with in a bad light. The result of this mindset is the fact that people will only listen to what makes them comfortable and seek to reject what makes them uncomfortable. But if what makes them comfortable is false, then their sources are harmful in seeking out the truth and living in accordance with it.

Pride and Fear of Being Shown Wrong

Compounding the problem is the fact that nobody wants to be shown to be wrong. To admit that one’s viewpoint, which has been defended zealously hitherto, has been a defense of something worthless feels like an indictment of one’s judgment—nobody wants to be thought of as a fool and admission of error is seen as admitting to being a fool. That is what made Socrates so unpopular. That barrier of pride is a large stumbling block to discovering what is and living in accord to it.

I think this is the reason it has traditionally been held that the two taboo subjects for discussion are religion and politics. For a person to have to admit that their view of reality in general or their views on how society should be governed are false—especially when they have invested so much in defending these views—is often too much to bear. As a result, people stop looking for truth when it is perceived to threaten their comfortable beliefs and become hostile when it comes to people who question their comfort zone.

That’s unfortunate. To make progress, whether as an individual or a society, one has to discern what is true and follow where it leads. But if one refuses to consider whether what is threatening to comfort is true, no progress can be made.

Fear of the Obligation to do That Which is Right

There is another reason for hostility to truth. That reason is the recognition that if what we support turns out to be false, especially when that falsehood turns out to be morally wrong, we will be obligated to turn away from that belief or that behavior. Denial of that indictment of wrongdoing and hostility to the person who makes us aware of the wrongdoing are ways to avoid thinking about whether we need to change. This is one of the reasons that defensive people misquote Matthew 7:1. If a person can turn tables on the person who says “X is wrong,” putting him or her on the defensive by making it appear that the appeal to doing what is right is actually wrongdoing, then people have shifted the attention from the issue at hand—that X is wrong—and towards the person who insists on moral truths which are obligatory to follow.

“Hypocrisy” then becomes a popular epithet to hurl at the person speaking the truth. Basically the accusation says “You say not to do evil X, but you do evil by saying that X is wrong. Therefore we can ignore you!” Actually no. It is true that every one of us struggles with some sort of evil (with the exception of Our Lord and His Mother). But one does not become a hypocrite until they have no intention to change their ways. That’s the kind of thing Jesus condemned as judgmental—writing someone off as irredeemable. But frail as we are, we are still required to speak out against what is wrong while praying for God to change our hearts for our own sins. We must avoid thinking that “As long as I’m not as bad as that guy, I’m fine."

Truth and Assumption

Of course we need to make some distinctions here. It’s not wrong to defend a position one thinks is right. But all of us need to distinguish what is true about the position it and defend that truth, as opposed to defending assumptions without investigating whether they are true. Some things are simply indefensible and must be rejected.

Moreover, many people assume things are facts without discerning whether they are true or simply commonly repeated but false. People sometimes elevate wrong opinions or falsehoods to “fact.” For example, they may confuse sequential events for cause/effect and then stand their ground on something that does not need to be defended. Or they may assume anecdotes represent the whole or go by what “everybody knows” without determining whether it is true. People may rashly assume motives for why others hold different positions which the other person would deny are his or her motives.

The point is, many things we take for granted as being true are actually saying of what is that it is not or saying of what is not that it is. Once we are aware of the obligation to speak that which is true, and the need to discern between what is true and what is assumed, then we need to look to what we defend and what we oppose. Do we defend what is true? Or what is comfortable? Do we oppose what is false? Or merely what we dislike?

If we assume bad will on the part of those we disagree with and don’t consider the possibility of our own misunderstanding of the other person or if we don’t consider the possibility of the person being in error out of ignorance, then we are making an assumption that might not be true.

Conclusion

I think we need to keep these things in mind wherever we are. When things are reported on the news, or show up on Facebook or in blogs, or in comments, we have to ask whether what is said is true before embracing it. When something seems to challenge a comfortable belief, we have to ask whether our comfortable belief is true before making a defense based on our assumption. If it turns out that the popular or comfortable assertion is false, we must stop repeating it.

Likewise, when we are inclined to accuse a person of bad will for holding a position we do not like, the obligation to speak the truth requires that we investigate their position and the reason they hold it. We might find that they still are in error and need to be refuted, but at least in doing so we will not come across as intolerant and ignorant—even if opponents still accuse us of being so.

As Christians we believe that God forbids us from bearing false witness. I believe this not only includes deliberate lies used to incriminate others, but also includes rash judgment and calumny against those we disagree with. While invincible ignorance is not a sin, we do sin when we repeat things when we could learn the truth but simply don’t care to do so. We will have to account for our rash judgments, uncharitable accusations and holding on to false beliefs and will be held accountable for the things we could have learned but chose not to check. This also applies to when we choose to live a lie rather than discern whether we do wrong. 

We are called to speak and live the truth. So let us do both. Let us say of what is, that it is and of what is not, that it is not. But let’s not just say it. Let’s also live it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reflections on an Anti-Catholic Attack

Introduction

Longtime readers should be aware of my favorite definition of truth and falsehood, according to Aristotle: To say of what is, that it is or to say of what it is not is to speak the truth. While that is not all there is to the concept of truth, it is an important point. We have to say what is true about a thing, whether we agree or disagree with a position. Otherwise, if we try to refute a position by speaking falsehood (saying of what is that it is not, or of what is not, that it is) about it, we prove absolutely nothing at all.

That means that in refuting something we should speak the truth about it, whether it is about Nazism, about Communism, about racism, about conservatism or liberalism. It applies to religions as well. If we are going to reject something as being wrong, we should do so by showing why the truth about it is repugnant, and not speak falsehoods about it to deceive people away from it.

Anti-Catholicism Does Not Speak The Truth

That is why I find religiously motivated anti-Catholicism to be so perplexing. Such individuals profess to believe in God and to follow the teachings of Christ—but have no qualms whatsoever about speaking falsely about the Catholic Church. Common tactics are misrepresenting teachings, misrepresenting history, misrepresenting Scripture and distorting the defenses of the Catholic faith. 

Now, it should be clear that if one believes that Catholicism is wrong and, out of a misguided sense of goodwill, wants to lead Catholics out of the Church, they should strive to understand what the Church actually believes on a subject and, with that accurate knowledge, investigate whether the Catholic belief contradicts the Scriptures in context. But that is precisely what is not being done.

Instead, the common tactic is to take a Catholic teaching that has been so frequently misrepresented that people no longer question whether the assertion is true. Then contrast that distorted teaching against a specially selected verse of Scripture. Then argue that the discrepancy shows that Catholicism is evil and must be opposed.

One Must Use Authoritative Sources When Investigating Something

If I were to write a paper on quantum physics, what would you want to know before accepting my conclusions? The first thing would be to determine whether my assertions and research were accurate. If I was uninformed about the topic or, if I was uninformed about the fundamentals, my conclusion wouldn't be worth the paper it was printed on. Any truth in the paper would be strictly coincidental, and not a reliable guide. So, when we want to learn the truth about something, we go to the sources that are authoritative. For example, we go to NASA and not to the National Enquirer when we want to learn accurately about what was discovered on Pluto. Likewise, we don't ask Planned Parenthood or NARAL to explain the reasons why people oppose abortion.

This logically follows in other areas as well. If one wants to refute Islam intelligently, one has to know what the Qur'an says. If one wants to intelligently refute Mormonism, one has to know what the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price say—because the individual Muslim or Mormon is going to write you off as an idiot if it becomes apparent that you don't understand what they believe.

Likewise, when one wants to know what the Catholic Church believes, one doesn't go to an anti-Catholic site or an anti-Catholic theologian. One goes to an source which Catholics acknowledge as having the authority to say: "THIS is what we believe." In doing so, we have to interpret the source according to the intention of the authority—not what someone thinks it means based on their own (often uninformed) readings.

So, if one wants to know what the Church believes on a subject, one goes to a source which the Church has approved. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When one wants to know what the Pope meant in a soundbite, one goes to the Vatican website and gets the whole interview or address in context. One studies the Catholic faith to see whether the accusations made against her are accurate or not. They should NOT go to Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Spurgeon, Gerstner, Sproul or Barth. 

This is common sense. If a person relies on sources which are based in hostility, the first question to be asked is whether the hostility blinds the judgment or not. Remember, there are a lot of times people have misinterpreted another's intention and held a grudge which was based on a misunderstanding on the grounds that a person refused to believe goodwill on the part of that which he or she opposed.

One Must Consider the Agenda of Those Who Attack the Church

That must be remembered. When it comes to Catholicism, there is a lot of hostility from former members. At various times, groups have broken away from the Church. Such actions are based in opposition. Was the opposition justified? There is a lot of propaganda used to exaggerate the corruption in the Church to make it appear that the entire Church taught heresy and was out for malicious self-benefit. But often the people who made such claims had a vested interest in justifying their schism—they needed to make it look as if the Church was teaching falsely.

The problem is, when someone takes the worst possible elements about a person and exaggerates them, you can make anybody look bad—and some have gone so far as to try to slander Jesus Himself. So, we need to remember that we do not accept what a person says about their enemy simply on their own say-so (that's the ipse dixit logical fallacy). When one makes an accusation, proof is required.

But proof is not the same thing as assertion. Imagine a trial where all the evidence presented was only interpreted by the prosecutor. How likely is the accused to get a fair hearing? If you answered "not likely to be fair," you are correct. (if you answered "likely to be fair," perhaps you might prefer the legal systems of Iran or North Korea). So, when it comes to seeking to refute the Catholic Church and lead people out of her, the right way to do it is to study the Church teaching so that the evidence presented is evidence that the Catholic will say, "Yes, this is true." The wrong way to do it is to make claims which the informed Catholic will say "You are either deceived or lying."

And that's the thing about the Catholic faith. When one actually does the research and presents the truth about the Catholic faith, it cannot be refuted. One can honestly say "I disagree with the Church!" (there's a vulgar but accurate saying about opinions and posteriors which I won't repeat here), but one cannot honestly say "the Church is teaching error!"

Even the Devil Cites Scripture (Matthew 4:1-10)—So Check the Context

And that brings us to the next point. The whole attack on Catholicism from a Christian perspective depends on an individual interpretation of the Bible—generally from the assumption that Protestantism (in whatever form) is true—which requires us to ask "Why should we believe your interpretation of the Bible and not mine?" Remember, there are all sorts of ways to make a Bible verse fit whatever you want—look at the denominations that try to justify "Same sex marriage" for example.

So when an anti-Catholic tries to contrast Scripture with Catholic teaching, we have to ask:

  • Have they properly understood the verse of Scripture?
  • Have they properly understood the Catholic teaching?

Because the fact is, while the Bible is without error, that does not make the individual interpreter infallible—again, remember the denominations which justify "same sex marriage." If the Plain Sense of Scripture was so easy to find, then Lutherans and Zwinglians should have agreed on the meaning of the Eucharist, while the Presbyterians and Baptists should agree on the meaning of Baptism. The fact is, they don’t.

See, the Catholic accepts the authority of Scripture. That's a plain statement of fact. What the Catholic rejects is blindly accepting every personal interpretation that comes down the pike about what verses mean. If one wants to sling verses against the Church, expect us to take offense when those verses are taken out of context or are misapplied against the Church.

Conclusion

There is a whole raft of objections against the Church, and Catholics have been refuting these claims since the beginning of the Protestant schisms in the 16th century. Basically, it is a case of the same false accusations—that we worship Mary, statues, saints, the Pope—which Catholics emphatically reject as false. The attack is essentially the logical fallacy of begging the question. The opposition to Catholic practices have always depended on a misinformed understanding of what is actually being done and an overly literalistic interpretation of Scripture. 

The person of good will who thinks Catholicism is wrong and wants to “save” us from it has to recognize that God is truth and opposes lies. One who repeats falsehood is either deceiving or deceived, depending on whether the person knows the claim is false or whether the person never bothered to investigate the truth of the accusation. Since every person has the obligation to speak truthfully, the person of good will has to stop repeating false claims about the Church. This applies to false history and misrepresentations of history. 

God forbade false witness, and when one feels the need to speak against something, they have the obligation to seek the truth first, because even when acting out of ignorance, slander/libel does bear that false witness. It stands to reason that if we love God, we will seek to live in a way pleasing to Him, and that means not speaking falsely.

Postscript for Catholics

One of our responsibilities in defending the faith against those who attack it is not to automatically accept what those who attack the Church claim. Many anti-Catholics sound quite confident when they say that what we believe contradicts the Bible, but their confidence relies on believing certain stock phrases are true. We have the obligation to learn our beliefs—not just what we believe, but why we believe it. When we understand these things, we will not be led astray by spurious arguments that depend Catholics being ignorant about what they believe. Remember, to pray and to study

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Stop the Bishop Bashing: An Open Letter to my Fellow Catholic Bloggers

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ who blog about the Catholic faith.

During Lent of this year, I wrote a post about the problems with attitudes in Catholic blogging. It was one I was afraid to post because I did not like the idea of being confrontational. It turned out to be one of the farthest reaching posts I made. However, since I am seeing certain blogs that I once admired slip into a nasty mindset, perhaps it is time to write again on the topic. I do not write this article with the intent of singling out a particular article or blogger. Rather, I write this to alert my fellow Catholic bloggers to an attitude we should watch out for and, if necessary, correct.

I’ve seen the posts shared on Facebook. Some have impressed me enough that I follow the Facebook page, Twitter, or RSS feed. So long as one defends the Catholic faith and show love for the Church established by Our Lord, all is well. Sometimes that defense of the faith involves speaking about misrepresentations of the faith from members of the Church. That is understandable. That is permissible—provided the correction is done in love and with the due respect for the office the person holds and gives obedience to those in persons of authority.

But some of these blogs have gone from showing love and charity for our fellow Catholics to the old and wearisome sport of “Bishop bashing.” Such blogs have gone from showing love for the Church as the Bride of Christ to showing bitterness towards the Church and treating bishops with contempt and scorn if they do not speak effectively about an issue we are concerned with or fail to openly champion a political platform which we prefer.

My brothers and sisters, when one reads the lives of the saints and the histories of the Church, we see that weak bishops and even bad bishops are not something that is present only in this present age. They have existed in all ages of the Church. Moreover, some bishops which are derided in this age actually are speaking the Catholic moral teaching but the critics seem to be unaware of it.

Now I do not speak to you as a moral authority who says “Be like me, for I am without flaw!” I’m quite aware of the log in my eye. The fact is, my blog (in the early Xanga days of 2007 through mid 2008) did take part in the sport of “bishop bashing.” Back then, I saw the crisis of the faith in America with the dissenters openly scorning the teaching of the Church, I saw the bishops speaking ineffectually on a topic or even focussing on a different topic. I bought into the belief that we had bad Catholics because we had bad bishops.

I was wrong. I used bad reasoning (the affirming the consequent fallacy) which failed to consider other possibilities. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I can attest to that. I believed (committing an argument from ignorance fallacy) that because I did not hear of the bishops defending the faith, it meant that they did not defend the faith. Yes, there were some bad decisions made and some members of the clergy expressed themselves poorly, or even had a wrong conception of the faith. But what it took me time to learn was that these things did not prove the existence of a willfully heretical bishops’ conference. 

Bishops are human. They can make bad administrative decisions. They can speak poorly on a subject. They can do these things because, like us, they are sinful human beings in name of salvation. They need our prayers that they can successfully carry out their task of shepherding us. Again, that’s not solely a modern problem. We’ve had this in every age of the Church.

Now, some may ask about the actual faithless bishops in Church history. Does this mean that we are to accept whatever someone says because he is a bishop of the Church, even though this goes against what the Church has taught? No, I do not say that. After all, Pope Francis has said, “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.” So sometimes we are right to be concerned. However, we do have to keep perspective and recognize where the authority to judge exists and what we must do when a member of the Church teaches wrongly.

Yes, Canon Law does recognize that the faithful have the right to manifest their opinion on the good of the Church, but that canon needs to be read in full:

CAN. 212 §1.† Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2.† The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3.† According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

So, yes, when the faithful have concerns about the direction the Church is going in, when they have concerns that the statement of a bishop sounds strange, they can certainly express that concern—but only in the context of obedience to those entrusted with the mission of shepherding us. If such a shepherd creates a confused message, we can ask for clarification and we can appeal to a higher source. But we cannot do so in a disrespectful manner. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote well in his Summa Theologica on the subject.

I answer that, A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.

 Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Tim. 5:1): An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father. Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii.), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church. (II-II q.33 a.4 resp.)

I would ask any person, who criticizes a bishop openly, whether they take this approach. If they do not, they are not behaving according to our moral obligation.

Now, some have asked whether I think this should apply to a heretical bishop like the Arians. My answer is twofold. First, if they have formally broken away from the Church, they are not in communion with the Pope and bishops in communion with them and by that fact have no authority over us. Second, the modern bishops today are certainly not in the same class as those bishops who fell into heresy.

For example (to cite the most recent example of bishop bashing), when Archbishop Cupich brought up several topics of moral concern after the Planned Parenthood videos went public, he spoke no heresy or material error. The Catholic Church does require us to be concerned about the issues he brought up. One may (respectfully) believe that this was not the time to speak about those issues. One may respectfully believe that in doing this, he gave the wrong impression that these issues are the moral equivalent of abortion and disagree with him. But, he is not a heretic nor betraying the Church in mentioning these things.

But, by insinuating that bishops like this are heretical, when they say these things, we are causing scandal by undermining the faith of our readers in the Church. We cause people to stop trusting the leaders of the Church and use one’s personal views to stand in judgment over whether the Church can be trusted. But in doing so, we are playing into the hands of the enemy who wants to attack and destroy the Church—and sees destroying the faith in the leaders as a good tactic. It’s remarkably similar to the 1943 Walt Disney Cartoon, Chicken Little:

We need to ask ourselves who benefits from our bishop bashing. It’s not the Church and it’s not the faithful. It’s not even ourselves. So, let us always remember to act in love and charity, even when we find ourselves needing to voice our concerns. Otherwise, we are the ones causing harm to the Church and we will have to answer for it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Marked

Nazarene symbol ISIS

America prides itself on being a tolerant nation. When Americans see news reports of ethnic or religious hatred in another region of the world, or high handed government oppression, the general thought we have is that it is something that can’t happen here. Unfortunately, America tends to have a huge blind spot in this area and tends to think that because we don’t behave like ISIS or the Soviet Union in dealing with the people who disagree it means we are tolerant and don’t harass anyone at all.

That’s rubbish of course. America does have sanctioned tolerance of hatred of unpopular groups and tolerated behaviors of government high-handedness. The difference between here and the regions of the world that make the news is that in America they deal with their unpopular groups in a (usually) non-violent manner. But America still has her blind spots—the groups mistreated are not seen as mistreated because the targets are either not seen as being important enough to worry about or are considered to deserve the treatment they receive. Because this treatment is not brutal violence, it is argued that this treatment is not harassment at all.

Unpopular Groups are Targeted For Discrimination in America

In America today, the unpopular groups are those Christians who stand up for the traditional Christian sexual mores, especially belief in what makes a marriage—one man and one woman in a lifelong relationship accepting whatever children may come and raising them with the same values. In a world that increasingly rejects all aspects of that belief, reducing such a relationship to whatever may be sexually satisfying, a Christian who takes such a stand is seen as judgmental and intolerant towards those who live in any other way.

This is more serious than the detractors of Christianity realize, because labelling something as “intolerant” is the secular society’s version of the medieval concept of making someone an outlaw—that is, a person deprived of the benefit and protection of the law. In medieval times, the outlaw had no rights and could be targeted by anyone—the person doing the targeting not being subject to legal penalties for doing so.

Holding Christian Beliefs Unpopular Among American Elites Can Deprive One of Protection of the Law

In modern America, a Christian who is willing to compromise and accept the state’s view on abortion, contraception or “same sex marriage” can get along in America just fine. Whatever else they may believe is generally no threat. But the Christian who will not accept the state’s views on these subjects can expect trouble when they publicly state their views. We have had people who funded propositions defending traditional marriage lose their job. We have had people who refuse to provide business services that require them to treat same sex “marriage” as being morally acceptable wind up being sued or prosecuted. We’ve had Church schools successfully sued for enforcing rules that require employees to publicly live in keeping with Church teaching on morality. Catholic schools and hospitals are fighting for their right of religious freedom when it comes to the contraception against unsympathetic courts.

Basically, the situation is one where these behaviors would cause outrage if any other group was involved. Think this is rhetoric? OK, how about if a bakery owned by an African American was successfully sued for refusing to make a cake for a Ku Klux Klan event? Yet the principle would be the same—the business owner being required to do something they found offensive and sued if they would not cooperate.

The False Charge and It’s Refutation

People who try to defend this situation argue that the difference is that race is not changeable while religious beliefs are changeable. In contrast, they argue, that the religious beliefs are based on bigotry. They then equate the defense of these immoral actions with the civil rights movement in opposing racism in America. But that is to introduce a false analogy. The issue is not race. The issue is: shall a person be coerced to do something they think is morally wrong? The entire history of racism in America was not based on the belief that it was immoral to interact with people of other ethnicities. It was based on the fact that proponents of racist systems believed that non-whites were inferior to whites and had to be kept from achieving the same level as whites.

So, the Church teaching that contraception or abortion is wrong or that same-sex acts are wrong does not come from the belief that women or people with same sex attraction are inferior to males or heterosexual people and need to be kept from achieving the same level as males or heterosexual orientation (indeed the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that discrimination or mistreatment of a person with same sex attraction is not to be done). It comes from the belief that certain actions—which one can decide to do or not do—are contrary to God’s will for us and therefore may never be done. A person cannot control his ethnicity and may not be able to control his sexual orientation. But a person can control what actions he chooses to do regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

The Charge of Bigotry is No More Than An Excuse To Silence an Opponent

So the “bigotry” or “sexism” or “homophobia” charges are false, and the proponents of abortion, contraception and same sex marriage are not the stalwart defenders of America against racism. They are ideologues who have a hatred of religious beliefs that call their behavior wrong and want to silence the opponents of what they want to legitimize. Christianity says “You must not do this!” The proponents want the right to do these things. So they must demonize their opponents to make their views seem invalid. Nobody wants to accommodate bigotry (not even Christians). So if they can make this label stick in the minds of people, we will see the defense of Christian belief distorted into appearing to be “hate speech."

In logic, we call this tactic Poisoning The Well. It attempts to turn the audience against a person before he or she can even begin a defense. It works this way: An unfavorable claim is made about a person or group. Therefore, any claim made by that group is not to be trusted. That’s what’s happening here. When Christians are labeled as anti-women and “homophobes,” anything they say is discounted as a defense of bigotry. The more we say in defense of a Christian moral teaching, the more they paint us as being bigoted because we defend this position.

Conclusion 

So in this day and age, Christians who refuse to go along with the diktats of the state and the cultural elites are marked for harassment and de facto made outlaws in the sense that they are deprived of the protection of the law. The tactic is to silence us or to make us so hated that we will be ignored and written off as people who hate. Such tactics, however, are only effective to the extent that the listener accepts the claims without asking whether they are actually true. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

TFTD: They Revile What They Do Not Understand

But these people revile what they do not understand and are destroyed by what they know by nature like irrational animals. (Jude 1:10)

A couple of days before Christmas, I was involved in a combox discussion on the issues over the satanic counter to the Nativity Scene in Florida. My own thesis was that the putting up a “religious” display with the intent of protesting religious displays was a self-contradiction. What struck me was a comment from one of the atheists. It was a tu quoque claim that the Bible was full of contradictions. Today, there seems to be a lot of atheists on Facebook and in the comboxes bashing Christianity over Neil deGrasse Tyson and his tweet in celebration of the December 25th birthday of Sir Isaac Newton (the actual tweet struck me as being more pathetic than offensive, apparently trying to imply Newton was more important than Christ).

Basically, the theme is that Christians are stupid for believing in God while blaming Christianity and religion in general for every crime in the history of humanity (denying the role of the atheistic ideology in the worst atrocities of the 20th century). These things are pretty tiresome, and fairly frustrating. The bashing is basically illogical and factually wrong. They would actually be easy to refute—if people took the time to listen and investigate whether what they say is true.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen expressed things very well when he wrote:

“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing.” (Radio Replies vol. 1)

Ven. Archbishop Sheen makes a good point. The Catholic Church is not really hated for what she teaches, but for what people think she teaches, and when people run afoul of the Church teachings, we are told that these teachings were made out of hatred of women, of people with same sex attraction, of divorced people, the poor, the rich, sexuality etc., simply because we have a teaching on the morality of certain actions.

People don’t even ask what we teach, let alone why we teach it. People assume that the worst possible portrayals of the Church in history are true, never realizing that even in past centuries there were people with ideologies and axes to grind who had no problems denigrating the Church to build up their own agendas. Because they know nothing of Catholic teaching and history, but assume the Church is capable of the worst, they assume that the horror stories they hear must be true and done out of sheer malice—never mind facts and the context of the times.

Sometimes I wish people couldn’t post on a subject online unless they could demonstrate they understood what they were bashing.

But we shouldn’t expect that. Our Lord did warn us that we could expect hatred from the world if we sought to be faithful to Him:

18 “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’ (John 15:18-25)

So we endure hatred and try to reach out to the person of good will who wants to learn the truth, praying for all of them.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Obligation of Truth

The social media being what it is, I tend to see a lot of political emails, Facebook posts etc go by. A lot of them make claims that certain politicians or groups do or say horrific things that every decent person should be disgusted by.

I don't pass them on without investigating them first. I may, for example, find Obama's policies reprehensible while seeking to live in accordance with what I believe.  However that does not allow me to pass on false information as a means of opposing those things he does that I must call evil.

There are some issues that we must be aware of:
■ We may never knowingly choose to do an evil act so good may come of it.
■ To pass on statements without investigating whether or not it is true is negligence.
■ We must understand the context of words and actions that seem so shocking before using them to judge.

These are things that I wish people would apply to the information passed on about the Catholic Church. There is a lot of outright lies being passed on concerning what the Church has allegedly taught or done that horrify people.   There is also a lot of stories going on about individuals who are Catholic and did terrible things... and these things are portrayed as if they were part of Church teaching instead of as the aberrations they are.

Here's the problem. To pass on statements you know are false is to be guilty of slander/libel. To pass on false statements you could investigate but don't makes you guilty of libel/slander through negligence.  The same applies to knowing or negligent passing on of out of context information.

This is not something theoretical. It's not relegated to the crude and cartoonish libel of Jack Chick. Today, we have people who make false statements about what we believe and our motivation for holding our beliefs. We're homophobic in our teaching about marriage, we're anti-woman about our beliefs on contraception and abortion.  False history and out of context examples are given as "proof."

It's funny how people will immediately look to Snopes.com when a politician they favor is maligned but can't be bothered to try and find out the truth behind anti-Catholic statements. Or, if they "research," they look at sites they ideologically agree with -- which is like asking the Tea Party for objective information on Obamacare or NARAL about Operation Rescue.

Regardless of who is the target, whether or not we like them, the obligation is to learn what is true, and only pass on what is true.

Think about it...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TFTD: Hypocritical Champions of 'Tolerance.'

Introduction

A friend brought to my attention the campaign being used by certain homosexual activists to attach the name of Rick Santorum to a rather repugnant substance.  This article was conceived while reflecting on the utter hypocrisy of the action from people who claim to champion "tolerance."

The Scenario

Case #1: Homosexual activists try to stamp out the teenage use of "That's so gay!" (used as an equivalent of "that's bad") as an intolerant statement.

Case #2: Homosexual activists seek to promote the term "Santorum" as a neologism involving some pretty disgusting things as revenge for Rick Santorum speaking out against homosexual acts as a moral wrong.  They are so successful that the #1 and #2 Google hits for "Santorum" [at the time of this writing] involve this repugnant action, and it is not until the #3 hit that we are directed to any entry about Rick Santorum himself (the Wikipedia entry).

It is an interesting contrast.  In the first case, people are seeking to eliminate a pejorative meaning to a word commonly associated with homosexuality.   In the second case, the same people are seeking to create a pejorative meaning for a name belonging for a man they despise.

Now, if I were to campaign to make a pejorative meaning to "homosexual" (such as, "Oh man, I stepped in some homosexual… it's all over my shoes!"), I have no doubt that this action would be widely denounced (assuming anyone actually reads the site) as hateful.

So why is it that such people who campaign against "That's so gay" as being intolerant also make use of intolerance when it suits them?

Definitions

These people certainly do not practice what they preach.  If they did, they would recognize that, if it is wrong to give the term "Gay" a negative term, then it reasonably follows that it is wrong to give other terms a negative connotation.

Given that the term 'Tolerate' means:

allow the existence or occurrence of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

It seems that the person who claims tolerance is a virtue must accept the existence of views they disagree with.  Otherwise, they are not tolerant.  They are hypocrites, defined as:

The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform.

The Syllogism

SYLLOGISM:

  1. [Tolerance] [Allows the existence of something one dislikes or disagrees with without Interference] (All [A] is [B])
  2. Some [Homosexual Activists] do not [Allow the existence of something one dislikes or disagrees with without Interference] (Some [C] is not [B])
  3. Therefore Some [Homosexual Activists] are not [Tolerant] (Therefore Some [C] is not [A])

I use the weaker [Some] and not the stronger [No] in recognition of the fact that some activists have human decency and do not act like these barbarians.  The use of [Some] limits the argument to certain people and does not attempt to lump all people into one category.

This courtesy is unfortunately not returned, as it is common to see Catholic teaching compared with being no different than the Westboro Baptist Church and their hateful activities.

The Inescapable Reasoning

The accusation of hypocrisy on the part of these activists is just and cannot be denied.

Since Tolerance is the virtue preached by these activists, but they will not apply to others what they demand for themselves, we can reasonably conclude that these activists claim a moral standard to which their behavior does not conform.  Since that is the definition of hypocrisy, those activists are hypocrites.

Absolute Values, Absolute Truth

There is only one way to attempt to escape the charge of hypocrisy, and that begins with recognizing that tolerance is not a universal value, but it is relative to an absolute truth.  Since one can refuse to tolerate something on the grounds that it is, by nature, dangerous to others and therefore cannot be permitted to exist without causing harm, one can attempt to argue that the Christian opposition to homosexuality is harmful to others.

Universal truths would be true in all times, for all people in all circumstances.  So if it is universally true that I cannot murder a person arbitrarily, it would be true a thousand years ago, now, and a thousand years from now.  It would be true whether I lived in America, Afghanistan or Australia and whether I was rich or poor.  Asian or Caucasian etc.  Even if some cultures utterly rejected this truth, it would not change the fact that it is universally true.

This is why Tolerance cannot be a Universal Truth.  If it was, one would have to give equal tolerance to the Jews and the Nazis who persecuted them.  It would have to give equal tolerance to the view that child molestation is wrong and to the views of NAMBLA.

Sane people recognize that these views cannot co-exist.  If it is wrong for the Nazis to persecute the Jews, one cannot tolerate the view of the Nazis.  If child molestation is wrong, the views that it is acceptable cannot be tolerated.  The person who tries to tolerate both views would have to be overlooking some serious issues.

This is also why Islam and Christianity cannot both be true.  If Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the fulfillment of Revelation, then the claim of Islam that He was merely a Prophet but lesser than Muhammad must be false.  Likewise, if the claim of Islam be true, then Jesus cannot have been the Son of God.

The point is, truth cannot contradict truth.  So if one view is seen as truth, a view which contradicts it cannot also be truth.

"Tolerance" and Truth

What this comes down to is this.  If Christians say that homosexual acts are wrong, and certain activists say homosexual acts are morally acceptable, both views cannot be seen as true.  Both must demonstrate why their views are true.  Christianity has done this, and one can look up the teachings on the matter.  Those who reject the Catholic teaching as being false need to demonstrate why it is false and provide reasons for why their view is true.

Yet this is exactly what is not done.  It is argued that the Catholic teaching is "intolerant," without showing why homosexual acts need to be tolerated as morally acceptable behavior.  Instead, logical fallacies are used, notably the appeal to fear and pity, to lead one to think that if Gay "marriage" is not made law, the Westboro Baptist Church and people murdering homosexuals will become the norm; and that the denial of the "right to marry" means homosexual persons will be forced to live alone without love.  We are told that we must either sanction "gay marriage" or else sanction the "persecution" of homosexuals.

The Position of Catholics Must Be Distinguished From Popular Distortions

It only makes sense to invoke the Westboro Baptist Church or those people who assault homosexuals against the position of the Catholic Church, if the Catholic Church accepts their actions as valid.  If they do not, the comparison is invalid.

Of course since the Catholic Church condemns treating persons as less than persons, this sort of argument is a slander.  Blessed John XXII wrote in 1963:

158. It is always perfectly justifiable to distinguish between error as such and the person who falls into error—even in the case of men who err regarding the truth or are led astray as a result of their inadequate knowledge, in matters either of religion or of the highest ethical standards. A man who has fallen into error does not cease to be a man. He never forfeits his personal dignity; and that is something that must always be taken into account.

So the right thinking Catholic recognizes that even though we must condemn homosexual behavior, we must still treat the person with homosexual tendencies as a person and not as a sub-human who may be mistreated.  However, one can still believe homosexual behavior is wrong without contradicting the view that persons must be treated as persons:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. 

Catechism of the Catholic Church

In other words, persons are to be treated with respect as persons even though we must oppose homosexuality as wrong.  There is no justification to the accusations of "homophobia" or bigotry against us, and to say our beliefs are wrong requires one to prove what beliefs are right and why.  Otherwise it is an ipse dixit claim.

Conclusion

This is the dilemma for the activist which rejects the Christian moral teaching and calls us "intolerant."

On one hand, if one wants to invoke Tolerance as an absolute value, they must either tolerate the views they disagree with (including us Christians) or else be labeled Hypocrite. 

On the other hand, if they want to avoid the hypocrite label while condemning our view as wrong, they must stop hiding behind the label of "tolerance" and acknowledge that universal and absolute truths exist and are knowable, and they must demonstrate the truth of their claims and not claim that their views must be true on the account that they reject our views.

If they will not, if they will simply continue on in personal attacks, using labels like "homophobe," "bigot," or "intolerant," then we can see that such activists are motivated by emotion and hatred, not by reason and logic and that they are guilty of the behaviors they accuse us of possessing.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Works Alone: The Protestant Claim that Slanders and Libels Catholicism

libel

[Arnobius of Sicca note: Ugh… I meant "Libel" but typed "slander."  Edited to fix]

n.

1 Law the publication of a false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation. Compare with slander.

† such a statement; a written defamation.

1 Law defame by publishing a libel.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Introduction

I've been forcing myself to read the novel Left Behind (I figure I should be aware of famous works, even if I think they are in error), which is a story about the so-called Rapture.  As I do so, I am reminded of a theme among certain Protestants (often repeated) which is an act of libel against the Catholic Church.  That is the claim that Catholics believe we earn our salvation by doing "good works," and we are "owed" salvation if we do enough regardless of whether or not we believe in Christ.

Such a statement is so much repeated, especially among certain Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, that many would be surprised to learn we do not believe this at all.

That's right… one of the major arguments used to denounce the Catholic Church is a complete falsehood.

Some Evidence

Let's not get into an argument about whether I am "deceived" about what the Catholic Church really teaches.  We'll do this by pointing not to my own writings, but to what the Church herself says about justification, grace and works.

In terms of Justification:

1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:40

  • But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.41 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

We believe when it comes to Grace:

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.46

1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.47 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

When it comes to merit, we profess:

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due.... Our merits are God's gifts."62

Nor is this merely a late change as some might accuse.  The Catechism of the Council of Trent  of the 16th century says:

For the grace of Christ is seen to abound more, inasmuch as it communicates to us not only what He merited and paid of Himself alone, but also what, as Head, He merited and paid in His members, that is, in holy and just men. Hence it can be seen how such great weight and dignity belong to the good actions of the pious. For Christ our Lord continually infuses His grace into the devout soul united to Him by charity, as the head to the members, or as the vine through the branches. This grace always precedes, accompanies and follows our good works, and without it we can have no merit, nor can we at all satisfy God.  (emphasis added)

I believe this evidence should be enough to demonstrate that we believe our justification, grace and merits come from God and (if one follows the links) even the good we do is made possible by God.

I think it should be clear that the person who claims the Catholic believes God "owes" us anything on the grounds we "earn" our salvation by doing works slanders or libels us (depending on whether the accuser speaks or writes).  We have no belief whatsoever about doing [X] amount of works or saying [Y] number of prayers will guarantee us Heaven.  We believe God calls us to be faithful to Him and carry out His commands out of love for Him.  Christ has said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).  In a relationship of love, a person doesn't ask "How much do I have to do?"  The person who loves does what he or she does as an expression of love.

The Implication

Now the person who repeats such a claim may not be acting with malice.  He or she may sincerely believe what is said against us.

That does not let the individual off the hook however.  To repeat a claim without finding out if it is true is unjust indeed.  If I should repeat that Jones is a murderer simply on the grounds I have been told this, I am to blame for repeating a slander if Jones is innocent.

There's also another serious implication here: Protestantism has at least one false premise in its rejection of Catholicism.

Think of it.  One of the reasons of the rejection of the Catholic Church was the belief that the Church put a person on an endless and futile quest to do "enough" to earn salvation.  Yet we don't believe what we are accused of.  Thus one justification for breaking away is… unjustified.  In placing Sola Fide in opposition to "Works Alone" a straw man fallacy is committed.

  1. The Catholic Church Holds [X]
  2. The Anti-Catholic presents the Church as holding [Y] (a distortion of [X])
  3. Position [Y] is attacked.
  4. The illusion is The Catholic Church has been refuted on [X]

The truth is, the attack on [Y] is irrelevant.  The Church teaching is [X] and it is [X] which needs to be examined.

To continue to accuse the Church of [Y] is to slander or libel the Church, whether through malice or negligence.

negligence

n. failure to take proper care over something.

† Law breach of a duty of care which results in damage.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.