Monday, March 24, 2003

Regarding faithful Catholics who are dismissing the Church's position on the war.

A couple highlights and comments:

I actually wonder if avoiding the word "dissent" is really a very smart tactic. If you don't want to distance yourself from the context of a bishop or pope's prudential judgment, and authentic discussion ought to attempt to preserve the proper context of such judgments, then why not roll up your sleeves and get dirty? Why not claim that as a faithful, good-willed, intelligent Catholic, you are dissenting from an official statement by the USCCB or pope? Using "disagree" or some such term undermines the weight of the official statement and the impact that a contrary opinion might have; and yes, avoiding "dissent" waters the position of the bishops and pope down to mere opinion devoid of wisdom or inspiration from the Holy Spirit (you see the pattern developing).

First of all, that's what the pro-war Catholics want to do, so their conscience is not as troubled.

Secondly, many of these commentators wrote themselves into a corner during the sexual abuse scandals. They wrote (sometimes rightly) that "dissent" was the root cause of the sexual abuse scandals, so they obviously don't want to be associated with it now. Which leads to the next point:

My concern from the start, when I first raised doubts about the wisdom of Catholics writing an Open Letter that seemed inappropriate, was that there have been motions, some subtle and perhaps unintended, some explicit, vigorous, and deliberate, to vitiate the Church's moral authority in secular matters. I get the impression that Catholics are being encouraged to look for loopholes, to walk within the letter but perhaps not the spirit of Church Teaching, to wiggle and squirm so they can comfortably dismiss the clear statements of concern about current events from the USCCB and the pope. I don't mean genuine, faithful dissent that may be heroic, objectively correct, and noble. I don't mean a humble, reverent shaking of one's head in disapproval. I don't mean the kind of disagreement that leaves one uncomfortable, causes one to look again for what is not seen, and hobbles one a bit by pangs of conscience. I mean the dissent of Catholics who boldly proclaim the bishops are wrong, the Vatican is wrong, the pope is wrong on an issue of utmost moral significance.

Right, and if we create an American Catholic culture where people feel comfortable to boldly proclaim the wrongeness of the Church, then we're doing real damage to the ability of the Church to teach authoritativley about anything. I dare say that such open and naked dissent from faithful Catholics does more to harm the Church's teaching authority than the abuse scandals.

And please don't come to me with this "prudential judgement, not doctrinal statement" rubbish -- yes, for the hundredth time, I know that Catholics are not required to assent to prudential judgements. But those who wish to undermine the Church's teaching on doctrinal matters aren't so particular about the distinction.

If we love the Church, and we desire it to continue to be a moral force, then we need to take her teachings seriously, rather than look for loopholes for how they don't apply to us.

And that is true even if it's a "prudential judgement."

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