Thursday, February 05, 2004

This discussion of dissent leads me to what I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of what dissent is that I see out there. It goes like this:

Any dissent on "matters of faith" (i.e. dissent from the left) is wrong and gorunds for denial of communion.

Dissent on "prudential judgements" (i.e. dissent from the right), is always justified, and in many cases a solemn duty.

So long as the disagreement is about a "prudential judegement," all methods of argument are in bounds, and the dissenters are immune from any criticism. In fact, it's probably unfair to call them "dissenters" at all.

Thus, it is far, far worse to say, "I still don't see why women can't be ordained," or "The doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary never did much for me," than it is to say, "The moving of my favorite priest is yet another example of the hierarchy's tone deafness toward the laity, and we are right not to listen to them." or "The hierarchy's opposition to the war in Iraq shows again its refusal to confront evil which was evidenced by the sexual abuse scandals."

I don't buy this line of thinking. I think the manner in which one dissents is as important, if not more important, than the matter upon which one is dissenting.

If I destroy the hierarchy's ability to teach in order to win an argument, I will not be consoled by the fact that the disagreement was over a "prudential judgement."
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