Thursday, November 30, 2006

Patterns of Dissent

In seeing how people justify dissent from Church teachings, some patterns emerge:

  • ”Just as bad as...”
    Here, the bishops might make a statement claiming that one questionable act is in the same general class as another act which is more indisputably condemned. For example, they might say that contraception moves the marital act away from its ideal, and toward things like lying and encounters with prostitutes, those who which to defend the questionable act flop to the floor about how mean the bishops are to draw such a moral equivalence, and claim they lose credibility by doing so. Examples include editorials in Commonweal and NCR in response to the bishops’ statements on human sexuality. Andrew Sullivan is a master at this one. I’ll admit to doing this myself at times.

    I’m not sure what can be done to confront this. It strikes me as an attempt to evade a Cross. This is an understandable response to being confronted with a cross – why should I have to carry a cross? I’m not as bad as those other people over there! But it is still not correct.

  • ”Human Experience
    Both of these editorials cited above also cite “human experience” as a reason for the bishops to reconsider their positions. Another flavor of this is to say that the teachings are nice in the ideal, but out of touch with the reality on the ground, as was often done to oppose the Magisterium’s categorical condemnation of torture.

    Robert Araujo comments on this nicely. It’s not at all clear that the “human experience” that leads one to oppose these teachings in not human experience that should inform the positions the Church takes on these issues. It is a vague phrase – never specified, likely because it boils down to selfishness.

    Yes, I am aware there are heart-breaking circumstances that might lead one to favor positions contrary to the Church. There are good reasons a couple might not want to have more children. I deal with one myself. But I don’t believe that the dissent from the Church’s teaching is based on these hard cases anymore than support for abortion is driven by compassion for victims of rape and incest.

    I think the typical couple that dissents from this teaching could accept more children into their lives if they were willing to forego some non-essential material comforts our ancestors never dreamed of like cable television, cellular phone service, a second car, or some meals out. I’m not saying that giving these things up would be easy, but it strikes me as a poor reason to tell Mother Church she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

    I think those inclined to dissent from these teachings know it to, which is why they don’t say it in detail but hide behind the squishy “human experience” term. That way, the reader can see it as a couple that already has three children with CF that is just scraping by, when in reality the writer is thinking about a couple that doesn’t want to have to miss the next season of The Sopranos
Post a Comment