Thursday, May 8, 2014


“You must unlearn what you have learned.”


As I follow more social media, I increasingly see that people no longer seek to understand the meaning of words. They automatically associate certain words with certain ideologies. Then, when someone uses one of these words, they are either praised or condemned depending on whether the word is associated with something they favor or something they despise.

The result is, people no longer listen. They assume that they know when they do not.

The problem is, the more important the words, the more serious the misunderstanding.  Thus, when it comes to the Church teaching -- which deals with the fate of the immortal soul,  the words are vitally important, and misunderstanding them can have the gravest results.


Since this modern assumption pushes us further away from truth, we must get rid of it. We have to stop thinking we know what a word means and go beyond our assumptions.

I believe the biggest stumbling block are the political assumptions we carry about. Say "Right to Life" and people automatically think you're a conservative.  Say "Social Justice" and people automatically assume you're liberal.

The Church, however teaches about our obligations concerning both issues. Are we to think that the Church is some sort of "right wing liberal" organization? Hardly.

Unfortunately, most people either want to use the Church authority in a sort of "capture the flag" when her approval is desired to give an ideology credibility, or they want to slap a label on the Church which allows them to ignore what they dislike.

Either Or? Neither Nor? Both And?

But this does not mean that the Church is "middle of the road" either. When truth is either-or, a compromise cannot exist. Either the unborn child is a human person or is not. If the unborn child is a person, abortion can never be justified. Appeals to "reproductive freedom" become asinine when what is at stake is a human right to exist.

In other areas, the moral obligation may be absolute, but the ways the obligation can be met are varied. The Church teaches on moral obligations in social justice. But the solution is not limited to socialism -- something that the Church rejects. Reforming health care does not make the support of Obamacare mandatory. In fact the Bishops are opposing it.

The Church doesn't have a "party platform." She teaches what way Christians are obliged to live, but doesn't say "You must embrace this specific political plan to do so."

In every age, the Church has spoken in teaching what is required, but leaves it to the people to implement policies reflecting the teachings... correcting the people when they go astray.

The Pervasive Perversion of Ideology

I'm always amazed that people who wouldn't trust a person of a disliked political faction to evaluate the weather, let alone the meaning of events, seem to have no trouble accepting and being scandalized by that faction's interpretation of Church teaching. The knee-jerk reaction to certain words mentioned seems to be enough to accuse the Church of being "The Republican party at prayer" according to liberals and "collectivist" or "socialist" according to conservatives.

Sometimes a particular party gets things very wrong. Abortion is an obvious example here in America. The Democratic party actively supports it, and the Catholic Church absolutely condemns it (and has condemned it long before America was even discovered, let alone established). Therefore, to the ideologue, the Catholic Church is against the Democratic party and therefore supports everything the Republican party stands for.

On the other side, when the Church speaks out on economic injustice, the Republican party treats it as if it was a ringing endorsement of the Democratic party platform in entirety.

This can lead the individual confused. "Is the Catholic Church pro-Democrat or pro-Republican?"

That's when I want to pound my head on a desk. The Church is neither in favor of one party or the other. It is only the pervasive ideologies perverting thinking that leads people to ask this, assuming either A or B without asking whether that is the only way to think on the issue. That's the fallacy of the false dilemma.

Contradictory or Contrary?

A problem we Americans have is the inability to distinguish between contradictory and contrary ideas.

Contradictory ideas are two ideas where they can't both be true, but one must be true. For example, it can't be raining and not raining at the same time and place. It either is or it isn't.

Contrary ideas are ideas can't both be true BUT both can be false. For example Red vs. Blue. An object can't be both all red and all blue. But it can be yellow, making the red vs. blue theory false.

So saying "Catholicism is either the True Religion or is not the True Religion" is an example of contradictory claims. One of them must be false and one must be true. A thing cannot be both true and not true at the same time and in the same way.

Saying "Either conservative or liberal" is an example of contrary claims. Their philosophies are in opposition and both cannot be true. But the rejection of elements of one does NOT mean the endorsement of the other. One could reject both ideologies as being false in some ways.

This is a vital point. Too many people argue that the bishops, being pro-life, must have a conservative bias. Too many people think that the Pope, speaking on moral flaws in capitalism must be liberal.

Never mind the fact that the Church has spoken on such issues since the 1st century AD.


Jesus won't ask us about our political affiliations when the final judgment comes. He'll ask us if we kept His commandments (John 14:10).

If our ideologies blind us to the holiness we are required to seek, they are a threat to our salvation. If we begin judging whether the teaching of the Church is conservative/liberal enough or too conservative/liberal, our ideology is a stumbling block to loving and serving Christ.

We'd better start unlearning our political factionalism and start learning to seek first the Kingdom of God.

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