Monday, July 27, 2020

Identifying With a Thing Doesn’t Make It Good per se. Opposing it Doesn’t Make it Bad

One thing I encounter among Catholics on social media is the assumption that: because I identify with a thing, it must be good or because I oppose it, it must be bad. The problem with this view is it confuses what makes an act good or evil objectively with one’s feelings about an act. Since people don’t like to think of themselves as being wrong, this assumption frequently results in accusing the Church of error for affirming a teaching in the face of popular sentiment.

These attacks—like so many others—are not limited to one region or faction. Conservative or liberal; Democrat or Republican; these and many other factions across the public square find fault with the Church where the Church cannot do anything else but teach this way.

To understand why the Church holds that a thing must be a certain way, we need to grasp that there are three things needed to make an act morally good. The action itself must be good (e.g. you can never say an act of rape or genocide is good), the results must be good (a do-gooder who sparks a riot through lack of prudence doesn’t perform a good act even if the action itself is good), and the intention must be good (If I donate money to charity in order to impress and seduce my neighbor’s wife, that is an evil intention). If even one of these three conditions are absent, you don’t have a good act. Let’s look at some illustrations.

Things like abortion are examples of an intrinsically bad act. It arbitrarily chooses to end an innocent human life for the perceived benefit of another human life. Even if the person who commits it thinks that the good outweighed the evil, or meant well in doing so, you can’t call it a good act. How one feels about it doesn’t change that fact. This is why the Church cannot do anything other than condemn it. Reducing the amount of abortion cannot be an end in itself. It can only be a step on the way to abolition.

Other acts can be neutral or good in themselves, but the consequence is bad. For example, the Church does teach that a nation can regulate immigration if doing so is necessary. This is something critics of the Pope and bishops love to point out. But there is a difference between “our country is in the midst of a disaster and we are having trouble dealing with it right now” and “Criminals among THOSE people are dangerous and we don’t want them here, so let’s keep everyone out!” The US bishops are pointing out that America is not in that first situation, and the second situation is a morally bad consequence—refusing to help those in need out of a fear of who might get in.

And, of course, a good or neutral act can be made bad if done for a bad intention. Being thrifty is a good thing. But, if one is frugal for a bad reason (like Judas dipping into the common purse [John 12:5-6]), it’s not a morally good act. If a government cuts expenses with the intent of targeting certain groups or raising taxes in the name of social services, but defines the term to fund immoral policies, then the bad intention corrupts the good or neutral base act.

In these cases, no matter how much one identifies with the cause, if it’s defective in one of these three parts, you can’t call it a good act.

On the other side, the fact that the Church as a whole, the Pope, or an individual bishop acts in a way we disagree with does notmake it a morally bad act. The Church needs to act with an eye towards saving souls. That might be a soft merciful approach, as when Our Lord dined with sinners. It might be a strong rebuke, as when Our Lord rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees. But the point of their action is supposed to be bringing the sinner back to reconciliation. Since the Church is made up of sinners with finite knowledge, we will invariably encounter situations handled badly. But we will also encounter situations we think are handled badly due to our own lack of knowledge… either about the situation or about the teaching behind the Church’s action. 

Every election year, for example, we hear from certain Catholics on how the bishops are failing by not excommunicating politicians for supporting abortion. This is based on a misunderstanding of canon law. Canon law points out that those directly taking part in a specific act of abortion (abortionist, their staff, woman having an abortion, etc.) are automatically excommunicated. But those working to protect abortion as a “right” are doing something gravely sinful and, under canon 916, should refrain from Communion. Canon 915 involves those publicly involved in grave sin. Some bishops have invoked it in refusing communion to politicians in their dioceses. Others don’t seem to have acted in this way. 

But what we don’t know is why they have not acted publicly. It could be laxity or sympathy… the two common charges from those who demand public action. Are there situations we don’t know about? Are the bishops in personal dialogue with these Catholic politicians? Have they privately told these politicians not to receive? Do they want to avoid conflict? I don’t know… but neither do the critics. We should certainly pray for our bishops to shepherd rightly. But we should also keep in mind that—in connecting the dots—we may not have seen all the dots that we need to connect.

This should not be interpreted as a “be passive in the face of injustice.” What it means is, we should not be so confident in our interpretation of events that we think only the conclusion we draw is true. Church history is full of people who thought they knew better and caused all sorts of chaos, endangering their own souls and the souls of others. Because conditions change, the Church will have to decide how to best apply timeless truths to the current times. Sometimes, the attitudes of a society can lead Catholics to tolerate—or even commit—injustice. Sometimes those Catholics are higher up in the Church. But we must not assume that this is the case when the Church must teach in a way we do not like.

 

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(†) Of course, we must do more to help people than just end abortion. We need to help people in situations where they think it is the only choice. But only focusing on those parts while leaving it legal is not a Catholic position.

(‡) Provided, of course, the Bishop is acting in communion with the Pope and fellow bishops. The actions of a Lefebvre or a Milingo (for example) cannot be defended on these grounds.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

It’s Iimi! A Dialogue on Misconceptions

Another comic involving a misconceptions about Catholic beliefs. When Saul misunderstands Catholic teaching on free will, Iimi clarifies and asks why don’t people ask what we believe before assuming that accusations are true.





































Friday, July 24, 2020

The Dangerous Double Standards and Tu Quoque Fallacies

While it’s easy to lose sight of it in the midst of the coronavirus and BLM protest news, we do have an election coming up. This brings up the usual problems with American Catholics acting goofy. Following the news—frequently little more than editorials—I notice a bipartisan problem. That problem is the rush to condemn something only when it shows up in an administration run by the opposing political party, but staying silent on the issue when it’s prevalent in an administration one supports.

That doesn’t mean we need to be silent on both of course. Quite the opposite in fact. If something is an injustice, it needs to be solved regardless of who is in power. But if we only speak out on it when our enemies are in power, and make excuses for when our favored faction ruled, we are hypocrites who are looking for a stick to bash our opponents over, not effect lasting reform.

One of the problems seems to be that we treat politics as a zero-sum game and don’t want to endanger our party’s prospects when an election is on the line by criticism. I say zero-sum because everybody tends to think that if someone does anything to challenge their preferred party, that person is accused of acting to benefit the other side… and all the evils that the other side is associated with. 

So, we tend to kick our own scandals under the table and blame the problem on the other party. But, in pointing out the failures of the other side, we show we are aware that the problem is an evil, and that we were silent when our own party was in power. For example, I’ve seen Catholic Democrats take pleasure in pointing out the fact that—under Republican administrations—abortion hasn’t gone away, while Catholic Republicans point to the fact that we had incompetent handling of epidemics and unjust handling of illegal immigration under the Democrat administrations. Both are right in saying that the other side has a history of injustice and failure.

The problem is, because they overlook their own party’s fault, the hypocrisy is staggering. As Catholics, we have an obligation to do what is right in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Downplaying the evils or making it seem less important than the evils of the other side is an evasion at best. If we know X is morally wrong when our political opponents do it, we have an obligation not to tolerate it in our own party. Reform isn’t simply a matter of voting for the party you see as less of a disaster. It also means reforming your own party when it goes wrong… regardless of whether the other side does the same.

If we will not do that, we are hypocrites and will have to answer for the scandal we cause. I say scandal because, if we give a witness of setting aside those Church teachings that our own party is guilty of, we set an example of letting others do the same for their own party. Whether a Catholic is a Democrat, an independent, a Republican, or a supporter of a Third Party, we cannot turn our backs on evil or injustice while pointing out the problems of the other side. We cannot argue that another Catholic must violate his conscience in order to vote the way we like, just because we fear the consequences of our party losing.

We have to ask ourselves about how we will answer for our evasions and brush-offs at the final judgment. It will do no good to say, “I chose to violate teaching A to promote teaching B.” It will do no good to say “they did it too.” When we knowingly ignore what the Church teaches, we will have to give an account. When we choose not to learn the truth about why the Church speaks against the policy of a politician we support when we easily could have done the research, our ignorance will not be a defense. Invincible ignorance exists when we have no way of knowing we are in the wrong. But when we have a Church speaking against that wrong, we do not have that excuse.

 

__________

(†) As always, I choose to contrast Democrat-Republican, Left-Right, Conservative-Liberal in alphabetical order to avoid appearance of bias.

(‡) I am using “independent” in the sense of “not affiliated with a party,” not in the sense of the American Independent Party (a third party).

Friday, July 17, 2020

Are We Blind or Do We See? Thoughts on Dissent and Culpability

Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin. (Gaudium et Spes #16)

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They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged. (Lumen Gentium #14)

 

The bishops issued a condemnation regarding the resumption of the death penalty in the United States. Given that the Pope made use of his legitimate authority to teach in the ordinary magisterium (canon 752) when he made amendments to how the death penalty is applied (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2267), and the bishops are teaching in communion with him (canon 753), rejection of this teaching cannot be considered a “prudential judgment” or the act of a faithful Catholic.

But, when confronted with that fact, certain# Catholics among those who still support the death penalty instead say that the bishops should speak on other issues instead. They then usually cite the usual falsehoods spread against the Pope. But this argument is not only a tu quoque, but actually a sign of ignorance: The Pope and bishops do speak on these topics and have been vilified by the same political factions that the bishops are now accused of supporting.

During the pontificates of St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, these Catholics would have labeled those arguing for the right to dissent “heretics.” But now, under Pope Francis, they call the Pope “heretic” and use the same arguments they once condemned. That isn’t rhetoric. In the 1980 to 2013, defenders of the Church recognized that this was dissent. Now, they call it “being faithful.” †


So, here’s the question we need to consider. Given that the Church has consistently taught from the beginning that the Church teaches with Christ’s authority and is protected from error, can we call the Catholic who refuses to obey when the Pope or the bishops in communion with him teach—in the ordinary or extraordinary manner—faithful?

I believe the answer is no, though they think they are and the level of culpability might be different. One might only be materiallyin error, thinking he or she is doing the right thing while in reality is fuzzy on Church teaching. One might be formally in error, knowing the teaching and that he or she is in defiance, but thinking that as long as the Church “errs,” that dissent is justified. Assessing their guilt is for God to judge, not me. But they are in wrong nonetheless and we cannot let error have free rein*

And that is the problem. Since those of us who claim§ to be properly taught and faithful Catholics must look to the Church to discern whether we have properly formed our consciences or not, we cannot plead invincible ignorance in rejecting what we aretaught. 

Yes, a Pope can be willfully sinful like John XII. No, I don’t think that Pope Francis comes anywhere near that. But even if he did, that would not change his binding authority to teach or God’s protection from him teaching error.

Once one understands this truth, there can be no justification for disobedience. Whatever a religiously illiterate media reports, that does not change our responsibility to investigate whether these claims are true and whether we are committing the fallacies of equivocation or accent in our reading of what the Pope (or the documents we cite against him) actually said. Regardless of whether one thinks the Pope speaks clearly, the obligation to determine whether we understand him correctly remains. If we cannot find an answer, the Church teaching against rash judgment forbids us to assume that what we don’t understand is “error.” According to the Catechism that’s rash judgment:

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

Of course, for those of us who encounter—especially if we try to correct—this attitude on the internet, we also have to keep the risk of rash judgment in mind. We can’t assume a deliberately schismatic attitude without proof, any more than they can assume heresy. Yes, I’ve encountered some who were diehard SSPXers. But I’ve also encountered those who were simply deceived by malicious sites, or did not realize that the news sites they used were inaccurate (there’s the whole religious illiteracy in the media thing again). We should try to be charitable in our exchanges. Even if those we debate behave badly, we still need to bear Christian witness to the people of good will who don’t understand… but want to and can’t see how to reconcile the difference between their understanding and the Church teaching. 

However, we view the state of the Church, we must remember that not only must we consider the blindness of others, we must also consider our own blindness and pray to be delivered from it.

_________

(#) I say “certain” because we always need to beware the fallacy of composition. The fact that some Catholics in a faction behave badly does not mean all Catholics in that faction do.

(†) Both then and now, these factions try to contrast obedience to Christ against obedience to His Church. Both cite documents—using their own interpretation—against how the Pope and bishops interpret it against the conditions of the times.

(*) That doesn’t mean—contra those who say “error has no rights” as an excuse—that we can mistreat those in error. God desires compassion and conversion, after all.

(§) As our Lord points out in John 9:41, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.” If we claim to be faithful Catholics, we have less excuse than the unchurched for acting in a way the Church condemns.

(‡) Unfortunately, I don’t always succeed either. There’s always the temptation to “teach that jerk a lesson.” I’ve always regretted it when I respond that way. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Reflection on Justice and Collective Guilt

So, we had a third attack on a statue of St. Junipero Serra. This time in my own diocese. As these attacks continue, I see an emerging tendency which might seem entirely just from a human perspective, though not from a Catholic perspective. That tendency is to go from an entirely just anger and disgust, to a rejection of the original just causes through a guilt by association fallacy.

I say this seems entirely just if taken solely from a human perspective because it is natural to think that if Group A suffers evil at the hands of Group B, we ought to cut ties with and oppose Group B. I say it is not just from a Catholic perspective because we believe that justice means giving to each their due, and punishing the whole for the sins of the fringe is not just.

Our Catholic bishops (contra the claims of some of my fellow Catholics) have given a balanced approach to this modern iconoclasm. They condemn the evil from the fringes, while acknowledging the justified grievances that the main groups have. Unfortunately, some Catholics—based on their personal views of Church and politics—either assume the guilt of all those protesting for racial justice or all in the Church for the acts or views that the Church actually condemned.

Context is always key. People from the past can be blind to bad practices of their times on one hand, doing evil but not intending it. But things can also be misrepresented by people from the present as well. We need to investigate, not assume. As an example, I’ve seen a quote going around the internet purported to be from St. Junipero Serra as “proof” that the saint was in favor of the mistreatment of native Americans. I have two problems with that quote. First, we have no source material for the statement as translated. That doesn’t mean the quote is a fabrication of course. He might have said it. It might be verifiable under a different translation. But without knowing where we might independently verify this quote outside of the say-so of those hostile to him, how can we investigate? Second, because we have no source: if he did say it, we have no way to determine the context. Was he saying it to support it, or saying it to condemn a vicious practice that people had grown blind to§?

So, whether one thinks he was following a practice in a time when discipline was more physical than verbal, whether he was in favor of mistreatment of natives alone (something I doubt), or whether he was opposing the practice, such a person needs evidence for their claims.

Of course, one outside of a group with grievances must not be too quick to dismiss the grievance. Otherwise we risk looking like we don’t care about the grievance. But we can’t just capitulate to an unjust demand either, whether out of fear or out of misplaced#empathy. 

Yes, the Church is filled with sinners. You the reader and I the writer are two of them. We might not be guilty of the worst sins committed by Catholics or in the name of the Church. But we can’t think of those evils within the Church as “somebody else’s problem.” At the same time, we can’t assume that the individual sinners in the Church are proof that those in charge are guilty of willfully supporting those evils. The sacrament of penance exists to bring us back into right relationship with God and each other, and people do repent. Imagine if we ignored the good St. Paul did on the grounds of the evils he did before his conversion.

But once we recognize that, we must do unto others (Matthew 7:12) despite how others outside the Church treat us. Do we think the Church is being unjustly accused and attacked as a whole for the sins of some? I believe so. But if we do recognize that this unjust, that is a warning sign that we must not do it to others.

 

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(†) Remember, we praise Bartolomé de la Casas as a saint, not Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda.

(‡) The quote in question is: “That spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians, with blows appears to be as old as the conquest of the Americas; so general in fact that the saints do not seem to be any exception to the rule.”

(§) Taken as translated, and having no knowledge of context, my instinct is to give it the second interpretation. But without context, neither I nor the Saint’s critics can know that to be a fact.

(#) “Misplaced” is the key word. For example, legitimate empathy calls us to consider the plight of a woman considering abortion. But it doesn’t allow us to support her abortion.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Two Complementary Views of the Church—Often Held in Opposition to Each Other

There are two different views of the Church that people often place in opposition to each other, assuming that the existence of one denies the truth of the other. The first view is that Jesus Christ has established the Catholic Church, given it the authority to teach in His name, and having His protection from error. The second view is that the Catholic Church is an institution filled with sinful people, some of whom are higher up members who have committed sins or even crimes.

These two views are—unfortunately—often seen as an either-or situation. Some Catholics take the first view in a way that either denies or downplays that problems exist in the Church. It gets shrugged off as “there will always be Judases in the Church.” Very true, but not what those who suffered unjustly at the hands of one of those Judases need to hear. Other Catholics will take the second view in a way that denies or downplays the first. They argue that the sinful or criminal members of the Church negate or even disprove the authority of the Church. 

Both of these Either-Or interpretations are wrong. The fact that the Church is established and protected by Christ does not mean that sins within are non-existent or minor. But the fact that some very bad people have risen in the ranks of the Church does not mean that the authority and protection no longer exist, or never existed in the first place.

I suspect that both of these errors are excessively optimistic and pessimistic views over the recognition that the Church should beholy in both teaching and practice. But when some people encounter the evils within the Church, they tend to suppress or downplay the view that runs counter to their own outlook.

Both of these excessive views are a problem because it leads people to think any legitimate defense of the authority of the Church is “denial” of the problems, while any legitimate criticism of the problems within the Church is seen as refusal to accept the authority of the Church.

In the first case, the Catholics who defend the authority of the Church need to grasp that the anger against the wrongdoing members—especially if there seems to be no apparent consequence they can see—has reasons behind it that needs to be understood. Note I said “understood.” That doesn’t necessarily mean “accepted without question.”

I make this distinction because even if—as sometimes happens—the person who is upset or angry with the Church is wrong about the accusations made against the Church, it is a real pain that needs to be addressed. That might be done by solving the problem transparently (if it is a legitimate grievance and their request is just), or explaining (compassionately) why the Church can’t do what they want. In either response, we need to show concern for their issues and help them in a just way without looking upon them as a bother. Yes, some critics have wrongly put themselves in to literal or virtual schism. But we need to respond in compassion, whether the just response is reforming an evil or correcting one’s misconception about what is evil.

In the second case, critics need to recognize that just because they think that Priest A or Bishop B are behaving wrongly, this does not negate the authority of the Church to teach, nor of our own obligation to give assent to Church teachings. Yes, John XII (who is consistently mentioned) was a morally bad Pope (yes, that is an understatement) but that doesn’t remove the authority of Popes to teach in the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium (cf. canon 752). It doesn’t remove the authority the bishops have to govern their dioceses in communion with the Pope.

Catholics need to be aware of both views and accept them both without assuming the existence of one denies the reality of the other. The Church has Our Lord’s authority/protection, and the Church has sinners within. When we find ourselves denying one of the two as threatening our preferred view, it’s a sign that we need to reevaluate our own views of the Church.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Obligation to Understand is a Two-Way Street

When the seven days were nearly completed, the Jews from the province of Asia noticed him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd, and laid hands on him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us. This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place, and what is more, he has even brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this sacred place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him and supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. The whole city was in turmoil with people rushing together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the gates were closed. (Acts 21:27–30)

In our factionalized nation, the question of “how do we change something?” too often overlooks the question of are the demands unjust? If the demand is unjust, then it is wrong to make the demand and wrong to give into it. However, just because a demand is unjust does not mean the underlying need behind it is unjust. For example, the demand for abortion as a “right” is unjust, and we cannot compromise over opposition. But there is a legitimate need behind the demand—proper health care and support for pregnant women and families—that must be met.

We can approach it the other way too. In these times, there is a legitimate need to correct racial injustices have existed for far too long. But not every demand that comes from this need is just. For example, the demands to remove or destroy religious imagery on the grounds that they symbolize some sort of injustice in the eyes of the mob is an unjust demand. Unlike many Confederate monuments and symbols, Catholics don’t have religious monuments erected as a way of saying “@#$% you!” to certain groups of people. Statues to St. Junipero Serra and St. Louis IX (both targeted by mobs) exist to honor saints for their examples of holiness.

Similar to the passage from Acts, cited above, people react to what they think they know and the result is often injustice.

Of course, we as Catholics, can’t say “I neither understand nor care to understand your concern.” But in this crisis, I don’t think that our Catholic leaders are doing this. I believe our bishops have issued a strong witness against racial injustice not only after the George Floyd case, but actually before. Do individual Catholics sometimes say shocking things? Yes, tragically. But when they do so, they are not acting with the approval of the Church.

I think this is an important distinction to make. We are (rightly) reminded that the extremists in a group does not automatically mean the group as a whole is extremist. To assume otherwise is the fallacy of composition. But that’s a two-way street. The Catholic Church has sometimes been slow to get the news of injustice, especially in the days before modern technology, but she has never sided with those who defend what is morally wrong. For example, we recognize St. Bartolomé de las Casas as a saint for his work defending the moral treatment of slaves and Native Americans, but we don’t praise those who defended the wrongdoing. We recognize that the Church condemned racial slavery from the first appearance—before Europeans first encountered the Americas to be precise—when Eugene IV condemned the Portuguese enslaving the natives of the Canary Islands in 1435, saying:

And no less do We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands, and made captives since the time of their capture, and who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free, and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of money. If this is not done when the fifteen days have passed, they incur the sentence of excommunication by the act itself, from which they cannot be absolved, except at the point of death, even by the Holy See, or by any Spanish bishop, or by the aforementioned Ferdinand, unless they have first given freedom to these captive persons and restored their goods. We will that like sentence of excommunication be incurred by one and all who attempt to capture, sell, or subject to slavery, baptized residents of the Canary Islands, or those who are freely seeking Baptism, from which excommunication cannot be absolved except as was stated above.

This is not the language of supporting slavery. It is language showing that since the onset of the racial slave trade, the Church has condemned it… but lacked the ability to make godless men care about their evils§. They could only try to convert those men.

I suspect the demagogues and their mobs know nothing about the true history of the Church in facing certain evils. If that ignorance was invincible (having no way of being corrected), they could be without blame for wrongly thinking that what they did was right. But if they could have known if they took the trouble to look (cf. Gaudium et Spes #16), then acting out of ignorance is not excused.

For our part, we as Catholics in the pews do need to help in spreading the truth about what we believe to correct those who have a false belief about us. So, yes, we do need to look at ourselves and see if we have failed. That can be individually or as a whole—including ourselves. But let’s not use “we” in the sense of “everybody else” when we say “We Catholics have failed to do X.” It may turn out that we are allowing our own preferences about what we would prefer the Church to do to become an indictment of the Church for something she is not guilty of.

But often, we have been denied the chance to demonstrate what we do believe. Falsehoods dating back to the Protestant Reformation are still believed. Our moral beliefs are treated as bigotry, and our attempts to engage the world are sometimes treated as “explaining away” what they think is fact. In that case, we no longer have the two-way street of dialogue. We have “shut up and listen,” where we are given an ultimatum to concede whatever is demanded or be labeled “bigoted” or “anti-woman” or any other false accusation they care to throw at us.

As human beings, every person who is a member of the Church is a sinner who continually has a need to repent and turn back to God. So of course, anybody looking for dirt on a member of the Church will find it (I’m certainly glad my “young and stupid” days preceded the internet, for example). But we can’t assume that the behavior of some is the behavior of all; we can’t assume that a past attitude is carried on today; we can’t assume that what we think words mean is what is actually intended.

And if we in the Church can’t, neither can those who attack us. That’s the two-way street that’s being ignored.

 

___________________

(†) I make this qualification because, if I understand it correctly, at least one statue exists (or perhaps existed) that honored a former Confederate officer for his charitable work done after the Civil War. This is different from the defiant erection of certain statues because of their actions supporting succession.

(‡) The arguments used by Catholic slave owners in the Pre-Civil War United States used arguments that are remarkably similar to those used by pro-abortion Catholics today… a dishonest legalism that attempted to twist the meaning of words.

(§) This wasn’t a one-time thing either. Saints like Bartolomé de las Casas and others would refuse absolution to the inhumane slave owners. But like the abortion issue today, when people don’t care about the consequences of automatic excommunication, The Church can’t really do anything to physically impose their will.