Saturday, December 19, 2020

Our Skewed Perspective is not Our Target’s Fault

One of the more annoying things out there is a variant of when people contrast their perspective on what should be with what actually is “working as intended.” Because the former ≠ the latter, they assume that what they dislike as an unwanted side effect of the latter is in fact a willful disregard for what is right. One can look at things like “cancel culture” that assume malicious (sexist, racist) intent if anybody questions what the cultural elites call good or bad. Or we can look at conspiracy theories about the recent elections where somebody “got to” the judges who threw out cases for lack of evidence.

 

In these cases, we often see the begging the question fallacy where an accusation which needs to be proven is treated as true. Combined with this, we have the shifting of the burden of proof fallacy (demanding that their claims be disproven instead proving their own point) and the moving the goalposts fallacy (changing the demand for proof once it has been met). The result is the critic never considers himself debunked, no matter how clear the refutation is. Their interpretation, when investigated, will invariably show bias and agenda… even if done sincerely.

 

Of course, this is nothing new. People have always had agendas to subvert and skewed perspectives to justify rejecting what they dislike. But the fact that it is nothing new does not mean it is “all right.” No matter how certain one is of their agenda that does not make it right. No matter how sincere a person is in thinking their skewed perspective is true, if it’s false then everything they campaign for is worthless at best, harmful at worst.

 

And when it happens in the Church—where the agendas and skewed perspectives are used to undermine the legitimate exercise of authority by the magisterium—the harm is great indeed. People with agendas “helpfully” offer solutions that come with the cost of rejecting what the Church teaches. People with skewed perspectives think that whatever goes wrong in the Church must be directly caused by what they dislike and—in the name of “defending” the Church—cause damage and disruption to their faith and that of others.

 

Look at those who so “helpfully” call for reforms—ostensibly to end a scandal—but have a track record of wanting to overturn what the Church cannot change. For example, the supporters of “women’s ordination” or the abolition of celibacy* that sell their agendas as a way to “help” the Church with things like the abuse scandal. The problem is, if you look at their history, you will see that they simply seized onto the scandals in an attempt to add weight to the positions that they held before the scandals came out. Agendas like this are a Trojan Horse, and we would be wise to look inside before accepting it at face value.

 

We can also look at the skewed perspectives of Catholics when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines. Rumors abound about their content, and the Bishops have navigated the issues of remote cooperation and the public good in using them from the Catholic beliefs on doing good and avoiding evil. But, Catholics with a skewed perspective: those who think bishops are heretics, those ignorant about the long-standing teachings on culpability, those who are anti-vaxxers in general, these groups see the Pope and bishops of the Church teaching a “change” that must be resisted.

 

Catholics who fall into the agenda and skewed perspective camps look for champions to use as a counter-magisterium against the whole of the Church. A priest who makes agreeable statements, a bishop who contradicts the rest… Catholics look to them as infallible while rejecting those who say differently… even if the one they reject happens to be the Pope.

 

I want to make clear that people in these groups are not necessarily malicious in what they do. They might simply be blind to the possibility that things are different than they think, or that their agenda has a fatal flaw in it. Anybody can be sincerely mistaken about Church teaching. And, it is quite possible that people who were hurt or betrayed by someone in the Church will find it very hard to trust those who lead it. It is not for me to judge how difficult their struggle is. I cannot say I would have handed it better if I was in their place. Perhaps my faith might have entirely shattered where theirs simply weakened or damaged. But if we want to be faithful to God, we are required to constantly reassess what we think… especially when we think that God’s Church is wrong when it contradicts us. So, when we discover that that we are wrong, we need to change, abandoning our agendas and our skewed perspectives.

 

This is because, our skewed perspectives about what goes on in the Church are not the fault of those in the Church we denounce. We cannot hide behind the excuse of Well, they should have been more clear when we discover we are wrong. If we make no effort to see if and how we went wrong in our dissent, we are guilty of vincible ignorance and are without excuse. That means we cannot excuse ourselves because a religiously illiterate media or a Catholic with an anti-magisterial bent spoke falsely and we believed it. We who profess to be faithful Catholics need to recognize that the teaching authority is binding, even when those who exercise it might make bad decisions or be guilty of bad behavior outside of that authority.

 

As Catholics, we are without the excuses of those outside of the Church if we fail to live up to her teachings and accept God’s grace (see Lumen Gentium #14). And we need to remember that falling is possible. Earnest Catholics like Tertullian and Luther wound up breaking with the Church because they were absolutely convinced that the Church was wrong.

 

If we do not let the Church be the measure of our preferences and perspectives, we risk winding up like them… outside of the Church and obstinately refusing to consider the possibility of error.

 

 

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(*) Keep in mind that, in the schools, Boy Scouts, and non-Catholic denominations, sexual abuse by non-celibates… and in the case of schools, female predators are not rare.

1 comment:

  1. Another reason for learning what the Church teaches.

    Happily, resources like current Catechism available online at no cost. Other than Internet connection - and related tech - costs.

    And that's another topic.

    ReplyDelete