Wednesday, June 16, 2021

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us: A Reflection on Factionalism

can. 750 §1.† A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.

§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

can. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

can. 754† All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and to proscribe erroneous opinions, particularly those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops puts forth.

There is a famous phrase that some attribute to cartoonist Walt Kelly of Pogo fame and others attribute to a 1970 ecology poster that goes, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It has become more popular than the original saying and is generally used to say that we are the cause of our own problem.

I bring this up as a general conclusion to the It’s Iimi! comics (HEREHERE) because I think the current fight over the USCCB meeting running from the 16th to the 18th is a symptom rather than a problem in itself. Regardless of what the bishops decide to do regarding their “coherence” section on the proposed document on the Eucharist, The lay Catholics have decided for themselves who are the “heroes” and “villains” of the Church. Based on this assumption, they have already concluded that the “other side” of the “battle” is acting against what the Church teaches.

I say that the reaction to the USCCB meeting is a symptom because we have been before. We are constantly seeing a factional group in the Church who argue that there is only one way to handle a situation. Whoever disagrees with that proposed solution is accused of being in the wrong… even if the accused are the Pope and bishops in communion with him issuing a formal teaching. 

Sometimes it is a case of dissident Catholics claiming that the Pope and bishops are failing to show love, as it happened with St. Paul VI issuing Humanae Vitae and the CDF under Pope Francis reaffirming that same-sex relationships cannot be blessed. At other times, it is a case of Catholics disagreeing on the best way to carry out a teaching. For example, the infamous “anti-abortion but not pro-life” comment was rooted in the assumption that one had to vote for certain social policies and rejected the possibility of other legitimate solutions.

I could go on—and these factions doubtless will—but these examples show what I think the problem is in all our disputes: We will only obey the Church when she teaches what we want. If the bishops speak out on an issue we do not want to hear about, we will cease to give the “religious submission of the intellect and will” (canon 752). We think we are justified in doing this and invent all sorts of complex theologies to proclaim our righteousness. At the same time, we refuse to consider whether those on what we consider the “other side” could legitimately reach their conclusions through a faithful study of the same documents we read. We refuse to consider the possibility that we can be in the wrong about those documents.

As I watch the different feuds, I am struck by how many determine orthodoxy by saying, “I can see no other way to interpret X than…” while ignoring the fact that their opponents say the same thing. But logically, both factions are making an argument from ignorance fallacy. Just because one “can see no other way” to interpret something does not mean there is “no other way to interpret” something.

Yes, if a group of bishops does issue statements in opposition to the Pope, they are devoid of authority. We saw that with the unfortunate statements by the dubia cardinals or Archbishop Vigano for example. An opinion is an opinion that must yield to the teaching of the Church. But sometimes what we see as a “conflict” is nothing more than a proposal that runs counter to our own.

The other side of that coin is the attempt to turn a binding teaching into an “opinion.” For example, the attempts to undermine the CDF statement on blessing same-sex relationships by implying they were issued as a topic of discussion instead of being promulgated by the Pope. This is also factionalism.

If we want to claim to be faithful Catholics and fight to defend the Pope, or the moral teaching of the Church, then let us remember that we must obey the Pope and the bishops in communion with him when they intend to teach, whether ex cathedra or the ordinary magisterium.

It is not wrong, of course, to have a preference on how the Church teaches or disciplines… provided that the preference is in keeping with the teaching of the Church. But if the Pope and the bishops in communion with him should decide on a way to handle things that is different than we would like, then we cannot sacrifice submission to our preferences.

We should not hide behind excuses. Political factionalism is not the only kind of factionalism. The other side’s actions are not automatically worse than our own. If we choose to condemn others for what we are guilty of, we will be judged as well (cf.Matthew 7:2). 

So, we need to constantly be on guard. We all have faults we are blind to, even though we clearly see that fault in others. We all are tempted to excuse our own wrongdoing, even though it is what we condemn in others. But we need to be willing to change when the Church says, “we will do it this way,” and this way is not ours.

If we will not do this, then let us be aware that the enemy in the Church is us. 





(†) It is a satire of the 1812 statement by Oliver Hazard Perry to William Henry Harrison: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” 

(‡) Contrary to some claims, what the bishops will be discussing is whether to write a document on restoring the lost belief in the Real Presence. It is will not be about excommunicating President Biden.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It’s Iimi! Just Who is Factionalized Here?

With the Bishops’ meeting beginning tomorrow (6/16/21), I thought this would be a good time to get out one final manga on the misconceptions and hostility directed against it. Like Iimi does at the end of this piece, I urge the readers to pray for our bishops that they may reach a decision that is God’s will.

In this episode, with Daryl being absent from the youth group, Sean goes on the attack over bishops acting “in opposition” to the Pope and accuses Iimi of acting against the Pope. Iimi points out that while she might have preferences on what should be done, she will be obedient to the teachings approved by the Pope even if it should go against her preferences. 

For those who are interested in the “behind the scenes” notes, this comic was written script first, instead of constructing both text and pictures at the same time.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Announcement for Those Who Follow my Blog via E-Mail

 Blogger has informed me of the following:

Recently, the Feedburner team released a system update announcement, that the email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021.

After July 2021, your feed will still continue to work, but the automated emails to your subscribers will no longer be supported. 

If you do follow my blog via e-mail, you will need to find another way of getting notified of my blog posts. My blog's Facebook page can be found HERE. If you have an RSS reader, there is a widget on the right side of the page... assuming it still functions.

It’s Iimi! On Life, Language, and Leanings

Della and Myrna discuss abortion rhetorical dichotomies and the assumptions behind them. Della gives a neutral definition that she thinks might be useful while admitting that she prefers the term Pro-Life. Myrna notices that Della’s subconscious use of language reflects what she believes and tries to live.

I chose to use Della-Myrna instead of Iimi for this dialogue, because Iimi’s dialogues with her friends tend to turn into arguments and I needed a calm discussion.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

It’s Iimi! The Ladaria Letter and Other Things

The “Ladaria Letter” seems to be a Rorschach test for Catholics… hold it up to the anti-Francis Catholic or the so-called “Pope Francis Catholic” and they see a rebuke of the US bishops. Regardless of whether they see that as positive or negative depends on misunderstandings of Pope Francis’ preaching on Mercy.

Iimi takes a different approach, seeing the CDF letter from Cardinal Ladaria to Archbishop Gomez as a reminder to the Bishops about what is necessary to address the issue of pro-abortion politicians in a divided American episcopate.

Relevant documents:
The 2002 CDF Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life
Aparecida Document of 2007 (which explains “Eucharistic Coherence.”)

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Look to Your Own Beam First

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Those involved in factional fighting might pretend to be acting for the “good of the Church,” but the reality is they are selectively quoting what the Church teaches to discredit their political opponents. Then, when challenged over the sins of their own side, they argue that “the stakes are too high” to worry about that at this time. The problem is this way of thinking will never find the “right time” to challenge their own faction. There will always be a perceived crisis that prevents us from looking to reform ourselves.

But we are called to change ourselves regardless of what others do. Our Lord tells us:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Yes, teaching others to reject evil is part of the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). But if we will not do what we expect others to do, we will answer for it.

This gets worse as Catholics misidentify Church teaching and political preference. The result is accusing Catholics on the “other side” of wrongdoing, while never asking themselves about their own behavior.

10 I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

Recently, the war between the Original Pro-Life Movement (hereafter OPLM) and the New Pro-Life Movement (hereafter NPLM) has flared up again. It is not a new conflict. It happens in America with every change of a Presidential party in power. One party thinks that abortion is a “human right.” The other recognizes it is not. Catholics, of course, can never licitly support abortion… even though some Catholics do.

The battle of the OPLM and the NPLM basically comes down to how abortion should be weighted when it comes to the moral obligations of voting. Both factions are caricatures of what the Right to Life means. The OPLM generally argues that abortion is the worst evil of our times, and we can never licitly vote for a candidate or party that supports legalized abortion. The NPLM tends to argue that since the other social justice issues are a part of the Seamless Garment of Life, we need to elevate them in the discussion. Unfortunately, the practical result of this factionalism is that the OPLM argues that “the stakes are too high” to hold candidates accountable for issues other than abortion, while the NPLM argues that “the stakes are too high” to worry about abortion. The OPLM Catholic tends to vote Republican regardless of that party’s failings and the NPLM Catholic tends to vote Democrat regardless of that party’s failings.

Both factions are quick to point out the failures of the other side. But, neither does more than pay lip service to their own side’s failures. The result is, hostility and self-righteousness grow apace.

The fact is, the Catholic Church does indeed teach that the Right to Life is the first right. However, her teaching shows that both factions have gone wrong:

In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of the rights of the human person. It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change—let alone eliminate—them because such rights find their source in God himself.

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fĂ­nds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

The Church has never yielded in the face of all the violations that the right to life of every human being has received, and continues to receive, both from individuals and from those in authority. The human being is entitled to such rights, in every phase of development, from conception until natural death; and in every condition, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor. The Second Vatican Council openly proclaimed: “All offences against life itself, such as every kind of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and willful suicide; all violations of the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures; all offences against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, degrading working conditions where men are treated as mere tools for profit rather than free and responsible persons; all these and the like are certainly criminal: they poison human society; and they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”. (Christifideles Laici 38)

So, on one hand, Catholics cannot limit the right to life to abortion. On the other hand, Catholics cannot reduce the importance of abortion… it is listed next to murder and genocide, after all. Moreover, certain rights are considered secondary to the right to life. So, while rights to housing and healthcare are important, we cannot sacrifice the obligation to oppose abortion to them.

I would say that contra the OPLM, we do have an obligation to speak out against more than abortion. But contra the NPLM, we also have an obligation to oppose abortion as the first assault on the right to life.

Therefore, I think the assaults on the bishops are unjust. The OPLM is wrong in saying that the bishops ignore abortion. They are not. But the NPLM is wrong in claiming that the bishops were obsessed with abortion and neglecting the other issues. Anybody paying attention to the USCCB releases showed they spoke about all the issues Americans were wrong over… but they were always attacked for not speaking about Y, when the focus of the debate was X.

Let us face the facts: when a Presidential administration is in line with Church teaching on X but wrong on Y, the bishops will tend to focus on Y. If the administration is in the wrong on abortion, the bishops will speak out on abortion. If the administration is in the wrong on immigration, the bishops will speak out on immigration. They are not behaving in a partisan manner. I would say that the person accusing them of being partisan is the one who is biased. 

We can see this OPLM v. NPLM factionalism in play with the USCCB expressing concern over Biden and abortion. Both factions will pick out their heroes and villains on how they face the fact of a pro-abortion Catholic President… the first in US history§.

And I think that is the key to the situation. America has had pro-abortion presidents before and Catholic pro-abortion politicians before. But this is the first time we have had a Catholic pro-abortion President in the United States. So, the US bishops are dealing with something entirely new#.

So, it does not help when the OPLM and NPLM are picking out heroes and villains from the bishops. Yes, the bishops are publicly divided over what should be done, and that should not be. Yes, we do need a solution on how to handle it. And yes, all of us (including me) have ideas on what that solution should be. But our response should be prayer for them to reach a wise decision, not accusing the bishops we disagree with of bad will. Because of this, I say that the OPLM and NPLM need to spend more time considering the beam in their own eyes and less on the splinter in the eye of their foes. It might help coming to a non-partisan response that helps the bishops instead of hindering them.


(†) Relatively speaking. Often, a political party will support an action that the Church teaches but do so with a different motive.

(‡) “Pro-Choice” is a propaganda term where the party tries to separate the claimed personal feelings of the politician from what he does, even though the claimed personal feelings have no impact on what he freely chooses to do. We should not use the term.

(§) Remember, when the first Catholic President was elected, Roe v. Wade was over ten years away, so it was not a factor.

(#) Canon 1405 does limit the judging of a chief executive of a country to the Pope. But that is beyond the scope of this article and will need to be addressed another time. Briefly, it can be used to interpret the meaning of the Ladaria letter as saying that the bishops need to be unified and talking to Biden privately before bringing it before the Pope. It does not mean that those bishops wanting to move beyond the status quo are wrong. Also, keep in mind this canon was not part of the revision of canon law.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

It’s Iimi! What Good Is The Golden Rule?

I’ve mentioned Iimi’s older sister, Della, before. Here we meet her and her college roommate, Myrna, as they discuss how losing sight of the Golden Rule led to the situation we have in this country today. Even for people who do not accept Catholicism as true, the teachings are a way leading out of ruin.

I chose to bring Della in because, as the comic progresses, she will play a role. So, it seemed good to establish her character quirks before then.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

When Factionalism Masquerades as Piety

11 For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:11-13)

27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. 31 If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; 32 but since we are judged by [the] Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

The USCCB is planning to discuss the Eucharist and the deficiencies in proper understanding among American Catholics. This is reasonable. When a majority of the faithful do not realize that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or if they think everybody should be allowed to receive regardless of the state of their souls, that is a clear sign that we need remedial education. The bishops are—regrettably—divided over what the best response should be. As a result, Cardinal Ladaria has issued a statement urging the bishops to reach a unified approach.

This is understandable. The USCCB is not a mini-Vatican where a majority vote can impose policy on all dioceses. The individual bishop is responsible for teaching and enforcement in his own diocese. So, a USCCB resolution is only “binding” on the whole Church in America only if all the bishops implement it. But, at the same time, different levels of enforcement are causing a scandal among the faithful. When some, like Cardinals Gregory and Cupich, openly disagree with others, like Archbishops Gomez and Cordileone over how to handle Catholic politicians who openly work to expand abortion in this country, confusion will erupt, and factional Catholics will seize on this to push for their own agendas.

And the title of this article is aimed at these Catholics, not the bishops. I might prefer one approach over the other among the bishops, but I do not believe either approach intends to undercut the Church teaching. The same cannot be said about Catholics on the internet calling one group of bishops “heretical” or the other “legalistic.” They have picked a side, focusing on the sins of the other while ignoring those of their own side. These factions “cherry pick” what the Pope and his predecessors have taught in a way that justifies what they say while ignoring the full message.

As a result, we see some Catholics point to the words of St. John Paul II and contrast them with the words of Pope Francis. One will be portrayed as championing the true meaning of Catholicism. The other will be portrayed as causing harm to the real meaning. For example, in Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II pointed out that divorce and remarriage while the other spouse still lives is grave matter. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis points out that we cannot assume that all the conditions of mortal sin are present in that remarriage without the confessor investigating the case. When understood in context, neither Pope contradicts the other. But when partisan Catholics pick sides, we are presented with “heroes” and “villains” among the bishops that line up with our partisan views of what should be done. Bishops speaking out against sins we think are worse are praised. Those who speak out against sins we think merit less concern wind up attacked as heretics or legalists. Ironically, the same bishop can be attacked by both sides when he points out the Church teaching on two different issues where one is seen as “conservative” and one as “liberal.”

When we do this, we are guilty of the factionalism, even if we think this is piety. The Catholic who says, “I am for Francis” or “I am for John Paul II” and contrasts them as opposed is guilty of what St. Paul condemns. If we want to be for Christ, we need to be for Pope Francis… and Benedict XVI, and St. John Paul II, and St. Paul VI, and St. John XXIII… all the way back to the beginning of the Church. Yes, some of the successors of St. Peter were unworthy of the office. But the teachings of the Popes remain true, although future Popes can make adjustments and clarifications to fit the needs of the current time.

If you are opposed to rigorism, remember laxity is also an evil. If you are opposed to laxity, remember rigorism is also an evil. The Church navigates between the two seeking to reflect both Our Lord’s mercy and justice. If we sacrifice one in favor of the other, we are not doing God’s will.

Bringing this back to the discussion of the Bishops, the Eucharist, and our response, we need to be aware that this is not a case of “good bishops vs. bad bishops.” Their discussion is about what is the proper response to the fact that so many Catholics have gone wrong about what the Eucharist means and what proper disposition to receive means. But, if we turn this into a fight where we say the bishops should focus on X instead of Y, we are not helping. We are part of the problem. We see this happen all the time when someone says the Church should stay out of politics and focus on saving souls… forgetting that our sins can involve political behavior and not just personal.

Let us not forget that during the 2020 elections, Catholics on both sides of the political divide placed the bishops on the other side of that divide, using the same arguments. Bishops of the various committees spoke about issues that fell under the purview of that committee. But critics criticized them for ignoring other issues… issues that were addressed by the bishops of the relevant committee.

If we want to escape this factionalism, we need to stop looking at it from a partisan perspective. We need to look at it from the perspective that the Church teaches. We have an obligation to live according to His commandments (see Matthew 7:21-23, John 14:15), and we can break His commandments in public ways as well as personal. No faction is free from guilt on this matter. So, yes. We must call out the intrinsic evil of abortion. We must call out the evil intent some promote in issues like immigration. We cannot ignore either one. But, if we are angry that a specific Church statement condemns one specific idea without mentioning the other, we have missed the point, because the Church does issue separate statements dealing with that issue as well.

We should be honest and acknowledge we prefer that the Church spend 100% of their time speaking on the sins of others and resent it when she speaks on sins our preferred faction is guilty of. But the Church does not only need to speak to them. She also needs to speak to us. If we will not do that, our piety is simply a masquerade for factionalism and we are harming the Church by dividing her.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Equivocation: Taking Sides in the Wrong Culture War

(Yeah, I like cheesy CCM at times)

The term “Culture War” appears to have two meanings. One meaning is “Right vs. Wrong.” The other is “Right vs. Left.” The result of this is people confuse the two meanings and often assume that the person speaking about the Culture War in the wrong sense. This is the fallacy of Equivocation (A fallacy arising from the use of the same term in different senses) and it leads to taking sides in the wrong war. 

We need to understand that, as Catholics, the right concept of a Culture War is one we must fight in. But the culture war we must fight is the one Dr. Peter Kreeft has described as:

[T]he spiritual war between the Gospel of Life and the Culture of Death, is the greatest war in our history. It is a world war far deeper and more extensive than World War II. It is deeper because it attacks life itself, body and soul, at its root and origin. It is more extensive because it spreads over the whole world like a cancer. [Peter Kreeft, Three Approaches to Abortion: A Thoughtful and Compassionate Guide to Today’s Most Controversial Issue (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), 60].

The terms Gospel of Life and Culture of Death did not come from a political spin machine. They were emphasized by St. John Paul II and echoed by his successors. The saint pointed out the dangers of the “Culture of Death” frequently. For example, on December 15th, 1999, he said:

In recent decades, the loss of the sense of God has coincided with the advance of a nihilistic culture that impoverishes the meaning of human life and, in the ethical field, relativizes even the fundamental values of the family and of respect for life. This does not often occur visibly, but through a subtle methodology of indifference that makes all kinds of behaviour seem normal, so that moral problems are no longer acknowledged. It is paradoxically demanded that the State recognize as “rights” many forms of conduct which threaten human life, especially the weakest and the most defenceless, not to mention the enormous difficulties in accepting others because they are different, inconvenient, foreign, sick or disabled. It is precisely this ever more prevalent rejection of others because of their otherness that challenges our conscience as believers. As I said in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae: “We are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin … characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and, in many cases, takes the form of a veritable ‘culture of death.’”

We cannot be neutral in that war.

Unfortunately, many Catholics miss that distinction and assume that “Culture War” is a fight over which ideology should be supported by the Church. That fight assumes the values of the Church can be bound to a political outlook and whatever the Church does contra that political outlook is a betrayal of the Church. 

Both factions—called Right and Left—in that misguided fight assume that the other side is neglecting their Catholic beliefs and replacing it with politics, while ignoring the fact that the same could be applied to them. Thus, we see some involved say that Catholic social justice teaching is “Marxism” and others say that Catholics opposing abortion are “pro-birth but not pro-life.” Both see the other side as betraying the Faith while ignoring the fact that if we downplay a teaching that hits against the faction we favor, we are also guilty of betrayal. 

Others assume their politics are the only way to approach the moral issues and condemn those who disagree with their politics as being guilty of rejecting the Church. But sometimes those politics have nothing to do with the Church teaching. For example, some might think that taxes and social programs are the only way to follow Church teachings on social justice. Others disagree and think personal effort is the key focus. Provided we do not abuse the letter of the law to avoid doing what we are called to do, this is a matter of prudential judgment. But some Catholics practically excommunicate each other as being “faux Catholics” if the other disagrees over politics.


This leads to a third problem: Assuming Catholics who are fighting the culture war in the first sense are fighting it in the second sense. For example, the Catholic Church has taught since the beginning that abortion is a moral evil. There is literally no place for a “pro-choice” mindset in the Catholic Church. But some factions assume that opposition to abortion is a “right wing” political belief and rain down contempt on those working to end this evil. On the other side, some Catholics look at the divided response among the bishops towards Catholic politicians who defend and promote abortion and accuse those who do not respond in the way that they favor as “trying to undermine” the Church teaching.

None of the bishops supports abortion as a right. But they do disagree over which policy is the best one for pro-abortion politicians and the Eucharist. One can legitimately disagree over which is better of course. But if we start applying our factional preferences to those bishops—making them into heroes and villains when the Church—then we are guilty of fighting the wrong Culture War, and guilty of rash judgment by claiming that our “villains” are guilty of promoting evil.

This second meaning of the Culture War is the one Catholics must avoid. But it seems to be the one most of the Catholics feuding on the internet are fighting. Instead of focusing on how to work at the Great Commission, we focus on vanquishing our foes. And if that means we tear the Church apart while trying to make our foes concede that our side is “right,” we dismiss the damage we cause while pointing out the harm caused by the other side.

This is something we should ponder if we’re ever tempted to confuse the two. 



[‡] It seems to be a matter of schools of thought in dispute over prudence on how to handle a manifest public sinner, comparing the harm to the benefit.

[†] As a disclosure, my own belief is “If canon 915 doesn’t apply in this case, when is it ever applied?” But I recognize (following Lesson One) the possibility that there may be more in play than I realize. So, I temper my response recognizing that possible hole in my knowledge.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

It’s Iimi! But Where Does That Leave You?

Would you believe using a Mongolian Heavy Metal band could be used as an apologetics tool? Iimi tries it when Kismetta brings up arguments used by some Muslims to argue that the Old and New Testament were corrupted. Iimi points out that not only are these arguments flawed, but if they were valid, they would discredit the Quran, not the Bible.

As a side note, I was so surprised by just how weak some of the arguments against the Bible were, that I had to double check to make sure they weren’t strawman misrepresentations put in the mouths of Muslims. Apparently they actually are used and are that weak.

Reviewing the episode Lesson One: Knowing That We Don’t Know will be helpful, as this episode builds on it.

As a note on spelling, when I was in my teens and early twenties, spelling of Islamic names were Koran and Mohammed. Now the preferred spelling is Quran (people debate whether or not to spell it Qu’ran) and Muhammad. As there is no standardized transliteration between Arabic and English, this change is understandable. I have no problems with using the currently accepted spelling. But, as I am used to the older spelling, I might subconsciously slip up and use it or a mashup of the two without catching it [#].

Also, keep in mind, Muslims use certain honorifics in speaking of Allah, Isa (Jesus), and Muhammad. These would take up extra space in the panels, making them more cramped. So, while I omit them for reasons of space, Kismetta should be assumed to be using them.


[#] As an example of my mashups, Kismetta’s last name was originally “Dzumhur” (a Bosnian Muslim surname I found on the internet). But since my brain transposed the H and the Z, I had to retcon it to “Dhumzir” because my uncaught mistakes outnumbered the correct spelling.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Otoko Nan Ze!

What if society said it was important to protect women… but then turned around and promoted a morality that let men easily use and discard women in the name of equality? And what if, adding insult to injury, those women who wanted to protect themselves from this were accused of harming the cause of feminism… causing them to doubt themselves?

The term Otoko nan ze! can be translated as “Men!” or “What a man!” It’s not a complement. It’s used by women in an angry, frustrated, or contemptuous sense towards men who behave badly.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Lesson One: Knowing That We Don’t Know

Iimi and Kismetta’s hanging out together is interrupted by Kismetta’s twin brothers and Chela squabbling over playing fair. Kismetta is surprised that Iimi didn’t assume that the twins’ grade school antics were caused by their religion. Iimi points out that she doesn’t know enough about the religion and culture that the Dhumzir family was raised under to make that call.

She goes on to explain that recognizing the possibility of being ignorant and the obligation to learn what the other really believes before judging the beliefs—rather than assume guilt—are vital in behaving justly to others.

“Lesson One” as I present it is an development of Dr. Peter Kreeft’s teaching on explaining Socrates’ “knowing that you don’t know.” My development focuses on the Catholic obligation to avoid false witnesses and, as such, is an offshoot of Dr. Kreeft’s superior Socratic Dialogue series, which I highly recommend.

For those who like the “behind the scenes” details of the comics, this involved making more complicated gestures for sitting characters. The base program has limited seated action, mostly aimed at students sitting at desks. This involved two figures  for each sitting character: a sitting lower half and a standing upper half, allowing more gestures. It isn’t ideal of course. The visible hand can’t fall below the waist or it will “disappear.” But it’s a price I pay to make comics without drawing ability.