Saturday, August 04, 2018

Catholics And The Death Penalty: A Brief Note On Theological Method

It didn't take long, but many observers began to think that the revised paragraph CCC, 2267 was ambiguous. There is some talk of asking for clarification in some official capacity. If something could be read in continuity with the tradition, or it could be read in discontinuity, the most charitable and sensible thing is to read it in continuity. Sensible, because a radical discontinuity is in many respects impossible, and charitable, because it's reasonable to think that the pope, whoever he is, wants both continuity and clarity. I think it would be reasonable to say, "This or that wording might be better, because..." but I cannot help but be concerned when the first reaction to something like this is suspicion and fear.

One thing at a time: "What do I understand the teaching to have been? Do I need to look more extensively at things previously offered? Do I understand what is being said now? What are major key terms used? Are they similar in meaning/intent to what's been used terminologically in the past? What are alternate plausible reasons for using different terms now? If I wanted to arrive at the same conclusion, but with different words, what might I say?"

If I have a serious concern that no information to this point can assuage, have I spoken to a trusted priest, or spiritual director? Or if it is of an intellectual nature, can I find a trusted theologian who will speak informally and privately with me about it? Is it at all reasonably possible to avoid criticism of the Holy Father and his brother bishops in public, so as to avoid scandal?

It's actually two separate discussions often conflated together: Prudential opinions about the needs and struggles of the flock at this time--how to address them--and how to understand the teaching of the Church. Various battles in the "culture wars" make us adept at sharing and arguing the former, and not at doing the latter.

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