Thursday, June 28, 2018

Yes, Blinders Do Blind

I'm really pro-life. And by "really," I mean that when someone says, "If you were really pro-life, you would..." my response is, "OK, let's talk about that." If you're out on the sidewalks praying the Rosary, counseling, working in a crisis pregnancy center, none of this criticism applies to you.

I see whataboutism all over the place, to the effect that because "The Left" supports abortion, homosexuality, divorce, etc, then every moral criticism of Right-leaning political engagement is invalid. Worse still, some of us have effectively or explicitly decided that our alleged blind spots on other issues aren't really blind spots at all. Some of us have decided that inconsistency on one point renders all other moral judgments suspect. In fact, people on our side love to do this, because it deflects attention from immoralities we have tolerated, or explicitly endorsed. Well, to be blunt about it, just because we're putatively in no danger of having Holy Communion denied to us for obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin doesn't mean we've honored the spirit or the letter of our social doctrine.

And a word about the "seamless garment": This phrase gets a bad rap in right-wing Catholic circles. It tends to be shorthand for, "These liberals think failing to provide just wages is of the same gravity as killing a baby!" That's not what it means. It means that the outworking of a truly Christian anthropology is holistic. It means that if we fail to uphold some aspect of dignity in one case, then our stand against another violation could be imperiled by our inconsistency. It means practically that we should have the guts to say, "It's possible that I/we have failed to grasp the moral implications of the gospel in this part of human society." Be bolder still: "My ideological commitments and predilections have made me incapable of fruitful engagement with actual arguments on these issues." I'd pay real money for someone to say this.

For my part, I must draw a distinction between acts through the lenses of moral theology, and the same issue or issues in terms of political engagement. Are we prepared to ignore everything except that which pertains to sexual conduct? Even there, hypocrisy is in evidence, because a certain presidential candidate's--now the president's--failures in sexual conduct didn't seem to matter much.

At what point does a philosophy become so incoherent that it should be abandoned?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Catholicism Without Rules?

A friend was saying he found some Catholic church at the "Pride" parade who in effect described themselves as Catholicism without all the meddlesome rules. As a note off the top, I won't belabor the point on homosexuality, because my views aren't hard to find or understand.

What about rules? On the one hand, a religion that subsists entirely in its rules is not from God. Revealed truth as we know it comes from a God whose very being is Love. On the other hand, rules in fact are a means to an end. The end is everlasting communion with God. We know from our own experience that a parent that gives his or her children no rules is deficient in love. Still, we don't want to push the analogy too far. Providence--God's ordering of everything--is too big for us, and we end up speculating dangerously (and doing a fair amount of complaining) instead of humbly seeking.

In any case, rules can be a problem if we ignore them, or if we make them an end, instead of a means.

Frankly, some people seem to imagine Jesus however he suits them. Funnily enough, this "Jesus" never challenges them, or says they are wrong. But then, remember my saying: "One cannot be both the arbiter of divine revelation, and a humble receiver of it at the same time." In simple words, if you decide for yourself what God says, your god is you.

Even our "rules" discussion is a little more complicated, because there are things we are able to know through our natural reason (e.g. "You shall not murder") and things we can't know by reason alone (e.g., God is three Persons in one Substance/essence). There exist divinely-instituted natural moral laws, and supernaturally revealed truths about God we wouldn't know, except that God has revealed them.

In practical terms, when someone says, "I'm not into organized religion," firstly, she's being redundant, since the definition of religion is something like, "An organized system of beliefs and practices," and secondly, she's probably saying she wants to find her own way. But if you do that, 1. You'll bump into something you already could and should have known; and 2. You don't need God for that. That's "self-help."

All that is rather interesting, in this respect: It never made sense for any sociologist to say, "Religion's main function is to provide humankind with comfort in this life," because revealed religion on its own terms is not, strictly speaking, for this life at all. Yet the statement hides his or her true premise: The supernatural as such does not exist.

The idea that the supernatural does not exist is called, "naturalism." I suspect that even an ardent naturalist isn't truly fond of--and does not actually envision--a world without rules. And I thank God for that. In other news, have you ever heard someone argue that humankind turned to religion because we lacked knowledge of the natural world? Isn't that silly? I mean, I'm glad somebody knows the truths of empirical science, but my religion doesn't cover that. And, interesting thought: Aren't some of these popular atheists conflating knowledge with meaning?

To conclude, you can trust someone to tell you what it all means, or you can try to find it for yourself. As for me, I always want to go up to the person who confidently pronounces that the point of everything is, "Be kind to everyone" (who wouldn't ever darken the door of a church) and ask, "Why, exactly? And isn't that a rule?"