View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More American than Catholic

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has a piece in Newsweek, "Why Barack Obama represents American Catholics better than the pope does."

In it, she examines the ways some American Catholics stray from Church teachings on such issues as homosexual marriage, contraception, abortion, and women's ordination.

A key passage is:

In truth, though, Obama's pragmatic approach to divisive policy (his notion that we should acknowledge the good faith underlying opposing viewpoints) and his social-justice agenda reflect the views of American Catholic laity much more closely than those vocal bishops and pro-life activists. When Obama meets the pope tomorrow, they'll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won't care, because they know Obama's on their side. In fact, Obama's agenda is closer to their views than even the pope's.

She cites polls to show that Catholics here differ with the Church on a number of issues, and, of course, if it's popular, it must be right, right? And she argues that in the Church, authority - not truth or love - has prevailed.

She is right - many American Catholics have chosen to stray from the Church and many do agree more with Obama than with the Church.

But in her arguments she herself is neglecting truth. What she is doing is promoting an old error.

She is setting up popular support for behaviors as a way to judge beliefs and actions rather than judging them by the underlying truths. Popular support for actions is not a valid way to judge. At various times in our past it was popular to support slavery, or child labor, or genocide, but that did not make such actions morally right. Just popular or acceptable

Further, she is promoting nationalism over faith. The Catholics in the U.S. she is talking about are more American than Catholic. In the past, people have argued for being more Roman, or more English, or more French, or more German , or more whatever nationality than being Catholic. They chose nation over faith. It's more pragmatic. That's what the followers of Henry VIII argued, for example. It also helps you to advance socially, politically, and economically.

But saints choose faith over nationality. Many of them died rather than settle for what she is promoting. At the least, many of them failed to advance in the ways the world judges success.

All Townsend is doing is stating an old heresy with new trappings. American trappings.

The choice she is promoting seems to be: Be an American first, and a Catholic second.

As for me, I'm not a saint, but I am a Catholic first.


Anonymous bill bannon said...

You are lumping things that are not equivalent when you write:

"Church teachings on such issues as homosexual marriage, contraception, abortion, and women's ordination."

You are not alone. It is done all over the internet in like form.

Gay activity let alone marriage is condemned in Romans chapter one and since the Bible is inerrant on morals....that is the equivalent of an infallible encyclical.

Contraception is the one on your list that is most dissimilar in that it is not provably infallible (though in the future it may be stated as proved in an infallible manner which the CDF is not (called it definitive) as Ott's Fundamentals notes in its Intro as to CDF statements) and that is why despite internet Catholicism's penchant for this issue, the Vatican itself did not punish theologians who dissented on it alone and they did so publicly. the DC theologains only had to sign that it was authentic teaching and not infallible...hence they signed. The Vatican punished Charles Curran and Hans Kung with decertification to teach based on other matters: Kung opposed infalliblity which is defined and Curran said there were ideals in the gospels that could not be reached, a laxism that reached many issues. The Vatican nor any one Pope ever punished Fr. Karl Rahner, and Fr. Bernard Haring who dissented on this one issue. Onan in the Bible is about birth control to Augustine and Pius XI but there were Fathers who would not use that text for that meaning since in the same story there are two other sexual sins and the people involved are not punished at all...Tamar (incest) Judah (fornication). It is possible that Onan's real sin was risking the non appearance of Christ who had to come through that little family and did through the sins of Tamar and Judah.

Abortion is infallibly condemned in clearly infallible language in section 62 of Evangelium Vitae which uses a shortened form of the IC langauge and its infallibility came about by the Pope polling all bishops worldwide on several issues but on three he got unanimity and that alone lets him avoid the ex cathedra route.

So abortion is infallibly condemned; gay actions are inerrantly condemned; birth control is seen as infallible in the universal ordinary magisterium but by lesser theologians than the ones who saw it as not infallible in the ordinary magisterium...but Rome's actions here are the tell. Rome has denounced no theologian who dissented only on this one issue. Moral theology tomes allow dissent if it is struggled dissent that persists after prayer, counsel and reading and if the issue is not clearly infallible or inerrant.

I am not sufficiently read on women's ordination to know if it is clearly infallible or not.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I am lumping together the points she raised.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous bill bannon said...

Peace. You can't imagine how I admire that you even printed me since many Catholic sites simply block out pointed criticism.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's more true with the left-leaning blogs and sites than with those who respect the teachings of the Catholic Church.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Barb, sfo said...

Bill, I just want to point out that you raised your argument respectfully and without any name-calling, etc. Therefore, there is no reason for Lee not to print your comment--simply because you argued with the premise in his post.

It's great that things were kept civil and respectful here, because it can get so ugly so easily when people are hiding behind the anonymity offered by the internet.

Lee, I liked your distinction between what came first--nation or faith. The Church is NOT a democracy where popular vote decides what is right, good and true.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Anonymous 9:16 - your point is unclear. Are you referring to the fact that I printed Bill's comment, implying that this is a left-leaning blog and that I don't have respect for the teaching of the Church?

This blog is decidedly not left- leaning, and I have repeatedly shown respect for the teachings of the Church - opposing abortion, gay marriage, lay preaching, etc.

And yes, Bab, while I disagreed with Bill, he expressed his ideas in a respectful way. He discussed ideas, and did not engage in ad hominems, so I posted his comment.

9:35 PM  

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