• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Why It’s Okay to be Against Heresy and for Imposing One’s Will on Others

Abraham Lincoln

Recently, two prominent Catholic women—Kathleen Sebelius in an address to the graduates of Georgetown University’s public policy school, and Maureen Dowd in a column published in the New York Times—delivered strong statements about the Church’s role in civil society. Dowd’s column was more or less a screed, while Sebelius’s address was relatively measured in tone. Yet both were marked by some pretty fundamental misunderstandings, which have, sadly, become widespread.

Echoing an army of commentators from the last fifty years, Dowd exults in James Joyce’s characterization of the Catholic Church (drawn, it appears, from the pages of Finnegans Wake) as “here comes everybody.” The word “catholic” itself, she explains, means “all-embracing” and “inclusive,” hence it is desperately sad that the Church, which is meant to be broad-minded and welcoming, has become so constricting. Whether it is disciplining liberal nuns or harassing pro-choice Catholic commencement speakers, the Church has abandoned the better angels of its nature and become intolerant. She concludes, “Absolute intolerance is always a sign of uncertainty and panic. Why do you have to hunt down everyone unless you’re weak? But what is the quality of a belief that exists simply because it’s enforced?” Not only is this narrow-minded aggression un-Catholic, it’s downright unpatriotic. “This is America. We don’t hunt heresies here. We welcome them,” she writes.

The problem here is a fundamental confusion between inclusiveness in regard to people and inclusiveness in regard to ideas. The Church is indeed all-embracing in the measure that it wants to gather all people to itself. The Bernini colonnade that reaches out like welcoming arms in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is meant to carry precisely this symbolic valence. But the Church has never had such an attitude toward all ideologies and points of view. It has recognized, from the beginning, that certain doctrines are repugnant to its own essential nature, or contradictory to the revelation upon which the Church is constructed. This is precisely why, for the past two millennia, theologians, bishops, Popes, and councils have consistently and strenuously battled heresies concerning central Catholic dogmas. They have understood that the adoption of these errors would fatally compromise the integrity of the Church.

Truth be told, any community must, if it is to survive, have a similar “intolerance.” The Abraham Lincoln Society would legitimately oppose the proposal that its members ignore Lincoln and concentrate on the study of Winston Churchill; the USGA would find repugnant the suggestion that Pebble Beach be turned into a collection of baseball diamonds; and the United States of America indeed aggressively excludes those committed to the eradication of fundamental American principles. The Catholic Church is not a Voltairean debating society; it is a community that stands for some very definite things, which implies, necessarily, that it sets its back against very definite things. A Church that simply “welcomed” heresies would, overnight, cease to be itself.

We find another very common error in Sebelius’s address to Georgetown. Deftly side-stepping the issue that has generated such controversy—the HHS demand that Catholic institutions provide insurance for procedures that Catholic morality finds objectionable—Sebelius cited John F. Kennedy’s memorable 1960 address to Protestant ministers in Houston. Kennedy dreamed of an America “in which no religious body seeks to impose its will, either directly or indirectly, on the general populace.” Over and again, from every quarter, one hears this call echoed today.

But what is so easily forgotten is that any law, any political movement, indeed any persuasive speech involves, in one way or another, the imposition of someone’s will. In the mid-nineteenth century, William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown were certainly endeavoring to impose their wills regarding the abolition of slavery on the rest of the country. In 1862, with the publication of the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln was most assuredly attempting to impose his will on many of his recalcitrant countrymen. Publicly protesting Jim Crow laws, marching through the streets of Selma and Montgomery, speaking in the cadences of Isaiah and Amos on the steps of Lincoln’s Memorial in Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King was certainly trying to impose his vision on an America that was by no means entirely ready for it. Indeed, just a year after the “I Have a Dream Speech,” King was delighted with the passage of strict civil rights legislation, which gave teeth to the proposals that he had long been making.

Now in all the examples I’ve given, explicit legal moves were motivated by solidly religious conviction. If you doubt me in regard to Lincoln, I would recommend a careful rereading of his Second Inaugural Address. The point is this: none of it would have legitimately taken place in the America imagined by John F. Kennedy, an America in which no religious individual or institution tried to impose its will either directly or indirectly.

Today, many government leaders are attempting to push religion, qua religion, out of the public conversation. Individuals, groups, and institutions are continually trying, for various reasons and to varying degrees of success, to impose their wills on people. Fine. That’s how our country works. What isn’t fair is to claim, arbitrarily, that religious individuals and institutions can’t join in the process.
 
 
(Image credit: Pop Dust)

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • ForPeteSaiche

    To paraphrase and correct Moreen Down, I'd say that 'absolute tolerance is always a sign of uncertainty and pantheism'.

  • D. Havas

    I don't think the Jesus of the bible foresaw the world lasting long enough to develop democracy. He said:

    "Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them."

    The church holds that followers have a moral obligation to vote. It's not right to just "shake the dust off your feet" or to "turn the other cheek". Catholics are expected to impose the church's will upon everyone else. If I really thought Jesus had it all together, I'd say that this goes against his will.

  • David Nickol

    There are many, many issues to be addressed here, but the big one (for me) is whether the Catholic Church is carrying out what Jesus saw as his mission during his lifetime: "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

    The point is this: none of it would have legitimately taken place in the
    America imagined by John F. Kennedy, an America in which no religious
    individual or institution tried to impose its will either directly or
    indirectly.

    Separation of church and state can be a very complex issue, but I think there has arisen fairly recently a new strain of thinking among some conservative Catholics that, in my opinion, would disqualify Catholics who agree with that position from holding high offices such as president of the United States.

    ADDENDUM: The "new strain of thinking" is not new at all, but a return to an old way of thinking that preceded the election of President Kennedy and also preceded Vatican II.

    • I think there's reasonable arguments to disqualify Catholics from holding high office altogether...and I'm Catholic. While there are issues and topics in politics which, in principle, have no well defined position for a faithful Catholic to stand on/behind, none of those issues fall into a single political party's platform.

      I really struggle to vote these days, even in local elections, there are simply fewer and fewer candidates out there that I can cast a vote for. I can't draw the line between public policy and private policy. Those Catholics who voted for Kennedy back then might not have if they had known of his persistently morally problematic private life. For me, and I imagine many faithful Catholics, It is extremely difficult to vote for a candidate which who talks one way and walks another, and this goes both ways - the person who votes in accord with the Catholic morality but doesn't live in accord with it and the opposite. I accept always that we're all sinners in one way or another, some more private, others more public...but it's extremely difficult to cast my vote for those publicly and persistently against the moral teachings of the Church.

      I would love to see a political liberal/democrat Catholic be successful in their party and be someone I could find myself voting for. The problem is not only is the liberal end of the political spectrum so far from anything that I can live with in good faith, the conservative end of the political spectrum is no better, but in a completely different way. When it comes to voting, I find myself more and more voting for the lesser of many evils.

  • Benedict Augustine

    Well said. For some reason, we think any ideas not inspired by religious principles are more valid and acceptable for discussion and legislation, whereas those which do derive from religious belief are wholly personal and inapplicable. This is an unfair double-standard set by those who ostensibly defend equality of ideas and perspectives.

    This double-standard rests on the assumption that one can have a morally neutral setting if he or she so chooses. Cleansing an environment of all moral influences, a person, or government, will leave its inhabitant free to choose for themselves what is right and wrong. However, such moral absences do not exist. If secularists purge religion from schools, the home, politics, or even the Church itself, they do not open the floor, but simply impose their own secular views in place of religious ones. By claiming that this view tolerates and liberates discussion, they in fact discourage tolerance and stifle discussion because anyone who decides to take a sincere position on an issue will logically close himself off from other positions and thus conclude the dialogue. Naturally, anti-Catholic pundits like Dowd, and anti-Catholic bureaucrats like Sibelius would prefer to prolong the debate interminably. In such a case, Dowd can continue earning money and notoriety writing inane commentary and Sibelius can execute oppressive laws without resistance and later exonerate herself in college speeches.

    • D. Havas

      However, such moral absences do not exist.

      I agree. Absolute separation of church and state at the individual level would be impossible. Still, most Americans agree on the spirit of the idea.

      Rant: Democracy is great, but it's not perfect. It works by imposing the wills of singular persons upon all the other singular persons. It's not at all clear to me what Jesus would've thought about it; He might've been a nonvoter. It seems to me he would've liked an open forum to persuade people (with warnings of hell and whatnot), but he wouldn't have forced anything on anyone else. He could've gone after real political power, but he didn't.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      I do t think it's a double-standard, but rather a bias in favor of evidence-based opinions, and an attempt to accommodate a plurality of opinions.

      Religion in general is anti-freedom and anti-plurality.

      • Phil

        Actually, true religion's goal is true freedom. And true freedom does not mean being able to do whatever one wants. Rather, true freedom is knowing what is the good and right thing to do and willing it.

        Which this means that some things are not going to be good for human flourishing and ought to be opposed.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          In other words, my freedom is the right to do what I'm told to do.

          I can see problems with that message; PR-wise.

          • Phil

            Freedom is the ability to choose, without reservation, what is right and good. That is ultimately imposed upon us by nature and the way reality is--not other people or religious institutions. The latter should be pointing us towards what is true and good.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Freedom is the ability to choose. Various organizations claim some choices are better than others, but freedom isn't making the choices one organization favors.

          • Phil

            You would say then that freedom is the ability to choose whatever one wants to do? I think a better term for this would be "license".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why? Why should "freedom" be defined as "the ability and the choice to follow catholic doctrine"? People don't always use their freedom wisely, but defining "true freedom" as my choosing to do what you think I should do appears to be a contradiction in terms.

          • Phil

            We are talking about two different things here:

            1) Being "free" to do whatever one wants to do, even if one ought not do it.
            2) Being free to choose what one ought to do, without disordered desires holding one back.

            These are in fact two different things. Only one of them is true freedom. I would argue the first is not even possible, since the human person ultimately only acts out of a desire for what one believes to be a good. Even if it turns out that s/he was mistaken. (See Socratic Intellectualism.)

            In other words, the human person cannot choose something completely and 100% arbitrarily. Since human desire is naturally oriented towards the good, true freedom must naturally be oriented towards the good.

          • Max Driffill

            This is an unhelpful set of definitions.
            "1) Being "free" to do whatever one wants to do, even if one ought not do it.2) Being free to choose what one ought to do, without disordered desires holding one back."

            Freedom number two is subsumed in the first definition and unnecessary. Your inclusion of 2, simply makes any discussion of freedom needlessly clunky. What are disordered desires? Can there even be such a thing? If I don't have a disordered desire, can I even be said to be free in my not choosing to do whatever people with that disordered desire do? I would be unburdened by the desire, and thus unburdened with the need to decided between doing something orderly (that I don't desire) and something disorderly (which I do desire).

            Do I watch "Captain America: the Winter Soldier" again or see "Heaven is Real?" I will go see the former. I haven't really made a choice, I have no desire to see to see the other film. Is that "true freedom?" Clearly Cap is the ordered desire and "Heaven is Real" the disordered desire/choice. Or consider another conundrum?
            Do I go see Captain America again or watch porn for a while? Now I have a significant choice to make. True freedom indeed.

          • Phil

            Freedom number two is subsumed in the first definition and unnecessary.
            Your inclusion of 2, simply makes any discussion of freedom needlessly
            clunky

            See my response above about why it is important to include the true and the good in one's understanding of freedom.

            What are disordered desires? Can there even be such a thing?

            A disordered desire is simply a desire that is not ordered towards true human flourishing, and is not oriented towards the proper end of the action/being at hand.

            Examples of easily seen disordered desires:
            -Lying (Speech is naturally oriented towards to the telling of true things. When we have a desire a tell a lie it is not a correct orientation of speech. Note I'm talking here about actual hard lies, not sarcasm, jokes, etc.)

            -Forcing oneself sexually on another (The nature of the human person and human sexuality is to be free to enter into a sexual embrace with another person, when one forces oneself on another this freedom is being taken away. Also, the subjective person is being turned into object to be used for another's gratification--another disorder.)

            -Alcoholism (And any addiction as well)

            If I don't
            have a disordered desire, can I even be said to be free in my not
            choosing to do whatever people with that disordered desire do?

            If you don't have a disordered desire--say a desire toward excessive drinking--then you are most supremely free because you have no reservations towards drinking responsibly and have no need or attachment to having an alcoholic beverage. This is what we would call the "virtuous" person (at least in this example in regards to alcohol).

            Do I watch "Captain America: the Winter Soldier" again or see "Heaven is
            Real?" I will go see the former. I haven't really made a choice, I have
            no desire to see to see the other film. Is that "true freedom?" Clearly
            Cap is the ordered desire and "Heaven is Real" the disordered
            desire/choice. Or consider another conundrum?

            In choosing a movie it is more nuanced. Part of it comes down to what the person perceives as the ultimate good at this point, e.g., it could be simply watching something entertaining, watching something that increases understanding/intellect, watching something that inspires, or simply out of curiosity. (Obviously one needs to figure out what are the true and good reasons to watch one movie over another.)

            I would say, that in choosing a movie one has to figure out what is the actual good of watching a movie. It would not be simply watching it to be entertained for ~2 hours, or simply out of curiosity. Though entertainment and curiosity can be part of the watching experience, recognizing the true and the good (or the bad and the false) in the story and the characters should be ultimately why one movie should be chosen over another.

            And in choosing to watch Captain America over Heaven is for Real one most definitely made a choice. Whether it was the true and good choice I cannot tell you. If one chose to watch the former because they wanted to be purely entertained because they were bored and they didn't want to take the effort to engage the views found in the latter movie, then that may have been a less good choice that was made. I think one could argue that a desire to purely be entertained in a slightly disordered desire.

            Obviously in regards to simply a decision of Captain America vs. porn it is much clearer what the good and true choice is, as long as one understands the disordered nature of pornography. That doesn't mean that watching Captain America was the best movie to watch or thing to do at that time. (Maybe the truly good thing to do was help one's child with their homework at that time.)

            Do I go see Captain America again or watch porn for a while? Now I have a significant choice to make. True freedom indeed.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            All your statements about naturally ordered seem to be arbitrary. Why, for example, is lying disordered speech. Speech is simply communication. To claim that it's ordered towards truth requires something more than your assertion.

          • Phil

            Hey Solange,

            Why, for example, is lying disordered speech. Speech is simply communication. To claim that it's ordered towards truth requires something more than your assertion.

            Think about the word you used above: "speech". Using the word "speech" assumes that I understand an objective nature that you are referring to when you say "speech" and that it is actually true. (i.e., speech meaning coherent communication through symbols that refer to things beyond themselves.) If you only say words that are false, communication and speech would be incoherent.

            In other words, the coherency of language dictates that it is oriented towards what is true.

            Reason can tell us what the nature of things are ordered towards. You simply forgot several words in your definition of speech:

            "Speech is simply communication [of what is or what one believes to be the case when one isn't trying to be purposely deceitful]."

            As I explained above, speech itself assumes that what you are saying describes objective natures that are true, within even just a single word, let alone a sentence.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No. The coherency of language has. Itching to do with whether it is true. I could say, "my laptop is green." That is a perfectly coherent speech, and you can understand exactly what I'm saying. It just happens to be false. The only wY you position makes sense is if you define speech as "something true". But then you don't have any word that means something false. What you're really saying is "true speech is ordered towards being true." But that's as far as you can go.

          • Phil

            The coherency of language has. Itching to do with whether it is true. I could say, "my laptop is green." That is a perfectly coherent speech, and you can understand exactly what I'm saying. It just happens to be false.

            Let's reason through this. Before we even get to the sentence as a whole, we have the word "laptop" and "green".

            Well, what do these symbols refer too? They refer to externally existing object(s) that have the nature/universal of "laptopness". This includes all objects that take part in the nature of "laptopness".

            If you do not assume in saying this sentence that it is true that there is such a thing "laptopness", that I can actually understand its specific nature, and we are actually talking about the same nature then language becomes incoherent. A single word assumes that it refers to something that is "true".

            If language was not oriented towards the true, it could not be ultimately coherent. I may not be doing a great job at explaining this, but I hope its making some sense. Again, this is before we even evaluate the sentence as a whole.

          • Phil

            Maybe a better way to explain it is like this:

            If true freedom is really being able to do whatever one wants, then we need to get rid of all laws. I am assuming many might balk at this and say, "we need some laws to keep order".

            The question then is, why do we choose one law over another? The response may be, "well, this law if better in this way than that law." So already there has been admittance that there is something better (i.e., good) about this law compared to that law. Therefore any law is oriented towards the good--they are not purely arbitrary.

            In all, one must either accept that all laws must be effectively gotten rid of, or true freedom is not being able to do whatever one wants.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not in the slightest. Freedom is the ability to make whatever choice we wish. That remains true no matter what laws exist. I may have legal consequences for making certain choices. We certain can't live collectively in a society without laws. But laws have nothing to do with freedom - nor does good and true.

          • Phil

            Honestly, I think we are just talking using different definitions lined up with different words. What you say is "freedom", I would call "license". I mean one can call it whatever one wants but that doesn't change that there is an objective difference between what you are calling the nature of freedom and what I am calling it.

            I don't think you would actually support your version of freedom. I am simply saying that I am putting forth what I am calling "true freedom" and saying that this is what society and the human person is, and ought to be, oriented towards. We shouldn't be oriented towards what you call "freedom".

          • Max Driffill

            That is uselessly playing with terms.

          • Phil

            Not at all; there is surely a difference between "doing whatever one wants to do" and "being free from all reservations to do what is the right thing to do".

            The issue with the former definition is that it leaves the true and the good out of our understanding of freedom. Without truth and goodness, freedom becomes arbitrary and has no direction.

            In a simple example, we can look at the action of going to a shoe store. When we pick to buy one pair of running shoes over the other we do not do so arbitrarily. Rather we pick one pair of shoes over another because there is actually something "good" and "true" about the shoes. In simplest terms, they are good at actually being running shoes, e.g., they are light, made of durable material, etc. And it is the same for every decision the human person makes--it is to be oriented towards the true and the good.

            In other words, true freedom is not to do whatever we want to do, but to be able to reason through what we ought to do, and then actually do it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You have not made your case. Freedom is the ability to choose. We can make claims about certain choices, from their consequences, but you're claiming something apparently because you want too. What us your distinction between freedom and true freedom?

          • Phil

            Again, you just forgot several words in you definition as there is never a choice that is made that is not oriented towards either a real/perceived truth or good. Socrates' first of 2 founding principles is correct: The human person only acts out of a desire for the good.

            In other words, there is no action that is simple "choosing". To say that freedom is simply the ability to choose does not explain anything that actually exists in reality.

            Again choosing is always oriented towards some real or perceived good. And true freedom is to be able, without any reservation, to know and to choose the actual good in each situation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You are simply playing games with words now. No profit in continuing.

          • Phil

            Not at all. I simply claim that there is no such thing as choosing without it being oriented towards the good.

            So saying that freedom is simply choosing cannot be correct because there is no such things as simply "choosing".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You appear to simply be adding morality to the mix without warrant. I could pick shoes because they're cute. Or because they're the only ones that fit. Or on a whim. That's freedom.

          • Phil

            could pick shoes because they're cute. Or because they're the only ones that fit.

            Sure, why not? Those are both "goods" that one could be searching for in a shoe. A good shoe could be one that is cute or that fits well.

            Again, nothing we do does not come out of some desire for either a real or perceived good. Ethics/morality simply follows from this basic principle of the true and good, which is found in non-moral decisions such as buying the right shoes. (Obviously shoe-buying could become a moral issue, but in usual circumstances it is not.)

            This is what is called "natural law ethics"--which I am sure you are familiar with at least by name. It is simply reason and logic understanding the nature of things around us, including the human person.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But the church claims that some choices are "correct" and some are not. And that freedom ACTUALLY consists if only choosing betwee the church approved choices. That is not freedom, that is tyranny.

          • Phil

            Not quite--The Church doesn't define what is right, she merely looks to discover what is the right and good thing to do. The Church then looks to help guide us to what is the right and good thing to do. There are some things that she is more adamant about then others because they are more easily seen and discovered by reason, though sometimes these are the hardest to accept (e.g., sexual morality).

            So obviously the Church would not hold that real freedom is being able to do whatever one wants without any orientation towards the true and the good. The true and good is what gives direction to freedom. I know what you are getting at, and I agree up to a point, but until you include the true and good in some way we are not quite there yet.

            So a virtuous person is the most free because they easily reject what is bad and choose what is good. They have no disordered attachments to doing what is bad or doing what is "good" for the wrong reasons.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why on earth is the "most free" person the one who is MOST constrained in his choices by others. And I'm sorry, Phil, but you just contradicted yourself there: the church most certainly defines whst behaviour people should follow, and then claims tgst ACTUAL freedom consists of following their rules. That's not freedom. That's a right to obey.

          • Phil

            Why on earth is the "most free" person the one who is MOST constrained in his choices by others.

            I might not be putting this as clear as I could--The most free person is the one who has nothing stopping her from doing what is right and true.

            This has nothing inherently to do with what others are forcing one to do. Obviously we should be helping to direct others to do what is right, but that doesn't equal coercing or forcing others to do what is right. (That doesn't mean would shouldn't have laws, even good laws are free to be broken, one just may have to face just consequences.)

            the church most certainly defines whst behaviour people should follow, and then claims tgst ACTUAL freedom consists of following their rules.
            That's not freedom. That's a right to obey.

            Close--Yes, the Church seeks to teach what is the true and right thing to do. She doesn't define it, she merely seeks to discover it. Truth is not something someone "has" but rather discovers.

            Actual freedom consists in doing what is right and true, so when the Church teaches something that is right and true then being truly free consists in doing also what the Church teaches.

            In other words, something is not right and true because the Church says so, it is right and true because it actually is in reality that way. And being truly free means having no reservation in doing what is right and true.

            (I know I repeated things several times here, but that was to hopefully make it clearer what I was trying to explain.)

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          How can True religions goal be true freedom when the 10 commandments starts with an utter restriction on freedom?

          • Phil

            The ten commandments are only a restriction on freedom to one that does not wish to be truly free or a fully flourishing human being ;)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So you claim. A Muslim would define a fully flourishing human being very differently. As would an atheist. Yours is only one voice among thousands - and one that causes anguish and suffering for many.

          • Phil

            A flourishing human being is a flourishing human being. This fact exists before religion. Proper religion is oriented towards helping us become flourishing human beings.

            The fact that there may be direct contradictions between major belief systems merely means that some parts of their beliefs are wrong in what produces a truly flourishing human being.

          • Max Driffill

            What is a flourishing human being?

        • Max Driffill

          Why do you get to say what either "true religion" or "true freedom?" Your definition of the latter seems entirely self-serving.

          I'm not certain the RCC, has any kind of decent grasp of those things which promote either human flourishing or freedom. History seems to indicate that the record is, at the very best mixed, and at the very worst positively limiting of actual freedom and flourishing.

          • Phil

            Hey Max,

            Why do you get to say what either "true religion" or "true freedom?"

            I don't get to define what it is--it is what it is. Our job is to discover it. True freedom is the goal of true religion.

            Something or someone that presents a "religion" or "philosophy" that is actually enslaving us to ourself and our own passions/desires or to others is not true religion. (This could include things such as secularism, materialism, etc.)

            I'm not certain the RCC, has any kind of decent grasp of those things
            which promote either human flourishing or freedom. History seems to
            indicate that the record is, at the very best mixed, and at the very
            worst positively limiting of actual freedom and flourishing.

            You are exactly correct that no institution is completely and wholly perfect in presenting what truly promotes true human freedom and flourishing. Now there have been persons that have presented true human flourishing and freedom. But the claim of those of the Catholic Church are simply that she holds within Her teaching the greatest fullness of teachings that promote true human freedom and flourishing to be found on earth.

    • Danny Getchell

      "Sibelius can execute oppressive laws", yet she, and Biden, and Kerry, and many others have yet to be excommunicated despite their continued abortion advocacy.

      This gives the impression that the church is more concerned with its political alliances than with the inviolability of its teaching.

      • David Nickol

        This gives the impression that the church is more concerned with its political alliances than with the inviolability of its teaching.

        I think, rather, that the American bishops—to their credit—are extremely reluctant to be seen as using excommunication (or refusal of communion) as a political tool to manipulate or pressure public officials.

        Excommunication is, ideally, a pastoral tool, ultimately for the benefit of the person who is excommunicated. It is intended to be the ultimate warning that a Catholic must change his or her ways. It is not meant to be used in anger to spite public figures whom the Church wishes it could control.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          And yet in this case these individuals are in clear violation of catholic doctrine.

        • Danny Getchell

          Or, it could be that the Church has become dependent on the federal funding that provides an ever-increasing portion of the support for its universities, hospitals and social service agencies, and fears to jeopardize the butter upon its bread.

          The first Catholic hospital which tells the fedgov to go take a flying leap, and runs itself as a true charity, will earn a $5,000 contribution from me on that day.

          • I would love to see such as well Danny...but with the caveat that Catholic Social Service organizations like hospitals, schools, adoption agencies, relief services, and so forth be free of the regulation that comes with such services.

            The problem often cited is that if the Church wouldn't get in bed with the government, then they wouldn't be subject to its regulation. That's simply not the case, in fact the Church has been forced into a corner in many of its moral areas when it comes to social services. The government provides grants and contracts to organizations that do social service work, as a means to control and regulate how that work is accomplished.

            For instance, the Church is one of the world's largest organizations fighting human trafficking, but because of the Church's positions on marriage, contraception and life the government no longer finds it a suitable partner to work with in this area. The ability to participate in this kind of good work is reduced or eliminated because of regulations placed on its organizations when they work through and with government agencies.

            There are so many other areas where this kind of bureaucracy abounds. I am, in no way, meaning to say that all social service organizations claiming to be Catholic are completely innocent of taking advantage of the situation, but I would hope we could agree that it's not as simple as you make it out to be.

          • Danny Getchell

            Then the Church should speak out against overweening government, and reject any government funding that comes with strings attached.

            Instead, when you look at the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, you see a group that seems to be in favor of more and more federal government involvement, more (and more complex) laws as the solution to every problem, more and more federal regulation and control of just about every institution in society with the exception of the Catholic Church and its affiliated organizations. The doctrine of subsidiarity seems to have just about evaporated.

          • I don't entirely disagree about the issue of big versus small government that represents the gist of your suggestion. I have to admit that don't always agree with the policy proposals the USCCB endorses or otherwise promotes. That said however, I do accept that the Bishop's intent and purpose in doing so is good, and I also believe that most of these policy matters fall in the area of prudential judgement.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            If you take the government's money, you can't discriminate. That's the principle here. And the church's various charity efforts rely overwhelmingly on public, not catholic, money.

          • That is part of the problem, the ability to engage in these social arenas requires a certain level of government involvement or permission. Its not so simple.

            Take the human trafficking issue. In 2010, the HHS chose not to renew a contact with the USCCB because of its refusal to supply contraceptives to victims...which is not discrimination what-so-ever. It's not enough to simply allow the USCCB do to good work for the victims, the govt. has to wrap a contract around it to even be in the game.

            In the US, it's a chicken and egg problem, and you can't have it both ways to say the Church shouldn't take money from the government when the government actually requires such to be involved in a social service like that.

        • David, well said and thank you for distinguishing the difference between pastoral and doctrinal issues. I would like to say I'd be happy if the Church did excommunicate such politicians, but really that's not the truth. That's a selfish superficial attitude, I pray for those to bring their public and private positions into line with the faith.

          I do very much dislike the public opinion of the Catholic faith gets colored by prominent politicians and universities who get massive amounts of public press and claim to be Catholic. I often wonder if it wouldn't be better for them to not profess their so-called Catholic identity, but at best that's a "second best" solution.

          Every saint has a past, every sinner a future.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I do very much dislike the public opinion of the Catholic faith gets colored by prominent politicians and universities who get massive amounts of public press and claim to be Catholic. I often wonder if it wouldn't be better for them to not profess their so-called Catholic identity, but at best that's a "second best" solution.

            The deeply sectarian perspective implicit in your remarks is that you and those who share your beliefs belong to true Catholicism, while those individuals and learning institutions with which you disagree belong to a false Catholicism or in fact have no claim to Catholicity at all.

            It seems to me that such a viewpoint, mostly unheard of in the church universal outside of the United States, encourages its adherents toward a divisive elitism in which they imagine that they alone posses a correct understanding of the Catholic faith over against many clergy and religious as well as theologians and other Catholic academics.

            Let us note that no pope in recent memory has endorsed the partisan mindset I described above. In fact, while factious Catholics were calling for certain of their brothers and sisters to be denied communion, the Anglican, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-embryonic stem cell research British Prime Minister Tony Blair received the Eucharist from Saint John Paul II himself.

            It is not the place of this or that member of the faithful to exclude other Catholics from the Church in word or deed. To do so is to usurp an authority that does not belong to individual faithful and to undermine Christian harmony within the community of the Church.

            May we, American Catholics in 2014, rediscover the fine examples of Sts. Jerome, Augustine, and Chrysostom, each of whom sharply disagreed with the other on the proper interpretation of Galatians 5:17, yet none of whom sought to excommunicate the other.

          • Well, I'm pretty sure you misunderstand my point. It's one thing to disagree on prudential matters, it's another to dissent from established magesterial teaching, such as abortion's status as intrinsic evil. I think you misunderstand. My statement about "second best" option does imply that I advocate for excommunication as "best" solution. No, the best solution is what I pray for, that is, that those will have conversion and come to bring their politics in line with their faith.

            Nancy Pelosi calls abortion sacred, wins the Planned Parenthood "Margaret Sanger" award, and publicly claims to be grounded in her Catholic faith. Planned Parenthood, as a social service, makes 40% of its annual money through abortions.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I see nothing wrong with criticizing Nancy Pelosi's views and legislative actions on abortion. However, it is crossing a line to imply that Nancy Pelosi and others with similar views are not Catholics and only claiming to be so.

            The reality is that Nancy Pelosi is a Roman Catholic in good standing. Perhaps you have information to the contrary, but as far as I know that is her canonical status. "Sure, but she's not really a Catholic" would be a fanciful, audacious response to this simple fact.

          • I actually said no such thing about whether she's actually Catholic as you say, I simply say I pray that she brings her public life into accord with the teaching of the church. I also lament the pact such public life has on those who think she represents Catholic teaching in her support for abortion. I think that's that's what we define as scandal.

            Also, I can't speak to her status except to link to what has been said by someone who would seem to have some authority in the matter...

            http://m.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/vatican-chief-justice-nancy-pelosi-must-be-denied-communion

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I am glad that you do not include Nancy Pelosi among those "who get massive amounts of public press and claim to be Catholic." Am I right to assume that you would also not describe Rep. Pelosi as having a "so-called Catholic identity"?

            Cardinal Burke is welcome to his rather unique opinion. It is unfortunate that he was not in Rome during Francesco Rutelli's term as mayor. Sadly, he missed the opportunity to prevent Saint John Paul II from repeatedly giving communion to that pro-choice politician. I wonder, has Cardinal Burke taken any current action to prevent other pro-choice politicians from receiving the eucharist in the pope's diocese? I haven't heard of any crackdown...

          • Arthur, I guess I'm struggling to know whether you're being sarcastic, uncharitable, or truthfully do not understand me. If anything but the latter I have nothing left to gain from continuing this discussion.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Then let us be clear: Is it your opinion that individuals and learning institutions that you perceive to be in a state of "dissent from established magesterial teaching" only claim to be Catholic but are not really? If I misunderstood you to begin with then I apologize.

            I confess to being sarcastic toward Cardinal Burke, whose pernicious tendency toward rigorism I hold in low regard. I did not intend to express any sarcasm towards you and I apologize if there was any confusion on that point.

          • Pope Francis said it beautifully to the Notre Dame contingent who went to Rome last year - http://www.news.va/en/news/vatican-the-pope-to-the-university-of-notre-dame -

            This commitment to “missionary discipleship” ought to be reflected in a special way in Catholic universities (cf.Evangelii Gaudium, 132-134), which by their very nature are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life. Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors.

            When Georgetown University invites HHS Sec. Sebelius to give the commencement address to the university's Public Policy Institute's graduates does that send a message of uncompromising witness? Pelosi is another example, perhaps even more concrete - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM2VqqNLWxQ - what part of that part where she promotes continued support for abortion and contraception sounds like she's an ardent practicing Catholic?

            Again to paraphrase Pope Francis, the Church has spoken on these matters, there's not much more to say. Its really unclear to me why or how she could not understand the seriousness of her position. Why or how she could consider herself in good faith and accept the Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood this year. PP earns 40% of their annual income performing abortions.

            Perhaps you can explain to me how stuff like this is a good example of Catholic identity?

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I only say that Nancy Pelosi is a Catholic, and Georgetown is a Catholic, Jesuit University. God forbid that I should judge whether Rep. Pelosi is "ardent" in the practice of her faith or not.

            Concerning the clip above, Nancy Pelosi should have responded that the question of when "life" begins is a ridiculous one, being that both the ovum and the sperm are alive and when one is fertilized by the other the resulting zygote is alive as well. Instead, as Pelosi should have pointed out, the question ought to be "When does personhood begin?"

            Pelosi could then have explained that prior to the seventeenth century most Catholic theologians argued for delayed hominization, but in a gradual process that involved the supersession of Aristotelianism with Platonism the predominant position became immediate hominization.

            In light of her reference to St. Augustine, I don't doubt that Rep. Pelosi is at least somewhat informed about the complexities involved in the evolution of Catholic teaching on the matters which she discussed. In all fairness, Mr. Brokaw would be hard pressed to find a Catholic outside of the academy who could give him a more thorough and accurate response than Mrs. Pelosi's. That's disappointing, but true.

            I do not regard Georgetown University as a good example of Catholic identity, though for reasons entirely unrelated to either abortion or Rep. Pelosi.

          • I think the crux of Fr. Barron's post here is that inclusion and tolerance is for persons, not ideas or acts. As I was saying, I'd love to see her do an about face on these issues and be more publicly instep with the Church and I pray for her to that end. I imagine that if she were to do such a thing her chances of being re-elected would drop significantly and her party would make moves to put someone else front and center. Would you agree?

            Edit:
            One a side note, though she's not Catholic to my knowledge, Sarah Palin's comments regarding baptism via water boarding torture were awful on so many levels. If she were in office and Catholic or claiming to be so, I would take a similar intolerance for her ideas.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I imagine that if she were to do such a thing her chances of being
            re-elected would drop significantly and her party would make moves to
            put someone else front and center. Would you agree?

            Yes.

            Sarah Palin is a former Catholic, and yes, there is no defending her deeply sacrilegious comment.

      • Danny, regarding Sebelius, it would appear that action has been taken, though not excommunication.

        http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/sebelius_communion_ban_to_apply_in_washington/

    • David Nickol

      It seems to me the American system assumes that moral judgments can be made independently of any religion or group of religions. There was major religious support for the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, but the laws themselves were not religious laws. Religious groups are welcome to advocate laws because their particular religion considers them the right thing to do, but the laws themselves must not be based on religion. According to the Catholic Church, morality should be knowable as "natural law," without consulting purely religious principles. In theory, there should be no difference between what the Catholic Church finds immoral and secular thinkers find immoral. However, the Catholic Church has its own particular view of "natural law," particularly in the areas of sexual and reproductive matters. The issue of separation of church and state comes into play when the Catholic Church considers its conclusions about specific issues (such as homosexuality and same-sex marriage) to be applicable to the entire population of the United States and not just to Catholics.

      The issue of the contraceptive mandate under Obama care has become a complex legal issue that it is not easy to analyze. But it does seem to me that the Catholic Church got what it initially wanted after prolonged political maneuvering, and not has moved the goalposts so it can continue to claim "oppression" by the Obama administration.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Beautifully put - as always.

      • Phil

        Hey David,

        In regards to the HHS mandate I don't see how not approving of someone being able to be coerced by the government to approve of contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortificient drugs is moving the goalpost.

        The Church has said from the very beginning that this was announced that no person should be coerced in any way in regards to this. As of right now, the issue is still present (in the end, the "accommodations" have only tried to cover up the issue).

        • David Nickol

          Ultimately, the Supreme Court is going to decided whether, after the final "accommodation," the ACA infringes on religious freedom or not, and they will also decided the matter of for-profit businesses claiming religious exemptions. But the nations largest group of Catholic hospitals (CHA) has decided the requirements are acceptable. This seems like a reasonable decision on their part to me. Whether or not a for-profit corporation can claim religious exemptions based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is something the Supreme Court has heard argument on and we will just have to wait for their decision. I don't want to predict what the ruling will be, but I personally think it is going too far to consider a for-profit corporation to have religious positions. A corporation is legally a person, and does have certain rights of persons (freedom of speech), but it will be odd if the court rules that corporations are legal persons with religious rights.

          It seems to me the American Bishops have a "thing" about President Obama and will not accept reasonable compromises which, in my opinion, deal sufficiently with the moral objections they raised at the very outset of the ACA.

          • Phil

            The main issue is if some person will be required to approve of or provide these services in any way. If this is still present then there is an issue.

            In other words, if I own a company of 100 employees and the government or health insurance company comes to me and says, "You need to sign this paper allowing us to go to your employees to offer them contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortificent drugs or we are going to fine you", then there is still an infringement on my religious freedom. As of right now, this is still the case.

            The government or insurance companies are free to go to people in private and offer these things, but they cannot force myself or anyone else to approve or provide them. This is why the U.S. Bishops still have an issue with the HHS mandate.
            ----

            I cannot comment on the CHA as I don't know the full story, but I can say if they will be approving or providing these drugs in any way, then unfortunately they will not be in line with Catholic teaching.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            This is not correct: you are not providing those services. No one is providing those services except the actual doctors and pharmacists. What the companies provide is what they have always provided: COMPENSATION in the form of pre/tax monies applied to insurance plans.

            It is disingenuous to claim they are being forced to violate their consciences.

          • Phil

            You are correct--I am not directly providing those services. But you missed that I am being forced to give consent which approves of them, even if in the smallest way.

            I don't wished to be forced to sign the paper. As I said, if the government wants to go to those individuals without my consent, they are more than free to. But I will not be signing any papers giving my consent. And if I am fined for not signing those papers, that is an issue.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Again, incorrect. You are signing a paper to indicate that you do not give consent (if you are a religious organization); and nothing gives you the right to withhold your consent to your employees purchasing whatever they wish with their compensation - unless you'd like employers to be able to dictate their employees use if their own salaries?

          • Phil

            That's fine--as long as the paper simply says, obviously in more technical langauge, "I do not give consent to provide these items." If it says anything about approving of the government or insurance company going to the individuals to offer these things then I cannot sign it. I don't want to be involved in this in any way.

            But unfortunately the former is not all this paper is saying.

            I have no desire to dictate what my employees do with their salaries, they are free to buy those things on their own. But I'm don't need to sign a piece of paper to do this.

          • Phil

            I get very confused on why it is so hard for many to understand that I don't wish to be involved in these services/drugs whatsoever? Is it that hard to ask that I not be fined for not signing a paper consenting for someone else to provide these services? If they want to privately provide the services, they are free to do so, but don't make me sign a paper explicitly approving of it!

            It isn't that hard...

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's not the intent of the letter. The intent of the letter is to endure that the government knows that you refuse to permit your employees to spend their compensation as they wish. That's all.

          • Phil

            I think you are a little off, as none of this has to do with how the employees themselves privately spend their compensation.

          • Phil

            Let me propose an analogy: (Obvious this is all just as an example)

            Say you, yourself, own/run an organization or company and you are also very much against Christianity. Say you believe that becoming Christian is harmful. But you also believe that people should be able to freely accept or reject Christianity.

            So one day an official comes to you and says that you must sign this document stating that you approve of them going to your employees and actively telling them about all the good things about Christianity and offering them to become Christian, if they so desire. But if you don't sign it, you will be fined.

            I think you would say this is absurd, not only do you not need to sign this for this group to do this, but for for you to be fined if you don't sign it infringes on your basic freedoms.

            In the end, get rid of the fine in both this example case and in the actual HHS mandate, and all is ok.

          • Phil

            In other words, to put it simply: As long as (1) no contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortificient drugs are provided with any health care plan I am providing, (2) I am not forced to directly consent to them being provided in any other way, and (3) I am not being fined for these previous two, then all is kosher. That's all that the U.S. Bishops are asking for.

            I know you appreciate freedom from our other conversation ;)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And the bishops are also being disingenuous. Various catholic organizations provided these services for years without complaint. If it was wrong now, it was wrong then. And that still does give you the right to dictate how your employees may use their compensation - after all, that would be trampling on religious freedom. And we all know the bishops are OPPOSED to that.

          • Phil

            You are exactly correct, it was just as against Church teaching then as it is now. So if those organizations wish to keep providing then, so be it. But don't coerce me to give my explicit consent if I don't wish to.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What is the precise wording we are discussing? What is it the Little Sisters are refusing to consent to?

          • Phil

            In regards to the Little Sisters of the Poor, they do not fall under the HHS mandate religious exemption category! So they are being forced to provide health care plans that will cover sterilizations, contraceptives and
            abortificent drugs and devices.

            Obviously if they don't fit the religious accommodation there is an issue there. But if either of the two things I posted one post above can still happen to myself, as an employer, this is still an even bigger issue.

            It's pretty simple, If one does not wish to be involved in providing these things one should not be coerced to do so or face fines.

            Here is the document if interested: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-02-06/pdf/2013-02420.pdf

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No. This is completely false. They are not being obliged to provide those things. Period.

          • Guest

            So they are being lied to by the government? They are gonna say, "oh just kidding, you really don't have to do this!"

            Why would they go through the care of brining this to court if they can opt-out?

          • Phil

            Are you then saying that if the Little Sisters do not provide health plans that cover sterilizations, contraceptives and
            abortificent drugs and devices, the government cannot fine them or force them to do so?

          • David Nickol

            . . . . the government cannot fine them or force them to do so?

            No, in this case, the government can't. It would appear that the Little Sisters of the Poor are the wrong group to bring this kind of lawsuit. The insurance company through which they already provide insurance, and through which they will continue to provide insurance, is by preexisting laws (that is, laws that were in effect long before Obamacare and continue to be in effect in spite of Obamacare) exempt from government requirements to provide contraceptive coverage. So if the Little Sisters of the Poor sign the form Obamacare requires them to sign, they are not authorizing contraceptive coverage for the employees they insure, since their insurance company is exempt from providing contraceptive insurance.

            It is a somewhat complicated case, but the position of the Little Sisters of the Poor seems to be something like this: "We will not sign the form, because if our insurance company were not exempt from providing contraceptive coverage, signing the form would in effect be giving our permission for them to provide contraceptive coverage, and so signing would be an evil act, even in our particular case it would not result in our employees receiving contraceptive coverage."

            There are, of course, many religious groups in a position similar to that of the Little Sisters of the Poor who must sign the form and whose insurance companies then will offer contraceptive coverage to the employees those religious groups insure. But the Little Sisters of the Poor are arguing that they will not sign the form even though there is no practical consequence of signing it. They are claiming, basically, that signing it is cooperating with a system they consider immoral, even though for them nothing at all happens if they sign.

          • Phil

            Thank you for explaining that David. If that is true that they can't be forced to provide the coverage or be fined, then that is good news. I wonder then why anyone would represent them if they have no issue?

            Obviously that still leaves the issue of those that can be forced to provide the coverage or be fined.

          • Phil

            Maybe the question then is, what exactly are the Sisters being asked to sign? What does it specifically say for them? Do you know?

          • Phil

            David, Are you saying that the Little Sisters are actually exempt from the contraceptive mandate, even though it has been claimed that they are not? And again, what are they specifically being asked to sign?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Your explicit consent to what, precisely?

          • Phil

            If they hand me a document that states in so many words that I give my consent for them to offer those drugs/services, I cannot sign it. And if they fine me for not signing that document, that's an issue.

            That is what the latest "accommodation" does. Get rid of the fine, and all is well.

          • David Nickol

            "You need to sign this paper allowing us to go to your employees to
            offer them contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortificent drugs or we
            are going to fine you"

            I am no expert in the law, but my understanding is that this does not happen. If the employer is a religious organization, they are not required to do anything at all. They simply secure insurance from an insurance company. The insurance company will contact the employees and offer them coverage of contraceptives. The employer does not arrange for, authorize, or pay for the contraceptive coverage.

            The government requirement to provide contraceptive coverage has in effect been lifted from the employer and imposed on the insurance company.

            Remember, also, that the employer always has the choice simply not to provide insurance. If they choose not to provide insurance, they will pay a tax (or fine, depending how you look at it) of $2000 per employee, but since the cost of providing insurance far exceeds $2000 per employee, the company will come out ahead financially. They should be able to pay their employees more, since they are saving on benefits. However, they are losing the advantage of having good health benefits, which may or may not affect their efforts to hire the best employees.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I believe that in the case of the Little Sisters, the order was asked to sign a document stating that they had religious objections to the insurance they offered covering contraception, and that the Sisters claimed that this authorized someone else to offer insurance, thus making the Sisters culpable.
            Seems somewhat...Jesuitical to me. :-)

      • Isaac Clark

        Hi David. Should that read "now moved the goalposts"?
        If so I agree.
        I think the RCC is facing two new challe
        ges. First is a new information age. Here in Ireland as soon as people had the chance to be heretics, many embraced it with both arms . Secondly, and far worse for the church, is the in your face nature of the new "apathetics". People now have the ability to admit they dpn't care.

  • Richard Soseman

    As Fulton Sheen wrote, tolerance is for people, intolerance is for ideas.

  • tz1

    I'm confused. I thought if I give convincing reasons and practical arguments, and someone changes their will, I have not imposed anything.

    "But what is so easily forgotten is that any law, any political movement, indeed any persuasive speech involves, in one way or another, the imposition of someone’s will."

    Impose implies coercion, force, very specifically leaving the others' will unchanged, but threatening or causing pain for noncompliance.

    I wish to have no part in that. That is the Inquisition.

    We are to save souls, and that means fixing ill wills, not bending or crushing them.

    There are cases of violence, theft, or fraud that are destructive so that ought to be stopped by coercion. The rest ought to use words and deeds showing we are right and they are wrong.

    There is no violence worse than the Abortion Holocaust today. Yet there are only a few abortionists and places providing them. Your threshold for imposing something to stop this ought to be lower than for most of the trivia which we chatter about. Yet I would guess it is reversed. Divorce similarly murders the one flesh, yet no one mentions no-fault divorce or the Annulment factories, it's all gay marriage (which is merely intrisically instead of voluntarily contracepted).

    When one has lost the moral high ground, and people stop following because they no longer respect you, coercion becomes attractive. But humble truth needs no weapon because it is the sharpest sword. Pride lives and dies by the physical sword imposing because it knows better than you. (And knowing acts of violence are wrong and seeking to prevent such acts can be done at that level, or just punishment which fits the crime, and is a redress, need not resort to imposing a will, no more than gravity imposes its will on my desire to float, levitate, or fly; or has the law of nature - the internal, not external one, been lost?)

    • Loreen Lee

      Besides the difficulty in distinguishing between church and state, there is also the great 'divide' between principle, and practice. This is partiularly meaningful to me regarding the issues of abortion and euthanasia. I would not want the church to uphold any other position, and I am in complete agreement on principle, and am aware of the 'downward slope', which has been particularly evident in the abortion issue. But then, how do you account for the anomalies, (homosexuality being perhaps one anomaly of nature) within the specific, particular, individual situations. Where is the divide between freedom of the will, and imposing one's will on a person in such cases? Thank you.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      When one has lost the moral high ground, and people stop following because they no longer respect you, coercion becomes attractive.

      And this, I think, is the key to the Church's problem - at least for my generation. The pedophile scandal - and more importantly, the coverup - lost the Church whatever high ground we might have ceded to it.

      While Cardinal Law sits fat, safe, and comfortable in Rome, the Catholic Church has no moral authority.

      • MattyTheD

        Partly true. The pedophile scandal was hugely
        corrosive to the church's moral authority. Given that, it's surprising
        to how the moral authority of the church is rebounding so quickly. (For example
        how Pope Francis has shifted the inequality debate in the U.S. and
        around the world). As "PR" reversals go, it's astounding. It suggests to
        me that most people understand that the pedophile scandal was a case of
        terrible management and not the sign of a fundamentally flawed
        institution.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          What distresses my gen is the fact that the church still won't come clean. As I say - while Cardinal Law remains a fat, pampered, respected guest in Rome, the church has no claim to the moral high ground.

          Sure, Francis is good at PR. But he has, as yet, done nothing substantive. There is no Francus effect in church attendance or vocations, for example; the conservatives in the church don't seem to be warming to him; the Religious orders continue to die...

          Only time will tell, but one charismatic won't save the church.

  • George

    "This is precisely why, for the past two millennia, theologians, bishops,
    Popes, and councils have consistently and strenuously battled heresies
    concerning central Catholic dogmas. They have understood that the
    adoption of these errors would fatally compromise the integrity of the
    Church."

    Did tolerating heretical ideas necessarily mean adopting those ideas?

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      No, it meant allowing catholic laity to adopt those ideas. That was the actual struggle.

      • George

        and what was done to make sure the laity didn't adopt those ideas? what if members wanted to adopt them?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Inquisition. Crusade. Witch-trials. Violent coercion was more the rule than the exception.

          • MattyTheD

            M. Solange, "violent coercion was more the rule than the exception". Your comment strikes me as almost self-contradictory. If Christianity has had, say, a few billion adherents throughout its history and the worst cases of violent coercion one can cite involved say several thousand, you're demonstrating a "pattern" of far less than one percent. Is "Less than 1%" really "the rule". The most recent Catholic Youth Day, for example, had more people *voluntarily* expressing joyful faith than all your examples of coercion combined, which you've drawn from the entire history of Christianity. Your sense of proportion seems seriously imbalanced on this point.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            World youth wasn't an attempt to suppress doctrinal dissent, now was it? And the number if overall adherents wasn't part of my argument, now was it? When dealing with dissent, the church has overwhelmingly resorted to violent coercion. I gave examples. Look up the church's response to various heresies over the centuries. Look to the aftermath of the defenestration of Prague.

            It was a catholic, after all, who is credited with the line, "neca eos omnes, deus suos agnoscet."

  • TwistedRelic

    Nice tactic....post a boring article that mostly, only church ethicists and committed Catholics would find interesting, focused on internal church politics, tensions and internal squabbles existing between the church liberals and conservatives, thereby effectively diverting the bulk of atheists and agnostics away from this site for the time being, thus giving Brandon and his cohort time to regroup and come up with some new ideas....and I don't blame them. They need the space given the comments on the last couple of articles. Cynicism on my part?...undeniable .;-) Admittedly it must be difficult to come up with new, interesting and original articles written by Catholic authors that would fit into the mandate of this site....that being...

    This website is designed to mimic that first meeting of Christians and
    atheists, allowing both to discover intriguing "strange notions" on
    either side.

  • mriehm

    While a golf course that was flattened and subdivided into a number of baseball diamonds would cease to be a golf course, a church that modernized its antiquated views on sexuality, while maintaining its central tenets on the origins and redemption of sin, would remain a church. Undoubtedly even an improved one.

    • MattyTheD

      When you say the sexual teachings are "antiquated", do you mean it in the sense of "obsolete" or more like "unfashionable"? Because if you mean the former, that would be demonstrable incorrect (if it's given serious thought). If you mean the latter, it would be a *terrible* reason to change the teachings. Either way, I'm not seeing what you seem to think is "undoubtedly" an improvement.

      • Ben Posin

        Uh..please feel free to share the serious thought that shows the Catholic Church's sexual teachings are not "obsolete" (I might substitute other words like wrong, not based in reality, and possibly amoral, but obsolete isn't a terrible place to start).

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        The church's teaching on sex remain uninformed by scientific research and technology.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          How would scientific research inform a doctrine on sex? What effect could some technology have on a church teaching on sex?

          Science tells us what we can do. It lets us do things we could not do before. It has nothing to say about whether we ought to do it. Right?

          Science has given us the atomic bomb. Just because we can destroy entire cities with atomic bombs does not change the church teaching (also the natural law's teaching) that directly killing the innocent is wrong.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Science could demonstrate that homosexuality is normal, for example. Unusual, but perfectly normal.

            Technology allows us to prevent pregnancy, for example.

            Little things.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Science could demonstrate that homosexuality is normal, for example."

            Science can demonstrate that mendacity is perfectly normal.

            How do you distinguish between these two statements? I presume you think that the first means homosexual acts are morally innocent but that lying at least in some cases is morally blameworthy.

          • David Nickol

            Science can demonstrate that mendacity is perfectly normal.

            Normal is much too vague a word to use when arguing about homosexuality (or almost anything else).

            Actually, science shows that lying is not "normal," in that it is accompanied by certain physiological reactions that can be measured by instruments like lie detectors.

            I believe you personally (although I could be mistaken) have argued that while some in the Catholic Church in past eras permitted abortion before "quickening," our current, more accurate understanding of embryology now rules that out. So it seems to me it must be acknowledged that more accurate scientific knowledge of reality certainly can have consequences for moral arguments.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I was just reading about this today in Feser's book "Aquinas." He makes the point that if Aquinas knew the embryology we do he would have agreed that human life begins at conception.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I have a great deal of difficulty getting through that book - Feser's rampant homophobia, sneering disdain of anyone who disagrees with him; and overwhelming ego mess up his occasional explanations of Aquinas' thought (which are clear).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm into the psychology section of Feser's book and I have not noticed a single instance of homophobia, let alone frequent mentions. Searching the topic "sexual morality," I see he lists homosexuality two or three times but he does not single it out over other acts that Aquinas considered "disordered," like masturbation, contraception, fornication, and adultery, which I would be willing to claim have a lot in common.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It could be I'm blurring it with Last Superstition. I've read a fair amount of Feser, and it gets repetitive.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "I've read a fair amount of Feser, and it gets repetitive."

            An author I know is against "sneering disdain of anyone who disagrees with him."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Did I say I disagreed with Feser? Did I sneer? Please read what I write / it will spare you the need for snarky answers. Fester is repetitive; deliberately so, I suspect.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Actually, science shows that lying is not "normal," in that it is
            accompanied by certain physiological reactions that can be measured by instruments like lie detectors."

            So, if science found that persons who act on same sex attractions have higher rates of certain physical and psychological disorders than heterosexual married couples (as another candidate for "normal"), would you begin to suspect that SSA might not be "normal," assuming you could rule out other factors?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, it would still be normal. Things can be perfectly "normal" and still have potential side effects; and since many of those side-effects appear to be a result of factors not related to homosexual behavior per se, but rather to society acceptance, or lack thereof, they may not have any bearing.
            Sex which does not result in conception is (hopefully) a case of mutual masturbation. How does this differn from same-sex sex?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The link I supplied you above outlines physical side effects what have nothing to do with societal acceptance.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But surely the CATHOLIC position is not based on consequentialism?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think you are correct. Natural law reasoning takes consequences into account but it is based on what is good for human beings as human beings, that is, according to our nature. If you act in a way that goes against human nature, there will likely be bad consequences (but not always).

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But "human nature" is remarkably flexible; and variations in the biological underpinnings determine what that nature consists of. And the debate about what's good for a person has little to do with what society should permit those persons to do - unless, of course, the church would prefer to regulate all human conduct according to its own standards of "good".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm sorry, where is the link?

          • Kevin Aldrich
          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Homosexuality is naturally occurring; it occurs in multiple species; it appears to be a development issue (not a direct gene-to-characterization problem); it has no inherent biological downsides; etc.

            I wasn't making a claim that science can supply a moral judgement; sorry if that wasn't clear.

            And certainly lying in some circumstances IS morally praiseworthy - unless you think that answering "where is Anne Frank hiding" truthfully is a morally good choice....

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes science can show that homosexuality is naturally occurring, but I think we already knew that.

            From what I have read, sodomy does have biological downsides. This paper by a physician outlines some of them: http://catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/healthrisksSSA.pdf. In addition, same sex sexual acts all share the biological downside of never achieving the natural goal of sexual relations, which is reproduction.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There is no evidence that there is even a "natural goal" of sexual relations. Since MOST coitus does not result in babies, I'd say you're pretty much wrong about that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No evidence. Have you ever cracked a biology textbook? Opened it to the chapter on the human reproductive system?

            Are you saying that we can't know the natural goal of the digestive system? Or the respiratory system?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I have a medical degree, among other things, I know perfectly well what the systems do; but that's not what you're claiming.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            By intentionalism do you mean "end"?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Correct. You appared to be smuggling in the notion that biological systems were designed for a specific use, and because so intended, to have only that use and nothing more. Without evidence of a designer, the design is not necessarily relevant to the topic of the "natural ends" of a biological system.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. The ends don't have to be designed nor does the particular animal (including the human animal) need to be aware if them.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then what's your point?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It seem to me that some people start with what they want and then reason backwards based on that. And anything that argues against what they want must be rejected.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And what evidence do you that this is such a case?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then there is no "natural goal". Merely function, which carries with it no moral imperative. Moreover, systems can have multiple functions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes and eyeballs can function as billiard balls in a pinch.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not actually, they are too soft.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The function of the penis is to eject sperm. Inside, outside, in my lady's chamber.

          • Susan

            This paper by a physician outlines some of them: http://catholiceducation.org/a...

            A very unconvincing essay, Kevin. Certainly not a scientific paper.

            Here is a detailed response:

            http://homoresponse.blogspot.ca/2011/06/response-to-j-diggs-health-risks-of-gay.html

            You should read it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ouch! Nice dissection.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is cute. The essay I cited can be dismissed because it is not peer-reviewed (by an essay that is not peer-reviewed).

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No one said your essay was to be dismissed because it was not peer reviewed. It is to be dismissed because it is wrong.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That is a false statement. Your essay is to be dismissed because it is wrong and disingenuous, not because it is not peer-reviewed.

          • Susan

            That is cute. The essay I cited can be dismissed because it is not peer-reviewed (by an essay that is not peer-reviewed).

            I have no idea where you got that. I provided a link to a detailed response to the essay you linked. That is not a call for dismissal.

            "Diggs uses a combination of anecdotal evidence, misrepresentation of sample populations, methodologically flawed studies and many non-scientific/ scientifically useless sources to make his claims. Diggs' essay gives the illusion of being well referenced but is in reality simply propaganda masquerading as science."

            The writer goes on to demonstrate point by point how Diggs has done that.

            Did you read it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I scanned both essays. The first thing your writer says is that Diggs essay is not peer-reviewed and you said, echoing him, that it is not a scientific paper.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But neither the author, Susan, nor I claimed your essay should be dismissed because it was not peer-reviewed. That is YOUR straw man invention. Perhaps you should try reading the article?

          • Susan

            I scanned both essays.

            So you wrote this:

            From what I have read, sodomy does have biological downsides.

            Then you linked to a "paper" you haven't read and can't be bothered to read a thorough response to that essay?

            Respectfully, I think you should read them both thoroughly before you link to that essay again as though it provides any kind of support for your position.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's not the only thing I have ever read, Susan.

            If you want documentation on the inherent health risks of sodomy you can find them in the Wikipedia article on anal sex (which I actually only scanned because, to use your first principle of morality, I find it "icky.")

          • Susan

            It's not the only thing I have ever read, Susan.

            You mean it's not the only thing you have ever scanned.

            to use your first principle of morality, I find it "icky."

            You must have only scanned my comment as well.

            Or you're just being snarky. I've been trying to engage in respectful discussion with you but it doesn't look like that's possible.

            Please, the next time you link to something, take the trouble to read it first and be willing to read and consider criticisms of it.

            Or don't provide the link. It's impossible to discuss something you haven't bothered to read.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, I read and write all day.

            I think I have a pretty good idea of when I need to read something carefully and when it is fine to give it a quick look.

            I also know that anything in writing can be criticized, and those criticisms can be refuted, and those refutations refuted.

            No snark was intended.

          • Susan

            I think I have a pretty good idea of when I need to read something carefully and when it is fine to give it a quick look.

            You haven't demonstrated that in this case, you do have a good idea. If you have a good idea the rest of the time, that's good but irrelevant.

            You linked to a piece of propaganda and referred to it as a "paper" by a "doctor".

            I also know that anything in writing can be criticized, and those criticisms can be refuted, and those refutations refuted.

            Yes. And through that process, we can examine the quality of the writing and assess it for accuracy. It ain't all the same. You know that.

            No snark was intended.

            My "first moral principle" is based on ickiness? Were you just being cute?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Quoting you: "People learn not to steal for gut reasons. It's icky."

          • Susan

            Quoting you: "People learn not to steal for gut reasons. It's icky."

            You are quote mining and ignored the content of that comment. To suggest that that is my "first moral principle" is misleading and seems to be an intentional effort to miss the point. Please stop scanning and start reading.

            "I'm done with Kevin. I've found exchanges with him very frustrating and often dishonest."

            Yes. I said that to someone else on another site after repeated attempts to deal with you directly. You are free to respond there if you like. I didn't post it here and I won't address it here.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I should have written, "your first moral principle ;)."

            Tone is very hard to convey in comboxes.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words, you didn't feel it necessary to read either the article you presented to support your case NOR the article which completely demolished its claims.
            I presume then that you have enough integrity not to offer your article again as support for your claims, since you haven't read it and haven't read the rebuttal.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I read the article some time ago and only needed to find it. So, I have read it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I though you said you had scanned it? And you haven't read the response, so you don't know whether the claims it makes are valid.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I read the article I posted to some time ago. That is why I scanned it this time. I only scanned the counter article Susan posted. You have already said your article completely demolishes mine.

            When I read this it was enough for me:

            It should be noted that Diggs' essay is not a peer reviewed study published in a scientific journal. It is an individual's essay, published upon a right wing, Christian website. Additionally, Diggs is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Family Research Council. The Family Research Council is listed as a hate group upon the Southern Poverty Law Center's website, which is an internationally recognized civil rights organization.

            A non-peer-reviewed essay criticizes a non-peer-reviewed essay for not being peer-reviewed--that is enough to not bother with it.

            Slandering the Family Research Council as a hate group is another reason not to bother with it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's a pity, then, for your case, that gay and lesbian sex is not primarily about anal sex. It sort of demolishes your case.

          • "The church's teaching on sex remain uninformed by scientific research and technology...Science could demonstrate that homosexuality is normal, for example. Unusual, but perfectly normal."

            Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but are you suggesting that the morality of an act (i.e., whether we should perform it) should be informed, and perhaps determined, by its frequency in the general population?

            Also, how are you defining "normal" in this case? Most dictionaries include "being usual" as part of the definition, but you just described homosexuality as "Unusual, but perfectly normal"—not just normal, but perfectly normal.

            I'm very confused by your comment so perhaps you could help clarify. Thanks!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, I am not suggesting morality NECESSARILY be defined according to its degree of acceptance in society. I am suggesting that it is naturally occurring behavior predicated on biological variation. "Perfectly" was probably just a rhetorical flourish.

            But perhaps you could let me know why you are only now interested in a three week old comment? Just curious.

          • David Nickol

            "Normal," it seems to me, when applied to homosexuality, would mean something like "not pathological." The standard comparison is left-handedness. About 10% of people are left-handed. We don't think of left-handed people as "not normal" or abnormal. As their newborn baby grows, no parents would take the child to the pediatrician and say, "He's using his left hand like other children use their right hand!" I do remember my left-handed aunt (who would be about 90 were she alive today) telling stories about being forced as a schoolchild to write with her right hand because left-handedness was not considered "normal."

            There are many things that are "perfectly normal" in this sense that are not the statistical norm. For example, only 2% of the world's population has green eyes. Green eyes are not the norm, but a pediatrician would not hesitate, I think, to tell parents of a green-eyed child that the child was perfectly normal.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            As I am both green-eyed and left-handed, I appreciate the analogies.

          • Aren't handedness and eye color entirely determined by genetic factors? I'm not sure that your analogy is making a good case to make your point, unless I'm missing it entirely. The research I've read suggests there entirely genetic factor linked to homosexuality, is what I've read wrong?

            Perhaps a better analogy would be alcoholism. There is a lot of good research to support that there are genetic factors that increase likelihood of alcoholism related problems. While there is no alcoholism gene, these factors being combined with environment and life choices all contribute to significantly higher rates than those with out the genetic factors and similar environment and life choices.

            I have to say in my mind though, such an analogy would not support your argument very well. I hope we could all agree that it would not be good to show your support for someone suffering from alcoholism by buying them a drink, having an alcoholic pride parade or otherwise cheering their drinking on. I hope we could agree that good support for someone with alcoholism might be something like encouragement and love to help them make the choice not to take a drink, tempered with forgiveness and love if the person "falls off the wagon" as the saying goes.

            A recovering alcoholic makes a choice every moment of the day not to take a drink. Not to give into temptation. Not to let the alcohol make you its slave. It is a terrible cross to bear.

            I would suggest that this is the proposal the Church's teaching makes toward homosexual behavior...To make a choice in every moment of the day not to give in to that temptation. I find those who suffer this cross with grace and try to live a moral life living examples of heroic virtue. It's not hard to find such people.

            Please note, I am in no way making a medical analogy that homosexuality is the result of a something that should be labelled a disease the way that alcoholism is labelled.

            Please note also (for Solange) that my attention on this topic was rekindled with the conversation notifications I received via Disqus.

          • David Nickol

            Aren't handedness and eye color entirely determined by genetic factors?

            Eye color, yes. Handedness, apparently not. Nobody knows what "causes" homosexuality.

            Perhaps a better analogy would be alcoholism.

            No, I disagree. It instantly prejudices the complete discussion. My whole point is that we often use the word normal in a nonnumerical sense for traits or behaviors that appear only in a minority of individuals. It is "normal" for about 10% of people to be left-handed. We do not take left-handed children to the doctor to find out what is "wrong" with them. It doesn't make any difference whether handedness is completely genetic, partially genetic, or determined entirely by environment. It is not "abnormal" just because it is relatively uncommon.

            Please note, I am in no way making a medical analogy that homosexuality is the result of a something that should be labelled a disease the way that alcoholism is labelled.

            In effect, yes you are, although that may not be your intention.

            Whether something is "normal" in the sense that I am talking about is a matter of judgment, not a matter of fact. The Catholic Church does not consider homosexuality to be "normal," but the medical establishment in the United States does. The same is true of masturbation. And of course masturbation is considered "abnormal" by the Church even though statistically speaking, it is quite normal.

          • You seem to be relating "normal" and "abnormal" with the Church's use of "ordered" and "disordered" in this discussion (cf. CCC #2352, #2357-2359) in your discussion of "normal" not a matter of statistics, but a matter of judgement. You are free to do so, but you are not giving the Chruch's language it's correct context. There are acts (not persons) ordered toward the good and acts not(dis) ordered toward the good. Your comparison of handedness and eye color to being normal, as a matter of judgment not statistics is saying that handedness and eye color are normal, therefore ordered to the good. We ALL have desires that are disordered to varying degrees in the sense that the Church is speaking to, this in no way is some reflection of the value and dignity of the person.

            Back to the issue of prejudice, I think there's a striking parallel between the goods and bads of alcohol consumption and sexual behavior in general. That is, if you go beyond the clinical perspective, which was my entire intent as I stated...

            Sexual activity, like alcohol consumption, can be a good and healthy act or it can be a bad and unhealthy act. Both activities are generally accepted as normal and legal, but require the will to enact a certain level responsibility to maintain the good. This is just one part of why it's not considered normal or acceptable for youngsters to engage in either activity, wouldn't you agree? We can say that if a person suffering from alcoholism consumes alcohol bad things will eventually result, but not all consumption of alcohol leads to unhealthy (bad) ends. We can say this anecdotally, we can reference the clinical documented side effects of alcoholism and problem drinking, or we can use data from sources like the CDC, DoT, law enforcement, etc. for broader generalization. In some cases its the consumption of alcohol that leads to diseases in the consumer, in some cases it is the result of acts that follow from the effects of the consumption on the family and the public at large. In the end, we don't need entirely need the clinical side to know and understand that consuming alcohol irresponsibly is bad, the same is true with sexual behavior.

            A parallel can be drawn with sexual behavior, both anecdotally and more generally using data from the CDC (and I'm sure elsewhere), and that data informs us about both ordered and disordered sexual behavior and its results. Using the CDC data, it is statistically normal for men having sex with men (MSM is the CDC's category abbreviation) between the ages 13-24 to contract HIV...this is the behavior category where an estimated 72% of new HIV cases originated in 2010. Note that the CDC's category label does not attempt to label the person, only the behavior. Personally I think that's wonderful, there is even a footnote saying, "It indicates a behavior that transmits HIV infection, not how individuals self-identify in terms of their sexuality." There are many people who frequent this forum that disagree with the Church's teaching on sexual acts, who would argue that MSM is both normal and good. Given the CDC information, I don't think it's prejudice or a bridge too far to suggest there's a parallel of destructive behavior choices. Many people seem to hate the Church because there is something against homosexual people, which is false, and the CCC makes that point in the reference above. I do not wish to identify people by their sexuality or label it with some kind of concept of normal, nor do I wish to label people as alcoholics. The bridge you can not seem to cross here is that there is, at every step, an individual choice to be made, an act of a person's will. A choice between making an act of the will to abstain from sex or not, or with making an act of the will to abstain from drinking or not... Both of those choices to abstain are incredibly difficult and incredibly good things to do. Both acts of the will are heroic and virtuous. Making the disordered choice, in either case, will normally (at least by the numbers) lead to bad ends.

            Caveat...
            As you once lamented, maybe there is no point in conversing on the topics here. There seems to be little agreement to be found anywhere.

          • David Nickol

            You seem to be relating "normal" and "abnormal" with the Church's use of "ordered" and "disordered" in this discussion (cf. CCC #2352, #2357-2359) in your discussion of "normal" not a matter of statistics, but a matter of judgement.

            I had no intention of making a parallel between normal/abnormal and ordered/disordered. It is, however, true that both involve judgments of sorts. I don't see a good analogy between homosexuality and alcoholism, since everyone may drink alcohol in moderation, but according to the Church, no one may engage in any homosexual activity at all.

            A choice between making an act of the will to abstain from sex or not, or with making an act of the will to abstain from drinking or not...

            No one is required to make an act of will to abstain from drinking. As I said above, every adult (according to the Catholic Church) may drink responsibly. Some who fall into alcoholism may be successful only if they commit to total abstinence, but many of the estimated one-third of recovered alcoholics return to moderate drinking.

            Comparing alcoholism and homosexuality is unhelpful in almost any way I can think of. People who have never tasted alcohol do not realize at some point that they have a powerful urge to drink it and then go out looking for it. But most gay people discover their homosexuality well before they engage in sexual behavior. It is not something that they choose. If a person, for one reason or another, never consumes alcohol, he or she can't possibly become an alcoholic. However, a person can be homosexual without ever engaging in sexual activity. In fact, that is what the Church apparently expects. While I have heard from some Protestants that their denominations (or at least their pastors) believe a homosexual orientation in and of itself is evil or sinful and must be somehow changed, mercifully the Catholic Church is more enlightened and expects "only" lifelong abstinence. On the other hand, the Catholic Church recognizes (correctly, in my opinion) that a homosexual orientation is an integral part of the personality. It is really a part of who a person is. This is why the Church stopped ordaining even the most chaste and committed of homosexual men.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Homosexuality is most probably an artifact of gestational development, not a genetic trait. It clearly has survival value (dozens of species exist with homosexual members). And no, alcoholism is not a valid analogy. I suspect you used it because that made it simpler to claim that one should not tolerate homosexuality.

          • Thank you for the note on gestational development, I'll have to read more on it.

            I do my best to lovingly tolerate all people, regardless of what categories or degrees of normal or abnormal they may be labelled by society, the government, or what have you. I have to admit I am the worst at applying this statement to my own children though - there is always room for growth and improvement. No one is just a number, every one has value and dignity. I do not however, tolerate all ideas and acts. Thank you for giving me reason to make that clear.

      • mriehm

        Obsolete. Outdated. Start ordaining women and the conversation may begin.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          It will never happen. For a reason completely unrelated to church practise or doctrine - the church simply couldn't afford to allow it. Can you imagine the increase in insurance costs for family plans? The need to pay priests a decent wage - enough to support a family?

          The church will never permit married priests because it would bankrupt them.

          YMMV

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The Catholic Church's teachings on human sexuality are perennial and in no need of reform.

      • mriehm

        Ahh, yes, of course. How silly of me. There have been no changes in the past. There is no need for change now, or ever in the future.

        For instance, the abstinence of priests.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If you mean whether or not priests can marry, that is a Latin rite discipline that can change. There are married priests in the Eastern rites and even more than a few married priests in the Latin rite today via converts from Anglicanism.

          It is a question of prudence whether or not this Latin rite discipline should change. Why do you feel you are qualified to give the Church advice on this and why does the question even matter to you?

          Or are you really talking about the Church suddenly saying that masturbation, fornication, adultery, sodomy, bestiality, divorce, or polygamy should now be considered good?

          • mriehm

            I'm sorry I didn't realize that in a website devoted to debate I needed particular qualifications to express an opinion. Please let me know where I can get my credentials.

            Let's see, in your list of "sins" the only one that I would seriously frown on is bestiality. Now sodomy - not my thing. But, since same-sex attraction is natural, and since people have been buggering one another since time immemorial, I'll agree that consenting adults can do what they wish, and just try not to think about it much.

            In any event, with the possible exception of bestiality, your list of perversions is actually quite natural, in the range of animal and human behaviour.

            Now, I don't think they're all _good_. But neither do I think they're all _bad_. It isn't a question of "bad" or "good", much as you might like to cast it simplistically that way.

            Back to the marriage of priests - clearly the Church wants to control the sexuality of all of its members. But that control has changed over the years. And so it can - and very probably will - change again. And so can other aspects of the Church's obsession with sexuality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > "I'm sorry I didn't realize that in a website devoted to debate I needed particular qualifications to express an opinion."

            If you want to influence Catholics, you could begin by displaying an understanding that Catholics would recognize as to why the Church discipline in regard to priestly celibacy is as it is now.

            The strange contention that the Church wants to control the sexuality of all its members does not display such an understanding. The declaration that the moral law can be determined by your opinion is also not such an understanding. Neither is the claim that the Church is "obsessed" with sexuality. Out of the 2865 articles in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, only 88 or about .03% deal with the sixth and ninth commandments, hardly an obsession.

          • David Nickol

            Neither is the claim that the Church is "obsessed" with sexuality. Out of the 2865 articles in the Catechism of the Catholic Church . . . .

            I don't think the number of articles in the Catechism is a good measure. Here is a list of the "five non-negotiables" that Catholic Answers and others insist Catholics must use to determine how they vote: "Abortion, Euthanasia, Embryonic stem cell research, cloning, and so-called homosexual 'marriage' . . . ." Four of the five involve sexual and/or reproductive issues." This is the kind of things Catholics are confronted with in "real life," even though the basis for them in the Catechism may be a few paragraphs.

            So the amount of space devoted to an issue in the Catechism has no relationship to the degree of impact on people's lives. Sex and reproduction touch the lives of the vast majority of human beings. A few seemingly simple requirements in the Catechism can have an enormous impact no matter how briefly stated.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Four of those five involve the 5th commandment and are about not killing or harming the innocent. It is our culture that is obsessed with sex, not the Catholic Church.

          • David Nickol

            It is our culture that is obsessed with sex, not the Catholic Church.

            It may or may not be that our culture is obsessed with sex. Whether it is or not, the Church's sexual and reproductive dos and don'ts touch the lives of almost every human being in profound ways and often create much difficulty.

            As an aside, I don't see the point in invoking the Fifth Commandment as having any bearing on something like stem cell research. It seems to me anachronistic to read back into the commandments prohibitions that the authors could never have imagined.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The stem-cell research that the Church condemns is the kind that involves creating and then killing human embryos.

            Human sexuality (regardless of the Church's do's and don'ts) touches every human being in profound ways and creates many difficulties anyway. If I decide to cheat on my wife or dump her, that creates pretty tough difficulties for her and for my children and affects the wider community.

          • David Nickol

            Human sexuality (regardless of the Church's do's and don'ts) touches
            every human being in profound ways and creates many difficulties anyway.

            That doesn't mean the Church doesn't make things more difficult than the have to be.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I just want to steal for a living. Why do you want to make my life more difficult by trying to make me feel guilty about it?

          • cminca

            Because stealing creates a victim.
            Perhaps the church should spend its time concentrating on those situations which actually have a victim instead of those situations where two adults engage in mutually consensual and satisfying relations.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is really no victim?

          • cminca

            When you are talking about people who are free to make the decision (not cheating on someone else--whether married or not), when those people are consenting adults, when they are practicing monogamy or safe sex--there really is no victim.

          • George

            maybe you should work on making the case that there is a victim.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No more so than in any other instance of sexual relations.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In natural and loving sexual relations between a husband and wife open to procreation there is no victim. The others do entail victims. As I've linked to before, here is just one discussion: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0075.html

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In a natural and loving sexual relations between two husbands, there is no victim either. What's your point?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There is nothing in that article which appears to make a case for a "victim" in same-sex relationships. And if consequentialism is your basis, I believe that lesbians have a lower rate of STDs than heterosexual couples.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The victims are the poor persons who suffer all those adverse consequences.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            If I choose to climb a mountain and that results in injuries, I am the victim and therefore climbing mountains should be prohibited?

          • George

            why do you use the example of stealing? I really want to know. how do you think the law should respond to sexual practices you don't like?

          • Susan

            I just want to steal for a living

            I knew it. ;-)

            Why do you want to make my life more difficult by trying to make me feel guilty about it?

            Because no one is safe around people who steal for a living.
            The stories of Yahweh didn't teach humanity not to steal. Stealing was frowned upon in cultures before Yahweh and is still bad in cultures outside of Yahweh. It's frowned on by many social mammal species and can get you exiled and/or killed. Cultures don't thrive if we steal from the in-group. They do a roaring business if they steal from the out-group until the out-group gets better organized.
            Read the Old Testament from a psychological or anthropological or sociological point of view. Call it metaphor when it doesn't square with your 21st century life style. But Yahweh was the god of thieves as often as the god of righteous people.
            Yahweh is not why people learn not to steal. People learn not to steal for gut reasons. It's icky. Also, for larger reasons. They don't want to live in a culture of thieves if they might be the victim. We let a lot of stuff go if it doesn't affect us.
            All these appeals to consequential buttons and so much contempt for consequentialism.
            I wouldn't describe myself as a pure consequentialist but I can't see the value of a moral argument that doesn't refer to consequences.
            Alllusions to moral errors that provoke visceral responses based on obvious consequences are one thing.
            To say "stealing is bad" therefore there are "objective morals", therefore Yahweh is the only answer, therefore, the people who claim to speak for Yahweh are moral experts....

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't mind to be taken to the woodshed when I am totally unaware of it. George can always be my scapegoat. ;).

            I though we came to an understanding regard the use of the term Yahweh?

            Catholics don't claim that human beings learned that stealing is wrong from God directly. "Thou shalt not steal" is a precept of the natural law and is based on the social nature of human beings. It was specifically revealed to Moses for the benefit of the Chosen People and those coming later who would benefit from having revealed what they could already know by reason (which is many of us).

            Of course the Old Testament is filled with rogues. The whole thing is about the salvation of sinners.

            You wrote:

            To say "stealing is bad" therefore there are "objective morals", therefore "Yahweh is the only answer", therefore, the people who claim to speak for Yahweh are moral experts....

            Who in the world says that?

            And your church has never shown a particularly good or unique aptitude for sound moral thinking.

            Please scan Part III the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

            All these appeals to consequential buttons and so much contempt for consequentialism.

            Huh? The consequences of an act are hugely important in assessing its morality, but it is not the only criterion. If it is the only criterion, then it will go hugely wrong.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But all you've presented so far as reasons for discouraging homosexual relations is consequentialism. Your Intentionalism arguments don't hold water, given the nature if sex.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What is an intentionalism argument?

          • Susan

            I though we came to an understanding regard the use of the term Yahweh?

            I thought Ignorant Amos explained that you didn't have a theological leg to stand on on the subject. You are the only theist I have ever encountered who took offense to my using the name of their chosen deity (among so many deities). It's been a while but I thought I pointed out that if you insist on using the word "God", which is offensive to many theists, then it's not reasonable to be offended when I accurately refer to your choice of unevidenced deity as "Yahweh".

            It was specifically revealed to Moses for the benefit of the Chosen People and those coming later who would benefit from having revealed what they could already know by reason (which is many of us).

            Got evidence? Is this the part of the Moses story that we are supposed to take literally? As opposed to the "metaphorical" bit about Moses leading his people around the desert for forty years after they escaped from the evil Egyptian enslavers?

            Please scan Part III the Catechism of the Catholic Church

            Please explain the relevant bits and use them in our exchange. I've read enough of your links and it never seems to help our discussions, much as I've tried to engage you about them. (Encyclicals on suffering, Spitzer's apologetics, for example).

            Huh? The consequences of an act are hugely important in assessing its morality, but it is not the only criterion. If it is the only criterion, then it will go hugely wrong.

            Yes. Morality is tricky. What other criterion do you consider useful in assessing the morality of a perspective or an action and how can you demonstrate that they are useful? I can't see how morality is not connected to consequences somewhere down the line.
            What is morality?
            You said:

            I just want to steal for a living. Why do you want to make my life more difficult by trying to make me feel guilty about it?

            Try to answer that one without appealing to consequences.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            David made the claim that the Church makes people's lives more difficult by her doe's and don'ts. The Church's teachings about property is a non-sexual example of the Church's do's and don'ts.

            I don't think--and the Church does not think--that laws should be based on likes or dislikes. Rather, they should be rooted in human nature and the concept of justice. In fact, the Church teaches that any human law not in accord with reason is not a law at all but a kind of violence.

            Wouldn't you agree that American laws about sex with minors are not based on liking and disliking?

          • George

            I admit it is simplistic of me to put it in terms of like/dislike. we should be discussing consistent definitions and categories. but how do you define human nature? humans can reproduce, but they can also theoretically overpopulate and all could suffer in the end. I'm not saying that's a realistic threat right now, it's an example. but humans are capable, so is that not their nature as well?

            back to like and dislike, I don't see how we can not start from axioms that are based on what we like or dislike (obviously, we have the wiggle room to compromise in some places to get some of what we want in the end). I have not dug deep into the philosophy of justice and law, but you said this: "any human law not in accord with reason is not a law at all but a kind of violence." And neither of us likes violence. That is an axiom that we share. If we were beings who liked violence in that context, it would be a very different story, but we just aren't those beings.

            How does homosexual action fit into the category of theft? What is the damage it does that you, I, most in this country and on this planet share an axiom against?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think Edward Feser's chapter on ethics in his book Aquinas provides an excellent discussion of natural law if you care to read it.

            Homosexual sex comes under the virtue of temperance, but I don't see much good coming from a discussion about it right now.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What is unjust about homosexuality? Why does reason declare it unacceptable? There are many potentially dangerous activities that humans choose to engage it: drinking, carrying firearms, mountain climbing, etc. Drinking kills thousands every year, but I don't see the church devoting millions to advertising campaigns for laws to outlaw drinking.

            What is troublesome here is the church's continued efforts to regulate the behavior of people - most if whom are not even catholic - and the apparent inconsistency and hypocrisy with which they approach that regulation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic Church is spending millions advertising against homosexual sex?

            I think it is the hypersensitivity of people who want to practice masturbation, fornication, cohabitation, contraception, abortion, in vitro fertilization, homosexuality, and, soon to come, polygamy and group marriage, that makes it seem like the Church talks too much about these matters. In reality, in the US, her pastors have spoken way too little for the past fifty years.

            And, what is this "apparent inconsistency and hypocrisy with which they approach" regulating people's behavior?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The Catholic church spent millions supporting Proposition 8 in California; surely an irrational move if the goal is to reduce the negative possiblities of gay sex.

            The Church wishes to regulate other peoples sex lives - down to the very kind of sex that heterosexual couples can engage in - yet Cardinal Law - that aider and abettor of pedophile priests - sits fat and safe and honored in Rome.

            Mote, meet beam.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It doesn't matter which commandment they're concerned with; they're about sex. The world sees the church preoccupied with sexual matters of all kinds. Even Francis can't seem to budge the conversation much on that point.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually, the world does not see the church as preoccupied with sex. Just a sliver of humanity in the developed world.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            America and Europe. And Africa. So yes, not much of the world.

          • Phil

            I think it is actually that people are obsessed with the Catholic views of sex, whether they like them or not. In that sense, the Church is either very right or very wrong about sexual morality--there is no middle ground.

            And that is why I think people find the Church's views so entrancing. Honestly, the Church is interested in creating fully flourishing human persons, so that is what the sexual morality comes out of. (Obviously we can come to know the Church's sexual morality through reason alone as well.)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, most of what the church talks about (or at least the USCCB) is about sex - so I think it's clearly not just a perception on the part of the public.

            And the church might be both right and wrong.about sexuality morality - why do you think it has to be black and white?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Actually, most of what the . . . USCCB [talks about] is about sex."

            Do you just make things up?

            http://www.usccb.org/

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No. I just pay attention to more than their website.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I pay attention, too. I don't see it. What is your evidence?

          • Phil

            :) Ha, no that's actually because that is only what really people pay attention to. People don't hear about the other things US Bishops are talking about because people don't report them.

            The Bishops talking about how proper discernment of vocations to priesthood and religious life, how they will be spending the money to support disaster relief, or there urging for prayers for peace in the Holy Land during Lent isn't really an attention grabber people and the media will latch onto!

            (They haven't even latched onto the US Bishop's talk about immigration reform. They also haven't latched onto how much the Church is spending, both in time and money, to protect children)

            Yes sexual morality is very important because of the issues we are having in our day and age, but that is far from the only things they discuss.

            And the church might be both right and wrong.about sexuality morality - why do you think it has to be black and white?

            I was just pointing out that the Church takes a pretty radical stance on sexual ethics by today's standards, so many would say they are either very right, though not necessarily perfect, or very wrong, though not necessarily perfectly wrong.

            Again that doesn't mean that some might hold that the Church is 50-50 right and wrong, but I think they would be in the minority.

  • Tomas Diaz

    So, can we just come out and say what we used to - Error has nor rights? True, the Council gave us a needed explicit comment that "people always have rights", but there's no need to weaken the prior magisterium over that issue. People have rights, error does not.

  • The issue here appears to be the theological constraints which definitely prevent Catholic organizations from being as inclusive as others.

    There was a time where my government took the position that women could not hold certain offices, that homosexuality was morally wrong and should be criminalizes, that birth control should be suppressed.

    It had the ability to learn and now say women can hold any office including the highest and no woman should be deprived any appointment due to her sex. That there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, rather it is to be celebrated. That birth control is not immoral and in fact it's use should be encouraged for sexual health and non-sexual health reasons. Outside religion there is virtually no resistance to such positions, other than by groups and individuals that we would rightly scorn as sexist and homophobic.

    From what I can tell, Catholicism has little to object to theses positions on any ground other than tradition, theology. I can think of no reason why a female pope would be any more objectionable than a female prime minister. Why catholic groups should get a pass on funding birth control to their employees and so in. The reasons we are given is that it is their right. That there are compelling reasons why Jesus set up the church this way and so on. Neither I nor any other atheist can accept the reasons as justifiable in employment and I hope we will stop giving Catholic organizations a pass in this discrimination. There is no compelling need for Catholicism to be an employer. I'd give it more of a pass if it was not.

  • But the Church has never had such an attitude toward all ideologies and points of view. It has recognized, from the beginning, that certain doctrines are repugnant to its own essential nature, or contradictory to the revelation upon which the Church is constructed. This is precisely why, for the past two millennia, theologians, bishops, Popes, and councils have consistently and strenuously battled heresies concerning central Catholic dogmas.

    Indeed, the Church has a long and sordid history of intolerance to people holding views it disapproves of.

    Truth be told, any community must, if it is to survive, have a similar intolerance.” ... A Church that simply “welcomed” heresies would, overnight, cease to be itself.

    Poppycock. I'm a Unitarian Universalist (and an atheist), and we're getting on quite well now with centuries of refusing to require any creed. Secular states which persecute no heresies are prospering even better. These examples prove it is possible and profitable to accept people, including people with disapproved ideas, without necessarily accepting their ideas. Tolerance is indeed a critical virtue for civizilation.

    Fr. Barron again carefully limits discussion of persecutions by Catholics to "heresies" and tries to hide the fact that it was not ideas but people with ideas whom the Church persecuted whenever it had power. His examples of "similar 'intolerance'" from groups besides the Church merely involve those groups choosing not to disband or let people (Catholics, perhaps?) persecute them, and so are clearly disanalogous in the key respects.

    But what is so easily forgotten is that any law, any political movement, indeed any persuasive speech involves, in one way or another, the imposition of someone’s will.

    What a sadly impoverished view of law and persuasion! Firstly, and most importantly, the claim about persuasion is false. While possibly Fr. Barron has largely experienced "persuasion" in the sense of cajoling people to do what they do not want to do and believe what they find unbelievable, in ordinary, healthy cases where neither party presumes to have authority over the other, to persuade means to give reasons to show that the other person would, if they knew those reasons, truly prefer the proposed belief or course of action of their own will. Secondly, the claim was not only false but unsubstantiated, despite that it was the pivot-point of the article. This reflects the seeming indifference of apologists to the fundamental question of how we know what we claim to know. And third, the examples given in the article of people "imposing their wills" are three cases of liberation. Enslavement is the law's greatest imposition of will; emancipation is the law's greatest removal of the imposition of will. It is factually absurd and morally disturbing to equate the two.

    Individuals, groups, and institutions are continually trying, for various reasons and to varying degrees of success, to impose their wills on people. Fine. That’s how our country works.

    That is not "fine". That is abhorrent. We have here a difference of moral belief, it seems. To you it's all just a power struggle and so there is no principle on which to exclude anyone. To me, law is for justice, and it is unjust to enforce laws for which we have insignificant evidence they produce a flourishing society. That is the moral principle on which sectarian religious beliefs are excluded from relevance to law.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I think the central points of this OP are as follows:

    > Governments through their laws coerce people to do certain things. (And by coerce I mean use violence. Try not paying your taxes if you don't believe this is true.)
    > Somebody gets to decide what the laws will be. (The form of government decides who that somebody will be.)
    > In a democracy, religious persons have just as much right as any others to be that somebody.

    What is controversial or unjust about this view?

  • cminca

    Fr. Barron--no one is suggesting that religious individuals or institutions do NOT have a right to be heard in a democratic republic.

    You claim that Lincoln was imposing his will. You claim MLK Jr. was imposing his will. Wrong on both accounts. Lincoln was exercising constitutionally legal executive powers. MLK was using free speech to move the citizens of the country and their leaders who voted, according to the rules and regulations of the country, on new law.

    (You want to claim those admirable positions were based on the religion of the two men involved? Fine. I'd also remind you that the bible was frequently quoted to justify both slavery and Jim Crow.)

    We have a constitution that is intended to protect the civil rights of all citizens. Even when some other citizens may not like it. In California the citizens of the state attempted to vote away the civil rights of some of the citizens.

    Opponents to that vote took their argument to the courts. In a process outlined in our constitution and laws. And ultimately that attempt to deny civil rights was correctly struck down as unconstitutional.

    Have churches been shuttered? Have priests been jailed? No.

    Has the CC's influence waned? Yes. But before you want to vote on someone's civil rights again I'd suggest you remember this---one day we may want to vote on yours.

    • Susan

      Wow c.

      Excellent post.

  • John Nelson

    Brings to mind a quote from the Thomist scholar, Fr Reginald Garigou-Lagrange. " The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Lovely rhetoric. False statement. How is relevant?

  • Lurker Bee

    The Civil War wasn't about slavery. Plenty of evidence on both sides to prove it. Lincoln only brought up slavery (2 years after the war began) to deter the British from aiding the Confederacy. After the Emancipation Proclamation, there was a riot in New York City 10,000 strong wherein they formed a lynch mob to round up blacks. What's more, Maryland and Delaware continued to allow slavery until 1864 and 1865 respectively.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Both irrelevant and completely false. Apparently you haven't read the contemporary documentation.

  • David Wood

    Spot on. You hit it out of the park.

  • Don Campbell

    Father, I completely agree. However, I have to say that, having closely followed Pope Francis' comments and read some of his writings as Cardinal, I fear his views are closer to Dowd's and Sebellius' than to yours. He has said that the Church's doctrine cannot be a monolith, that the Church's doctrine must serve the needs of the people, that the Church must stop trying to control people's faith. It troubles me.