What is meant by “nullifying the word of God with the traditions of men”

Here’s an example. When you criticize Bill Donohue for saying something stupid* and a reader replies:

Mark Shea is a Nancy Pelosi Catholic.

You’re not half the man Donahue is. You’re too cowardly to defend the faith like him. You seem to be yet another closet leftist infiltrating the Church to “save it” from orthodoxy.

Actually, I believe all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims is revealed by God and knowingly dissent from no teaching of the Church whatsoever. If any word, thought or deed of mine is not in conformity with Holy Church’s teaching, I pray God speedily correct me. And nothing I have ever said, so far as I know, would give a reader any reason to suppose otherwise. So why does this reader write something this a) dishonest, b) ignorant, or c) stupid?

Simple: they have elevated Bill Donohue’s opinions about stuff to “orthodoxy” and therefore elevated the doctrine that Questioning Bill Donohue has to mean “trying to save the Church from orthodoxy”. Rejecting orthodoxy is dissent. Nancy Pelosi is a dissenter. Therefore I am a Nancy Pelosi Catholic. QED. Oh, and Nancy Pelosi is a woman. Women are not half the man Bill Donohue is. Ergo I am not half the man Bill Donohue is. Always important to couple accusations of heterodoxy with accusations of, you know… “femininity”. Wink, wink.

People who say these sorts of things–always so ready, willing, and eager to kick others out of the Church for our alleged heterodoxy for the crime of not falling down and worshipping their Folk Hero–never seem to notice that Bearing False Witness Against Your Neighbor is, you know, an act of… what’s that word? ah! “dissent” against the eighth commandment. And rare indeed is the one who has ever come back to apologize and repent for telling me, on the basis of nothing other than Folk Hero Worship, that I am a dissenter from the Church’s teaching. What would be the point? They are, by definition, right. As some other Reactionaries put it long ago: “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over.” And, of course, I’m only one tiny statistical sample. Again and again, we saw victims of abusers derided as “golddiggers“. We’ve watched as the critics of Maciel were slammed as enemies of the Faith. We saw Corapi’s bishop slimed as “satanic” for demanding he obey his superiors and be held accountable.

Reactionaries: always so incredibly *sure* they are the Gold Standard of Who is a Real Catholic. Always so incredibly eager to kick out us Impure folk. Always so incredibly confused about what is their personal human tradition and what is the Church’s sacred tradition. Always so incredibly slow to acknowledge that they are really sinners like the rest of us slobs. Always so incredibly slow to consider the possibility that they might be wrong.


*”How stupid?” you ask? Stupid, as in “Donohue saying that Fr. Shawn Ratigan (sentenced to 50 years in Federal prison without the possibility of parole for molesting and taking explicit photographs of girls as young as age 2) was not taking photos that were “sexual in nature” when the photos were, in fact, of the crotches of naked children.” Indeed, “stupid” is the kindest possible way of describing Donohue’s grotesque representations of Ratigan’s crimes. But (as is the now well-established pattern with the wagon-circlers like my reader above) that is never addressed in his Bill of Indictment for my alleged Nancy Pelosi tendencies. Instead, the tired tactic of charging that the critic of the Folk Hero is an Enemy of Orthodoxy is trotted out, just as it was trotted out long ago against critics of Maciel, Euteneuer, and Corapi. Someday the Reactionary is going to have it occur to him in the first place, and not in the absolute last place, that when somebody who does not dissent from the Church’s teaching warns that his Folk Hero is wrong, it’s not because the critic is the enemy of God, puppies, and all that is good and holy, but because he honestly believes his Folk Hero is wrong.

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