Challenges for Self-Described “Progressive / Liberal Catholic” Joe

Challenges for Self-Described “Progressive / Liberal Catholic” Joe February 19, 2005
Image by Peggy_Marco (9-27-12) [Pixabay / CC0 public domain]


[Joe’s words will be in green. His online nickname is “jcecil3”]

* * * * *

Catholics are not believers in sola scriptura. We believe that the Word is revealed through Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition.

. . . At given points in history, a formulation of a thought becomes so clear and apparent to the body of Christ that an infallible definition is made. The infallible dogma then rests on its own authority even if at a later point it is discovered that the text that lead to that conclusion at that point in time probably meant something else.

. . . On the other hand, if we allow that our exegesis can lead today to a conclusion that was different than those scholars of yesteryear who formulated a dogma, this does not mean that we are rejecting the dogma.

. . . Biblical interpretation may have lead to formulation of a dogma, but once we know the dogma infallibly, we can hold fast to the dogma without a need to believe the original author intended the dogma anymore – even if the framers of the dogma believed that.

Don’t get me wrong. There will be times when dogma and the current consensus of the scholarly community will be in complete agreement. However, it is not necessary for this occur.

It does not deny dogma to examine the arguments of a modern scholar and find those arguments a compelling argument for the probable meaning of the original human author.

Indeed, the Vatican encourages this, so long as we hold fast to infallibly defined dogma.

Hi Joe,

Let’s cut to the quick on this. You invited discussion on your blog, by writing, “Let me know what you think.” So here I go! :-) You want to have your cake and eat it too, it looks like to me. You want to talk the language of Tradition, infallibility and dogma, yet you want to be a so-called “progressive” or “liberal” (thanks for your upfront honesty on the use of that term, which is refreshing), and to retain the right to question the Church in areas where it has already decided things, and doesn’t allow any further questioning. The proof of this is abundant on your blog, In Today’s News.

1) You attack Natural Family Planning (NFP) as sinful:

“. . . it would seem that NFP is morally illicit.”

“Conclusion: Therefore, it follows that Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a [sic] morally illicit.”

“If NFP is morally licit, it naturally raises the issue whether artificial contraception and even certain acts of gay sex might be morally licit on the same grounds.”

(Is NFP the Slippery Slope to Gay Unions?)

“. . . artificial contraception in marriage is morally equivalent to natural family planning . . . “

(“My Introduction” on the sidebar of your blog)

This amounts to equating a mortal sin with a practice which the Church has sanctioned. That’s really a lot of moral authority, isn’t it? The Church supposedly sanctions something which is equally as sinful as an act which is a serious sin, and contrary to natural law.

2) You are soft on sodomy and seem to favor so-called “gay marriage” (or at the very least, do not oppose it):

“If deliberately separating sexuality from procreation is always wrong, why can married heterosexuals knowingly and deliberately engage in conjugal relations during a period of a women’s cycle that is infertile? There was an ancient Christian non-sacramental rite of adelphopoiesis uniting people of the same gender in an indissoluble bond as spiritual siblings. Could this rite be restored as a recognition of committed same gender love, whether such a couple is having sex or not? If the rite of adelphopoiesis were restored, could it be bestowed with benefits under civil law that mirror those enjoyed by married heterosexuals, such as inheritance rights, tax benefits, the ability to adopt, power of attorney and so forth?” [emphasis added]

“. . . How is a gay civil union a greater threat to heterosexual marriage than an infertile couple or a couple practicing natural family planning?”

“. . . What harm is caused to others by permitting gay unions?”

“. . . Why did the organization called “Catholic Answers” include gay marriage with four right to life issues as one of only five “non-negotiable” political issues in the 2004 voter’s guide?”

“. . . Was it homophobia that inspired support for Bush – an anxiety provoked by people who experience homosexual attractions?”

“. . . Are the arguments against gay unions any different than the arguments against inter-racial marriage?”

(Questions About Church Teaching on Gay Civil Unions)

“For example, could a gay couple be considered somewhat like an infertile couple? Might their own sexual expression be an expression of unitive love that is morally legitimate if contained within the bond of a permanent loving commitment?”

“How can one conclude that a gay couple, neither partner choosing to be homosexually inclined, is not the moral equivalent of the infertile couple? If the gay couple were open to children and willing to adopt, could their sexual expression be seen as an expression of unitive love equivalent in nature to the married heterosexual couple expressing unitive love during a period of known infertility?”

(What is “Advancing Progressive Views”?)

3) You act as if the Church isn’t sufficient enough to not need “progressives” who hanker for “change” in infallible doctrines:

“. . . I have turned to “blogging” where I can become a voice in the wilderness crying out as the loyal opposition from within Catholicism for progressive change in the Church, while defending her from outer attack from the atheists, fundamentalists and whoever else has an axe to grind.”

Like you don’t have an axe to grind”? :-) . . .

“Let me say up front, that if I depart from the “official line” of the Vatican here, I will say so. I will try to explain why I withhold assent from a teaching and point to the Catechism or other authoritive texts where you can read the Church’s official answers and judge for yourself whether my questions are valid. I make no claim of personal infallibility, and I very well can be in error. That said, I see no reason why the questions of progressive Catholics should not be given serious attention.”

This is classic dissenting modernism and liberalism, couched — in your writings elsewhere — in the usual rationale of “conscience,” or “progressivism” or “tolerance” or “open-mindedness” . . .

“Nevertheless, in often taking stances that seem opposed by the Vatican, many of my fellow Roman Catholics will question my right to call myself Catholic.”

Oh, you’re a Catholic, but in cases where you dissent from Church teachings, you are a disobedient Catholic. It’s part of my job to point out when people are claiming that the Church teaches or allows something that it doesn’t teach or allow. You take it upon yourself to correct what you call “conservative” Catholics or positions. Likewise, I correct what I call “liberal” positions.

“I accept . . . the infallibility of the Pope when speaking ex cathedra, . . . “

The pope is also infallible in the ordinary magisterium, when reiterating teachings that are firmly established in Catholic tradition. Instances of this would include Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II’s denial that women can be ordained. Ex cathedra is only the highest of the many levels of infallibility.

“Yet, I believe that doctrine develops according to Dei Verbum 8, and that such development can justify beliefs considered “controversial” by many Catholics.”

(From the sidebar on your blog: “My Introduction”)

Here you engage in the familiar, tired liberal tactic of co-opting development of doctrine for reversal or evolution of doctrine. Along with the abuse of the true Catholic notion of “conscience,” this is probably the most-used liberal tactic. Hence, Cardinal Newman is often wrongly (if I were cynical, I would say also, cynically) utilized on both grounds, since he wrote with great insight on both topics.

4) You think God is properly referred to as “Mother”:

“The more controversial beliefs I hold are as follows: I believe that God can be called Mother as well as Father, . . .”

(“My Introduction”)

5) You advocate inclusive language (which usually indicates several false feminist assumptions about gender and the use of the English language):

“. . . inclusive language in reference to the people of God should be used in liturgy, . . . “

(“My Introduction”)

6) You advocate women “priests”:

“. . . women could be ordained ministerial priest, and perhaps should be ordained (The Pope has clearly said no to this one) . . .”

(“My Introduction”)

Yes, he has, and (most importantly for this discussion) he has done so in the context of universal, unbroken Catholic tradition; therefore he speaks infallibly. Why, then, do you keep dissenting?

7) You go on and on about a married priesthood (throughout your blog[s]):

“. . . married men should be ordained . . .”

(“My Introduction”)

They already are, in the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church , so if you yourself wanted to be a married priest, why didn’t you go there and become one? And if you don’t care for the Western, Latin rites’ understanding on this matter, why do you remain? If, on the other hand, you choose to remain (as you obviously have), you should cease and desist. But then you wouldn’t be a “progressive” if you did that, now would you?

8) You are soft on divorce and remarriage:

“. . . divorced and remarried Catholics can participate in the life of the Church, . . .”

(“My Introduction”)

“I believe that divorce is wrong, and even sinful in most situations. Nevertheless, I have questions about the Church’s teaching regarding divorce and remarriage and the subsequent reception of communion.”

“. . . Conservatives will argue that the answer is simple: dissolve the second marriage and stop living in adultery, or annul the first marriage. This does not strike me as reality. If the second marriage has children, and is a healthier, happier, and more loving union, I am not sure that God is really commanding its dissolution or considering it adultery.”

“. . . Divorce and remarriage is wrong, and it is not the perfect Christian way. However, we are sinners living in an imperfect world. Perhaps prohibiting people from receiving communion indefinitely is not the appropriate response to our current circumstances.”

“It is this last point that I feel is missing in the Roman Catholic expression of faith. It is not that our theology of an indissoluble bond is necessarily wrong. Nor is our desire to discourage divorce and remarriage wrong. Marriage is a beautiful thing that we want to protect and support.

“However, I feel that we need a means for those who have remarried to reconcile with the Church. Christ’s whole life proclaimed the possibility of reconciliation with God. This reconciliation means we need to take into account that there may even be children involved in both marriages, such that we may not want to determine a marriage “invalid” (and the children “illegitimate”). This reconciliation also means that we account for the growth in love that may occur in a person involved in a second marriage. I believe that the mercy and compassion shown by Christ demands that we take a more forgiving approach regarding this issue.”

(Divorce and Remarriage)

In Catholic teaching, there is no such thing as a divorce, because true, sacramental marriage is indissoluble, by its very nature. Therefore, if someone is divorced (as opposed to being granted an annulment, which means no marriage actually occurred), and remarry, they are in mortal sin, and in an ongoing state of committing adultery. You seem to not only not want to point out that uncomfortable fact; but you commit further wrong by advocating inclusion of such people in the rites of the Church (I am assuming that you mean allowing them to partake of the Holy Eucharist; if not, then I have misunderstood, and apologize), as if they are doing nothing wrong. This is an extremely serious matter.

9) You see nothing wrong with John Kerry (who advocates an extreme pro-abortion position) receiving communion as a Catholic in good standing, and think that Fr. Richard McBrien is a good orthodox Catholic:

“At a very fundamental level, many of these folks are constantly trying to define Catholicism as narrowly as possible with the goal of looking for ways to exclude someone from the fold – prove once and for all that John Kerry is unworthy of Communion, and that theologian, Father Richard McBrien, is a heretic, and so forth . . . I am intentionally looking for the ways to say maybe John Kerry and Richard McBrien and all other so-called “dissidents” have something to say to the rest of us.”

(What is “Advancing Progressive Views”?, emphasis added)

Fr. McBrien isn’t a dissident??!! This statement is its own refutation and thus needs no reply.

10) You dissent from Humanae Vitae (an infallible pronouncement):

“I care less about persuading anyone that Humanae Vitae is inconsistent than persuading people that it does not exclude one from the Church to ask some questions about it.”

“I have spent a good deal of time exploring what I see as a weaknesses in Humanae Vitae.”
(What is “Advancing Progressive Views”?)

11) You are soft on contraception, which the Church has long since defined as an intrinsically disordered grave sin:

“The concern that many laypeople have about using “artificial” substances to manipulate the internal workings of body to avoid natural functions may not be absolutely immoral. However, it may be very immoral for one partner in a marriage to try to force the other to use such substances against the will of the other. If a woman had health concerns about using the pill, for instance, her husband should not force her to use the pill. Likewise, if a man is uncomfortable with a reversible vasectomy, no wife should try to pressure him into it. Other means of preventing conception should be explored. This is a simple application of the golden rule.”

“Could it be that Paul VI was simply mistaken in implying that artificial contraception is always wrong within a marriage bond? If the couple mutually decides that such means are appropriate, are we right to judge them in sin?”

(What is “Advancing Progressive Views”?)

12) You distort beyond all recognition what it means to submit to the Church’s teaching:

“I believe that the religious submission of the mind requires that every Catholic who is troubled by a doctrine should examine the teaching carefully looking for its strengths prior to pointing out any deficiencies. In other words, we should give the Vatican enough benefit of the doubt to assume or presume that even if a teaching challenges our very fundamental assumptions about what is true, there is something valuable and true in that teaching. Our first reading should be biased toward the Vatican.”

“. . . Religious submission of the mind means that I looked for the truth in the document, examining the teaching in question with a presumption that there is some truth in it.”

“. . . I would hold that so long as you analyzed the teaching looking for its strengths and presuming there is genuine truth in there somewhere, you have fulfilled your obligation to give religious submission of the mind.”

“. . . We should be inclusive in our attitude, trying to define being Catholic as broadly as the Church allows. We should help people make real sense not only of the strength of a teaching, but of the rightness of their own questions about the teaching.”

(What is “Advancing Progressive Views”?)

13) You act as if a pro-lifer can consistently vote for a pro-abortion advocate like John Kerry:

(Why I Voted For John Kerry as A Pro-life Catholic: An Examination of Participation in Evil)

See my paper:

“How on Earth Can Christians Vote for Pro-Abortion Candidates?”

You could be perfectly happy (feel right at home), holding all these positions, as a liberal Anglican (or even a liberal or “conservative” Orthodox, in some cases). What prevents you? At least then, you would not be contradicting the theological and ecclesiological principles of the Church you are a member of. But again, you would not be a “progressive” if you didn’t try to change the Church to conform to your liking, rather than conforming your opinions and will to that of the Church, in all areas where you are bound as a Catholic to do so. So, lest the leopard change its spots, you must remain right where you are, to bless all of us “conservatives” with your never-ending dissent in the name of “open-mindedness” and “development.”

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