Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit”

Let’s start off this weekend on a high-minded note: Ryan Harkins’ mega-defense of the Catholic Church.

You better get readin! Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit”…

(I may be back at the end.)

I want to begin with a brief discussion on Catholic doctrine on sexual morality. In its essence, Catholic doctrine says that sex has two united purposes: procreation, and bonding together a husband and wife and any children they produce. To take human sexuality out of that context is harmful to both the participants who engage in disordered acts, and it is harmful to society for the precedent and scandal such activity creates. Just as eating has a specific purpose, namely fueling the body, when it is taken outside its context, it creates disorders. Enjoying the food you eat is fine; but eating solely for the enjoyment leads to bodily harm, such as obesity and diabetes. So sex, when taken beyond the context of its purposes, leads to disorders.

The problem with sexually abusive priests, the problem with sexual harassment in practically every enterprise out there, the problem with broken families and absent fathers, all trace some, if not all, their origins to sexual disorder. Making the pleasurable aspects of sex the primary goal of sexual activity leads to the use and abuse and discarding of other people as objects to be consumed. I have experienced this myself, and part of the reason I feel so strongly on this topic is because I have introduced a great amount of dysfunction into my marriage and other relationships by years of self-serving pleasure-seeking.

There’s yet a deeper aspect of human sexuality in the context of the Catholic faith, namely, the concept of man being created in the image and likeness of God, based in the text from Gensis which says, “So God created man in his image. In the divine image he create him. Male and female he created them.” Catholics note that both individually and as family, man images God. As an individual, every human has intellect and will, and in that each human is an image of God. But the Christian faith has revealed God as Trinity — God the Father, The Son who proceeds from the intellect of God (God knows God), and the Spirit, that proceeds from the will of God (God loves God). So an individual images God because an individual can perceive himself, and can love himself. But the family images God, as well, because (following Genesis), there is man, and the woman who proceeded from man, and the child that proceeds from the love of man and woman.

The reason I mention this is that when sexual morality comes under assault, it isn’t just a challenge to Church moral teaching or to Church authority. It strikes at the fundamental understanding of who man is, who God is, and how man relates to God. If the relationship between God and man is fundamental to man achieving heaven, then anything that strikes at and undermines that relationship is threatening salvation.

For example, if part of our relationship is understanding God as Father, and not simply by analogy, but in truly being Father through the adoption as sons all the faithful in Christ, then something that undermines fatherhood undermines our relationship with God. This can be seen in some portions of the black community, where some evangelists have been warned not to speak of God as father because the epidemic of absent fathers has led so many sons to see fathers as something extremely negative. Or consider the problem with the pedophile priests. It isn’t simply the sexual harm that they have caused, but they have shattered the trust people need to have with their priests, and if priests are spiritual fathers, that leads to shattering trust in God as a father.

I wish I could take the time to say more. There is so much about this that needs to be said, because the Church’s understanding of sexuality is a tapestry that touches so much. Regarding same-sex attraction, the Church teaches that the person with the attraction is always good and deserving of the same respect accorded to every other human person. The attraction itself is disordered, but is not sinful, because a desire is merely a desire. But same-sex activities cannot be condoned because they remove the sexual act from the procreative purpose of sex. As a note, same-sex activities are far from being alone in this category.

Terry Gonda has been a loyal member and supporter of the Catholic church for decades, serving as musical director of her parish for over twenty years. She is gay, but never hid the fact from her family, friends, church or pastors. She was also married, to another woman, naturally. This wasn’t a secret.

The fact that this wasn’t a secret and it wasn’t addressed is called scandal. Just as not handling pedophile priests was a scandal, so is turning a blind eye to activity that is directly contrary to Catholic teaching. Similar scandals arise when a leader in the Church divorces and remarries when a the first marriage was found to be valid, or when a teacher is found teaching concepts directly contrary to Catholic doctrine. If I had to relate this to a business, I would say the comparison is a business firing an employee for selling a competitor’s products.

That’s one hell of a way to do it: fire a loyal employee and devoted Catholic for private “immorality”—this from an institution that went to outrageous lengths not to fire pedophile priests world-wide.

Yes, there are worse evils to which some members of the Church have turned a blind eye. But I emphasize the “some members” because the Church is not simply the Pope and the other bishops that we have right now. The Church is its entire membership and its deposit of learning and teaching for the past two thousand years. The Catholic Church has not embraced priestly pedophilia; some members acting against clear Catholic moral doctrine and against Canon Law have done so, and they need to be held accountable. The very fact that anyone can levy the insult of hypocrisy against Catholics is because the Catholic Church explicitly teaches that pedophilic acts by its priests is wrong, and that covering up the crimes committed by those priests is wrong. There is no one arguing that those priests and those covering them up represented a change in Catholic teaching, or were in any in the right.

As regards firing an employee for “private immorality”, it is hard to make the case that they were a loyal, devoted Catholic when flaunting explicit Catholic teaching. You can argue that Catholic teaching in this regard is wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that being an openly married homosexual couple run directly counter to that teaching.

As a thought, Jack, I didn’t see anything in the rationalization list the encapsulates this idea: “Because we didn’t enforce the law (or rule or regulation) in the past, we can’t enforce it now.” The closest I saw was the Tortoise Excuse, “Better Late than Never”. The thought I have here is kind of the flip side of the Tortoise Excuse.

“They’re trying to sweep the gays out of the church,” added her spouse. “Would they rather we live in sin?”

I think this question shows the bulk of the problem. By Church teaching, they already are living in sin. The firing here is analogous to the lady who was fired from her government job for refusing to hand out marriage license to same-sex couples. If the authority you submit to says you are in the wrong, but you believe you are in the right, by all means follow your conscience. But you don’t have the right to protest you were improperly treated when the authority fires you for holding to your convictions against their authority.

“What Gonda finds especially maddening is that instead of just not renewing her contract when it expired on June 30, the church chose to fire her instead.”

This I will agree. This could have been handled with a great deal more kindness. Letting the contract expire, especially with so short a time remaining, seems like it would have been the prudent course of action. However, I would suspect there is a great deal more going on here. The Church is fighting a lot of dissidence in its ranks, especially over sexual matters, and the Church, if she is what she claims to be, cannot change its doctrines with the whims of the times. Doctrine can developed, become more nuanced, but it cannot contradict previous doctrine. Which leads to my final response:

“Religious institutions that treat people like Gonda so unfairly are, little by little, step by step, undermining the place of organized religion in society, and it has an essential role to fill in conveying and strengthening values.”

If a religious institution is going to have any role in society, it cannot cave to pressures to compromise its core beliefs. The reason I went into such lengths on Catholic teaching on sexuality was to demonstrate that sexuality does rank in the Church’s core beliefs. The world is demanding the Catholic Church to compromise on this front. It comes from everyone who wants the Church to get on board with contraception, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, the ordination of women, and so on. It also comes from within as members of the Church constantly rebel against her moral authority. The Church has to stand firm in its defense of its doctrines.

Religious institutes cannot convey and strengthen values if all they do is parrot what the whims of the times desire. That is actually the moment they lose relevance and fade from public influence. Why should I listen to any religion, if in a few years it will just repeat back to me what I’m already saying?

I’m back for a few points…

  • The strength of ethics is that it evolves; the strength of morality is that it doesn’t.
  • Morality’s problem, and thus religion’s, is that ancient moral codes are based on human misconceptions that science, experience, and, yes, ethics continually expose.
  • “If a religious institution is going to have any role in society, it cannot cave to pressures to compromise its core beliefs.” That reads well, but with all respect, it’s fantasy. If a religious institution is going to have any role in society, it can’t persist in saying that the world is flat when it is clear to everyone else that it isn’t. It doesn’t take many obvious untruths that the Church denies to make it untrustworthy. The Catholic Church has long played the game of changing what are its “core beliefs” according to which of them become too unpopular to maintain.
  • Its condemnation of homosexuality will eventually join that “Core beliefs? Oh no, this isn’t a core belief!” category. Bet on it. The Church will do what it has to do to survive, like all institutions. Integrity is usually the casualty.
  • ….Bringing me to my final point: “The Church isn’t the Church’s leadership!” is a desperate rationalization. The Pope heads the Church, and has a red phone to God. He is accountable, like all leaders, for the conduct of the organization he heads.

37 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: The Archdiocese of Detroit”

  1. I agree with Jack’s summary comments. Ryan’s defense is well written and thoughtful, but frankly, it is still total bullshit.

    • Sure, and this is because you, like Jack, are radical progressives. This simply has to be recognized and stated. This is why you are radical and progressive. It is because you cannot conceive of Principle. It does not exist for you.

        • This surprises you of course. I understand. You have radical progressive ideas or *notions* that inform your general ethics and specifically those that pertain to homosexuality and sexual ethics. You are part-and-parcel of a more or less North-based American progressivism. This is a fact.

          • Right. Boy, all my Facebook friends who have blocked me because they think I’m a fascist are going to gobsmacked!

            Listen, if the nut-case conservatives think I’m a progressive, and the ignorant progressives think I’m a fascist, I know I’m doing it right.

            • Jack, you’re simply an outlier, as am I. You think about things and assess each of them on their own merits. You don’t have a doctrinal bone in your body. You even change your mind about things if that’s the correct thing to do.

            • You are conservative intellectually, and definitely in your defense of the rule of law. You have a very sharp intellect and a strongly analytical mind.

              But in other areas you clearly define progressivism.

              Why lunatics on FaceBook block or unblock, like or don’t like, does not decide anything at all. Because most people cannot reason clearly. They are in the grip of passions, or in being off-balance, or frustrated, or confused, or hurt — it is really difficult to say. But they are NOT involved in thinking about core ideas, or Universals, and not metaphysics. So I would not base anything at all on the caprices of such lunatics.

              Listen, if the nut-case conservatives think I’m a progressive, and the ignorant progressives think I’m a fascist, I know I’m doing it right.</b?

              OK, so I have dealt with both indirect and direct attempts to ridicule the ideas I work with, so I have to have become accustomed to false-assertions and false-accusations about what I think and why I think as I do. So, I acknowledge what you are trying to say. 🙂

              You are progressive in specific ways and areas. You have conservative tendencies in others. My opinion, based on my observation, is that you are in a general sense a strong progressive-liberal. But you are not a conservative.

              And you are right to notice that some people — some who define thems selves as more adamantly conservative — take issue with how American Conservatives paint them selves.

              Therefore, it should be simply a given that there are substantial debates going on about what conservatism really is, and who is one and who is not. The reason this is important is because some conservatives feel that other so-called conservatives sell out conservative principles.

              True, I try to define *genuine conservative principles*. And you can see me or *them* as nut-case if you wish. Yet that is not really an argument!

              How we ultimately determine what is ‘right’ and if we are doing it ‘right’ is part of a giant and on-going conversation.

              If you think you can simply dismiss my assertions I will say that I do not think you can do so. I mean you can, and apparently you do, but not through solid argumentation.

              I offered an extensive rebuttal to your (shallow) comments about Ryan’s essay. What are your thoughts there?

            • Mistake in formatting, here corrected.

              Listen, if the nut-case conservatives think I’m a progressive, and the ignorant progressives think I’m a fascist, I know I’m doing it right.

              OK, so I have dealt with both indirect and direct attempts to ridicule the ideas I work with, so I have to have become accustomed to false-assertions and false-accusations about what I think and why I think as I do. So, I acknowledge what you are trying to say. 🙂

              You are progressive in specific ways and areas. You have conservative tendencies in others. My opinion, based on my observation, is that you are in a general sense a strong progressive-liberal. But you are not a conservative.

              And you are right to notice that some people — some who define thems selves as more adamantly conservative — take issue with how American Conservatives paint them selves.

              Therefore, it should be simply a given that there are substantial debates going on about what conservatism really is, and who is one and who is not. The reason this is important is because some conservatives feel that other so-called conservatives sell out conservative principles.

              True, I try to define *genuine conservative principles*. And you can see me or *them* as nut-case if you wish. Yet that is not really an argument!

              How we ultimately determine what is ‘right’ and if we are doing it ‘right’ is part of a giant and on-going conversation.

              If you think you can simply dismiss my assertions I will say that I do not think you can do so. I mean you can, and apparently you do, but not through solid argumentation.

              I offered an extensive rebuttal to your (shallow) comments about Ryan’s essay. What are your thoughts there?

        • Jack, when it comes to Roman Catholic orthodoxy, you are a radical progressive. As a lapsed Catholic who was marinated in Catholicism through high school, I admire Ryan’s essay. It’s correct doctrine and there’s a fearful symmetry to it. Personally, I’ve moved away from the church. But far be it from me to expect the church and its eloquent and thoughtful faithful to move with me. I’d like to buy the concept that the church is not its leaders, but I can’t. I consider the church’s hierarchy nothing but a gay cabal that’s run the place for centuries. I’d like to still think gay marriage is toxic, but having seen my piano teacher care for his demented husband more loyally and graciously and lovingly than I can imagine, I’ve changed my mind. But Ryan, I’m rootin’ for ya. Keep the faith. As embodied by you, it’s a beautiful thing.

      • Alizia Tyler wrote, “Sure, and this is because you, like Jack, are radical progressives. This simply has to be recognized and stated. This is why you are radical and progressive. It is because you cannot conceive of Principle. It does not exist for you.”

        That’s Alizia’s short form surface trolling specifically targeted to suck others into her deep navel-gazing deflection exercises, this will enable her to then reply with a much longer self-gratifying screed, see below.

            • The post that he commented on was actually quite interesting. Even a bit ‘wonderful’ if I may say so myself! Thanks for reminding me of it.

              Here, I dedicate this one to one of my more mindless friends here: you!

              • This usage of the Confederate flag…

                …is another form of trolling.

                Troll: Those that post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.

                • No my dear one. It is simply an avatar that is controversial. And I explore controversy. I seek to be controversial. I live within the controversial because it provides me the most leeway. But the primary reason why I would have kept it (Jack suggested I not keep it and he gave some of his thoughts on why) is because I *see* it differently. Not as you (or they) see it but as a symbol of independence. Independence of opinion and idea. Intellectual independence. The proposition that independence is possible.

                  The Confederate flag, and the Confederate cause, resonates all over the world and in communities that are seeking independence. Usually from an over-lording state.

                  My ‘political awakening’, which opened into many different areas, began after reading Richard Weaver’s The Southern Tradition At Bay. That and Slouching Toward Gomorrah (Robert Bork) gave me a whole other perspective.

                  In your case — you in your own ways are decidedly ‘progressive’ — any broaching of any ideas that seem to confront or challenge the ideas you have is understood to be ‘trolling’.

                  Though I am not a troll — I genuinely explore ideas in posts people say they don’t read anyway! — I am inclined not to see a troll nor ‘trolling’ as necessarily bad. But do you notice that you use the accusation of ‘troll’ as a way to limit speech? Why would you, who I assume favors open speech and free speech, why do you put energy into limiting speech that upsets you? This to me is suspect.

                  As I clearly explain, in tedious detail, the things that you-plural reject in absolute terms and with these notes of certainty, are the areas that I explore. Again, this serves me very well.

                  As EC would say, Does that clarify things? 🙂

                  • Alizia wrote, “I seek to be controversial.”

                    Controversial: giving rise or likely to give rise to public disagreement.

                    So you seek to give rise to public disagreement.

                    Read the content below in bold…

                    Troll: Those that post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.

                    Thank you Alizia for proving my point.

                    • Your ‘point’ is a corrupt point Steve. You should not be trying to make the point you want to make. You should not act in any way to control or (in your case) shame controversy.

                      Definitely not in the context of this blog which has, by any standard, extremely tolerant standards and respects free-speech and what real free-speech will inevitably allow and encourage: controversy and conflict.

                      con•tro•ver•sy (ˈkɒn trəˌvɜr si; Brit. also kənˈtrɒv ər si)
                      n., pl. -sies.
                      1. a public dispute concerning a matter of opinion.
                      2. contention, strife, or argument.
                      [1350–1400; Middle English (< Anglo-French) < Latin contrōversia=contrōvers(us) turned against, disputed (contrō-, variant of contrā against, + versus, past participle of vertere to turn) + -ia]

                      The whole purpose of a ‘vital democracy’ is so that strong opinions and ideas are brought out and discussed. Everything that happens here, and certainly everything that I do, takes place within the limits of civil discourse. Everything that I do and say is perfectly proper.

                      Did you know that American Renaissance (Jared Taylor), Stephan Molyneux, and a group of others idea-sharers have just been banned from YouTube?

                      Buy your definition would they not be understood to be ‘trolls’?

                      You are right on the edge of a big & beautiful breakthrough Steve! Just push it a bit farther!

                    • Alizia wrote, “You should not be trying to make the point you want to make.”

                      You’re welcome to your opinions but not your own facts.

                      Alizia wrote, “You should not act in any way to control or (in your case) shame controversy.”

                      Control you? HA!!! Sometimes you’re funny.

                      Controversy is a noun and I’m not trying to shame that at all. I’m pointing out internet trolling which is an action and the associated noun that happens to describes a person engaging in internet trolling is a troll – as in internet troll. You’ve openly admitted to your actions a few times but of course you used other words. As always; you’re welcome to choose your own actions on this blog but be aware that when your actions appear to rise to that very repetitive pattern of trolling someone is likely to point it out.

                      Alizia wrote, “Buy your definition would they not be understood to be ‘trolls’?”

                      It’s not my definition Alizia, I’m just the messenger applying the definition. There is a difference between actually seeking to be controversial, as you openly admitted, and simply sharing one’s opinion(s) and stumbling on to confrontations, one is deliberately seeking confrontations the other isn’t.

                      There are a lot of internet trolls out there and there are a lot of people that are simply sharing their opinions on topics and sometimes there’s cross over, in fact I think most people (not all) write some form of trolling once in a while; however, if there’s a very repetitive pattern showing that the “troll” shoe fits then it should be applied. Yes, that also means that if someone like you or I or Jack or Jared Taylor or Stephan Molyneux or Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi, etc, etc, etc might happen to fit a very repetitive pattern of trolling then the definition should be applied.

                      I’m done cluttering up this thread with this deflection.

                      Catcha later.

                    • Steve Steve Steve Steve!

                      Someday . . . even if a distant day . . . just resolve to talk about the ideas. It would be so much more interesting, and better for the blog.

        • There are a lot of internet trolls out there and there are a lot of people that are simply sharing their opinions on topics and sometimes there’s cross over, in fact I think most people (not all) write some form of trolling once in a while; however, if there’s a very repetitive pattern showing that the “troll” shoe fits then it should be applied. Yes, that also means that if someone like you or I or Jack or Jared Taylor or Stephan Molyneux or Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi, etc, etc, etc might happen to fit a very repetitive pattern of trolling then the definition should be applied.

          But there will come a day when *someone* takes it upon himself to become the arbiter of what is trolling and what is genuine bringing out of controversial ideas, and to apply the trolling label as part of an effort to limit conversation, get someone banned, and what-have-you.

          What I suggest to you — directly to you — is that underneath your efforts to apply this label of ‘troll’ to me is a destructive effort to inhibit me from communicating my ideas. You have constantly borrowed something that Jack wrote and have continually posted it. It has a specific purpose and a reasoning behind it. Sycophantically you piggy-back on something you believe Jack believes, and then you tie this to your troll assertion. You do this because of some sense of *pique*.

          But when you do this it really serves no purpose. Or the purpose is to create trouble. To create embarrassing inter-blog conflict. This is a function and it has a function. And when you do this it sends messages to other people and they join in with you. It is an underhanded technique in my opinion but I will only go so far as to expose it.

          If this works for you, if this helps you in some way, by all means keep it up. But what I recommend is just sticking with the ideas. If there is just one idea in my post that interests you, that you agree with or oppose: then use that as a starting point.

          We are in extremely critical conditions socially and culturally and politically. There is bound to be intense disagreements. My ideas are very contradictory to yours. But you do not have the right to assign troll-status to what I write.

          If you oppose the ideas EXPRESS IT IN CLEAR PROSE, WITH SOLID ARGUMENTS, AND WIN OVER YOUR PEERS TO YOUR SIDE.

          And have fun doing it! This is all glorious and rich.

  2. The strength of ethics is that it evolves; the strength of morality is that it doesn’t.

    The weakness of ethics is that they are arbitrary; they can be determined by the will of the people; they constantly shift and change. And in our present time we witness this in thoroughly radical terms. Ethics can become what a person or some people choose to do, on a whim.

    OTOH — and here you have a veritable misconception — morality is determined by profound rational thought, and the morality that is expressed in theological pronouncements has come about through long and arduous processes of thought. And since we were talking about sexual morality we can refer to the profound thinking by theologians where the doctrines that support sexual morality are explained. They are rational, they are meaningful. But they have to be studied. It is a person of faith within a metaphysical relationship of faith that aligns his and her will with the theologically-expressed truth. And this is the part that you struggle with because you do not have that faith. That faith is foreign to you. And if I were to be dangerously honest I would say that you have contempt for that faith. In this sense you are ‘ultra-modern’ and this ultra-modernism is also the root of your progressivism. You are far more of a progressive than you are a conservative. Yet — and this baffles me at times — you have a conservative intellect.

    The strength of the morality that you condemn, or perhaps ‘judge’ is the word, is that it requires a metaphysical intellectual orientation to even conceive of it. The idea is that there are constants in this universe. This was all gone over by Plato. Moral systems in this sense are those identifications of and descriptions of constant principles. If you cannot conceive of such principles you can only situate your self within the *contingent* and the *mutable*. Catholic doctrine, though it is hard and difficult to live in accord with, is based on the notion of immutability and of constant principles. Without those — without these anchors as it were — we are adrift in the intellectual world.

    Morality’s problem, and thus religion’s, is that ancient moral codes are based on human misconceptions that science, experience, and, yes ethics continually expose.

    This is a ‘truth claim’ and it attempts to mirror the certainty that metaphysical philosophy and theological assertions also claim to make. You say there is a ‘misconception’ and that is fine as far as it goes. But when you try to develop how you understand that misconception to function — to expose its false parts — you stumble like all people stumble. And your stumbling is uniquely relevant to a confused present that rejects *morality* in favor of spurious ethical solutions. And by entering into this conversation and this dialectic we also go quite directly into the Culture wars.

    Science definitely reveals certain kinds of truths, but in no sense are they Truths. Mathematical relationships and that sort of thing. But science cannot interpret. If your notion of ‘ethics’ is that it is related to science or scientific materialism or even perhaps to mathematics, I’d like to hear more. But from everything that I have read and after examining your sources of ethical systems, they are all what I call ‘shadows’ of Christian ethics essentially. Every one of them. Thus your ethics is part-and-part of the ‘moral capital’ of Occidental Christianity by-and-large.

    Ethics in and of itself can *expose* nothing. Because it is not independent of the mind that conceives of them. You make it sound as if it is a free standing entity.

    “If a religious institution is going to have any role in society, it cannot cave to pressures to compromise its core beliefs.” That reads well, but with all respect to nonsense, it’s fantasy. If a religious institution is going to have any role in society, it can’t persist in saying that the world is flat when it is clear to everyone else that it isn’t. It doesn’t take many obvious untruths that the Church denies to make it untrustworthy. The Catholic Church has long played the game of changing what are its “core beliefs” according to which of them become too unpopular to maintain.

    If there is going to be a society built around or on Principle, it has to be recognized that Principle exists. And Principles are metaphysical. They really are. They are *impositions* into the structure of matter and biology in which people exist. They depend on ‘ideas’ and as Plato indicated ideas have another sort of existence. And that is where Richard Weaver’s notion of ‘Universals’ comes in. And why he defines a conservative philosophical perspective and orientation.

    The principles that you have, if you have them, are by their nature (and through your assertions) transitory and mutable.

    In order to understand Catholicism’s and Christianity’s core beliefs they have to be studied. They are presented (when Christianity became philosophical) through rational arguments. Now, someone can reject them, that is true, but it is very difficult to do that through sound argument. Why? Because they are grounded in solid, definable principle, whereas the arguments usually brought out against them are sophistical. But even here — or especially here! — we are right again in the middle of the Culture Wars and also the profound metaphysical value-wars of our time and day.

    But it is true that not everything in the ‘world-concept’ of the Church or in the Occidental conceptual order — how it viewed the Kosmos — is ‘true’ in the sense we now understand truth. And yet what it holds to as truth — that has not been (successfully) assailed. In any case, that is my assessment and I have genuinely made an effort to look into this.

    I would always refer to Shakespeare and especially to Macbeth. The encounter on the heath: what is that? What happened there? What is *in fact* described? He is dealing in utterly real things, and yet we can only see that they are artifice and artificial. And yet we *know* that there is profound truth there. And we know the danger to the human soul: our own soul.

    But these are things that you can’t talk about. They are not part-and-parcel of your intellectual system. Yet they are, and very much so, to those who (to sound grandiose) constructed the Occident.

    Its condemnation of homosexuality will eventually join that “core beliefs? Oh no, this isn’t a core belief!” category. Bet on it. The Church will do what it has to do to survive, like all institutions. Integrity is usually the casualty.

    You do not understand what the theological doctrines oppose. They actually oppose what Ryan nicely explained in his essay. I won’t bother to repeat it (or paraphrase it). If Christianity remains true to itself, and if what it is remains clear and intelligible to the one who adopts it and practices it, sexual morality (restraint and proper channeling) will always remain a part of it. Because that is, indeed, one of its essential cores. It is based on the idea of deliberately turning again reckless use of sexual impulse and turning that impulse toward higher achievements, and ultimately to the *intelligible world*. And this is a metaphysical relationship.

    The sexual deviancy in our present is part-and-parcel of neo-paganism. And as well sexual seduction (of masses of people) has become a political tool. The Globo-Homo Culture is a *real thing* and it can be identified and studied. That is, the assertions about it are rational and clear. I have read your ideas and opinions now for years and you do not understand, fundamentally, what is being talked about here. You do not understand the importance of what is referred to, or you have a very different interpretation of what is important.

    But I can honestly say that no matter what happens to the Church, or to Christianity, or to the strength of belief in solidly defined metaphysical principles, these will not be superseded. Eventually, at one point or another, there will be a return to comprehension of the principles defined.

    ….Bringing me to my final point: “The Church isn’t the Church’s leadership!” is a desperate rationalization. The Pope heads the Church, and has a red phone to God. He is accountable, like all leaders, for the conduct of the organization he heads.

    Incorrect. You do not understand. That is not where the locus of theological power (if I can put it like this) resides. He is not a leader in the sense you have described which is based on a bureaucratic model. What ‘leads’ then?

    Profoundly articulated ideas.

    So, in our time, Francis (Francisco) is understood to be quite severely ‘out of communion’ with the solid Principles I have alluded to. People do not quite know what to do about that. But to understand his person as infallible . . . is a fallacy. And this all requires more explanation to describe. But the essence of Catholicism is not chosen, or changed, by a Pope. It has a form of aristocratic democracy that enters in. That is to say that the ‘Christian body’ decidedly has a say.

  3. Note: The altar you selected in the photo is of a traditional altar BTW. That is, from the type of traditional Latin mass where the priest does not face the congregation.

    Some time back you mentioned seeing the film Doubt (based on the play) and in that film too they show the traditional altar. Just an interesting detail.

    Things definitely changed after Vatican ll.

  4. As a Catholic I agree that the Church is more than the leadership, yet…..In reality pastors and bishops (note I did not say deacons or priests, there is a different level of authority) have “powers” that the laity do not. There is an old joke that sums it up.
    What is a deacon? A servant.
    What is a priest? A servant.
    What is a bishop? A servant.
    What is the pope? A servant to the servants of Christ.
    What is the laity? A people with a servant problem.

    I do wonder if there is more to the story that didn’t allow simply letting the contract lapse. It’s all speculation on my part, but based on decades of workplace life. Was a non-contract renewal conveyed to Gonda and it didn’t go well? In my experience the only reasons for a firing are the immediate removal of a toxic employee or because the employee who has refused to go quietly at the end of a contract.

  5. I respect the internal consistency of the principle. I reject the premise from which it follows, though.

    Catholic doctrine, like most organized religions, is a response to the fundamental liability of stagnation. As I’ve said before, stagnation describes limitations on people’s ability to form and pursue goals. Underregulated, it takes the form of decadence: an addiction to instant gratification. People tried to overregulate it and created dogma: rules limiting what people are allowed to think and feel.

    In this case, the Catholic Church found long ago that sexual acts can become addictive and can lead people to do evil things. In response to this decadence, they created dogma which prevents people from considering that it may not be inherently wrong for consenting adults to have sex. They made the range of acceptable sexual behaviors very narrow in order to prevent people from going down a slippery slope.

    Unfortunately, they made it too narrow, and it backfired from an ethical standpoint. It’s much easier to make simple rules than it is to teach people to make mature decisions for themselves.

    I stand for the transcendence of all people, beyond both decadence and dogma. I would much rather spend effort to help people develop healthy relationships than establish ossified rules in the hopes of preventing unhealthy ones.

    As for refuting the empirical premise behind this normative policy, that’s another story, but there are many humorous vignettes across the internet that deconstruct religion in general and Christianity specifically.

    • You demonstrate sheer misunderstanding. Not partial but sheer misunderstanding. You do not fundamentally understand what you are talking about (in regard to Catholic doctrine). Your misunderstanding is a willed form. I actually believe you are not arguing in good-faith because in order to speak to the topic you would have to do significant research, and you definitely have not. You fundamentally misunderstand Catholic, and Christian doctrine. That is fine of course, you are free to do so. But you won’t get agreement from me. Nor will you be able to talk to me.

      What I often say is *this is par for the course* in the time that we live. And there are reasons for this misunderstanding, and these can be explained. At the very least they can be *put out on the table* in a friendly manner for consideration. And understanding.

      I respect the internal consistency of the principle. I reject the premise from which it follows, though.

      If you reject the premise, you reject the principle. You cannot *respect* the principle while rejecting the *premise*. You might tolerate the principle while you do not accept it as a genuine principle.

      You do not understand Catholic nor Christian sexual ethics & morality. Because what you are saying about them is flatly wrong.

      What I find most interesting in all of this is that there is so much misunderstanding, and that on the basis of this misunderstanding — clearly evident in your essay — you and others construct a false-edifice. I can only suggest that you back-track and get more information.

      But this is one of the interesting parts. It has to do with climanem, which Harold Bloom outlines in A Map of Misreading.

      He is talking about literary criticism but it applies nicely here:

      Clinamen – Bloom defines this as “poetic misreading or misprision proper”. The poet makes a swerve away from the precursor in the form of a “corrective movement”. This swerve suggests that the precursor “went accurately up to a certain point”, but should have swerved in the direction that the new poem moves. Bloom took the word clinamen from Lucretius, who refers to swerves of atoms that make change possible.

      Misprision:

      a. Misunderstanding or misinterpretation: “to show that everything once viewed as truth and light is no more than shadow and misprision”.
      b. A misreading or misinterpretation of a text, especially as a means of distinguishing oneself from a literary predecessor.

      [Middle English, illegal act on the part of a public official, from Anglo-Norman, mistake, misdeed, variant of Old French mesprison, from mespris, past participle of mesprendre, to make a mistake : mes-, wrongly; see mis-1 + prendre, to take, seize (from Latin prehendere, prēndere; see ghend- in Indo-European roots).]

      • “If you reject the premise, you reject the principle. You cannot *respect* the principle while rejecting the *premise*. You might tolerate the principle while you do not accept it as a genuine principle.”

        Yes, you have successfully understood what I was trying to convey… mostly. I respect internal consistency because it demonstrates that even if people have a flawed premise, they use disciplined reasoning processes and abide by the results of those processes.

        The rest of your post translates to: “You don’t get it. No, I mean you really don’t get it.” I probably don’t. My philosophy is based on concepts that pertain to that which can, in some situation or other, be observed objectively or felt subjectively. Your concepts seem to pertain to things that are supposed to be felt objectively, that form an order which serves a purpose that cannot be observed but which everyone should inherently value all the same. That won’t help us against any of the fundamental liabilities.

        • My philosophy is based on concepts that pertain to that which can, in some situation or other, be observed objectively or felt subjectively. Your concepts seem to pertain to things that are supposed to be felt objectively, that form an order which serves a purpose that cannot be observed but which everyone should inherently value all the same. That won’t help us against any of the fundamental liabilities.

          Understood in objective terms, is how I’d put it. But you would also have to include the ‘faith’ element. In the life of a religious person, and most or all Christians, their Christian commitment is what opens them to grappling with the moral dimension. Christian conversion is always (or in any case usually) provoked by a crisis through which one becomes receptive to the supernatural (there is no other way to put it).

          So, what you are saying about what can “be observed objectively or felt subjectively” is flatly wrong insofar as a Christian deals most certainly within this realm. The more encompassing question is why you do not deal in or respond to this particular realm (Christian religiosity) since it is fundamental to this culture and to the Occident. I don’t demand that you respond to the question. I only wish to note that our culture has turned away from this and for various reasons that can be identified and discussed.

          Now it is for this reason that I speak of Jack’s ‘progressivism’ or ‘radical progressivism’ within the category of Occidental religiosity. Because it arose from a rejection of certain categories. That interests me as a topic and because it is happening culture-wide, and because there is not just indifference but opposition, the topic is relevant to our general conversation.

          I am interested in the phenomenon of a culture which has changed value-systems. You assert that I insist that all should “inherently value all the same”. That is, have a relationship to the Christian metaphysical cores or to ‘God’ in some real sense. This is both so and not so. But I’ll leave that aside. I argue in the larger sense for a recovery of Occidental spirituality which is a wide topic. Greco-Christianity is central to this and thus it is, effectively, impossible to get around. You cannot side-step essential Occidental categories. We interweave with them in essential ways.

          So if I myself recommend anything it is a revivification of those categories. Put in reverse, I say that there is no alternative but to do that if we really want to *recover our selves*.

          However, as a topical issue, it has to be understood that the Culture Wars have a great deal to do with both Christianity (as a set of categories) and an anti- or counter-Christianity as another set and the battle, as it were, between them. And this interests me objectively and independently of my own feelings or understandings.

          (I do not know what you mean about ‘fundamental liabilities’.)

    • EC,

      It has been a while since we’ve directly interacted, and I miss it! I would challenge your perspective:

      People tried to overregulate it and created dogma: rules limiting what people are allowed to think and feel.

      What if all those rules are not stifling, but rather help people to excel? That they don’t quash people’s thoughts and feelings, but help people nurture them? Consider regulations on the roads. The fact that we have so many rules governing traffic allows for traffic to flow smoothly. When someone starts breaking those rules, it causes disruptions. What about sports? The reason we can have great games comes from a host of rules that allow the game to be played. without those rules, the game would be chaotic, frustrating, and ultimately worthless.

      When it comes to rules regarding sex, what if those rules aren’t locking one down into a small, rigid frame, but instead are providing the framework for a greater, more fulfilling experience? And can those rules persist as long as they are regularly reviewed, even challenged, and still found to be fitting even after so many centuries?

  6. I am commenting “late to the party” as I begin my Monday morning catch up of weekend email. I appreciate and admire Ryan’s defense of his faith, although I am and have been in a Protestant church since childhood. After several years as a young man trying to live by my own rules and standards, I returned to the Christian life and God’s authority. The rejection of God’s authority is at the root of most of society’s ills and problems. I won’t make excuses for false teachers and “misleaders” who are foretold in the Bible. The scripture teaches us how to recognize and reject these teachings. The Christian life is a liberating experience, and although I was never a “bad” person by the world’s standards, I know I am a better man now.

  7. Jack,

    Thank you again for the COTD! I do have to apologize for not responding during the weekend. I would have liked to have added my thoughts while everyone’s comments were still fresh…

    I have a few thoughts regarding your end notes.

    The strength of ethics is that it evolves; the strength of morality is that it doesn’t.

    I’ve wanted to have this conversation for a while, but never knew what context would be good to have it. But my education in ethics and morality led to the definitions that morality is your fundamental right and wrong, your basic principles — mathematically speaking, your axioms. Ethics in turn is the science of morality, how those principles are applied in particular situations. For example, we all know the moral imperative “thou shalt not kill”, but it is ethics in turn that unveils how that applies to self-defense, war, the death penalty, and so on.

    But morality (and I can feel EC honing his rhetorical knives) is based on nature. What is right or wrong for something depends on what that thing is. What does this mean for the statics or dynamics of morality? It can mean that morality is necessarily static, because as long as nature does not change, neither should the moral principles. But it does mean that morals have their own dynamic component to them, because as our understanding of nature expands and changes, we would expect our moral principles to undergo some change to accommodate the new understanding. But in general we would expect and want our moral principles to be relatively static, because otherwise we would not be able to build any cohesive ethical tapestry. Without the bedrock of stable moral principles, we’d be immersed in relativistic notions, out of which nothing could emerge but “that might be your truth, but it isn’t mine.”

    Morality’s problem, and thus religion’s, is that ancient moral codes are based on human misconceptions that science, experience, and, yes ethics continually expose.

    Anything based on a misconception should be overturned in light of evidence. However, it shouldn’t be surprising if morals are based on ancient understandings, because most moral principles are things that reason can deduce, and just because people lived thousands of years ago doesn’t mean they couldn’t reason. Moreover, for all the scientific advances, human nature itself hasn’t changed from thousands of years ago. That is, in part, why we can have timeless classics, because there are those fundamental elements that speak to human nature no matter what era or culture.

    “If a religious institution is going to have any role in society, it cannot cave to pressures to compromise its core beliefs.” That reads well, but with all respect to nonsense, it’s fantasy. If a religious institution is going to have any role in society, it can’t persist in saying that the world is flat when it is clear to everyone else that it isn’t.

    If a core tenet of a religion is something that is flat-out, blatantly contradicted by reality, then that religion is false and no one should believe it. It shouldn’t have a role in society. That is why, and I think I’ve said this at least once in comments, that if someone could convince me that the Church has done a 180 on one of her doctrines, I could no longer be Catholic, and I would argue for the destruction of the Church. I can’t speak for all the Christian denominations that spun off the Catholic Church or other denominations, but I can say of the Catholic Church: since she purports to be the pillar and bulwark of truth, and she claims to be indefectable and infallible in the declaration of doctrine, were she to reverse course on a doctrine, then she would not be what she claims to be. She would be a liar.

    The Catholic Church has long played the game of changing what are its “core beliefs” according to which of them become too unpopular to maintain.

    I’d need to see what you’re using for evidence of this. I won’t claim to have read everything written by Church Fathers, or every document from every ecumenical council, or papal encyclical, but every time I’ve seen someone make the claim that the Catholic Church has reversed course on doctrine, there was always some misunderstanding in the accusation. I know, this is an ethics blog, not a comparative religion blog, but I would love to discuss any challenge to the Catholic Church. I really do love discussing politics and religion, despite all taboo against such…

    Its condemnation of homosexuality will eventually join that “Core beliefs? Oh no, this isn’t a core belief!” category.Bet on it. The Church will do what it has to do to survive, like all institutions. Integrity is usually the casualty.

    I would be willing to place a wager on it. Just as the Church refused to back down from its stance on contraception, the Church will not back down here. I will buy you dinner and publicly eat my hat (I’ll have to get a hat first, since I hate wearing them) if I’m wrong.

    Bringing me to my final point: “The Church isn’t the Church’s leadership!” is a desperate rationalization. The Pope heads the Church, and has a red phone to God. He is accountable, like all leaders, for the conduct of the organization he heads.

    I think this is missing the point. I wholly agree the Pope is accountable for the despicable actions of the bishops and priests that have occurred, and he should be working diligently to cleanse the Church and engage the world. But let me reiterate what I said:

    But I emphasize the “some members” because the Church is not simply the Pope and the other bishops that we have right now. The Church is its entire membership and its deposit of learning and teaching for the past two thousand years.

    Notice my emphasis. My point was specifically that despite the failings of the current administration of the Church, that does not represent a change in Church doctrine or policy, or the consistent teaching of the Church for two thousand years. My explicit point was to contrast the evil behavior of the abusive priests and those complicit with their actions against concrete Church teaching. It is so bad because it is a violation of what the Church professes, and the weight of all the history, teaching, tradition, and faithful disciples stands against those who have so tarnished the Church. And it is because the Church isn’t limited to its leadership that the body of the Church can rebuke its leaders and effect reform.

    • A couple of points:

      1. The ethics/morality dichotomy is one the ethicists can agree on, in part because definitions vary. I use one fron anoth ethicists that has the great virtue of being clear: it’s in the glossary:

      MORALS: Modes of conduct that are taught and accepted as embodying principles of right and good.

      MORALITY: A system of determining right and wrong that is usually established by some authority, such as a church, an organization, a society, a deity, or a government.

      ETHICS: The process of determining right and wrong conduct.

      ETHICAL SYSTEM: A specific formula for distinguishing right from wrong.

      UNETHICAL: An action or conduct which violates the principles of one or more ethical systems, or which is counter to an accepted ethical value, such as honesty.

      2. “That reads well, but with all respect to nonsense, it’s fantasy.” That was a typo, though it sounds intentionally snotty. The intended sentence was, “That reads well, but with all respect, it’s fantasy.” It’s fixed, and haven’t a clue how it came out like that.

      3. Re: core beliefs. Divorce? The Church is masterful at at Clintonian parsing and doubletalk, but the fact is that it once declared divorce worthy of excommunication, and now does this tap-dance about how a Catholic is never truly divorced in the eyes of the Church, but can be civilly divorced. This is “It depends what the meaning of divorced is”….

      4. It’s not a fair bet, since I could win, but you couldn’t.

  8. Jack,

    1. Let me try again. The process of determining right or wrong has to have some fundamental building blocks to work with, and I argue that those building blocks come from an analysis of the object in question. So my discussion question is: don’t our fundamental building blocks of ethics depend on what human beings are (what human nature is)? And what don’t different ideas of human nature lead to (at times radically) different ethical conclusions? If those fundamental building blocks aren’t tied to human nature, what prevents ethics falling into relativism?

    2. Jack, you have an astonishing output on your blog. I’m always impressed by how much you write while still keeping on top of everything else you’re engaged in. No worries about the typo!

    3. Divorce is a pretty nuanced subject. But the Church has held from its earliest years that Jesus elevated marriage to a Sacrament, and that a valid marriage of Christians is indissoluble. But Jesus and Paul both allude to conditions in which a marriage is not at that level. Paul indicates that a Christian spouse can divorce a non-Christian, due to the disparity of cult, though he encourages such spouses to be a source of conversion for their non-Christian partners. The Catholic Church has retained that, so that a Christian married to a non-Christian is in a valid, but not Sacramental marriage that can be dissolved. Jesus mentions that someone who divorces and remarries (except in cases of porneia) commits adultery, and gallons of ink have been spilled debating what Jesus meant. But from that, the Church has taught that one has to be free to marry, and some conditions do not make one free to marry. One could already be married; this would be an impediment to getting married (again). One could be too closely related (such as brother and sister) to get married. One could be too young to get married. The close relations has undergone certain disciplinary changes. For example, the canonical laws regulating consanguinity held that sexual relations with someone created a bond of affinity, so one could not have sex with one woman and then seek to marry her sister, because that would bring her sister within the boundary of consanguinity.

    In the case of King Henry VIII, his wife Catherine had previously been married to Henry’s older brother Arthur, though she avowed that they never consummated their marriage. Still, an inquiry had to be held and special dispensation granted from Rome for Henry to marry Catherine so that scandal could be avoided. When Henry then sought to divorce Catherine and marry Ann Boleyn, he argued that he should be granted a declaration of nullity because he should never have been allowed to marry her, since she had been married to his brother. Yet, Henry had already taken Ann’s sister as a concubine, which would have made her an invalid subject to marry. There was much ink spilled over this, with plots and treachery all around.

    As to the application of excommunication, that has always been a matter of prudence. Right now, getting an abortion brings an automatic excommunication, but that’s a disciplinary matter that can be changed. It was never doctrine that divorce had to bring about excommunication. St. Paul indicated that a man who married his stepmother should be excommunicated, but even that is not a doctrine, but a discipline.

    The Church has formalized how it handles divorces over the years, but the methods it uses in an investigation into the validity of a marriage is a matter of process. Tampering with the process does not change Church teaching on the indissolubility of valid, Sacramental marriages. And again, given the crisis confronting the Church of the sheer number of divorced and remarried Catholics, if the Church were to alter her doctrines based on expediency, she would have already done so.

    But it is absolutely true that a Catholic can be both divorced and married at the same time! That’s always been somewhat amusing to me, in a morbid sense. The Church has acknowledged that because of things like abuse, abandonment, and other issues, it is better for the spouses to be legally separated. Keep in mind, the Church still says that divorce is sinful, but sometimes one partner tries to hold it together while the other fights to separate. In such a case, the Church says the one fighting to hold the marriage together does not incur sin, since the divorce is against that party’s will. But if the marriage was a valid, Sacramental marriage, that marriage cannot be dissolved, no matter the civil standing of the two. So the spouse who tried to hold the marriage together, but failed, is still not free to remarry.

    4. I know! It is semi-decidable. If the Church does cave, then we can stop the examination, but if the Church doesn’t, all we know is that she hasn’t caved yet! We can never know that she won’t cave in two minutes or two hundred years! And the computer-science portion of me delights in some of these abstract notions like semi-decidable.

    5. I don’t think you’re a radical progressive, just in case you were wondering. And I love your comment about how you must be doing something right if each side of the spectrum sees you in the other’s camp. I agree wholeheartedly with the analysis.

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