“Gradualness,” truth, and the woman at the well

“Gradualness,” truth, and the woman at the well

I don’t know about you, but I’m not really reading the post-mortems of the Synod on the Family. My fellow Truth & Charity contributor Fr. Scott Hastings wrote a wonderful piece on the synod, but unfortunately much coming out of Rome these days is not so thoughtful. On top of that, I couldn’t help feeling that this episcopal confab had the flavor of large family holiday gatherings—you know, the ones where you can count on some beloved relative to forget that we’re all on the same team and launch some strange, inappropriate outburst that threatens to bring Thanksgiving dinner to a screeching halt. However, I know that truth will prevail, and that somehow everyone will be together again for Christmas dinner. The one word that seemed to drive both fringes nuts was “gradualism,” or, as the official translation of Relatio post disceptationem rendered it, “gradualness.” I am no theologian, and I cannot claim to speak for what the bishops or their translators meant by this term. But I don’t believe that it is useful to regard “gradualness” as either a slippery slope to moral permissiveness or a stumbling block to enlightened progress. Reflecting on “gradualness,” morality, and conversion, I’m reminded of John 4 where Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. To me, this remarkable story illustrates how we should model “gradualness” in truth: Jesus makes the first move. Real love is unconditional. Jesus knows the Samaritan woman’s story—he knows that she is living a sinful life, that she’s lying to herself, that she’s probably a social outcast. He loves her anyway, and he reaches out to her first. But...
Taking It For The Team

Taking It For The Team

I was talking to a non-Catholic friend the other day when, for whatever reason, the conversation turned toward sex and morality. I always get a little uncomfortable when this happens because I’m a serious Catholic, and people know that: my friends have become conditioned to expect that I’m unable to participate in a discussion on the comparative merits of the pill or the IUD, or that hearing about steamy Tinder hook-ups makes me a little green about the gills. I’m happy to express my opinion when asked, but on such sensitive topics, I think that discretion is almost always the better part of valor. So I was taken aback when the most recent conversation ended abruptly with, “If that’s what Catholics believe, it’s a stupid religion.” Don’t get me wrong: I welcome serious debate because I think it’s an honor to share my knowledge and dispel some common misunderstandings about Church teachings. I’m well aware that not everybody is going to like or agree with what I have to say. But there’s a constructive way of debating, and then there’s school-yard name calling. It concerns me that many otherwise sensitive people don’t seem to realize how hurtful it is to call a person’s faith or religion “stupid.” It’s like insulting a member of the family. In charity, I have to suppose that most people who thoughtlessly insult Catholics or launch hurtful attacks on our Church, our beliefs, and our practices fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be a religious person. Before I started taking the faith seriously, I didn’t get it either. Being a Catholic and living it out...
BREAKING NEWS: HUMANS BORN WITH CONSCIENCE, CONCUPISCENCE

BREAKING NEWS: HUMANS BORN WITH CONSCIENCE, CONCUPISCENCE

Sorry for yelling, but it seems the folks at CNN are thusly surprised at research demonstrating the existence of a “moral core” and a “sense of justice” that is albeit “tragically limited.” How do they know? Baby research: The first test is the simplest. Show a baby an example of good behavior [demonstrated by a bunny puppet], and then an example of bad behavior, then let the baby decide what she likes… More than 80% of the babies in the study showed their preference for the good bunny, either by reaching for the good bunny or staring at it. And with 3-month-olds, that number goes higher, to 87%… The Baby Lab has developed a series of studies based on the simple premise that babies have this simple understanding of good and bad. It’s almost as if the researchers are saying that babies, and by inference all of us, have a moral law that is written on our hearts, as well as upon our minds. I hope taxpayer funds went to underwrite the grant for these researchers and their novel discovery. Despite this, Although babies are born with an innate sense of morality, they are also born with flaws… “We are by nature indifferent, even hostile to strangers; we are prone towards parochialism and bigotry. Some of our instinctive emotional responses, most notably disgust, spur us to do terrible things, including acts of genocide.” And the role of parents and society is to overcome these limitations and further develop the innate moral beliefs that already exist in those baby minds. Again, with my Ph.D. I am able to translate this...
Why Contraception and Homosexuality Need Migratory Birds

Why Contraception and Homosexuality Need Migratory Birds

Without getting into the weeds of heavy theology, sin is an offense against the love of God, Who has established eternal law to govern all of existence.  Incidentally, eternal law defines what is in conformity with human nature and what is not.  Therefore, a sin, while an act against God and eternal law, can also be seen as an act against our own human nature.  There are a few reasons why I bring this up. As I am sure many of you read, in those magical days between the retirement of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis, the mainstream media were abuzz with anybody with an opinion, Catholic or not.  This wall-to-wall coverage of the Church moving as fast as it could and as slow as it needed gave many liberals a chance to surface in order to spout their “the Church needs to get with the times” message, publicly wondering if the new pope would “ease the restrictions” on homosexuality and contraception (among many other moral issues).  Though these religious pundits might have done some excessive hyperventilating, those Catholics who have a clue about how Church authority functions yawned and went to bed. But what if the Pope did approve the practices of homosexuality and contraception in at least some instances?  Catholicism and general Christianity would come coming crashing down because of a sudden and jarring negation of papal infallibility.  But aside from that?  Nothing.  The pope’s infallible teaching authority rests within the limits of faith and morals.  ‘Aren’t homosexuality and contraception moral issues?‘ one may ask.  Of course they are, but these things (as well...
Legislating morality

Legislating morality

You couldn’t tell by my posts, but I like to debate politics.  Many of my debates center on the concept of liberty, usually with an emphasis the degree of governmental involvement in social issues.  One major argument I often hear in the defense of freedom and liberty is how the government shouldn’t legislate morality.  It seems a number of people would like to be able to do whatever they want as long as the act is consensual and victimless. Allow me to offer a wake-up call.  All governmental action falls into one of two categories: 1) the legislating of a moral position, or 2) the enforcing of a moral position.  Currently it is illegal to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve.  Why?  Because environmentalists believes it is morally reprehensible to drill for oil.  The federal government has banned insider trading, but libertarians believe insider trading should be allowed.  (While the general public is prohibited from insider trading, it is only recently that it has been made illegal for Congressmen and their aides to engage in the practice.) Here is a short list of issues in which government taking one position or another is actually a moral position. Drilling in ANWR Insider trading Emissions standards Charging interest for overdue tax filings Abortion laws Gun laws School lunch programs Sex ed Preemptive war War of defense Redistribution of wealth Entitlement programs Government taking money by threat of force and investing it in your retirement Steroid use in professional sports Prosecuting Muslim terrorists Prosecuting non-Muslim terrorists Not prosecuting terrorists, specific or otherwise Food safety Drug safety Spanking Consumer safety Air travel...