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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Notre Dame Again! Ugh...

Ok, look.  I get it.  I get it probably better than most.  My grandfather was a "domer."  My uncle is a "domer."  My cousin Meghan went to St. Mary's.  My nephew has three choices as to where he can go for college, Notre Dame is one of them.  My family is as attached to Notre Dame as any family can be.  They are attached to the football team (I've literally seen my brother dive over the coffee table into a somersault when they won the National Title in 1988), that's one thing.  But other members of my family comport Notre Dame to be the quintessential Catholic college in the United States.  No Way!  No How!

This comes from Gary Gutting, Endowed Chair of Philosophy.  HE IS AN ENDOWED CHAIR!  He must accept and affirm Ex Corde Ecclesiae, yet he writes the following:

…haven’t the members of the Catholic Church recognized their bishops as having full and sole authority to determine the teachings of the Church?  By no means.  There was, perhaps, a time when the vast majority of Catholics accepted the bishops as having an absolute right to define theological and ethical doctrines.  Those days, if they ever existed, are long gone.  Most Catholics — meaning, to be more precise, people who were raised Catholic or converted as adults and continue to take church teachings and practices seriously — now reserve the right to reject doctrines insisted on by their bishops and to interpret in their own way the doctrines that they do accept.  This is above all true in matters of sexual morality, especially birth control, where the majority of Catholics have concluded that the teachings of the bishops do not apply to them.  Such “reservations” are an essential constraint on the authority of the bishops.
The bishops and the minority of Catholics who support their full authority have tried to marginalize Catholics who do not accept the bishops as absolute arbiters of doctrine.  They speak of “cafeteria Catholics” or merely “cultural Catholics,” and imply that the only “real Catholics” are those who accept their teachings entirely.  But this marginalization begs the question I’m raising about the proper source of the judgment that the bishops have divine authority.  Since, as I’ve argued, members of the church are themselves this source, it is not for the bishops but for the faithful to decide the nature and extent of episcopal authority.  The bishops truly are, as they so often say, “servants of the servants of the Lord.”
It may be objected that, regardless of what individual Catholics think, the bishops in fact exercise effective control over the church.  This is true in many respects, but only to the extent that members of the church accept their authority.  Stalin’s alleged query about papal authority (“How many divisions does the Pope have?”) expresses more than just cynical realpolitik.  The authority of the Catholic bishops is enforceable morally but not militarily or politically.  It resides entirely in the fact that people freely accept it.
The mistake of the Obama administration — and of almost everyone debating its decision — was to accept the bishops’ claim that their position on birth control expresses an authoritative “teaching of the church.”  (Of course, the administration may be right in thinking that the bishops need placating because they can cause them considerable political trouble.)  The bishops’ claim to authority in this matter has been undermined because Catholics have decisively rejected it. The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.  Pope Paul VI meant his 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” to settle the issue in the manner of the famous tag, “Roma locuta est, causa finita est.”  In fact the issue has been settled by the voice of the Catholic people.

So, I'm going to respond to Dr. Gutting:

"...haven’t the members of the Catholic Church recognized their bishops as having full and sole authority to determine the teachings of the Church?"  The Church has, yes.  The membership, whether they vocalize it or not have.  Those who do not accept the Church's teaching on a Magisterial level have committed a mortal sin.  So, for those who contracept or support contraception are in a state of mortal sin and should seek forgiveness through confession.  The Church has taught from the beginning that human life is sacred and something which cannot be taken advantage of, under any circumstance.  Sure, members of the Church have fallen short, but then again, that is the problem of evil isn't it.  The members will always fall short.  That doesn't mean, though that the Church should stop teaching it and simply acquiesce.  When was the last time that the inmates running the asylum was a good idea?

Dr. Gutting goes on to say that Catholics reserve the right to reject doctrines.  That isn't exactly the case.  Being Catholic is an all or nothing proposition.  Either one is Catholic or one is not Catholic.  There is no such thing as partially Catholic.  That idea of religion is a Protestant one.  When one becomes Catholic, one must assent his will to the Church, even if he does not fully understand it.  The understanding comes with time and learning.

I wonder if Dr. Gutting feels the same way about his courses.  What if his students reserve the right to reject his teaching methods?  Will he still pass them, or will he fail them?  It's an interesting position he puts himself in.  Almost Cartesian, insofar as he is painting himself into a corner.  Dr. Gutting's reaction and urgent need to simply be an anarchist with regard to the Church is not at all supportive of his position as an authentic teacher of philosophy.

The bishops and those Catholics who do not support the mandate, are not marginalizing anyone.  If anyone is marginalized, it is the Catholic who holds firm to the teaching of the Church.  So much so, that if he were to speak out, he would be maligned and marginalized himself.  Case in point, Rick Santorum.  So, please don't try to flip the script.  That is merely a deflection.  To say that the faithful Catholic who abides by the teaching of Holy Mother Church is marginalizing the Catholic who is in a state of mortal sin is absurd.  The sad fact is that the Catholic who contracepts does what he does to himself.  There is no need for a faithful Catholic doesn't need to marginalize anyone, he does that just fine on his own.

It is true that regardless of what any individual Catholic thinks, the bishops do exercise control.  They teach on a regular basis.  They have done so in this instance and they are showing that they do have the ability to hold a Catholic line, even if unpopular.  The real problem is that over the last 40 years, the bishops have not stood together as one body.  They have been fractured and that, more than anything has been a detriment to their teaching authority.  Authentic Catholic teaching is authoritative from a reasonable and rational point of view, but when the bishops cannot agree among themselves, the problem becomes one of dissent and it fosters it among the faithful.  If the bishops held the line on every issue the way they are on this, then there would be a lot less "trouble" in the Church today.

Bottom line, the mistake of the Obama administration is to think that pregnancy and procreation is a disease.  Women's health is a misnomer.  How is participating in something completely natural and biologically expected a disease?  It is not.  The sad fact is that the Obama administration is lowering the rational aspect of sexual relations to that of a non-rational instictive animal.  Essentially what the Obama administration is saying is that there is no difference between two people engaging in the sex act as there is between two apes, or two lions or two ruminates.  That is incorrect.  There is a difference.  The human person can reason.  There is a psychological and emotional bond which forms between two persons who engage in the sex act.  It isn't merely a biological response to a want which cannot be controlled.  If that were the case, then there would be no need for societal norms regarding sexual promiscuity.

Dr. Gutting is following a set of premises which are flawed.  In fact, the issue has not been settled by the Catholic voice.  The Catholic voice does not come from the mob, but  rather it comes from the Church.  It is the faithful who hear the voice and assent their will.  Not the other way around.  His premise is flawed and because of that, his position fails.

Being Catholic is not about believing part of the faith.  Being Catholic means accepting all of it.  There are parts of the faith which are not easy and they are a challenge, but that is because of human sinfulness.  If one looks beyond himself and sees the objective truth of the matter at hand, then he will see that the reasoning is perfectly rational and not that hard to accept.  True religious freedom is not found in spite of the Church, but rather it is found in the Church.  Mankind is freed from the bonds of sin and can most properly be a Christian when he accepts all of the tenants of the Church.

Dr. Gutting and several of his colleagues at Notre Dame should just take a step back and evaluate why they are at a Catholic University.  Notre Dame should take a step back and evaluate why they allow a professor to teach at a Catholic University in a manner which is not in keeping with Ex Corde Ecclesiae.  If Dr. Gutting, any other professor or faculty member cannot abide by the Vatican document on university education, then he should be summarily dismissed.  The Catholic university system is not a haven for teaching dissent and "free thought," but rather it is a place where Catholic principles can and should be applied.

Ex Corde Ecclesiae no.32 states:

A Catholic University, as any University, is immersed in human society; as an extension of its service to the Church, and always within its proper competence, it is called on to become an ever more effective instrument of cultural progress for individuals as well as for society. Included among its research activities, therefore, will be a study of serious contemporary problems in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world's resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level. University research will seek to discover the roots and causes of the serious problems of our time, paying special attention to their ethical and religious dimensions.
If need be, a Catholic University must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.

Ex Corde Ecclesiae art 4 §3 goes on to say further:

In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching. In particular, Catholic theologians, aware that they fulfill a mandate received from the Church, are to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Truth isn't a subjective thought, but truth is expressed in the will of Holy Mother Church.  This is at direct odds with Dr. Gutting, an endowed chair at a Catholic university.  Where is the disconnect, Notre Dame?

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