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Fighting phantoms with phantoms

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 08, 2004

In his latest assault on Church teaching, that tireless dissident Richard McBrien analyzes an argument that was never made, using a theological approach that was never advanced, to attack enemies who do not exist.

Sound complicated? It is. The simple version is this: As always, Father McBrien is encouraging his readers to ignore the Vatican, and listen to him instead. But it ain't easy.

  • He introduces us to the theological approach known as "proportionalism," which was rejected by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor. Of course, the proportionalists said that what the Pope had condemned wasn't really what they taught. So if you believe them, there were no proportionalists.
  • McBrien, however, claims to have discovered at least one proportionalist, and you'll never guess who it is: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. To make this preposterous case, McBrien carefully analyzes the now-famous appendix attached to Ratzinger's "Statement of Principles" about Catholic politicians who support abortion. He does not pay any attention whatsoever to the text of that statement; he's only interested in twisting that appendix into a logical pretzel, deriving the laughable conclusions that a) Ratzinger is a proportionalist, and b) Ratzinger offers a justification for voting for pro-abortion politicians.
  • If you're followed him that far into the realm of the absurd, you're prepared for McBrien's polemical conclusion:

    Where does this leave those few bishops who have not only threatened Catholic politicians with exclusion from Communion but also any and all Catholics who would consider voting for such politicians?
    Interesting question. Now which bishops threatened to deny Communion to Catholics who voted for pro-abortion politicians? Can you name one? Probably not, because there aren't any.

To summarize: Father McBrien criticizes bishops who don't exist, on the basis of something Cardinal Ratzinger didn't say, as interpreted by theologians who don't really say who you think they said. All perfectly clear now?

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Show 10 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Oct. 09, 2004 10:37 PM ET USA

    Thank you Diogenes for UNtwisting Fr. McBrien's argumentation. Your comments & the first response by "suarez" cut to the chase re: his piece.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2004 8:43 PM ET USA

    Years ago i saw the good Father on TV wearing a shirt and a tie. I wondered why he was in hiding! Now i know; he is not a priest in our Catholic Church!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2004 5:21 PM ET USA

    So is what he is trying to say, we must vote for the candidate in least favor of intrinsicly evil acts? No need to reason in circumstances.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2004 1:43 PM ET USA

    Enough is enough ! Freeze-dry McBrien ! Give the frozen critter to the Chi-Coms.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Oct. 08, 2004 1:01 PM ET USA

    Chesterton: "A madman is not someone who lost his reason; a madman is someone who has lost everything except his reason."

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2004 12:00 PM ET USA

    I agree with Father V. that Fr. McBrien may have and may still lead many Catholics astray from his statements. My prayer is that those confused or lead astray by Fr. McBrien will find correction and that Fr. McBrien will see his error before his death and seek forgiveness.

  • Posted by: Lucius - Oct. 08, 2004 10:54 AM ET USA

    Father McBrien should have been censured years ago and deprived of any semblance of credibility that he is a Catholic theologian or Catholic believer. The man is like a petulant teenager and has never grown up. He needs prayers.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2004 10:41 AM ET USA

    What G.K. Chesterton said of the world could be said of Fr. McBrien: "The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite." Quite.

  • Posted by: Brad - Oct. 08, 2004 10:15 AM ET USA

    This is classic dissident theology that smokes the untrained. The "intellectual" spin goes to work on a minute portion of a well-regarded orthodox thinker. It bobs and weaves all the way to the conclusion the dissident desires. Their favorite subject is St. John Newman, where they pick sentences of an introduction of one of his obscure works. If it is clear as mud when they finish, you know you've found someone that puts reason over faith and can't even explain himself, let alone theology.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2004 10:14 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Ratzinger did not say there are proportionate reasons that justify abortion, rather there may be proportionate reasons for voting for a politician who supports, to some extent, abortion (eg. if the other candidate more aggressively promoted abortion). Intentionally performing, supporting, or promoting abortion is intrisically evil. Proportionality applies only to acts which are not intrinsically evil. There are not now proportionate reasons to vote for a proabortion candidate.

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