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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