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Anti-Catholic Catholic journalism: Today's false prophets

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | May 10, 2016

The spiritual stupidity of those who profess to be learned can often be explained by a personal antipathy to Christ, God or the Catholic Church. For example, not long ago a music professor explained to his class that the Catholic Church used to burn inventive musicians at the stake for using minor chords. Further back, when I was a college freshman, the zoology textbook we used reported the number of different animals in the world and turned this into an argument against the existence of God. Apparently it would strain even Divine power to create so many different species.

The famous books of the new atheists in our time show a similar lack of logical, historical, philosophical and theological sophistication. But for avowed secularists, such vacuity is commonplace. It is more worthy of comment when secularized Catholics betray the same laughable stupidity. One of our readers recently sent me two prime examples.

Sweeping away the rule of Faith

On April 8th, James Carroll published a piece in The New Yorker entitled “The New Morality of Pope Francis”, in which he very predictably argues that what the Pope has done in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia is to give the so-called “pastoral solution” the blessing of the Magisterium. This was the solution of priests who dissented from the Church's condemnation of artificial contraception. It was based on the advice to couples to decide whether contraception was moral in their own situation, without making any effort to help them form their consciences. Now, says Carroll, the pastoral solution is out of the closet.

In making this argument, of course, Carroll blithely blames Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae for increasing the confusion over sexual morality, which grew tremendously in the 1960s. But the logic of this statement depends on the premise that the Church's teaching on the immorality of contraception is false; it is like blaming the Magisterium for confusion on the part of those who do not believe in the Assumption. Sadly, this illogical viewpoint colors all of history and theology for James Carroll.

Indeed, Carroll much prefers feeling vindicated by Pope Francis for his own use of the pastoral solution as a young priest. But while the result of Amoris Laetitia could well be a further erosion of the “tidy moralism of the pulpit” (Carroll’s words), Carroll ignores completely Pope Francis’ plain statement that he does not want this to be the case:

When a responsible and tactful person, who does not presume to put his or her own desires ahead of the common good of the Church, meets with a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him, there can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard. [#300]

Of course Carroll has never shown any tendency to subordinate his own desires to the common good of the Church, nor of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him; in fact he rejoices in what he sees as the Magisterium’s embrace of a double standard only because he believes this eliminates Catholic moral standards altogether. Carroll, after all, left the priesthood in 1974 to become a writer. Along with ex-Catholics generally, ex-priests are very naturally among the Church’s fiercest and least logical critics. One must be attentive to signs that they are driven by an intense psychological need to continuously justify their own bad decisions.

Confusion through contraception

Just as Carroll traces his account of the victory of the pastoral solution through contraception, we find that the same malevolent preoccupation had already colored a very similar piece on Pope Francis’ earlier encyclical on the environment. Authored by Jamie Manson and entitled “Laudato Si’ should have lifted the ban on contraception”, this article appeared nearly a year ago in the National Catholic Reporter (a publication which retains the Catholic name despite the fact that more than one bishop has told its owners not to use it).

Manson’s argument is that the Pope was wrong to obscure the real problem of overpopulation by useless blather about the need for the redistribution of food. She asserts that overpopulation is acute precisely in those regions in which the poor have little access to contraception. Therefore, if Pope Francis were really concerned about the environment he should have rescinded the Church’s moral prohibition of contraception. Manson explains that there are good grounds for this change in that the majority of the special commission which advised Pope Paul VI on this question—including the majority of the bishops involved—were in favor of overturning the Church’s ban.

But this is no argument at all; or perhaps we could call it the hormonal adolescent argument par excellence (in fact one could trace exactly this sort of sexual motivation through all such writings, and it would make a fine doctoral dissertation). Either way, since the teaching authority of the Church is exercised only by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in union with him, this is like saying that the groundwork for changing a scientific law has been laid by all those scientists who were wrong. But secularized Catholics—even those who make a living from their in-church advocacy against Catholic faith and morals (once again feeding off the sexual fears and desires of modern man)—have never been accused of understanding either Revelation or logic.

For this reason, one can only laugh (or weep) and call to mind a famous ancient saying that I will now quote:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren. [Lk 22:31-32]

God’s judgment

Indeed, Scripture has a way of putting things in perspective—that is, in God’s perspective—more quickly than any words of mine ever could. And since I am currently reading the book of the prophet Ezekiel, I will indulge in three more of these bracing ancient sayings.

First such writers, such preachers and such confessors are false prophets:

My hand will be against the prophets who see delusive visions and who give lying divinations;… Because, yes, because they have misled my people, saying ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace; and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets daub it with whitewash; say to those who daub it with whitewash that it shall fall! [Ez 13:8-11]

Second, they have utterly failed in their vocations:

Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! …The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought…. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. [Ez 34:2-6]

Third, they are personally guilty for the lost souls they failed to warn:

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. [Ez 33:7-8]

In plain truth, there is little point in refuting these authors point by point. Their conclusions are predetermined by their initial assumptions, and their assumptions come from their marked preference for the ways of the world over against the ways of God. In such cases, the best course is always to let God have the final word.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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