stifling debate

By Diogenes (articles - email) | Jul 27, 2008

In case you missed it, this weekend marks an important anniversary: Forty years ago, Richard McBrien dissented from Humanae Vitae.

Oh sure, sure; it's the 40th anniversary of the encyclical, too. But the important thing is not what the Pope says; it's what Richard McBrien thinks of what the Pope says.

This attitude comes through clearly in McBrien's latest column, syndicated in diocesan newspapers. McBrien quotes extensively from his own previous columns on Humanae Vitae (on the 15th anniversary, the 25th, etc.), devoting 7 paragraphs to the exegesis of his own prose. From the encyclical itself he quotes two sentence fragments totaling 6 words.

Not that McBrien relies entirely on his own judgment. He manages to squeeze in citations of four other people: all critics of Humanae Vitae.

The central thrust of the column is that we should have more public debate about Humanae Vitae. McBrien helpfully reminds us that he said as much on the 25th anniversary. "Unfortunately, that debate was never allowed to mature in the next pontificate..."

And things just got worse...

In an article in America magazine (July 17, 1993), Jesuit Richard McCormick wrote that the prohibition of any serious discussion of the encyclical had led to "a debilitating malaise that has undermined the credibility of the magisterium in other areas."

Great idea: a serious discussion, a real debate. Just one thing: It won't be easy to have a real debate until there's room in the newspaper columns for someone other than Father McBrien and his allies.

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