It’s being built up as a “Clash of the Titans,” but ultimately is little more than an ineffectual “More of the Same, Only More So.” “It” is an upcoming debate under the heading “Argument of the Month™” between Michael Voris of Church Militant TV, and Mark Shea of the National Catholic Register. The event is sponsored by the “The Mens [sic] Forum for Catholic Apologetics,” and is described as “Mark Shea vs. Michael Voris: One Night. One Fight. Who’s Got It Right?”
Well . . . probably neither one, if you must know. We predict that both participants in this intellectual slugfest will miss the main point. This is the point that both Fulton J. Sheen (in God and Intelligence, 1925) and G. K. Chesterton (in St. Thomas Aquinas: The “Dumb Ox”, 1933) identified as the most serious problem facing people attempting to defend orthodox teaching and common sense of a “Church in Crisis.”
Pope Pius XII reiterated this point in Humani Generis (“Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine”), 1950, as has every subsequent pope. As Pius XII explained,
“Disagreement and error among men on moral and religious matters have always been a cause of profound sorrow to all good men, but above all to the true and loyal sons of the Church, especially today, when we see the principles of Christian culture being attacked on all sides.
“It is not surprising that such discord and error should always have existed outside the fold of Christ. For though, absolutely speaking, human reason by its own natural force and light can arrive at a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, Who by His providence watches over and governs the world, and also of the natural law, which the Creator has written in our hearts, still there are not a few obstacles to prevent reason from making efficient and fruitful use of its natural ability. The truths that have to do with God and the relations between God and men, completely surpass the sensible order and demand self-surrender and self-abnegation in order to be put into practice and to influence practical life. Now the human intellect, in gaining the knowledge of such truths is hampered both by the activity of the senses and the imagination, and by evil passions arising from original sin. Hence men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful.” (Humani Generis, §§ 1-2.)
Thus (if you believe the pope), the chief danger to Catholic doctrine today is moral relativism and the loss of the rational faculty. This has been instigated and supported by the shift from the Intellect to the Will as the basis of the natural law. This shifts the basis of knowing right from wrong from reason, to faith.
Within the philosophical framework of the Catholic Church — Aristotelian Thomism — right and wrong are not known by faith in something we accept as God’s Will (ultimately opinion), but by reason, that is, the intellect by means of which we participate in God’s Nature and discern the truth: knowledge. True, faith supports and illuminates reason, but truth is, in and of itself, capable of being discerned by “human reason by its own natural force and light.”
Both Mr. Shea and Mr. Voris, unfortunately, tend to take things that should be based on reason on faith instead. They also tend to go after anyone who dares to point out the flaw(s) in their thinking.
Both men appear to accept the modern(ist) notion that something is true because the Church says so. This means that, because their faith in the Church is strong (which no one denies), their private interpretation of God’s Will as stated by the Church must be true — a non sequitur, i.e., “it does not follow.” It also means that, if you can get the Church to change what she said, or if you can force your interpretation of a teaching, then you can change truth (not).
On the contrary. Nothing is true because the Church says so. Rather, the Church says so because something is true — something entirely different. This is knowledge, which is always true, while both Shea and Voris assert opinion, which may be true, but may as easily be false because they have not validated their position with logic or empirical evidence. The natural law is not derived from what the Church says in its social teachings, rather, the Church's social teachings are derived from the natural law.
Consequently, this “debate” will probably end up the same way the famous debate between G. K. Chesterton and G. B. Shaw did: nothing resolved, and not even agreeing to disagree.