Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Philosophical Mistakes Revisited


We’ve been getting a lot of commentary on our article on Homiletic and Pastoral Review, “Pope Francis and the Just Third Way.”  The basic issue under discussion seems to be not that our understanding of Catholic social teaching is flawed, but that the whole idea that a religion has a social teaching is flawed.  We’re basically arguing not about what the Catholic Church teaches, but whether it should be teaching it.

See?  Somebody thinks we done good. . .
That’s kind of out of our bailiwick.  As an interfaith group, CESJ takes no stand on any religion’s faith-based teachings, and are only concerned with its social teachings as they are, not what people think they should be.  That’s why we don’t take a position on whether women can or should be Catholic priests, why the pope wears white and his teaching office is considered infallible in matters of faith and morals, that God is triune and has a long white beard, or anything else of that nature.

It’s not our concern.  Nor is it our concern that some people feel strongly — very strongly — that the Catholic Church should confine itself to purely spiritual (i.e., faith-based) matters, and leave everything else alone.  It doesn’t.  We deal with what we think the Catholic Church is doing, not what Bert ’n Ernie, The New York Times, or the bartender down at Sweeny’s thinks the Catholic Church should be doing.  You might save a lot of time and trouble arguing with the official representatives of the Catholic Church, not with us, on those issues.

Some guy in white and Mortimer Adler.
That being said, there is a clear indication of a serious problem in our society with how people have a great difficulty distinguishing between fundamental principles, and applications of those principles.  This is an aspect of what Mortimer J. Adler identified as one of the “Ten Philosophical Mistakes” of the modern age.

This is aggravated by what the late Dr. Ralph McInerny claimed is the single greatest danger to the Church today: fideism, or shifting from reason to faith as the foundation, a position directly contrary to what the Church has always taught. Faith without reason is mere opinion (and not sound opinion, at that), while reason without faith is sterile.

The problem of fideism in the Catholic Church manifests in two ways, modernism (new things in new ways) and traditionalism (old things in old ways), both opposed to orthodoxy (“Old things, but in a new way” — Benedict XV . . . yes, there was a Benedict XV, just as there was a John Paul I).

At least it can be said of traditionalism that there remains the core of truth, something that modernism rejects.  The problem is that there are few “pure” traditionalists or even orthodox. By shifting from reason to faith, people pick and choose not only what doctrines to accept, but how to accept them . . . which can itself lead to error — and rejection of things like the Just Third Way that, while it has nothing to do with the faith-based teachings of the Catholic Church, gets caught up in things that both traditionalists and modernists and a host of people in-between think are based on faith instead of reason.

The bottom line?  Do yourself a favor, and read the article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, not what people are saying it says.  It’s so much easier to read what we actually wrote, rather than what somebody thinks we wrote.

#30#

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