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A money quote on dissent

I’ve been backed up on my blog reading, as evidenced by the fact I’m linking to a post by Fr. Powell OP from last week.  I think it’s perhaps the best concise reading of the situation of dissent in the Church today that I have read yet.  I’ll include it here, but if you don’t already read his blog, you should!

5).  You and your fans seem to loathe any kind of dissent from Church teaching.  Is there no place in the Church for good faith disagreement?

Of course there is!  You couldn’t put Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas, and Bonaventure in same room and not expect some disagreement.  Catholic orthodoxy is incredibly generous and incredibly broad.  Dissent doesn’t mean disagreement.  Dissent is a public declaration that the Church has incorrectly taught a significant tenet of the faith.  IOW, the Church has taught an error.  Dissenters often confuse the unwillingness of the Church to accept their views with an unwillingness on the part of the Church to listen to their views.  The sharpest weapon of the dissenters is “process.”  Let’s keep this question open in a dialogue until all views are heard.  The thrust of this tactic sounds reasonable until you realize that its real purpose is to keep us all talking until everyone agrees with the dissenter.  Imagine for a moment that the Church decided to ordain women.  Do you think that supporters of women’s ordination would agree to keep the question in dialogue?  Of course not.  They would declare the question settled and anyone who suggested that we revisit the issue would be labeled a dissenter!  You already see this sort of thing happening with Church teaching on social justice issues.  It’s important to distinguish between doubt and dissent.  There are a few Church teachings that I doubt.  My assumption however is that I simply don’t understand the teachings.  I assent to them as conclusions by holding my doubts in suspension.  Dissenters tend to do the exact opposite.  They assume that b/c they have a doubt about a teaching that they are free to reject that teaching.  Cardinal Newman famously noted that a thousand doubts do not make a single dissent.  Basically, don’t assume that b/c you are smart that you are smarter than 2,000 years of Church teaching!

That last part is what finally cracked the nut shell of my brain.  Humility comes hard to those who have a gift in any form and know it.  The beginning of the end of my ability to believe I was smarter than the Church was Evangelium Vitae.  It’s been a roller-coaster ride of intellectual humility ever since.

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