Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Red Flag We Are Trained to Ignore

What are we to make of it when a priest, who has long been a darling of the “progressive” left on account of his public dissent from the teachings of the Catholic faith — and particularly the teachings of the Catholic faith on sex — is exposed as a sexual deviant?

For decades, we have been conditioned to buy into the false dichotomy between a man’s private life and his public persona.  A quarter of a century ago, we were told — all the way through to his impeachment — that Bill Clinton’s sexcapades had nothing whatsoever to do with his ability to run the country.  Similarly, Catholic liberals have for many years given us to understand that you can have heterodoxy alongside holiness — and that, in fact, heterodoxy may even be an outstanding sign of holiness, since it implies The Courage to Take On The Establishment, which is invariably The Enemy in the Struggle to Do the Right Thing.

And so we are lulled into not asking key questions and drawing key conclusions about the left’s favorite “progressive” sons in the hierarchy, such as: why does someone within the Church attack the Church’s teachings on sexual matters?  Because these teachings are out of step with our enlightened notions of “fairness” and “equality”?  Because they might give pain to some hypothetical third parties?  Because they aren’t nuanced enough?  But real life is a concrete thing, a wrecking ball too weighty for our towering yet spindly edifices of sophistry to withstand; and people’s motivations are usually quite uncomplicated, and really not so noble.  After all, who really has time or energy to take on causes without some sort of personal investment?  The most obvious and straightforward answer to the question of why is that the dissenter probably has a favorite sin he is trying to hold onto.  To which the heterodox reply will be that (a) the person drawing such a conclusion is “uncharitable” for arriving at a “rash judgment”; and (b) in any case it doesn’t matter whether the dissenter has a dog in the fight, since his motivations in no way detract from the correctness of his positions.

But in fact, the dissenter’s motivations are directly relevant to his objectivity, and therefore to his credibility.  This is why lawyers get to cross-examine witnesses on their motives for testifying.  Credibility matters a great deal in a court of law, and in public discourse.  Sometimes, credibility is the only asset an advocate has to trade on.  It is precisely in a bid to preserve the credibility of a dissenter that inquiries into his motives are suppressed; besides which, the very people who want to engage in such suppression would be the first to raise suspicions about the motivations of someone who supports Catholic doctrine.

There has to be something compelling, not merely theoretical, that drives Catholics — lay and clerical — to wage war on the doctrines of Christ’s Church.  One very distinct possibility is that they are no longer serving Christ (if indeed they ever did serve Him) but the idol that is their pet vice.  Such is their devotion to it that the titanic efforts needed to conform society to their tastes in order to salve their consciences are as nothing compared to the agony of even willing to conform their own selves to Truth.

The hard, cold reality of life is that we cannot throw out the Ten Commandments without also forfeiting the protection they afford.  After all, if we decide that there’s nothing wrong with people thinking the moral law is stupid, then we shouldn’t be surprised when those same people decline to follow it, and when they prey on others in order to feed the appetites that that law does not restrain.  If a person publicly proclaims the stupidity of the moral law, isn’t it foolish to assume that he must be privately following what he publicly derides?  Then why should we be surprised to find a priest who both publicly dissents from the teachings he has been charged to pass on and lives contrary to those same teachings?  A priest who publicly repudiates Catholic doctrines is already unfaithful in virtue of that very fact since, by consenting to receive Holy Orders, he has consented to bearing the burden of preaching those very doctrines.  And once he is unfaithful in one thing, it is easier for him to be unfaithful in other things, which paves the way for unfaithfulness in more and more things.  Sin leads to more sin.

The lesson here would seem to be twofold.  First, heterodoxy is not the mark of a free and tolerant society, but a huge red flag that we have all been trained to ignore.  Second, in case the authority of the Catholic Church to speak on behalf of Christ is in any doubt, the fruit of dissent from orthodoxy in the life of the dissenter bears strongly on the correctness of his dissenting views.  You can’t have holiness without orthodoxy.  If God is Truth, then the pursuit of something other than Truth must be the pursuit of something other than God.  But it is our business as Catholics to pursue God, and the business of our shepherds to lead us rightly in that pursuit.  If a shepherd is pursuing something other than God, then where must he be leading his sheep?  What must he be doing to his sheep while he leads them astray?  And what is to become of bishops who do not pay attention to what their priests are pursuing?


  1. An excellent article. Not only do I completely agree with your line of thinking, the piece is both succinctly and beautifully written. Thank you!