Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

Order 'Evolution for the Catholic Student' - Click on the image above

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Critiquing the Liberal Critique

Critiquing the Liberal Critique

          One of the more popular martyrs among liberal Catholics right now is Professor Margaret Foley, whose book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, received a notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that it contains erroneous propositions, the dissemination of which risks grave harm to the faithful.  What I have found interesting is the response published by some of those who take offense at the CDF’s assessment.
          In perusing some of the liberal response, one will find the complaint that Professor Foley’s work has a lot of depth and a lot to say, most of which was never commented on by the CDF.  The Congregation only focused on condemning the areas that were not in line with orthodox Catholic teaching.
          I find this complaint rather puzzling.  First of all, everyone should understand that the purpose of the CDF is to inform Catholics of a work’s adherence to Catholic teaching (or lack thereof).  It is not the Roger Ebert of Catholic literature.  It is not a book reviewing company.  The purpose of the CDF is not to judge writing style, to comment on every point an author makes, or to rate a work from one to five stars.
          Its purpose with regard to works like Just Love is simply to let Catholics know if the work is trustworthy from the perspective of Catholic teaching.  In the case of the work in question, it is not.  Readers can decide whether they like it; but they need to know that if their goal is to deepen their understanding of Christ’s teachings, this work is perilous.
          The other complaint I’ve read recently is that the Church is unwilling to change her teachings on sexual morality.  This, to me, is the more troubling complaint because it betrays a severe lack of faith.
          If the Church should be expected to get with the times on sexual matters, then she is not what she claims to be and Christ is not what He claims to be.  Sexuality was given to us by God, and the proper use of it, for our perfection and for His Glory, is dictated by the nature that God gave it.  This, of course, can not change with changing times.  And if the Church is the guardian of the Faith, she can not “get with the times” either.
          Of course, liberal Catholic critics don’t often put it in those terms (though ultimately that’s what it comes down to).  The common refrain is that Church teaching should be shaped, at least to a degree, by the “lived experience of the faithful.” 
          The main problem with that, of course, is that even the most faithful among the faithful is not God.  If we see something differently than God does, one thing we can be sure of is that we are wrong.  Scripture tells us that what man considers wisdom is foolishness to God.
          Another sad fact is that the lived experience of the faithful is often heavily marked by sin.  We are a fallen people living in a fallen world.  As Christians, we are called to rise above our brokenness and find strength in God.  We can not do that by demanding that God adjust His standards to our fallen lived experience.  Christ, the sinless God-man, did not conform to the standards of His age; He challenged them.  He did not create a spiritual justification for sin.  He took on sin, He destroyed sin, He condemned sin, and He told us to sin no more.
          What we all have to remember is that “if the world hated [Christ], it will hate [us].”  Very well.  And the greatest enemy we are going to be called to conquer is ourselves, our lower nature, the old Adam, so that we can put on Christ.  That is true martyrdom.  Professor Foley is not yet a martyr, but if she and her supporters would take heed of the warning of the CDF, perhaps they could get about the Christian business of becoming one.

Please note: It is not my purpose to judge the motives of Professor Foley or even those who have been so critical of the CDF.  My point is that her work is wrong, and that their position is coming from a perspective that should not be confused as Catholic.