Catholics Can Disagree

Just something I’ve been thinking about.

Catholics are often accused of having the Church “think for them”, but the more I’ve learned about Catholicism the more I’ve realized that there is, in fact, a LOT of room for disagreement.

Let’s take the afterlife. Most Catholics know that Purgatory is a doctrine. Few people actually realize how broad the doctrine is. The Eastern Catholic Church is forgotten a lot, and they would disagree a LOT with Catholics on what, exactly, being in Purgatory actually means. Going off of memory, they conceive of it as something like a journey to Heaven, aided by the prayers of the faithful, where one undergoes a process where they become more like God before they can reach Heaven. As Article V of the Treaty of Brest states, “We shall not debate about purgatory…”. All Catholics are required to believe are two things: 1) There is a place of transition/transformation for those en-route to Heaven, and 2) prayer is efficacious for the dead who are in this state. Otherwise, what goes on is fair game for disagreement.

The death penalty is another good example. Catholics DO have to believe that the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral, but that doesn’t mean that Catholics can’t have substantial disagreement about how often it should be allowed. The Catechism’s view, endorsed by Saint John Paul II, basically makes the death penalty so rare that it’s virtually impossible to justify. Others, like me, think that it’s not being used often enough (in the States at least).

And lying is another one. Natural law theorists (like me) claim that lying is always and every time wrong. Certain Catholics sometimes make the distinction that you can lie to people not “owed” the truth. This disagreement doesn’t constitute heresy. That doesn’t mean one side isn’t wrong – just that neither side is heretical.

The point here is that the claim that Catholics are mindless drones is definitely an incorrect one, and in fact disagreement can be perfectly valid. It’s understandable why people don’t realize that, but there you go.

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25 Responses to Catholics Can Disagree

  1. Zippy says:

    Two of the biggest gripes you’ll encounter about the Catholic Church is that the Church is always telling folks what to think about something or other and that the Church hasn’t told folks in enough detail what to think about something else.

  2. Ilíon says:

    Of course, Catholics (and sometimes the very same individuals) like to:
    1) condemn “fundamentalists” as ignorant sheep who much be told by their pastor what to think;
    2) express a certain schadenfreude-ish pity for those poor, unguided/misguided “fundamentalists”, who don’t have the Mysterium of The One True Bureaucracy to tell them what to think.

    And, unless my memory has gone badly awry, Mr Zippy is one of them.

    • Sure, some Catholics. Some Protestants are jerks too. So?

      • Ilíon says:

        Who said anything about jerks?

        I care about intellectual honesty — which includes intellectual consistency.

      • All I’m doing is pointing out that a lot of people don’t realize how much Catholics are allowed to disagree on even important issues. I’m not sure how this somehow got you mad that some Catholics are intellectually dishonest.

      • Ilíon says:

        Mad? Are you a girl?

        I’m pointing out that if it’s an invalid move (by ‘atheists’ and possibly some tribal Protestants) to condemn Catholics as being mindless sheep, then it’s an equally invalid move by (some tribal) Catholics to condemn Protestants as being mindless sheep — AND, that those Catholics who don’t do this themselves, and who object when it’s directed their way, have a moral and rational obligation to object when their fellow Catholics are spouting off their false calumnies against Protestants.

      • Are you a girl?

        Whatever.

        I’m pointing out that if it’s an invalid move (by ‘atheists’ and possibly some tribal Protestants) to condemn Catholics as being mindless sheep, then it’s an equally invalid move by (some tribal) Catholics to condemn Protestants as being mindless sheep — AND, that those Catholics who don’t do this themselves, and who object when it’s directed their way, have a moral and rational obligation to object when their fellow Catholics are spouting off their false calumnies against Protestants.

        Okay.

      • Ilíon says:

        Whatever.

        So, you are? So, the next time you’re expressing shock-and-exaspiration at the way your female (and/or feminized male) classmate are “arguing” (i.e. emoting), is my proper response to be “Whatever”?

      • Crude says:

        Ilion, I see only one bitch in this conversation, and it’s not Malcolm.

      • Crude says:

        Actually, you know what? That’s a great example of my making a mistake. Even with you, Ilion.

        You have a grudge with someone? With Zippy? Next time, consider pleading your case. Point out the error, if it really is all that important to you that Malcolm be aware of it and express his view. You’re barreling in here obnoxiously about an issue Malcolm himself may well be altogether ignorant of, getting pointlessly snippy and sarcastic – not to mention, tribal. With a guy who you agree with more often than not.

        I’m yelling at the wind here, but as a guy who makes this same mistake at times, let me tell you – you should really consider having a more careful eye on your approach, your point, and whether you could more effectively reason with people if you wouldn’t dive for snark so fast, or get worked up over what’s ultimately petty.

      • By the way – I did a lot more than express “shock and exasperation”, I pointed out that such people were, in fact wrong, and that arguments made from emotion are bad arguments. The thing is, I didn’t make an argument here.

    • Ilíon says:

      Malcom,
      I see two options for you right now —

      1) choose to recognize that your mind has been “colonized” by all the leftism/feminism in which you (like all of us) have been marinated your whole life … and consciously work to free yourself of it;
      2) choose to be cocooned by this worm who whispers the comforting lies that (most) women and all feminized men love, “There is nothing in you to correct … it’s all that meanie!”

      • Frankly? I have no idea what you’re going on about. I came on here making the fairly uncontroversial claim “Yep, people sometimes don’t realize how much Catholics can disagree”. I didn’t single out Protestants. In fact, I even pointed out that the reason people would think that is understandable You came in here and started insulting Catholics and calling out other commenters. I said (boiling it down to essentials), “Okay, yeah, some Catholics are like you said. So? Nobody is denying that.” Because nobody IS denying that. Then you called me a girl or something

        Of course I’ve been taken in by feminism and whatnot and am trying to break out of that whole intellectual framework. I’ve actually said as much almost word for word in the past, if I remember correctly. But this exchange has nothing to do with that.

        So, you are?

        Or perhaps you can come to the different conclusion that I’m pointing out that I don’t particularly care if you insult me. “What are you, a girl?” is the feminine comment here, not pointing out that what you’re writing isn’t particularly relevant. What do you want me to admit? That Catholics can be intellectually dishonest? Sure. So?

      • Crude says:

        Malcolm,

        Of course I’ve been taken in by feminism and whatnot and am trying to break out of that whole intellectual framework. I’ve actually said as much almost word for word in the past, if I remember correctly. But this exchange has nothing to do with that.

        Pardon, but do you have a post anywhere about this? This is news to me, and I would be extremely appreciative to you describing how you were ‘taken in’ initially. What communicated it to you? Where did it happen? Who did what?

        Just a request.

      • This was a throwaway comment in the context of an old conversation. There was nothing particularly dramatic. It was just a matter of living in modern culture.

      • Crude says:

        No, I didn’t think it was dramatic. See, I’ve never gotten bitten by whatever the bug is that makes 20-something men yammer about “sexism, you guys!” and so on. I thought maybe you knew where the influences were coming from. If it’s too vague to summarize, that’s fine.

        Just my looking for a helpful insight, nothing more. Ignore it if it’s not worth writing about from your view.

  3. Crude says:

    Not much to say other than ‘yep’ and ‘it’s underappreciated’.

    Of course, the key is we can’t agree on a tiny selection of issues of the Utmost Importance.

  4. Itinérante says:

    I do agree that they can disagree but do you agree that when they disagree and accepted they are accepted as “the other view” as in the “view that is not the original true one but we will tolerate that”? Take an Eastern Catholic views, for example: Assumption vs Dormition of the Mother of God: while Domrmiton was first, East Catholics will sound as: the ones who disobey the basic dogma of the Assumption but we accept and respect this, and not as: we (Roman Catholics) formed a new rule that they disagreed on but accepted and respected us. I hope I am able to make sense to you here.

    • I get what you mean. But then, I live in a Rome-centric world right now (to be fair, most Catholics do). I have no idea what the Eastern Catholics think of us.

      Actually, I DO have some idea – reading some of the forums the impression I get is that they think the Vatican is leaving them out for the wolves, and it’s not an unfair criticism. I have a LOT of sympathy for Eastern Catholics and their theology. Palamism, for example, makes a lot of sense to me.

      But anyway, yeah, that’s a subtle idea I see sometimes, and an incorrect one.

      • Itinérante says:

        I think the last visit Pope Benedict did to the Middle East made a huge difference to how Eastern think about the Pope and Rome in a good way even if the majority of views remain as “this tiny Church with the discordant voice”. But you are absolutely right setting this subtility aside, we do think and form ideas and sometimes even disagree!

  5. jwds says:

    This is true. It is also true, isn’t it, that Roman Catholics do in fact disagree about even some of those things they aren’t allowed to disagree about. The fact that many disagree with even central dogmas of the church (e.g., the authority of the pope) means that major disagreement does not demonstrate that the system itself is faulty.

    Yet a common anti-Protestant charge is that Protestantism leads to disunity, because look at all the disagreements among Protestants. While Roman Catholicism remains institutionally united, though, there is major disagreement among them, often on very central issues.

    • Crude says:

      Yet a common anti-Protestant charge is that Protestantism leads to disunity, because look at all the disagreements among Protestants. While Roman Catholicism remains institutionally united, though, there is major disagreement among them, often on very central issues.

      It’s going to be pretty easy to connect the sort of Catholics you’re talking about with Protestant influence. Obviously Catholics as individuals aren’t immune to such things, or there never would have been any Protestants to begin with.

      The chharge isn’t that what leads to disunity isn’t membership in a Protestant church, but a pivotal assumption behind Protestant thought.

    • Ilíon says:

      Yet a common anti-Protestant charge is that Protestantism leads to disunity, because look at all the disagreements among Protestants. While Roman Catholicism remains institutionally united, though, there is major disagreement among them, often on very central issues

      Exactly. Bureaucratic unity has nothing to do with unity in the Body of Christ.

  6. Well, with all of the sniping here I’m amused to report that my hourly stats are apparently booming (for me anyway). Conflict has a way of doing that, I guess.

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