Both-And

We know that even an environmentally conscious country club member may not park a Prius on the golf course.  Nonetheless, assuming she did, what would be a sensible response to the club's objection (multiple answers may apply):  (a) move the car, (b) leave the car but expect to be thrown out of the club, or (c) call the New York Times and complain about "The Man"?

If you answered (a) and (b), you are correct.  The sensible choices are to move the car or find another country club.  But that doesn't mean that no one out there will mark (c).

In reference to Sister Simone Campbell, director of a self-described "progressive voice within the Catholic community," the New York Times opened online with an unlikely claim:

Catholics across the country are stunned and outraged by the Vatican's attempt to threaten the women who have been the backbone of this church for centuries. ... [T]hey stand in solidarity with the sisters and their good works among the poor and marginalized.

The reportedly harassed sister joined in:

[I]t's quite puzzling that our work with the poor, which Jesus told us to do in the gospels, would be the source of such a criticism.

Apparently and surprisingly, neither the NYT nor Campbell is familiar with Catholic Social Doctrine ("CSD").  CSD is freely available and recommended reading, particularly for someone writing or basing a life on the topic.

These Dan-Brownian distortions of the Vatican belie an ignorance of centuries of Catholic devotion to the common good, universal destination of goods, solidarity, and subsidiarity.  CSD in general, and Pope Benedict's Caritas in Veritate in particular, are great roadmaps for charity, a virtuous life, corporate responsibility, and environmental stewardship.  Recall that the Vatican is quite pleased with other social activists, including Blessed Mother Teresa, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and St. Vincent de Paul.

A little research reveals that Sister Campbell's work with the poor is not, after all, what has the Vatican bothered.  What has the Vatican bothered is that Campbell and members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious ("LCWR") have bent or broken liturgical norms, embraced relativism, and equivocated on the right to life -- all of which involve absolute standards of Catholicism. 

About the morality of abortion, Sr. Campbell recently responded, "That's beyond my pay grade.  I don't know."  And that's odd, because so many Catholics do know.

It is unfortunately common to create issues and false choices where real issues and choices don't exist.  These false choices, now called straw-man arguments, used to be known as deceit.  In its "Vatican's attempt to threaten the women ... and their good works among the poor" and her "that our work with the poor ... would be a source of such criticism," the NYT and Campbell have created straw men. 

They have succumbed to the temptation of "Either-Or" deceit -- either be liberal or be anti-social justice; either be pro-social justice or be pro-life.  This is a low road, but an unfortunately common one for tacticians who view the pursuit of autonomous freedom as a means-justifying end in itself.

Increasingly, straw men are used to attack objective standards and those who would apply them.  Overeager victims employ false choices because being answerable is unacceptable; despite the fact that freedom devoid of humble responsibility is a disaster:

Freedom that is disconnected from the good is simply license. ...  For who is more free - the alcoholic who avoids all bars or the one who frequents them each week? ... Freedom, it is important to remember, is a means to reach our final goal; it is not the goal itself.  The person who worships at the altar of freedom ultimately engages in self-worship and lives in slavery to his passions and desires. ... So what is freedom's true goal?  Paradoxically, it is self surrender.i

The Latin root of the word "passion" means to endure or suffer.  To love is to willfully empty yourself, and self-emptying love resides both in a nun's vows and in the courage to welcome an unintended pregnancy.  On the contrary, selfism resides in the suggestion of a Vatican war on social justice. 

The Catholic, truly nuanced, and lovingly responsible approach is "Both-And" -- as in let's pursue both social justice and protect the sanctity of life (cue choirs of angels singing, "Duh").  Both-And is the high road.

Consider, for example, CSD's economic principles.  CSD both asks that all things "be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity" and finds the "principle of private ownership as being pre-eminently in conformity with human nature."

This apparent contradiction, of both charitable sharing and private property, can be resolved not with envious materialism and its false choice of win-lose, but rather by a virtuous embrace of the common good based in love.  Only then can care for the truly needy, dignity of work, and private profits be reconciled and achieved.  After all, both the self and others are part of the common good.  Both-And.

To pit liberal-style social justice against being pro-life is not just to posit a false choice (what is the pro-life cause if not the ultimate civil rights movement?); it is to establish a false equivalence between an absolute truth and a valid debate about means to achieve economic well-being.  It is to willfully forget that all other rights are contingent on the right to life.  Wisconsin Bishop Morlino recently clarified these points:

Some of the most fundamental issues for the formation of a Catholic conscience are ... sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and a right to private property. 

Violations of the above involve intrinsic evil ... which cannot be justified by any circumstances whatsoever. ... However, a conscience well-formed ... must also make choices where intrinsic evil is not involved. How best to care for the poor is probably the finest current example of this, though another would be how best to create jobs at a time when so many are suffering from the ravages of unemployment.

With straw men, Sr. Campbell has made herself the star of her very own un-Catholic movie, and the LWCR sisters have chosen a low road of non-distinction, cultural conformity, and double-knit pantsuits -- resulting in disappearing vocations.  George Weigel elaborates:

[T]here is very little in the Creed and the Catechism of the Catholic Church that is not up for grabs in the LCWR's world: the Trinity; the divinity of Christ; the sacraments; the constitution of the Church as episcopally ordered and governed; the very idea of "doctrine"; the notion of moral absolutes; the nature of marriage; the inalienability of the right to life - Catholic teaching on all of these is not infrequently regarded in the LCWR ... as impossibly old hat because of that teaching's alleged linkage to "patriarchy."

Social justice, the right to life, Christ's divinity, apostolic succession, and holy sacraments coexist in the true world of Both-And.  Sr. Campbell knew this when she took her vow of obedience.  Back then, the choice of either obedience or social justice would have seemed as ridiculous as the choice of golf course etiquette or environmental stewardship.  And no, today's sisters may not "evolve" beyond obedience.

Blessed Mother Teresa embraced apostolic succession, cared for the world's destitute, and asked, "If we allow a mother to kill her own child, how can we tell people not to kill each other?"  Mother Teresa knew that there is no false choice among obedience, truth, and love. 

Sr. Campbell should recall that her Sisters of Social Service embrace Benedictine values.  The prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict begins:

[W]illingly receive and faithfully comply with the admonition of thy loving father, that thou mayest return by the labor of obedience to Him from Whom thou hast departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To thee, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever thou art, who, renouncing thy own will, takest up the most powerful and brilliant armor of obedience in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true King.

Both-And affirms absolute truth and integrates lives around it, through self-emptying love of both God and neighbor (in or ex utero).  Self-giving love of the good should result in both the LCWR's fulfillment of social justice and a return to orthodoxy -- a win-win, and good non-conformity.  Within this framework of obedience, truth, and love, LWCR can best fulfill its mission in good Catholic faith.

 


iHoliness for Everyone, Eric Sammons, 2012, pp 66-69.

 

We know that even an environmentally conscious country club member may not park a Prius on the golf course.  Nonetheless, assuming she did, what would be a sensible response to the club's objection (multiple answers may apply):  (a) move the car, (b) leave the car but expect to be thrown out of the club, or (c) call the New York Times and complain about "The Man"?

If you answered (a) and (b), you are correct.  The sensible choices are to move the car or find another country club.  But that doesn't mean that no one out there will mark (c).

In reference to Sister Simone Campbell, director of a self-described "progressive voice within the Catholic community," the New York Times opened online with an unlikely claim:

Catholics across the country are stunned and outraged by the Vatican's attempt to threaten the women who have been the backbone of this church for centuries. ... [T]hey stand in solidarity with the sisters and their good works among the poor and marginalized.

The reportedly harassed sister joined in:

[I]t's quite puzzling that our work with the poor, which Jesus told us to do in the gospels, would be the source of such a criticism.

Apparently and surprisingly, neither the NYT nor Campbell is familiar with Catholic Social Doctrine ("CSD").  CSD is freely available and recommended reading, particularly for someone writing or basing a life on the topic.

These Dan-Brownian distortions of the Vatican belie an ignorance of centuries of Catholic devotion to the common good, universal destination of goods, solidarity, and subsidiarity.  CSD in general, and Pope Benedict's Caritas in Veritate in particular, are great roadmaps for charity, a virtuous life, corporate responsibility, and environmental stewardship.  Recall that the Vatican is quite pleased with other social activists, including Blessed Mother Teresa, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and St. Vincent de Paul.

A little research reveals that Sister Campbell's work with the poor is not, after all, what has the Vatican bothered.  What has the Vatican bothered is that Campbell and members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious ("LCWR") have bent or broken liturgical norms, embraced relativism, and equivocated on the right to life -- all of which involve absolute standards of Catholicism. 

About the morality of abortion, Sr. Campbell recently responded, "That's beyond my pay grade.  I don't know."  And that's odd, because so many Catholics do know.

It is unfortunately common to create issues and false choices where real issues and choices don't exist.  These false choices, now called straw-man arguments, used to be known as deceit.  In its "Vatican's attempt to threaten the women ... and their good works among the poor" and her "that our work with the poor ... would be a source of such criticism," the NYT and Campbell have created straw men. 

They have succumbed to the temptation of "Either-Or" deceit -- either be liberal or be anti-social justice; either be pro-social justice or be pro-life.  This is a low road, but an unfortunately common one for tacticians who view the pursuit of autonomous freedom as a means-justifying end in itself.

Increasingly, straw men are used to attack objective standards and those who would apply them.  Overeager victims employ false choices because being answerable is unacceptable; despite the fact that freedom devoid of humble responsibility is a disaster:

Freedom that is disconnected from the good is simply license. ...  For who is more free - the alcoholic who avoids all bars or the one who frequents them each week? ... Freedom, it is important to remember, is a means to reach our final goal; it is not the goal itself.  The person who worships at the altar of freedom ultimately engages in self-worship and lives in slavery to his passions and desires. ... So what is freedom's true goal?  Paradoxically, it is self surrender.i

The Latin root of the word "passion" means to endure or suffer.  To love is to willfully empty yourself, and self-emptying love resides both in a nun's vows and in the courage to welcome an unintended pregnancy.  On the contrary, selfism resides in the suggestion of a Vatican war on social justice. 

The Catholic, truly nuanced, and lovingly responsible approach is "Both-And" -- as in let's pursue both social justice and protect the sanctity of life (cue choirs of angels singing, "Duh").  Both-And is the high road.

Consider, for example, CSD's economic principles.  CSD both asks that all things "be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity" and finds the "principle of private ownership as being pre-eminently in conformity with human nature."

This apparent contradiction, of both charitable sharing and private property, can be resolved not with envious materialism and its false choice of win-lose, but rather by a virtuous embrace of the common good based in love.  Only then can care for the truly needy, dignity of work, and private profits be reconciled and achieved.  After all, both the self and others are part of the common good.  Both-And.

To pit liberal-style social justice against being pro-life is not just to posit a false choice (what is the pro-life cause if not the ultimate civil rights movement?); it is to establish a false equivalence between an absolute truth and a valid debate about means to achieve economic well-being.  It is to willfully forget that all other rights are contingent on the right to life.  Wisconsin Bishop Morlino recently clarified these points:

Some of the most fundamental issues for the formation of a Catholic conscience are ... sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and a right to private property. 

Violations of the above involve intrinsic evil ... which cannot be justified by any circumstances whatsoever. ... However, a conscience well-formed ... must also make choices where intrinsic evil is not involved. How best to care for the poor is probably the finest current example of this, though another would be how best to create jobs at a time when so many are suffering from the ravages of unemployment.

With straw men, Sr. Campbell has made herself the star of her very own un-Catholic movie, and the LWCR sisters have chosen a low road of non-distinction, cultural conformity, and double-knit pantsuits -- resulting in disappearing vocations.  George Weigel elaborates:

[T]here is very little in the Creed and the Catechism of the Catholic Church that is not up for grabs in the LCWR's world: the Trinity; the divinity of Christ; the sacraments; the constitution of the Church as episcopally ordered and governed; the very idea of "doctrine"; the notion of moral absolutes; the nature of marriage; the inalienability of the right to life - Catholic teaching on all of these is not infrequently regarded in the LCWR ... as impossibly old hat because of that teaching's alleged linkage to "patriarchy."

Social justice, the right to life, Christ's divinity, apostolic succession, and holy sacraments coexist in the true world of Both-And.  Sr. Campbell knew this when she took her vow of obedience.  Back then, the choice of either obedience or social justice would have seemed as ridiculous as the choice of golf course etiquette or environmental stewardship.  And no, today's sisters may not "evolve" beyond obedience.

Blessed Mother Teresa embraced apostolic succession, cared for the world's destitute, and asked, "If we allow a mother to kill her own child, how can we tell people not to kill each other?"  Mother Teresa knew that there is no false choice among obedience, truth, and love. 

Sr. Campbell should recall that her Sisters of Social Service embrace Benedictine values.  The prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict begins:

[W]illingly receive and faithfully comply with the admonition of thy loving father, that thou mayest return by the labor of obedience to Him from Whom thou hast departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To thee, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever thou art, who, renouncing thy own will, takest up the most powerful and brilliant armor of obedience in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true King.

Both-And affirms absolute truth and integrates lives around it, through self-emptying love of both God and neighbor (in or ex utero).  Self-giving love of the good should result in both the LCWR's fulfillment of social justice and a return to orthodoxy -- a win-win, and good non-conformity.  Within this framework of obedience, truth, and love, LWCR can best fulfill its mission in good Catholic faith.

 


iHoliness for Everyone, Eric Sammons, 2012, pp 66-69.