A little background:
Ted Kennedy’s widow, Victoria, was invited to be the commencement speaker at a central Massachusetts Catholic College. The local bishop nixed the invitation, citing her views on subjects like abortion, birth control, and gay marriage as incompatible with church doctrine. Predictably, a hue and cry was raised protesting the bishop’s decision.
This morning, the local paper, The Boston Globe (Democrat), once known not-so-fondly as The Kennedy Family Newsletter, ran some letters to the editor on the subject. The first claimed the decision showed the irrelevance of local bishops “as serious leaders” of modern Catholics. (Read that as Catholics who were born that way but don’t like the dogma and want a more responsive, touchy-feely kind of religion.)
Controversy reminds him of . . .
April 05, 2012
One is a line we used to use in our house when our kids were young, though we said it in jest: “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.’’
The other is a line in the US Supreme Court decision that overturned a Massachusetts banned-book ruling. Justice William Douglas said that the state attorney general had banned the book “so that the citizens of Massachusetts might be spared the necessity of determining for themselves whether or not to read it.’’
Note how cleverly the two quotes are used. “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts’’ implies the bishop is rigid and uncaring, a dictator who is not open to discussion about his “opinions.”
The second quote reinforces that error in thinking by implying the bishop is trying to impose his personal, subjective opinions on an unwilling congregation who all want to decide for themselves which bits of Catholic doctrine to follow and which to ignore.
If the letter-writers want facts, here are some they probably won’t like:
1. The Catholic Church is not a social club where members get to debate and vote on the rules. It is a religion, and like all religions, it is founded on a core set of beliefs. In this case, those beliefs are drawn from the Catholic Bible and from the decisions of a long line of Popes, who, dogma says, speak for God on Earth when they do so ex cathedra.
2. There is no voting. If you want to be a Catholic, you must accept and live by Church teaching. As the writer who was supportive of the bishop said, “Our lord said it would not be easy to be his follower.”
3. Discussion about dogma, which is by definition inflexible, is fruitless and a waste of time. There is nothing Kennedy could say to the bishop to alter his decision because his decision was not based on his feelings or opinions but on a clearly defined set of rules he has no choice but to follow.
Catholics who cannot or will not abide by the rules of their faith do themselves and their Church a grave disservice. They should be honest with themselves, renounce Catholicism, and go find a church more suitable to what they want to believe. Certainly, there is no shortage of choices. There are many churches where the rules are different. And if they can’t find one with a set of rules they can live with, they can start their own church based on what they’ve decided God wants folks to believe and do. I expect they’ll find many who would join with them.
And lest anyone get the wrong idea, that I’m some cheerleader for the Catholic Church, I am not. I have been what’s known as a “lapsed” Catholic since I was fifteen. Some members of my family refer to me as “the heathen.” But my personal beliefs do not change any of the facts that the letter writers and all the rest protesting the bishop’s decision conveniently choose to ignore.
I have to wonder if the level of outrage would be the same or there would even have been a peep about it from the media, if Kennedy had been invited to a Mosque to speak and the local Imam rescinded the invitation because she eats pork and drinks alcohol and does not follow Islamic teaching.
Actually, I’m not wondering. We all know the answer.