Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Moderate" vs Authentic

According to the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Daniel Maguire of Marquette University has been "corrected", so to speak, by the Committee on Doctrine of the USCCB for his non-Catholic views regarding contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Last June he sent out pamphlets to all the Catholic bishops in the United States called "The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion" and "A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage". According to the Committee on Doctrine:
Since it is apparent that considerable efforts have been made to give these views the widest possible distribution as if they were a valid alternative to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the Committee on Doctrine...considers it important to offer a public correction of the erroneous views proposed in these pamphlets.
There is the usual language of proper formation of conscience, and an appeal to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for proper direction on these topics.

Daniel Maguire, a frequent Talking Head in the media when it comes to the solicitation of the "Catholic" point of view, is not widely known as the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to the intellectual defense of Catholic teaching, so his present case of foot-in-mouth disease comes as no surprise. Nor is it surprising, even while it is rather embarrassing, that he is a professor in the Theology department of Marquette University, a nominally Catholic university. Least surprising of all is Dan Maguire's reaction to the statement by the Committee on Doctrine:
A pity beyond all telling.
His website, The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, boasts an interview with Maguire in which he laments the "bishops' failure to get off pelvic issues and talk about peace, poverty and other cutting-edge issues" (and yet he was the one who published a whole book with Oxford University Press in 2003 on precisely the "pelvic issues" that he accuses the bishops of being obsessed with). For those of you who may be interested, there is also a piece about Frances Kissling on the website. You'll be glad to know that she "keeps the faith" while "backing abortion".

There is one last item on the Maguire website that interests me. It is called a "Letter from a Catholic Theologian to All 270 United States Catholic Bishops". It turns out that the "theologian" in question here is none other than Dan Maguire. Maguire's training is in ethics, though he did earn a degree in "theology" from the Gregorian in Rome (more grade inflation). I have a friend here in the Math department who likes to tell me that he is a philosopher because he earned a PhD (philosophiae doctor) degree in mathematics. So I suppose Maguire thinks he is a theologian because he has the STD degree. That sort of reasoning would dovetail rather nicely with the rest of his logic.

8 comments:

Carl E. Olson said...

Maguire is indeed one of those dull knives who mistakes his arrogance for intellect. I first ran across his nonsense last October, when he had a run-in of sorts with Bishop David Choby of Nashville, and I wrote a bit about his theatrics, including the following remark:

"Maguire, in fact, has a long history of openly advocating heretical views about, well, nearly everything, but especially (surprise!) sexuality. Recently he edited a volume titled Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions (Oxford, 2003). He is apparently one of those sad and twisted individuals who obsesses about promoting abortion and homosexuality (see, for example, his website), and then, when confronted by bishops such as Bishop Choby about his obvious opposition to magisterial teaching, whines, 'They are locked into what I call the pelvic orthodoxy.' Maguire also makes balanced and thoughtful remarks such as: 'To prevent and deny contraceptives is a bit crazy.' Goodness, why wouldn't a Catholic bishop be delighted to have this 'Catholic theologian' propogating pelvic heterodoxy among the faithful?"

Meanwhile, I'm sure Maguire will keep his post at Marquette, and little will change. Sigh.

Apollodorus said...

Is it actually heretical to hold the views that Maguire holds? I've received a lot of contradictory answers on this issue from Catholics, but I thought that one could only qualify as a heretic by rejecting articles of faith or any teaching which carries infallibility. I also thought that encyclicals did not carry infallibility, so that a Catholic could disagree with a teaching expounded in an encyclical without qualifying as a heretic. Does the guy really qualify as a heretic, or is this just hyperbole?

For what it's worth, if disagreeing with Humanae Vitae's teaching on contraception makes one a heretic, then most of the Catholics I know are heretics.

Rick said...

Maguire's Proportionalism seems to be nothing but a theological form of Rule Utilitarianism. Having had a prof life this, their "rules" usually follows this tongue-in-cheek pattern: 1) Make a transcendental option for Christ. Paraphrasing, be a nice person by practicing tolerance, 2) Follow your conscience because that is sovereign. In other words, decide to follow your conscience no matter how deformed it may be, 3) If you have followed rules 1 and 2, you can do whatever the heck you want!

Carl E. Olson said...

Does the guy really qualify as a heretic, or is this just hyperbole?

I was using hyperbole to some degree, no doubt, when I wrote my post back in October 2006. However, the Catechism defines "heresy" thus:

"Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same... (CCC 2089)

It seems to me that the knowing, willing denial of the Church's clear teaching about abortion, contraception, and sexual mores by a Catholic is indeed heretical. I'm open to clarification, but I think the case can be made with some certainty.

Scott Carson said...

It is most certainly heresy to deny the Church's teaching on abortion, which Maguire clearly does.

Apollodorus said...

What distinguishes the teaching on abortion from, say, the teaching on contraception?

Scott Carson said...

I'm not really sure what you mean by what distinguishes them--are you asking whether the teachings have the same degree of authority? If so, that's actually a very difficult question. The teaching on abortion stems directly from the commandment against murder, so it has just about the highest degree of authority it is possible for a teaching to have. The teaching on contraception is grounded in the natural law, which, according to Aquinas, underwrites all teachings (including the 10 commandments) other than those that are directly revealed by God. Famously, Scotus holds that all moral teachings are derivable by the natural light of reason from the natural law alone, including the 10 commandments.

So I suppose it will depend upon whether you ask a Franciscan or a Dominican.

Scott Carson said...

It suddenly occurs to me that you might have been asking whether rejecting the teaching on abortion is morally equivalent to rejecting the teaching on contraception, that is, if I accept the teaching on abortion but reject the teaching on contraception, am I still a heretic?

The answer to that question is a little more straightforward. Heresy is the obstinate denial of a truth taught by the Church. The teaching on contraception, while widely disputed, is nevertheless a clear teaching in the Church's Magisterium, having been defended not only in Humanae vitae but in many other documents since. Rejecting it is arguably not always as bad a heresy as rejecting the teaching on abortion, since some forms of contraception do not destroy a fetus. Those forms that do destroy a fetus, however, are no different from abortion.