1. I really wish that people who were 99.99% in agreement could work together to overlook their other differences in charity.
2. As a philosopher, I hate to engage in ad hominems.
On the other hand, two things really shake me to the core:
1. When I have read what I think is a perfectly plain and straightforward document–as in the case of the Vaccine Statement–and someone with a Ph.D. (usually a liberal, but not necessarily) claims that I’ve read it wrong. And no matter how many times I go back and reread it, I can’t see what the heck that person’s talking about. But it really shatters my self-esteem.
2. When a similar person tries to shatter my concept of what it means to be a Catholic.
When such debates over interpretations occur, it does become important to look at the motives or philosophical principles of the interpreters.
In the case of Dr. Kevin Smith’s position on the Vaccine Statement, I’ve racked up the following:
1. Both American Life League and Human Life International support the work of Children of God for Life. When I contacted HLI for a statement on their position, in fact, they recommended I talk to Debi.
2. I know that several bishops, most notably Bishop Vasa, support the work of COG.
3. I emailed Debi and asked her response on the calumnies being spread about her by this gentleman.
4. I emailed the Pontifical Academy for Life, and am awaiting a response.
I am quite confident in my position on this matter. However, it raises the question: “Why is this man, who should be on our side, so adamantly against us?”
From what I can tell, Dr. Miller is guilty not so much of malice as of a grave intellectual error. He contends that
For all of us Christians, our bishops are our fathers. . . . If a priest acts in a way that is at odds with this relationship, he is, whatever else he may or may not be doing, by definition a bad priest.
But there’s no such thing as a bad bishop?
If a bishop speaks or acts at odds with the Holy Father, and the priest ignores the bishop and obeys the Holy Father, does that make him a bad priest?
This post from way back in January 2004 could very well be Miller’s manifesto. You see, according to him, Community always outranks the Individiual. In social life, if society says, “Do this,” then individual conscience must surrender to society. In the Church, even when canon law provides the laity with a right, the laity must surrender that right when it’s at odds with the bishop!
All of this was in the context of the controversy at that time over Arlington’s proposed sex abuse “prevention” program. In this post, Miller uses the same sling of accusations against those of us who protest these “safe touch” programs that he does against those of us who oppose vaccines.
The Church teaches freedom of conscience, informed by right reason and God’s law. Liberals say “freedom of conscience” means that you can do wahtever you want, as long as it feels good.
Miller contends that “freedom of conscience” means that “Whatever your bishop says, goes, and whatever the civil law says, goes, because you’re bound by the 4th commandment to surrender your individual conscience to legitimate authority and the Common Good.”
It’s really quite a Faustian dilemma he posits, but the dilemma is all in his head. If his strict interpretations of “common good” and episcopal authority were on-target, then a great many canonized saints would be burning in Hell now, whether for a) disobeying/criticizing their bishops/religious superiors or b) going out into the desert and living as hermits.