Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Heart of Foolable Catholic Lay Administration...

...though sadly not a monopoly by lay administrators of Catholic institutions like Catholic Charities. Zenit News Agency presents an interview with Fr. Roger Landry that raises the issue concerned.

While discussing the recent controversy in MA regarding Catholic Charities and adoption by gay couples, Fr. Landry makes this excellent point:
Looking at the Boston Catholic Charities situation prior to the about-face on March 10, I think we see, first, the evil effects of proportionalism in moral theology that Pope John Paul II condemned in his encyclical "Veritatis Splendor."

Proportionalists believe that there really are no moral absolutes and that the good and evil of an action should be determined by weighing the proportion of good effects to bad in an action.

Many of the lay board members of Catholic Charities admitted that they do not believe that placing a child in a same-sex home is wrong in all circumstances, despite the fact that a 2003 document by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith unambiguously states that it is.

Moreover, they argued that the negative effects of cooperating with the state in such placements were outweighed by the benefits of the ability to continue doing adoption work and remaining eligible to receive millions in state money and philanthropic grants for which they would no longer be qualified if they discriminated against same-sex couples.

The same proportionalist rationale was on display, I think, when Catholic Charities honored the mayor of Boston in December despite the fact that he is a Catholic who supports abortion and gay marriage. In the mind of Catholic Charities board members, those indefensible positions were proportionally outweighed by his support for programs for the poor and needy.

I'd add that the actions of the Catholic Charities board is another illustration of a general problem seen in other many other Catholic institutions in the United States, like hospitals and universities.

When Catholic lay people began to dominate their respective boards of trustees, insufficient attention was given to whether the new members shared the Church's faith in all matters. In many circumstances, especially with respect to the teaching of the Church on abortion and human sexuality, many board members simply do not share the Church's faith.

They lack the sufficient "formation of the heart" that Pope Benedict refers to in his first encyclical, and that impairment can lead to the types of conflicts and problems we have seen in this case.
The heart of this proportionalism that Fr. Landry describes may be the "doctrine" that Pope John Paul the Great disavowed in Veritas Splendor: the Fundamental Option. Take a look at what he says:
Some authors, however, have proposed an even more radical revision of the relationship between person and acts. They speak of a "fundamental freedom", deeper than and different from freedom of choice, which needs to be considered if human actions are to be correctly understood and evaluated. According to these authors, the key role in the moral life is to be attributed to a "fundamental option", brought about by that fundamental freedom whereby the person makes an overall self-determination, not through a specific and conscious decision on the level of reflection, but in a "transcendental" and "athematic" way. Particular acts which flow from this option would constitute only partial and never definitive attempts to give it expression; they would only be its "signs" or symptoms. The immediate object of such acts would not be absolute Good (before which the freedom of the person would be expressed on a transcendental level), but particular (also termed "categorical" ) goods. In the opinion of some theologians, none of these goods, which by their nature are partial, could determine the freedom of man as a person in his totality, even though it is only by bringing them about or refusing to do so that man is able to express his own fundamental option.


To separate the fundamental option from concrete kinds of behaviour means to contradict the substantial integrity or personal unity of the moral agent in his body and in his soul. A fundamental option understood without explicit consideration of the potentialities which it puts into effect and the determinations which express it does not do justice to the rational finality immanent in man's acting and in each of his deliberate decisions. In point of fact, the morality of human acts is not deduced only from one's intention, orientation or fundamental option, understood as an intention devoid of a clearly determined binding content or as an intention with no corresponding positive effort to fulfil the different obligations of the moral life. Judgments about morality cannot be made without taking into consideration whether or not the deliberate choice of a specific kind of behaviour is in conformity with the dignity and integral vocation of the human person. Every choice always implies a reference by the deliberate will to the goods and evils indicated by the natural law as goods to be pursued and evils to be avoided. In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent. But the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the "creativity" of any contrary determination whatsoever. Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.
In other words, Catholics can't become a peculier form of "Catholic Calvinist" that is neither Catholic nor Calvinist. We are embodied persons, and we're not free to divorce our spirituality from our physicality. Obedience to Christ means our freely chosen actions conform to his will in particular acts as well as overall commitment. Otherwise, we're talking one game and walking another. That's the definition of a lack of integrity.

As long as the "Fundamental option" crowd (who just so happen to often celebrate the mysterious Fourth Person of the Blessed Trinity known as the "Spirit of Vatican II") continue to administer Catholic institutions, they will steer a course toward collision with Reality. Yes, the Church--in particular, her annointed teachers the Episcopate--must apply the clear teaching of the Church in the most pastorally appropriate way possible. However, the laity that sit on boards of organizations bearing the name Catholic have an obligation to honor this teaching, in whatever way it's applied. If the Catholic Faith is whatever we want it to be, it's not the Catholic Faith, and it never was.

Either we belong to the one Christian Church founded by Christ or we belong to the one founded by us. Which one offers us salvation?