Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Constructive criticism or condemnation?

“We invite you to criticize our institutions without reserve. One is not insulted by being informed of something amiss, but rather gets an opportunity for amendment, if the information is taken in good part, without resentment.” – Plato, Laws, Bk. 1, 635a

Joe Sacerdo writes, “About 3 weeks ago, we wrote criticizing how Fr. Bryan Hehir helped reinforce a ‘wound to Catholic unity’ by praising the Catholic Health Association’s leadership as they celebrated the passage of CHA-backed ‘Obamacare.’ Now we see the first federal funding of abortion, and the concerns of the Catholic bishops and millions of other Catholics and pro-lifers alike have proven true. We hope Fr. Hehir and his supporters in the Archdiocese like Vicar General Erikson and Cardinal O’Malley are pleased with the result.

As you will recall, the CHA backed Obamacare in direct opposition to the Catholic bishops, and Bryan Hehir later commended the head of the CHA, Sr. Carol Keehan for her ‘intelligent and courageous leadership’ of this organization. Hehir also said there ‘multiple voices’ in the debate (the CHA, the U.S. bishops, and others) as though all of the voices had equal merit and the teaching authority of the Church had no more weight than any other voice. And amidst those multiple voices, ‘there was foundation for the different judgments made on the bill in the Catholic moral tradition.’ Multiple readers excoriated Hehir for his statements, and our post prompted a response from the Vicar General, who said our blog posts were disrepectful, inappropriate, and inaccurate in criticizing Fr. Hehir..”

It is most significant that the Vicar General, Father Richard Erikson, doesn’t provide any specific examples of posts which he feels were “disrespectful, inappropriate and inaccurate.” For this would suggest a certain dishonesty on his part. It is important, especially for Christians, to be truthful in every communication. This because it is only by testifying to the truth that Christians can spread the truth of the Gospel and do their part to build up the Kingdom of God. All men have an obligation to seek the truth. Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council teaches that, “It is in accordance with their dignity as persons – that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility – that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.” (Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2).

I suspect the Vicar General is confusing criticism with condemnation. Dr. Montague Brown explains the difference between the two nicely: “Criticism is the honest appraisal of the value of ideas or actions…Pursued in the right spirit, it is a positive undertaking whose purpose is to gain an accurate understanding for the sake of growing in wisdom and virtue….Condemnation goes beyond evaluation of an idea or action to a declaration of the worthlessness of a human being. It is never fair and is a wholly negative judgment, referring only to weaknesses. Because condemnation is unreasonable, it serves no purpose in our quest for wisdom and virtue.” (The One-Minute Philosopher, pp. 28,29).

Since Father Erikson has asserted that criticism of Father Bryan Hehir has moved beyond criticism and into condemnation, the burden is on him to demonstrate how this is so. Thus far, he has failed to do so. At any rate, the Code of Canon Law is clear:

Can. 212 ß1 Christ's faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show Christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church.

ß2 Christ's faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church.

ß3 They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

Related reading here.


Carl said...

After Charles Pierce wrote an article titled "What I Believe" for the Boston Sunday Globe, Joe Sacerdo wrote a response:

Then he invited Mr. Pierce to visit his Blog, address criticisms, and clarify his positions. His response?

"I’ll pass, I think...I’ll let the piece speak for itself."

In other words, Mr. Pierce isn't interested in an honest and open exchange of ideas.

Joe Sacerdo said...

You have hit the mark once again with a great explanation of the difference between criticism and condemnation. We had one private email exchange with Fr. Erikson regarding his feedback, and in his brief message back, there were indeed no examples offered of anything that was inaccurate on the blog. We will share more details shortly at BryanHehirExposed.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

It would be helpful if Father Erikson would get back to you and explain in detail what he meant by inaccuracies and inappropriate posts. I look forward to such a response Joe. Thank you for covering this for us.

Site Meter