Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daniel Avila Controversy Enters Public Square: A Newsy Video

I've blogged a number of times about how the stepped-up political activities of the U.S. Catholic bishops will necessarily have the effect of drawing more and more public attention to the bishops and the political-religious stances they want to promote in the public square.  This is how democracy works: enter the public square and make claims about your right to influence the direction of laws and public policy, and people will carefully scrutinize your arguments.  And they'll also scrutinize you as the maker of the argument, and will ask about the coherence between what you live and what you say.

The video to which I link above is an example of the increasing public scrutiny that the bishops and those closely associated with them can expect, as the USCCB extends its claims about its right to try to influence the political process in the U.S. and to try to argue that secular law should respect and mirror Catholic teaching about issues including marriage and abortion.  In my view, Avila's arguments are a conspicuously bad example of the kind of arguments a religious group seeking credibility in the public square needs to be promoting.  As I noted yesterday, and as I have consistently argued on this blog, if the bishops really want respect for the values and ideas they're promoting in the public square, they could not take a more constructive first step towards such public respect than by promoting open, respectful exchange within the Catholic community itself about the controversial issues on which the bishops are harping now in the public square--including abortion and homosexuality.  

But that would mean admitting that the views  of the faithful are considerably at variance with those of the bishops on these issues.  And it would mean entertaining the witness--the testimony arising out of graced experience--of the people of God about these issues.  It would mean, for the bishops, adopting a listening stance and not the top-down teaching-by-coercion stance that Catholic leaders have preferred to adopt under the last two papacies.  And I see no signs at all that either the Vatican or the U.S. Catholic bishops is willing to move in this direction right now.  And so the bishops are likely to keep harping and threatening, as lay Catholics are likely (and increasingly) to keep ignoring, and as the public at large refuses to take very seriously the harping and threatening of religious leaders who are not commanding the respect of their own flock.

I'm grateful to Chenfei Zhang of the Newsy community for sending me a link to the video above, and for telling me that he found my recent posting analyzing Daniel Avila's argument for a diabolical explanation for homosexuality helpful.

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