Tuesday, March 29, 2005
The Fallibility of Judgment
In his post below, Richard Myers says that "it is useful to begin discussions about the appropriate stance towards clear, authoritatively expressed teachings of this sort with a healthy dose of humility about the fallibility of our own [moral] judgment." Yes, no doubt. But also with a healthy dose of realism about the fallibility of the magisterium's moral judgment.
The two types of authority that concern us here (authority to govern and authority to teach) are, of course, distinct and can be discussed separately. In the Roman Catholic Church, however, we find that they are often intermingled, and sometimes even confused with each other. Over the centuries governing power has often been used (and misused) to bolster teaching authority. Such an approach can easily amount to little more than "we are right because we are in charge" or "we give orders, not explanations." --Bernard Hoose, "Authority in the Church," 63 Theological Studies 107 (2002).
Some Catholics concede that the church admits of the principle of doctrinal development, but they accuse [John] Noonan, in Richard John Neuhaus's words, of too often equating development with "a change, even a reversal, of doctrine." At a recent meeting of the Catholic Common Ground initiative, Noonan and theologian Avery Dulles had a polite, but sharp, exchange on the subject, with Noonan again insisting that "the record is replete with mistakes--the faithful just can't accept everything that comes from Rome as though God had authorized it." --John T. McGreevy, "A Case of Doctrinal Development: John T. Noonan -- Jurist, Historian, Author, Sage," Commonweal, Nov. 12, 2000, at 12, 17.