Friday, December 23, 2005

Noonan: a Church that CAN, HAS, and SHOULD Change!

Here it is, from the Judge! Catholic moral teaching has changed, thus it can change, and therefore it will change. And it should be changed, so we can change it. Got it?
Thus begins Jim Taylor's brief skewering review of A Church That Can and Cannot Change, a new, trendy-lefty and predictably muddle-headed contribution to Catholic dissent by John T. Noonan, Jr.

In attempting to revive a case Taylor calls "as worn as an old lawyer's brief bag," Judge Noonan raises three issues whose recrudescence we've grown accustomed to seeing in the dissenter's customary bag of tricks: slavery, usury, and marriage. He tries to show (as others we're familiar with have tried to show in our comment boxes) that what was once acceptable or embraced by the Church is now held as intrinsically evil -- indeed, that some changes in moral teachings have occurred shows that any changes in these areas can occur. Like others drifting with the tide, Noonan has visited these topics before and continues to be, says Taylor, unpersuasive.

On the question of slavery, we find that Noonan misinterprets papal encyclicals and other Vatican documents; on the question of usery, we find that he conflates the meaning and nature of lending accepted by the Church today with that practiced in the Middle Ages; on the question of marriage, we find that he confuses the Church's sacramental teaching on marriage with the moral teaching on adultery. Like others we know, Noonan suggests that the Ordinary Magisterium might not be infallible: he suggests that the very practices of some popes (e.g., slave holding) constitute the teaching of doctrine. But making such a claim, he conflates the category of infallibility with impeccability, which he should know that no pope has ever claimed for himself. Not even the worst of the Borgia popes ever suggested that his notorious sins were Christian virtues promoted by the Church; and even the best popes frequented the confessional. Noonan wants to argue that the licitness of moral acts progresses "from practice to approval," so that we may conclude that if the faithful embrace an illicit act (say homosexual sodomy) with sufficient tenacity, the Church will eventually accept it.

"Noonan's real intent is to craft an argument. It is, roughly, this: Change is healthy, and the Church should abandon what is untenable; each age helps forge deeper understanding; though a revised doctrine may itself be wrong, we needent worry because people of the future will fix such problems...." Sound familiar?

Read Taylor's review in its entirety online HERE (scroll down to his review).

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