Friday 20 January 2012

An Absolute Responsibility

As Catholics, we believe in absolutes.  We believe, for example, that it is true that God created the Heavens and the Earth; that God is Father Son and Holy Spirit; and so on.

We also believe in the teachings of the Church as the teachings of Christ.

We believe these things are not just true for us, but absolutely true, even for those with different belief systems or none.

For that reason, we object when people speaking on behalf of the Church about her official teachings seem to equivocate.

But also for that reason,we must be very careful in the truth-claims we make.  We should claim no humility, and make no apology, for the teachings of the Church.  But we should not claim absolute authority or truth for our interpretation or articulation of them.  

The Church is rightly careful in her official teaching documents, and these must be read in a Catholic way: that is to say, in accordance with Scripture, Tradition, and the previous teaching of the Church.  To pull individual lines out, or to make our own summaries, and then proclaim them as true is a risky business. 

Likewise, to take a particular solution to a problem highlighted by Catholic social teaching, and proclaim it as the answer, is likewise problematic.

This also applies to our judgements of actions and people.  We may (and indeed must) say that some actions are absolutely wrong.  We may not (indeed must not) judge the people who commit them, as we cannot know the state of their souls.

Precisely because we believe in absolute truth, we should be careful and precise in claiming it.

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