Thursday, June 09, 2005

Evidence vs Authority

I've been engaged in friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) discussion with Catholics in an online forum for the last several days about various teachings and policies of the Church. I am now discussing the Church's teachings about homosexual relations. The Church teaches that homosexual relations are "intrinsically disordered" acts of "grave depravity" contrary to God's scriptural commands and to natural law. I take issue with these teachings on several grounds and have not been reticent to express them. Someone wrote the following to me last night:

So you dismiss the accumulated wisdom of centuries, indeed millennia, of COHERENT thought that has endured through civilizations the world over throughout history -- you call it antiquated garbage merely because you choose to disagree with it, and instead you offer the allegedly superior wisdom of what "they" say?

This is how I replied:

"Coherent thought" can simply mean false conclusions that logically follow from false premises. "Accumulated wisdom" can simply mean logical but false philosophical or theological arguments that have been accepted by those who either lacked the means to observe the real facts or by those who had the means but were so deferential to authority or so kowtowed by threats against life and limb or livelihood that they wouldn't observe them or admit what they saw if they did. Centuries of "coherent accumulated wisdom" said that the sun circled the Earth, and the Church denounced and suppressed all challenges to it until it finally couldn't any longer.

A hallmark of any proposition about the real world is its testability or falsifiability. One can make all kinds of logical arguments about the way the world is, but if one cannot show how those assertions could ever be tested and shown to be false or, at least, cast into serious doubt, they aren't worth the paper they’re written on. Well, homosexuals are part of the real world, and so are their feelings. But tell me, Marko, how would anyone go about falsifying Catholic teaching that homosexual couples can't experience the same deepening of their love and commitment through sexual relations that heterosexuals can and have those results accepted by the Church? You and I both know that the Church would respond and has responded to any such attempts the way the Church leaders did when Galileo tried to get them to look through the telescope. You could give the Church hundreds of well-designed psychological studies showing conclusions that counter Church teachings, and it would say, “ These results can't be true because centuries of accumulated wisdom inspired by God tell us otherwise." For the Church, it's not "I'll believe it when I see it" but "I'll see it when I believe it," and the Church has too much invested in its anti-homosexual stance to believe and consequently see any facts to the contrary anytime soon.

You asked how I could presume to dismiss the accumulated wisdom of the Church. It’s easy. If the Church says the Earth is flat and I can see that it’s round, I say the Church is wrong. How would you dismiss anything the Church teaches? If you can’t think of any conceivable way, then what good are those teachings and your belief in them?


Tuff Ghost said...


You might want to check out, run by a guy named John Heard, who is an openly gay conservative Catholic. I don't agree with a lot of his views, but he has thoroughly researched Catholic teaching on homosexuality and lives quite openly and honestly with both his traditional Catholic faith and his homsexuality. In a similar vein is the Jon Marans play "A strange and separate people" about two gay men in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Cheers, TG.

Tuff Ghost said...

sorry that link should be, dreadnought is the name of the blog, not the address. My bad.