My Commenters Are Not Heretics

by nonewsisnew

There was a great comment the other day (in response to this post about amnesty for immigrants) and to do it justice, I thought I should give it a full post. Here’s the comment:

Jesus also said things like, “Turn the other cheek,” yet the Church obviously read this in context when defining the doctrine of ‘just war.’

Whom do you concentrate on educating, feeding and clothing, your children or other people’s children? By what right do you declare that American workers are to be put in competition with the global poor for wages and the global rich for housing to satisfy your pathological altruism? Europe at the height of Christendom consisted of numerous, explicitly ethnic nation-states. What new doctrine has been discovered that national borders are to be abolished?

Now you’ve got a Pope who’s more concerned with Muslims feeling welcome in Europe than that Europe remain as Catholic homelands. This is not a ‘catholic’ perspective; it’s universalist.

First, the poster is fully correct that there are negative consequences to amnesty.  If other better solutions are offered that still support the dignity of those immigrants who currently reside in America, I am all ears.  The Church teaches truth in matters of faith and morals, but sometimes our priests can understand the application of those principles incorrectly.  Priests aren’t all social scientists and economists, so maybe this is something they understood incorrectly.

One can easily lead into heresy if one blindly accepts all a priest says.  For instance, a visiting priest from Africa once spoke about how Mary, because she is the Mother of God, should been seen as a goddess.  This is not Catholic teaching.  I imagine that in the part of Africa where he was from the word goddess culturally means something different than it does in America.  These are things we in the pews need to pay attention to, and not blindly accept.

This is balanced with another truth of the Catholic faith, and that is the fact that we need “religious assent” (CCC 892) to things our bishops tell our priests to teach on.  Religious assent is another sort of “matter of degrees” which we have in the Church.  As there are various degrees of certainty on matters of faith, so too there are various levels of assent that must be given.  Our bishops have this authority because they are the successors to the apostles.  As Ignatius of Antioch said, “let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles.”  Consequently the base assumption should be that they are correct unless shown to be otherwise.

My position in my previous post was to accept immigrants with amnesty because it fits with the American ideal of accepting wave after wave of immigrant populations, and it fits with what the what I must adhere to with religious assent.  That said, religious assent might be contravened if there is good evidence the bishop doesn’t have enough knowledge about a particular topic to properly apply moral teaching.  I think that might be what the poster is claiming — the pope and bishops don’t understand the immensity of the immigrant population and consequently the problems associated with welcoming them into our land.  I am not convinced that is the case, but one doesn’t engage in heresy to claim that is the case with this particular topic.

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