There is an incredibly idiotic news story making the rounds, that the Pope is issuing a “poll” of Catholics about their stands on controversial moral issues like …. can you guess? Yes that’s right, it’s all about “gay marriage, divorced and cohabitating couples, abortion and contraception.” This has been reported in Forbes magazine here , and misrepresented in the international press here . This is breathtakingly idiotic on multiple different levels. First as our recent series of posts should have made abundantly clear, in the Catholic Church there is an approach to moral teaching dating back many centuries that would say things like “gay marriage, divorce/ fornication/ abortion/contraception etc… are wrong not because the “Pope says so” but because they are violations of the natural law. Specifically the deflect humans away from their natural ends and thus violate our purpose, and we know this by deductive arguments using reason. Without going into the specific arguments the Church would hold and reason could prove that things are immoral because of the nature of reality. Saying abortion is wrong is not a matter of opinion any more than the Pythagorean theorem is a matter of opinion. (The Pythagorean Theorem is the statement that the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is given by the square root of the sum of the squares of the other two sides of the triangle). As a little mathematical diversion this sort of mathematical proof is found here .
See moral philosophy is like mathematics. It is a matter of objective deductive reasoning. A poll about abortion or contraception would make about as much sense as a poll about what people think of the relationship of Pi to the circumference of the circle. It might tell us something about how much people understand about the particular topic, whether it be moral philosophy or mathematics but would tell us nothing about the truth of the relevant propositions. In fact the Pope knows this very well which is why the report is misleading nonsense.
In reality the Vatican has sent out a document in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, and it includes a questionnaire aimed mainly at the Bishops attending the Synod. It clearly is aimed at getting a sense of how well the particular teachings of the Church on the family are accepted, the particular difficulties in conveying these teachings, and so forth. As one might imagine different places on the globe have major differences in the problems that touch on the family. This document can be viewed here .
This “poll” reflects the fact that different parts of the world are facing different challenges.
So in the decadent and self-indulgent Western world we are debating absurdities like whether it is OK for people to dismember their unborn children at 20 weeks of gestation, and whether this kind of thing should be at all restricted. In other places like Catholic Nigeria such naked self-indulgent barbarity does not go on, most people being sane enough to see that it is obviously demonic, but there are other problems also quite troubling but borne of severe poverty, involving human trafficking that are rare in the West. Or to take another example, here in the West it is a great civil rights issue whether men can marry men. In Nigeria much of the Southern part of the country is under Islamic control and the under Sharia Law. Let us just say in Southern Nigeria gay men are not preoccupied with whether or not some forlorn Christian photographer would violate their rights by not doing the photo album for their lovely nuptials, but rather whether or not the local Imam might ask to have them executed. (Homosexuality is punishable by death under Sharia).
In any case The Vatican is interested in learning what the primary problems faced by the local Churches are about the many sins against the family. ( Of note it would include both homosexual “marriage” and the murder of gay men under Sharia as sins.) The world is a big place and the major concerns of the Bishops of Nigeria are different than those of the Bishops of the United States, as are concerns different between Argentina and China, and so on… Thus there is this “poll”. Good grief, it’s not a poll, its meant to be a preparatory document to prepare for the Synod so the issues of greatest concern are all addressed as the Church seeks to evangelize people, not rescind its moral teaching!
There is once again zero probability, and I mean zero that the Church will change any moral teachings. The one possible “exception” would not be a change in teaching, but a change in the annulment process that might address some difficult situations of some divorced and remarried Catholics, in some cases. This however would be a change in Church positive canon law regarding how the Church goes about the business of recognizing whether a marriage did or did not exist. It does not change the natural law rules on marriage. Beyond that I have zero expectation that Pope Francis will say “You know all those Catholics think we are wrong about what Vatican II said about abortion being an “unspeakable crime” so with my new administration, time to change course.” In fact this is impossible, it would be equivalent to saying, you know all those Catholics who think stealing is ok, or revenge or greed or any other sin… well time to rethink if those things are really sins.
This once again illustrates the mad rush to create a narrative that Pope Francis is about to repeal the 6th commandment. This is both stupid and dishonest on the part of those attempting it. It would be even more stupid if we fell for it.
In order to do my small part to oppose such a narrative I now propose a wager. For you modernists out there, I am willing to bet you 1000.00 US dollars that 1 year from now Catholic teaching on the morality of gay marriage, abortion, contraception and sex outside of marriage will be unchanged. Any takers?
In fact some of you who have modernist friends might want to take this opportunity to unburden them of some excess cash (Money being the root of all evil, consider it a spiritual work of mercy)
In the meantime let’s ask the Patron saint of journalists, St Francis DeSales to pray for those who inform the public, that they spread truth and not error