I’ve sometimes pondered what I would do if I were questioned by some totalitarian authority about some issue–same sex marriage for example–and they began to assert pressure. I guess I could say, “I have no opinion on that matter.”
Which would be true. I do not have an opinion. I have a belief, and that belief is based on the objective, authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church.
It seems to me that if one does not hold to the teachings of the church, then the only thing left is opinion. Yes, I know our separated brethren would say they have the authority of the Bible, but at the end of the day they really only have their own opinion because it is by their opinion that they interpret the Bible.
Otherwise why are there tens of thousands of Protestant churches?
For a religion to be both unified and true it must have both dogma and an infallible interpreter of dogma. Without dogma and the interpreter you fall into either the latitudinarian error in which you sacrifice truth for unity or the sectarian error in which you sacrifice unity for truth.
When dogmatic belief and a recognized authority dies all that is left is personal opinion– subjectivism, and when subjective belief dies all that is left is sentimentalism.
I other words, “Everyone believes whatever makes them feel good.”
Our society now is awash in sentimentalism. Most every argument is now (at least partially) a sentimental argument. Here is an example: Slaughterhouses kill animals so we can eat them. Vegetarians feel bad about this. Not only do they want to not eat meat themselves, but they don’t want us to eat meat either.
Most of them have no philosophical or logical reasons for banning meat. They might have moral arguments–that factory farming and slaughterhouse practice is un necessarily cruel and barbaric–but mostly their argument is sentimental. Killing animals makes them feel bad.
The problem is that what makes them feel bad soon makes them take bad actions.
Sentimentality leads to violence when sentimentality becomes an ideology. An ideology is a single driving idea that sweeps every other consideration aside. Those who follow an ideology are always self righteous, and they will use every means possible to enforce their ideology.
The ideologue may attempt to argue logically or philosophically, but this will only be a tactic–it is not because he believes that logic, philosophy or theology have any real weight. These disciplines will serve the ideology–the ideology itself may never be questioned. Not only logic and philosophy are subject to the ideology, but all things are subject to the ideology. All other considerations are subject to his ideology–including moral considerations.
So the sentimental ideologue will eventually force his opponent to conform. He will use any means possible–political legislation, financial pressure, social pressure, shouting more loudly, imprisonment and persecution and finally bloodshed if necessary.
This is why the Catholic faith is the sworn enemy of mere personal opinion: because in the absence of any other authority it leads to ideologies.
The Catholic faith insists that there is a higher truth, that there is an objective truth and that it is revealed by God–not made up by human beings and not just a matter of opinion. Furthermore, that truth is able to be known and understood and is taught by the church that is built on the Rock of Peter.
The perennial problem is that every ideology–whether it is economic or political or sentimental or erotic or ecological or social–every ideology will find the Catholic Church to be an obstacle.
The ultimate irony is that every ideology (like every heresy) is partially true, and it would find its fulfillment within the fully expounded Catholic faith.
The way, therefore to counter the ideologies is not for Catholics to be better ideologues, but for Catholics to be better Catholics.