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The Tale of Two Clerics

October 30, 1986

In his dissent with the Roman Catholic Church, Father Curran (Editorial Pages, Oct. 16), "Theological Dissent Brings New Truths to Catholicism," basically argues that Catholic truth can in some sense be established through a democratic process.

In Curran's view, the line between democracy and hierarchy (i.e. between dissent and authority) can be based on a distinction between what he calls "infallible" versus "non-infallible" church teaching.

Curran's attempt to explain this distinction, however, does not quite succeed. He defines non-infallible teaching as that which "cannot offer a certitude that excludes the possibility of error." It is certain, Curran cites as an example, that the Christian must be "faithful, hopeful, just, and chaste," but it is uncertain "what is just, or faithful, or chaste"--reasoning that is circular, to say the least.

Although Curran insists that the substance of his dissent does not involve matters at the "core of faith," the fruit of his logic suggests that a line between core of faith and what one presumes could be called meat of reason, doesn't even exist!

Curran's predicament raises profound questions indeed. Could it b that in reality faith and reason are inseparable? Could our real choice be, not between infallible versus non-infallible or between dissent versus authority, but between democracy and religion itself?

Could it be that in democratic society a religious hierarchy as a check against government is not even necessary, creating only confusion and misunderstanding between nations? As Curran notes, the church has recognized and history clearly shows that even in matters of morality the church has proved wrong!

Maybe our wanting to believe in things without understanding (or in things infallible) simply reflects our mental laziness and our animal instinct to play follow the leader. Maybe the final answer to truth can be found in love. When we truly love, is not understanding automatic whether we are in a position of authority or in dissent?

If love were the ultimate explanation, why would we, in a final analysis, even want to explain it! Why would we need religion at all? Why not let each individual grow and strive for and establish, within an evolving and rational system of family and community rules, her or his own symbol of truth and love?

Maybe the real reason the church hierarchy is so upset with Curran is it senses that his dissent inadvertently reveals a basic weakness and fallacy in religious thinking!


Playa del Rey

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