Dogma vs the merely political

I recently had a conversation with a fellow Catholic whose understanding of the teachings of the Church was in error on a very important point. Catholics do not have to treat opinions as dogmas. Nor do we have to adhere to the political positions of the Vatican STATE which has secular functions. Catholics are obliged to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic church on issues of Faith and Morals. Dogmas and doctrines deal with these issues. Personal opinions and political agreements do not.

For example, even if I did not already oppose abortion based on the principle of non-aggression, I would oppose it on the basis of the Catholic teaching that it is morally wrong.

So back to yesterday’s discussion.

It was a political discussion. My conversational companion insisted that her political positions were a matter of faith and that if I did not agree with her that I was against Catholic teaching, and she posted a link to a vatican document.

Her argument was that because the Vatican, a sovereign nation in its own right, and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) had talked and agreed on certain points that all Catholics are obligated to support the creation of a Palestinian state. This is simply not true.

In the interest of fairness, I went and read the document again and noted several things:

    • This is a political document.
    • This was not a dogmatic or doctrinal document. Dogmas are teachings Catholics are obliged to accept.
    • This paper is merely a statement of talking points to which both parties agreed. I am not one of those parties.
    • I can agree with the Catholic ideals found in the statements without finding the same conclusion as my co-conversationalist.
    • Nothing in this document would make un-Catholic my conviction that a Palestinian home state would result in the people in the region being worse off than before.

For me, it would be immoral to support a separate Palestinian state when I am convinced by my reading of current events and historical precedent, that this would lead to more violence and suffering, more oppression of Christians and other minorities, and fail utterly to provide the peaceful existence proponents desire.

Further, political statements by patriarchs and bishops are not binding on the laity.  A patriarch choosing to walk everywhere and not own a car does not make my decision to own and use a car morally illicit.

We had other parts to our discussion and I am sure I will get to them eventually.

Dear Lord, please bring peace to the country of Israel. Remove the terrorists that disrupt the lives of all the peoples in that land, end the atrocities committed by all sides, and bring about peace that is just. Help all sides to forgive and work together in humility. +Amen.

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