I read many fellow Catholic bloggers’ websites. Yesterday, I was disappointed to see, on one of them, a conversation that reveals the danger of rejecting one set of Church teachings to follow another.
The conversation was about Alabama judge Roy Moore, who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Many Alabamians support Moore as the candidate who best represents their conservative Southern values, particularly their religious values. According to a Washington Post article, Moore said, “I want to see virtue and morality returned to our country and God as the only source of our law, liberty, and government.” He’s the Alabama Supreme court judge who, for example, was suspended from the court in 2003 for defying a federal judge’s order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the state judicial building.
However, many oppose Moore and his candidacy because nine women from his past — one of them only 14 at the time — have accused him of sexual assault and pedophilia.
The conversation about him took place on a Catholic blog site that seeks to encourage the Christian community to live every day according to our Faith. That’s certainly one of the Catholic Church’s teachings. According to the Prologue of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer.
Living the Faith, said Pope Paul IV in his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, requires laity to “infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community in which they live.” To achieve this goal, say some Catholic blog sites, we must respond to all worldly affairs according to our Christian teachings.
But in that one online exchange that I read, several Roy Moore supporters asserted that his nine accusers were all liars — despite the fact that we’ve seen no proof that these women are lying, and they don’t have anything to gain by lying. Still, though, many people, including Christians, are attacking them as dishonest and malicious.
Some people are doing that for purely political reasons, of course. Other citizens, though, truly believe that they’re defending their faith by supporting someone who seems to be a devout and outspoken Christian man. Unfortunately, they’re doing so at the expense of other Catholic teachings that call for respect for all human beings. If someone needs to degrade, disparage, and dismiss a group of women to feel OK about supporting the man being accused by those women, that individual is lowering the relative worth of the women. I’m not going to sugar-coat it: that’s misogyny, and it’s a violation of Catholicism’s emphasis on human dignity. Consider this: What if your mother or sister was one of the women whom people are calling a liar? Would you not feel as though she was being dishonored and disrespected by people who don’t even know her?
Most people who’ve pronounced Moore’s accusers to be liars would undoubtedly say, “I’m not a misogynist.” However, every one of us operates according to deep-seated assumptions and beliefs that we’re not even conscious of because we’ve absorbed them from our culture since the moment we were born. No one is exempt. And these unconscious assumptions affect our opinions and choices. Doing the hard work of scrutinizing our underlying beliefs is an often shocking and painful process because it can lead us to unpleasant realizations such as: Deep down, I believe that women can be sneaky and untrustworthy, so the male is the one who must be telling the truth.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church teaches us to treat our fellow human beings with dignity and respect. We can’t let some of our beliefs make it impossible for us to follow that teaching, too. Sometimes, circumstances force a delicate balance between potentially conflicting teachings, but we have to find that balance.