Wednesday, October 7, 2009

[tape unintelligible]


William Lane Craig is pretty much awesome. However, this is from a transcript of a debate he had about whether or not the basis of morality is natural or supernatural. It is not him; it is Richard Taylor, and he seems articulate, though thus far in my reading he is not actually showing what the basis of morality could be apart from God. Despite the serious matters being discussed, the places where the tape becomes unintelligible are really hilarious. [EDIT: Taylor's not an atheist, but he's arguing that morality need not be supernatural. I get the feeling in this (and I got the feeling reading another debate of Craig's, with Quentin Smith) that they talk past each other a little bit with regards to what the "need" means when they ask, for all intents and purposes, "does morality need God"? We can couch it in naturalistic/superanturalistic language for all we like, but that's basically what they're debating in my mind.]

"Now I noted that somehow people managed to be decent without this theological underpinning of their decency. Now let’s look at the other side. I cannot but be impressed that those who resort constantly to the theological basis for ethics have not [tape unintelligible] themselves. Recently we have [tape unintelligible] guilty of abusing children. It has become a scandal in the church. It is a priesthood, which bases its morality ostensibly on God. What could [tape unintelligible]. We have a Pope, John Paul, who, with no experience whatever of marriage, of human sexuality, certainly not of female sexuality, presumes to write encyclicals in which he [tape unintelligible] upon all these matters with no knowledge whatsoever about them, no arguments. He simply says, "This is the law." Where did it come from? He says, "From God." You don’t believe that, I don’t believe that. It came from the Church. When it is pointed out that his own priesthood is engaged in scandal, that the law requires that the abuse of any minor be reported, the law requires that any suspicion of child sexual abuse be reported, the priesthood has not done it. Instead, the bishop approaches the parents of these children and pays them to be silent, to disobey the law, to cover it up. And the Pope himself, instead of defrocking these priests, appoints a commission, and then, on his latest visit to this country, blames, not the priesthood, but the American culture. There is far less wrong with the American culture and with American cultural values than there is with the values expressed in that attitude."

All that said, there's some definite pastoral issue with the way that the Papacy and the church itself conducted itself in the wake of those scandals. In fact, had conduct been better, there might not have had to be a scandal on such a scale. But let's be honest on two points here, only one of which has to do with the scandal.

1. "John Paul, who, with no experience [...] [tape unintelligible] upon all these matters with no knowledge whatsoever about them, no arguments."

No arguments? Maybe you meant to say no presuppositions? But no arguments simply does not fly with me. Go read Love and Responsibility. That is not a piece of work with no arguments in it. There are plenty of arguments; they're not all airtight, but they do exist. Try and get yourself some better basis for your knowledge of how much argumentation JP II actually offers on those matters, or some intellectual honesty, whichever one you need, because it seems obvious to persons who actually read his philosophical work that he very much presents arguments, which is the negation of presenting no arguments = not presenting any arguments. You are wrong on this point, sir, by ignorance, I hope, though if that be the case you are the worse for your pontificating on the act of pontificating.

2. "the Pope [..] then, on his latest visit to this country, blames, not the priesthood, but the American culture."

This might be a legitimate complaint against the false dilemma presented, and thus against JP II, if it be the case that he holds the false dilemma. But so far, Taylor seems the only person who actually holds it true, if either of them do, and I also highly doubt that JP II, even if given his Catholicism, truly places the blame squarely on the shoulders of American culture while assigning absolutely no blame to the priesthood. (As for the notion that Taylor might mean the concept of priesthood itself in Catholicism is the problem here...should I even waste my time? There have been two occasions in the last two months or so for Catholic bloggers to remark, perhaps insensitively but truthfully, upon seeing a that a group of "X"'s, where "X" is not at all equivalent to "vowed celibate priest", have turned little ones or church ladies astray, "If only X's could marry this would never happen."

Maybe there's some other tack Taylor was taking besides one of those two. He probably won't have any real way of defending himself to me, because he'll likely never know of this blog's existence, but, well, if anyone wants to offer defense of what he's saying they can feel free to do so.

Relevant link is here.

[EDIT: While I'm adding the "dangit antisupernaturalism" label to this post, it's about time I should acknowledge my debt to Wildweasel's Blaugh with its labels "phoenix wright dammit" and "toribash dammit." I should also acknowledge in the interest of fair play that, again, Taylor is not an atheist, or at the least not a strong atheist. But he does advocate--and this is a position that I severely disavow--that morality does not require the supernatural.]


A. Scott / Xeirxes said...

Question: Where in the world does the Catholic priesthood get the idea of celibacy vows for life? This was never the case with Levitical priests.

D.J. Lower / KKairos said...

My understanding is that it's actually considered an issue of discipline and not, in fact, a theological necessity. I don't have any authority on that one but it was something Mike told me once in conversation.

Its starting context, as I understand it (and possibly its continuing justification?) would be to prevent priests from passing church property on to their sons and dividing it up as they went along.

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