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Give an Inch & They’ll Grab for the Whole Nine Yards

The Catholic Church has recently given an inch by asking for forgiveness for the sins of her members. Not satisfied, Commonweal seems to want to grab the whole nine yards. Introducing a symposium, Commonweal (Nov. 19, 1999) asks respondents if the Church can “confess” doctrinal errors, not merely sins.

We all know that doctrine can develop, but no apology is needed to do that because when that happens truth is generating greater truth, and no error was involved. But Commonweal is interested in doctrinal “errors,” and therefore in apologies. Thus Commonweal expresses doubts about the concept of the development of doctrine: It’s a “legalistic” maneuver that may involve “tortuous” reasoning; it breeds “cynicism” and is perhaps “hypocritical.”

The concept of development, says Commonweal, also produces “frustration.” It appears that Commonweal itself is frustrated. Why? Because Commonweal seems to sense that the concept of development can’t possibly yield the results liberal Catholics want in the two current “neuralgic” issues Commonweal cites: contraception and the ordination of women.

Look: Contraception is, according to the Catechism, “intrinsically evil” — i.e., always wrong. It’s quite a stretch to imagine that this doctrine could be “developed” to say the opposite. Also, that women cannot be priests is infallible teaching. How could this doctrine be “developed” to say the opposite? So Commonweal seems to have a problem! Thus Commonweal asks (with its own tortuous rhetoric), why not just admit that such doctrines are erroneous and simply change or reverse them?

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