Big Les

My rhetoric is my rampart!

    The unReason

    November 9th, 2020

    “You guys are literally killing grandma and grandpa.” This was what someone actually said to a friend of mine on social media. Apparently the video she posted spoke unfavorably about our response to COVID-19, and her detractor took issue with it. I didn’t watch the video, so I can’t comment on its content, but I can speak to what underpins an accusation like this. It’s been asserted that by shutting down, socially distancing ourselves and wearing masks we protect our most vulnerable. This argument has been widely circulated as valid justification for our response to the pandemic, but it cannot be reasoned, and the argument is replete with logical fallacies. In this case it was used to attack one who might question restrictions imposed by our leaders. The attacker made no effort to validate the restrictions or address the objections. The attack is a gross injustice, and the allegation deserves a reasoned, twofold defense.

    1. The Attack
      This type of attack uses a logical fallacy called ad hominem to discredit one’s opponent rather than addressing the objections raised. Instead of responding reasonably to the content of the post, the attacker took aim at the one who posted the content. This sort of reaction can quickly digress into another logical fallacy called strawman argument. In levying the allegation of killing grandma and grandpa the dissenter created a false enemy (a strawman) that could easily be defeated by painting a picture of one who cares nothing for old folks. These two fallacies can be quite effective in derailing a potentially fruitful dialogue, but here the assailant made an accusation that could be damaging to the character of the one attacked. One has a right to one’s good name, and the charge of “killing grandma and grandpa” is a serious one as 1) it implies intent to do harm, 2) it conveys that the accused cares very little (if at all) for the well-being of our elderly community, and 3) it hints at a selfishness that betrays society, community and family. This charge is unjust, and she is well within her rights to be righteously indignant.
    2. The Reason
      Now let’s unpack the argument which goes something like this, “You could have been exposed and not know it, so you could be spreading the disease unwittingly. Therefore, you should comply (wear a mask, et al) to protect our most vulnerable.” This is both an appeal to emotion and a false dichotomy. It’s a call for sympathy for those in most need of our help, but this personalization is an emotional plea that bears no impact. on the issue itself. To say we must protect our grandparents in the context of the argument is to imply that failure to comply is to endanger them instead. In other words the argument states that objections to the response to coronavirus fail to protect the elderly. It’s either you fall in line, or you kill grandma. No other options are considered. This is horribly narrowed in scope, and it is quite the non sequitur inasmuch as it simply doesn’t follow from objection to reckless endangerment.

    The thing that’s motivating this is fear and not reason. It just doesn’t make sense that by raising concerns and asking questions that we kill grandma and grandpa. None of us actually wants to hurt them, and we aren’t necessarily being careless. From the onset we’ve been faced with a lot of unknowns, but we mustn’t be guided by fear when discerning a proper course of action. While it is not unreasonable to approach the issue with trepidation, we must do so with intellectual discipline. If we do not, we run the risk of attacks like this one in an effort to promote and defend our individual perspectives and running aground in our discussions. The purpose of dialogue is to attain the truth, and the more perspectives the more insight, but when we decidedly ignore potentially valid points we betray our intellect, and we force upon others our viewpoints without exchanging ideas. This is what bullies do, and it must stop.

    Dear Bishop(s)

    September 5th, 2020

    “The sacred liturgy is,…, the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father, as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the heavenly Father. It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members.” Pope Pius XII wrote this in his encyclical Mediator Dei after quoting our Lord, “Where there are two or three gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” He fulfills His promise in the Eucharist.
    Implicit to this teaching and confirmed in Sacrosanctum Concilium, proper worship is intended to be both public and communal, but in an effort to protect our most vulnerable Masses were closed to the public. Consequently, the faithful were denied access to the celebration of the sacred liturgy and were told their obligation to attend had been dispensed. They were assured Masses would still be said, and they could unite their prayers in the Morning Offering and pray the Spiritual Communion in lieu of receiving Holy Communion.
    The prudential judgement exercised in making the decision to close Masses, the justification provided and the subsequent counsel given to the faithful are riddled with logical fallacies and defy reason. Of greater import is the grave wrong committed and the injustice the faithful were made to suffer.
    Precautionary measures taken with the reopening of Masses provide those who might be more vulnerable the opportunity to worship separately. This is not an unreasonable response to public health concerns, and similar measures could have been easily implemented at the onset. As always, when a real danger is perceived those seen as more susceptible to contagion have always been encouraged to exercise extreme caution, but it is a false dichotomy to assert we either close Mass (and distance ourselves) or risk infecting our loved ones.
    It is also an appeal to emotion to allege that by our gathering to celebrate the liturgy we fail to protect our most vulnerable. This fallacy misrepresents the Church’s teaching on charity and contravenes the nature of the liturgy which literally means work of the people. In New Testament usage it is used to refer to the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity (CCC 1070). This active, public service is not distant or remote but intimate and engaging, and it is realized in the assembly.
    In prohibiting the assembly access to the sacraments was denied, specifically the Eucharist. The faithful are advised to receive Holy Communion regularly (being properly disposed), but to say we may pray the spiritual communion instead is to equivocate inasmuch as it intimates doing so is a viable substitute for participating in the sacrifice of the Eucharist which is the whole point of attending Mass. The difference between the two (sacrament and sacrifice) is very great.
    The Church’s liturgy is our worship of God. Since God is due our worship, it is a matter of justice that we do so. St. Thomas Aquinas annexed religion to the virtue of justice, and religion properly orders our worship in the celebration of the sacraments. Because it is both right and just to worship God, it is not only a matter of justice that the faithful be allowed to practice their religion, it is a right of the faithful to actively participate in the sacred liturgy.
    Moreover, it is also our obligation (CCC 1141), yet the faithful were told that our obligation to attend Mass had been dispensed. This is a category mistake as attendance is not a matter of canonical obligation but one of moral obligation. Our worship is required by natural law and not merely by canon law. The Church, by the authority given Her by Christ, articulates the days on which we worship, and She promulgates our obligation to worship, but She does not legislate this obligation in canon law. God does in the natural law, and the Church calls the faithful to obey this divine precept in Her guarding of the faith. Since “the entire liturgy … has the Catholic faith for its content” and “it bears public witness to the faith of the Church” (MD 48) the Church’s duty is to ensure the faithful comply.
    Canon law (containing both divine and human laws) must not discord with natural law which imposes upon us this obligation. It is not optional or conditional. Natural law cannot be abrogated, and it mustn’t be obfuscated, and the dispensing of canon law must not be an impediment to the natural law. That is to say, when canonical action is taken to bring about an end by licit means, if that means conflicts with natural law, it is unjust.
    Committing an injustice unwittingly makes one invincibly ignorant, but if the act itself is a grave matter, one may still be culpable. The culpability of the bishops in closing Masses to the public cannot be excused, even by the principle of double effect because the action taken constitutes a privation. In an effort to comply with restrictions on gatherings the assembly was prohibited, yet the very nature of the liturgy demands we gather. “Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church…”, and “rites meant to be celebrated in common with the faithful present and actively participating should … be celebrated in that way.” (SC 27, 28)
    On the contrary, to allow public celebrations amid a public health crisis is protected by the principle of double effect inasmuch as it does not intend to bring about illness or death. By complying with the divine precept to worship God, it goes beyond the mere extraordinary that quite often is seen as the cause of the moral dilemma as in the case of removing life support at the end of one’s life.
    Following the guidelines set out by our civil leaders is important as it generally contributes to the civil order, and the citizenry, comprising the political community, has an obligation to comply with the public authority acting in the best interests of the common good. However, because both the community and the authority are based on human nature and hence belong to an order of things preordained by God, both are bound by natural law. Unjust laws do not oblige, and unjust authorities do not deserve obedience. As such our compliance is required only to the extent that guidelines work toward the common good and do not undermine it in any way. To prohibit gatherings (as it relates to the assembly) runs against the common good as it prevents proper worship.
    These problems and false dilemmas may be complex, but we must stay true to basic principles and embrace reason. To obey reason is a moral imperative, and to worship God is a moral obligation. There were no valid reasons to close Mass, and the decision to do so was arguably arbitrary and dangerously close to immoral. Good intentions are not enough particularly when basic rights of groups and individuals are subjected to the collective. It is a basic right of the faithful to worship God, and the denial of our participation in the public worship of the Church was unjust. Please correct me if I have erred in my judgment.

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