03 February 2006

On the Habits and Spirit of Dissent

When we talk about a “Spirit of This” or a “Spirit of That,” I think we mean to point out a deeply seated habit of assenting to and doing This and That. A Spirit of Charity points out a habit of assenting to the call to charity, being charitable, and doing charitable works. The Spirit of Disobedience points out a habit of assenting to the temptation of rebellion, being rebellious, and actually rebelling. To say then that a person or institution is “possessed of a Spirit of X” is to say that this person or institution is habitual assenting to, being, and doing X.

If all of this is true, then I think we can learn something about the Spirit of Dissent by looking at the Habits of Dissent among those charged with teaching the faith in the Church. This includes both clerical and lay teachers, elementary-secondary teachers, and teachers in college, seminary, and schools of theology.

Habitually, dissent looks like…

…anger: a consuming frustration, disappointment, rage toward the Truth
…hatred: a self-defining loathing for the apostolic faith
…willful ignorance: a refusal to learn, a refusal to be disciplined (to be a student)
…pride: an utter failure to be humble in the face 2,000 years of teaching
…arrogance: an expression of pride that manifests as dismissiveness of authority
…entitlement: an obsessive assertion of prerogative/privilege over service
…idolatry: the raising up of Novelty and Trendiness as final ends
…rebelliousness: revolting against legitimate authority in favor of private choice

What feeds the Spirit of Dissent? (NOT a comprehensive list)

1. The hermeneutics of suspicion. This is a method of reading texts that requires the reader to approach the text suspiciously, that is, to be deeply skeptical of the text’s author, his/her intent, his/her credentials, any and everything about the text: origin, timing of publication, method of publication, drafts, editions, private/public comments of the author—all of the “histories of production”—every possible scrape of information that could add to the interpretation of the text. Reading the text is a matter of holding in perpetual suspension all of this info, one’s own socio-political identity/agenda, and all of one’s deeply held prejudices against anything that looks/sounds like Truth. This method is especially popular among dissenters because it varnishes their dissent with the very thin veneer of academic respectability. Typical suspicious statement about an authoritative text: “We need time to look at the document in its fullest possible context and ask questions about how it applies to our current situation…”

2. Identity Politics. This complex network of self-serving nastiness allows the reader of authoritative texts to “read through” his/her “social location” and come to an understanding of the text that best assists in the creation and advancement of his/her identity. Circular? You bet. But that doesn’t matter at all because dissenters celebrate the…

3. Death of Reason as a metanarrative. This is an important move for the Habit and Spirit of Dissent in that it allows the reader of authority and tradition to discard the pesky habits of rational discourse and rely totally on affectivity. Assertions of personal need, experience, and “hurt” overwhelm rational argument by sheer force of emotionalism and the fear of causing additional “hurt.” Typical affective statement about an authoritative text: “I am deeply wounded by this document. It fails to understand me.” End of discussion.

4. Failure of humility, triumph of pride. The Habit and Spirit of Dissent is fundamentally about the failure to understand and accept the necessity of authority in defining and teaching the faith. Pride tells us that we are basically independent creatures, freed from any and all obligation, beholding to none (including and especially God!). Humility in teaching the faith means that we begin my assuming the authenticity of the witness we’ve received. In other words, we start this whole project by trusting the Holy Spirit to do what He said He would do: to guide His church, to keep Her free from error though the apostolic tradition. The Habit and Spirit of Dissent begins by assuming that the apostolic tradition as received is deeply flawed, in desperate need of repair, and that he/she is the One to accomplish this healing through radical reformation and revolution. The model for this reformation/revolution is almost always secular in origin: ecclesial democracy, spiritualized psychotherapy, fetishization of various secular or non-Christian philosophies (Marxism, feminism, Eastern thought), ad. nau. Typical prideful statement about an authoritative text: “Most Catholic theologians disagree with Dogma X. The latest research indicates that Dogma X is an outdated assertion of ___________ [insert Current Dissenter Object of Derision, e.g. papal authority, institutional identity, gender domination, etc.].”

Teaching the faith means teaching with the mind of the Church. On this subject, the constitutions of the Order of Preachers reads: “In all things the brethren should think with the Church and exhibit allegiance to the varied exercise of the Magisterium to which is entrusted the authentic interpretation of the word of God. Furthermore, faithful to the Order's mission, they should always be prepared to provide with special dedication cooperative service to the Magisterium in fulfilling their doctrinal obligations” (LCO III.1.80).

A failure to dissent is not a failure to question. As a Dominican, I am trained to question. The Catechism recognizes a legitimate form of doubt (nn. 157-159). But notice where the burden of assent and belief rests: on the student, not the teacher. We can legitimately fail to understand, fail to “get it,” and in that failure, doubt. This is why we need faithful teachers, power masters of the faith who begin by trusting God, putting their own agendas and issues behind them, and putting forward the clearest picture of our apostolic faith that their gifts allow.
At its root, public dissent on the part of Catholic teachers is quite simply the spirit of entitled narcissism, the habit of petulant self-worship.


  1. This is really an excellent analysis. I think it goes far toward a clear presentation of a psychology of schism. I commend you.

  2. Point #3 brings to mind Eve Tushnet's statement:

    "if you want anything resembling a functioning culture (let alone a Catholic one) you need people who can say that ‘it hurts’ isn’t an argument."


  3. Anonymous2:21 PM

    For me, when I was a heretic and in that state of sin, I wouldn't have recognized what 'humility' meant.

    My understanding of it now is it started from a complete and utter lack of accepting - indeed, a positive rejection - of my own sinfulness - both prior and potential (you know, honest to God, I thought I was a saint). "Me sin? Ludicrous", I would have said to myself, if asked.

    That, plus the cocommitant failure to see that reason itself can be - is - corrupted by sin.

    Those things lead to the entitled narcissism, the petulant self-worship. A self-satisfied saint doesn't need a redeemer. To a sinner, however, that is his only hope.

    Now, by the grace of God, I know in a way I can't turn away from that I am a sinner, and a miserable one at that - and I am and will remain a penitent for my past sins, and for all my faults and weakness.

    Because of that infused knowledge I can't turn away from (truly, "my sins are ever before me"), I now hope only in Christ.

    Pray for me, and them.

  4. Greetings!

    As one who does not deny withholding assent from certain current formulations of non-solemnly defined but authentic doctrine (typically called dissent), I find your post to be filled with oversimplification, ad hominem, circular logic, and half truths that seem aimed at creating a straw man.

    Is there some anger among those like myself. You betcha.

    The anger, however, is a frustration at not being provided a serious answer to a serious (or sincere) question.

    Just to give an example, the Church proposes that women cannot be ordained because Christ chose men as Apostles.

    The question is raised whether Junia in Romans 16:7 was a woman Apostle, and if so, does that call the doctrine into question.

    The proposed answer is no answer at all. There is not a single Vatican document that even addresses the question in footnotes.

    So, as one who is taking this question very seriously, and not simply trying to grind an axe (at least when I first started exploring the question in 1995), I set out to read what other sources are saying. Lo and behold, even such prominent defenders of the Vatican position as Father Manfred Hauke admit that all sources prior to the second millenium seem to have read the verse as referring to a woman Apostle, including Origen, Jerome, and John Chrysostam.

    Yet, Hauke dismisses this by doing a very questionable and very innovative exegesis on 1 Cor 14:34-37, suggesting a reading that might be consistent with Tertullian, but finds no other support in the tradition. At any rate, if that's the best there is, the mainstream consesnsus of scholars with no axe to grind on women's ordination, including the Pontifical Biblical Commission, have a very different reading of that passage.

    So what is the argument that clarifies Junia was not a woman Apostle?

    There is no argument other than the CDF said Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, while not a solemn definition on its own, reflects a doctrine that was already known as infallible through ordinary and universal magisterium.

    But if scripture names a woman Apostle, it simply isn't true that ordinary and universal magisterium would hold such a thing definitively, and there is ample evidence that this was a debated point into the fifth century with no decisions made that could be "manifestly demonstrated" as infallible by today's standards.

    The real reason is not that we are certain who was and who was not Apostles, but that if women were universally not ordained from the fifth or sixth century to our present day, we'd have to admit the Church could make a mistake for a very long time, and nobody wants to admit that.

    Yet, we have made such mistakes. When we talk about slavery or torture or anti-semiticism, Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict don't hesitate to admit there were long standing mistakes made.

    So, what we really don't want to admit is that we might still be making mistakes, just like we did in the past.

    Of course, if there were a clear answer to the question about Junia (and some other arguments, but I'm trying to keep this simple), we would not be in this mess. For example, if we could say the first millenium consistently read the verse as referring to a man, or that the first millenium consistently read the text as referring to a woman well regarded BY the Apostles, we'd have an answer.

    But that's not the case, and everyone who looks at the issue closely knows that is not the case.

    The actual fact is that to our knowledge, not a single source in the first millenium failed to read the text as a reference to a woman Apostle. As time went on past the fifth century, the commentors expressed greater and greater surprise until in the twelfth century when it was decided to retranslate the verse and put a man's name in the text.

    Every single commentor on the verse in the first millenium that we know about, whether orthodox or heterodox, saw the verse as referring to a woman Apostle.

    What does that mean? How do we deal with that? Is Ordinatio Sacerdotalis really a reflection of an infallible dogma if there was a woman Apostle?

    There is also ample evidence that the early Church saw Mary Magdalene as a woman Apostle, as well as Thecla, a companion of Paul.

    If an answer to the question were provided that made sense, we would not be angry.

    Instead, we're told to shut up and obey.

    I'm a man. I have no vested interest in the outcome of the debate, and I did not approach this issue with a hardened feminist view a priori.

    However, eleven years of seeking an answer is making me extremely sympathetic to many feminist concerns and the whole notions of a "hermeneutics of suspicion" and so forth.

    Theology is faith seeking understanding. I am open to being taught, contrary to your assertions.

    However, being taught means more than knowing how to regurgitate what the Pope said. I want to understand how he knew to say what he said. I want to know how to answer the questions seekers ask. If no such answers exist and the best we have is "The pope said so", we're in deep trouble.

    It's not that I don't recognize the authority of the pope to define doctrine infallibly either when making a solemn judgment ex cathedra. To my knowledge, this has only been done twice - with the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.

    I use the formula of these definitions to try to discern when and if any other proposed doctrine is being presented with such authority, but it is helpful too that Pope Benedict himself has written on multiple occassion that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not a solemn definition.

    At any rate, I withhold assent and voice my concern because frankly, I love the Church to allow her to make statements that appear to be contrary to fact and claim them to be infallible truth.

    Before I give this doctrine assent, I believe we - the whole Church - need to be able to know that Junia truly was not a woman Apostle. We need hard evidence she was not. We can't simply say we know she wasn't because 2000 years later, the Pope decided she wasn't.

    In real history, she either was or she wasn't, and the evidence leans in the direction that she was an Apostle. God forbid a solemn judgment were made and new historical evidence emerged proving beyond any reasonable doubt that Junia was a woman Apostle. That would embarrass the Church far more than the current state of people asking questions.

    Of course, this is not the only teaching I question these days, and I am merely providing an example.

    All too often, people try to settle these issues by name calling (heretic, dissident) and inuendo (you refuse to be disciplined), and appeals to authority alone.

    It is not rebelliousness to simply start out asking a question, and I never would have gotten angry and frustrated if there were an adequate answer (i.e. - if the first millenium commentary actually witnessed to Junia as a man, or at least did not abundantly witness to her as a woman). Saying the evidence she was a woman is wrong based on non-infallible authority of a person alive today who refuses to discuss it further just ticks off the person asking the question.


  5. Anonymous3:52 PM

    Hi Father,

    I very much appreciate this blog and I am happy you are at UD, my Alma Mater. I wonder what the folks over at IRPS would think of your comments. Dr. Schmisek is listed as endorsing a report that came out of the Texas Freedom Network: http://www.tfn.org/religiousfreedom/biblecurriculum/endorsements/

    I haven't read the paper, but a cursory glance at the Texas Freedom Networks goals should give any non-dissenting Catholic pause: http://www.tfn.org/civilrights/

  6. Anonymous12:06 AM

    The problem is we are taught that all authority is arbitrary. This is true as far as it goes if we mean by authority the imposition of the will and the oppression of the other. While tantalizing this view is fraught with difficulty. First off, what do we mean by freedom?
    What if freedom means not absolute license but freedom for instead of freedom from? Then things are quite different. Couple with this the existence of a legitimate authority. Remember that Jesus taught as one having authority and not like the pharisees. In this light the teachings of the Magisterium are not arbitrary restraints but are in accordance with the natural law written in creation, and are therefore in line with the truth about man. Their source being Jesus Christ who taught man about himself. So if we call Jesus Lord and yet deny what the Church teaches then we are also denying Christ. For the Church is not supposed to tell us what we want to hear, then it wouldn't be the truth. It would be like telling us that we are without sin and that would be a lie. Then Catholicism would be just another feel-good New Age fad, a man-made form of idolatry and self-worship.

  7. Jcecil3,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post!

    I simply do not know enough about the controversy over the alleged apostleship of Junia to respond adequately to your questions. Maybe someone out there with more expertise in this are can help? My first thought, however, is: can one be prominent among a group and not be an actual member of that group?

    Several things I need to point out to you:

    1). I specifically limited my observations to the public dissent of Catholic teachers. I am not talking about the private struggles that we all go through when confronted by Church teachings that seem contrary to fact, etc. In fact, I am quite clear in noting that the CCC distinguishes btw the kind of doubt that we all experience due to our human limitations and the kind of doubt that grows from obstinancy.

    2. You uncharitably attribute ill-will to me on several occasions. This seems odd given your critique of me for doing the same thing.

    3. You say that you're open to being taught. You have been. It seems to me that you are failing to distinguish btw your unwillingess to accept a teaching of the Church and the failure of the Church to teach you. The Church has the duty to recognize and enforce the limits of Her own authority. In the definitive declaration on the impossibility of the ordination of women, She has done just that.

    4. The very fact that there isn't any hard evidence on the question of Junia's apostleship means that the Church relies on Her apostolic ministry in defining the faith on the question of women's ordination. Requiring "hard evidence" for the definition of the faith is directly contrary to the spirit of faith itself. Since when do Christians need "hard evidence" to believe?

    5. I simply do not understand your position on papal authority. You seem to reject it at one point and then accept it at another. You write, "If no such answers exist and the best we have is 'The pope said so', we're in deep trouble." OK. But then you write in the every next sentence that you accept papal teaching when taught ex cathedra. Are you saying that you would accept JPII's teaching on the impossibility of women's ordination if he had taught it infallibly? If so, why? You said above that you need "hard evidence" that Jania wasn't an apostle. Sorry. I'm very confused.

    6. You write: "It is not rebelliousness to simply start out asking a question..." I couldn't agree more and said so in my post. There's nothing wrong with asking questions. It's what I do for a living! Rebelliousness enters the picture when we place our private judgment about the faith above the judgment of the Church in defining our faith. It is our faith and not my faith or your faith. I didn't write about the tendency of habitual dissenters to treat the faith as a personal possession to be manipulated at will. The Catechism quote Cardinal Newman and I agree: "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."

    7. "Instead, we're told to shut up and obey." This is a tired and whiny parody. Please quote and cite an authoriative document that says this. My guess is that those who define themselves by their dissent crave the validation of being told to shut up by those in authority; thus, they tend to hear "shut up" whenever they need to.

    Again, though I disagree with you on some fundamental issues, you are welcomed to comment here anytime. Thanks and God bless...Fr. Philip

  8. Anonymous12:31 AM

    thank you Fr Powell, I agree with your analysis of dissent.

    To jCecil3 you put so much weight on a historical interpretation of a name which can only be tentative (some scholars disagree that Junia was an apostle -- for example see Daniel Wallace and Michael H. Burer "Was Junia Really an Apostle?" New Testament Studies 47 (2001) 76-91) Note Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict's earlier comments on this very issue in this summary of his commentary on Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: "In Paul's Letter to the Romans, 16:7, a female Apostle Junia is named along with her husband Andronicus. Or there is the deacnoness Phoebe. Cardinal Ratzinger responds by saying that these assertions are hypothetical and have limited relation to the truth. The real question is: "Who interprets Scripture?" Where do we get our certainty about what it means? If we just look to a purely historicist interpretation
    and nothing more we cannot get ultimate certitude. The conclusions of historical research are by their very nature
    always hypothetical: none of us were present.
    The Scriptures can
    become a foundation of a life only when it is entrusted to a
    living subject, the same living subject from which the Scriptures
    were born. They have their origin in the People of God guided by
    the Holy spirit, and this subject has never ceased to exist. ..According to this vision Scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium are not to be considered as three separate realities but the Scriptures read in the light of the Tradition and lived in the faith of the
    " From http://www.ewtn.com/library/PRIESTS/RATORDSA.TXT

  9. Anon writes: "The problem is we are taught that all authority is arbitrary."

    Yup. The Spirit of Habitual Dissent (!) almost always errs in defining authority as nothing more than "the power to arbitrarily decide." The scriptural and magisterial witness of authority is much more complex. The fantastic quotes from Newman over at Pontifications demonstrate that one can be absolutely faithful to the Tradition and the Magisterium and keep one's brain in perfect working order. It is simply false to claim that one's intellect takes a vacation when one's will is humbly bent to legit authority.

  10. While agreeing with the main thrust of the post, I will just point out that anger, hatred, willful ignorance, pride, arrogance, entitlement, and idolatry are also characteristics of a Spirit of Triumphalism, I suppose it could be called. What feeds this spirit is, of course, quite different than what feeds the Spirit of Disobedience, but the Church would be well served were both spirits starved to death.

  11. Alvin (Pontificator),

    Great distinctions and even better quote from Newman. Thanks!


    I couldn't disagree more. In most ways that matter the Spirit of Triumphalism is worse that the Spirit of Dissent. As I preached this morning on the text from Mark, to teach and to be taught require compassion and humility. Triumphalism is one powerful way to kill compassion and refuse humility; this Spirit cannot teach the faith b/c it refuses the very Spirit that moved Jesus to teach the crowd, all while claiming to teach in his name.

    What's worse than both these Spirits is the Spirit of Triumphalist Dissent! I've seen the handiwork of this Spirit more than once.

    Fr. Philip

  12. Anonymous12:09 PM

    Jcecil3 -- I wonder whoever taught you that the ONLY reason women can't be priests is that the apostles were men? Besides the magisteriurm and tradition, there is specifically the entire explanation via the theology of the body as well. A deep and careful study proved exceptional fruitful for me, and banished every doubt.


  13. As regards the Apostle Junia (for so both the Greek and the Antiochian Orthodox Churches regard her, and whose feast day is May 17th, by the bye) the Orthodox honor her as Apostle, but they find no record that she was given the charism of serving the Eucharist or administering the laying on of hands (to ordain deacons, priests, or bishops). For that reason, while we honor Junia, we do not believe that she was a "bishopess".

    In much the same light, we honor a number of the saints as isoapostolos: equal to the apostles. The Emperor and Saint Constantine was one; St. Nina (a female), the enlightener of Georgia [southern Europe, not south of the Mason-Dixon line] was another. As far as I know, neither was given the right to consecrate the Eucharist or ordain people.

    From an Orthodox point of view, then, the attempt to use the Apostle St. Junia, or those we honor as "equal to the apostles", as a justification for the ordination of women to the episcopate or the presbyterate appears to be committing the fallacy of special pleading, rather than speaking with the voice of Holy Tradition. Sorry, JCecil.

    And, while I do not believe that the good Father Powell was in any way referring to you in his entry, JCecil, you appear in your response, in addition to being terribly rude, to display all of the marks of the habits and spirit of Dissent which Fr. Powell so eloquently presented.

    Finally, I must agree with Fr. Powell that the spirit of Triumphalism is as bad, if not worse, than the spirit of Dissent. Indeed, they are but the two sides of the same false coin.

  14. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Mary -- I agree with you. There are genuine, reasonable and in my opinion brilliant theologocial reasons why the Church does not ordain women. There are many wonderful essays explaining the Church's position on this very subject. Cardinal Arinze has also gone to great lengths in providing sound reasons. And, as you mentioned in your post, the best source is to read theology of the body. I cannot imagine anyone reading T of B and not coming to a full understanding of the Church's rightful position regarding this matter.

    Somewhere I read that obeying Church authority is not always simple and it is not intended to abstain from personal intelligence and judgment. The Catholic ideal of obedience is not that the individual should regress from stages of growth but that there should be a serious intellectual and personal effort to understand the goals, ideals, traditions and doctrines.

    Before returning home to the Catholic Church, I had many issues with her teachings, but I knew I had to make an honest and sincere effect to understand her doctrines and teachings. The more I studied, the more I learned that the Church's position was correct on every issue I had. I also learned that what Fr. Powell wrote is very true -- the cause of my personal dissent had always been because of willful ignorance and rebelliousness.

    Thank you Fr. Powell, for an excellent analysis.


  15. Anonymous3:22 PM

    Most excellent, Father! Inspired indeed! I can begin to use these pearls immediately! Thank you.

  16. Sounds like many proponents of Tridentine Catholicism, especially those in schism.

    Or many St Bloggers.

    I'd also have to weigh in to critique your point of idolatry. Human beings possess many idolatries, and perhaps instead of dissenters, you're just characterizing angry, hateful, ignorant, prideful, arrogant rebels with a sense of entitlement. Some of whom may be dissenters, but others are traditionalists, and some just mainstream sinful folks trying to find their way.

    The question for me seems to be this: how do those with authority model the good shepherd to the extent that the passions you've listed are defused. I think Joe's on to a good distinction. I'd say that some people are indeed just looking for serious answers to valid questions. I've known many angry, hateful, etc. people. Sometimes they remain so by choice. Sometimes they have engaged someone of the Church who can lead them back to a measure of peace and grace.

    I don't think threads like this are particularly constructive. Too often they nurture the kinds of passions described. I question if it's truly part of the ministry of the Gospel, or perhaps, self-seeking and narcissistic for those who gain the feelings of triumph as a result of reading it.

  17. Anonymous11:00 AM

    Todd - I couldn't possibly disagree more with your last paragraph, and I am not a proponent of Tridentine Catholicism or a St. Blogger. I thnkt the thread and the thoughtful answers were fine.

  18. I think Mary has a good point. For me, the essential reason why women cannot be priests rests with the essential connectedness of this fact to the Eucharist. At the Consecration, the priest becomes the embodiment of the Bridegroom. Because we are not Gnostics, the body matters - and the male body is the matter of priestly consecration, because the priest embodies Christ, becomes Christ, at His nuptial feast with His Bride. This is why the sex of the priest is relevant, why age, skin color, nationality, etc. are not.

    And also: as far as I know, the 'official' Apostles where the Twelve chosen by Christ (minus Judas, plus Matthew) and St Paul. There may have been prechers who were called Apostles at some point in time (as Mary Magdalene is also sometimes referred to as the 'apostola apostolorum', because she brought the good news of the Resurrection to the Apostles), but they surely did not have the same authority as those who were chosen by Christ and have seen Him resurrected.

    This is why the Junia passage is really irrelevant and not at all decisive about this issue.

    And what's more: maybe someone should tell the promoters of woman priests that the priesthood is, in its idea, not a power grab. The priest is not a mini-king, but the 'good shepherd who gives away his life for his sheep'. The model priest is not one of the Renaissance popes or Fr 'I'll tell you' of the local parish, but people like St Maximilian Kolbe - someone who died so that another may live. I wonder how many of those who want to become 'priestesses' understand this...

  19. Fr. Powell,

    Your observations call to mind some of the points made by Methodist Tom Oden in such works as "Requiem" and "After Modernity ... What?"

  20. Anonymous3:26 PM

    I tend to think that all the seemingly limitless reasons why women shouldn't be priests - their absolute status as being 'outside the camp' - are precisely why they would be so excellent as priests. Priests - like Christ - are 'outside the camp' specialists, are they not?

  21. Radiofreerome (and anyone else who cares),

    The comments on this site are moderated. That means every comment left on this blog is emailed to me for my approval before being published. If my intention is to suppress dissent (rather than just name and argue against it), then how do you explain the appearance of your comments and the comments of "Spirit of Vatican II" in this Com-box?

    Fr. Philip

  22. Anonymous4:50 AM

    As a young Catholic philosopher at the University still wrestling with doubt, reading some of Nietzsche's critiques of Christianity and then toggling to this blog about dissent seriously tear apart my mind and soul! I like this post and find some good in it, but it doesn't do enough justice to the value and virtue of dissent. I'm an anarchist politically and religiously, so I'm apparently heretical and inherently rebellious, but I find great benefit in dissent and direct action rather than trying to appease a biased Catholic majority into taking action (or any majority for that matter). The rebelliousness came about naturally through love and is really just obedience to different values: to eat healthier and more ethically, to read and challenge my understanding of things intellectually, and to read about other religions to temper my faith religiously.

    The point was made that it's prideful to dissent with 2,000 years of teaching, but tradition is neutral - it can be good or bad - and there are so many traditions out there - how can we trust just one? I refuse to with certainty.

    I also feel like this denouncement of "the spirit of dissent" also has a subtle anger in it, something I've always shied away from in my Catholic schooling. It communicates an attitude of violence to me and of coercively saying "believe this or die" rather than "this is true, known by your heart and the love we share".

    I hate the obsession with authority and the need to compete and put comments and people down by ostracizing dissenters rather than empathizing with them.

    As a dissenter, I still feel like arguments against women becoming priests sound just like arguments supporting slavery - "The Scriptures back it, tradition backs it, etc." whereas in retrospect we all think, "oh, that's right, we made a mistake" which is human but still ignores the value of dissenters who fought to end slavery. We live in a new age that shouldn't deny women the ability to minister, in my opinion, and I gladly support those women who have already dissented and became priests. It seems like we progress quickest socially, then change our gov'ts, then change our churches.

    I'm probably just a heretical youth trying to find his way and will come around to submit to the perfect Catholic universal truths as revealed by God. Of course, until I get there, I think dissent and the Spirit of Dissent will be helpful tools to help carve a new reality within this Zeitgeist.

  23. Anonymous7:10 PM

    Question for Fr Powell: how do Dominicans today regard their role in the Inquisition? I am reading the writings of the inquisitor Gui and am chilled. Of one heretic he tells us that his "sister" was first cut to pieces before his eyes and he was then dispatched -- the just punishment for his crimes. Gui was a glory of the Dominican Order and Thomas Aquinas approved of the execution of heretics without the least scruple. Today in Ireland the report on abusive church schools is discrediting the entire Church -unfairly. Heidegger's Nazi years are discrediting his entire philosophy -- unfairly. How is it that Dominicans seem untroubled by their historic role in the Inquisition?

  24. Anon.,

    If you ask most any OP friar about the Inquisition, he will likely tell you that it was a terrible episode in our history...one we would never repeat. He will also tell you that 99% of what you think you know about the Inquisition is false. He would also tell you that any institution run by human beings is going to end up doing something that hundreds of years later someone is going to oppose and use to discredit it. I can't think of a single institution, political system, religious belief, etc that hasn't had something go wrong...