Freedom of Speech is a basic American Right, guaranteed. It exists in the Catholic Church as well: Canon 212 says,
“§1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”
I know some of us would like to take off on the first paragraph, however I’d like to put a discussion on obedience on hold for the moment other than to say it includes the rights in the next two paragraphs. Obedience doesn’t include a mandate to keep one’s mouth shut, especially in the face of a perceived injustice and/or a sin that needs to be uncovered. We always have a right to have our say, at times, obedience demands an open expression of views in the right forum.
An interview with Cardinal Burke has hit the Internet recently where he says “At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder…” Needless to say there’s been extreme reaction on both sides, and I haven’t wanted to feed it in spite of having strong feelings. There is little about this Cardinal’s teaching or example I agree with beyond the basics of the Faith, and we would probably disagree about what’s basic to faith beyond the Nicene Creed and the Catechism. He seems to be speaking as a disgruntled player who’s lost the game and feels cheated, and as such I’m not going to pile on. Even though schadenfreude feels good and can be cathartic, I’m not celebrating no matter how much I want to.
Freedom of Speech means everyone gets to say what they want and be respected, even if their comments appear to invite disrespect. If we give everyone the right to be heard, we must steel ourselves to listen respectfully to ideas and attitudes we find repulsive, or else we become judgmental and elitist ourselves. We even have to be charitable to perceived lack of charity. Trying to be Church only with those we find likeminded and agreeable means we’re just building another kind of Country Club, we aren’t living the Gospel or Jesus’ model of Church. Our test of Church community is about how much we can abide those who we disagree with sharply, provided they don’t clearly cross into Evil. It means treating our worst enemies the same way we treat our best friends, even giving them the benefit of the doubt. If we don’t do this, we water down our own credibility and our right to speak. The only emotion we should pay attention to in any dispute, disagreement or even culture war is universal compassion; the other emotions are poison. The only bond that matters is the Blood of Christ, which connects us all.
Seeing Christ in others is one of the toughest tests of faith there is. Seeing Christ in someone we consider an adversary is probably grounds for sainthood. I think if we are to be honest about following Christ, we should remember we’re called to be saints. So even though I may feel good about the Church’s current moves, I’m not throwing a party to celebrate those who’re losing power.