To be Catholic is to be in union with the infallible teaching of the Church. “Cafeteria Catholics,” for example and to be blunt, are in schism with the Church and often objectively in a state of mortal sin. Nothing could be more serious.
It is important therefore to know what the Church infallibly teaches and to accept it. That is, to live by her dogma and other doctrines. It is also important to respect her shepherds when they teach on faith and morals. They are experts in these matters and ordained by Christ to His priesthood.
The Church will prevail until the end of time, but she may suffer setbacks in her influence and effectiveness of mission. Some of that is unavoidable in standing for the truth. Other times, she simply shoots herself in the foot. This has been occurring more frequently as the Vatican and our bishops make pronouncements in areas of prudential judgment far beyond their competence – such as in complex science, economics and political areas.
The most recent example is the Vatican’s apparent endorsement of the Iranian nuclear agreement. This is an area in which they are completely unqualified. Actual experts are divided on (but increasingly leaning against) this proposal precisely because it is more likely to lead to nuclear war then prevent it.
This is not an argument about the morality of nuclear or any other war. Catholic social teaching is well developed in this area. It would be appropriate for the Vatican to remind everyone of that teaching and to applaud efforts to avoid war and nuclear war in particular. Unfortunately, they unwisely went far and dangerously beyond that. Again.
In my opinion, this will have absolutely no impact on the debate (thank God). It will only serve to needlessly diminish the Church’s influence.
William Kilpatrick takes a close look at this particular issue for Crisis Magazine:
When Church leaders comment on international events they show a remarkable propensity for explaining those events in more or less the same way that secular liberals do. The flip side of this penchant is a tendency to ignore what their own theological training might tell them about important issues.
Take the recent Vatican endorsement of the Iranian nuclear agreement. After the global powers finally reached a deal, the Vatican wasted no time in praising it. Shortly after the announcement, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the agreement “is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See.” Bishop Oscar Cantu, the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, called on Congress to “support these efforts to build bridges that foster peace and greater understanding,” and he warned Congress not to “undermine” the deal. For his part, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., applauded the deal in an essay for the Washington Post. He opined that we can trust the Iranians because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once issued a fatwa that “declared the possession and use of nuclear weapons as incompatible with Islam.”
Coincidentally, both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have also referenced the fatwa as evidence of good faith on the part of the Iranians. According to Obama in September, 2013, “Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.”
The trouble is, the existence of the fabled fatwa is in dispute. Apparently, no one has been able to produce the text. According to a “Fact Checker” article in the Washington Post, the fatwa appears to be no more than an urban legend. However, seeing as the likes of John Kerry believe in it, we could be kinder and call it an “urbane legend” — the kind of thing that ought to be true because sophisticated people say it’s true.
A fatwa against nukes? Although bishops can’t be expected to understand the finer points of uranium enrichment or the technical difficulties of inspecting secret underground sites, they might be expected to have a better grasp on whether or not using nuclear weapons is contrary to the faith of Islam.
Kilpatrick goes on to closely examine and contrast Iranian beliefs to ours. It’s a very good, eye opening piece. Read it all at: Faith-Based Negotiations with Faith-Based Fanatics.
He does not mention it, but another crucial thing to be aware of relating to the alleged fatwa is al-Taqiyya. That is the Islamic word for concealing or disguising one’s beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies. Applied it means that lying to deceive infidels to bring world domination is completely acceptable. This is not hidden, but quite well known.