A conversation about disagreeing with the Church
Earlier this week I had a wonderful conversation with Jake Buscher on his podcast, Cutting The Gordian Knot.
I first met Jake a couple of months ago when my article about Catholic teaching and private property was published. He saw it on Facebook and reached out to me out of the blue to invite me on his podcast to talk about it.
The first thing I did was listen to a couple of episodes of his show and, honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. It was clear that Jake and I had some pretty strong disagreements, particularly concerning the Church’s teaching about capital punishment.
Even when I was most entrenched in the right-wing culture war I never agreed with the death penalty. And now since Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned it in no uncertain terms, I see it as a pretty non-negotiable part of Catholic moral teaching.
Jake’s position was exactly the opposite, and he wasn’t shy about it on his podcast. I stopped listening and expressed my concerns to him. However, at the time we just agreed to avoid the topic and had a nice conversation about private property and the redistribution of wealth back in December.
Well, Jake must have been desperate for content because he recently invited me back on. I told him I’d like to talk about my new article about the Magisterium and the development of doctrine. As we messaged back and forth about it, the topic of capital punishment came up again and I challenged him to reconsider his views in light of the Church’s teaching. The ensuing discussion was so good that we decided that’s what we should talk about on his podcast.
Pope Francis teaches that because grace builds on our nature, our conversion and growing in holiness is a process that happens in time. However, in my experience, we—the Church—are not comfortable giving people the time and space needed to grow. Instead we often present the Church’s teaching and—explicitly or implicitly—expect Catholics to agree or get out. Further, we rarely acknowledge the real existential pain a Catholic has when their conscience, when what they believe is true, doesn’t line up with Church teaching. We don’t offer a lot of room for folks find themselves disagreeing with the Church they love.
Without getting defensive, or backing down from his own arguments, Jake entered into that space of tension. He had real openness and docility to the Church’s teaching. (Hell, he even read the ridiculous list of magisterial documents I sent him.) Now, the conflict wasn’t resolved, but, as Francis says, grace works over time.
It was a privilege arguing with Jake. I think you’ll enjoy listening to it.