The Torture Debate was the first issue I engaged at the time. The Torture Enthusiasts, who since they Dissent from Church Teaching I will henceforth call Dissenters (though clear terminology makes them furious - see below), were using this approach ...
They denied that the Church forbid Torture, or else they claimed that Church teaching forbidding Torture in any and all circumstances was not Magisterial or was still in flux.
They claimed that the act they were defending (in this case waterboarding) was not in fact Torture.
I later discovered that this handy template is the only one that's used by right wing Dissenters on all their precious issues. Just fill in the blank and you're good to go. And go and go and go. If you're a Dissenter and your opponent demonstrates that the Church forbids, for example, LYING in any and all circumstances, you can claim that the act you're defending is not LYING. If your opponent demonstrates that the act in question is undoubtedly LYING, you can jump back to claiming the Church does not forbid LYING. Or USURY, or TORTURE or what have you. And you keep this up ad nauseum, jumping from tactic one to tact two until your opponent gives up in frustration.
Read the whole thing here.
For me, the question of dissent is a simple one. It boils down to the following:
- Dissenting from Church teaching is a bad thing to do.
- Discussing and arguing about Church teaching in order to understand it more fully, embrace it more deeply, and apply it more significantly to one's own life is a good thing to do.
- Discussing and arguing about Church teaching in order to come up with an excuse to keep doing something the Church clearly says is wrong is not the same as the second point above.
To illustrate, let's take a matter of merely Church law as an example. The Church says that Catholics must go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation unless prevented for some serious reason. It is perfectly acceptable to discuss this law, its meaning, and its ramifications; it is even okay to discuss what constitutes a valid reason to miss Mass without incurring any sin. The Church doesn't give us a list of reasons; she expects us to figure this out, and to be capable of asking for our pastor's advice if necessary (e.g., ordinarily missing Mass because there are no evening Masses where one lives and one can't get up in the morning would not be a valid reason--but if one can't get up in the morning because one is struggling with persistent insomnia or because one takes a prescription medication that makes one too groggy to make it to the only Mass in the area or one must care for one's bedridden elderly parent who never falls asleep until 4 a.m. or something, one might be surprised to discover that one's pastor agrees that that is a valid reason to miss Sunday Mass for the time being).
However, if one discusses and argues with the law requiring Sunday Mass attendance with the purpose of trivializing it or declaring it outdated, or, on the other hand, insisting that one is not required to attend an Ordinary Form Mass because this Mass is an occasion of sin for one and therefore when one may not attend an E.F. Mass one is excused (an argument I've seen made, in fact) then there is no question that what one is doing is more like point #3 above--arguing and discussing only to find loopholes and excuses, not to embrace one's duty to obey the Church more fully.
I used an example of Church law in order to illustrate that this process we go through doesn't even depend on the thing being debated being an intrinsic evil. We humans are simply quite good at convincing ourselves that what we want is good and what we don't want isn't binding. Add intrinsic evil to that (torture, abortion, contraception, cheating one's employees, lying, etc.) and we become even better at twisting ourselves in knots to rationalize that the Church really didn't mean that this particular evil is really evil, not for us, not this time.
We've been doing this sort of thing since Eve ate the apple--and since Adam joined in that sin of his own free will. You'd think we would know better by now.