Hear ye, hear ye!
By our Apostolic Authority, we declare radio and TV host Sean Hannity to be excommunicated, due to his public dissent from the teaching of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church regarding artificial contraception.
Just kidding--we have been deceased for 100-some years now, so we will refrain from stepping upon the toes of our Successor, Benedict XVI. We'll let him decide what to do...although the situation would be vastly improved, in the immediate present, if Hannity's bishop and pastor would give him a stern talking-to.
However, We would still like to comment upon Mr. Hannity's statements and actions, and We would like to take it a slightly different direction from most commentators. Yes, We KNOW he's dissenting from the teaching of the Church, and that's bad. But it seems that there's an important reality about Truth which would be good to mention not only for this debate, but for the Culture War in general.
Sean may be pro-life (well, except in cases of rape and incest, apparently) and he may be against gay marriage (well, he does have a gay dating service on his website) but he's a real conservative...well, ok, maybe actually he isn't. Maybe, actually, he is fundamentally a liberal, even if he is aligned with the political right (or neo-conservative right). It's the same mindset which had its roots in Protestantism and continued with the Endarkenment: I can determine truth for myself.
Unfortunately, Hannity seems to view Catholicism itself with an American-democratic lens. In American democracy, you are perfectly free to take to the exact opposite position from that of the government. If I wanted to, I could waltz down the street with a sign that says "Bush is a dope and his policies are dopey." I have the right, as an American citizen, to do this without fear of any punishment. Hannity thinks, seemingly, that Catholicism is similar. You're allowed to take a position against this, that, or the other Church teaching if you want. Some other "Catholics" We know even have a mindset that, by banding together with a grassroots movement and getting enough public support, one can bring about a change in Church doctrine, just like you can with public policy in the United States. That's the American spirit!
The Church, however, does NOT work that way. It is NOT a democracy--it's a monarchy, subject to Christ our King, the Truth itself. One can say what one likes about democratic vs. autocratic forms of government, but a religion which is democratic is a terrible idea. In a such a system of belief (Anglicanism, for example), you have numerous people or entities which can define Truth. But the very essence of Truth is that it (or He) is ONE; Without UNITY, there can be no truth. Two contradictory statements cannot both be correct--and yet the Church of England has held, at various times, that contraception is moral, that contraception is immoral, that women can't be bishops and priests, that they can be bishops and priests, that homosexual acts are immoral, that homosexual acts are not immoral. Without discussing whether or not Catholicism is correct or not, at least it is faithful to the Truth in this respect: it has only ONE body which interprets the Truth, its Magisterium. This makes the Catholic Church unique among most Christian denominations; unlike the rest, the unitive aspect of the Truth is reflected in Her very constitution.
Perhaps some will say that obedience to a lone interpreter of truth--autocratic religion, if you will--is a sort of mental slavery; perhaps some, like Hannity, will chafe at the bit. Only when we look at ourselves with humility (that is, as we truly are) can we see how ignorant we are, how frequently we make mistakes or fall prey to illogical thinking, how our sinfulness can blind us to the truth, how we are so utterly inferior to God--ultimately, how incapable we are at arriving to the fulness of Truth without Divine guidance. And even in a matter of natural law to which we CAN arrive through reason, such as the morality (or lack thereof) of contraception, we know that men frequently DO NOT arrive to such knowledge by unaided reason alone. The fact is we NEED God, an infallibly truthful source, to guide us into the knowledge of Him, of Truth itself, and that is the reason why we have the Magisterium. We should thank God for this gift which leads us through this vale of tears to eternal joy, just as the pillar of fire led the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land.
The true tragedy of Hannity's actions (and that of other dissenting public figures) is that they are rejecting this wonderful good. While rejecting their errors (hating the sin), it is also necessary to love the sinner. We would ask everyone reading this to pray a decade of their next Rosary for Sean and for all dissenting public figures, that God might lead them to understand, appreciate, and love the gift He has given us in the Magisterium.