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Of Heterodoxy And Homodoxy

July 4, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

Orthodoxy is typically defined as correct belief, ortho and doxeia both from the Greek meaning quite literally “right opinion” or “right belief.” This definition of orthodoxy as belief tends to rattle some of our more strident youth who feel as if belief or opinion is less strident a term than orthodoxy implies, yet it is a good choice of words. When we say the Nicene Creed, for instance, we are exclaiming not what we believe, but rather that I believe — credo — a far different thing than “I know” or “I guess.”
The key behind an orthodox opinion is that there is some sort of extrinsic authority that validates its correctness. If your beliefs coincide with those of the Deposit of Truth and Faith, then for Catholics this indicates an orthodox opinion as opposed to a heterodox one (quite literally, a differing opinion or belief).
Of course, heterodoxy isn’t the same charge as if one were to say that one is guilty of heresy. All heretics are heterodox, but not all those who hold heterodox opinions are heretics.
A Catechetical Dictionary for the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Joseph A. Fisher explains, in part, that “…heterodox means opposed to or departing from correct belief established by doctrine. Heterodoxy inclines one to heresy and to be unorthodox.” And: “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial or doubt of some truth that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith (cf. Canon 751).”
My point is that in instances where the Church is clear, and in instances where grave and intrinsically evil acts are concerned, heterodoxy crosses the line into heresy.
Thus a Catholic who believes that abortion is legitimate in even a handful of circumstances is not espousing a merely heterodox opinion. Rather, that person is expressing a heretical opinion. More to the point, because of the nature of the crime of abortion, not only is that person expressing something that redefines the basic truth of the dignity of the human person, they are also willfully choosing to apostatize from the Catholic faith.
Dirty trick on the part of these apostates, isn’t it? Because at core they present themselves as somehow obedient to the Church when at core they are only faithful to their own whims and urges.
Yet there is another temptation that those of us who are orthodox should be on guard against, and the reason why orthodox truly consists of two words. In the case of the heterodox, we concern ourselves with the differences. In the case of homodoxy — same belief — we find ourselves in the condition where we insist that all Catholics should worship the same, pray the same, dress the same — the operative word being same.
Catholicism has often been presented as “here comes everybody!” to outsiders, and in remarkable part this is true. Catholics in America see Italians, Irish, Germans, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Hispanics, Ugandans, Rwandans, Syrians, and all sorts of backgrounds. Eastern Rite Catholics enjoy no fewer than 23 different rites, each according to nationality.
Some of us express our Catholicism in prayer, others in pro-life ministry, others by feeding the poor or visiting the sick. A relative few take up vows and join the religious life. These things are orthodox…and they can become heterodox or homodox if we impose our own calling as a cookie-cutter Catholicism upon others.
But the apostates in the fold should be called out firmly for what they are and whom they represent. Dangerous if allowed to remain within, the very idea that anti-Catholicism could somehow be branded as even remotely faithful is an odious concept at best. We should be bold enough to call out the apostasy, not because we condemn them, but because through their own actions they have condemned themselves.
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. Translated, it means that in necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, freedom; in all things, charity. Differences in how we express our creed is one thing; rejecting our creed altogether is something else entirely.

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I am reminded of the importance of courtesies and decorum, and artfully done. Once upon a time, American society was practically stuffed with such concepts as courtesy, service, decorum, and honor as evidence of both breeding (an outdated term) and good manners (an equally outdated term that deserves a renaissance).
In contrast, I see social media and the American public in a mighty uproar over restaurants, to the point where the professional left is literally following persons of public interest to yell at them.
Perhaps the grunging of America was a bad idea? Certainly this seems to have accelerated over the last 20 years, where workplaces that once demanded a suit and tie have now given way to skinny jeans and lattes. Egalitarianism certainly seems like a pleasant idea, all opinions being valid.
But facts are stubborn things no matter how hard we try to will alternative realities into being. Perhaps, when faced with an actual reality, a steady and controlled dose of humility might go a long ways?
Then again, today is not the time for such commonsense relics as courtesy in the face of a stranger, much less decorum in the public square.

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An unpopular opinion? Anti-bullying laws should be repealed in toto, as they are the cause of today’s bullying culture.
When I was a young man, if a kid bullied me or my brothers, we typically settled it the way young men do — first with warnings, then taunts, a mutual questioning of one another’s patrimony, threats of violence and then the act itself with fists (your humble author is indeed an Irishman, after all). Parents were called, and the perpetrator was given detention. The second party walked away scot free.
Today, if that same scenario happens? Both parties — the bully and the aggrieved — are punished equally under so-called zero tolerance policies. You fight? You are expelled or banished to an “academy” within the public school system for the remainder of the school year.
So what happens? Bullies feel empowered. Mothers’ reputations are slandered, and young men seethe knowing that they cannot make the taunting stop nor can they resolve the problem the old-fashioned way. Thus bullies — and they are always the peaked-in-high-school crowd — become lawyers, activists, low-level PTO hecklers, bloggers, and the sort that thrive on the misery of others.
Thankfully, my sons and daughters are rescued from such madness by virtue of being home-schooled. The horror stories shared by their friends who endure the public education system are truly terrifying, whether it is drug use, promiscuity, or self-harm. Nothing to see here, say the administrators…but sadly, we see the results with every new school shooting, every ne’er-do-well that rises to prominence, or every spoiled brat who needed to be spanked as a young child.
Of course, I am not advocating for octagon rings to be erected in every playground as a means of settling disputes (though the U.S. Navy certainly utilized the boxing ring to great effect for this purpose). What one might suggest though is that an armed society is a polite society, or rather, that empowering young men to stand up and be men isn’t all that bad a thing after all — even if that means putting bullies in their place every once in a while.

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Fr. Stephen Imbarrato is a name that you should remember in your prayers tonight. As I write this, Fr. Imbarrato is serving a seven-day jail sentence. His crime? In December, he presented young mothers with a single red rose as they sat in the waiting room of a Washington, D.C., abortion facility.
After sentencing, Father asked the judge, “When do the babies get their day in court?” No time soon, I’m afraid…at least not in this world.

Send Your Comments

Of course, I am succeeding (but not replacing) the inestimable Mr. James K. Fitzpatrick for the First Teachers column. Please feel free to send any correspondence for First Teachers to Shaun Kenney, c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 — or if it is easier, simply send me an e-mail with First Teachers in the subject line to: svk2cr@virginia.edu.

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