Spadaro’s irrational faith

d75ef4bbdcaed267332b6508fa4c2f5cFather Antonio Spadaro, the Italian Jesuit who has been identified as “the Pope’s mouthpiece,” frequently uses his Twitter account(s) to belittle all those who have questions about Amoris Laetitia. But this gem from yesterday might have a boomerang effect:

Theology is no #Mathematics. 2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5. Because it has to do with #God and real #life of #people…

This is wrong, and wrong in revealing ways.

Is Spadaro suggesting that when we speak about “real life,” the rules of scientific logic don’t apply? Imagine how you would feel if someone said: “You can talk all you want about the law of gravity, but in real life, …” You wouldn’t know exactly what was coming next, but you would already know it was nonsense. The law of gravity is a law of real life, which applies to real people.

So too with mathematical logic. 2 + 2 = 4. Always. If you reach another result, you have made an error. Maybe you have defined the terms oddly, so that “2” doesn’t mean what it ordinarily means. Or maybe you don’t understand addition. In any case, unless you’re being deliberately misleading, you’re wrong.

So how is it possible that “2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5”? Spadaro tells us that theology “has to do with God.” Does he mean, then, that God can and will violate the laws of logic? If so, he has plunged headlong into the error that Pope Benedict XVI critiqued in his famous Regensburg address: the notion that faith cannot be subject to rational analysis. Pope Benedict saw this error as a weakness of Islamic thought; he probably never anticipated that the problem would crop up in the editorial offices of Civilta Cattolica.

Father Spadaro has an interest in promoting this sort of irrationalism. If you can suspend the ordinary rule of logic by making vague references to “real life” and “people,” then you can sew up the debate on Amoris Laetita very neatly. Every case is different—so the argument goes—and therefore the laws don’t apply. By that logic, since every stone you toss up in the air is a different case, you can never be sure whether or not the stone will come down. But trust me; it will.

If Spadaro is not promoting an irrational faith, there’s another way to interpret his curious Tweet, and it’s no more reassuring. He may be suggesting that you and I and millions of other ordinary Catholics cannot be expected to follow the intricate logic of theologians—in the same way that we are flummoxed by the abstruse calculations of quantum mechanics—so we should leave this important business to the professionals. In other words, our role is to accept what we’re told. We’re not expected to understand; we’re only expected to fall in line. His approach to faith is not based on reason. It may, however, be based on power.

Go here for another Twitter tale

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4 Responses to Spadaro’s irrational faith

  1. Outstanding commentary!

  2. GC says:

    Philip Lawler is one of my faves. The highly noticed ambivalence/ambiguity/non-rigidity of the Bisher of Rome, the shining fruit of being “open to the Spirit” apparently (according to the Rome Bisher), does seem to be the equivalent of such things as this focus for Zen meditation or kōan: namely, we all need to contemplate, for our improvement, “the sound of one hand clapping” and similar things. I remember one episode of Dr Kildare had that as an episode title all those many years ago (edit: no, it was an episode of Ben Casey).

    Phil’s missus has a blog too for young mums.

  3. toadspittle says:

    “Is Spadaro suggesting that when we speak about “real life,” the rules of scientific logic don’t apply?”
    Do the “rules of scientific logic’ apply to miracles? Do miracles apply to “real life”?

  4. Joe says:

    It does just make religious people seem irrational when people say things like this.

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