Culpable Ignorance does not equal Discrimination

The story by Barney Zwartz in today’s edition of The Age about the “discrimination” in the Australian Catholic School system against Eastern Rite Catholics deserves some comment.

The story is not quite “hot off the press”, as it was several weeks ago that the Bishops and leaders representing the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in Australia held their joint meeting in Sydney.

They have a legitimate complaint. Due to ignorance – indeed, culpable ignorance – the particular spiritual needs and distinctives of many Eastern Rite Catholic school children are failing to be met in the Australian Catholic School system. We should not be surprised at this. Catholics – even Catholic school teachers – are often no better informed about their faith than the man in the street, and the man in the street thinks that all Catholics are ROMAN Catholics. The Catholic Churches in Australia, whose leadership is still predominantly descended from their Irish Catholic forebears, have often been monocultural in their outlook.

But at the risk of angering my good friends in the Ukrainian Church in Australia, I think it is necessary to point out that culpable ignorance is not the same thing as active discrimination.

Even in Barney’s summation of the issue, you have to go right to the last paragraph before you actually find out how the “discrimination” is manifesting itself. There we are told that:

[Some] Clergy refused communion to children who were entitled to receive it. There were many attempts to confirm children who had already been confirmed [ie. Chrismated as infants], and schools treated the prayer rope as a piece of jewellery and forbade students to wear them. [To be fair, that last one has happened with regard to rosary’s in my daughter’s school too!]

What this shows is ignorance, not discrimination. Who is to blame for the ignorance? Well, who is responsibile for the education of clergy and teachers?

But to ask another question, we have to look at where this story surfaced. Who gave the Eastern Rite leaders a forum in which to make their justified complaint against this ignorance (although the complaint was mistakenly aimed at “discrimination”)? None other than our friend, the editor of the Catholica Australia, Mr Brian Coyne. In fact, did Barney talk directly to Dr Andrew Kania, Fr Olexander Kenez, Fr Brian Kelty or Bishop Peter? The only source Barney cites is Mr Coyne:

Catholica editor Brian Coyne told The Age there was strong tension between the Eastern churches and the Vatican over perceptions that Eastern Rite churches were treated as second-class Catholics, and particularly over delays to a decision to appoint a Ukrainian patriarch.

The Vatican? I found nothing in the original complaint of the Sydney meeting that the Vatican was to blame for this “discrimination”. What’s going on here? Why has Brian – our local opponent of all that is traditional and conservative in the Church – suddenly become the defender of a group of Catholic Churches who are MORE (not LESS) traditional and conservative in their practice of the faith than modern western Catholicism?

Let me take a stab at it. Is it perhaps a case of “Any stick will do when you want to beat the dog”?

And while we’re at it, here is a banner advertisement currently running on the home page of Catholica. Be amused. Or not.
meaculpa1

Advertisements

40 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

40 responses to “Culpable Ignorance does not equal Discrimination

  1. Tony

    As someone (I think) interested in promoting unity I thought ‘Culpable Ignorance does not equal Discrimination’ was a great headline. It’s an important distinction to make and, IMO, helps to build bridges rather than tear them down.

    So, I wonder what your post would have looked like if these two phrases were omitted:

    – ‘our local opponent of all that is traditional and
    conservative in the Church’ , and
    – ‘Any stick will do when you want to beat the dog?’

    Seriously, what is the effect that these two ‘observations’ have on your argument?

    For better and worse, IMO, Brian’s mindset is that of a journalist and I have, from time to time, taken him to task for ‘pushing the envelope’. I don’t know enough about this issue to say he’s done that here, but I thought you argued your POV well until you turned it into a personal swipe at the end.

    Just to make myself perfectly clear: I’m not defending Brian on this issue — I, like other Catholics of Irish heritage (mea culpa), just don’t know enough about it — but misinformation is countered by good argument. Once you inject that ‘turf war’ stuff, you do your own argument a disservice.

    Finally, what has the graphic got to do with the subject exactly?

    • I guess I had more than one point. There are two points, really:

      1) The Eastern Catholics are right to feel that they are being ignored but wrong to feel that they are being discriminated against

      2) Why has Brian taken up their cause on Catholica, when we know that his “journalism” (as you call it) is rarely disinterested? Catholica has a particular take on the currrent situation in the Church and particular proposals for making that situation better. How does the Eastern Rite Catholics complaint fit with Brian’s editorial policy? How does it match up with the general direction in which he “pushes the envelope”?

      The graphic is just one of those things you are (very) likely to find on Catholica that demonstrates this “general direction” so nicely.

      • Son of Trypho

        I agree with you Schutz – I wonder what Coyne thinks of the “36 signs of the Cross during the Liturgy” comment raised in the paper.

        I think its disingenous for anyone to suggest that he isn’t using this for his own purposes rather than for his fraternal care for Eastern Catholics and their (in his likely view) antiquated rites.

        Not too entrenched I hope?

        • Tony

          ‘(in his likely view)’

          Do you know what a ‘straw man’ argument is SoT?

          A few more spade-fulls and you’ll hit China!

          • Son of Trypho

            C’mon Tony – be honest and admit it, the entrenched bit got to you didn’t it?

            Oh well, I’ve promised the blog owner not to provoke you (despite your, in my opinion, liberal sanctimoniousness) and I’ll avoid interaction with you for the time being.

            • Tony

              The entrenched bit SoT? It didn’t ‘get’ me; it wasn’t even original. Honestly.

              Be assured that I promise not to be provoked (despite your, in my opinion, vacuous arguments and unsubstantiated assertions*) and I make no promises not to respond when I think it appropriate.

              * (Ah … the sublime power of parenthetical swipes!)

              • Son of Trypho

                yes, ok Tony, you have suitably cowed me with both your intelligence and vocabulary. I stand in awe of a true master of building bridges with those who differ from his opinions…

                • Son of Trypho

                  Tony et al, actually I would like to sincerely apologise for my lack of charity displayed in this thread. I will withdraw to avoid further opportunity for personal sin.

                  • Tony

                    SoT,

                    I’ve ticked the box that posts responses as emails and saw your penultimate post but not your apology. Needless to say, me being me, I was ready to respond in kind!

                    So, thanks for your apology.

                    In my book the first to apologise is the winner LOL. So, coming in second, I apologise for not being more of a bridge-builder.

    • Congrats on getting your Avatar to work, by the way!

      • Tony

        Just had to sell my soul and subscribe to WordPress, David.

        How many on-line subs and usernames and passwords can one person take on I wonder?

        BTW, have you noticed the tiny smiley-face on WordPress pages? It’s on the very top right of this one. Cute huh?

  2. Son of Trypho

    “Seriously, what is the effect that these two ‘observations’ have on your argument?”

    -I think Schutz is trying to explain or understand Coyne’s motives for getting involved in this matter? Is is unreasonable to question or try to understand someone’s motives especially when they are presenting this in the national press?

    Btw, I thought you argued your POV quite well in the first paragraph until you took the rest of your response to take a few personal swipes at Schutz…

    • Tony

      Please show me where I took personal swipes at David, Son of Trypho.

      • Son of Trypho

        “Once you inject that ‘turf war’ stuff, you do your own argument a disservice.”

        • Tony

          We could go on playing this tit-for-tat game SoT, but you still haven’t shown me where I’ve used ‘personal swipes’.

          • Tony

            BTW, I don’t claim that I’ve not been critical of David’s post — perhaps TOO critical — but I can’t see where I’ve been personal.

          • Son of Trypho

            You have previously made comments on this blog about Schutz injecting “turf war” comments into his posts – this strikes me as personal.

  3. Tony

    I dunno David, I think you’ve mixed up one subject, which I agree needs to be talked about more and is worthy of serious consideration in the way your headline suggested, with another that was pure ‘turf wars’ stuff.

    In your second point, you ask a number of questions. Can you see the difference between posing questions and making statements? When you ask questions you put your self in the position of maybe not knowing and wanting to find out. It’s bridge-building stuff. When you make statements, you assume you know. It’s the stuff of entrenched positions.

    Why not put the questions to the man and give him a chance to reply?

    To the extent that his response contributes to entrenched positions and turf wars, I’ll be critical of him too. But you never know, he may have a reasonable argument to put.

  4. matthias

    Yes Schutz it does appear that Brian Coyne is trying to get mileage from this when what is required is for the school to ask or for the Eastern Rite catholic families to approach the schools and explain the differences in faith celebrations.
    Perhaps you could set Barney right about the rite

  5. Peregrinus

    I think you make a false disctinction between ignorance and discrimination, David. They are not alternatives.

    By “discrimination” in this context we do not mean simply treating things (0r people) differently, but treating them differently in a way which is arbitrary and unjustified. Ignorance is something which tends to lead to discrimination, not something which manifests itself instead of discrimination.

    • But surely the whole point of the article is NOT that the Eastern Rite Catholics are being treated “differently”, but that out of ignorance they are being treated the same, ie. the same as Western Catholics or the same as Eastern Orthodox, and this is done out of ignorance, not out of malice. To “discriminate” in contexts like this generally means to do something out of a degree of volition, which I see as completely lacking in these circs. Matthias is right: all that is needed is a bit of information. No-one actually has anything against the Easterners. Least of all the Vatican. (Although perhaps there might be a little bit of suspicion among our Eastern brethren and sistern that the Vatican is NOT pro-Eastern?)

      • Peregrinus

        But surely the whole point of the article is NOT that the Eastern Rite Catholics are being treated “differently”, but that out of ignorance they are being treated the same, ie. the same as Western Catholics or the same as Eastern Orthodox . . .

        Nah, depending on how you look at it, they’re treated differently. for example, if we look at the class of “confirmed Catholics”, then pressure is put on Eastern Catholics who have been confirmed to undergo “confirmation” a second time, when the same pressure would not be put on a Latin Catholic who had already been confirmed. (This arises because Latin teachers/catechists/priests are much readier to accept that little Johnny was confirmed last year, in another diocese, than they are to accept that little Dmitri was confirmed in infancy.)

        . . . and this is done out of ignorance, not out of malice. To “discriminate” in contexts like this generally means to do something out of a degree of volition, which I see as completely lacking in these circs.

        You’re looking at it from the point of view of the discriminator; the different treatment is not discrimination if he or she is not actuated by malice, prejudice, etc. I’m looking at it in more objective terms; the different treatment is discrimination if it is arbitrary or unjustified.

        For example, a rule that candidates for the police force must be at least 185cm tall will exclude a much greater proportion of women than of men. Whoever introduced the rule may not have thought of this at all, and many not be motivated by a desire to reduce the number of women in the police force. Nevertheless the rule is discriminatory unless it is justified by some consideration independent of sex, i.e. if there is a good reason why policemen need to be 185cm tall.

        Confusion arises because, strictly speaking, to “discriminate” means to make any distinction at all. I discriminate when I prefer vanilla ice cream to neapolitan., or when I choose a glass of merlot rather than a can of coke There was a time when to describe somebody as “discriminating” was a compliment; it meant that they had, and exercised, good judgment.

        But, where “discrimination” is used in a sense which implies offensive discrimination, then there is an unstated premise that something about this particular distinction offends us. We have to ask what it is. Is it the fact that a particular distinction is being made out of malice or prejudice? Is it the fact that it is the result of ignorance, perhaps in culpable ignorance? Is it the fact that it is the result of carelessness or negligence? Is it the fact that it is arbitrary, capricious or unjustified? Any or all of these, depending on the circumstances, can reasonably give rise to offence. From the point of view of the person affected, I don’t see why he should have to point to subjective malice or prejudice on the part of the person making the decision before he can complain of discrimination. Remember, he suffers the adverse effects of a bad decision regardless of whether it is the result of malice, of ignorance, or of something else.

  6. Tony

    David,

    I’ve had another look at your post and the linked articles therein (sounds formal LOL).

    I’m not really clear what you are concerned about re Catholica.

    Could you point to the article on Catholica that worries you?

    • Nothing about that particular article on Catholica disturbed me. Nothing at all. I just want to know why Catholica (which DOES carry a lot of articles which DO disturb me) is carrying this… Makes one suspicious, eh what?

      As for your “swipes”, I didn’t take them as such or personally. You are kind of right, there is a “turf war” between Brian and myself. He has crossed swords with me a number of times (and I am sure many others! :)) . That doesn’t mean that I bear him any ill will. We just entirely disagree on a couple of matters…

  7. Arabella

    “They have a legitimate complaint. Due to ignorance – indeed, culpable ignorance – the particular spiritual needs and distinctives of many Eastern Rite Catholic school children are failing to be met in the Australian Catholic School system.”

    One could say the same of Latin Rite Catholic school children in some parts of the Australian Catholic School system. An example is the children’s first experience of the Sacrament of Penance at the Catholic primary school in my area. This involves them going forward as a group with their family and the child and each member of the family ‘telling Father one sin’ out loud. The parents also ‘lay hands’ on the children as part of this ceremony.

    These children miss out on both the theory and practice of this sacrament according to the Latin Rite. Anyone putting in a complaint about this would be sneered at as being one of the ‘Temple Police’.

  8. Tony

    Sorry David, you’ve really lost me. What are you suspicious of?

    Seems to me that Brian’s interest as editor is news and this was indeed news.

    In fact, Andrew Kania has made reference to the eastern church many times in his feature articles, so it’s not at all surprising that Brian would take an interest in such developments.

    Seems to me you’re seeing ‘suspicion’ where a simple explanation is more plausible.

    Is a reader of this blog entitled to be ‘suspicious’ when you post something that is not entirely church-related?

  9. Sharon

    There were many attempts to confirm children who had already been confirmed [ie. Chrismated as infants],

    This sounds as if the Eastern Rite children, who just happened to be in the church on confirmation Sunday were dragged before the bishop! lol

    How difficult would it be, when the confirmation forms came home,to just go up to the teacher and remind her that Eli had been confirmed when he was baptised.

    This sounds like a beatup to me.

  10. Tony,

    I can only assume that you haven’t read much Catholica!

    It is not journalism but propaganda in the main. It does have a kind of gruesome fascination for the 14% of committed catholics they constantly attack! And its vigilance for anything that can be construed as bad news about the church outshines even Cath News, and that can be useful for a blogger on occasion.

    I have to admit I have been reading it in order to understand a little more just where the liberals are coming from (without much success to date). Whenever Mr Coyne crows about his web stats (which is frequently) I feel like saying its me, all me…and people like me. It is not that we agree with the agenda – but we need to know what we are up against!

    And in any case, why ask the editor of a webforum for a comment, rather than say someone from the Catholic Education Commission? It is just bad journalism to find a convenient dissenter to fill out your story.

    So I totally agree with David’s analysis.

    My own university (in the US) actually made a consistent efforts to ensure that we understood the differences in sacramental (and other) theology to Eastern Catholics, precisely to address these kinds of pastoral problems, and so it is about education of teachers, catechists and priests in large part.

    But the Eastern bishops demands actually go a lot further than that, wanting a kind of equal time in teaching spirituality and practices. Now teaching any real catholicism would probably be a step forward in many catholic schools – David’s rosary story horrifies me! And I’m all in favour of schoolchildren being exposed to some Eastern Rite liturgy as part of their general education (as well as the EF of course!).

    But I would suggest that the catholic education system in this country has actually been built up and funded by Latin Rite dioceses – so maybe the real solution is for Eastern rite communities to establish their own schools if they want to promote their own spirituality in a big way…

  11. David and all,

    Just briefly as I have to go out — so I’ll probably come back to this.

    I have two interests in this subject. The first, as others have already indicated, it is simply a newsworthy story. Barney Zwartz certainly picked up on it, so did CathNews (after some procrastination). By the way Barney did speak to Andrew. He was promised an interview by Brian Kelty but he subsequentlly pulled out on the advice of Bishop Peter. The reasons they gave is that they (the Eastern Catholics) do feel and under pressure and they didn’t want to stir things up any further. They are happy that the matter is on the agenda with the ACBC.

    The second reason I am interested is, as I’ve commented at length on Catholica on numerous occasions recently, I genuinely do believe the Eastern Catholics have theological perspectives that ought be shared far better with Latin-rite Catholics. I am not necessarily suggesting that Eastern-rite liturgical styles might translate to the West. In fact I don’t think they would and I haven’t found them particularly attractive personally. The issue is theological perspective that I am interested in though, not liturgical style or cultural style. I do thing this issue can be separated out and I have a growing deep admiration for some aspects of Eastern Catholic theology which I suspect is much closer to the original theology of Christ himself than what we’ve ended up with in the Latin West. I appreciate that might be difficult to swallow for some who like to pigeonhole me into a small box.

    Finally, so you object to my advertisement? Do you think JPII was successful? It seems to me more people left the Catholic Church during his pontificate than during any other equivalent period in possibly the last 300 years of Catholicism. He might have been a mega-star in the media, and as an actor, the numbers simply are not there “where it counts” (and what he’s likely to face, or has faced, some accountability about). Certainly feel free to object away. He’s certainly earned his plaudits in this life given the way some carry on about his “great” gift to Catholicism.

    Cheers, Brian

    • Tony Bartel

      From an eastern perspective, it is not possible to separate the liturgy from the theology, the theology from the ascetical and moral life, or the ascetical and moral life from the Tradition of the Church in such a way that you can have one without the other. They are inextricably connected.

      Ideally the same would be true from a western perspective. It has been suggested that many of the difficulties in the western church come from an overly analytical perspective that separates theology from the totality of the Christian life.

  12. Tony,

    You commendably leap to the defence of all, and exhort us ever to put the best possible interpretation on everything – but at what point does such charity become gullibility, or glossing over real points of criticism?

  13. Tony

    You commendably leap to the defence of all, and exhort us ever to put the best possible interpretation on everything – but at what point does such charity become gullibility, or glossing over real points of criticism?

    The question’s a little too vague Joshua.

    As I said, I don’t have a problem with being critical of an argument. In Brian’s case I’ve been critical of many of his, both in substance and style, but I’m still at a loss to know what the substance of David’s problem is in this case.

    It seems like he’s saying that this is not the usual territory of Catholica and that makes him suspicious.

    Well I beg to differ. Catholica has had an interest in the Eastern Church for a few years, mostly through the agency of one of it’s longest serving and, I’d suggest, best feature writers: Andrew Kania.

    So the ‘break’ a story — whether you agree with the substance of that story or not (David seems to have no objection in that sense) — is not out of character.

    I know there are people who want to simply dismiss Catholica as [insert your favourite pejorative here], but Kania can’t easily be dismissed as a [insert your favourite pejorative here].

    I subscribe to Catholica and read it most days, but I also read this blog and a number of others that feature opinions from many viewpoints. If anything that probably protects me from gullibility parading as charity.

  14. Tony Bartel

    My daughter was told off at school for making the sign of the cross the wrong way – good thing they didn’t ask her to say the Creed.

    Many things are understandable among the laity. However I cannot understand how clergy could refuse the Sacrament to children who were chrismated or insist that they be confirmed in the Roman rite. I would have thought that any basic course on Christian intitation would have given them enough information to make an informed decision on the matter.

  15. Tony Bartel

    The situation is not new.

    At the turn of the last century Father Alexis Toth presented himself to Archbishop John Ireland of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. He asked for permission to serve the Eastern rite community in the Archdiocese. He was not even recognised as a priest of the Catholic Church.

    Alexis Toth was eventually received into the Orthodox Church and brought many Eastern Catholics back to Orthodoxy. In fact the Orthodox Church in America, although originally a Russian jursidiction, received large numbers of Ruthenians from the efforts of Father Alexis. He has been canonised by the Orthodox Church.

  16. Herman

    If I took my lamborgini too the local holden dealer could I expect that it would be as finely or expertly tuned as lamborgini would tune it?

    I would have thought that if I cared for my lamborgni, I would make sure that an apropriate manual, specialist tool and a complete understaning of what I required would be available to the Holden dealer, and if I did not would I have the right to complain?

    Could I just say that the Holden dealer discriminated just because I drove a Lamborgini

    • Tony

      Herman,

      I’m not sure that’s a fair analogy.

      It’s more like a national Holden dealership has, for many years, claimed to also specialise in Fiats.

      That claim hasn’t been put to the test much because there haven’t been so many Fiat drivers and they’ve tended to put up with what they get (especially in smaller towns and cities where there are no other Fiat dealers).

      Now they’re saying, ‘Well, you claim to be able to service Fiats yet, more often than not, you’re filling them with Holden parts. Time to live up to your claim?’.

      Most of the time the people doing the servicing have just not been aware that they could have used the proper parts. Head office has decided to make more of an effort to make sure its branches are more educated about their committment to Fiat.

      • Herman

        Thank you Tony

        I agree that the analogy is not as good as it posibly could have been. What I realy tried to point out here is that we all have a responsibillity and if we rely on others to do some of our work than we must make sure that they can do the work if not it may not be fair to complain.

        Also understand that Catholic schools may not be equiped to deal differently with all the different catholic denominations because of the often small but important differences that exist.

        To continue with tha car analogy, the important issue is not, wether the fiat has holden or labourgini parts but will it get to the destination and I am sure that the Good Lord is more concerned with the intention of the person to love him than the make and model he uses to express this love.

        Herman

  17. We should not be surprised at this. Catholics – even Catholic school teachers – are often no better informed about their faith than the man in the street, and the man in the street thinks that all Catholics are ROMAN Catholics.

    I’m not surprised by anything – either good or bad – which happens in Catholic schools.

    The teachers, in most cases, are pretty ignorant of the Church’s teaching on most matters and/or antipathetic towards it and yes, I think my statement is accurate, based on first hand knowledge as a former student and as a friend and acquaintance of many teachers in Catholic schools etc.

    There is just no way that I would expect the average Catholic school teacher to know much about the Eastern Rites Catholics and as for nurturing their faith – how could they, when hardly any Catholic child has his faith nurtured in Catholic schools?

    Sharon makes an interesting point about the attempted Confirmations:

    How difficult would it be, when the confirmation forms came home,to just go up to the teacher and remind her that Eli had been confirmed when he was baptised.

    I envisage a child being dragged towards the bishop kicking and screaming.

    Should the Eastern Rites Catholic children be nurtured in their faith at Catholic schools? Yes.

    Should all the other Catholic children be nurtured in their faith at Catholic schools? Yes.

  18. matthias

    The writer of this article needs to do his homework regarding a theologian of the Eastern/Byzantine Catholic rite,for i know of one ,who knows Schutz very well,who is a Russian Catholic and who is based at ACU here in Melbourne