I'm not a Catholic, and I've never thought I would become a Catholic—but I'm almost tempted to convert, just to raise another Catholic voice against the recent absurdity at the Washington Post. The great problem with my doing that is that there are some Catholic beliefs I don't agree with. That matters to me, and it matters to the Catholic Church, too. A person ought not be a Catholic unless he or she really agrees with Catholicism.
That's plain old common sense, and it's hardly news—except if you're the the Post, in which case you think it's front-page material. For some reason it really bothers the Post that the Roman Catholic church would expect its teachers to teach Roman Catholic teachings.
Note that this is not about just attending or joining the Catholic Church, it's about teachers and leaders.
There are numerous problems with the Post's approach in this story. Matthew Franck has a round-up of opinion on this absurdity at First Thoughts, so I'll only go as far as the lede:
Kathleen Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply woven through her. So when her Arlington parish asked for volunteers last summer to teach Sunday school, she felt called by the Holy Spirit to say yes.
A year later, the 52-year-old computer scientist feels the same spirit calling her to say no.
“Feels the faith deeply woven through her.” “Feels the same spirit.” Those two phrases say it all, for they place feeling and “spirit” at the center, and disconnect faith and the Spirit of God from propositional truth. It is the all-too-familar fact-value dichotomy once again in evidence.
It's also palpable nonsense. Is Kathleen Riley going to stand before a classroom of students and weave her five generations of heritage through them? If that evokes any image at all in your mind, it's probably frightening. Is she going to make them feel some spirit? I've had teachers do that for me—all kinds of spirits, from deep interest to serenity to boredom to anger.[1. I do not think the “spirit” of which the Post was speaking was any personal or supernatural spirit. They don't seem to recognize the difference between “the Holy Spirit” and “the same spirit,” lower case.]
Why then should those things qualify her to teach? Teachers impart attitudes, to be sure, but in most classes their main responsibility is to convey propositional knowledge. A teacher's opinions concerning matters of propositional knowledge are therefore relevant, and in particular, a when a teacher is teaching for the Church, her opinions regarding Church beliefs are quite relevant.
This is not just a Roman Catholic issue. The Post is saying the Church has no business setting Church policy and polity—that the Church is wrong to practice its own beliefs. It's only a matter of time before they apply the same considerable pressure against the rest of us.