In his article “Moral Theology: Embittered Moralizing,” in The Valley Catholic, February 21, 2017, Father Ron Rohlheiser engaged in ad hominem attacks against his strawman opponents’ motives without considering the merits of their arguments.
Even though the article was written in the first person plural, which would appear to imply that Father Rolheiser was not pointing any fingers, from the start it is clear that Father Rohlheiser believed that any person who objects to unrepentant sinners receiving Communion is an “embittered moralizer,” like the older brother of the prodigal son, “angry and jealous.” I want to point out that according to Father Rohlheiser’s reasoning, St. Paul must have been an embittered moralizer when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:27: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”
Ad hominem is a logical fallacy used to distract from the merits of the opponent’s arguments. In this article, a typical ad hominem approach is taken; the person’s words or actions are not taken at face value but are pseudo-psychoanalyzed. It’s a cheap and unfortunately effective trick to smear your opponent when you don’t have a good defense against an objection raised in an argument.
Father Rolheiser is casting aspersions on those who believe what the Church has consistently taught on this matter. Instead of addressing the merits of the real and weighty arguments against the proposed change in practice, Father Rohlheiser ever so subtly mocks the character of opponents to the change. Father Rolheiser somehow knows that his opponents are mean and judgmental, people who are not merciful as God the Father is merciful. Father Rohlheiser does not seem to realize that real mercy gently reminds sinners not to bring even more grievous spiritual harm upon themselves.
Roseanne T. Sullivan