I think that they are mistaken about that certainty. In my estimate, the church's moral theory is the work of fallible people.
But if the hard-charging U.S. bishops felt a wee bit less certainty about the church's moral teachings, would they perhaps be a wee bit less hard-charging in the arena of civic debate? Frankly, I do not know if they would, because at times they just seem to relish being combative.
But this observation about their combativeness suggests that things may really be the other way around: Perhaps their combativeness is what is prompting the claim about supposed certainty -- in an effort to persuade the Roman Catholic faithful to join in more vigorously in the various political campaigns that the bishops launch. However, if this were the case, then we would have to consider how to get the Roman Catholic bishops to lower and contain their combativeness.
In any event, for the reasons I've explained, I was disappointed to see the above-quoted statement about supposed certainty in Pope Francis's first encyclical.
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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)