We are told by Catholic e-pologists that we need an infallible interpreter (magisterium) to provide clarity and certainty with regards to faith and morals, something the Bible (Sola Scriptura) cannot provide. Usually, a modern day example like contraception is used to illustrate our need for a "living voice" to define what is right or wrong.
Below is an excerpt from Akin’s post and a portion of the original question he was asked by one of his readers. Apparently this person sells items on Ebay for a profit, but was concerned that this activity might be prohibited by paragraph #2409 of the Catholic catechism:
2409 Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another
The reader asks:
"...I think this assumes ignorance when there may be none, but still to error on the side of doing good what does the Catholic Church teach? Ultimately what is most desirable is an clear explanation of what the CCC means with regards to those paragraphs.”
Here is Akin’s response:
"I'd like to provide such an explanation, but I don't know that I can. The CCC contains a substantial amount of material on economic matters that is not easy to cash out (pardon the pun) in concrete terms.
Part of the reason for this is that we are at an intersection between basic moral principles and how they are to be applied to real world situations in a way that requires the use of discernment. Part of the problem also is that the Church does not presently have a detailed theology of economics; it has a piecemeal system in which some matters are clearer than others, which has been developed over the course of time to address particular economic situations.
A fundamental problem, though, is that the folks in the hierarchy are not economists and are doing their best, based on real economic concerns, to provide pastoral guidance in an area that they don't have extensive familiarity with. The result is that they often write in an unclear manner.
It would be helpful if they provided examples to illustrate what they are talking about in passages like this, but either due to the concision with which the Catechism needed to be written or due to the fact that they had trouble thinking up clear and indisputable examples, we don't have any. Neither does turning to parallel texts, like the Bible verses cited in the footnote or the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church or the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, help.
As far as I can tell, the clause in blue is simply de novo to the Catechism. It's a first-pass attempt at expressing this, without clear parallels (at least ones that I've been able to find) in other relevant documents. (There may be some in papal encyclicals, but since these aren't cited in the footnote, I don't know where to look them up, and I am under an economy of time in composing blog posts, so I can't just go read all the economic-related encyclicals and addresses.)"
Here we have a Catholic who cannot get a clear answer to a moral issue from either the Catechism or Akin. In fact, he is left to “the use of discernment”, not to be mistaken with private judgment I am sure. Hopefully there are not too many Catholic Ebayers in a holding pattern of confusion over this one, especially in the aftermath of the prohibition on selling relics on Ebay.
But what struck me as funny were some of the admissions Akin has made about the Catechism considering the types of arguments Catholics use against Sola Scriptura (underlined above)
I realize the Catechism is not an infallible document, but if we were to judge the Catechism by the same results-oriented measure that Catholics use against Sola Scriptura (unity in ultimate understanding, clarity), it appears the Catechism could soon become a blueprint for anarchy. Here is at least one real life example of how the magisterium has not provided the clarity that so many Catholics insist is needed.