A gobsmacked reader, a Catholic academic, sent along this column from the New York Times’s website, saying that she’s embarrassed that its author, philosophy professor Gary Gutting, teaches at Notre Dame. Why? Because in the essay about the contraception controversy, Gutting argues that individual Catholics have the right to decide religious truth, not the bishops. Excerpt:

In our democratic society the ultimate arbiter of religious authority is the conscience of the individual believer. It follows that there is no alternative to accepting the members of a religious group as themselves the only legitimate source of the decision to accept their leaders as authorized by God.  They may be wrong, but their judgment is answerable to no one but God.  In this sense, even the Catholic Church is a democracy.

But, even so, haven’t the members of the Catholic Church recognized their bishops as having full and sole authority to determine the teachings of the Church?  By no means.  There was, perhaps, a time when the vast majority of Catholics accepted the bishops as having an absolute right to define theological and ethical doctrines.  Those days, if they ever existed, are long gone.

Result? Says Gutting:

The bishops’ claim to authority in this matter has been undermined because Catholics have decisively rejected it. The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.

Just like that, the Notre Dame philosophy professor throws out centuries of authoritative Catholic tradition, and declares that the Roman church is now wholly Protestant.

You want to know a big reason why the Catholic Church in America is in such a dire condition? Catholic professors like Gary Gutting.