the development of doctrine is supposed to deepen church teaching, not reverse or contradict it. This distinction allows for many gray areas, admittedly. But effacing Jesus’ own words on the not-exactly-minor topics of marriage and sexuality certainly looks more like a major reversal than an organic, doctrinally-deepening shift.
At which point we come to the third argument, which makes an appearance in your letter: You don’t understand, you’re not a theologian. As indeed I am not. But neither is Catholicism supposed to be an esoteric religion, its teachings accessible only to academic adepts. And the impression left by this moving target, I’m afraid, is that some reformers are downplaying their real position in the hopes of bringing conservatives gradually along.
What is that real position? That almost anything Catholic can change when the times require it, and “developing” doctrine just means keeping up with capital-H History, no matter how much of the New Testament is left behind.
Ross Douthat is one of the few actually good writers working for the New York Times. By this, I mean that he is intelligent, if not always right, and typically makes as good a case for his position as can be expected in a thousand words or so. And he usually seems to have some grasp, not only of the issues and his own position on them, but of the other side's position. Unlike a number of the other writers for the New York Times, he rarely demonizes his intellectual and political opponents, and he is the only one who seems to actually understand conservative Christians in general, and in particular orthodox Catholics.
He's the only one there who takes seriously the claim that the Christian religions are based on someone, let alone something. Those who do not take this claim seriously have no business commenting on what these religions should or shouldn't do.