John Zmirak breaks down widespread resistance and dissent among Catholics on the issue of contraception in “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture” for The Catholic Thing. The most salient facts of the situation:
On a grave moral issue where several popes have invoked their full moral authority short of making an infallible declaration, 95 percent of U.S. Catholics (the number is surely higher in most of Europe) have rejected the guidance of Rome. They are not “bad Catholics” so much members of a new, dissenting sect – which happens to occupy most of the seats in most of the churches, and many of the pulpits and bishop’s offices, too.
I’m not sure that I agree that they are not “bad Catholics.” To the extent that they have been poorly catechized, this might be the case. Many of us know from personal experience however that there are plenty of people who say that they are Catholics, understand that Catholics must abide by the dogmatic teachings of the Church, and simply don’t. However they rationalize it is really not important to me.
On the other hand, Zmirak makes a convincing case for extending a tolerant and understanding olive branch to well-meaning dissenters (and that does not include all dissenters, mind you); they’re over 90% of the Church, perhaps over 95%, at least in the developed West. H also makes a good point about conservative/traditionalist circles that, while doctrinally orthodox, suffer from ideological stagnation and social isolation. The 90-95% need those who believe that truth is not optional to speak boldly for it, but not in a way that is alienating or unsympathetic to their concerns.
If, for instance, the problem with contraception is that an otherwise willing Catholic family feels it simply can’t handle the financial burden, then those of us who would have them hold to the teaching of the Church should be devising creative solutions to that problem. Perhaps living as self-contained nuclear families in a mass consumer society is not the way to live as Catholics. Perhaps local, voluntary, and bold projects are needed to unite people who wish to live the faith authentically, to share burdens and responsibilities – something beyond the mere handouts so often advocated by leftists. The pro-life movement has had great success with crisis pregnancy centers and other forms of relief for pregnant women; I see no reason why we can’t take it a step further and devise forms of relief for struggling parents.
I shouldn’t have, but I did.
Today I read Fr. Richard McBrien’s article on Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the new head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. As the prefect for this congregation Cardinal Ouellet will play a crucial role in the appointment of the Church’s bishops in the years to come.
In his article McBrien makes the following observation:
When commenting on the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation of the 16th century, Ouellet seemed to blame the scandal of sexual abuse in the priesthood on the weakening of moral standards in society — a common explanation given by those who are reluctant to address the internal problems of the church, including obligatory clerical celibacy, the role of women, and the declining quality of pastoral leadership.
While there might be some who see the clergy sex scandal as the greatest crisis for the Church since the Reformation, I am certainly not one of them. But what I found completely absurd — again, I should’ve avoided the article to begin with, because it was to be expected — was McBrien’s reference to the role of women in this context. How, exactly, would priestesses have prevented the abuse of children by clergy?
Father McBrien: your vision of the Church and of the Second Vatican Council is both erroneous and dying. Only a tiny fraction of young Catholics in general and those seeking degrees in theology in particular accept that erroneous reading.
Might I propose that you get with the times?
I wasn’t going to do this, but now I am. A contributor (Morning’s Minion) to a certain blog (Vox Nova), whose views on gun control I previously challenged, took it upon himself to let it all out about “conservatism” – partially, I believe, in response to our exchange. The same themes are there at least, though he does go on (and on) about slavish right-wing support for Israel, an issue on which I am not so enthusiastic. I’ve also made my opposition to America’s interventionist foreign policy known. In doing so I respectfully digress from many of my co-bloggers at The American Catholic.
But there are a number of very broad points made by Morning Minions that are more or less directed at me, and my co-bloggers, and of course conservatives and libertarians in general, and I will answer them here.
I was very struck by a comment which was made on another post on this blog by a defender of liberation theology. I’m not going to attempt to speak in this post to what liberation theology is and whether or not it represents a correct understanding of Christ’s message, but what does interest me a great deal is this response to the concerns expressed by Benedict XVI at the time that he was the head of the CDF about liberation theology, and the similar concerns expressed by John Paul II. As has been observed elsewhere on this blog, liberation theology has not been officially condemend by the Church.
However, a number of aspects of liberation theology have been criticized by the Church, and in reponse to the mention of these criticisms, we are given this defense:
I don’t dismiss what they say. If the version of liberation theology that they critique actually exists, then they are right about those versions. But they cite NO ONE and in my studies I have seen no evidence of the distortions that they claim exist. Here they are not distinguishing between the practice of various Christians and liberation theologians. When they critique something called “liberation theology” I assume they mean the latter. But the image that they critique is just that: an image with little reality. In fact many liberation theologians have actually praised the CDF statements on liberation theology, saying that if such a theology existed it should rightly be criticized, but that what they are doing bears little resemblance to those caricatures.
This defense reminded me very strongly of some reading that I did a while back on the Jansenist heresy. Continue reading
The Anchoress is on fire here about the ham-fisted efforts of the Obama administration to stifle dissent. Eventually someone in Obama’s administration is going to have a “Yamamoto moment” and turn to him and say words to the effect of: I fear all we have done is to rouse a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
Part 7 of my continuing series commenting upon the follies of modern day Jesuits. None of the following of course applies to Jesuits who are orthodox in their faith and are often among the harshest critics of the antics perpetrated by their brethren. An editorial in America, the Jesuit magazine, expresses concern about the dangers of polarization in the Catholic Church in America. Father Z, the Master of the Fisk, in one of his finest efforts, gives the editorial a fisking to remember here.