Christopher Johnson, the non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for Mother Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, points to an editorial of The Washington Post that hopes the next Pope will not be so Catholic:
Roman Catholics? You have my deepest sympathies. You guys are going to have a LOT of crap to put up with over the next month and a half:
The hallmark of Pope Benedict’s tenure, for better or for worse, was fierce resistance to those changes. He rejected calls by Catholic progressives for reconsideration of doctrines such as celibacy and the ban on women in the priesthood; at a time when acceptance of the rights of gays and lesbians is rapidly spreading across the world, he was outspoken in condemning homosexuality as “unnatural” and unacceptable. With sectarian tension growing in Europe as well as the Middle East, he eschewed dialogue with Muslims and infuriated many by quoting a condemnation of Islamic theology as “evil and inhuman.”
Some of Pope Benedict’s most important achievements came in response to the backlash triggered by his reactionary acts. Pilloried for having suggested before a tour of AIDS-stricken Africa that the use of condoms “increases the problem,” he later suggested that the use of a condom by an HIV-infected person to avoid infecting a partner could be a positive step. After angering Jews by rehabilitating a bishop known as a Holocaust denier, the pope prayed at Auschwitz and published a book exonerating the Jewish people for the death of Jesus.
Pope Benedict will leave behind a church facing the same debilitating problems that loomed after the death of Pope John Paul II — above all, how to remain relevant to an increasingly secular world and to its own changing membership. This pope’s response was to insist that only uncompromising adherence to past doctrine could preserve the faith. Catholics who seek a different answer will have to hope that a college of cardinals dominated by the pope’s appointees will choose a more progressive successor.
It is always amusing to read conservative Ross Douthat’s columns in The New York Times and read the visceral negative reaction of almost all his commenters. The New York Times of course is Holy Writ for most liberals in this country, and their seeing a conservative opinion piece in it is simply beyond the pale for most of them.
Today , Douthat asked if liberal Christianity can be saved, noting that liberal denominations are going the way of the passenger pigeon, the Edsel and conservative Democrats:
IN 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure — during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition — but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States.
As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.
Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.
This decline is the latest chapter in a story dating to the 1960s. The trends unleashed in that era — not only the sexual revolution, but also consumerism and materialism, multiculturalism and relativism — threw all of American Christianity into crisis, and ushered in decades of debate over how to keep the nation’s churches relevant and vital.
Traditional believers, both Protestant and Catholic, have not necessarily thrived in this environment. The most successful Christian bodies have often been politically conservative but theologically shallow, preaching a gospel of health and wealth rather than the full New Testament message.
But if conservative Christianity has often been compromised, liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance. Within the Catholic Church, too, the most progressive-minded religious orders have often failed to generate the vocations necessary to sustain themselves. Continue reading
The mocking of the Santorums for the manner in which they grieved over the death of their new-born son Gabriel Michael Santorum by Alan Colmes and Eugene Robinson has been explored in two previous posts here at TAC, and they may be read here and here. Ross Douthat tackled the subject in the New York Times:
But if the attacks on the Santorums’ personal choices were incoherent (so incoherent, in fact, that both Colmes and Robinson soon backtracked), they were also entirely characteristic of our moment. This is the second consecutive election cycle in which a Republican politician has endured a bizarre obstetrics-related controversy; last time, we had the various conspiracy theories surrounding Sarah Palin’s pregnancy and her Down syndrome son.
In a sense, one could say that these kinds of invasive debates become inevitable once the traditional zone of privacy around public figures collapses. But it would be more accurate to say that the zone of privacy has collapsed precisely because of the deep moral divisions that these kinds of controversies reveal.
Privacy is a luxury of moral consensus. Nobody would have thought to politicize the premature birth and death of John F. Kennedy’s son Patrick, because abortion wasn’t a polarizing issue in the America of 1963. But if a white politician in the Jim Crow South had married a black woman, the relationship would inevitably have been seen as a political gesture as well a personal decision.
Today, we are less divided over race, but more divided over sex and reproduction. In a country that cannot agree whether fetuses are human beings, even questions like how to mourn and bury a miscarried child are inevitably freighted with ideological significance. Likewise, in a country where the majority of Down syndrome fetuses are aborted, the mere act of carrying a child with a genetic disorder to term — as both the Palins and the Santorums, whose daughter Bella has Trisomy 18, have done — feels like a political statement.
Go here to read the rest. The column is a good restrained look at this issue. What is truly interesting however, are the comments reacting to the column. Almost uniformly, they are completely unsympathetic to Santorum and his family, and most say that his beliefs against gay marriage and abortion are so despicable that he is fair game for this type of criticism. A random sample: Continue reading
In these days we are accused of attacking science because we want it to be scientific. Surely there is not any undue disrespect to our doctor in saying that he is our doctor, not our priest, or our wife, or ourself. It is not the business of the doctor to say that we must go to a watering-place; it is his affair to say that certain results of health will follow if we do go to a watering-place. After that, obviously, it is for us to judge. Physical science is like simple addition: it is either infallible or it is false. To mix science up with philosophy is only to produce a philosophy that has lost all its ideal value and a science that has lost all its practical value.
G. K. Chesterton
One of the more pernicious follies of our time is the mixing of politics, science and religion. The Global Warming scam is a prime example of what a noxious brew can result from this. Among many of the elites in Western society, environmentalism has taken on all the aspects of a religion. The religious left has been eager to climb on to this new religion. Based upon very dubious science, and fired with the faith that has traditionally been given to religion, powerful forces throughout the West are eager to implement revolutionary changes in our society, most involving a radical expansion of government control over industry. Continue reading