Friday, October 23, 2015

A Simple Point: No Mercy without Truth

True illness of the mind and spirit sets in when a man no longer cherishes truth . . . when in the depths of his soul, truth ceases to be to him the primary, the most important concern.
- Romano Guardini, as employed by Archbishop Chaput, reflecting on the Synod here.

Maggie Gallagher:
We know from polls and from parish life that many, many ordinary churchgoing Catholics do not support many Catholic teachings. Dissent is not shocking; it has been normalized...We now know, as a result of the frankness Pope Francis encouraged for this synod, that a substantial chunk of Catholic bishops do not believe in indissolubility. Not really, except as some kind of ethereal ideal divorced from the “mess of reality”...Could it be that Pope Francis’s time in the streets of Argentina has given him Protestant envy and a hunger for a new model of Catholic engagement that unleashes the laity, the promise of Vatican II?
Jennifer Roback Morse at Crisis:
I was one who gave Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt. I now have my doubts about him. And I have no doubt at all that some of the men surrounding him are either heretics or lunatics or both.

From an AP article on the Synod:
Francis said the synod had "laid bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the church's teachings and good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families...The synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulas but the free availability of God's love and forgiveness," he said.
This Pope has a rhetorical tic to which he resorts so frequently that he must think it a profound path to genuine insight rather than a substitute for it. And that tic is the false juxtaposition, which assumes that if there are two ways of looking at something, two approaches to the same problem, they must be mutually exclusive. If you insist, vehemently at that, that true doctrine must be defended before all else, then you cannot be among those who "uphold its spirit." In other words, you don't live the doctrine, but relish laying it down (and seeing that it is enforced) from your seat of judgement. You don't really care about those "difficult cases and wounded families," or, to unmask the rhetoric, your devotion to doctrine has maimed your capacity to love.

Now, aside from the blatantly false choice it presents us, this setting at odds of the letter and spirit of doctrine really is a cheap trick. It's unworthy of a "Prince" of the Church. The Prince. I cannot be the only Catholic who knows a fair number of doctrine-defenders who want its truth undergirded by appropriate disciplines - of the sort that tells the world we mean business - and yet find time in their lives to do many good things. (And, I want it noted, that if all some are doing is writing apologetics or evangelizing on the internet, that is A GOOD THING). One friend of mine (just for example), who wants the truth proclaimed and vigorously enforced, is deeply involved with 40 Days for Life and spends a lot of time praying in front of abortion clinics. Is he upholding the spirit of doctrine? Or is that not important enough? Maybe it's more important to contemplate the wisdom of extending communion to people who have contracted adulterous marriages. After all, the fellow's doing a good job in his second marriage [the adulterous one], being faithful to his wife, having kids by her to whom he is devoted, and even paying alimony and child support to the wife of his first marriage, for which he never received a decree of nullity. In order to uphold the "spirit" of doctrine, would the Pope have me stop calling these arrangements adulterous?

Or maybe it's not as important as making co-habitators feel good about themselves. Saith the AP article:
The bishops took his [the Pope's] direction, finding "positive elements" in couples who live together even though they are not married. Rather than condemning these couples for living in sin, the document says pastors should look at their commitment constructively and encourage them to transform their union in a sacramental marriage.
I believe this approach is what some have described as the Church of Nice. As I've said before, if you like bad behavior, reward it. You'll get more of it. That's how people are. Should any of these "difficult cases" ever darken the door of a confessional (I am not sanguine about the prospect), why not offer commiseration rather than absolution? Why not absolve them of the need for absolution altogether so that we can make more time for real sinners.

The Pope is maddeningly nonspecific about what he means by "difficult cases and wounded families." Is it unreasonable to suppose that the wounds to these families have been inflicted by the behavior of the parties involved? Are we any longer allowed to say so? As I wrote to a friend recently,
Yeah, the Pope's definitely a mixed bag. He probably wouldn't like my pastor, an Anglican Rite Catholic convert (and a former cop) who doesn't even like communion in the hand. The Pope will probably always be confusing in his utterances. He's just like that. On the positive side, he seems to genuinely like people, with a special place in his heart for the little ones, the disabled and the downtrodden. He made a couple of important gestures, meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor and Kim Davis. I refuse to let him get me down any further than I already am.
But he just might. He's beginning to look like the Spirit of Vatican II (as opposed to the letter, of course) on the hoof. His utterances are, generally speaking, very shallow accompanied by the conviction that he's absolutely right. In other words, he thinks he's infallible in a way that he ought not to.

As to upholding the spirit and the letter of doctrine, say first Yay or Nay, because all else cometh of evil. After that we can start talking about how many and what kind of merciful bouquets we ought to be strewing at the feet of obstinate sinners.

3 Responses to A Simple Point: No Mercy without Truth

  1. Zippy says:
    The cussed incoherent shallowness and constant spouting of insults from this man do not inspire optimism. One of the ‘understandable oddities’ of the situation is that vast numbers of people think of him as a compassionate man of the people precisely because he is always denigrating and insulting the self-absorbed promethian neopalagian oppressor-untermensh, who he is careful not to identify too specifically but who represents everyone who upholds (however imperfectly) tradition, discipline, objective standards, etc. Insulting the right people signals compassion, and modern people buy it because hating the nasty backward traditional oppressor is what unites modern people. Despising the right people means love.
    I’d almost rather have a Borgia pope with mistresses and children.
    I could be wrong, and would be very happy to be wrong, but I expect him to officially devolve ‘pastoral discernment’ to the local Bishops’ conferences – to impose ‘pastoral’ independence from on high under cover of synodal collegiality – so that the Kasperite heresy and other heresies can formally take root in places like Germany with ecclesial impunity. The actual content of the synod discussions and documents don’t matter, as long as there is some tautological acknowledgement that different situations are different, constant pronouncements from Francis himself that openly stating general truths in a context of the particular reality of mass dissent is mean spirited, and pro-forma acknowledgment that decorative moral doctrines up in the sky with no practical implications ‘in reality’ remain untouched.
    What is especially ironic is the implication that constant thunderous preaching by Catholic priests on the wickedness of divorce and ‘remarriage’, contraception, abortion, etc is ‘not reaching people’ — as if that kind of preaching were the status quo in Catholic parishes around the world as opposed to as rare as a black swan. Who is actually disconnected from reality on the ground, again?
    Of course I think this – this papering over of the truth by ‘pastoral concerns’ – has all been done before (see usury). Benedict’s choice to resign was personally difficult for him, I am sure, but will have far reaching implications for the future of the Church. Modernity is probably going to get the Church it deserves, not the Church it needs; and Benedict’s personal choice may have been the turning point, God help him.
  2. William Luse says:
    Insulting the right people signals compassion, and modern people buy it because hating the nasty backward traditional oppressor is what unites modern people. Despising the right people means love. that the Kasperite heresy and other heresies can formally take root in places like Germany with ecclesial impunity.
    I wonder which of those two ought to dishearten me more. Saith the Pope: “…not formulas but the free availability of God’s love and forgiveness.” The Nicene Creed is a formula. I recite it daily because I believe it. If I did not, the “availability of God’s love and forgiveness” would likely not concern me very much. All disciplines (and all Christian love) depend from a formula of doctrinal certitude (see here) and are on the whole rather gentle. Being denied communion is hardly more draconian than a declaration of anathema. Newman once said that he who truly loves his religion reveres its forms. But now we are to be despised for thinking this.
    I understand a man wanting to devote his last years to prayer and study, and the pursuit of perfection, but if ever there were a position in the world for which a man ought to prefer the greater good to his own desires, the Papacy is it. Even in the face of debilitating illness, JPII gutted it out to the end. My beloved Benedict, I would nearly cry, why hast thou forsaken us? And I still don’t know the answer to that question.

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