Thursday, October 30, 2014

The polarizing effects of Pope Francis

In the aftermath of the recent Roman Catholic Synod on the Family, a fault line has been exposed between traditionalists who favor discipline, no matter the suffering, and pastoralists who favor mercy, no matter the sin.  In particular, the questions are whether the divorced/remarried can be more gently treated (or even welcomed back to Communion), and the proper response to LGBT people.  The traditionalists narrowly "won", but there is clearly concern.

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote a piece in the NY Times that threatened schism if Pope Francis doesn't hold the line against the divorced.
The Catholic Church was willing to lose the kingdom of England, and by extension the entire English-speaking world, over the principle that when a first marriage is valid a second is adulterous, a position rooted in the specific words of Jesus of Nazareth. To change on that issue, no matter how it was couched, would not be development; it would be contradiction andreversal
SUCH a reversal would put the church on the brink of a precipice. Of course it would be welcomed by some progressive Catholics and hailed by the secular press. But it would leave many of the church’s bishops and theologians in an untenable position, and it would sow confusion among the church’s orthodox adherents — encouraging doubt and defections, apocalypticism and paranoia (remember there is another pope still living!) and eventually even a real schism. 
Interestingly, he claims that even if a minority, the pure minded traditionalists somehow count more than everyone else.
Those adherents are, yes, a minority — sometimes a small minority — among self-identified Catholics in the West. But they are the people who have done the most to keep the church vital in an age of institutional decline: who have given their energy and time and money in an era when the church is stained by scandal, who have struggled to raise families and live up to demanding teachings, who have joined the priesthood and religious life in an age when those vocations are not honored as they once were. They have kept the faith amid moral betrayals by their leaders; they do not deserve a theological betrayal.
Fr John O'Malley writing in America Magazine scolds Douthat.
What is being said here? I think we can assume that change, if it comes, would come from the synod, a body of duly ordained bishops at a meeting duly convoked by a duly elected pope. It is a body, moreover, that has at its disposal the full range of Catholic theologians and theological opinion on a world-wide basis. I think we can assume that, influential though the reigning pope always is in such situations, Francis neither wants to nor is able to force his agenda (whatever that might be!) on the members of the synod. I say that in the face of Mr. Douthat’s insinuations to the contrary about Francis. 
While the synod is in session as a body of bishops working collegially with the pope to take measures for the good of the church, it is a binding and authoritative teaching organ in the church. Do not all orthodox Catholics believe that that authority is to be accepted over their own personal fears, expectations and hopes? 
Do not all orthodox Catholics believe that that authority is most certainly to be accepted over the objections of “a minority—sometimes a small minority,” as Mr. Douthat describes himself and his fellow-travelers? This minority self-identifies as orthodox and, it seems, potentially more orthodox than the synod. But it is a self-identification without credentials to validate the claim. 
Finally, what are we to make of this: “Remember there is another pope still living!”? “Another pope still living!” This sounds like a threat. Are Mr. Douthat and the like-minded Catholics for whom he speaks appealing to a pope more to their liking over a pope less to their liking? If so, the statement has a regrettable sinister ring. Or what? Let’s hope that Ross Douthat does not mean his reminder to be as schism-suggesting and radically un-Catholic as it sounds to my conservative ears.
Meanwhile, Fr Geoff Farrow, a priest who came out during the Prop 8 campaign, warns us against reading too much into Pope Francis.  Doctrine, he says, isn't changing--it is just wearing a kindlier mask.
The current Synod in Rome is part of the well-choreographed theater intended to bolster Francis’ popular image as a champion for a more tolerant acceptance of LGBT people and to give Catholicism a much needed pass on this issue. The long term goal is to reverse gains made by LGBT people and subordinate them once again. It is to reestablish the Catholic Church as the final authority in morality, with power to translate those morals into legislation in civil governments.
So what's a Catholic family with a gay child to do?  Fr Farrow makes a recommendation:
Join an Episcopal USA Church. Your child will be formed with the positive Christian values that you cherish, you will enjoy a far superior liturgy and more beautiful music. You will also be a member of a community that welcomes and esteems your child and does not merely tolerate him/her or impose impossible conditions (life long celibacy) on your child.
C'mon in, there's always room for another!

1 comment:

JCF said...

I'm actually more positive re Francis than Fr Farrow is (granted, I don't have the imprint of a Vatican boot on my backside :-/). While I *of course* welcome Any&All to TEC, I also encourage RCs (esp LGBT ones) to think of joining TEC on a "respite" basis. If/when the RCC (under Francis, or later) lives up to...well, to the GOSPEL, then they can return.


Re Douthat (must not write Douche-hat! ;-p~~~), it's the old story: "in for a penny, in for a pound". To Wit:

"We can't leave Vietnam, or dead American soldiers will have died in vain"

"We can't leave Iraq, or dead American soldiers will have died in vain"

"We can't have same-sex marriage, or gays committed to celibacy will have given [sex] up in vain"

Etc, etc, ad nauseaum.

"We can't [EVER CHANGE], or [THOSE WHO SUFFERED UNDER OLD REGIME] will have suffered in vain"!!!!

Insane Troll Logic...having nothing to do w the Gospel.