Recently, the Roman Catholic Church completed a Synod on the Family, which was full of Bishops, politics and manipulation. At one point, a scathing letter was written by 13 of the Bishops and then denied by some of them. Columnists like Rob Dreher and Ross Douthat wring their hands about schism. Not surprisingly, much of the fear and loathing is over the possibility of a more merciful approach to divorced-remarried Catholics (who are denied Communion), or LGBT people. Conservatives are openly opposing Pope Francis, with a vehemence and anger that Vatican watchers consider unprecedented. And all these, even though nothing has really changed.
Fr James Martin looks at the hysteria. He is shocked at the spite, and identifies four reasons.
First, Catholics today often conflate dogma, doctrine and practice.
....In the past few decades, we have seen these three categories collapsed together, at least in the popular Catholic imagination. It is as if every teaching is seen as dogma. And this has had disastrous effects. Because a change in one is seen as an attack on everything....
Second, change itself may be difficult for some Catholics because it threaten one's idea of a stable church. Yet the church has always changed. Not in its essentials, but in some important practices, as it responds to what Jesus called the "signs of the times."He concludes,
.....Third, a darker reason for the anger: a crushing sense of legalism of the kind that Jesus warned against. Sadly, I see this evident in our church, and it is ironic to find this in those who hew to the Gospels because this is one of the clearest things that Jesus opposed....
Fourth, even darker reasons for the anger: a hatred of LGBT Catholics that masks itself as a concern for their souls, a desire to shut out divorced and remarried because they are "sinful" and should be excluded from the church's communion, and a self-righteousness and arrogance that closes one off to the need for mercy. ]
Fear of change holds the church back. And it does something worse. It removes love from the equation. In the past few weeks I have seen this fear lead to suspicion, mistrust and hate. And at the heart of this, I believe, is fear.
As St. Paul said, perfect love drives out fear. But perfect fear drives out love.
In another article, in America Magazine (the Jesuit Magazine), Fr Martin has more to say about these angry Catholics:
I’m disgusted with malicious slandering that passes itself off as thoughtful theology. I’m disgusted with mean-spirited personal attacks that pass themselves off as Christian discourse. I’m disgusted with the facile use of words like “heresy” and “schism” and “apostate,” passing itself off as defenses of the faith. Basically, I’m disgusted with hate being passed off as charity. ....
That is not theology, and it does not flow from the love of Jesus Christ. It is a malicious desire to wound people and to score points. And if you think it’s amusing, then you’re missing Jesus’s point about not calling people names, and always praying for our “enemies.” And by the way, if you take Jesus should be your model, and feel the need to judge people, and call them names, like “hypocrite,” feel free to do so when you are the sinless Son of God. We risk being so Catholic that we forget to be Christian.