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I thank “Cynical Saint” for this link.
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FEB 6, 2013
Holy Mother Church Revisited
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of the church of my birth for a whole array of Papist clowns who seem to be running amuck in public these days. (I make no apologies for the fact that I believe the unspeakable Roger Mahony should be doing a 25-year bid at Folsom already.) First, there’s sweaty gumdrop Bill Donahue, a man with poisonous spiders in his libido, chiming in on the case of the goober in Tennessee who had his dog put down because the beast humped another male dog and the goober thought that made the dog gay.
The moral of the story is: Being gay is not only a bonus for humans these days, it is a definite plus for dogs as well. As for straights, the lonely and the disabled, that’s another story altogether.
It makes more sense if you say it through a ball gag.
But the real et cum spiritu woo-woo! exercise is this colloquy between official papal mouthpiece George Weigel and the estimable Kathryn Jean Lopez Of The Little Flower, who mans the Jesus-on-a-cracker desk at the National Review. In case you’ve missed it — and unless you work in the SVU for your local police department, you probably have — institutional Catholicism is setting the world ablaze! It’s fascinating to watch two career Catholics wrestle with their sin of envy for all the success that unaffliated Protestant Bible-bangers have had over the last three decades, and attempt in a very odd way to wedge the institutional Church — and, as we shall see, the preposterous notion of the Bishop Of Rome’s being the heir to the apostolic succession — into the context of evangelical Protestantism’s success in secular politics. It’s like watching people toss a salad with a chain saw.
WEIGEL: Father Robert Barron, author of Catholicism, and I have a very similar view of the Catholicism of the 21st century and the third millennium – a Catholicism that has met the Risen Lord and received from him the Great Commission; a Church that has rediscovered how to introduce men and women to the true and the good through the beautiful; a Church that understands that the truth it proposes is liberating, not confining; a Church that’s a culture-forming counterculture, challenging the culture of the imperial autonomous self to a nobler view of human possibilities under grace; a Church that’s moved beyond the who’s-in-charge-here cat-and-dog fights of the past 40 years; a Church that affirms that everyone has a unique vocation, and that challenges everyone to live his or her unique vocation in an evangelical, mission-driven way.
Speaking of the imperial autonomous self, have I introduced you to Cardinal Mahony? There’s not a lot in there with which, as a doubting-but-still-occasional Catholic, I would disagree, except that I don’t think Weigel really means very much of it. Later on, of course, the other velvet slipper drops.
LOPEZ: You call people “baptized pagans” in this book. Who are they, and isn’t that a wee bit harsh?
WEIGEL: Well, to get down to specific cases, I can think of several members of Congress and senior administration officials who fit the bill. These people self-identify as Catholics, and they may even go to Mass with some regularity. But they are leading lives of such theological and moral incoherence (by, for example, supporting Roe v. Wade or agitating for “gay marriage” or defending the HHS mandate while ignoring its threat to religious freedom) that their communion with the Church is seriously damaged.
The politicos aren’t the only problem here, of course. There are aging, tenured members of theology departments at prestigious Catholic universities whose teaching and writing make clear that they are in a defective state of communion with the Church, because they deny what the Catholic Church teaches to be true. The entire fracas with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is, in fact, about precisely this: Is the LCWR living in communion with the Church, or is it living (and propounding) what amounts to another faith – indeed, another religion? We know that there are schismatics in the 21st-century Church: people who are, in a formal, canonical sense, living outside the legal boundaries of the Church because they have broken communion with the Church by breaking its canon law (think of the Lefebvrists). What I’m suggesting with the, admittedly provocative, term “baptized pagans” is that the Church has a much bigger problem than the tiny and marginal Lefebvrist sect, because there are a lot of people who are still inside the canonical boundaries of the Church but who aren’t in communion with the Church in any other meaningful sense. And it’s the job of all Catholics – but especially the Church’s pastors – to call those “baptized pagans” back to living in the fullness and integrity of Catholic faith.
So much for the individual conscience. So much for abandoning the who’s-in-charge-here cat-and-dog fights. So much for unique vocations. And to have this career throne-sniffer call some of the most dedicated women in the Church “baptized pagans” doesn’t say much for his relationship with the Risen Lord, who did not, as we must always remember, ordain priests or found a church.
Next, we have the remarkable sight of James Madison, that tiny Presbyterian, fitted for a zucchetto.
The right to life, the nature of marriage, and religious freedom are first-principles issues. When we lose on those issues, we risk losing the constitutional order (which is, after all, rooted in the way things are, as that pint-sized political realist James Madison understood), and we should make our unhappiness with those legislators who vote the wrong way very, very clear.
Actually, he never said fck-all about the nature of marriage. But he had a lot to say about religious meddling in secular politics, as we shall see. Still more,
Moreover, if we really believe that a legislator is putting his or her soul in peril by supporting the culture of death rather than the culture of life, we ought to make that clear to him or her.
George Weigel is no more qualified to judge the state of my soul than my barber is, and the fact that the former Joseph Ratzinger has him on speed dial doesn’t matter. Neither are the yahoos who stalk doctors or glue their heads to the clinic doors. This is goddamn close to goddamn blasphemy, goddamn it.
And, no Mr. Madison didn’t say anything about “the nature of marriage,” but he did say this:
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
As Garry Wills points out, Madison was specifically thinking of the adoption of Christianity as a state religion by the Emperor Constantine when he wrote that. That particular moment also was vital is the ascendancy of the Bishop Of Rome to the position of head of the Church, in fealty to which Weigel throws all that evangelical folderol over the side.
WEIGEL: The key question is, as always, “Who do you say that I am?” as Jesus put it to the disciples when they were strolling through Caesarea Philippi. If I embrace Jesus as what he says he is – the way, the truth, and the life – then it seems reasonable to think that Jesus would have wished his followers, the Church, to be preserved in that truth. Catholics have always believed that that truth is preserved by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church through the “apostolic succession”: the bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome, who “succeed” the apostles, the original witnesses to Jesus, the Risen Lord, as Christ’s witnesses in the world, and as the authoritative teachers of the Church.
Again, with the cat-and-dog-fights over who’s in charge here. There is no real Scriptural basis for the Bishop Of Rome, and he knows it and, if he doesn’t, the Eastern Orthodox churches and every Protestant in the world would be happy to explain it to him. Hell, Peter’s authority when he was bishop of Rome was actively opposed. But Weigel’s got an explanation at the ready.
Americans accept that nine unelected lawyers wearing strange black costumes and sitting on a dais in a faux-temple make authoritative judgments about the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. Some people think that tenured Ivy League faculty members and Hollywood starlets make authoritative judgments. Is it any stranger for me to believe that the Church’s bishops, heirs of a tradition that is 2,000 years old, can and do make authoritative judgments?
Would Weigel feel better if the justices of the Supreme Court wore overalls and met in the backroom of the Dubliner down the hill? I don’t know what that business about Ivy League professors and Drew Barrymore is supposed to be about, except that Weigel can’t resist some culture-war cheap shots. I do know that I can draw a straight line through history from John Marshall to John Roberts, and even when things go astray — Dred Scott, say — I can show you how it happened and how it was remedied. The authority of the Supreme Court is derived from the specific words of the Constitution. It is no more simply a matter of public acceptance than the president’s authority over the army is. If Weigel wants to maintain that the Holy Spirit, acting in human affairs, has been consistently behind the bishops of Rome, then good luck to him. That theory lost me at the Cadaver Synod,
Still more, because I love watching Weigel try to marry the Protestant born-again religious experience, with its emphasis on a personal relationship to Christ, to the institutional hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. I’ve always been a sucker for a good contortionist.
You can, of course, go to God direct, any time, all the time. “Practicing the presence” is an old spiritual discipline. You can also “go to God” daily – as evangelical Catholics should do – in the Bible. But if you are “going to God” in the fellowship of the Catholic Church, you also do that through the sacraments that Christ himself left the Church as a privileged means to “go to” him, and through him to the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit.
“A privileged means.” Nothing about that in the Gospels, either.
Sr. Kathryn Jean, to her credit, is a gifted batting practice pitcher, at one point asking Weigel:
How is wanting to be tolerant and make sure those men and women who identify as homosexual have the same rights as everyone else “an attempt to remake human nature by means of law and to endorse that remanufacture by coercive state power”?
And we are seriously off to the zoo:
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who is quite probably the most intellectually accomplished bishop in the history of Catholicism in the United States, put this brilliantly in a January column in his archdiocesan newspaper: “Sexual relations between a man and a woman are naturally and necessarily different from sexual relations between same-sex partners. This truth is part of the common sense of the human race. It was true before the existence of either Church or State, and it will continue to be true when there is no State of Illinois and no United States of America. A proposal to change this truth about marriage in civil law is less a threat to religion than it is an affront to human reason and the common good of society. It means we are all to pretend to accept something we know is physically impossible. The Legislature might just as well repeal the law of gravity.” Now, in a culture where the idea that some things just are has become severely attenuated, this is, as the disciples once remarked of something Jesus said, a “hard saying.” But it happens to be true. And if the state successfully asserts its capacity to redefine reality in the matter of men, women, and marriage, where does its capacity to redefine reality stop? Why not redefine the parent-child relationship, or the doctor-patient relationship, or the priest-penitent relationship, or the counselor-counselee relationship? Why not redefine citizenship as adherence to the state’s redefinition of reality?
This, to Weigel, is brilliant? This is Adam-and-Eve-Not-Adam-And-Steve without the wit. The elected representatives of the people have employed their human reason and come to the conclusion that allowing same-sex couples to be married under the law is both a proper exercise of that reason, and that it contributes to the public good. The reality — the actual empirical reality within which our secular democracy operates — is deciding almost by the moment that same-sex marriage is a good thing. That is not “redefining reality.” That’s exchanging one legal definition for another. The law now says that gay people who marry each other are married. It’s Weigel (and the good cardinal) who are clinging to unreality.
If Cardinal George wants to argue against gay marriage based on the Church’s theology of sexuality, he’s free to do it, and our secular society is free to judge that opinion, and free to accept it or to reject it. But if Cardinal George really believes that the secular definition of marriage is as immutable as gravity, then I hate to break it to George Weigel, but the “most intellectually accomplished bishop in the history of Catholicism in the United States” is something of an obvious fathead.
To close our services today, we must share with Weigel the awful visions of the gulag that he sees behind the attempt to reform our health-care system. John on Patmos had the beast that rose from the sea. George Weigel, on his book tour, has the Affordable Care Act.
Catholicism played a crucial role in the collapse of European Communism because a vibrant Catholic micro-culture maintained its integrity and its tensile strength, and eventually proved more supple and enduring than the ambient public anti-culture of Communism. That’s why a lot of the younger and more evangelically assertive bishops of the United States have looked to the example of the Polish bishops under Communism for their inspiration in challenging the soft totalitarianism of the HHS mandate.
Mother of god, this is a helluva lot of rock to break theologically just because people fk each other without your permission, and because you don’t like birth control.