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Pope Francis, Chaplain To Liquid Modernity

Vittorio Messori, the prominent Italian Catholic journalist, believes the Pope is turning the Church into a chaplaincy to liquid modernity. [1]Excerpt:

Writing in the latest edition of the Italian Catholic magazine Il Timone [2]Messori took as a point of reference the Polish Jewish sociologist Zygmut Bauman who first introduced the idea of “liquid modernity.” [3]

Bauman observed that the general trait of individualistic modern man is to flow through his own life like a tourist, changing places, jobs, spouses, values and even sexual orientation and gender. Bauman said the modern tendency is to exclude oneself from traditional networks of support, while at the same time freeing oneself from the restrictions or requirements those networks impose.

This trend towards such unbridled individualism has created societies in which “everything is unstable and changeable,” Messori noted, and referred to the “rapid change” not only in sexual behaviour but also in politics where legislators have given up on long term governance.

Quoting Bauman, he said it is becoming acceptable that “change” is the “only permanent thing” and that “uncertainty” has become the “only certainty.”

But he said this attitude has also afflicted the area of religion and the believer is now “disturbed by the fact that even the Catholic Church — which was an age-old example of stability — seems to want to become ‘liquid’ as well.”

Read the whole thing.  [1] As readers of The Benedict Option [4] know, “liquid modernity” is a key concept I draw on for my analysis and prescription. In light of Messori’s commentary, I suppose it makes more sense that the Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, a top adviser to Pope Francis, condemned the Benedict Option as incompatible with Francis’s vision.

Along these lines, R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, has some very blunt things to say about the Catholic Church (he’s a Catholic) and its accommodation to liquid modernity [5]. It’s the second item on the list. Excerpt:

This papacy is not hard to figure out. Pope Francis and his associates echo the pieties and self-complimenting utopianism of progressives. That’s not surprising. The Jesuit charism is multifaceted and powerful. I count myself among those profoundly influenced by the spiritual genius of St. Ignatius. Yet there’s no disputing that for centuries Jesuits have shown great talent in adjusting the gospel to suit the powerful. And so, I think the European establishment can count on the Vatican to denounce the populism currently threatening its hold on power. I predict that this papacy will be a great defender of migrants and refugees—until political pressures on the European ruling class become so great that it shifts and becomes more “realistic,” at which point the Vatican will shift as well. What is presently denounced will be permitted; what is presently permitted will be denounced.

Adjustment, trimming of sails, and accommodation are inevitable. The Catholic Church is not set up to be countercultural. Catholicism, at least in the West, has establishment in its DNA. But this papacy is uniquely invertebrate. I can identify no consistent theological structure other than a vague Rahnerianism and post–Vatican II sign-of-the-times temporizing. This makes Francis a purely political pope, or at least very nearly so. No doubt he has an evangelical heart. But ever the Jesuit, he seems to regard every aspect of the Church’s tradition as a plastic instrument to be stiffened here or relaxed there in accord with ever-changing pastoral judgments.

This will not end well. The West has seen a long season of loosening, opening up, and deconsolidation, of which the sexual revolution is but a part. Our establishment is committed to sustaining this consensus. This is why it has been at war with Catholic intransigence, which is based on the Church’s insistence that she answer to timeless, unchanging, and demanding truths. It’s foolish for the papacy to make a peace treaty with this establishment consensus. It’s theologically unworkable. It’s also politically inept. For the establishment consensus is failing, and that includes the sexual revolution, which made many promises that were not fulfilled.

I remember entering the Catholic Church in 1993, thinking that yes, it had its problems, but it was a solid rock on which to stand. It’s only after I came into Catholicism that I fully realized that whatever the Church was on paper, in actuality, all the struggles of liquid modernity were also taking place within the Church. There is no escaping them. But when my local parishes and pastors were squishy and compromising, at least I could look to Rome and the papacy to hold the line. You can’t do that anymore. And that is a nearly catastrophic loss.

Still, it is helpful for any convert to any form of Christianity to know that there is no truly safe harbor. There are safer harbors — Roman Catholicism is one of them, I’d say — but no place is truly safe. I’ll be writing later today about my own branch of the Christian faith, Orthodoxy, and what some new Pew Research says about its condition today. I’d say that Orthodoxy is the safest of all the safer harbors, but again, if anyone outside the faith thinks they are going to escape the deluge by taking refuge in the Orthodox Church, or any Church, they’re deceiving themselves. The best you can do is to embrace a form of Christianity that is deeply rooted in the past, and is more likely to resist the currents of popular opinion. Regrettably, this papacy seems to be working hard to dissolve the steadfast resistance that Rome gave in principle (if not always in reality, at the local level) to liquid modernity.

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90 Comments To "Pope Francis, Chaplain To Liquid Modernity"

#1 Comment By Antonia On November 9, 2017 @ 9:27 pm

Thanks to James C for pointing out the gradual abandonment of moral doctrine re contraception by the Orthodox Church. I spent 4 or 5 years in serious reading, trying to decide between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and noticed the same thing. Also noticed that remarriage after divorce is OK in Orthodoxy (hidden under that convenient term “economia”), and that slide started a lot longer ago than the 20th century.

#2 Comment By John On November 9, 2017 @ 10:03 pm

The Catholic Church has survived 2000 years. During the centuries, the faith remained the same; not so the “faithful”. If the Pope, now or in the future, would declare for example that women can be ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic Church he would cease to be Pope as soon as he finished saying it. He would be a heretic and an apostate. We would have to have another Pope elected. The Pope is not an absolute ruler. He has authority to teach authentic doctrine. He has no authority to change revelation and settled doctrines. The Present Holy Father is skating on thin ice. I pray he remains faithful. Many people think he already gone off the deep end. He may very well have. The situation is dangerous for him and the Church might suffer another break such as during the Protestant reformation unless P. Francis makes clear what he is up to. He should answer the 5 dub before it is too late.

See Mr. Thige’s post above. Fr. Hunwicke’s post explain the situation briefly and clearly.

#3 Comment By John On November 9, 2017 @ 10:05 pm

Not dub….dubia.

#4 Comment By Gus Nelson On November 9, 2017 @ 10:38 pm

“Once a church decides that it’s averse to bigotry, including religious bigotry, the other accommodations eventually, and necessarily, follow.”

Jefferson Smith: Two questions: first, where in Scripture do you find support for the need for churches to avoid “religious bigotry” so that churches will make “accommodations?” Second, by “religious bigotry” what do you even mean?

For instance, in reading John 14:6 where Jesus said he was the way, the truth and the life and that only through him could one reach God, if I suggest this verse means Jesus is the exclusive means to reaching God I’m a religious “bigot?”

#5 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On November 10, 2017 @ 1:12 am

Shockingly, I agree with Wes here.

R.R. Reno has been having a fit about Pope Francis because he is culturally adverse to his style, mostly independent of his substance. Some people have especially strong preferences to the parenting style of their Pope. Reno wants a strongly authoritarian Pope that will make black & white decrees and sharply reprimand the “right” people. Pope Francis wants to be an authoritative Pope that engages rather than pushing away those who have lost their way. One can certainly argue that Francis is too permissive, but that’s still just a style argument that doesn’t touch doctrine.

Nikodemos’s comment is great. I love this line: The criterium should always be what is Faith once delivered to the Saints, and where can I find it, not what organization can I join where I might have a peaceful country life with my family, white house, two cars, and no tribulation. I feel as though Rod often conflates religion and culture in his arguments. Western culture and Christianity have been intertwined influencing each other for a long time and have many overlapping values, but Western culture existed before Christianity (and has been splitting from Christianity for centuries) and Christianity can survive without Western culture. Rejecting modernity is a separate goal from embracing God. Many people do one without the other.

#6 Comment By Sebastian Nowakowski On November 10, 2017 @ 2:23 am

Zygmunt Baumann was a political commissar in Soviet led Polish Peoples Army at the height of Stalinist atrocities. At Internal Security Troops he attained rank of major while hunting down Polish anticommunist patriots after the end of IIWW. He also took part in persecution of Catholic Church in Poland and maintained his staunchly communist views till end oofhis life. BEWARE who you are quoting!

[NFR: Politically he was a horrible man. That does not make his arguments untrue. — RD]

#7 Comment By JEinCA On November 10, 2017 @ 4:10 am

Rod my Orthodox Brother I am also a convert to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism. I have much love and respect for the Roman Church (infact my children attend Catholic School) and for Roman Catholics (like my Godparents) who zealously adhere to their faith but you know as well as I that there is One True Faith, there is only one safe harbor. I respect that you don’t want to alienate Catholics and Protestants but when their harbors are destroyed by the coming storm they will want to know why ours is still intact and why we did not tell them the truth and lead them to the one safe harbor. The truth is that 1000 years ago there was only One Church from Ireland to Russia. That Church exists for it was preserved in the East by the Byzantines, the Rus and their heirs. The West under Rome was once fully part of that Church but broke away in and of it’s own accord and is unrecognizable from the time of the schism (1054 AD) until now. Unlike Western Christians (Catholic and Protestant) the Orthodox East did not go through a Middle Ages (Scholasticism), the Renaissance (Romanticism and Humanism), the Reformation, Counter Reformation and Enlightenment that really did shape modern Western Christianity. Orthodoxy remains the same today as it did in 1054 as it did in 33 AD. It is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic and it is the undeniable heritage of all the other Christian sects that broke away over the last two millennia. That is what me must tell the Rod.

#8 Comment By JEinCA On November 10, 2017 @ 4:20 am

That is what we must tell them my brother Rod.

#9 Comment By galanx On November 10, 2017 @ 4:55 am

“The irony is that at exactly the same time the Vatican is having trouble finding a strong voice on this topic, the violent logic at the heart of sexual revolution is being exposed for what it is, in the very institution most responsible for subverting healthy sex practices.

Of course I’m referring to the Hollywood scandal.”

And here I was confused, thinking you were talking about the Catholic Church scandal(why Rod Dreher left) or the Republican Party

#10 Comment By Youknowho On November 10, 2017 @ 8:58 am

@CatherineNY I do not attack Adam Smith, who made valuable contributions to the science of economy. I attack those who quote him reflexively, not taking into account that a) as human, he was falible and might have missed a thing or two b) new knowledge has come in the meantime, to supplement, fill in the gaps, and yes, correct previous errors. That’s how science works.

Instead we have people who reflexively say “free market” as the answer, never mind what the question is. People who apply the same prescription for everything, as if they had never heard of the law of diminishing returns, nor the principle of the limiting factor. That’s what I call the Smithsian heresy, raising a mere human to divine status, something that the mere human would strenuosly object to.

I advice to check on Smith’s antagonist – Fredrich List, who gave prescriptions that said “if you do this, your country will prosper”. Prussia followed his advice and turned itself from an agricultural backwater into an industrial powerhouse that two world wars could not destroy. Japan and Korea followed his advice. Ireland followed his advice and industrialized, starting from a country whose economy was teh export of live cattle. And yet those countries do not make a god of him. They just read him.

#11 Comment By Teena Blackburn On November 10, 2017 @ 9:53 am

Antonia, you’ll notice divorce and remarriage is OK in the Roman church too,under the convenience of annulment. There isn’t even any limit to how many times the church will marry you (unlike Orthodoxy), as long as you can get a tribunal to declare your previous marriage isn’t valid. You can be sure there are marriages declared null and void which were no such thing. I read a quote by a church lawyer that said there was probably not a marriage in America that couldn’t be annulled. The Roman church annulled Newt Gingrich’s marriage so he could marry his mistress in the church-something the early Fathers would find no less despicable than Orthodoxy’s supposed laxness.

#12 Comment By Roy Fassel On November 10, 2017 @ 10:31 am

The problem with “orthodoxy” is that it does not acknowledge the concept of evolution and therefore does not acknowledge that human beings are still evolving and learning. The idea that knowledge and understanding stopped dead in its tracks 2,000 years ago is not rational.

All humans are God’s children and God would surely expect His creatures to evolve and learn and become better with the knowledge learned.

The key question is whether one is saved by “faith alone”…Martin Luther ….of deeds, good works and faith.

#13 Comment By ActualChaplain On November 10, 2017 @ 10:46 am

Rod, I don’t mean to pick a fight over something small, but to answer your question as to why on earth I’d think “chaplain” was a put down in your writing, well, let’s go to the tape, these are all RD quotes:

“We have allowed our children to be catechized by the culture and have produced an anesthetizing religion suited for little more than being a chaplaincy to the liberal individualistic order.”

“Even though conservative Christians were said to be fighting a culture war, with the exception of the abortion and gay marriage issues, it was hard to see my people putting up much of a fight. We seemed content to be the chaplaincy to a consumerist culture that was fast losing a sense of what it meant to be Christian.”

“We must beware of religious leaders who are content to be chaplains to the contemporary cultural order. That way is death.”

That’s why I think you use “chaplain” as a put-down, implicitly contrasting “chaplain” to some other model of religious leader who holds firm and fights back and speaks out. Chaplains are often on the front lines the culture wars and have our own struggles with them, trust me on this.

This is really no big deal, but just saying, if I were to use “blogger” as a term of slight derision you might think I didn’t really understand the full context.

Enough on this small point. Carry on.

Thank you for your blog. Some of my best friends are bloggers, no, really.

#14 Comment By ginger On November 10, 2017 @ 11:05 am

“Antonia, you’ll notice divorce and remarriage is OK in the Roman church too,under the convenience of annulment.”

This. The Catholic Church has its own forms of “economia” to make life doable for people in a fallen world. We’re just not as comfortable with contradictions, so we’ve decided it’s better to just declare that plenty of marriages were never valid in the first place. Voila, problem solved.

Bonus: Unlike the Orthodox, there really isn’t much in the way of formal repentance required (I mean, really, why repent of a divorce from somebody weren’t even married to in the first place? It’s not like we require cohabitors with children to repent of breakups), and your 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th) wedding can be even more of a white dress/blowout Church wedding than your first one ever was!

#15 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 10, 2017 @ 11:35 am

Catherine NY,

The ‘laws’ of economics are phenomenonological descriptions of human behavior. Humans, unlike enzymes, fruit flies or Arabidopsis plants, are agents with free will who are to some extent responsive to and shaped by society, which means that the way they behave can change depending on different circumstances and social environments. This is why economics isn’t ever going to be a full-fledged science, any more than anthropology or history can be.

This is not to take away from Adam Smith’s achievements or observations, but it is to say that capitalism as a whole has fallen far short of what he thought it could be at its best, especially in the last few decades. And there are fundamental problems within capitalism, both economic and moral, that as far as I can see seem irresolvable within the capitalist framework.

Youknowwho,

I advice to check on Smith’s antagonist – Fredrich List, who gave prescriptions that said “if you do this, your country will prosper”. Prussia followed his advice and turned itself from an agricultural backwater into an industrial powerhouse that two world wars could not destroy. Japan and Korea followed his advice. Ireland followed his advice and industrialized, starting from a country whose economy was teh export of live cattle. And yet those countries do not make a god of him. They just read him.

+1000 to this.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 10, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

Also noticed that remarriage after divorce is OK in Orthodoxy (hidden under that convenient term “economia”), and that slide started a lot longer ago than the 20th century.

Some of us admire Orthodoxy for observing a finely tuned balance between what is best of all, and what is the best possible given human frailty and the history of regrettable events and choices that can never be redone. For instance, while I can understand that marriage is undertaken as a covenant for life, and that many divorces are the result of failing to work on what could be a good marriage (while others result from wanton cruelty or abuse), I have never had the slightest respect for the notion that two people who have divorced other spouses, lived alone for a time, remarried, had three children, should cast each other aside and reject a happy marriage of some years as invalid in order to receive communion.

divorce and remarriage is OK in the Roman church too,under the convenience of annulment

True… and this reeks of far greater hypocrisy. Because usually there is nothing particularly invalid about the first marriage, there’s just a desire to marry someone else, and a desire to strain the fine print to accommodate them.

For instance, in reading John 14:6 where Jesus said he was the way, the truth and the life and that only through him could one reach God, if I suggest this verse means Jesus is the exclusive means to reaching God I’m a religious “bigot?”

Never mind the loaded word “bigotry.” Do you read John 14:6 to mean that all true Christians in the USA should work to repeal the First Amendment? If not, why not?

#17 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 10, 2017 @ 2:31 pm

@Gus Nelson:

Two questions: first, where in Scripture do you find support for the need for churches to avoid “religious bigotry” so that churches will make “accommodations?” Second, by “religious bigotry” what do you even mean?

It’s not in Scripture; to the contrary. Avoiding religious bigotry is a political decision on the part of the Church. Scripture and (older) Church tradition clearly held that people of other faiths should convert, and that they were spiritually in danger if they didn’t.

You can deny that that position is bigoted — it has the virtue, I think, of logical consistency — but to hold it today would certainly seem bigoted and hostile to most people outside the Church and even some inside it. It would mean, for instance, declaring Jewish beliefs to be spiritually damaging falsehoods, and therefore seeing it as deeply regrettable if faithful Jewish parents are raising their kids to be faithful to them too. Especially in this post-Holocaust world, that position would likely be taken as anti-Semitic; on the rare occasions nowadays when Christians do say or imply that Jews should convert — i.e. that their own religious beliefs are either wrong or insufficient — the [6] is loud and fierce.

And so the Catholic Church has yielded on this question. It deleted its old prayers for Jews’ conversion, and now it says things like this (in Evangelii Gaudium):

As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). ….

249. God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism. While it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples.

So the most the Church can do is “not refrain” from continuing, itself, to believe in the divinity and Messiahship of Christ, even if these beliefs are “unacceptable to Judaism.” No word here on the rejection of them being unacceptable to Christianity: instead, others are welcomed in going a different way, as long as they have their own “enriching” traditions. We’re in a partnership with them; they can even help us Christians to understand our own Scriptures! Lovely thought.

As I’ve said, I think this is all fine, but I’m a liberal Protestant. It is very liquidly modern, and it essentially disables the Church from arguing that any of its other doctrines or traditions should hold any authority for other groups or the rest of the society. If others don’t even need to believe in Christ — the Church’s central teaching by far — why should they need to believe in, say, “gender complementarity”?

And, conversely: if you’re telling the larger society that divorce or gay sex or gay marriage or transgenderism are wrong based on some alleged truth revealed to you in Genesis and other Scriptural passages and traditions, then to be logically consistent you would also have to offend Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etc., by holding that their beliefs about Christ and salvation are wrong — and thus, that teaching their children those beliefs is wrong — because this too is the even clearer import of your Scriptures and long, long tradition. Pope Francis, I think, is smart enough to see this problem and is doing his best to manage it. But in the end, a Church that explicitly excuses Jews from Scriptural injunctions (where it certainly didn’t used to) will find ways to excuse LGBT people from them too. Francis already seems to be wobbling on divorce.

#18 Comment By James C On November 10, 2017 @ 5:31 pm

This. The Catholic Church has its own forms of “economia” to make life doable for people in a fallen world. We’re just not as comfortable with contradictions, so we’ve decided it’s better to just declare that plenty of marriages were never valid in the first place. Voila, problem solved.

Those bishops and tribunal judges reponsible for the abuses that have led to an orgy of annulments in America and a handful of other countries in the last few decades will be held accountable for their deceit or cowardice on judgment day, along with those couples (not all) who have cynically cooperated with this corruption to get out of their marriages.

Christian marriage is for life. No one on Earth can negate this truth.

#19 Comment By Wes On November 10, 2017 @ 6:38 pm

Re: this notion that divorce and remarriage is ok in the Catholic Church so that rings of hypocrisy.

The Church has always allowed annulments and always will. And She hates it. The practice may be too loose now or it may not be. Do you know which? Do you presume to know the state of mind, at the altar, of the couple in question? Could the increase in annulments be correlated to most of us taking marriage less serious? Makes sense to me.

#20 Comment By Teena H. Blackburn On November 11, 2017 @ 9:32 am

So, if more marriages are actually invalid, then Orthodox practices are fine. The annulment process only says a marriage IS invalid, it doesn’t make it so. An Orthodox who is in an invalid marriage, divorces, and remarries, is in no different position than a person with an annulment. It is also the case that annulments are not infallible statements. It seems to me the process is no more likely to get it right than Orthodox divorce. Some people divorce and remarry when they should not-whether there’s a church investigation, or not.

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 11, 2017 @ 6:02 pm

Those bishops and tribunal judges reponsible for the abuses that have led to an orgy of annulments in America and a handful of other countries in the last few decades will be held accountable for their deceit or cowardice on judgment day

And you know this, how?

#22 Comment By Antonia On November 11, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

Thanks to all who have answered my criticism of Orthodoxy allowing divorce and remarriage. And I do mean that seriously. This is an issue I still struggle with. Although I did choose Catholicism over Orthodoxy, I did so with extreme reluctance, and still struggle with my decision.
Could any of you weigh in on the Orthodox acceptance of contraception, please? I’d love to hear more from the Orthodox side about why this is now considered OK, and why it does not compromise Orthodox claims to maintain the ancient faith.

#23 Comment By Mia On November 11, 2017 @ 8:55 pm

“But ever the Jesuit, he seems to regard every aspect of the Church’s tradition as a plastic instrument to be stiffened here or relaxed there in accord with ever-changing pastoral judgments.”

He’s too “Jesuit”? Not according to what I have ever read, but then again, I read the old guard from the 1700s, not the modern American version infiltrated by Marxism. I would have suggested that Pope Francis’ weakest points are because he’s too Franciscan, actually. There is a reason he picked the name Francis, taken from St. Francis of Assisi rather than his own order’s Francis Xavier. It would have served people better if he had picked the latter.

That said, I have to ask again if it’s really reasonable to expect a hardline from any pope given how there has been a complete collapse of morality in the West, particularly in the Anglo countries. If it was just moral softness, that would be one thing, but it’s slithering in with totalitarian features that maybe only a more flexible response to could withstand. It’s a hard place for many people in high visibility positions to handle right now, and I sure won’t be the one to cast stones about it, given how serious the situation is, though it is certainly true the worst of the church’s opportunists have stepped up their activities to claim his statements support them, even when they clearly don’t.

#24 Comment By James C. On November 11, 2017 @ 9:19 pm

Siarlys, you are not a Catholic, so why would you ask that question?

From the Catholic perspective, it’s really quite simple:

1-Priests and especially bishops have an awesome responsibility given to them by God to care for souls. This sacred authority also comes with awesome accountability (see: millstones tied around necks and thrown into the sea)

2- Jesus’s and the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is crystal clear (spare me the Protestant objection—remember we’re talking about the Catholic perspective here).

3- He who divorces his wife and takes up with another woman (or vice versa), per Jesus, is guilty of adultery. Adultery is a grave sin with grave consequences for immortal souls.

4- Bishops have the authority to set up tribunals to investigate the possibility that a marriage was not validly contracted. If thousands upon thousands of declarations of nullity are issued every year under episcopal authority in certain countries, either (1) validity criteria/standards have been allowed to become scandalously and damnably lax, or (2) assuming all the annulments are true and valid, bishops are permitting (without correction) thousands upon thousands of pseudo-marriages under their auspices every year, causing great scandal and harm to the souls in these pseudo-marriages.

Of course I believe the first case is closer to the truth. Either way, we’re talking gross and grave pastoral negligence (once again, from the perspective of Catholic teaching). There will be a reckoning.

#25 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 12, 2017 @ 8:04 am

Adam Smith also called it the “Vile Maxim,” that has become the Gekko lynchpin of our economy, “more for me, less for everyone else.”

#26 Comment By Wes On November 12, 2017 @ 6:45 pm

Proclaiming the reception of a sacrament was invalid is not hypocritical. If a Priest tells me I received the Blessed Sacrament unworthily, where is the hypocrisy? There are certainly abuses.

#27 Comment By Wes On November 12, 2017 @ 6:56 pm

James C you make excellent points. But I do think with marriage, as with the reception of the Eucharist and heck all of the sacraments, there just has to be enormous deference to the individuals promising they are in acting in good faith.

I do, though, think our Priests aren’t as “rigid” as they should be during pre-Cana discernment.

Mr Tighe thanks much for those links!

#28 Comment By Wes On November 12, 2017 @ 6:57 pm

James C as always you make excellent points. But I do think with marriage, as with the reception of the Eucharist, and heck all of the sacraments, there just has to be enormous deference to the individuals promising they are in acting in good faith.

I do, though, think our Priests aren’t as “rigid” as they should be during pre-Cana discernment.

Mr Tighe thanks much for those links!

#29 Comment By catbird On November 12, 2017 @ 8:54 pm

Re: the question of annullment in Catholic practice:

“Do you presume to know the state of mind, at the altar, of the couple in question?”

I presume to know that the doctrine which makes the validity of a marriage dependent on the unknowable state of mind of the couple is very, very BAD doctrine, one destructive of all morals, and immediately disqualifying any organization that teaches it of the claim to be an ever-reliable source of moral teaching.

#30 Comment By Good Reason On November 13, 2017 @ 12:14 am

I think the LDS Church is the safest of safe harbors. For example, it has shut the door theologically on any possible future revision to its stance on things such as chastity and same-sex marriage. It burned those bridges completely, and I find that admirable.

#31 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 13, 2017 @ 12:14 am

Siarlys, you are not a Catholic, so why would you ask that question?

I had to look up, what question are you talking about? Fortunately I didn’t have to look far, but its a common courtesy to state what exactly it is you are responding to.

I asked because you made a very broad statement, not about what doctrine your church believes, but about what God himself is going to do at a tribunal that every person on earth will have to answer to. That’s a good deal of hubris in my book.

I will spare you Protestant objections when you limit the scope of your comment to what your denomination of the Body of Christ teaches and believes. Once you maintain “God gave our leadership full authority…” you are fair game.

I remain rather bemused by the case of the man who was married in a Lutheran Church, civilly divorced his first wife, then wanted to marry a Catholic woman in a Catholic church, and a church tribunal was gravely going about the business of examining whether his first marriage was invalid, so that he could be granted an annulment. Among the oddities this raised was the daughter born to the first marriage asking “Would that mean I’m illegitimate?”

Your precious church could have told the man, sorry, you have a wife now living. But it wants to have its cake and eat it too. I have a first cousin who married four times. He was born Jewish, his first and second wives were Jewish, his third wife was Roman Catholic, and he converted to marry her — what hoops he had to jump through I don’t know — and he eventually divorced this third wife too.

You see, what happens in Rome doesn’t stay in Rome. But I would say a little Cosimanian Orthodoxy is called for. Instead of the Lutheran first wife being outraged, that the Roman Catholic Church had no right to rule on the validity of her first marriage, she could have said, I could care less, how many divisions does the Pope have? What impact does this silly church tribunal have on her ex-husband’s duty to pay child support? None!

And how do you imagine bishops and priests could KNOW in advance how many of thousands of marriages every year are pseudo-marriages?

#32 Comment By JonF On November 13, 2017 @ 6:36 am

Re: Could any of you weigh in on the Orthodox acceptance of contraception, please?

I don’t have much time before I have to get ready for work, but I think a key thing here is the fact the Orthodoxy has never embraced Scholasticism and as such the natural law reasoning behind Rome’s ban is alien to our tradition. Older disapproval of contraception was based on the theory of preformation, that there was an minute, unsouled human being already present in semen (the word means “seed” and seeds do contain minute already formed plants) and hence contraception, and all forms of non-reproductive sex, was tantamount to killing a human being. This is something we now know is not true.
Additionally Orthodoxy holds that it is a marriage en toto, not every individual sex act in a marriage, that must be open to child bearing.

#33 Comment By James C On November 13, 2017 @ 8:36 am

Siarlys, I’m not concerned with what Protestants think about Catholic authority or how they govern their own marriages—not my business. Since you’ve made Catholic marriage law your business, I’ll answer your question further.

And how do you imagine bishops and priests could KNOW in advance how many of thousands of marriages every year are pseudo-marriages?

If they’re handing out tens of thousands of annulments every year as they do in the US, then (assuming every annulment is legit) they know that tens of thousands of people are getting pseudo-marriages. If the annulments are legit, then serious reform of marriage prep is needed so that tens of thousands of annulments are no longer necessary and that people aren’t having sex and children with people to whom they’re not validly married.

If not, if marriage prep is fine, then stop handing out annulments by the tens of thousands. It’s scandalous. It’s cowardly and weak. It’s hypocritical—and I would be hypocritical too as an orthodox Catholic if I didn’t hold US bishops responsible for this AmChurch pseudo-divorce regime that is responsible for most of the annulments granted in the world every year.

#34 Comment By James C On November 13, 2017 @ 8:43 am

I will say no more, except that as a child from a Catholic family whose parents have been civilly married 7 times between them, I know better than most the devastating moral chaos that has resulted from this crisis of Christian monogamy. I expect my bishops to hold the line in fidelity to immemorial Catholic teaching and to the souls in their care, not to abandon both to the destructive zeitgeist.

#35 Comment By Wes On November 13, 2017 @ 9:44 am

JonF,

I love the Orthodox Church and every Catholic, nay Christian, should investigate its claims. I’m sure you know how much respect our Church has for yours. We acknowledge your real apostolic succession, real Eucharist, read administration of the sacraments, etc. That being said, what explains the contradiction on contraception as it occurred in the latter half of the 20th century?

Scholasticism was nearly 1,000 years removed and I don’t think there was a new understanding on what the Fathers all meant vis-a-vis contraception/willfully excluding the potential for life, etc.

Since none of us (I don’t think) are formally qualified to teach on our Church’s doctrine, I acknowledge we are all doing the best we can – with the risk that we bumble something. 🙂

#36 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 13, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

If the annulments are legit, then serious reform of marriage prep is needed so that tens of thousands of annulments are no longer necessary and that people aren’t having sex and children with people to whom they’re not validly married.

Irrefutable logic. You should vote for that at the next General Conference. Oh, wait, your church doesn’t have general conferences.

#37 Comment By Teena Blackburn On November 13, 2017 @ 1:14 pm

The “gold standard” for sexual behavior in Orthodoxy is still avoiding artificial contraception. Barrier methods are sometimes allowed under economia. My suspicion is most Orthodox, like most Catholics, don’t ask their priests for a blessing, and they don’t seriously consider what intentional avoidance of offspring for less than serious reasons can say about their marriage. I would say the ideal in Orthodoxy is still not using artificial birth control.

#38 Comment By Antonia On November 14, 2017 @ 1:09 am

Teena, I’m glad to hear about the Orthodox position, and sorry to hear that it is so little followed.
Jon F, opposition to artificial contraception doesn’t have anything to do with any theory of “preformation.” Natural law addresses the ends,i.e. purposes of sex. Simply put, respect for God’s creation. (I hate to mention this, but when I was checking out Orthodoxy, I noticed that Orthodox usually completely misunderstand and often misrepresent actual Catholic belief. Sorry.)
Somewhat to my surprise, I have ended up seeing the wisdom of the Church’s position on artificial contraception, and Pope Paul’s warnings in Humanae Vitae about this leading to loss of respect for women and for our own created nature, and weakening of marriage bonds. Barrier methods obviously impinge on the unifying intimacy of sex. Non-barrier methods, such as the Pill, at first sight seem less harmful, but they aren’t really. Women especially suffer because of the Pill, as our natural fertility is treated as a disease to be cured, or (alternatively) our bodies are treated as badly designed organisms which need to be reprogrammed by changing our natural hormonal cycles. Another exampled of our modern technology-trumps-reality attitude.

#39 Comment By JonF On November 14, 2017 @ 4:52 pm

Re: I would say the ideal in Orthodoxy is still not using artificial birth control.

I think you are right about that– just as the ideal is a lifelong marriage with no divorce. However I’m not sure what you mean by “less than serious reasons”. I don’t think most people in general are frivolous when it comes to their choice about having a child– it is a serious decision and in my own observation of people I know it is treated as serious, even if not always with perfect wisdom as it is possible to agonize over a choice and still make the wrong choice. And when we do think someone has had a child when she (gendered pronoun intended) shouldn’t in our eyes most of us rather critical, as in the widespread condemnation of welfare mothers.

#40 Comment By JOnF On November 15, 2017 @ 5:54 pm

Re: Jon F, opposition to artificial contraception doesn’t have anything to do with any theory of “preformation.”

Nowadays it doesn’t because we know it is not true. When you read the early Church Fathers on this matter you find as profound confusion as to how procreation actually works.

Re: Natural law addresses the ends,i.e. purposes of sex.

Yes, but that is due to Thomist thought which dates only from the 13th century, and is due to the influence of Aristotle’s rediscovered works on Christian thought in he West (The Christian East ultimately discarded Aristotelian metaphysics, as did Islam, albeit for a very different reasons)