Catholic Signs Nashville Statement
This is something: Jennifer Roback Morse, a conservative Catholic writer and activist, has given her full-throated endorsement to the Nashville Statement, which was drafted by conservative Evangelicals. In this essay, she explains why the Nashville Statement ought to matter to Catholics. Excerpts:
We Catholics can sometimes indulge ourselves in some triumphalism about our magisterium. We have authority structures, guided by the Holy Spirit. Jesus made promises to us that he did not make to Martin Luther or Henry VIII. Protestants are on their own. “Me and Jesus.” “Every man his own interpreter of Scripture.” And so on.
Now that so many of our Catholic authority structures have become corrupted, we are getting a taste of what our Evangelical brothers and sisters must put up with. Now is not the time for triumphalism. Now is the time for comradeship, cooperation, and collaboration wherever possible.
There can be no doubt: The sexual revolutionaries have infiltrated the churches. They are using the resources of Christianity to promote their views. The revolutionaries occupy the same buildings, wear the same vestments, and use the same labels. But they have invented a new religion, without ever admitting it. The sexual apostates, both Catholic and Protestant, are counting on no one noticing that their newly invented religion bears no relationship to historic Christianity.
Now in a literal war, what does the general order the soldiers to do when the enemy is about to cross the bridge and take over the town? Or, when the enemy is about to take possession of an armaments factory? Blow up the bridge. Blow up the factory. Blow up your own stuff, so the enemy cannot use it against you.
Obviously, we are not going to literally blow up anything. But we have an obligation to figuratively explode ideas. With the Nashville Statement, especially Article X, our Evangelical brothers and sisters have drawn a line in the sand.
Someone had to say it: The sexual revolutionaries have invented a new religion. It is NOT Christianity. I am grateful that our Evangelical brothers and sisters have said it. I support them in saying it. Making this point loudly and clearly is an absolute strategic necessity. Not to mention an obligation of Truth and Justice.
Morse goes on to argue that it is imprudent for Catholics to complain about the Nashville Statement for “not being Catholic enough,” re: contraception and divorce. As a Catholic who has long spoken out publicly against divorce and contraception, she has the credentials to do it. Read the whole thing. It’s important.
Morse no doubt has in mind the increasingly prominent ministry of Father James Martin, SJ, who has a book out that attempts to build a bridge of dialogue between the institutional Roman Catholic Church and LGBT Catholics. There’s nothing wrong with this in principle, but it seems abundantly clear that this “dialogue,” for Father Martin, needs to end with the normalization and affirmation of homosexuality within the Catholic Church. He has been very careful not to deny outright the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality, but as R.J. Snell points out in this must-read essay, Father Martin, in his book, presents truths so selectively as to amount to presenting falsehood. Excerpt:
It is certainly true that LGBT Catholics ought to be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, just as LGBT Catholics ought to treat the hierarchy similarly, but leaving it at that is such a partial truth as to turn out false, and Martin does leave it at that, utterly bypassing the central claims at stake, namely, whether homosexual acts are morally permissible or not.
In fact, bypassing the central claims is essential to Martin’s vision of the bridge. Responding to a review of his book in Commonweal by the theologian David Cloutier, Martin notes that Building a Bridge intentionally “never mentions sex, specifically the church’s ban on homosexual activity” since the Church’s “stance on the matter is clear,” as is the LGBT community’s rejection of that teaching. So, Martin continues, “I intentionally decided not to discuss that question, since it was an area on which the two sides are too far apart.”
Despite skirting the point, Martin maintains the importance of encounter, which is “not something to dismiss as out of date, tired or stale. . . . And fundamentally, since the desire for ‘encounter’ is a work motivated by the desire for truth and culminating in the desire for welcome, it must be seen as a work of the Holy Spirit.” Yet genuine encounter, rooted in the desire for truth, could hardly occur in the absence of substantive discussion of the claims made by the Church and those who dissent. Martin’s vision of the bridge turns out to be remarkably facile. It’s a call for civility, but the sort ignoring the substance of the issues and asking both sides to affirm what they believe to be false. I have no doubt the book is well-intentioned, but it is startling in its shallowness.
Fr. Martin avoids all discussion of what the Church teaches regarding sexuality, and of the arguments of those who dissent from that teaching, replacing actual encounter with flaccid and abstract interpretations of respect, compassion, and sensitivity.
Snell says that the late Orthodox rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik has a much deeper and more meaningful take on “confrontation” — in between adherents of different religions, or, in Snell’s usage, between the orthodox and dissenters within a religion. Belief in the authoritative teachings of one’s religion, says Soloveitchik, “is indispensable to the survival of the community—that its system of dogmas, doctrines and values is best fitted for the attainment of the ultimate good.” Here’s Snell:
In other words, one cannot understand a faith community—Jewish or otherwise—if the imperatives and commitments of that community are redacted, bracketed away in favor of thin and generic commitments to civility. Such civility produces a false encounter, an encounter of ghostlike abstractions rather than between the flesh and blood of real persons and their commitments. The same would be true between disputants within a community, such as the orthodox and the dissenters on sexual morality.
With that in mind, what are orthodox Catholics to make of Father Martin’s counsel that gays and lesbians should be allowed to kiss at mass? The Jesuit said, “So I hope in ten years you will be able to kiss your partner or soon to be your husband. Why not? What’s the terrible thing?”
Who is closer to Catholic truth: the mediagenic Jesuit, or the Evangelicals who signed the Nashville Statement. That is Jennifer Roback Morse’s point, I take it.
Over the past few days, I re-read, for the first time in six months, The Benedict Option to prepare a study guide that will be printed in the paperback version out next spring. People think an author has all that material near to hand, in his head, but it’s not true. One of the things that struck me this time is how vitally important close collaboration and support is between and among small-o orthodox Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians. We have to be careful not to diminish what our distinct confessions proclaim as true, but there is no reason why we cannot work together to support each other when we can. This fundagelical theologian more or less liked my book, except for the part where I fail to point out that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are the spiritual equivalent of “rat poison”. Bless his heart. I much prefer the practical ecumenism of Jennifer Roback Morse, as well as my Evangelical friends who signed the Nashville Statement. In wartime, you cannot be finicky about your alliances.
UPDATE: Reader Josh Bishop comments:
You may be interested in Albert Mohler’s latest episode of The Briefing, in which he addresses James Martin’s book. Here’s an excerpt:
“But here you have James Martin suggesting in this book and in interviews that ‘intrinsically disordered’ should be changed to ‘differently ordered.’ Now what’s the significance? It means overthrowing the entire tradition of the Christian church over 2,000 years in understanding how sexual orientation is to be rightly ordered. If you say that LGBT sexual orientation is merely differently ordered, you have actually not only changed the catechism in this specific case of the Roman Catholic Church, you have changed the Catholic Church’s understanding of the doctrines of creation, of humanity, of sin, of redemption, of the church. It is an entire re-orientation of the Catholic faith.”
Not Christianity, indeed. Mohler, a Southern Baptist and an initial signatory of the Nashville Statement, has put his finger on what so many Christians (Catholic and Protestant) can’t seem to see.