Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Honestly, why do these people bother?

NCRp’s latest editorial is perhaps revealing.

What you find at the above editorial is a one-page-ish rant that the Church still teaches things that the (anonymous?) writer apparently finds inconvenient.

A few excerpts:

...the teaching (on contraception) makes little sense, doesn’t match the experience of lay Catholics and tends to reduce all of human love to the act of breeding.

Whether the teaching makes sense - I honestly am not prepared to make a great-big defense of it, maybe because it largely has not been a relevant Church teaching for me in my life. Likewise, I can’t comment on how it matches lay Catholics’ real-life experiences; my parents were “divorced” before my first memories, and neither of them ever married.

The teaching, however, certainly does not “reduce all of human love to the act of breeding”. For one, we are only dealing with one type of love - not a parent/child relationship, not a platonic friendship, not a mentor/student, but one of romantic involvement in the context of marriage. So, let’s assume the author meant “reduce all of marital love to the act of breeding.”

The teaching on contraception, as I see it, is that sex is inseparable from procreation, just as it is inseparable from love. By “inseparable”, I mean in the context of right order; not that you can’t have sex without loving the other person or without being open to procreation, but it makes no objective sense to do so.

You can want not to have children, say the bishops, you just can’t do anything “unnatural” about it. It’s a strange concept, like not wanting to die of heart disease while not doing anything “unnatural” about it.

Nice: children compared to heart disease.

There’s a reason 96 percent of Catholics have ignored the birth control teaching for decades.

Does that include the 75% or so (or whatever high percentage it actually is now) of Catholics who don’t go to Mass regularly anyway?

And, on homosexuality....

Homosexuals are “objectively disordered” (that’s about as bad as it humanly gets, in our understanding of things), but we love them and want them to be members of our community.

I have never heard of homosexual people described by a practicing educated Catholic as “disordered”; rather, it is the act and (IIRC) the inclination that are disordered. I get so tired of discussing this point - honestly, this is the kind of rhetoric we got from the generally anti-Catholic editorials (usu. penned by former Catholics) in my undergrad student newspaper.

The editorial derides the following in the bishops’ work:
“In the context of parish life, however, general public self-disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged. ... Sad to say, there are many persons with a homosexual inclination who feel alienated from the church.”

I would like to know how many bishops would favor a public “coming out” for adulterers, alcoholics, abusive parents, and/or people who masturbate. The proper Catholic response to any of these things is essentially, of course, “get thee to a confessional, and quickly go.”

Not that, of course, “coming out” necessarily implies telling people one is actively engaging in homosexual sex. I could see it being the case, all things else equal, that someone would publicly share one of their crosses - say, if a priest or deacon told his congregation about an inclination to anger. However, “coming out”, in our society, is LOADED with strings attached - I wonder what the reception would be (and how common it is) if someone confessed to a large congregation, “I am gay and have every intention of living my life according to Church teaching, including abstinence from sexual activity.” What would the gay establishment (yes, it does exist ... ask anyone who works professionally in fine arts) say? Would this person be vilified by that establishment, pitied, mocked? (I suspect yes - would be interested to read counterexamples.)

The last two paragraphs simply must be seen to be believed:
No one’s come out with a program, but we’ll venture yet one more hunch. It has become apparent in recent years that there’s been an upsurge in historical ecclesiastical finery and other goods. We’ve seen more birettas (those funny three-peak hats with the fuzzy ball on top that come in different colors depending on clerical rank) and cassocks (the kind with real buttons, no zippers for the purists) and ecclesiastically correct color shoes and socks, lots of lacy surplices and even the capa magna (yards and yards of silk, a cape long enough that it has to be attended by two altar boys or seminarians, also in full regalia). In some places they’re even naming monsignors again.

It’s as if someone has discovered a props closet full of old stuff and they’re putting it out all over the stage. Bishops, pestered by the abuse scandal that they’ve avoided looking full in the face, find it easier to try to order others’ lives. They have found the things of a more settled time, a time when their authority wasn’t dependent on persuading or relating to other humans. It was enough to have the office and the clothing. Things worked. Dig a little deeper in the closet and bring out the Latin texts, bring back the old documents, bring back the days when homosexuals were quiet and told no one about who they essentially are. Someone even found a canopy under which the royally clad leader can process.

In summary, people are becoming proud of being Catholics (again?), as shown through more use of distinctly Catholic signs and forms.

NCRp can’t handle that. They don’t want such a countercultural church. They want a group of nice people that affirms everyone, with a smiley sticker on their sweater, as long as it’s what society at large wants. In short, they want The Vineyard.

Maybe that’s going too far. But geez, the arrogance of some of these people appalls me. Church teaching on homosexuality and contraception just ain’t changing, so why get so worked up about it when the bishops take on their task to teach these things?


At Thursday, November 23, 2006 10:07:00 PM, Anonymous Tony said...


I couldn't fit what I wanted to say in a comment so I blogged it.

At Friday, November 24, 2006 9:00:00 PM, Blogger Gavin said...

I wasn't going to comment, but I noticed you asked for them on NLM, so all I have to say is:

I could expect something like this in an evangelical, atheist, or far-left liberal publication. But not a Catholic newspaper (which I know NCR is iffy). If these people are really upset primarily at what is the episcopal system of government, why not leave? I'd hate to be one of those "agree with me or **** yourself" people, but they just clearly do not like Catholicism.

At Sunday, November 26, 2006 7:49:00 PM, Anonymous Klaus der Grosse said...

scope creep n
1: In software engineering, the undesirable expansion of project goals and deliverables caused by divergent and unfocused additions to the project requirements.
2: More generally, an undesirable and unfocused expansion of the goals of any particular endeavor.


Not to be snarky, but you might want to watch out for scope creep in your blog. Irrespective of the valid criticism you are offering, the top post isn't really about "the state of affairs in contemporary Catholic church music," to quote from your blog's subtitle.

No offense meant.

At Sunday, December 03, 2006 3:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should send the editor various Theology of the Body books and reconsider this editorial?


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