“100% Catholic”

26 10 2010

In spite of feeling more often than not that I have no horse in this race, stuff like this concerns me. Circling the wagons in the Catholic context always seems to have to do with sexual orthodoxy. It is as if the Catholic Church had some sort of strange neuroses wherein the obsession of the celibate clergy centers on what members of the non-clergy do in their bedrooms. Why are we not so neurotic about poverty, inequality, and cultic issues? Why are the below the belt issues the only non-negotiable ones?

Before all of you commenters start getting your hair all up in a bunch over this, I ask only looking through the prism of phenomenological social perception and not through some abstract argument over theological dogma. No doubt that when the good bishop speaks of being “100% Catholic”, he is not talking about the Church’s stand on immigration or war. Non-negotiables seem to have their goal posts moved depending on who you speak to, but more often than not, they tend to center on one’s genitals.

To a certain extent, stuff like this looks at the problem in another light. All the same, the idea that the Church needs to be smaller and purer (no matter who said it) is a potent one to the self-described orthodox. They see their relatives and fellow pew warmers and can’t help but look at them in a disdainful light. The problem for me has always been that this was not at the origins of the present aggiornamento. A text from one of Ratzinger’s favorite theologians, Hans Urs von Balthasar, would indicate that such a quest for institutional purity in and of itself is not that uniform or ancient. As the old theologian writes:

On the other hand, everything must be done to prevent an emigration of the progressivists, however uncomfortable their continued presence in the Church will prove to be for the faithful…. I ask the bishops: Is the hearer of a [heretical] homily dispensed from Mass? May he, ought he perhaps leave this liturgy?

But such an approach is out of the question for the Catholica… [it] would have the effect once more of hurling the remnant back into lifeless, cheerless integralisms.

If the “progressivists” are allowed to stay, why not others who “don’t know any better”?

If we went back one hundred years ago, under the old tyrannical papacies, would any of us be “100% Catholic”, just as we are now?