Anti-ultramontanist quote of the week

14 12 2010

Found via Vox Nova:

I have long maintained that the heart of the crisis of contemporary Catholicism lies in just such subordination of education to governance, the effect of which has too often been to substitute for teaching proclamation construed as command. As Yves Congar said, it is impossible to make the function of teaching an integral element of jurisdiction because it is one thing to accept a teaching, quite another to obey an order: “Autre chose est agréer une doctrine, autre chose obéir à un ordre”…

According to the church historian Eamon Duffy, John Paul II, like Pius XII before him, “saw the pope as first and foremost a teacher, an oracle.” However accurate the image of particular popes as “oracles” may be as a description, it remains the case that any pope who behaves within the church as an oracle misunderstands his office. The image of the oracle is of one who brings fresh messages from God. This no pope can do, for the church he serves as its chief bishop has already heard the Word and lives by that faith, which is its God-given response. It is the duty of those who hold teaching office in the church to articulate, to express, to clarify the faith by which we live.

I particularly like the note on the word, “dissent”. I don’t know how, but the institutional “Counter-Reformed” notion of truth as institutional obedience somehow seeped into the minds of Catholic talking heads. The purpose of all discourse is to bring about ideological homogeneity within the ranks. People who have a hard time with a certain idea necessarily do so out of malice, and so on. First of all, one must perceive distinctions in degrees of obedience. Even parish priests are not under vows of obedience, and a layperson cannot be excluded from the Church without a canonical procedure. Even the measure of not giving Communion because of a latae sententiae penalty does not per se judge a person to be objectively out of the Church in the sense that it cannot read the subjective circumstances behind the supposed act of disobedience. In other words, the institutional church has never reserved for itself the idea that it has a direct pipeline to the Holy Ghost. The existence of the law is the best indication of this. To try to overcome the law with charisma is not only untraditional, but foolish.



8 responses

16 12 2010

That I agree with. The really large families were (for the most part) a thing of the past. In an agrarian society (even in the States) it was very possible to have five or more kids.

As to “niceties”, well it depends on what you mean by that. I for one am glad that I grew up with far less material things than many kids do today, and I only had three kids including myself in my family. My parents both came from families with five or more kids and their parents both came from the same background. One tends to appreciate more what they do have when they do not necessarily have much. Of course, we were country folks. I suppose in the city it would be much harder.

16 12 2010

dominic1962: As to those who take their “Cross and Thermometer” lifestyle as a mark of “election”, well of course anyone who thinks that they are somehow better than the rest of humanity because they have been gifted with certain graces that allow them to more easily embrace the truth cannot be found without fault in thinking this way.

Yes, I should not necessarily deprecate those who use NFP or even providentialists. I do wonder, however, if _a number_ of Catholics use providentialism to outwardly demonstrate their piety or pietism. Certainly this is an extremely small number of Catholics. Providentialists are a minority within the NFP demographic. Still, the idea that a couple would have more children than they can adequately provide for troubles me. No, not every child must have a college fund. Each child should have some niceties in life, however. No one should have eight or ten children on one income, unless that income is quite generous. The Duggars appear to provide for their children adequately. Even though I disagree with their providentialist philosophy, I do not criticize them because they are able to ensure the material welfare of each child.

Pope Paul clearly permitted NFP for economic reasons. He did not explicitly call for large families as a sign of God’s favor or personal piety. I consider it a sin to have more children than one can comfortably support. Furthermore, the welfare system is not a supplementary income for those that choose to have more children than they can afford. I don’t know and don’t care how people regulate births, but I do hope they consider more than providentialism when approaching the altar and beyond.

15 12 2010

There is, of course, a huge difference between Humanae Vitae (and Casti Conubii which came before it) and TOTB. The teaching enshrined in the actual magisterial documents is merely the repetition and clarification of the constant teaching of the Church. As such, it will not and cannot change. Contraception will never be declared to be licit by the Church.

As to those who take their “Cross and Thermometer” lifestyle as a mark of “election”, well of course anyone who thinks that they are somehow better than the rest of humanity because they have been gifted with certain graces that allow them to more easily embrace the truth cannot be found without fault in thinking this way. That said, one should not assume malice in their actions either. Many of these type of folk that I know simply are trying to live their Faith as they know it. Even if one has been graced to be among the “elite” (and I’m not saying they necessarily are, I’m speaking of any sort of ‘elite’), this simply means more is expected of them.

I fail to see where “pragmatism” has ever been considered a virtue, especially in the sense you seem to use it in. For instance, that the use of a condom to prevent disease transmission being seen as a *step* towards morality is not a bow to pragmatism. It is merely recognizing that, even though caught up in the morass of sin, the thought that maybe one should have enough regard for their partner (and themselves) to not recklessly endanger them with infection is a *step*. Its not a “good” action, its merely a baby step towards a greater realization and acceptance that maybe what they are doing is not right and that the fulfilling of lustful desires has consequences. Even in the old manuals and confessor’s guidelines, the mere presence of a condom did not spell out automatic mortal sin.

The only reason all this made such a stink is because people simply do not (or cannot, I wonder sometimes…) make the distinctions necessary. Unfortunately, it seems like our Holy Father didn’t think to make those distinctions clearer considering the wide audience his book was likely to have. Those who should have known better (and may very well have) should not have taken his comments to mean something they clearly could not have meant to score cheap ideological points.

15 12 2010

Henry, I think this has already been realized.

For some, strict adherence to HV and TOTB is the definitive mark of election. If/when the Vatican lightens up on contraception, the NFP zealots will simply look for another means to distinguish themselves from the reprobate (i.e. “nominal” Catholics.) I don’t know what the new vehicle of ultra-orthodoxy will be (opposition to same sex marriage?), but something will crest the horizon.

15 12 2010

Both, perhaps. In one way Pope Benedict’s statement is rather clear: he recognizes that condom use could be a moral response to a pandemic within the confines of an already illicit sexual act. Pope Benedict’s statement merely gestures towards the idea that persons in illicit relationships could be drawn to chastity through the first step of disease prevention. Many will extrapolate this to include all situations where one sexual partner is HIV+ regardless of marital status.

The statement is cryptic in that the Pope’s statement appears to invite this latter view. Indeed, male prostitution (and the homosexual acts implicit in the transaction) is just as illicit as extramarital heterosexual sex. Benedict uses a German substantive rather than the usual noun for “prostitute”. It’s not exactly clear who should use condoms, since the use of the masculine in this case could simply be an example of noun use in a male-weighted language. L’Osservatore Romano’s Italian translation translated Benedict’s substantive as feminine. The idea that “already sinful” sex could be directed towards redemption through the use of condoms is not implausible. Benedict’s statement opens the question of heterosexual extramarital relations and condoms. This is where ultramontanist pelvic fundamentalism collides with pragmatism.

14 12 2010

Is it a “rather simple deduction,” or a rather cryptic statement?” I’m confused.

14 12 2010
Henry Karlson

While I am not a fan of of the Theology of the Body (for many reasons), I fear the response is going to be some new form of Jansenism.

14 12 2010

The current ultramontanist psychosis over Pope Benedict’s rather simple deduction about condom morality illustrates the follies of the oracular papacy. Humanae Vitae and Theology of the Body epitomize the intellectual work of popes that assume the mantle of infallible divine inspiration. Now Pope Benedict has merely reinstated the role of the pope as the presider over organic and daresay ambiguous moral teachings.

The ultramontanist freak-out over Benedict’s rather cryptic statement on condoms illustrates the deep investment that ultra-orthodox Catholicism has in the reification of human sexuality. “Cross and thermometer” has become cliche here at Reditus. Still, it’s important to remember that a minority of Catholics believe that every question and answer about marital life can be found within one encyclical and within a 500 or so page book. Their influence, even if it is irrational and not consonant with the intelllectual diversity of apostolic Christianity, must be respected simply because it is the dominant expectation of many “hardcore” Catholics today.

The “divinization” of certain popes as genuises is inevitable in this period of reformation in the Roman Church. Rather than rail against ultramontanism and poke fun when their so-called impervious dam cracks against the strain of pragmatism, rational Catholics should simply leave the papolaters alone. One wonders who will be there to pick up the shards of disillusionment when the bulwarks of HV and TOTB show stress and even fallibility.

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