Catholic Feelings of Inferiority

In a recent article for InsideCatholic, I argued that churches that turn toward theological liberalism soon begin going downhill in terms of their membership. As these churches adhere to less and less of traditional Christian doctrine and morality, their membership shrinks. For a church to become theologically liberal is to opt for institutional suicide, or at least institutional valetudinarianism.
I think the historical record is perfectly clear on this. Catholic liberalism in the United States is a relatively new thing, dating back only to the 1960s. But in only 40 years, we have seen the Catholic Church in America, as its liberalism quotient (so to speak) has gone up, go into a proportionate decline. Liberal Catholics, of course, might argue that this Catholic experiment with theological liberalism proves nothing. Forty years is too short a time for such an experiment; and besides, liberal Catholics usually add, the problem has not been too much liberalism but too little. The Church is still tied, they argue, to its old ways of thinking and doing. It is not sufficiently modern. Let’s try a truly modernized Catholicism, and we’ll see the Church flourish as never before.
You can make that argument if you like. But to do so, you have to be ignorant of the much longer and much more unlimited Protestant experiment with theological liberalism. In the Protestant world, liberalism emerged more than 200 years ago, appearing at approximately the same moment in Germany and England, and soon thereafter in New England (where it took the form of Unitarianism). This has been a lengthy experiment, having been carried on for more than 10 percent of the entire history of Christianity, and by now there has been no limit to the amount of Christian doctrinal and moral content that has been thrown overboard. (Read the works of Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong to see the absurd lengths to which Christian liberalism can go.) The end result has been the same everywhere and always: a decline in churches that embrace theological liberalism. When some new experiment begins, there may be a moment of brief upsurge in religious interest. But this soon disappears, and the inevitable decline sets in.
This brings me to a puzzling question: Given this clear historical record, why do so many apparently intelligent and well-educated Catholics wish to push their religion in a theologically liberal direction? Why do they want to amend the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, abortion, and suicide? Why do they want to de-emphasize or redefine doctrines like the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth? Don’t they realize that they are, in effect, trying to push their Church in the direction of institutional suicide?
Part of the answer to these questions is simply that most Catholics, including those who are otherwise well-educated, know little about the history of Protestantism. Catholic religious educators have never been enthusiastic about teaching young Catholics about Protestantism. For that matter, many Catholic religious educators don’t do a very good job of teaching about Catholicism itself — a very complex thing — let alone teaching about the many varieties and shades of that even more complex phenomenon, American Protestantism.
Further, adult Catholics who rely on the mainstream media to get information about the world will get very little information about the history of Protestantism, and this for two reasons. Secular journalists tend to be uninterested in religion: They cover politics, business, foreign affairs, movies, TV, sports, real estate, medicine, celebrities, etc., but rarely do they have anything to say about American religion. Besides, most of what happens in the world of religion, though it may be of interest to historians and sociologists and anthropologists, does not count as “news.”
But another part of the answer, I submit, is a sense of cultural inferiority that American Catholics have always felt and still feel. From the beginning of American history until the 1960s, Catholics felt inferior to Protestants, who were the dominant cultural power in the country. In the 1960s, when Catholics at last came to feel that they were approximately equal to Protestants, Protestants suddenly lost their cultural dominance, being replaced by nonreligious and even anti-religious people whom we may call secularists. The Protestant cultural establishment was replaced by a secularist cultural establishment, which continues to reign today — indeed, which reigns more than ever today. And Catholics generally feel culturally inferior to these secularists.
When a group feels inferior to another group, it will make one of two responses: (1) It may engage in an act of self-deception and tell itself that it is not inferior but superior, insisting instead that the higher-ranking group is truly inferior — all the while knowing (at an unconscious or barely conscious level) that this is untrue. (2) Alternatively, recognizing its inferiority and aping the superior group, it will try to acquire that group’s superior attributes.
During the long era of Protestant cultural supremacy, most Catholics, under the leadership of a strong-willed body of priests and nuns, made the first response, though a relatively small number attempted response No. 2. But since the rise of secularism to dominance, great numbers of Catholics, especially those with higher levels of education, have tended toward the second response. That is, while not renouncing their attachment to the Catholic religion, they have amended their idea of this religion in such a way as to make it more acceptable when judged from a secularist point of view.
In particular, they have:
  • de-emphasized Catholicism’s supernaturalistic elements (for secularism is resolutely naturalistic);
  • amended Catholicism’s super-strict sexual morality (for secularism is sexually permissive);
  • stressed the social-justice aspects of Catholic morality (for secularism is a great believer in a form of social justice);
  • embraced, albeit while misunderstanding, Catholicism’s teaching about the ultimate authority of conscience (for secularism strongly believes in something it calls “conscience”); and
  • rejected the notion that the leaders of the Church (i.e., popes and bishops) are entitled to teach with authority (for secularism is strongly anti-authoritarian).
When you make these amendments to Catholicism, you get Catholic liberalism, a religion strikingly different from historical Catholicism; a religion, moreover, that is moving on a slippery slope toward outright atheism.

By

David R. Carlin Jr. is a politician and sociologist who served as a Democratic majority leader of the Rhode Island Senate. His books include "Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion" and "The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America." Carlin is a current professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island at Newport.

  • Todd

    An interesting bit of psycholanalysis parlayed into sociology. These kinds of discussions would benefit from a wider discussion that you’ll usually find on these pages.

    I’ve been called a heretic on this site, and almost as worse, and I don’t deny the Church’s teachings on “sexual morality, abortion, suicide … the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth,” or other flashpoints you can come up with. So what gives? Like many other liberals, I don’t follow the Groupthink on Church aspects that belong to the realm of prudence. Others, however, often mark this as part of orthodoxy. They are wrong.

    What harms the Church is error, be it propagated by the Left or the Right. Being a liberal is no guarantee a person is in error, and being a conservative/self-styled orthodox is no guarantee a person is not. We have to look no further than the phenomenon of bishops harboring sex predators, covering up crimes, and stonewalling parishioners (not to mention victims and their families). Sorry, my friend, but protecting criminals from justice is not a liberal value.

    David, my serious suggestion is to find a partner for discussions like this: a real live Catholic liberal who can go toe to toe with you on real issues. Otherwise this is just an exercise in the narcissism of the Right. “We’re better than you because we don’t demolish churches.” I can almost hear the “nyah, nyah, nyah” when conservative Catholics start writing and talking along these lines.

  • JC

    An interesting analysis. In the end, you essentially encaapsulate the heresy of Americanism, assimilation. It particularly irks me how “conscience” and “social justice” are both taken way out of conscience: no one has “freedom of conscience” from the authority of the Church, and the original Bull that condemned freemasonry condemend any charitable giving that is done by coercion and outside a Christian context.

    As for the “theological liberals” (perhaps “progressive” would be a better term?), a couple thoughts. First, “liberal Catholicism” certainly predates Vatican II. Recall that, about 10 years ago, Cardinal George delivered a post morterm, “mission accomplished” message on liberal Catholicism to _Commonweal_. People like Dietrich von Hildebrand, Jacques Maritain, Flannery O’Connor, Karl Adam, and even Josef Ratzinger were once considered “liberal” by the standards of their day. Their work at achieving reasonable progress in the Church has been accomplished. The “progressives,” the Hegelians, weren’t satisfied by Vatican II and have been dissatisfied ever since.

    I think that, more than knowledge of the history of Protestantism, today’s laity need to know the actual history of *Catholicism*. They have a very negative view of the Church promulgated by the anti-Catholic bias of most history textbooks and classes. They don’t know the truth about the Crusades, Indulgences, Galileo, or many other controversies that are used to say, “The Church is just a corrupt institution.”

    They think that their socialist beliefs are “Catholic” because that’s what they’ve been taught for generations by the Communists who’ve infiltrated the priesthood and the religious houses, who’ve corrupted the teaching at our schools, universities and seminaries.

    It is amazing how many people just don’t *know*. And, at this point, they don’t want to know. They’ve been told that Vatican II is a Great Divide . Anything before Vatican is the “old Church” and “we got rid of all that.” Really, for most laity today, “Catholicism” *began* in the 1960s.

    If you try to talk to them about what the Saints actually did and taught, it’s like a foreign language to them. If you try to show examples of Catholic thought prior to Vatican II, it’s obsolete.

    Certainly fear of Protestant anti-Catholicism is a major factor. Even our most prominent pro-abortion Catholics in government will appeal to that. But the roots fo this problem go back far more deeply in our culture than the 1960s. They go back at lesat to John Carroll and his compromising the faith to get along with George Washington & co.

  • Deacon Ed

    a very clear and succinct explanation of what has plagued our Church for the last 40 years. What we see today are the remanants of the 60’s generation (my cohorts) who came of age with the identity of that of a dissenter. Fortunately, we are seeing the last stages of this cohort and a new, albeit smaller cohort of orthodox Catholics have appeared on the scene. I have hope for the Church in the days to come – oppressed yet stronger.

  • Jess

    This isn’t a serious article. I want some statistics that show that Catholics 1) deny those things that constitute their faith; 2) don’t know enough about Protestantism to know they’re sliding into it. This has been the argument since forever and it’s taken as gospel, but no one ever has any proof for it. Everyone cites Protestant liberalism as the bogeyman, but outside of a few really “out there” groups like Commonweal, where are the hordes of really liberal Catholics?

  • Deal Hudson

    Dr. Carlin is a distinguished professor with several very fine books on Catholicism to his credit. He has written about this issue at length, with all the scholarly apparatus in full view. In columns such as these, arguments have to be compressed (thank God!). I think Carlin is exactly right. In the research I did on my recent book about religion and politics, I found that Carlin is exactly right, theological liberalism leads to declining adherents. One thing I would add, however, is some people embrace liberalism because they see it as a better “selling point” for their faith, only to find out that exactly the opposite is true.

    This a new year, and I hope we can talk to each in this comments section with a kinder tone of voice.

  • Ashok Daftary

    Deal Hudson should we commended, when we start talking rather than shouting at each other then we will hear others and constructive dialogue wlll commence

  • meg

    99% of Catholics under the age of 50 or so have been very poorly educated in the faith. If they had good Catholic formation as children, it was only through the heroic efforts of their parents; if they know the faith thoroughly now, it is because they are self-taught. Because of this CATASTROPHE in Catholic education, most Catholics today have no idea they are poorly educated – and this is terribly dangerous! There is nothing more disconcerting/astonishing than listening to the histrionics of poorly educated Catholics as they Catholic-bash.

    I know of what I speak. I was raised in the 60’s/70’s in a nice Catholic family and basically knew nothing about the faith whatsoever despite years of CCD. Now I know enough only to realize how much I don’t know and need to learn! The children I know who have been properly taught can already run circles around me, and it is indeed humbling. I pulled my kids out of CCD because the program was LAME and am teaching them myself using the good old Baltimore Catechism and lives of the Saints for children. It is truly eye-opening, as I am learning along with them. I mourn the years I spent in ignorance as I work my way out of it.

    So, no, I don’t think you will find “hordes” of liberal Catholics, but only hordes of Catholics who are just like me and need to relearn the faith from the very basics on up. Only then can there be worthwhile discussion. You can’t discuss the finer points of baseball with someone who doesn’t know the game.

    To see the devastating effects of the last 40 years, please skim this piece:

    ‘With age, my Catholicism holds more uncertainty’ by Rose Murphy, http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=node/2953

    This is the heartbreaking result of the last 40 years.

  • Colkoch

    The Church would be far better off if it recognized people progress through stages in their spiritual growth. Most liberals represent the middle stages which are characterized by questioning and a process of selection and rejection with regards to religious dogma and doctrine. Both progressives and conservatives will engage in this process, also know as being Cafeteria Catholics.

    If people stay committed to the spiritual path they eventually transcend the conflict and very frequently return to the their religious traditions. However, they will not regress in their return. They may adhere to the dogma and doctrine but only because it fits their particular experience and understanding, or is not in conflict with their current lives. Usually those lives are far less encumbered than when they started their spiritual path.

    Institutional churches are far more vested in forming people in the early stages of the spiritual process. They more or less reject those questioners in the middle, but have a ritual and mystical tradition which supports those in the later stages.

    Personally, I wish the Church would spend less time on Leviticus and more time on the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts one can readily see Peter’s maturation in his understanding of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and what Jesus really meant when he said to spread the Good News to all nations. Had Peter had his way the Leviticus code would be numero uno in our Code of Canon Law. Peter was brought to see a different picture. He became a ‘liberal’. Horrors.

  • Todd

    “Dr. Carlin is a distinguished professor with several very fine books on Catholicism to his credit.”

    I’m well aware of Dr Carlin’s academic qualifications. They do not bring a ring of infallibility to his statements. He has indeed written about this issue before, but quantity does not guarantee he is right.

    Also aware that compression is a fact of life, it wouldn’t take more than double the space (if that) to offer a sound counterpoint to what he offers here. It would be far more enlightening, not to mention interesting.

    Deal, let me suggest that you and Dr Carlin both are operating from the American assimilationist view on this. Not everything bad is about non-Republican politics. The West underwent unprecedented cultural churning after WWII and the best you guys can come up with for declining Protestant numbers is that they lined up with Republicans in the 60’s and advocated for decriminalized abortion and other “liberal” issues? I’m with Jess: can you guys come up with actual statistics backed up by sociological analysis?

    Small-town and inner city protestantism is in decline in the US because of demographics, and perhaps worsened by a decline of the evangelical spirit. Throw in television, addictions, incompetent leadership, and you have a problem far more complex than simply pointing out others are too liberal.

    “This a new year, and I hope we can talk to each in this comments section with a kinder tone of voice.”

    I appreciate this call, Deal. I’ve always been careful here about criticizing ideas, and I will be careful to offer constructive comments to people with whom I disagree. Suggesting that Dr Carlin find a qualified foil to help sift through these positions is not unkind. In fact, if this is about a search for the truth, it might well be essential.

  • Deal Hudson

    Todd, you are reading something into my point of view which is simply not there. The GOP has nothing to do with what I, or Carlin, said.

  • Leo Prengaman

    Dear David,

    You are right on target. In the 1970s Dean Kelley, a United Methodist, pubished the book “Why Conservative Churches Are Growing.” He developed a “scale of liberalism,” which he claimed allowed you to predict the health of a church based on the degree of its liberalism. The more liberal, the less healthy. His primary example was the Catholic Church, which traditionally was very conservative and very strong. When it started becoming liberal in the 1960s, it nosedived into chaos and decline.

    No one, to my knowledge, has even attempted a refutation of his thesis. Keep up the good work!

    Leo

  • Jason

    …churches that turn toward theological liberalism soon begin going downhill in terms of their membership. As these churches adhere to less and less of traditional Christian doctrine and morality, their membership shrinks.

    Dr. Carlin points out a correlation between a mainstream, organized religion (here, the Catholic Church in America) becoming more “liberal” in its praxis and its declining membership. And many of us have observed how more “traditional” religious orders, colleges and institutions are overwhelmed with ardent adherent, vocation, students, etc.

    One question is – Does this really say anything about truth? I mean, we’re not engaging in a popularity contest here. We look to the Church to teach the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And that should be pursued for its own sake. W’re talking about an institution that claims infallibility – it had better be darn sure that it’s not raising up unnecessary burdens and laying them on the people’s backs. Orthodoxy is important, but let’s not make the mistake of conflating orthodoxy and rigor.

    I guess what I’m struggling with is the idea implicit in this piece that, since liberalising a religion results in an observable drop in adherents, the liberalising is ipso facto wrong. And thus, the converse must be true, too: tightening up (read: make stricter) the teachings & rules will result in more members, and is therefore right and good.

    People gravitate toward stability and certainty: organizations with strong, forcefully articulated mission statements tend to do well in terms of members & supporters. They inspire us, while mealy-mouthed and inspid groups will naturally lose members. Once one gets to a level of maturity and experience where you start doing and applying theology & philosophy instead of just passively receiving them, there is usually more of a willingness to explore and re-examine things (i.e. to be more open to liberal ideas). If that leads an organization to, say, change their worship or stop referring to Jews as “perfidious”, then that is what will happen. Not everyone will agree with the change, and some people will be lost as they split away from the mainstream and stick with a splinter group of the “faithful”. But this reality of human nature should not drive the process, nor should we congratulate ourselves on our successful busines model of conservatism just because it attracts more people than the liberal one.

  • Todd

    ” … you are reading something into my point of view which is simply not there. The GOP has nothing to do with what I, or Carlin, said.”

    Deal, politics colors virtually every serious piece you write. I say that as an observation, and I intend no criticism by it. It’s just who you are and how others identify you.

    Dr Carlin’s IC pieces are often tagged with one of two bylines about his being a registered Democrat or having written a book about Democrats. He’s been a politician for a significant portion of his career. Nothing wrong with that.

    I may be wrong, but I think you and Dr Carlin have applied to much of a political view of the liberal/conservative divide to the liberal/conservative spectrum in Christianity. We’re supposed to accept Dr Carlin’s definition of Christian liberals? Why would we do so? Again, I ask: why don’t you find a Christian liberal like Jim Wallis who might have a very different take on what you’re talking about here?

    In addition to indifference, laziness, or a false sense of entitlement, I do agree with Dr Carlin to a point. Extremism will turn away believers–liberal, conservative, or however one defines it. Pro-abortion Catholics, deniers of the Nicene Creed, polygamists, sedevacantists all have their followers. But they are not in the mainstream of Christianity. Dr Carlin can criticize certain “liberal” Catholic positions–and I might agree with him–but there’s far more to the story than one end of the fringe.

    Let me offer another salvo for self-examination. It is inherently Americanistic to play the blame card. It is never “we” who are at fault; it is “always” somebody else. The unspoken assumption with essays like this written for the IC audience is that they can enjoy a certain sense of satisfaction: it’s not my fault. That doesn’t quite jive with Saint Paul’s theology of the Body. The brain can’t say to the underarms, “I don’t need you; you stink up the joint and chase people away.” The hermeneutic of subtraction just doesn’t operate, other than to give us a false sense of satisfaction.

    The reality is that if Catholicism (or any branch of Christian belief) wants to look at reasons why their church, their parish, their religious order, their Tuesday afternoon bridge game is floundering or not meeting expectations, they may want to look at themselves first.

    Sure, stability is a value many religious believers seek out. Likewise moral assurances, and other values Dr Carlin lists above. But these are not the exclusive domain of conservatives.

    Are we still being kind on this matter and steering clear of the personal attacks?

  • Dan Deeny

    “Dr. Carlin is a distinguished professor with several very fine books on Catholicism to his credit.” Well, whoop-tee-do. Out here in Crackerland we don’t read no books. Yup. Here are two practical suggestions: Conservative Catholics should begin practicing subsidiarity by giving most of their money to Catholic schools. (Michael Jordan just gave 5 million to Hales Franciscan in Chicago!) And Liberal Catholics should volunteer, or even teach with a salary, at St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Nairobi or at any of the fine Cristo Rey schools that have opened. Thank you.

  • meg

    Absolutely right, it’s not a popularity contest. Maybe the point isn’t that the numbers of Catholics in certain parishes are in decline, but that the prevailing culture itself is in serious decline, which, with the demise of quality Catholic education, happened alongside the rise of liberal Catholicism. I think there is a corollation. The fact that traditional areas of Catholicism – vocations, etc. – are thriving underscores this point.

  • Ann

    But since the rise of secularism to dominance, great numbers of Catholics, especially those with higher levels of education, have tended toward the second response (secularism).

    Barring the few truly Catholic colleges in the U.S., I challenge any 18-year-old to get through college in this country without being indoctrinated, both overtly and covertly, in socialism and more dangerous, anti-Catholicism.

    In that context, this connection makes sense to me. If you are taught by these high and mighty professors that secularism and atheism reign supreme, of course you throw whatever Catholic education your good parents tried to impart to you, flawed or not, into the trash.

  • Ben

    Mr. Hudson,

    Apart from the fact that there are many “very fine scholars” out there whose books I wouldn’t paper my walls with, I find David Carlin’s essay improbable for several reasons. First, the typical focus on “secularism” as the fons et origo of all the ills of present-day Catholic society is a canard that is well past its sell-by date. The Church has never relaxed its strict sexual morality (or, better put, its ethical and moral stance) and that’s the point here. The other points Carlin adduces with respect to the effects of secularism on Catholic teaching are equally fatuous: the Church itself has never amended its teachings on these issues, either. And the Church has been more than forthright about this, including our Holy Father, Benedict XVI.

    But equally important: no one was satisfied with the outreach or the response of the pre-Vatican II Church. Everyone, especially converts to Catholicism, has sneered at the “ghetto mentality” of pre-Vatican II Catholicism and the way in which Catholics were taught their faith and its relationship with the “outside world.” And this goes on even today, with the ridicule of “tribal Catholicism” or “cultural Catholicism.” But show me one substantive thing that was put in its place. And show me one Catholic who is a better, more informed, more devout, holier Catholic than those of the pre-Vatican II era. And yet, the contempt goes on, with more and more programs and calls for outreach and dismissals good, faithful Catholics, who strive to live good, holy lives.

    You get what you pay for. You apparently didn’t pay much.

  • Jason

    And show me one Catholic who is a better, more informed, more devout, holier Catholic than those of the pre-Vatican II era.

    I don’t see how anyone can demonstrate what you’re demanding. Neither can you demonstrate the reverse. We can make observations about pre VII Catholics in the aggregate, and can make similar observations about modern Catholics. But comparing a representative of one group with the entirety of the other group is silly, especially according to the criteria you deonstrate. More informed? I’d point easily to Scott Hahn or many of the editors here at IC. “Better”? “More devout”? Oh, and my personal favorite: “Holier”? Who’s going to make those calls?

    External observances, rote, and trappings are great cultural identifiers, but they’re not what it’s all about. The Council fathers apparenty agreed, and though we’re still in an uncomfortable post-conciliar adolescence, I don’t think there’s much sympathy for going back. It’s easy to chalk that up to sloth, but I don’t think that’s fair or accurate.

    Also, I think secularism is rightly identified as a worse enemy of the Faith than the previous “canard”: Protestantism. It’s only among conservative Catholics that we still find people engaging in the Reformation wars anymore, railing against the putative “Protestantizing of the Church” as if that were still the primary problem we face today.

  • Ben

    Jason,

    I said nothing about “trappings” or cultural identifiers, although certainly one must consider them. But to make it seem as though that’s all that the pre-Vatican II Church was about is a canard. It’s disingenuous and, to put it bluntly, a misrepresentation.

    More informed? Scott Hahn is debatable, especially his theology. And Scott Hahn doesn’t speak for the Church. And as to the “no sympathy” for going back, it’s too early to make grandiose statements about that, too. You may be surprised, Jason, but many people appreciate and desire reverence, silence, and majesty in their liturgy, not faux-evangelical tripe.

    Your notion of the primary problem of the Church ignores the very real damage done to the Church as the result of the importation of Protestant practices and beliefs into the Church after Vatican II. Read some history.

  • Charles Miller

    It strikes me that this is a type of macro- versus micro-economics. My reading of this article is that his concern is with the larger Church, rather than individual beliefs. Obviously, individual beliefs drive the changes and decline seen, yet it is the Church that is the topic of address. I know I am not making my point well. Perhaps someone will better delineate the argument.

    I am the perfect example of what happens to the poorly cathecized (Detroit) Catholic. For years I was adrift in the secular mindset as described in Prof. Carlin’s 5 points above. Yet, as my children have been educated in an orthodox Catholic setting, I have seen the error and am trying to find my way back. (InsideCatholic as the successor of Crisis has been a great help.)

    So many of the combox responders seem to take direct, personal offense to these articles (remember the Mark Shea Islam piece?)(or anything by Deal Hudson or Bill Donohue!). I would submit that is indicative of two things; first is how on-target the article is, and how troubling these topics are to some people. I won’t speculate why they are troubling, so that I can stay within the rules. The amount of ad-hominem responses secures my argument.

  • meg

    Also, I think secularism is rightly identified as a worse enemy of the Faith than the previous “canard”: Protestantism. It’s only among conservative Catholics that we still find people engaging in the Reformation wars anymore, railing against the putative “Protestantizing of the Church” as if that were still the primary problem we face today.

    Yes, don’t worry about us conservative Catholics, we’re just a bunch of dinosaurs! smilies/smiley.gif

    “Protestantizing” was the ORIGINAL problem; now that the Church has been thoroughly Protestantized, it virtually invisible to many (a telling fact in itself). So, it follows that secularism has replaced Protestantism as the principle issue – but only brought on by the original problem.

    “Uncomfortable post-conciliar adolescence?” Forty years is nothing in the history of our beautiful Church. Break out some materials that OPPOSE Vatican II and inform yourselves. Scott Hahn is a good man, but he certainly does not have all the answers by a long shot. Michael Davies – don’t balk – would be a good start.

  • Todd

    “So many of the combox responders seem to take direct, personal offense to these articles …”

    Speaking from the Left, let me say that Dr Carlin doesn’t know me, nor do I know him. So we have no personal connection. Serious IC pieces are nearly always provocative in some way. Nothing wrong with that. IC likes high hit counts and threads that stretch on till the grandkids are posting. Nothing wrong with that either.

    But I don’t mind poking holes in the weaker arguments coming from the Right, and I don’t mind going toe-to-toe with a serious commentator, either.

    Now if you’ll excuse this angry sod, I have to run another load of laundry, pile with my wife into the car, pick up my daughter at school, and enjoy some afternoon family time. I can assure you I will do so with a smile on my face, and I won’t be obsessing about this thread topic. When I go back to the parish tomorrow, I will be rolling up my shirtsleeves and working with my colleagues and parishioners on how to get more Catholic students into our pews and other parish activities we provide for them. Some of us actually address the Church’s challenges and don’t just sit around whining about them. I’m happy to include both liberals and conservatives in that “us.” Enough of this divide-n-conquer stuff.

  • Jeannine

    Todd’s reaction to this piece is a puzzling one. Over at Insight Scoop is an article by Joseph A. Sirba that discusses and summarizes the results of the Pew survey of American religion. The losses of the Catholic church in the past 35 years are shocking. Why have so many Catholics left the faith? We should all be disturbed and dismayed by the reality of the state of the Church today.

    This isn’t about Democrats and Republicans, Todd. It isn’t about “liberal” and “conservative” in the political sense. It’s about the fact that many, many Catholics do not know their own faith and throw it away with distressing frequency.

  • Will

    I have been a Catholic my entire life and really do not know much about Protestants, and never considered it a problem. I went to Catholic School and as you can imagine, they really did not get into “Protestantism” very much, except to say that the “Prots” had no central authority, thus were prone to error.
    I don’t think of the Protestants as “the enemy.” Perhaps some of them at times may be misguided, however, I like to assume that most of them are good people and are allies of ours, albeit not perfect allies. I see Secularism and aggressive Islam as the real enemies. Yes, yes, the Episcopalians may be in error due to their embrace of this gay business, but that is not really my problem. I have no intention of becoming a Protestant, thus I don’t get too concerned about what they believe or don’t believe. Perhaps that means that I am not being enough of a “Catholic Evangelist” but I am more worried and concerned about problems in the Catholic Church.

  • Anthony

    Sometime ago, I browsed a Catholic book written by an Italian monsignor in the late 19th century. The title of the book was “Liberalism is a Sin.” It dealt with those who essentially claim that we cannot understand God’s laws. That would mean that to be liberal would be to say we cannot understand God’s laws whether they are handed down by an ancient culture, or a technoloically inferior one. Liberal would mean we cannot interpret natural law, or a law as understood by the Catholic magesterium, or by any tradition handed on to us. If the the the recent late JPII condemns socialism, well, we know better.

    So how is one a liberal at all?

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Sometime ago, I browsed a Catholic book written by an Italian monsignor in the late 19th century. The title of the book was “Liberalism is a Sin.” It dealt with those who essentially claim that we cannot understand God’s laws. That would mean that to be liberal would be to say we cannot understand God’s laws whether they are handed down by an ancient culture, or a technoloically inferior one. Liberal would mean we cannot interpret natural law, or a law as understood by the Catholic magesterium, or by any tradition handed on to us. If the the the recent late JPII condemns socialism, well, we know better.

    So how is one a liberal at all?

    Hi Anthony,

    Fr. Salvany penned his booklet in late 19th century Spain to address problems unique to that time and place, so his definition of “liberalism” isn’t anything that a modern liberal Catholic would hold to. Furthermore, he wrote in the midst of a wave of socialism and anarchism that roiled the country up until the Spanish Civil War.

    So Salvany’s booklet doesn’t really address the kinds of liberalism/progressivism that we have today.

  • David W.

    Vatican II wasn’t the “cause” of all of our troubles in the Church….Vatican II, like the Council of Trent was a REACTION to what was already happening. The erosion of Church authority and the Secularist assault began long before Vatican II, in fact it has been a steady process. The loss of the Papal States, the French Revolution…the enemies of Mother Church have deep roots…Vatican II is a convenient bogeyman. The advances of technology, the automobile, radio, et al pounded the walls of Catholic Orthodoxy to dust, as that “Insularity” of Catholicism some decry (which was, in fact…what protected the Faith and kept our Catholic culture alive) was destroyed. Babylon could no longer be kept outside the walls. The 1960s were inevitable, in view of what was happening in the previous 150 years.

  • Bill

    It’s helpful to bring some facts to the discussion. Everyone is enlightened by the factual book WHO REALLY CARES? by Arthur Brooks (2006). It supports what I’ve seen for decades as a church fundraiser and a community activist. Liberals are great at talking, poor at giving. Conservatives are much more likely to give their money (and even their blood) than their liberal friends.

    One by one the liberal protestant churches are closing their doors. And then look at liberal catholic dioceses and note their poor vocation recruitment, and thereafter closing their local outlets.

    Facts matter.

    Bill

  • Will

    Bill, you are correct in that “mainstream Protestants” have lost membership recently, but even though I am a Catholic, I take no pleasure at their misfortune. They are not the enemy.
    We still have our Pope, our Bishops and our sacraments, and while our problems are severe, I think we will be OK. Pope Benedict understands the real enemy is radical Islam, not some gaggle of gay Episcopalians. He is trying to engage radical Islam and undertands the threat we face, which is nothing new, as the Turks were at the gates of Vienna in 1688. Let stop bashing Anglicans and Liberal Catholics and save our ammunition for the real enemy that we once again face.

  • R.C.

    Is the real enemy Protestant Anti-Catholics?

    Is the real enemy Evangelical Indifferentists?

    Is the real enemy Philosophical Secularists in Academia?

    Is the real enemy Hollywood Hedonist Antinomians?

    Is the real enemy Liberal Modernist Catholics?

    Put on the whole armour of God, so that you will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. (Ephesians 6:11-12)

    When men act, often unintentionally and without malice, to the advantage of the devil, please remember that it is not they, but the devil, who is our enemy.

    His dupes and tools, though he certainly considers them mere “useful idiots” to be used and discarded, are in fact the prodigal children for whom Christ died and whom the Father longs to welcome back to His household with feasting and joy.

    Let then our charity be directed toward them even while we combat whatever devils’ work which may manifest through them.

    A practical gut-check in this matter is this: When in conversation (spoken or blogged) I find myself identifying a group of humans as “the problem,” I should ask myself: In how many of the previous seven days have I prayed on behalf of that group of humans?

    When the answer is “none,” I should probably suspect that I am mistaking the enemy’s unwitting tools for the enemy. An attitude adjustment is probably called for.

    (Full disclosure: My answer usually is “none.” I am not writing this to hold myself up as a standard. But if others benefit from seeing a thing I’m fitfully trying to learn, so much the better!)

  • R.C.

    Will:

    I neglected to add either “Fanatical Jihadists” or “Gay Episcopalians” to the list in my previous post.

    Consider them included; I apologize for the oversight. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

  • Dee

    It cracks me up when unfaithful Catholics refer to themselves as “liberal” as though the word liberal cleans up the toxic agenda.

    Imagine trying to get out of a speeding ticket by telling the policeman you are a liberal with the speeding laws?

    Thanks be to God and the Blessed Mother that nobody wasted their precious time constructing research to prove the long lines in the confessionals and jam-packed pews in the days when priests moved our consciences to repent are gone. Asking people to prove the dinosaurs are not roaming the earth is an exercise best to politely decline.

  • Dee

    It’s common sense that when the priests started teaching things weren’t sinful, people stopped going to confession and coming to Church.

    Can’t have it both ways.

  • Will

    R.C., yes the ultimate enemy is the Devil, however, unfortunately we still have to deal with people who are a serious problem. I regard the Gay Episcopalians as more of a nuissance than a mortal threat [their numbers are in decline anyway]. Militant Islam is far more dangerous and we need to be on our toes to combat this whenever we can. I think that Benedict understands this. Most people do not realize that the Jihadists overran Spain and it took 700 years to drive them out.
    They also overran the Balkans and it took centuries to drive them out of there as well. People forget that North Africa was actually Christian until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. Yes, you are correct, we should pray for the Muslims, but I don’t think that prayer alone is going to do it. We need to be much more vigilant and militant in our dealing with them.
    I wish I can a quick and easy answer to this, but I don’t. It is not so much that they are evil, but they do evil things. We have lost a lot of ground here and we need to get off the defensive and go on the offensive.

  • Nathan Cushman

    Will, I’m not sure where you’re coming from…

    As far as I can tell, Pope Benedict has not dismissed secularism as a minor issue. I remember him speaking out against moral relativism more than against radical Islam.

    I think the Pope rightly keeps his focus far more broad than many of us do. Instead of sitting around arguing about whether is is abusive priests, radical Islam, or moral relativism that is the worst problem, he does his best to address ALL the problems. Of course he is just one man, and he can not do it alone.

    And to Todd, I want to second (or third) the point that in this particular discussion, liberalism was intended to refer to religious liberalism, not political liberalism (though the two often, but not always, coincide). I don’t believe the support of socialism is what is proposed as a cause for decline in the Church. I don’t believe this argument is much about liturgy either (though it might be a little). No, this argument is accusing clearly unorthodox teaching and poor quality instruction (from those who ARE orthodox), or weakening the Church.

    Yes, the Church has maintained her dogmas, but the point is that many Catholics are not properly taught those truths, so they fall into believing what the “World” says, accepting the word of the media over the word of the Pope. These worldly Catholics then present these worldly lies to others, and people are driven away, either to Conservative Protestantism, which at least contains SOME truth, or into full-blown secularism, since there’s no reason to attend a Church if you could get the same teaching at the bar.

    So, Todd, if you believe in the teachings of the Catechism, and you respect the Pope’s authority, then I don’t think this article much addresses your type of liberalism.

  • Will

    A true Catholic is opposed to abortion [no exceptions!] and also opposed to aggressive war. Abortion is a more “simple” issue in some sense, and I am aware of the “just war” teachings of the Church, which of course, makes this issue far more muddy.
    For exampe, Israel has a right to defend itself from Jihad terrorists [here we go with the Jihadists again!], but they need to try to minimize civilian casualities. To be against abortion in the West is supposidly a “conservative” position, whereas, being anti-war is supposidly a “Liberal” position.
    One can [and should be against both] to be in accordance with the Seamless Garment of Life. This does not mean of course, that we must disarm, allow ourselves to be invaded, attacked, etc. On the contrary, given our aggressive enemy, i.e. Radical Islam, we must be vigilant and militant, however of course, we must only go to war, when we have to. Determining when we have to fight is very difficult and open to debate. Being concerned about an unnecessary war does not make you “unpatriotic.” War is death and destruction and must only be undertaken when there is no other option.

    Regarding Abortion, we must overturn Roe v Wade, but that alone is not enough. We must give pregnant young women options, alternatives to abortion, especially adoption, and we need to be very serious about it. We cannot just ban abortion then walk away saying “mission acccomplished.” We must help these young women, not just ban the abortions [which is necessary of course].

    Nathan and David W, you sound like really good Christians, probably better than me, but I try, albeit often falling short.

    I still stand by my statement about Radical Islam being far more dangerous than a bunch of gay Episcopalians. The gay Episcopalians did not overrun the Iberian Peninsula, The Balkans, North Africa, the Middle East, India, etc. Radical Islam did. The gay Episcopalians are in serious error and cannot be encouraged, but I am not that afraid of them.

    Pope Benedict perhaps has slightly different priorities than me,[not to mention wisdom, which I don’t have] but I am just a layman and don’t shoulder the awesome responsibilities that he does, thus I have my opinions about this, whereas he must be more careful.

    Dee, please don’t bash the priests so much, yes there are a few rotten apples, but it has been my experience that the vast majority are dedicated, hardworking wonderful people. God bless them. Could the Sermons be better? Of course! However, I should also be a better listener!

  • Dee

    Dee, please don’t bash the priests so much, yes there are a few rotten apples, but it has been my experience that the vast majority are dedicated, hardworking wonderful people. God bless them. Could the Sermons be better? Of course! However, I should also be a better listener!

    Will,

    Somehow, it seems I’ve managed to give the wrong impression. I don’t think of priests who are misleading their flocks as “rotten apples”.

    Do you have children, Will?

    If you found out that one of them was doing something very dangerous to their welfare and the welfare of others, and your wife sat them down and pointed out the dangers – would you assume she thought of them as rotten apples? Would you come in the room as she was showing them the mines and say they are good, hardworking kids, they could do better but God Bless them?

    That would be besides the point, wouldn’t it?

    These men are in deep doo doo. They have been reckless for the last 40 years and, they continue to be reckless. In the diocese I am in, the number of Catholics is somewhere in the vicinity of 2 million. Out of that 2 million, there may be five thousand who know their faith well enough to know the goal is a state of grace, know all the tools, the teachings, etc.

    This is catastrophic.

    Ask any priest in a diocese who attempts to teach Humanae Vitae or the CCC how it pans out at the Chancery and with their fellow priests. Ask any professor or lay teacher at a Catholic School. Take a national poll of CCD teachers who attempt to teach contraception or acting upon homosexual attraction requires confession.

    I’m curious to know what you think Todd is teaching the children he has under his guardianship? Do you think his insults and digs and faithfulness impair the judgment of kids who have an urge after they get through listening to him? What do you think he says to a kid who says “my parents taught me _____________. Priests are enabling this. But, they will be held accountable, sooner or later, and it will not be pretty.

    No, what I say is not driven by malice for them. It’s driven by love. I apologize if anything I’ve said has given the wrong impression.

  • Dee

    Will,

    You may want to take a deeper look at where we are in history in the United States.

    I’m not sure it’s sinking in…but…when a priest says something is sinful, he winds up in the newspapers. This is how oppressed we are in this nation. It happens so seldom and so infrequently that we are down to a few people whose faces get splashed across the newspapers when they do it.

    And, the diocese crucifies him. He is lucky to ever have an assignment again.

    Don’t get me wrong. There are dioceses where there is enough of a fraternity in the priesthood and fidelity and where Bishops are protecting their priests from this kind of persecution. But, there is a willful blindness in the laity to acknowledge what is happening.

  • Todd

    “I’m curious to know what you think Todd is teaching the children he has under his guardianship? Do you think his insults and digs and faithfulness impair the judgment of kids who have an urge after they get through listening to him?”

    As if someone who doesn’t know me would know. It’s more direct to just go to the source, wouldn’t you think.

    For the record, I am happy to align with the guidelines posted above. I offered no insults, and maintained care to address what I think are poor arguments.

    I thought Dr Carlin’s summary of “liberal” positions was a caricature. No response to my suggestion you find a real, non-fringe Catholic liberal and find out what we really think about secularism, authority, abortion, faithfulness, and the like. One-sided discussions pale in comparison to bringing a real person in here who can address these issues with you.

    If anyone feels I have violated the five rules posted above, I challenge you to point it out. I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, as the IC editors will attest.

  • meg

    Some of us actually address the Church’s challenges and don’t just sit around whining about them.

    I looked hard and this is all I could find! smilies/smiley.gif It’s not really a personal attack, just irritatingly superior.

    Maybe just tone it down a notch.

  • meg

    I thought Dr Carlin’s summary of “liberal” positions was a caricature. No response to my suggestion you find a real, non-fringe Catholic liberal and find out what we really think about secularism, authority, abortion, faithfulness, and the like.

    I disagree that it was a caricature; that’s a pretty dismissive description and I think you must lack objectivity about the state of Catholicism if that’s how you feel. Have you considered that you might be too focused on the Right/Left aspect of the Church to the detriment of objectivity? No rancor intended, maybe you would benefit by taking the flip side of your own advice and going toe-to-toe with a real, rock-solid traditionalist.

    I am honestly interested in why you call yourself a liberal. You say you are aligned with the Church’s teachings on all the “big” issues. Please tell me what a liberal is by your definition.

  • Todd

    meg, fair enough on the irritation. My perspective is colored by some previous parishes, perhaps, where I didn’t think people were as active as they were vocal. And some others here, perhaps, are colored by their own experiences with liberals to treat me pretty much as they have treated others, with little regard for specific arguments.

    As for Dr Carlin’s description, he didn’t offer a source–not McBrien, Chittister, or the editorial board of Commonweal, NCR, or America. I’m just curious where he’s coming from in describing liberals, that’s all.

    My very presence on conservative web sites: blogs and discussion groups over the past eleven years should show I’m more than willing to go into the lion’s den, toe-to-claw, as it were. People on my correspondence list have included Archbishop Curtiss, George Weigel, not to mention just about every conservative published here.

    As for your last question, my “manifesto” was published on this web site on 5 June 2008. I haven’t changed my mind since then. I see the liberal or progressive outlook an invaluable counterweight to conservativism/traditionalism in the Catholic Church.

  • Will

    I tend to think of myself as a “moderate.” I am violently opposed to Abortion, I am against gay “marriage” or whatever they might call it, and I am against the ordination of women, however, I do think that married men should be allowed to be ordained. I understand that the church is not a democracy, that the bishops should be appointed, not elected by the people, again however, I think the laity should have a voice in financial matters at the parish level. The “Liberals” will be angry with men for my mostly conservative views, however, some Traditionalists will be angry with me over a few things that I think. Since I am not a bishop and cannot ordain priests, the idea that I am in favor of ordaining married men [not women], might upset some, but it’s a moot point. I tend to agree with the bishops, but with a few minor tweaks. What does that make me? I would suspect that most of the clergy agrees with me, however Liberals and a few Traditionalists might disagree.

  • meg

    That explains a lot, didn’t realize you were such a high profile guy! I’m kind of new here.

    You probably have a more finely honed definition of what a liberal is and the various nuances thereof, as someone who has a taken an active role in blogs/discussion groups for so long. In my more limited experience, I find Catholics in general know which parishes lean liberal and which are more traditional, and there are sort of agreed-upon, if informal, definitions of the different stripes – liberal, conservative, traditional, etc. Perhaps Dr Carlin was working from this more informal angle and didn’t think a source would be necessary.

    I tried to find your piece from June but the archives ended in July!

  • meg

    That makes you a conservative who just needs correction on that one issue! smilies/smiley.gif

    I’m sure others can explain this better than I, but I’ll have a go.

    It sounds like a nice idea on paper, but it doesn’t work. Ask the wives/children of Protestant ministers, and they don’t even have to say Mass or hear confessions. You are pulled in many directions when you are at the head of a congregation, and Catholic priests especially so. It’s an untenable situation.

    Everyone knows that the priesthood is a vocation, but did you know that marriage is a vocation, too? It is one of the social vocations of the Church. Both of these vocations require all the energies and devotion of the man in question. For what you suggest to happen, a man would actually have to have fulfill two vocations at one time. One is bound to suffer – which one would that be?

    Also, celibacy gives a priest a beautiful and holy station from which to guide the faithful (celibacy is treated with an astounding disrespect in this country, which is a travesty).

    You mentioned that you are opposed to gay marriage. You’ll note that Protestant denominations always allowed marriage for their ministers – now many allow gay marriage for those same ministers. A slippery slope, no?

    Married men are welcome to become deacons. This way, they can take part in the Mass in a unique way but their families won’t suffer.

  • Todd

    I don’t want to monopolize the thread, so I’ll try brevity. If you search IC under my last name, Flowerday, you’ll find my contributions.

    High profile? Bah! I’m just an irritating gadfly who used to write to bishops and print media before blogs started using comboxes. When you write polite letters and e-mails, you might be surprised at the responses you get.

    For the record, I once belonged to a now-notorious liberal parish. In its heyday, conservatives as well as liberals flocked there. I had a good friend who was pretty traditionalist (he liked early music and used my Litany of Loreto chant for his wedding) but he was also a pacifist and very strong on social justice issues. He disagreed with the staff a great deal, but when the DRE position opened, he applied for it. Though he didn’t get hired, they were willing to listen to him, be open to possibilities, and they supported him as a parishioner. The community worked as a bastion of “intentional” Catholicism, rather than as a liberal oasis. I don’t know that every parishioner “got” that nuance, but I felt the community went downhill when they turned to extremism.

    I really think parishes would do better if they reached out and welcomed everybody, had high expectations of believers and gave them commensurate and appropriate responbilities befitting adults, and took faith seriously. Catholics liberals seemed to do a good job of this in the 70’s, but I think they’ve lost steam. So if it works for traditionalists, more power to ’em.

    That concludes why I find essays like this one so frustrating. I think Dr Carlin and IC are missing the boat. It’s not about orthodoxy, conservativism, liberals, new ideas, or faithfulness. It’s about a radical and intentional living out of the Gospel message. It really goes beyond ideology.

  • Will

    Meg,

    Yes, it is a “slippery slope” but of course, the Church has ordained a small number of married Episcopalian Priests and Lutheran Ministers to become Catholic Priests, while men who were raised as Catholics and who married in the Church, such as myself are not welcome. I’m not going to jump off a bridge about it, but I think that there is an inherent issue of “fairness” [oh no! “Fairness”] here. If married Protestant Ministers can be ordained Catholic Priests, but a Layman, such as myself, who is a lifelong Catholic, married in the Church, sent his children to Catholic school, etc is not welcome, then I am a bit annoyed. No, I am not going to leave the Church, joins some dissident sect, etc. I am and will always be a Catholic, but can you see my point here?

  • meg

    Absolutely, I do see your point and I sympathize. I can’t explain the in’s and out’s of these types of ordinations because I know nothing about them. I seem to remember seeing a show on EWTN awhile back about an Anglican priest who wanted to convert, but he had converted his entire parish and they were coming with him, so it wasn’t just him, it was hundreds. Perhaps that explains the rare leniency. I think the Church still has great sympathy for the Anglicans because of the whole Henry VIII thing.

    I ask this delicately – have you considered becoming a deacon? It might assuage some of your frustrations.

  • Dee
  • Micha Elyi

    I’ve got bad news for you, Meg. The generation that preceded today’s Catholics who are reaching their 50s also lacked adequate catechesis among many of their number.

  • Nathan Cushman

    I think Dr Carlin and IC are missing the boat. It’s not about orthodoxy, conservativism, liberals, new ideas, or faithfulness. It’s about a radical and intentional living out of the Gospel message. It really goes beyond ideology.

    I can see your point to an extent, Todd. It doesn’t mean much to believe the Truth if you don’t live accordingly.

    But I can’t see how you can say “It’s not about orthodoxy,” or “faithfulness.”

    Orthodoxy is of utmost importance, because to be orthodox is to believe the truth. If one is not taught orthodoxy, and does not believe orthodox beliefs, then how can one possibly live “out the Gospel message?” To live the gospel message, you must know what that message is, and there lies the importance of orthodoxy.

    If we ignore orthodoxy a Saint becomes nothing more than a social worker, and the Church becomes nothing other than a charity.

  • Todd

    Thanks for responding Nathan. Since you addressed me personally, I’ll respond. But I think I’d prefer not being the lightning rod on threads like this. I offered a counterview, one (I think) more congruent with what Catholics are like in parishes.

    I’m not convinced most people are wired to seek, join, or stay with the Church because of orthodoxy. I don’t intend to minimize the importance of orthodoxy in writing that. I only observe what I see in seekers and returning Catholics, and how I see writers like Saint Paul describe the higher gifts. (1 Cor 12:31 ff)

    Jesus himself seemed to value love above all else. The woman who anointed his feet was a sinner by orthodox standards, but because she had loved much, her sins were forgiven, we are told. What came first, we might ask. Maybe she was convinced intellectually that she was a sinner, then turned to love as an expression of that. But maybe not. The examples of the saints give us many instances in which orthodoxy waited in line, and most saints were known or honored for other qualities.

    I doubt that orthodoxy is attractive to very many people outside the Church. An intellectual man like Fr Neuhaus? Sure. Most people searching for God? I doubt it. I’m willing to be shown to be wrong, but I just don’t see it in the people I know. Most people are looking for connections, belonging, a sense of purpose. They will assent to Church teaching, but it doesn’t govern their lives or expression of Christianity.

    Also, I think orthodox belief is more an act of the will. We make choices to align ourselves to what the Church teaches. Staking so much on what is, in essence, our own thing and not God’s grace, strikes me as a tad arrogant, or even as some commentators overuse the term, Pelagian. We are not saved by orthodoxy. When it matters at all, orthodoxy is the fruit of God’s grace.

    Your example of a social worker is apt, for that person engages in orthopraxis, right actions, if you will. Orthopraxis is one of the foundations of Judaism and Islam as well as social gospel Christianity. I tend to think it’s a both-and proposition, not either-or. A complete Christian will be both orthodox and “orthopractical,” usually expressed in the higher gifts: fides, spes, caritas.

  • Dee

    I doubt that orthodoxy is attractive to very many people outside the Church. An intellectual man like Fr Neuhaus? Sure. Most people searching for God? I doubt it. I’m willing to be shown to be wrong, but I just don’t see it in the people I know. Most people are looking for connections, belonging, a sense of purpose. They will assent to Church teaching, but it doesn’t govern their lives or expression of Christianity.

    Permit me to translate?

    I doubt that faithfulness to God is attractive to very many people outside the Church. An intellectual man like Fr Neuhaus? Sure. Most people searching for God? I doubt it. I’m willing to be shown to be wrong, but I just don’t see it in the people I know. Most people are looking for connections,not God, a belonging, a sense of purpose. They will assent to Church teaching, but they don’t assent to Church teaching.

  • Dee

    Jesus himself seemed to value love above all else. The woman who anointed his feet was a sinner by orthodox standards, but because she had loved much, her sins were forgiven, we are told. What came first, we might ask. Maybe she was convinced intellectually that she was a sinner, then turned to love as an expression of that. But maybe not. The examples of the saints give us many instances in which orthodoxy waited in line, and most saints were known or honored for other qualities.

    theological interpretation:

    Jesus himself seemed to value unrepentant sinners above all else. The woman who anointed his feet was a successful prostitute, by orthodox standards, but because she had loved much, her sins were forgiven, we are told. And, boy how she loved. What came first, we might ask. Maybe she was convinced intellectually that she was a sinner, then turned to love as an expression of that. But maybe not. May be she was turning tricks for the crowds Christ was attracting or the Apostles themselves. The examples of the saints give us many instances in which orthodoxy waited in line, and most saints were known or honored for other qualities. Just ask St. Hugh Heffner and the bunnies waiting in line to wash feet with their hair at the Playboy Mansion who are known and honored for other qualities.

    No, the sins of the woman who washed Christ’s feet were not forgiven because she serviced people. Her sins were forgiven because she had a repentant heart. She loved enough to admit that her addictions were hurting her, hurting Christ and hurting the people she was having sex with. This is “loving much”.

  • Dee

    Finding comments here insinuating that aposolates should grab the people looking for God and Truth when they go to Church and withhold the teachings of the Church and distract them so they connect with us feels like an intellectual and spiritual assault.

    I feel yucky when I’m reading the efforts to fisk the truth and the people espousing them. I close the thread and feel as though I’m covered with dung. The opposite of edification.

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