Friday, October 17, 2014

A Defense of People Who Care - or - Why It's Not Wrong to Be Angry at the Synod

To love is painful.

We don't always admit that, because to care about someone or something is not considered cool.  We like to seem glib and slick and well-adjusted, but speaking as the least well-adjusted Catholic blogger on the internet, let me say a few words in defense of People Who Care.


Kasper, the Friendly Ghost who's been Haunting the Synod

I had taken a short respite from serious blogging these last few weeks (I am, as I just said, the least well-adjusted Catholic blogger on the internet and sometimes it all becomes too much for me), during which time the most noteworthy thing that happened in the Catholic world was the release of the appalling Relatio document from the Synod on the Family.

The reaction to this document was glee from the heterodox, horror from the orthodox and a certain smugness from the "Look at Me, I'm Not Alarmed" crowd.  This latter group has the best of intentions.  On the one hand, they want to quiet what they see as panic.  On the other, they rightly see that this is bound to be a tempest in a teapot, both because the doctrinal teaching of the Church cannot change and also because this is a "working document" that, though official, is not Magisterial.

But, well-meaning though they are, the "Look at Me, I'm Not Alarmed" crowd failed to see something very important, and failed to convey the right kind of (pardon the expression) "pastoral care" of their angry and hurt brethren, the orthodox who feel so betrayed and abandoned by this document (especially those who deal with the temptation of homosexual acts and those who have been victims of divorce and remarriage, a few of whom vented to me privately over this).

The "Look at Me, I'm Not Alarmed" crowd failed to see how much those who were horrified by the document care about the Church, in fact love the Church, the Body of Christ, and are therefore appalled to see the shenanigans going on in Rome.  This is not to say that those who made a show of their ability to Keep Calm do not love the Church; of course they do.  But they simply forgot how painful it is to love something or someone deeply - how hard it is to care, especially when you're bound to get hurt by the person or the people or the thing you care for.

So I say, in defense of those who have been angry, even livid this past week, this is simply your Eros showing.  Continue to love the Church and make a loud lamentation when our bishops sell out Christ as Judas did, either for thirty pieces of silver, or for the approval of the secular world, or for a balm to soothe their own consciences, which could perhaps be troubled by the sinful and disordered lives they themselves are leading.

And remember what I have learned and what people like me have learned.  Most of our bishops are scoundrels.  Generally speaking, these are men who continue to enable the sexual abuse of children and get indignant and haughty when you point this out to them.  They are men who want to be popular and comfortable, and are therefore as far removed for the Spirit of Christ as you can be.  They are men who, themselves, are often given over to a variety of perversions.  Generally speaking, these are men who cannot be trusted - and yet in God's great condescension, He deigns to work through them, and asks us, in all humility, to obey them when they teach on matters of Faith and Morals.

Speaking of the latter, the Vatican backtracked on the most egregious of errors in the Relatio, issuing a more correct translation of the most offensive paragraph.  And CNA, in reporting that, also covered the official guide to the pastoral care of homosexual persons, which is an example of love in action, love that does not pander to the sickness of the times, love that speaks the truth with mercy.

In other words, it is an example of the teachings of Christ (as played out over the millennia and as defended by the Holy Spirit).

It is therefore worth quoting the CNA article at length (my emphasis) ...

In fact, pastoral care for homosexuals is well described in a 1986 document, issued by Cardinal Mueller's dicastery, “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”

Bearing the signature of the then-prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and approved by St. John Paul II, the letter was delivered to bishops worldwide, providing instructions on how the clergy should respond to the claims of the LGBT community.

Far from being a document of condemnation, the document provided a nuanced response to the issue of homosexuality.

The document stressed that "it is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs."

“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

Pastoral care for homosexuals was also addressed.

“We encourage the Bishops to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses,” the document read

But – the document added – “no authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.”

Likewise, “we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”

The document also dealt with the spiritual life.

“An authentic pastoral programme will assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care. In such a way, the entire Christian community can come to recognize its own call to assist its brothers and sisters, without deluding them or isolating them.”

The approach of the document was thus that of reaffirming the truth of the teaching of the Church, and at the same time approaching with mercy homosexual persons.


And one more thing.

One of my good friends, who is especially hurt by the betrayal of Christ that's being pushed at the Synod, is concerned that this is a crisis of Pastoral Care, not of Official Teaching.  He points out that if the Official Teaching is abandoned at the pastoral level, the Official Teaching doesn't matter, practically speaking.  His position is, "Yes, the Official Teaching cannot change; but it will, in effect, be abandoned in practice."

I would respond, however, that the Teaching of the Church has been effectively abandoned at the parish level and (what's worse) in the living rooms and kitchens and bedrooms of our families for a long time now.

"Only what is true can be pastoral," the above document tells us.  But the care that our pastors have offered us and that we've offered one another has been largely untrue - or Unreal - for a long time now.

This is indeed a Pastoral Crisis, and it matters not whether the Kasperites give a de jure approval to a de facto situation.  Either way, when the rubber hits the road, we are failing Our Lord, and it comes to the same thing.

Either way, this is an example of our failure to love.

But remember, as I said at the beginning, to love is painful.  We must never forget that in our own lives or in the lives of others, especially when we see someone in pain because of how deeply he or she loves.

It is never wrong to care.

If you doubt that, just look at the nearest cross.


Tom Leith said...

And this is why I subscribe to First Things, in spite of their continuing to publish George Weigel.

James B. said...

A good friend of mine wrote a post related to this topic, titled 'It's Okay to be Worried About the Synod'. The link is below: