Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Catholic Bell Curve And Friendly Jesuits

Some questions of human behavior are best mapped on a bell curve, but the spectrum of faith looks much more like an umbrella leaning against a wall – a slow rising incline with a sharp upwards curve at the top. The people down at the tip of the umbrella are those least interested and informed on questions of faith, while those up in the handle are the most devoutly doctrinal. So in 1930, down at the umbrella’s tip you might find Mafia hit men, prostitutes, thieves, and superstitious peasants. Moving up, you’d see the level of knowledge and interest gradually increase, until it suddenly spiked – and up in the handle you’d find saintly mystics, fearless missionaries, as well as self-righteous bigots and Jew-baiting cranks. In between, you’d find all the ordinary people one might expect in a Church intended to serve and save the great mass of humanity, the people Chaucer pictured as pilgrims to Canterbury.
All these people along the umbrella differed in their levels of commitment, but their creed was the same. Al Capone was, and knew himself to be, a Catholic murderer. He did not proclaim himself a “dissenter” on the “life issue,” and align himself with friendly Jesuits whom he found more “open-minded” about the commandment he chose to break. Capone did not sponsor a group like “Catholics for Free-Fire Zones.”
With the controversy over birth control, the handle came off the umbrella. With the mass rejection of the natural law teaching presented in Humanae Vitae, the only people technically remaining as consciously orthodox Catholics was that 5 percent deeply interested in and committed to orthodoxy. There were saintly, self-sacrificing priests and laymen who suffered for their beliefs – and self-congratulating Pharisees who enjoyed being part of the “saving remnant.” There were working-class people who accepted the discipline of remaining open to life, or the ascetical practice of Natural Family Planning – and there were “white trash” Catholics who used the Church’s teaching as a pretext for going on public assistance. 
Link (here) to read the full story at Aleteia


TonyD said...

Last night I watched Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair" with Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore. At one time, Greene's books were "forbidden" by the Church. Eventually, they were removed from that "forbidden" list. At this point I've read several quotes from the Pope praising Greene and his Catholic writings -- and I even read about Greene spending time at the Vatican where he was met by the Pope.

And I remember a religious studies class where we went over a list of major Church positions. And then we examined Church history -- where it quickly became clear that the Church has reversed itself or ignored almost every major position that it has ever held - regardless of Catechism, Magesterium, Bishop's committees, or official Vatican statements.

So when I read an article that elevates Church positions to God's positions I can't help but be surprised. How can this person understand so little about true religion? Or have so little understanding of Church History? And I am even more amazed when such people criticize others for not adopting their interpretations. Arguments based on "natural law" are questionable at best -- like hermeneutics, such analysis seems to be biased toward confirming the unconfirmable.

The Pope says, appropriately, "Who am I to judge?". It is a worthwhile, pragmatic perspective, and many in the Church would be well advised to emulate the Pope in this regard.

Ray said...

The Jesuits seem to have become a standard deviation, way on the left side of the curve!!

James Foley said...

I was priveleged to know the late Fr. John Meyendorff who taught at Fordham and St. Vladimir's Russian Orthodox Seminary. He opened the doors to Orthodox theology to me. I recalled him when Pope Frances last year cited with apparent openness the example of Orthodox praxis in allowing limited church remarriage and a return to communion after the original marriage bond has been irretreivably broken. CDF's Mueller corrected the Pope's remarks to show that the Orthodox position was contrary to scripture but the cat was out of the bag. I was also amazed that the very conservative Orthodox also allowed contraception. They cite St. John Chrysostom who taught that marriage had two goals: to address concupience and to produce children. The first was the most important objective. The Orthodox don't dispute that sexual abstention is laudatory for those who can accept this, but they don't think imposing lenghy periods of sexual abstention on most people as in RC family planning makes sense in view of what they consider to be the primary purpose of marriage. Overall I found their approach to people much more pastoral than official RC positions.