Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Plea for Truth, Part II: A Plea for Reality

Is it so much to ask, that we treat things as if they really are what they are?

We do it in so many walks of life. When we teach our baby children to eat solid food, we gently encourage them not to insert the strained peas in their ears, nose, and other non-mouth orifices, right? When we teach young men and women how to drive, we encourage them not to treat brick buildings as if they were imaginary (i.e. gently encourage them to apply pressure on the brake pedal and angular force on the steering wheel, as needed), right? We don't consider it unreasonable when others ask us politely if we would refrain from treating their dog as a toothbrush, right?

So could someone please explain to me why it's acceptable for "Christians" to behave as if Christ didn't exist, or that He's irrelevant, or that He's of minor importance compared to our other priorities?

I'll stick to examples of so-called "good Catholics" (with thanks to Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis for the phrase), partially since I'm most familiar with Catholic teaching, and partially since I have the misfortune of being familiar with untold scores of cases in which dissidents, the heterodox, and (yes, even) heretics still claim the name "Catholic" and all the "privileges" pertaining thereto.

The president of the Catholic Health Association, Sister Carol Keehan, has issued a response to the pro-life advocates who are upset with her statement praising two pro-abortion picks by incoming president Barack Obama. Instead of backing down from her position, Sister Keehan goes further by offering a defense of Obama as well as his new pro-abortion Health Secretary Tom Daschle and pro-abortion deputy health care director Jeanne Lambrew. [...] Keehan also claims that Obama and his selections will provide better health care for pregnant women and unborn children. "They are committed to getting access to quality health care for all Americans, including pregnant women and their unborn babies," Keehan adds. "It is my belief that we ... will prevent more abortions by ensuring tangible health care for pregnant women and their unborn babies."

Despite a bishop's order to cease, a Catholic hospital in Tyler, Texas that had been caught routinely performing direct sterilizations has issued a statement denying it has contravened the Church's moral law.

The hospital's statement came less than a week after Tyler Bishop Alvara Corrada issued his own statement reaffirming that two investigations confirmed Trinity Mother Frances Hospital's history of tubal ligations and other direct sterilizations, and that such activity must cease as being intrinsically contrary to human dignity and forbidden by Church law. [...]

Father Gavin Vaverek, Promoter of Justice in the Diocese of Tyler, said that the hospital does not define tubal ligations as “direct sterilization,” and is basing its denial upon this false understanding of what constitutes sterilization.

It does not deny offering tubal ligations,” the priest said about the hospital’s statement, according to a CNA report. “Having admitted the procedures, Trinity Mother Frances now wishes to continue them in the face of clear teaching and directive of the bishop by reasserting its discredited opinion that the procedures really are not ‘direct sterilizations.’ Essentially, it is saying the bishop is wrong when he asserts that tubal ligations are direct sterilization.”

Let's translate these into plain English, shall we?

1) The president (a religious sister, consecrated and bound by vows in poverty, chastity and obedience to God through the Church) of the "Catholic" [sic] "Health" [sic] Association [okay]: (a) believes that the President-Elect of Death is a fine choice to lead our nation; (b) is thrilled with said President-Elect of Death's pro-death choices as members of his staff; and (c) is indignant that anyone would dare question her decision, her allegiance [sic] to Catholic teaching, and her standing as a "good Catholic" [sic].

2) A "Catholic" [sic] hospital, when confronted with the rightful orders of the local bishop that they cease all intentional sterilizations (which the Church condemns as intrinsically evil), refuses the order on the grounds that "the bishop doesn't appreciate the nuances of Catholic teaching in the matter, and that the condemned actions are really justified, if only they can be viewed in the correct way".

To this, I gently submit that a Catholic does, in fact, need to obey Catholic teaching--or else cease to be a "faithful Catholic", by definition. If someone claims to be a golfer while indignantly denying any suggestion that he use golf balls and gold clubs (preferring instead to use, say, avocados and a pair of tongs), then I might possibly support his right to choose not to avail himself of the normal tools of the trade--but I will also be justified in saying that he is not, after all, a golfer at all... but only claiming (without substance or merit) to be one, for whatever mysterious reason. If a satanist suddenly rejects all allegiance to Satan, I may well congratulate him for making an excellent spiritual step; but I cannot reasonably congratulate him on being a good satanist, because he has, in fact, ceased to be one by that very act of rejection... and, even in my newfound admiration of him, I could not help but understand the Satanist Club's decision to deny him his usual "members only" parking space.

Just so, I suggest, with Catholicism. How are we to view someone who wishes to cling to the "perks" of Catholicism (reception of Holy Communion, or whatever else those "perks" might be, in his or her mind), but refuses to obey even the most rudimentary elements of Catholicism (such as belief in necessary Catholic doctrines, obedience to rightful Catholic authorities, adherence to Catholic practices and the requirements that go with them, and the like)? How can an institution boast the name "Catholic", while at the same time arrogating to itself the decisions rightfully made by the Bishop (or other rightful Church authority over them)? In short: I can't see how such a person or institution could be viewed as anything but "not a good Catholic" (and, perhaps, not even Catholic at all).

As I've said before, there's a special pain in watching a Christian betray Christ (and even worse, to deny and "cloak" their betrayal with rhetoric and sophistries). I'd much rather encounter a sincere atheist or unapologetic pagan; they might decide to stab Christ in the chest, like an avowed enemy, but at least they don't stab Christ in the back.

Picture the following scene (with a hat-tip to Paul for the general theme:

(Disclaimer: the "pseudo-firefighters" in this scene are not meant to resemble, in any way, the true and literal fire-fighting heroes of our country--many of whom I'm proud to number among my friends! Hence the prefix "pseudo-"...)
You approach the house of a friend (who's married with 3 small children) just in time to watch the house erupt in flames, and to see an arsonist screech off in a very fast car. You call the fire department, and a number of pseudo-firefighters arrive... but--rather than single-mindedly fighting the blaze, as you expect--they look at the fire and shrug, and tell you earnestly how these flames aren't that bad (they've seen far worse), how the arsonist might not be culpable for his actions (perhaps due to troubled home life, or even because of a different cultural outlook), and how there are far more important concerns than merely fighting fires (one mustn't be a single-issue fire-fighter, after all). Another pseudo-firefighter walks up and suggests (in all seriousness) that we not forget all the other houses burning at that very moment, throughout the world... that we can't possibly fight them all, so the best way to fight this fire, and others (we mustn't be provincial and narrow, and focus only on *this* house, mind you!) is to work toward stronger and more sweeping state and federal regulations that mandate more flame-resistant houses. A third pseudo-firefighter opines, while the roof of the house begins to collapse and screams can be heard from inside the house, that more governmental support (and more money to strapped public school programs) would go a long way toward preventing poor, lost people like yonder arsonist from "acting out" in such a socially unhelpful way.

At the end of the day, as the medics remove the charred corpses of your friends, what would be going through your mind? What would you say to those who comment (perhaps tactfully) on your lack of charity and goodwill toward the pseudo-firefighters who arrived on the scene, and toward those who agreed with their way of handling things? What would you say to the pseudo-firefighters who rebuke you for yelling, screaming, perhaps physically shaking a pseudo-firefighter or two, or even illegally trying to go in and save the family yourself?

I'm sure Noah Webster never meant for "nuance" to be a foul word... but the distressingly large assembly of "liberated", "nuanced", "liberal", etc., Catholics--at "Catholic" hospitals, "Catholic" universities, "Catholic" blogs* and websites, and the like, have certainly made it unfit for most faithful conversation. May God have mercy on us.

To the "nuanced" of the world, here's my response: try objective truth, for a change. Christ (i.e. objective truth) would really prefer it of you... and perhaps you could then join us in stopping the runaway train known as the "Culture of Death", rather than adding fuel to the train's furnace?

(*) In all fairness, there seems to be at least one sensible contributor to Vox Nova, along with the courageous commenters who try to champion orthodoxy, over there.


Clinton Tedin said...

I think that one of the reasons we see so many faux
Catholics is that there is a great deal of security in
working for the Church, with little accountability.
While salaries for a parish employee may be low,
administrators of Catholic colleges and Catholic
hospitals are doing very well, thank you. And how many times have you actually heard of a parish DRE
being fired because the students in her care are
ignorant of their catechism? Are presidents of
Catholic universities shown the door when their
institutions become notorious for undermining the
faith they were established to nurture? Will any of
the staff at that Tyler hospital be asked to resign?

A friend once suggested to me that it would be
interesting to see what parish life would be like if
a bishop announced that every parish had to
produce a certain number of vocations per year
or be closed. That will never happen, and it prob-
ably shouldn't, but it is sweet to imagine.

In the end, I don't see the institutions that fall
under the "Catholic" umbrella -- from diocesan
bureaucracies to colleges to hospitals, religious
orders and parishes -- having much accountability
to the Church at large for their fidelity.

paladin said...

Hi, Clinton!

You've nailed it, I think; I realize that it's not feasible for the Holy Father to micromanage the bishops (or the bishops to micromanage their priests, etc.), but there's been a good deal too much "erring in the other direction", in my opinion. When the U.S. bishops considered the idea of forbidding (as a conference, for the nation) abortion-tolerant and abortion-promoting politicians from receiving Holy Communion (as Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law requires that they do--about which Cardinal Ratzinger reminded them in 2004), over 150 bishops voted "no", and less than 10 voted "yes". That gave *me* an indicator for their willingness to hold people accountable, I'm afraid.

One note of hope: the (as Fr. Zuhlsdorf puts it) "biological solution" to this problem is well under way (i.e. most of these rather timid and heterodox bishops were ordained in the 1960's, and they're approaching mandatory retirement age--and most of the replacement bishops are very orthodox)... though I do think a few more of them could have been shoved quietly out, a bit earlier than that...

P.S. "Faux Catholic"... hm. Good phrase! :)

Theophilus said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family from your reader in Brazil.

paladin said...

...and a blessed Advent and Christmastide to you and yours as well, most excellent Theophilus! ;)