The Soft Tyranny of Sentimentalism
These charges are easy to make; they are full of modern buzzwords that suggest other buzzwords and people use them as a sort of verbal shorthand, a social coding that denotes at which table one may sit in the societal lunchroom. They signal a bent of mind so "advanced" that it has done away with the need to reason, and is content to let feelings and desires dress up as critical thought. Hence, a Sentimentalist says he cannot reconcile himself to a Church that "holds women back"—a vague term used to signal support of women priests, while ignoring the historical evidence that Christianity helped women to "self-actualize" as no other societies ever did. He says he cannot believe in a God who would "punish love" and in this way signals support for gay marriage, while brushing off pesky questions about physiology, covenants, or Scripture.
Of Sloppy Thinking and Loose Shoes
The Sentimentalist uses such happy talk because it is inexact, squishy, and comfy like a gel insert in a shoe. He willingly trades the clarity of ideas for the feeling that he (as opposed to you) is enlarged of heart and ennobled of mind. Nearly a hundred years ago, long before the sexual revolution, G.K. Chesterton wrote, "We can always convict [Sentimentalists] by their weakness for euphemism. The phrase they use is always softened and suited for journalistic appeals. They talk of free love when they mean something quite different, better defined as free lust . . . they insist on talking about birth control when they mean less birth and no control."
Citing "irreconcilable differences" the Sentimentalist divorces himself from the religious narrative; he takes a measure of the prevailing winds and then tries to shrink God and His Bride—the Church—into the narrow space of a fickle conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom, of course, is often kneejerk, seeing in every considered "no" an evidence of oppression, and every sin within the Church a proof of pervasive darkness.
Doubtless it would help if the Church itself were not such a refuge of sinners, both in the pews and in the robes. The disheartening failings of Church members and leaders lend credibility to a Sentimentalist's declaration that he'd rather spend his time with an honest sinner than a pious hypocrite. It is impossible to argue that a heterosexual priest who is unfaithful to his vows is preferable to a homosexual priest who is. The seemingly endless revelations of the clerical abuse of minors certainly makes a Sentimentalist who casts off the Church in disgust seem more sensible than the equally-sickened Christian who remains within.
When the Sentimentalist's reasonable outrage on behalf of very real victims inspires him to dissociate from the faith, he believes he has safely removed himself from the stains upon the Church. But, sadly he has also made a decision to remove himself from the risks inherent in any measure of trust; that self-protective position may instruct him into a habit of rash judgment and narrow cynicism which can become crippling in other areas of life.
Though his anger at the Church and sympathy for the victims is indeed genuine, his unwillingness to participate in the broader sufferings of the Church entire—to face shame while hoping for clarity, to demand reforms while acknowledging the brokenness of humanity—ultimately denies him the growth that begins within the plumbed depths of shared humiliation, where grace may take root, and eventually grow into healing, strength, wisdom, and a peace that is frankly beyond the world's understanding.