7 Francis Takes (9/20/13)

 

As you’ve probably heard, Pope Francis gave a broad ranging interview to America this week, and if everyone is going to pick out quotations (with or without context) I figured I could offer seven that interested me this week (with brief, non-authoritative commentary).

 

— 1 —

Other people have covered the lovely simplicity of Pope Francis’s self description [excerpted below] but I was just charmed at the multilingual pope needed to reach for an invented gerund to express himself fully:

“Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” And he repeats: “I am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him], was very true for me.”

The motto is taken from the Homilies of Bede the Venerable, who writes in his comments on the Gospel story of the calling of Matthew: “Jesus saw a publican, and since he looked at him with feelings of love and chose him, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” The pope adds: “I think the Latin gerund miserando is impossible to translate in both Italian and Spanish. I like to translate it with another gerund that does not exist: misericordiando[“mercy-ing”].

— 2 —

There was an interesting theme of invention as expression throughout the interview.  I was kind of reminded of the idea from Plato that teachers don’t instruct, they simply help the student remember some true thing they weren’t aware of.  In the process of coaxing something out from a roomful of students, a teacher might still be surprised by the framing any student uses to express a shared truth.

“St. Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time. Here, human self-understanding changes with time and so also human consciousness deepens. Let us think of when slavery was accepted or the death penalty was allowed without any problem. So we grow in the understanding of the truth. Exegetes and theologians help the church to mature in her own judgment. Even the other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.

“After all, in every age of history, humans try to understand and express themselves better. So human beings in time change the way they perceive themselves. It’s one thing for a man who expresses himself by carving the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace,’ yet another for Caravaggio, Chagall and yet another still for Dalí. Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning.”

— 3 —

And as for when art and philosophy go off the rails…

“When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. The deceived thought can be depicted as Ulysses encountering the song of the Siren, or as Tannhäuser in an orgy surrounded by satyrs and bacchantes, or as Parsifal, in the second act of Wagner’s opera, in the palace of Klingsor. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching.”

Which reminded me (tonally anyway, no guarantee Pope Francis agrees with Hannah) of this exclamation from Arcadia:

The whole Romantic sham, Bernard!  It’s what happened to the Enlightenment, isn’t it?  A century of intellectual rigor turned in on itself.  A mind in chaos suspected of genius.

— 4 —

The part of the interview where I felt the least recognition was here:

The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God. This is the definition I often use, and then there is that image from the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ (No. 12). Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.

I haven’t experienced the Church very much as a people. I came to Catholicism more through books and philosophical sparring.  And, although I was working on developing ties to my parish and to the Dominican House of Studies in DC, my somewhat peripatetic existence in California has made Catholicism feel a lot more like something I do alone.

— 5 —

The Pope did speak of his own need for community in which to experience communion (he cites it as the reason he entered the Jesuits, instead of becoming a diocesan priest).  But he values his particular community as much for its ability to disorient as to comfort.

“The Society of Jesus is an institution in tension,” the pope replied, “always fundamentally in tension. A Jesuit is a person who is not centered in himself. The Society itself also looks to a center outside itself; its center is Christ and his church. So if the Society centers itself in Christ and the church, it has two fundamental points of reference for its balance and for being able to live on the margins, on the frontier. If it looks too much in upon itself, it puts itself at the center as a very solid, very well ‘armed’ structure, but then it runs the risk of feeling safe and self-sufficient. The Society must always have before itself the Deus semper maior, the always-greater God, and the pursuit of the ever greater glory of God, the church as true bride of Christ our Lord, Christ the king who conquers us and to whom we offer our whole person and all our hard work, even if we are clay pots, inadequate. This tension takes us out of ourselves continuously. The tool that makes the Society of Jesus not centered in itself, really strong, is, then, the account of conscience, which is at the same time paternal and fraternal, because it helps the Society to fulfill its mission better.”

I was actually discussing Yudkowsky’s “Twelve Virtues of Rationality” with a friend who was a bit baffled by the nameless twelfth virtue.  I gave my best guess that, since rationality is a developing art, there should always be a sense of having missed something, and joy in filling in any part of that lacuna, but never complacency and despair.

Growing toward God seems to require a similar spirit.  We are always insufficient,  but discovering a specific instance of our own frailty shouldn’t be repugnant.  Noticing helps us offer that part of ourselves, too, and to pray for the grace to pluck out the beams we haven’t spotted yet.

— 6 —

The incompleteness of our understanding and our actions forces us to engage in reflection and interpretation, if only to keep what we already know alive and growing in us.

But it is difficult to speak of the Society,” continues Pope Francis. “When you express too much, you run the risk of being misunderstood. The Society of Jesus can be described only in narrative form. Only in narrative form do you discern, not in a philosophical or theological explanation, which allows you rather to discuss. The style of the Society is not shaped by discussion, but by discernment, which of course presupposes discussion as part of the process. The mystical dimension of discernment never defines its edges and does not complete the thought. The Jesuit must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking.

— 7 —

Also, there’s an entire fascinating section where Pope Francis cites specific examples of art that moves him and adds:

“Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones. There is a nice definition that Cervantes puts on the lips of the bachelor Carrasco to praise the story of Don Quixote: ‘Children have it in their hands, young people read it, adults understand it, the elderly praise it.’ For me this can be a good definition of the classics.”

It sounds like the way he means us to experience the Gospels as well.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    I think Pope Francis is good for my spiritual development in a quite unexpected way. I’m the type that is very strong on rules and regulations (even when I break them myself); if I had to describe myself by alignment, it would be Lawful Good (with a heavy emphasis on the ‘lawful’).

    Benedict XVI was the perfect pope for me :-) (and I am still very fond of him). Then the Holy Spirit gave us Francis, and quite literally, within bare minutes of his election and proclamation, there were all kinds of both large T and small t traditionalist groups issuing condemnations based on things such as “he had to be forced to wear the stole when giving the blessing!” (untrue if you actually watch it).

    So I gritted my teeth and went “He’s the pope and I owe the duty of obedience”. But over the past six months, having seen both the progressive and the conservative wings misunderstanding and getting him wrong, and becoming accustomed to such reports as are already being splashed over the media today after the interview (Francis says the Church is about more than abortion and gay rights; papers are blazoned with headlines “Pope says church is obsessed with abortion and gay rights” and nothing about things you have quoted like art and so forth) – over that time, I’m getting more relaxed about things.

    Less getting hot under the collar and pounding the keyboard to explain at length why what the pope said was (1) misquoted (2) what he actually said was in harmony with the teaching of the church (3) no, that teaching isn’t because we hate everyone and want them to be miserable and suffer.
    More going “Eh, so what?” and not elevating my blood pressure.
    I really think the Holy Spirit was laughing when He selected a Jesuit pope for us :-)

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    I am a former Evangelical having become a non-denominational Christian and I really love Pope Francis!

    That said while it is certain I sin I have huge problems with this notion of being a born sinner having been cursed by God with a sinful nature.
    I think it is a blasphemous Augustinian teaching which has been polluting Western Christianity ever since the fifth century. I find the Eastern Orthodox interpretation of the fall philosophically much more acceptable.

    I would be very glad to learn yout thoughts on that!

    Friendly greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • Roki

      I’m not familiar with the Orthodox interpretation of the Fall, but I am certain that the Catholic interpretation is NOT that we are “cursed by God with a sinful nature.”

      Rather, the doctrine of Original Sin is that our human nature, created good and ordered toward communion with God, was damaged in an original act of disobedience (ascribed to Adam & Eve). This damage was done to our very human nature, to our bodies, minds, and wills. It is not that we are sinful in the sense of guilty for another’s sin; but that we suffer the consequences of another’s sin, including weakness in the face of temptation. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 396ff.

      Please note that Augustine’s interpretation of how Original Sin is transmitted is only one theory, however influential. The Catholic Church does not regard it as doctrine.

      God’s curse in Genesis 3 is not of a sinful nature, but of the suffering that follows on the wound sin has dealt to our nature. The Catholic interpretation has generally been that these curses are A) remedial in nature, the suffering leading us to correct and overcome our weakness; and B) directed toward hope, toward Jesus, the offspring of Eve, who crushes the serpent’s head.

      • Neko

        Well, obviously it’s a story with explanatory power about consciousness as a divine gift gone awry, and Paul’s perception of Jesus as “ransom” for this primordial event has resonated all these years.

        Incredible.

        After Lothar Lorraine’s post I read on Wikipedia about the Eastern Orthodox approach to the Fall. At first glance it does seem preferable to the Catholic, since Original Sin isn’t considered a human inheritance, but ultimately it comes to the same thing. The Catholic Fall occurs because of disobedience in defiance of total submission to God; the Eastern Orthodox (if I understand it) projects responsibility to “the world,” but nonetheless conceives of human desire as a distraction from total submission to God.

        Then there’s “Gnosticism,” in which the snake is a hero for his gift of knowledge to Adam and Eve, thereby liberating them from the tyranny of the Demiurge. Heh. Sometimes Marcion had a point.

        • Darrell

          The below linked post by Fr. Stephen, an Orthodox Christian priest, was not specifically about Ancestral Sin, but it provides a fairly decent overview of it — he has a few points in the comments as well.

          http://glory2godforallthings.com/2006/10/22/in-limbo-no-more/

          • Neko

            Thank you very much for the link. I know nothing about the Orthodox Church and was interested to learn a bit about it.

            The piece by Fr. John Breck about the theological implications of the RCC’s abandonment of the “hypothesis” of limbo was also very interesting. (The idea that babies would be denied the Beatific Vision simply because they had not been baptized has got to be of the crazier notions floated by Aquinas.)

            The Orthodox conception of the consequences of the Fall does seem more benign that the Catholic, though for someone raised in the RCC it’s challenging to think of sin as “unnatural.”

          • Randy Gritter

            Why is it so crazy? If we need a certain grace to enter into the Beatific Vision and that grace comes through baptism then it seems like a pretty sane conclusion to draw.

            The modern thinking is that sacraments are the normal instruments of grace but not excluding the possibility that God could work without them. How often that happens is anyone’s guess. The best bet is to work through the path God has promised to provide and not just hope He opens a door for you because He is too soft to send you to hell. Remember nobody knows God better than Jesus and nobody warned us of hell more than Jesus.

          • Neko

            Let’s see. The Synoptic Gospels all include the story of people bringing their children to Jesus so, as Mark reports, “that he might touch them.” When the disciples try a little crowd control, Jesus gets “indignant” and says:

            “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.

            On to the Gospel of John, where the Christ of faith as most Christians profess him is described as a divine life force that existed in the beginning and for all time.

            This notion of limbo would have us accept that the unfathomable Lord of the Universe, portrayed in his earthly incarnation as a man who loved children and considered them exemplary prototypes for the Kingdom of God, would about-face and deny the Kingdom (or Heaven or the Beatific Vision, or what have you) to little tiny miscarried, aborted, stillborn or infant babies and children, and instead consign them to a place called limbo, which perhaps was not unpleasant but was certainly not the Big Show, because they did not get baptized before they died.

            Right, this idea would totally not make Jesus “indignant.”

        • Randy Gritter

          I am not sure what you have read but saying “the world” is responsible is essentially saying God is responsible since God created the world. That is the essence of the creation story. That a good God is our creator and He did not create evil. Evil is just our perversion of His goodness. He gave us a choice and we chose evil. It is the nature of evil to grow and infest all areas of our life.

          • Neko

            I am not sure what you read…

            As I mentioned in the post, I read this on Wikipedia. The priest Darrell mentions below has a much better explanation: “Orthodox theology speaks rather of Ancestral Sin – we inherit from Adam a fallen world that includes our mortality.”

      • Pofarmer

        It’s theological precept based entirely in myth. It’s gonna have issues.

  • Randy Gritter

    Good to know some people actually read the whole thing. I was amused last night on the news that he said he didn’t want to focus on homosexuality and abortion. Fair enough. But 100% of the reporting was on those topics.

    I actually did worry about you finding a good Catholic community in California. To tell you the truth my best Catholic relationships have been online. The real world stuff comes slow. I have been Catholic 10 years now and I am just starting to feel really deep bonds with people. The trouble is so many are not really living a counter-cultural faith. So finding the people that are is not that easy. Then spending enough time with them to get close. It goes very slow.

  • Neko

    That interview is excellent, well worth the time to read in full. From what I gather, many of us godless and “have quit” love Francis and wish him well on the Church’s long road to redemption.

    Viva Papa Francesco!

  • jscalvano

    With regard to take 5, I was reading the Catechism this morning and came across this quote that I thought applies quite well: “Christian perfection has but one limit, that of having none.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, De vita Mos.: PG 44, 300D). Its 2028 of the catechism in case that sourcing is more useful.

    • Randy Gritter

      I find that amusing as well. Rationalists go ballistic when you talk about mystery and some things of God that can never be fully understood. They are looking for the point where Catholicism asks them to stop thinking and that seems like it. But Yudkowsky describes it well. He does not dare even name what he speaks of lest he name it wrong.

      We don’t have that problem because God names it. Yet we still never really grasp it. What does it mean that the relationship between husband and wife is like the relationship between Christ and the church? Not being able to answer fully does not prevent our thinking. It prevents us from ever being done thinking about it.

  • CMinor

    You’re in Berkeley? Have you found the Dominicans and Franciscans yet?

    • LeahLibresco

      I like going to the Dominicans in Oakland for Mass, but I don’t know them personally

      • Cminor

        They each have schools at the PSR, though I think the Franciscans are leaving town. Might be worth looking into; perhaps they have public events?

  • KL

    No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us
    looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human
    community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web
    of human relationships.

    I read this as a re-stating of the aphorism that “no man is an island” — that is, try as we might, we are always in relationship with others in some sense. When we stand before God, He will not only ask, “How did you love Me?” but “How did you love your neighbor?” To understand yourself as an individual standing alone is to miss a crucial aspect of what it means to be human.

  • Bill Logan

    Peripatetic? Do you travel for your job? That can make it tough to make connections. If you live in Berkeley, there’s a Dominican parish (St. Mary Magdalene) north of campus (go up Shattuck several blocks to where it curves into Henry). There’s also the Newman Hall (which is also a parish) run by the Paulists a few blocks south of campus. I wasn’t a fan of it when I was an undergrad at Cal, but I’d be curious to go back and experience it again. Although if I lived in Berkeley, I doubt I’d ever go to Mass, since I’d probably find myself camped out at Moe’s Books on Telegraph all the time! (Moe’s in Berkeley and Green Apple in San Francisco are the best bookstores in the Bay Area!)

  • grok87

    I loved all 7 of the quotes, especially the “misericordiando” one. I’m reading the interview now. I just love this picture of Pope Francis. Habemus Bonum Papam!

    http://cdn0.sbnation.com/entry_photo_images/8817753/BS3LHg_CMAASCcx_large_verge_medium_portrait.jpeg

    • grok87

      Rather providentially, re the first quote, today is the feast of St. Matthew, the Apostle. The second reading in Liturgy of the Hours- Office of Readings is the passage from the Venerable Bede on Matthew that Pope Francis refers to:

      http://divineoffice.org/
      Second reading
      From a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable, priest
      Jesus saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him

      Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me. Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men. He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: Follow me. This following meant imitating the pattern of his life—not just walking after him.

  • Paul Adams

    Best quote: “When you express too much, you run the risk of being misunderstood.”

    • Randy Gritter

      I don’t think it is expressing too much. It is expressing without reflecting. Pope Benedict would reflect a lot. He would make sure to cover the bases and avoid misunderstandings. Even then he got burned a few times. People have agendas and they consciously or subconsciously turn everything around their agenda. So when you say something that does not have enough breadth and depth to be untwistable then you can expect a lot of misunderstanding. Pope Benedict got that because he was used to the western press. The west has seen mainline protestant churches go liberal and is expecting the Catholics to follow suit any time. Pope Francis does not really get that. He spent almost all his time in Argentina, a very Catholic country. Not the same dynamic.

      • Neko

        Please elaborate on this “dynamic” that has kept Pope Francis from grasping the wily ways of the media.

        Your assertion that Pope Francis “does not really get” the culture wars is astonishing. He is clearly aware of the conflicts, and his remarks seem designed to defuse hostilities.

        • Randy Gritter

          I don’t think he really understands the expectation that people have in the west that the church will inevitably fall into line with “progressive” views on abortion, homosexuality, and a bunch of other things. The don’t believe that with malice towards the church. They actually think they are obviously right and the church is smart enough to eventually admit the wisdom of modern society.

          Pope Francis says everyone understands the churches position on these issues. That nobody will assume that compassion for the sinner means we ignore the seriousness of the sin. Actually many will make precisely that mistake. It is predictable that almost all the mainstream media will make it. I don’t think he predicted it though.

          • Neko

            Pope Francis would have had to be living under a rock not to notice that not just secularists but disaffected Catholics, and not just disaffected Catholics but practicing Catholics who ignore the Magisterium, would like for the Church to liberalize its positions. However, wisdom from the Catholic blogosphere notwithstanding, practically no one expects the Church under Pope Francis to change its positions on homosexuality, abortion, and women’s ordination. What excites people about Francis is his desire to tamp down the culture war rhetoric and focus on Jesus and the Gospel.

            On the other hand, since the Church is losing ground practically everywhere except Africa (and some parts of Latin America and Asia), eventually it will have to accommodate modernity and its widening circle of sympathy. It may not happen in my lifetime, but it will happen, and by then the priests and nuns who were excoriated or excommunicated for their liberal views will be called heroes of the Church.

          • Randy Gritter

            It is not that he does not notice anyone disagrees with the church. But in places like Argentina people are more resigned to the church maintaining its positions. In the West prediction like the one you just made have been out there since the 60′s and 70′s. So yes, Pope Benedict kept making clear that these position were firmly grounded in faith and reason so changing them was unthinkable.

            I wonder about tamping down the culture war rhetoric. It seems people have the strange notion that every homily is about abortion or gay marriage. I rarely hear it. If somebody is talking about it more than once or twice a year I want to know about it. Maybe I’ll start attending mass there! I think the vast majority of parishes would do well to talk about it more. That is I think most of them never mention it.

            What he is concerned about is not so much the faithful but the unchurched. How many of them hear anything about the church other than the life and marriage issues? Much of that is the media. The public statements made by the church on immigration or war or economic justice are pretty much ignored. That is because they are deemed less radical and therefore less newsworthy.

            So Pope Francis needs to make more people actually go to the church and hear her out before deciding to accept or reject her. I think he might succeed. Time will tell.

          • Neko

            But in places like Argentina people are more resigned to the church maintaining its positions.

            How do you know this? Do you speak Spanish? Are you familiar with Argentina and its culture? Has there been a study of Argentinian fatalism? Only 20-24% of Catholic Argentina are practicing Catholics. Gay marriage has been legal in Argentina since 2010, and Pope Francis supported civil unions (presumably as the lesser evil).

            In the West prediction like the one you just made have been out there since the 60′s and 70′s.

            No way was gay marriage being discussed in the 60s and 70s. I don’t know when women’s ordination became a movement, that’s an interesting question. As for contraception, most American Catholics, anyway, ignore Humanae Vitae, if they have even heard of it.

            It seems people have the strange notion that every homily is about abortion or gay marriage.

            What people? I often see this complaint. Actually I think impressions of Church priorities are formed from observing the Vatican and, in the US, the USCCB.

            Much of that is the media.

            Well you can always blame the media for everything you don’t like about how Catholicism is perceived. But the Church has only itself is to blame for its shattered reputation. And it’s simply not true that “public statements made by the church on immigration or war or economic justice are pretty much ignored.”

            You have a narrow vision of Pope Francis’s mission. He’s already inspired so much good will by his thoughtfulness and charity. Of course one hopes to see radical institutional reform and a relaxation of certain church doctrines that cause misery in the world. You’re right: time will tell.

          • Paul Adams

            My original comment above, which led to this interesting exchange, meant to point to the problem for a pope of getting heard about the Gospel when the media only look for what fits their agenda. They do assume that the Church will change its positions on these issues of life, marriage, and the priesthood to fall in line with their own views (the inevitability or lemmings argument). They look for any sign that the pope is caving. The problem with the 17 words of 12,000 that the media leapt on is that they seem to confirm the media’s view while blaming the faithful for the media’s obsessions.

            The problem Pope Benedict talked about – and he learned the hard way – is that in any interview the pope is asked the same questions about these issues and the challenge is to focus on the Gospel and central matters of faith. In this respect, Fr. Barron showed great wisdom and media savvy when he decided, in his Catholicism DVD series, to tell the Church’s own story and not make it a defensive response to her enemies.

            Benedict, who learned the hard way, said this:

            “I remember… that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

            “If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.”

            Francis seems to be saying something similar, but he blames the Church rather than the media. My worry – and this may just be the fault of the interviewer who focused on what the world thought of the Church – is that he seemed to be telling his liberal and secularist hearers what they wanted to hear. That’s certainly how they took it. Are we headed for a new period like that of the “spirit of Vatican II” in the 1970s and 1980s, a period when everything seemed up for grabs as the Church accommodated to the sexual revolution, collapse of the family, and culture of death?

            That’s what emptied the pews in the Catholic Church and even more in mainline Protestant communions where the accommodationism went even further. That’s Robert Royal’s worry – a new “spirit of Bergoglio” that could, regardless of the pope’s intent, take us back to those bad old days (See http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2013/the-spirit-of-bergoglio.html.) If we are headed in this direction, I fear many good people who have stood up for orthodoxy and life and marriage and suffered for it will respond as the Spanish writer de Prada did – “I’ve been a fool all these years.” And the work of two great popes who steered us through perilous times will unravel fast.

            Or is it that the pope needs to find better and more careful ways to keep the focus where he says it should be?

          • Neko

            Thank you for your courteous response. Your perspective is familiar, and we fundamentally disagree. It’s the heroic narrative of Mother Church, persecuted by “enemies” like the media poised to ambush at any sign of weakness and defended by the orthodox conservators of immutable Truth against the forces of moral relativism and “death” unleashed by “the 60s.”

            The irony, of course, is that the Church is embattled because of the enemy within. You may think of JPII and Benedict XVI as great popes, but they presided over an era of appalling scandal and corruption in the Church. In the US, the laity by a large margin considers sex abuse to be the worst problem confronting the RCC. That fact is no doubt driving the exodus from the pews.

            I fear many good people who have stood up for orthodoxy and life and marriage and suffered for it will respond as the Spanish writer de Prada did – “I’ve been a fool all these years.”

            Is the value of your commitment to principle contingent on events?

            As for what Pope Francis says to journalists, he’s a highly educated and cultured man who survived the Dirty War in Argentina. I think he knows how to weigh words.

          • Paul Adams

            The event that has disheartened so many is the Holy Father’s appearing to devalue and undermine all the hard work they have done at great personal cost in defense of the most vulnerable among us and of marriage (and so children). If we cannot look to him to guide us and hold the Church firmly to matters of principle, uncertainty and demoralization are bound to follow. I say appears because that’s how many on both sides took his words. On the other hand he just excommunicated an Australian priest who supported gay marriage and women’s ordination, so things may not be as bad as they appear. And he also came out strongly against abortion the very next day after publication of the interview.

            Yes the homosexual abuse scandal, when abuse of boys and young men reached the same level for priests as for the general male population happened under JP II. It was a result of the sexual revolution’s destigmatizing almost every kind of sexual behavior outside and inside marriage and of priests, theologians, and seminarians buying into it. It was a cultural transformation that hit the Church in a period of “spirit of Vatican” laxity in faith and morals, when everything seemed up for grabs, above all in the seminaries some of which, it’s hardly an exaggeration to say, became dens of vice and corruption (see “Goodbye, Good Men”), as did some dioceses from the top down, like those in southern Florida where I live. Catechesis collapsed into feel-good moralizing, leaving a whole generation ignorant of their faith. The faith was for many reduced to social activism. Religious orders fell apart and lost members in droves, while those remaining became ever more heterodox and weird as they aged. All this happened before the scope of the abuse scandal was known. It fell to JP II and B16 to clean up this mess and they did what they could. It is a bit rich when those like the NCReporter, which tended to support these liberalizing, secularizing tendencies, blame JP II and B16 for the mess they themselves helped create the conditions for. (I don’t accuse you of this since I don’t know you or what you did or said in those terrible years.)

            But, as you say, Neko, we must agree to disagree on all this. As for Pope Francis, he surely cannot have MEANT to direct the world’s attention to the very issues that he said he wanted to de-emphasize, with the result that few will have read the other 26 of his 27 pages.

          • stanz2reason

            “On the other hand he just excommunicated an Australian priest who supported gay marriage and women’s ordination, so things may not be as bad as they appear.”… Jesus Christ dude…

            “Yes the homosexual abuse scandal…” It was small group of pedophile priests who in all likelyhood were not all gay (if any at all). Homosexuality does not equal child rape. Had they raped groups of little girls, I’m guessing you wouldn’t call it ‘the heterosexual abuse scandal’. The insinuation is ridiculous.

            “(the scandal of priests raping young boys) was a result of the sexual revolution’s destigmatizing almost every kind of sexual behavior outside and inside marriage and of priests, theologians, and seminarians buying into it.” If you find yourself scratching your head as to why you continually find larger groups of people who are hostile to your worldview, here’s where you should do some real soul-searching and self reflection. Rather than take responsibility for these crimes, some members of the church (such as yourself) are content to blame this abuse on nonsense like the ‘sexual revolution’ or ‘cultural transformation’. Here’s some advice… don’t do that. Accept that these priests had no one to blame but themselves. Accept the criticism of the Church in it’s efforts to keep these events hidden. Shifting blame is sad and makes you look like a fool.

          • Paul Adams

            Of course I do not excuse priests (or bishops who covered up for them) who sexually abused minors, whatever the cause or the culture of the times. Nor do I say anything about their being gay. I said the abuse was (overwhelmingly) homosexual in character, whether or not the perpetrators identified as gay. I don’t think the phenomenon can be separated from the sexual revolution (i.e., the destigmatizing and increase of most kinds of sex outside marriage) or the loosening of morals and the gay-friendly culture of many seminaries. I think it is those who favored and furthered these developments in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s who need to take responsibility for their role in creating the environment in which these abuses took place instead of pointing the finger of blame at those who opposed them all along.

          • stanz2reason

            You weren’t making excuses. You were redirecting blame to some nonsense about the ‘sexual revolution’ or ‘cultural transformation’ and you continue to do so. Rubbish. It’s just sad. Stop it.

            Noting the abuse as ‘homosexual in character’ is nonsense as well. Again, had the priests abused young girls I doubt you would have categorized the rape as ‘heterosexual in character’. You’re, either consciously or subconsciously, trying to find some sort of equivalence between a priest raping a child and homosexuality. In any event, stop that too.

          • Paul Adams

            You seem to be under the impression that by calling something rubbish you have made an argument. The sexual revolution and all its works – the pill (its technological base), abortion, divorce, abandonment, fatherless families, cohabitation, illegitimacy, pre- and extramarital sex of all kinds, etc. is simply a fact, the central social fact of our time. The collapse of marriage for the bottom half of the population, with its resultant effects in increasing poverty and inequality, is also a fact. None of this I blame on homosexuality, which is just one part of the picture. But all this, which you dismiss as rubbish, was the context in which the horrendous and inexcusable clergy abuse of minors occurred. How can you ignore that? What’s your explanation?

          • stanz2reason

            You’re unsuccessfully trying to draw some sort of connection between two unrelated events. That divorce rates rose while a handful of priests were raping children and the church was covering it up does not mean that the former caused the latter, or was even related. That there is an increasing economic inequality, again, also has nothing to do with priests raping children and the church covering it up. That you have made some sort of assumption that any of the things on that laundry list of yours has to do with priests raping children and the church covering it up is, for the lack of a better word, rubbish. Had you ceased making such ridiculous pseudo connections, I would not have to continue reminding you that priests raping children and the church covering it up has nothing to do with any of them.

            I never suggested you were blaming the child rape on homosexuality. I said you were suggesting an equivalency between homosexuality and pedophilia, and I also said that was ridiculous. Incidentally, it still is. It’s not one part of the picture and more than heterosexuality is part of the rape of a young girl.

          • Paul Adams

            I could as well say that abstracting the clergy abuse phenomenon from the whole social context in which it occurred is rubbish. Which it is. Those who claim that need to look at their own responsibility for that context. The context is one in which sex became comprehensively delinked from marriage and both from children. It’s not a mystery. See Mary Eberstadt’s “Adam & Eve After the Pill” (and her recent “How the West Really Lost God”).

          • stanz2reason

            It is up to you to demonstrate why one caused the other rather than just saying it. You’re simply listing things you’re uncomfortable with or object to and blindly suggesting they were somehow the cause of a massive failure within the Church. I’m uncertain if you’re serious or if you’re not. In either case the one thing you’ve successfully demonstrated is you’re not worth engaging further on this topic.

          • Paul Adams

            It really isn’t that hard to understand but there are none so blind…. At least I offer an explanation of the context (not the same as cause), you offer nothing. In any case, with your last sentence you express exactly my sentiments regarding this discussion.

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            For a moment, let’s take your argument – that the liberalizing of seminaries in the 60s, 70s, and 80s played a significant role in creating an environment in which these crimes could fester – to be valid. It still doesn’t explain all the cases that arose prior to the sexual revolution.

            At this point, we’re unlikely to ever know how many victims of priestly sex abuse there have been, but we now have documentation of cases prior to the 1950s (see: Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse [Ireland]; Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete).

            Even if the argument is that the sexual revolution made things worse, it wouldn’t help explain why the Church leaders at the time (presumably older and therefor predating the tainted seminaries) responded so woefully to the crimes of their (presumably younger) subordinates.

          • Paul Adams

            I agree with you. Sexual abuse occurred before those terrible decades and was covered up. Neither the corruption and vice in the seminaries (liberalizing?) nor the sexual revolution explains everything. But they are an important part of the story. In the same way the other disorders of the sexual revolution – contraception, abortion, divorce, promiscuity, abandonment of mothers and children, etc., etc., all predated the 1960s. What happened was an explosion of those phenomena, the collapse of marriage among the poorer, less educated half of the population, and (in part in consequence, as Eberstadt shows in How the West Really Lost God), a collapse of faith. Faith and family, she shows, rise and fall together, in a double-helix kind of dynamic.

            The appalling behavior of some of the bishops doubtless includes a bureaucratic impulse to cover things up, even with large payoffs, the influence of the psychology current at the time, a misguided application of the Church’s teaching on repentance, forgiveness, and personal conversion, and a failure to follow canon law as it already addressed these issues. Bishops are not immune from strong cultural currents of the time, whenever they were ordained.

          • Neko

            the collapse of marriage among the poorer

            “The poorer” tend to be religious and desire marriage. Economic instability, not a collapse of faith, is one of the major drivers of single parenthood and divorce among the poor.

          • stanz2reason

            Correct. More importantly, none of that has anything to do with raping children & covering it up. He might as well blame the child rate and cover up on the increasing obesity rates. Maybe trans-fats encourage deviant behavior amongst the clergy…

          • Neko

            (God forbid!)

            Paul is nostalgic for the patriarchal golden age that existed before wanton women, homosexuals, and “poorer” minorities disrupted the natural order. But he means well.

          • Paul Adams

            The data are more complex than your bald assertions suggest. Read Eberstadt. And the marriage gap is a major cause of increasing inequality, not simply a consequence. Marriage is a path out of poverty and the key protective factor against a host of social problems. Divorce and single parenthood lead back to poverty or block exits from it. Look at the historical data on family structure in the last century, for Black and white lower and middle class families. Single parenthood and divorce were rare (lower for Blacks than whites) until the 1960s.

            My point is not to offer a monocausal explanation of clergy abuse and its cover-up (and I have not heard any explanation from my critics here). It is to suggest how Pope Francis’s interview had the opposite of the intended effect, in putting the MSM’s and many Catholics’ attention sharply on the issues he says he wants to de-emphasize.

            Secondarily the issue came up of why the Church has lost so many members in the West (especially among the more liberal orders, seminaries, and dioceses). In this context the issue of clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up was offered as the key explanation. (The explanation of the abuse and cover-up is really not the point here, and I apologize for my part in getting us off track.)

            I offered a different (though not mutually exclusive) explanation for religious decline, that faith and family rise and fall together. The collapse of marriage and family emptied the pews, both because Catholics stopped having children in the numbers they had before the 60s, and because if you live in a neighborhood where intact families and fathers who love, guide and protect them are a rarity, it is hard even to make sense of a religion that talks of a Holy Family and a loving God the Father.

          • Andre Boillot

            “Single parenthood and divorce were rare (lower for Blacks than whites) until the 1960s.”

            Divorce rate (per 1k population) EDIT: In the US

            1940: 2.0
            1950: 2.6
            1960: 2.2
            1965: 2.5

            http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005044.html

          • Paul Adams

            Don’t stop there! After 1965, divorce rates shot up to peak at 5.3 in 1981.

          • stanz2reason

            … and have been droping steadily ever since. It appears that the lower the divorce rate, the greater the instance of child rape & cover up.

            Maybe the answer is more divorce rather than less… Or maybe the two things have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

          • Paul Adams

            Well, without attributing causality, the data actually show that divorce rates and clergy abuse rose and fell together. But it seems further discussion of this point is useless and just takes us further away from the issues raised by Pope Francis (which very much included divorce but not clerical abuse).

          • Andre Boillot

            Which has nothing to do with the idea that divorce was rare until the 1960s.

          • Paul Adams

            Not rare, but it underwent a dramatic increase – the “divorce revolution of the 1960s”, as this account from the Princeton-Brookings journal, The Future of Children, explains:

            “Nearly two decades ago, Preston and McDonald calculated the likelihood of divorce for each marriage cohort beginning in 1867 and continuing until the mid-1960s.10 Their results showed a continuous trend of dissolution among successive marriage cohorts. Roughly 5% of marriages ended in divorce just after the Civil War compared with an estimated 36% in 1964. Thus, the pattern of prevalent divorce was firmly in place in this country even before the divorce revolution of the 1960s.

            “Nonetheless, there was a sharp increase in the incidence of divorce from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. During a span of a decade and a half, divorce rates for married women more than doubled (from 10.6 per 1,000 in 1965 to 22.8 in 1979), pushing the risk of divorce much higher for all marriage cohorts, especially those who wed after the mid-1960s.” http://futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=63&articleid=409&sectionid=2787

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            I wonder how this study factored in that women didn’t have the legal right to vote in the 1860s when comparing the divorce rates then to those in times where they begin to be able to have fuller control over their lives and bodies. How are we expected to set a meaningful baseline in these circumstances, off of which to draw comparisons to post-sexual revolution rates?

            I’ll have to check it out. Thanks.

          • Paul Adams

            You’re welcome and thanks for the discussion – remarkably civil by combox standards. Meanwhile I have a paper and a proposal to write with deadlines fast approaching, so I’ll check out here.

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “And the marriage gap is a major cause of increasing inequality, not simply a consequence. Marriage is a path out of poverty and the key protective factor against a host of social problems.”

            I wonder what would happen if we compared the trends here:

            http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/submitViewTableAction.do;jsessionid=9ea7d07d30e42cae2ad844b54214b9a0a03ec57ce123.e34MbxeSaxaSc40LbNiMbxeNaNeOe0

            against GDP:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita

            or income equality (0=equal; 1=unequal):

            http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/69/GINI_retouched_legend.gif

            I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that easy access to affordable high-quality education plays a more important role in preventing poverty, as well as a woman having control over her reproduction, than whatever benefits may or may not arise from your definition of marriage.

          • Paul Adams

            The point is that access to high-quality education is itself a function of marriage. That’s why the more affluent and educated tend to get and stay married. If you want to get your kids into a good school and college, that’s what you have to do. It is not my definition of marriage, but marriage itself that creates these benefits (e.g., the marriage premium which starts for men when they get engaged; better health and mental health, less crime and delinquency, higher earnings, better education for the children, etc., etc.). As longitudinal studies show, this cannot be explained away as a selection effect (though of course selection is one of the functions of marriage). If you control for SES and follow people as they move in and out of marriage over time, you find that marriage improves their situation in all these respects and divorce leads to a reversion to the much worse status of singles. The more quickly you remarry, the quicker and more things improve.

          • Neko

            Yet you oppose gay marriage!

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “The point is that access to high-quality education is itself a function of marriage. [...] If you want to get your kids into a good school and college, that’s what you have to do.”

            Certainly in the US, we’re talking about global trends though, especially in countries where access to higher-ed is not placed behind massive pay-walls.

            “It is not my definition of marriage, but marriage itself that creates these benefits.”

            The benefits of marriage as it relates to poverty are not, in and of themselves, unique to marriage. Civil unions and long-term domestic partnerships (both hetero and homosexual) confer many, if not most, of the same benefits as does “traditional marriage”. That many of the most egalitarian countries (see: Scandinavia) have been trending away from traditional marriage while improving socio-economically seems to count against your argument.

          • Neko

            I may be a wretched sinner, but I do not deserve to Read Eberstadt.

            Paul, you’re ignoring the historical and socio-economic “context” that created the conditions (high unemployment and incarceration rates of young minority men) that limit the pool of marriageable candidates for poor minority women. You’re right, it’s complex, but religious faith is not a factor. Minorities are among the most religious people in the US, a very religious country.

            My point is not to offer a monocausal explanation of clergy abuse and its cover-up (and I have not heard any explanation from my critics here).

            I’ll venture that clergy abuse has a long history that predated “the 60s” by centuries and that the cover-up was motivated by a determination to preserve the Church’s bella figura.

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “In the same way the other disorders of the sexual revolution – contraception, abortion, divorce, promiscuity, abandonment of mothers and children, etc., etc., all predated the 1960s. What happened was an explosion of those phenomena, the collapse of marriage among the poorer, less educated half of the population, and (in part in consequence, as Eberstadt shows in How the West Really Lost God)”

            Is there any freely available data you can point to support these claims? It’s always frustrated to be pointed to non-academic books for analysis of vastly complicated cultural phenomena. Were abortion, divorce, etc. all ‘exploding’ at the same time across the globe? Would Vatican personnel in Rome be subject to the strong cultural current in the US?

            “Bishops are not immune from strong cultural currents of the time, whenever they were ordained.”

            As terrible as it is for me to argue for personal incredulity, I’m going to have to say that I have a hard time believing that the culture shifts of the 1960s had material impact on how a hierarchy of traditionally conservative men dealt with the issue of sex abuse, given there didn’t seem to be much shift in the response prior to the exposing of the scandal.

          • Paul Adams

            Eberstadt’s book is the most important new analysis of the secularization thesis in decades, a serious research-based essay and full of academic research that supports her case. Check the reviews, academic and other. (I can give you some academic research references if you are really interested, but she is very fair-minded and comprehensive in her review of prior reseach and findings.) The sexual revolution has affected most of the world outside Africa, as we can see from plunging birth rates (the steepest and sharpest ever recorded happening in Iran of all places). Yes abortion, divorce, etc., have exploded throughout the advanced and fast-developing countries at more or less the same time and for the same reasons.

            The question of how this sexual revolution affected personnel in the Vatican is one on which there is much anecdotal evidence, but no systematic research as far as I know, notwithstanding references to the “gay lobby” (as Francis calls it) and the cover-up by his (Maciel’s) friends in high places of Marcel Maciel et al.

            I am afraid this whole discussion has taken us far, as far as it is possible to get perhaps, from what Pope Francis said he wanted us to focus on. In my view, that is in part the fault of some of his formulations and the predictable way they have been understood by the media and by many on both sides of the issues he wants to de-emphasize. I may have missed it but I don’t think the Holy Father even mentions the clergy sex abuse and cover-up scandal. What he does emphasize, while urging less emphasis on them, are the life, sex, marriage, divorce, remarriage issues that are central to the sexual revolution.

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “The question of how this sexual revolution affected personnel in the Vatican is one on which there is much anecdotal evidence, but no systematic research as far as I know, notwithstanding references to the “gay lobby” (as Francis calls it) and the cover-up by his (Maciel’s) friends in high places of Marcel Maciel et al.”

            I find it strange that you would mention Maciel. The Legion of Christ, and the Regnum Christi movement at large, represented some of the most orthodox and conservative Catholics I’ve ever encountered. I’m not sure you could point me towards a group of Catholics that would have been less susceptible to the sort of rot you lay at the feet of liberal seminaries.

            As for Eberstadt’s book, I would welcome any academic research references you care to give me. Same goes for any non-biased reviews you know of, I seem to be finding mostly review by Catholic organizations.

          • Paul Adams

            Somehow I’m getting signed in as Guest, but I’m sure you figured it was me, Paul. The comments came so thick and fast I couldn’t keep up and missed some. Sorry. On Eberstadt, I’m sure you don’t mean to imply that Catholics are biased. I’m sure they hold a range of theories of secularization, like everyone else. (There is a whole line of argument, from sociologists of religion like (non-Catholic) Rodney Stark, that secularization is a myth, it never happened. Eberstadt presents and discusses this fairly too.) Another writer on fertility decline, Jonathan Last,drew attention to Eberstadt and the decline of family and faith in the context of Francis’s election last March. The (non-Catholic, secular-liberal) Economist reviewed the book favorably but pointed out the decline of faith and family was not irreversible, as fervent religious movements like Christianity in the Roman Empire could interrupt the slide. The reviewer missed that Eberstadt herself makes that point.

            Anyway, one thing I did not respond to that I really should have was the unsupported and unqualified claim that the poor are more religious. If true, that would undermine the faith-and-family thesis (which is not that religious people have more children, which is undisputed, but that people with more children are/become more religious – children drive their parents to church). But it is not true within the US or UK (you’d have to go to the level of continents or nations to support the claim, and even then the US does not fit. Within the US, the more educated and affluent attend church at about twice the rate (i.e., about 48%) of poor and middle class whites and their rate of attendance has not declined significantly. (Blacks and Hispanics do not fit the pattern or do not have a pattern.) The big drop in church attendance was among the less educated, lower and middle class whites, where fertility and faith collapsed at the same time. Here’s a link to one research study on this by leading sociologists of the family, Wilcox, Cherlin, et al.: http://www.virginia.edu/sociology/publications/Wilcox_Religion_WorkingPaper.pdf

            OK, now I’m done. (Oh and at my age, I don’t mind being patronized. It’s rather charming.)

          • Neko

            The (non-Catholic, secular-liberal) Economist

            Not to be patronizing, but the Economist is libertarian, not liberal!

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “On Eberstadt, I’m sure you don’t mean to imply that Catholics are biased.”

            I most certainly do mean to imply that a Catholic website’s review of Eberstadt runs the risk of being biased. One would be quite naive to not think so, and should try to seek out more academically/scholarly-rigorous reviews.

            EDIT: meant to say ‘should’ not ‘to’

            “Anyway, one thing I did not respond to that I really should have was the unsupported and unqualified claim that the poor are more religious.”

            Just to be clear, I don’t believe I made this claim.

          • Paul Adams

            I’m not sure why Eberstadt’s thesis would be appealing to Catholics, since it sees the decline of faith as a result of fertility decline rather than a cause of it. More cheerful would be the alternative theses, that the religious have more children and so will take over the world by demographic success, and alternatively, that there is no secularization to explain, people are no less religious now than ever, there was no golden age of belief, etc. (Stark’s view). In any case, here’s a serious, thoughtful, footnoted review essay in Policy Review. I have no idea what the author’s religion is, but here’s the link: http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/5861
            I”m sure you can find others for yourself if you feel so inclined.

            I didn’t mean to attribute the “poor are more religious” claim to you. That came from another interlocutor, but I thought one more message from me after I checked out was more than enough of l’esprit d’escalier.

          • Neko

            Paul: “another interlocutor” here.

            Lower-income adults, as well as youths, have higher levels of religious beliefs and adherence to doctrine but lower participation in organizational religiosity (McCloud, 2007; Schwadel, 2008; Sullivan, 2006.) Lower SES is associated with more personal devotionalism, higher rates of adherence to doctrinal beliefs, and more religious experiences (Nelson, 2009). Lower-income teenagers are generally less likely to participate in organized religious activities, but they are more likely to engage in conventional religious practices, such as prayer and reading scriptures.

            Higher-income is associated with greater church attendance, higher levels of religious knowledge, and more participation in religious leadership positions among adults (Nelson, 2009).

            http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/09/religiosity/report.shtml#_Toc235254958

          • Paul Adams

            Thanks for this useful qualification. The measurement problems are formidable and interpretation is complicated when these “more religious”/spiritual but religiously unaffiliated are counted as “Nones” and used as evidence of the decline of religion (which is by definition organized). It’s complicated. For Catholics, at least, adherence to doctrine means attendance at Mass, supporting the Church, which is the Body of Christ on earth, etc. (the Precepts of the Church CCC #2041-#2043 at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a3.htm) and not a set of private beliefs and practices (“spiritual but not religious”).

          • Neko
          • Paul Adams

            I think your previous post (with good references and link, thank you) was more helpful since it differentiates between belief and attendance/participation/knowledge. That seems right. The Pew table doesn’t tell us what Catholic means, for example. On the Church’s understanding, you are Catholic if you are baptized Catholic. But since most baptized Catholics in the U.S. neither believe nor practice even if they have a residual cultural-ethnic identification and write Catholic on a form (they are “practical atheists,” in Benedict’s expression), it seems that attendance is a much better indicator for most purposes, including the relation between fertility and faith.

          • Neko

            I see your point.

            As an aside, I’m one of these “practical atheists” with a residual+ identification with Catholicism, and I wouldn’t tell Pew I was Catholic. I wonder how many of us would.

          • Paul Adams

            I don’t know, it’s a good question. Not all are as honest as you, with themselves or outsiders, especially if they are politicians.

          • Paul Adams

            oh sorry, on looking at it, I see the Policy Review piece is indeed thoughtful and documented, but it is by Eberstadt, not a review of her book. Oh well! I really do need to focus on my work, never was much of a multi-tasker. Bye!

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “I’m not sure why Eberstadt’s thesis would be appealing to Catholics, since it sees the decline of faith as a result of fertility decline rather than a cause of it.”

            I’ve yet to read her book, but the reviews I’ve read so far seems to characterize her view that faith and marriage are linked, supporting each other, “double-helix”, etc. In that sense, I could easily see how this appeals to Catholics.

          • Paul Adams

            Andre,

            “…her view that faith and marriage are linked, supporting each other, “double-helix”, etc.” – yes, except they are currently supporting each other in a downward spiral.

            So fertility decline, which is happening at an amazing rate across the globe, leads to a decline of faith (it’s not just that people become secular or educated or affluent and then have fewer babies, the old secularization view). More comforting to count the “spiritual-not-religious” Nones as religious believers and say there’s no secularization to explain. Her thesis is challenging and not at all reassuring for Catholics. But it is probably right.

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “Her thesis is challenging and not at all reassuring for Catholics.”

            I’m not sure if we’re connecting on what we’re meaning by phrases like “appeals to Catholics” and “reassuring for Catholics”. I mean to say that her ideas of the intertwining of faith and family probably resonate with Catholics, not that they are taking comfort in the trends – or proof that the weakening of one of family/faith leads to the weakening of the other. I meant appeals in the sense of vindicating beliefs.

          • Paul Adams

            Andre,

            Got it. Yes, exactly right, the resonating part anyway!

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “I think it is those who favored and furthered these developments in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s who need to take responsibility for their role in creating the environment in which these abuses took place instead of pointing the finger of blame at those who opposed them all along.”

            I suppose Lawrence Murphy (ordained prior to 1950) must have been ahead of his time. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_C_Murphy#Lawrence_Murphy_case]

          • stanz2reason

            Hey Andre… haven’t seen you since I got tired of the snark police over at Strange Notions. That guy over there is more interested in subtle evangelizing than genuine discussion.

            I’ve already tried reasoning with this guy here. He’s delusional and will have none of it. Further efforts are probably a waste of your time, but have at it.

          • Andre Boillot

            Yeah, I took a break from SN – whose comment sections are downright barren these days – after most of the decent commentors (atheist + religious alike) boycotted. Now I’m sort of checking where the people I used to enjoy reading there have taken their talents.

          • stanz2reason

            Leah’s blog is a good place. She’s insightful and allows discussions to take place unimpeded. There’s the occasional loon, but all in all you can find some good dialogue taking place fairly regularly. SN postings were going from regularly 400-500 article to like 20-30. It takes a fair amount of skill to mess things up so bad so quickly, so at least Brandon has that.

          • Paul Adams

            Yes, evidently. If one wants seriously to understand the phenomenon, one has to look at the whole context in which the abuse occurred (and in which bishops followed the psychological view of the time that a priest could be treated successfully). That context includes, but is not limited to the dramatic rise in cases in the 1970s and 80s; the extent of abuse in other religious bodies and in society at large; the ideology of sexual expressionism that minimized man-boy love among other things (see Dawkins on this in The God Delusion, before he picked it up as a stick to beat the Catholic Church with); the way the cultural elite treated Roman Polanski at the time of his crime compared with recently; and the extreme laxity about faith and morals (especially in matters of sex and chastity) that developed in many seminaries and dioceses (including an openly and actively gay environment), which infected clergy throughout the Church, including the Vatican, whenever they had been ordained. To say that all this is irrelevant and these things are unrelated is implausible at best. To say it requires more explanation and analysis than a list in a combox is correct. It does.

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “That context includes, but is not limited to the dramatic rise in cases in the 1970s and 80s”

            Let’s be clear, there was a dramatic rise in reported cases, we’ll never know the true extent the abuse, so let’s not use that in connection with the sexual revolution as if we can draw clear conclusions.

            “the extent of abuse in other religious bodies and in society at large”

            I’m not sure what you mean by this. Whenever I hear people compare the rates of abuse in other faiths as it relates to the Catholic Church, it always seems to be comparing the number of offenders. For me, the real issue was how the RCC’s response was so negligent as to allow this small group of offenders (which doesn’t seem out of proportion with the % of offenders in other faiths) to carry on for years and years, leading to cases where one priest could abuse hundreds of children.

            I see you trying to rationalize the initial offenses, but I don’t see how that helps explain the subsequent cover up. Unless you’re saying that the entire leadership of the RCC was compromised by these liberal seminaries, I don’t see how this is helps explain things. Even today, B16 and Co. are still only requiring that sex abuse be reported to police in the countries that have laws requiring such abuse be reported. Not. Good. Enough.

          • Paul Adams

            I am not trying to “rationalize” abuse, but to understand what happened, which to use an expression of the pope’s, needs to be “in context.” You are right, I was focusing primarily on the abuse rather than its cover-up, which I touch on in another reply to you.

            I do see the decline in faith throughout the West as closely tied to the decline of marriage and family. I don’t dismiss the negative impact of the abuse or its cover-up on Catholics, practicing and not. But I don’t think it’s rationalizing anything to say that that cannot be a complete explanation since the declines have been greater among other Christian communions, i.e., the liberal ones which have most accommodated to the ideologies and trends I discussed.

            The worry about Francis, which is where we started, is that he disheartens those (mostly laity working often with little support from the clergy or bishops) who remain faithful and stand against the currents of the time while giving comfort and encouragement to enemies of the Church like NARAL, which took out an ad in the NYT to thank him. He says he wants to shift attention from the life, death, sex, and marriage issues to the core teaching of the Gospel. That may have been his intent, but the effect was precisely the opposite.

          • Andre Boillot

            Paul,

            “I am not trying to “rationalize” abuse, but to understand what happened, which to use an expression of the pope’s, needs to be “in context.” You are right, I was focusing primarily on the abuse rather than its cover-up, which I touch on in another reply to you.”

            Forgive me, but even when given the benefit of the doubt in terms of the effects and magnitude of the sexual revolution in general (let alone on RCC seminaries), I believe I’ve shown your previous replies to be lacking when it comes to explaining how the sexual revolution had any meaningful impact on the manner in which the hierarchy of the RCC chose to deal with the sex abuse scandal.

          • Neko

            On the other hand he just excommunicated an Australian priest who supported gay marriage and women’s ordination, so things may not be as bad as they appear.

            Greg Reynolds himself insists that he had been excommunicated for supporting gay marriage and women’s ordination and that the order came straight from the Vatican. According to his website, he had already resigned from the ministry in 2011. He continued to act as a priest and celebrate communion, however, which came to the attention of the Archbishop, who sent him a warning. [edited to update]

            http://www.inclusive-catholics.com/LatePost.htm

            Again, your apologetics for the sex-abuse scandal are familiar; Leah Libresco could do a Turing test for this stuff.

            First, the level of abuse compared to other institutions is irrelevant. The Catholic Church makes a singular claim to moral authority; comparisons to the “general male population” or other institutions will not do.

            Sexual abuse of children by clergy didn’t suddenly arise in the sixties. Exposure is the difference in recent times: victims have courageously spoken up, and journalists doggedly pursued their revelations. The promoters of a fantasy of post-Vatican II cultural decline seem to forget that both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI participated in the Second Vatican Council and supported (in theory, anyway) its reforms.

            stanz2reason has disposed of the “homosexual abuse scandal” slur.

            It fell to JP II and B16 to clean up this mess and they did what they could.

            I suppose there’s a debate about whether John Paul II was oblivious, feckless or corrupt in his failure to confront the criminality of the notorious Fr. Marcial Maciel. As for Benedict XVI, his most decisive action appears to have been to urge bishops to keep the Church from scandal.

          • Paul Adams

            There’s so much here I disagree with. Let me just say that I fully support Vatican II and see JP II and B 16 as playing key roles at the time, and in its authentic interpretation (with a hermeneutic of continuity) and implementation. The problem was with the “spirit of Vatican II” invoked by those who ignored the actual documents of the council and invoked its supposed spirit to perpetrate all sorts of liturgical, theological, and pastoral excesses and abuses. My worry is that people will, are already, invoking a spirit of Bergoglio in the same way. NARAL took out an ad in the NYT thanking the pope (no matter that he denounced abortion the next day, the damage was done). Already those who support gay marriage and the persecution of those who don’t are invoking Francis as being on their side, and so on.

            But I now recognize that you are correct, Neko. I don’t think the pope’s comments about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception can be put down to reckless off the cuff formulations, given the care he took to review and add to the text, and the trouble he went to to give the advance text to the media under embargo while keeping it from the Church’s own media people and the bishops who were blindsided. I have to see it as a deliberate move to dishearten and demoralize those who have been steadfast to the Church’s teaching on burning moral issues on which they and the Church have come under relentless attack. I take some comfort in the fact that the Church has survived far worse popes in the past. God help us all!

          • Neko

            Relax. I don’t think Francis wants to dishearten and demoralize anybody, and you seem to have an overwrought interpretation of what he means by “balance.” It’s sad that Francis’s decency is viewed as cause for alarm by Catholic activists.

            And it’s really wrong to complain of persecution. Christians aren’t persecuted in the West. Has any gay marriage opponent been torched for the amusement of dinner guests? No, I didn’t think so.

          • ACN

            “All this happened before the scope of the abuse scandal was known. It fell to JP II and B16 to clean up this mess and they did what they could.”

            The “scope of the abuse scandal” was actively covered/hushed-up by the mid-tier catholic hierarchy largely in an effort to simultaneously suppress the victims, and grant the higher-ups plausible deniability. Stop trying to pretend that this was solely a case of a few bad apples acting alone that JPII and B16 had to roll up their sleeves and clean-up after. This was a criminal conspiracy to protect child rapists that occurred at many levels of the church hierarchy. JPII and B16 were part of that organization, they’re bloody supposed to be the HEAD of that organization, the buck stops at the top, and if the best they can do is say “oh well we didn’t know” they’re not a very bloody good leader of their organization then, are they?

            So what was their excuse? Were they too stupid? Too senile? Too ignorant? Too corrupt themselves? As an atheist, let me express how completely shocking I find it (spoiler: not shocking at all) that the one true god and lord of the universe couldn’t be bothered to let JPII know that his underlings were a team of deeply corrupt gangsters conspiring to protect child rapists. Of course, after JPII dies, said lord and master of the universe gets SUPER interested in performing highly dubious medical “miracles” to get him sanctified.

            Verily, the lord works in mysterious ways.

          • stanz2reason

            Let’s be clear… ‘the media’ in this case is a far wider pool of people than the actual media.

            I can’t speak for others, though I’d guess at least a few others might share the following sentiment: While I’d like to see the church re-think it’s long held position on certain issues, particularly with regards to recognizing same sex marriages & women in positions of real authority in the church, the churches position on these things is ultimately secondary here. I make no assumptions about, nor expect that the church will change it’s position on such issues. What I do expect is that they’re wise enough to see that public sentiment, particularly in western countries, is so far apart from their positions that they’re losing membership and ultimately influence.

            The public perception of Catholics (and I feel it’s foolish chalk this up to ‘the media’ as the ‘Church’ is really largely to blame for this) is that they, as a group, stand only as adamantly opposed to things from contraception to same-sex marriage, that is alarmingly indifferent to accusations of abuse, that those who don’t fall in line are doomed to hell and will use whatever political influence they can muster to create policy that aligns with their views. When people hear Catholic, they don’t see charity & good works… they see Rick Santorum & Bill Donahue. Caring for the elderly or the poor, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, etc. are missions so far in the background they’re getting drowned out by the faithful asserting themselves in a manner that doesn’t really sit well with a lot of people (read as ‘anyone not Catholic… and even some Catholics too’).

            You (and others here) underestimate the Pope’s PR savvy here. I believe his choice of words, his emphasis on living modestly and small (but public) random acts of kindness and humility are exactly as intended. What you see are examples where he should ‘find better and more careful ways to keep the focus’, I see as a calculated (not in a malicious way, but in a very deliberate way) course of action. You don’t see it because he’s not trying to speak to you. He’s reaching out to people like me.

          • Paul Adams

            I fear you are right, Stanz, as I say to Neko below. Francis is telling the world what it wants to hear, not what is true, beautiful, and good. I’m glad the early Church, with all her martyrs, took a different view.

          • Neko

            Which early Church? There were so many.

          • Christian Stillings

            To borrow from Q. Quine: got evidence?

          • Neko

            Really? Read a book on early Christianity.

          • Randy Gritter

            I don’t have a narrow view of Pope Francis. By no means do I think that some unfortunate PR blunders will negate everything he else he has done or is likely to do. I certainly don’t think it is likely to undo what John Paul II and Benedict XVI did. It will create some expectations in some minds. I don’t think the bishops are going to let things go back to the 70′s. I don’t think Pope Francis would either. Remember he was considered an orthodox bishop.

            Still he needs to figure out how to do the pope thing. He needs to get a team together. It is all coming. It is not there yet. He chose to not use what was in place. That is good and bad. He will lose some of what they were doing right but also much of what they were doing wrong. We live in interesting times. He needs our prayers.

          • stanz2reason

            I like how a redirection of the churches focus away from the condemnation of homosexuals and non-believers to a more focused message of people being good and helping each other is an instance of ‘unfortunate PR blunders’ by a supposedly infallible pope. Heaven forbid he attempt to make a bigger tent via a long overdue olive branch to people the church has marginalized. Curse his reasonable moderate messages of people loving one another.

          • Randy Gritter

            The church has never focused on condemning homosexuals. It condemns certain sexual acts but never people. The fact that you get that wrong just proves this is an unfortunate PR blunder. We do want an olive branch. It just needs to be clear that God accepts you as you are but wants you to become holy. The pope can’t just redefine what holiness looks like. If we give that impression then we are not being reasonable and moderate. We are failing to communicate. Love needs to be based on truth. If it isn’t it just becomes a meaningless warm fuzzy.

          • stanz2reason

            “It condemns certain sexual acts but never people.”

            ‘We love you… but you and your unrepentant homosexual life partner will be cast out into the furnace for being gay’. This is such nonsensical semantics. In condemning the act, you’re condemning the person. They ARE gay. Suggesting they not BE gay is like condemning them from breathing and demanding that they lie about being breathers. You want the fun of fire and brimstone while still being able to hide behind the guilt free veil of being non-judgemental. Regardless of the pope re-affirming this ‘condemn the act, not the person’ silliness, I find it amazing that you really don’t see how necessary it is for him to continue committing such unfortunate PR blunders. If the continuing decline of church attendance means nothing to you, then by all means, ignore what I’m saying and ride the train into irrelevant obscurity. That’s fine by me.

          • Neko

            Randy, to clarify, my statement that you had a narrow view of Francis’s mission was in response to: “Pope Francis needs to make more people actually go to the church.”

          • Randy Gritter

            I still don’t see how that narrow’s his mission. I didn’t say the only thing Pope Francis can do or should do. I said it is one thing he needs to do. I just mean nobody is going to understand Catholicism from the media. I should have said people need to meet a serious Catholic. I think if they can encounter Catholicism without actually going to church. Through the press? Not likely.

  • MJ

    Hi Leah! This is unrelated, but I noticed in a previous quick takes you linked to my brother’s video, I thought you might be interested to know he has another one out :).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_907787&feature=iv&src_vid=VtItBX1l1VY&v=2rjbtsX7twc

  • Neko

    Oh dear, a Courtier’s Reply. It’s as if a Mormon said “I’m glad the early Church, with all her martyrs, took a different view.” The Mormon might be thinking of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. But many churches arose during the Second Great Awakening. Evidence? Historical scholarship.

    Since this thread does not concern early Christianity why would I want to go off on a such a tangent. (In fact, I should not have even posted that remark.) It’s not some eccentric “case” of mine that early Christianity was quite diverse and that orthodox Christianity took hundreds of years to consolidate. It’s common knowledge based on the scholarly consensus.

    Thank you for the link. I read much of it but didn’t finish because it’s an apologetic so we know how the story ends. I thought Howell’s “frameworks” reductive. The emergence of a hierarchical, proto-orthodox church in the late 1st century is non-controversial. Despite a puzzling suggestion to the contrary, the letters of Ignatius and 1 Clement are of course considered proto-orthodox texts. The theme of “unity” in Christ appears in Paul’s letters, so one would expect to find this theme reiterated in churches that claimed an apostolic pedigree. None of this refutes the existence of many other forms of Christianity that developed all over the Empire.

    Maybe I missed something?

    • Randy Gritter

      There were certainly other groups. Tertullian joined another group and then eventually formed his own. But there was a sense of one church and a bunch of little splinter groups. That is why they could hold a council in the 4th century. There was consensus around who was a legitimate church leader and who was not. Nobody asked, “Which church, there are so many?”

      One thing about schism, it is hard to fix. So if the church was seriously divided it is highly unlikely that division just went away quietly.

      • Neko

        Randy, Randy, I’m referring to the first centuries, not the fourth. But Nicaea was fraught with controversy and the church was divided!

        Initially, I wasn’t referring to intra-orthodox conflicts but different forms of Christianity, like Jewish Christianity and Gnosticism, which itself had various sects.

        Let us agree to disagree about the historical origins of the One True Church.

        • Randy Gritter

          I know you are referring to the first couple of centuries. I don’t expect you to agree but it has to make sense. The level of unity they showed in the 4th century would not have existed if they were hopelessly divided before that. OK, you could have some person or event unite the church around a certain teaching but there is no evidence of that. So small splinter groups happened but the main body of the church had to be somewhat discernible all the way through.

          • Neko

            I didn’t say the church was “hopelessly” divided or that fourth century Christianity was simply a multitude of discrete sects. But had there been harmonious agreement within the church on central theological issues–who and what was Jesus?–there would have been no need for Constantine to convene the council!

    • Christian Stillings

      I’m not sure that I understand your comparison to Mormonism. I don’t think there’s any question that other professedly-Christian traditions/movements existed in America in the 19th century. Yes, I believe that because there’s good evidence that those other traditions/movements. You seem to be saying that there’s similarly good evidence that there were multiple disparate traditions/movements in earliest Christianity. I’ve heard out a handful of arguments for this thesis and found them pretty unconvincing across the board. If you think there are really good arguments for your thesis, I’m interested to know where I should look for them.

      I agree that there were a number of professedly-Christian movements which squabbled in the first few centuries. The question, as I understand it, is whether a) there was a basically-united institutional Church from which other groups splintered or b) there were multiple disparate movements which existed very shortly after Jesus’ time on earth and they developed and fought for a couple years before things settled out. You’ve suggested the second, and I’m interested to know where you think I’d find that thesis argued well.

      The emergence of a hierarchical, proto-orthodox church in the late 1st century is non-controversial.

      The existence of such a church is agreed-upon, but I don’t know why it should be considered an “emergent” phenomenon instead of a continuation of what kicked off at the end of Jesus’ time on earth. If the first idea should be privileged as more likely than the second, I’m interested to know why.

      • Neko

        My thesis. That is funny. Again, we aren’t discussing any thesis of mine. I don’t have a theory of early Christianity, OK? I’m just repeating things I’ve read that are pretty credible. My own interest in early Christianity started after reading Elaine Pagels on the Gnostic Gospels (Reportedly she’s changed her thinking on some things since writing that book.) Christian Beginnings by Geza Vermes is a concise, beautifully written introduction by a renowned scholar. But if you’re looking for Catholic apologetics, he is not your man. From the section on 1 Clement:

        Interesting details emerge from the letter regarding the organization of the churches in the dying years of the first century. It is needless to remind readers that no teaching about the church can be traced back to Jesus, and that the Synoptic Gospels are silent on the matter with the exception of the few glosses added to Matthew.

        Lost Christianities, by Bart Ehrman, another lucid, top-tier scholar, is a classic on the diversity of early Christianity.

        The existence of such a church is agreed-upon, but I don’t know why it should be considered an “emergent” phenomenon instead of a continuation of what kicked off at the end of Jesus’ time on earth.

        Well, St. Paul describes the conflict between the Jerusalem movement and his own mission to the Gentiles, so Christians have been bickering about the religion from the start. Paul’s “churches,” which were gatherings in people’s homes, were far less stratified than the hierarchical organization referred to in Ignatius’s letters and 1 Clement. By “emergent proto-orthodox church” I mean the church that developed after the apostles’ generation had died off. To oversimplify, the thinking goes that since Jesus hadn’t returned as soon as expected that the church started formalizing its leadership structure and liturgical practices with a view to the long haul.

        By the way, who do you think staged the coup that provoked the church of Rome to send a letter to the Corinthians (1 Clement)?

        [edited]

        • Christian Stillings

          Sorry, would it be better to say “the thesis with which you agree” or “the thesis with which you take no particular issue”?

          I’m loosely familiar with Pagels’ and Ehrman’s works, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ross Douthat’s overview of that genre of popular literature in “Bad Religion.”

          I’m also loosely familiar with Vermes. Ex-Catholic priest, right? I respect him as a scholar because everyone else seems to, but I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by the handful of his things which I’ve read. Take his hand-waving dismissal of “the few glosses added to Matthew.” Does he (or anybody that you know of) actually argue for why the “church” statements in Matthew should be rejected as historically invalid, or does hand-waving the statements away simply suit certain theses about Christian origins?

          Paul’s “churches,” which were gatherings in people’s homes, were far less stratified than the hierarchical organization referred to in Ignatius’s letters and 1 Clement.

          What does meeting in homes have to do with hierarchal leadership? I don’t see how meeting in homes invalidates the possibility that early Christians were under hierarchal leadership. I don’t even see why it’d be improbable. Most homes are (obviously) unlike modern Catholic sanctuaries, but there’s no reason that Masses couldn’t be celebrated in homes.

          To oversimplify, the thinking goes that since Jesus hadn’t returned as soon as expected that the church started formalizing its leadership structure and liturgical practices with a view to the long haul.

          Eh, I’ve yet to be convinced of “Jesus didn’t show up so…” arguments, so I find this fairly specious. Besides, we see elements of Eucharistic theology and practice in the earliest materials (1 Corinthians and the beginning of Acts), clearly-defined leaders in authority over Christian communities, anointing of leaders, and so on. I think it’s a stretch to posit that late-first-century ideas and practices were actually novel in the way you seem to suggest.

          As to the coup in Corinth, I haven’t dwelt long on it. I may get back to you on that.

          • Neko

            Take his hand-waving dismissal of “the few glosses added to Matthew.” Does he (or anybody that you know of) actually argue for why the “church” statements in Matthew should be rejected as historically invalid, or does hand-waving the statements away simply suit certain theses about Christian origins?

            Really. Yeah, you’re probably right. Geza Vermes was basically content to hand wave, because, let’s face it, that’s what the academy is all about.

            What does meeting in homes have to do with hierarchal leadership?

            Where in the authentic letters does Paul describe a hierarchical organization? The leadership class described in 1 Clement is larger than in the Pauline churches.

            Eh, I’ve yet to be convinced of “Jesus didn’t show up so…” arguments, so I find this fairly specious. Besides, we see elements of Eucharistic theology and practice in the earliest materials (1 Corinthians and the beginning of Acts), clearly-defined leaders in authority over Christian communities, anointing of leaders, and so on.

            Historians don’t engage the supernatural. And the issue is the leadership of the church, not the Eucharist.


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