A Church in exile?

In Ryan Klassen’s recent guest post, he noted that the Mennonite communion is only beginning to take a more active role in society now that it is no longer subject to persecution like it was in the past and that the Catholic Church is likewise only beginning to come to terms with the end of Christendom. I think he is right about that and correct to think  we could learn much from each other.

To the end of better coming to terms with the happy fall of Christendom, it may be fruitful to briefly consider the shift from the Davidic monarchy to life in exile which the people of God had to endure as an analogy to the Church’s current shifting situation vis-a-vis the “world.” It seems appropriate to start with Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder’s Jeremianic ecclesiology.

Yoder may be the most well-known proponent of an exilic ecclesiology, or what he called a Jeremianic (rather than Constantinian) ecclesiology. Yoder’s reading of Jeremiah and the Jewish communal life in the exile is centered on Jeremiah 29:7 “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you, and pray to JHWH on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Based upon this verse, Yoder believes that the exile away from Jerusalem was not meant to be a mere “hiatus”, but rather after Jeremiah, “dispersion shall be the calling of the Jewish faith community.”[1]

According to Yoder’s reading of Jeremiah, the Jewish communal life in the exile took on a few key characteristics, characteristics which he believes the post-Christendom Church should emulate. 1) The exilic community relied on the sacred text of the Torah as the cornerstone of communal identity definition. 2) Singing and reading these texts came to be the primary form of worship, rather than temple sacrifices. 3) Local cells of the Jewish community, called synagogues, were formed wherever ten households were present. No hierarchical recognition or initiative was needed or desired. 4) “International unity was sustained by intervisitation, intermarriage, commerce, and rabbinic consultation.”[2] 5) The community relied not on any Jewish philosophy or “doctrine”, but on “the common life itself, the walk, halakah, the shared remembering of the story behind it”[3] for maintenance of identity.

Yoder believes that the earliest Christian communities modeled themselves after the Jewish exilic communities, embracing the “paradox of the power of weakness”.[4] Additionally, Yoder sees both the exilic Jews and the early Christians as witnessing to the transcendence and primacy of God by refusing to “grant [the worldly powers’] idolatrous claim to be in charge of history,”[5] a claim which places the empire in direct competition with the Judeo-Christian notion of providence.

However, despite the notoriety of Yoder’s claims, the accuracy of his reading of the text and the applicability of his reading to post-Christendom ecclesiology, especially Catholic ecclesiology, can be questioned. For example,  Peter Ochs and Michael Cartwright, the editors of The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, a collection of Yoder’s essays, are both critical of Yoder on this point. For Ochs, “Yoder has made a beautiful monument of one chapter of Jeremiah’s ministry. But there are many chapters,”[7]  while Cartwright observes that “Yoder’s typology is not only over-determined but also fails to take into account the significant linkages that existed between the prophetic orientation of Jeremiah and the priestly vocation of Israel.”[8] Thus, Daniel Smith-Christopher’s view of the exile as a diagnosis rather than a paradigm for the post-Christendom churches  may prove to be more fruitful than Yoder’s[9].

In addition to Jeremiah, Smith-Christopher focuses on a few other important exilic figures. Ezra and Nehemiah exhibit the importance of maintaining communal identity. This  is an especially relevant problem for Catholics (in America) today who are often more committed to their political allegiances and to their football teams than they are to living a life in imitation of Christ. After all, “If Caesar can get Christians to swallow the final solution and drop the atomic bomb, there is no limit to what we will not do for the modern world”[10]. Smith-Christopher reads the Ezra-Nehemian emphasis on purity as an example of nonconformity.[11] Ezra’s somewhat offensive rejection of mixed marriages is not to be seen as xenophobic, but as a result of a minority consciousness and in reference to the best interests of community solidarity.[12] In other words, what is to be kept pure is the community itself. When the surrounding culture is hostile to faith in God, the people of God must first protect their own identity in order to be missiological; this is not sectarian.

Thus, for Smith-Christopher, “Ezra fails where the Bible does not,”[13] because in its canonical context, Ezra’s ad intra emphasis on purity is complemented by the missiological emphases of Isaiah, Jonah, and Jeremiah. The people of God are indeed to seek the peace of the foreign city and to bear witness to God’s primacy. This involves recognizing with Daniel that God’s concern is for his people and that the empire or nation-state is of little significance.[14] Daniel exhibits no attempt to re-grasp the lost power of the Davidic monarchy, and the Church need not attempt to lobby for political influence but ought to model an alternative communal life: witness, not advocacy.[15] Indeed, for Smith-Christopher, Jonah shows us that to be in exile is to be a people of mission, to live in the world, but not of the world. To serve the city of man by pointing to the city of God. For Smith-Christopher, the Church’s “task is Jonah’s mission to the world, informed by Ezra’s eye to nonconformity and embodying Tobit’s compassion and wise practicality”.[16]

The question remains, however, how can a Church whose credibility has been destroyed through its own most grievous faults possibly hope to bear witness to the city of God? How can its being a “people set apart” be seen as anything but hypocrisy? If  Pope Benedict’s claim is true, that  “History shows that, when the Church becomes less worldly, her missionary witness shines more brightly… [and she] can reach out more effectively and in a truly Christian way to the whole world,” then how might this becoming less worldly witness to anything more than a sort of triumphalism in which you are either with us or against us, on the ark or drowning? Here, the key is found not in Jonah’s expression of the mission of the Jews to the world, but in that of Isaiah’s suffering servant. After all, nearly the entire history of Israel as the chosen people of God is told in a penitential key, a key which, according to William Cavanaugh,  is vital for the proper life of the church. “The recognition of our sinfulness becomes not recognition of our tragic fate but a humble acknowledgment that we are not in charge of making history come out right by violent means…The city of God is not the shape of our triumph, but of our repentance.”[17]

Within the life of the Church, this is most frequently and powerfully expressed in the liturgy, as it was for those suffering under Seleucid terror. For example, in Daniel’s prayer of penitence, he confesses sins to God and begs for mercy and deliverance (Daniel 9:4-19).  Smith-Christopher shows that such acknowledgment of shame in penitential prayers, like the one in Daniel, serves as a “break with the past, to be an alternative people of God…To remind oneself constantly of the failure of power (in the ancestors and kings), to advocate an alternative mode of living.”[19] Accordingly, by placing the blame for the exile and persecution at their own feet, that is, as a result of their sin, the Jews who prayed Daniel’s prayer stripped Antiochus’ claim to be in control and re-situated him as an implement of punishment used by God, who remains in control.

Similarly, in order to be an effective witness as a people set apart, the Church must acknowledge her own past sins and be a reminder to the world of humanity’s utter dependence on God’s mercy. “What the church makes visible to the world is the whole dynamic drama of sin and salvation, no only the end result of humanity purified and unified.”[20] Of course, this repentance mustn’t be a utilitarian strategy but a cry to God, a cry motivated by the experience of sin and a simultaneous witness to the world that even now God has not abandoned his people. “It is in this repentance that the church may make Christ and the drama of sin and redemption possible,”[21] and fulfill its role as the universal sacrament of salvation.

By embracing her status as an “exilic” community, the Church can recommit herself to covenant fidelity and bear penitential witness to the saving work of God in the world. Indeed only by becoming less worldly and more like her crucified Lord can the Church fulfill her mediatory mission to the world. And, as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin recently explained, this must happen most fundamentally at the local level.

[W]e must admit that unfortunately the Church in Ireland was slow and is slow in recognising the fragility of the infrastructure of faith and in many ways continues to think that the challenges of tomorrow can be addressed with the pastoral methods of yesterday.    For their part many well-intentioned outsiders fail to understand the particular characteristics – both historical and contemporary – of the Irish Church and they fail to understand the depths of the current crisis.

The challenge of faith in Ireland can only be addressed by radical efforts of new evangelization.  That new evangelization must however have its own Irish characteristics

The same is true in America and throughout the world.


[1]               Yoder, John Howard, Michael G. Cartwright, and Peter Ochs. “See How They Go with Their Face to the Sun” In The Jewish-Christian schism revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003, p. 183

[2]               Yoder, “See how they go…”, 187.

[3]               Yoder, “See how they go…”, 187,

[4]               Yoder, “On not being in charge” In The Jewish-Christian schism revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003, 171.

[5]               Yoder, On not being in charge, 171.

[7]               Ochs, “Commentary on ‘See How They Go with Their Face to the Sun’” in The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, 204.

[8]               Cartwright, “Afterword: ‘If Abraham is Our Father . . .’ The Problem of Christian Supersessionism after Yoder,” The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, 219.

[9]               Smith-Christopher, Daniel. Theology of Exile, 191.

[10]             Hauerwas, Stanley. Resident Aliens, 193.

[11]             Smith-Christopher, 138-163.

[12]             Smith-Christopher, 146.

[13]             Smith-Christopher, 200.

[14]             Smith-Christopher 187-88.

[15]             Smith-Christopher, 198.

[16]             Smith-Christopher, 202.

[17]             Cavanaugh, William. Migrations of the Holy, 67.

[18]              Young, Anathea. Apocalypse against empire: theologies of resistance in early Judaism. England: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011, pp. 244-249.

[19]               Smith-Christopher, 122.

[20]              Cavanaugh, 162.

[21]               Cavanaugh, 169.

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  • Mark Gordon

    Thanks for this incredibly rich reflection, Josh. I think this is what some here at Vox Nova have been advocating, whether implicitly or explicitly: the transformation of the American Church from institutional bulwark of society to sign of contradiction marked by humble service. And I must sound like a broken record, but it seems to me that the model par excellence of such a transformation was/is the Catholic Worker movement, with its embrace of voluntary poverty, penitential witness, prayer, the communal life, and service to the poor. Of course, before it can happen maybe someone needs to model that transformation for the institutional Church. And maybe that someone should be me … and you … and all of us who celebrate the “happy fall of Christendom.”

    • http://giftofself.blogspot.com/ Joshua B

      Mark, thanks for your kind words. I don’t have much direct experience with CWs, but I am a big fan of Dorothy Day. It saddens me to hear that many CW houses don’t always live up to her standards, (but then again, how many Franciscans lives up to Francis’ example?), but I certainly she was/is the sort of prophet and witness we need.

      It definitely has to start with us I think. I has to start local for it to be sincere. In this regard I think any of a number “movements” (Focolare, Communion and Liberation, etc.) which re-invigorate parish life with kenotic love are signs the Spirit preparing the soil.

      • Mark Gordon

        I actually have no first-hand experience with contemporary Catholic Worker houses, and my remote impression is that many (though not all) have really defected from Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin’s original vision, especially in maintaining their distinctively Catholic charism. So, my cheerleading for the CW is based entirely on that original vision and Dorothy’s faithfulness to it. As you note, what’s really important isn’t hewing to some template, but getting started locally.

  • Mark Gordon

    Thanks for this incredibly rich reflection, Josh. I think this is what some here at Vox Nova have been advocating, whether implicitly or explicitly: the transformation of the American Church from institutional bulwark of society to sign of contradiction marked by humble service. And I must sound like a broken record, but it seems to me that the model par excellence of such a transformation was/is the Catholic Worker movement, with its embrace of voluntary poverty, penitential witness, prayer, the communal life, and service to the poor. Of course, before it can happen maybe someone needs to model that transformation for the institutional Church. And maybe that someone should be me … and you … and all of us who celebrate the “happy fall of Christendom.”

    • http://giftofself.blogspot.com/ Joshua B

      Mark, thanks for your kind words. I don’t have much direct experience with CWs, but I am a big fan of Dorothy Day. It saddens me to hear that many CW houses don’t always live up to her standards, (but then again, how many Franciscans lives up to Francis’ example?), but I certainly she was/is the sort of prophet and witness we need.

      It definitely has to start with us I think. I has to start local for it to be sincere. In this regard I think any of a number “movements” (Focolare, Communion and Liberation, etc.) which re-invigorate parish life with kenotic love are signs the Spirit preparing the soil.

      • Mark Gordon

        I actually have no first-hand experience with contemporary Catholic Worker houses, and my remote impression is that many (though not all) have really defected from Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin’s original vision, especially in maintaining their distinctively Catholic charism. So, my cheerleading for the CW is based entirely on that original vision and Dorothy’s faithfulness to it. As you note, what’s really important isn’t hewing to some template, but getting started locally.

  • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

    Yes, I find this very helpful too, as the conundrum of post-Christian society and how to have faith in modernity that does not become fundamentalism (but which also doesn’t sacrifice orthodoxy or moral rigor) has been on my mind.

    I have been looking for a quote from Von Balthasar I saw once that touches on these themes for me. It’s about the Church essentially being like “the Giving Tree” (though HE doesn’t use that metaphor!)…like, being chopped up and dispersed for the sake of the World. It may have been related to his “Casta Meretrix” idea, but I wonder if anyone knows what quote I’m talking about and could help me find it?

    • Mark Gordon

      That really is the conundrum, (fellow) Sinner. You put it well.

  • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

    Yes, I find this very helpful too, as the conundrum of post-Christian society and how to have faith in modernity that does not become fundamentalism (but which also doesn’t sacrifice orthodoxy or moral rigor) has been on my mind.

    I have been looking for a quote from Von Balthasar I saw once that touches on these themes for me. It’s about the Church essentially being like “the Giving Tree” (though HE doesn’t use that metaphor!)…like, being chopped up and dispersed for the sake of the World. It may have been related to his “Casta Meretrix” idea, but I wonder if anyone knows what quote I’m talking about and could help me find it?

    • Mark Gordon

      That really is the conundrum, (fellow) Sinner. You put it well.

  • Brian Martin

    It seems that especially we Catholics here in America are a little to used to being intertwined with the world and the political system. We have enjoyed being a part of the power structure. When we resemble the neon lights of a secular culture where money, profit and hedonistic expressions of self gratification are Gods, if we are indistinguishable from everyone else, it is hard to be “a light to the world”. We are comfortable with the status quo, and are shocked and outraged that secular society would dare to impugn our motives or challenge our beliefs. Instead of the Church standing for Truth, it seems to stand for politically expedient truth (See Morning’s Minion’s post) And the same can be said for those fervent supporters of Obama within catholic lay people…they seemed shocked that Obama would do something that called into question religious freedom. We are comfortable here. Sometimes, perhaps our blessing of acceptance is a curse as well. Christianity seems to have lost it’s counter-cultural heritage.

  • Brian Martin

    It seems that especially we Catholics here in America are a little to used to being intertwined with the world and the political system. We have enjoyed being a part of the power structure. When we resemble the neon lights of a secular culture where money, profit and hedonistic expressions of self gratification are Gods, if we are indistinguishable from everyone else, it is hard to be “a light to the world”. We are comfortable with the status quo, and are shocked and outraged that secular society would dare to impugn our motives or challenge our beliefs. Instead of the Church standing for Truth, it seems to stand for politically expedient truth (See Morning’s Minion’s post) And the same can be said for those fervent supporters of Obama within catholic lay people…they seemed shocked that Obama would do something that called into question religious freedom. We are comfortable here. Sometimes, perhaps our blessing of acceptance is a curse as well. Christianity seems to have lost it’s counter-cultural heritage.

  • http://twitter.com/FriarRJohn Robert Lennon

    This is good, but I always pause when I see the Theodosian (not Constantinian!) settlement spoken as some kind of deal with the Devil. The Davidic monarchy was the expression of God’s will in history at that particular time, why shouldn’t the Roman Empire (East & West) be one as well? Rather than Empire vs. God, can’t the Empire (as a community of Christians, headed by a Christian Emperor(s)) itself be a vehicle for God’s will?

    • http://giftofself.blogspot.com/ Joshua B

      Robert,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. You raise a good and important question. In theory its certain possible and even probable that providence played a large role in the development of the Christian Roman Empire, but the way it played out historically opens up major questions.

      Pope Benedict, for example, clearly thinks Providence was at work in the fall of the papal states (God and World, 382) and think that Church and state should always be separate. That sort of power is always a temptation and is precisely the sort of power Christ consistently rejected. A professor of mine has characterized Ratzinger’s view colloquially as following: Whenever the Church gets in bed with the state, she walks away diseased. Ultimately, I think this is right.

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        And, of course, Providence is hardly an argument for the status quo. Just because God arranged for Christendom at a certain point, doesn’t mean they should always be, as Providence is also behind the fact that it has collapsed.

        And, in fact, the very inner logic of Christianity, or at least it’s historical development, may have always contained this collapse. And, indeed, even doctrinally we know that Antichrist must needs emerge (both the final one and the little ones), a great apostasy following the general proclamation of the gospel (whether on the level of the nation or the world) is part of our eschatology. And the Church must undergo His passion with Him.

        Of course, drawing a sword and trying to defend is what Peter (whom we can take to be the leaders of the Church) is naturally inclined to do, “supposed to” do even. But he usually just ends up cutting peoples ears off (so that they can no longer listen) and then Christ tells him to stop.

        Of course, I think there can be a naivitee in idealizing the separation of Church and State as much as in idealizing their organic unity. Acting as if separation from the State solves our problems can lead us to forget that the institutional church itself, even separate from the State, is still a human institution, and THAT’S really the issue we always have to face.

        Whether or not he has the Papal States, the Pope will always be a temporal monarch exactly because he holds office in an organization of sinful mortals (and is one himself). This is the paradox of the visible church in the world, but not of it (but, also, of it). In fact, I’d argue that a separation can lead to exactly the sort of “us against them” triumphalism you warn of, acting as if the Church AS a polity in itself (which it is whether it is in bed with the State or not) is somehow impeccable as a polity, or is always on the right side as a polity, etc etc.

        If anything, having Papal States or tiara (with a monk to whisper Sic Transit Gloria Mundi) reminds the visible human institutional church on earth against these over-simplistic “spiritualizing” narratives regarding the human church’s nature that would have them naively somehow believe that, as a temporal human polity, organization, or institution, the Church is not subject to the flaws that temporal human polities ALL are (Her divinity doesn’t make Her humanity any less passable or mortal than Christ’s did).

        This is why I do like Von Balthasar’s “Casta Meretrix” idea and even (understood properly) the Ecclesia/Synagoga motif. Because the Church IS the Synagogue, She is still the “chaste harlot,” She has Her divinity, Her eternal eschatalogical Perfect Heavenly Church, but She also has Her body on Earth, wounded by sin, dying of sin, and just as much subject to the viscittudes of Time and corruption as any other human institution.

      • http://twitter.com/FriarRJohn Robert Lennon

        “And, of course, Providence is hardly an argument for the status quo. Just because God arranged for Christendom at a certain point, doesn’t mean they should always be, as Providence is also behind the fact that it has collapsed.”

        Haha! I knew there was something missing from my thought on this point. Thanks for this, Sinner.

  • http://twitter.com/FriarRJohn Robert Lennon

    This is good, but I always pause when I see the Theodosian (not Constantinian!) settlement spoken as some kind of deal with the Devil. The Davidic monarchy was the expression of God’s will in history at that particular time, why shouldn’t the Roman Empire (East & West) be one as well? Rather than Empire vs. God, can’t the Empire (as a community of Christians, headed by a Christian Emperor(s)) itself be a vehicle for God’s will?

    • http://giftofself.blogspot.com/ Joshua B

      Robert,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. You raise a good and important question. In theory its certain possible and even probable that providence played a large role in the development of the Christian Roman Empire, but the way it played out historically opens up major questions.

      Pope Benedict, for example, clearly thinks Providence was at work in the fall of the papal states (God and World, 382) and think that Church and state should always be separate. That sort of power is always a temptation and is precisely the sort of power Christ consistently rejected. A professor of mine has characterized Ratzinger’s view colloquially as following: Whenever the Church gets in bed with the state, she walks away diseased. Ultimately, I think this is right.

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        And, of course, Providence is hardly an argument for the status quo. Just because God arranged for Christendom at a certain point, doesn’t mean they should always be, as Providence is also behind the fact that it has collapsed.

        And, in fact, the very inner logic of Christianity, or at least it’s historical development, may have always contained this collapse. And, indeed, even doctrinally we know that Antichrist must needs emerge (both the final one and the little ones), a great apostasy following the general proclamation of the gospel (whether on the level of the nation or the world) is part of our eschatology. And the Church must undergo His passion with Him.

        Of course, drawing a sword and trying to defend is what Peter (whom we can take to be the leaders of the Church) is naturally inclined to do, “supposed to” do even. But he usually just ends up cutting peoples ears off (so that they can no longer listen) and then Christ tells him to stop.

        Of course, I think there can be a naivitee in idealizing the separation of Church and State as much as in idealizing their organic unity. Acting as if separation from the State solves our problems can lead us to forget that the institutional church itself, even separate from the State, is still a human institution, and THAT’S really the issue we always have to face.

        Whether or not he has the Papal States, the Pope will always be a temporal monarch exactly because he holds office in an organization of sinful mortals (and is one himself). This is the paradox of the visible church in the world, but not of it (but, also, of it). In fact, I’d argue that a separation can lead to exactly the sort of “us against them” triumphalism you warn of, acting as if the Church AS a polity in itself (which it is whether it is in bed with the State or not) is somehow impeccable as a polity, or is always on the right side as a polity, etc etc.

        If anything, having Papal States or tiara (with a monk to whisper Sic Transit Gloria Mundi) reminds the visible human institutional church on earth against these over-simplistic “spiritualizing” narratives regarding the human church’s nature that would have them naively somehow believe that, as a temporal human polity, organization, or institution, the Church is not subject to the flaws that temporal human polities ALL are (Her divinity doesn’t make Her humanity any less passable or mortal than Christ’s did).

        This is why I do like Von Balthasar’s “Casta Meretrix” idea and even (understood properly) the Ecclesia/Synagoga motif. Because the Church IS the Synagogue, She is still the “chaste harlot,” She has Her divinity, Her eternal eschatalogical Perfect Heavenly Church, but She also has Her body on Earth, wounded by sin, dying of sin, and just as much subject to the viscittudes of Time and corruption as any other human institution.

      • http://twitter.com/FriarRJohn Robert Lennon

        “And, of course, Providence is hardly an argument for the status quo. Just because God arranged for Christendom at a certain point, doesn’t mean they should always be, as Providence is also behind the fact that it has collapsed.”

        Haha! I knew there was something missing from my thought on this point. Thanks for this, Sinner.

  • Julia Smucker

    This post speaks compellingly to a few of my Mennonite Catholic ecclesiological dilemmas. The major question for me would be how to nurture the strengths of a “diaspora” ecclesiology, the church as a distinctive and sometimes countercultural witness in and to the world, while avoiding the Donatist pitfall of trying to keep the church “pure” by weeding out whoever we fear might compromise this witness.

    Perhaps, as you seem to be pointing to, humility is the key. Whether our alternativeness from the world becomes elitist and puritanical, or whether our engagement with the world becomes a compromising alliance with self-serving powers, both of these are forms of triumphalism. What’s really crucial, I believe, is that our commitment to “covenant fidelity” be manifest in a kenotic way, always seeking to relinquish status and privilege, and self-righteousness for that matter.

  • Julia Smucker

    This post speaks compellingly to a few of my Mennonite Catholic ecclesiological dilemmas. The major question for me would be how to nurture the strengths of a “diaspora” ecclesiology, the church as a distinctive and sometimes countercultural witness in and to the world, while avoiding the Donatist pitfall of trying to keep the church “pure” by weeding out whoever we fear might compromise this witness.

    Perhaps, as you seem to be pointing to, humility is the key. Whether our alternativeness from the world becomes elitist and puritanical, or whether our engagement with the world becomes a compromising alliance with self-serving powers, both of these are forms of triumphalism. What’s really crucial, I believe, is that our commitment to “covenant fidelity” be manifest in a kenotic way, always seeking to relinquish status and privilege, and self-righteousness for that matter.

  • Ross

    The statement ” the Catholic Church is likewise only beginning to come to terms with the end of Christendom.” is entirely correct. The modern Catholic Church here in Scotland was mostly formed by the Irish diaspora in the 19th Century. Only in recent decades have Scottish Catholics in this country really felt part of wider Scottish society. Ironic then that our own Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor (An excellent Churchman and vocal anti-war, anti-nuclear, social justice campaigner ) has spoken out so strongly against the prospect of Gay Marriage in this country. The idea that we can no longer impose or dictate morality to the wider community seems entirely lost on our leaders. Similarly, we see identical calls from Militant secularists and Humanists other side insisting that same sex couples should have the legal right to be married in Churches. And if this civil right is not upheld then the right to carry out legal marriages should be removed from faith communities just as adoption has been. Sad then that both parties seem obsessed with hysterical rhetoric and trying to get the State to impose their own particular values on each other. It seems that not everyone can see that we are now in a post-christian society.

  • Ross

    The statement ” the Catholic Church is likewise only beginning to come to terms with the end of Christendom.” is entirely correct. The modern Catholic Church here in Scotland was mostly formed by the Irish diaspora in the 19th Century. Only in recent decades have Scottish Catholics in this country really felt part of wider Scottish society. Ironic then that our own Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor (An excellent Churchman and vocal anti-war, anti-nuclear, social justice campaigner ) has spoken out so strongly against the prospect of Gay Marriage in this country. The idea that we can no longer impose or dictate morality to the wider community seems entirely lost on our leaders. Similarly, we see identical calls from Militant secularists and Humanists other side insisting that same sex couples should have the legal right to be married in Churches. And if this civil right is not upheld then the right to carry out legal marriages should be removed from faith communities just as adoption has been. Sad then that both parties seem obsessed with hysterical rhetoric and trying to get the State to impose their own particular values on each other. It seems that not everyone can see that we are now in a post-christian society.

  • http://Richjmon16@verizon.net No to self-flagellation

    What utter dribble! This article has all the earmarks of then tendencies that infect most (if not all) neo-modernist Catholics: They want a Church that self-flagellates hence the reason why they were in their glorious heaven when Bl. Pope John Paul II apologized to all the world for “our sins” for end of the millennium. What your ilks failed to understand is that for the secularists and anti-Catholics, no matter how much we self-flagellate, they still would not be satisfied. What they want the Church to either conform to the secularist zeitgeist or disappear from the face of the earth. This position was evident by the New York Times take on the papal apologies, they wanted the pope to apologize to women for “its persistent opposing to abortion on demand.” I am sure that for most of the commentators on this thread would agree with The Times’ statement.

    I, for my part, say no apology to the secularists, anti-Christian and anti-Catholic world. Yes, for confessing individual sins to a priest and not to the priests of the New York Times and its supporters.

    • Brian Martin

      I am all for a church that speaks truth and acts for justice, and is willing to hold itself to it’s own standards without regard to what the secular world thinks. Meaning, I don’t give a rat’s nether regions whether “secularists and anti-catholics” think of papal appologies or church teachings. I think you are engaging in tribalism and making rather sweeping generalizations about the denizens of this blog….in much the same way you suggest the “secularists and anti-catholics” do.

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      I’m not sure the stance of penitence this article is advocating is one of “institutional apologies.” I myself think the idea is sort of silly that people today can apologize for people in the past, or that corporations as such can be culpable for anything rather than the individuals in them.

      However, that doesn’t mean we need to take a stance of sectarian triumphalism as if our loyalties must be in all even temporal matters to the church AS temporal polity (which it is, though it cannot be reduced to that).

      I don’t think the penitence of Israel in Exile was so much about the sins OF the State or Temple institution or some notion of institutional culpability. Rather, the point was that so many individuals had been sinful, so many had turned to idolatry, and the correct attitude to take was not blame them and say “I personally was not involved!” or to blame the persecutors, but to say, “We were sinful, we were at fault, this is God’s punishment for our sins!”

      For example, I look at the pro-life movement. So much of it has the attitude of us against them. It’s the Forces of Light battling the Alliance of Death, etc etc. I’m not saying they don’t do good work or mourn, but it’s very much “This is your fault, liberals, and we need to smoke you out and run you down.” The idea is that “they” should repent. There may even be some notion that America considered as a State institution that did not protect lives should repent or make some sign of reparation, but the idea is still basically “We’re the good guys fighting the bad guys, and it’s the bad guys whose fault this is.”

      However, I think that attitude the article suggests is one where, for example, Catholics put on sack cloth and ashes and do fasts and penance (and, sure, flagellation!) and cry out, “O God, because of our sins you have sent this tragedy upon us, have covered us all in the blood of innocents by the hand of the instruments of your justice! Have brought upon our families and our culture a sea of perversion, have given the poor to suffer, the rich to be covered with greed, unjust wars to be waged!” This is all our fault, my fault. It doesn’t necessarily imply “institutional sin” of the Church acting as a juridical person (though there is certainly much clerical and hierarchal sin…also OUR fault for not being holy, we can’t blame the “them” of the clergy either).

  • http://Richjmon16@verizon.net No to self-flagellation

    What utter dribble! This article has all the earmarks of then tendencies that infect most (if not all) neo-modernist Catholics: They want a Church that self-flagellates hence the reason why they were in their glorious heaven when Bl. Pope John Paul II apologized to all the world for “our sins” for end of the millennium. What your ilks failed to understand is that for the secularists and anti-Catholics, no matter how much we self-flagellate, they still would not be satisfied. What they want the Church to either conform to the secularist zeitgeist or disappear from the face of the earth. This position was evident by the New York Times take on the papal apologies, they wanted the pope to apologize to women for “its persistent opposing to abortion on demand.” I am sure that for most of the commentators on this thread would agree with The Times’ statement.

    I, for my part, say no apology to the secularists, anti-Christian and anti-Catholic world. Yes, for confessing individual sins to a priest and not to the priests of the New York Times and its supporters.

    • Brian Martin

      I am all for a church that speaks truth and acts for justice, and is willing to hold itself to it’s own standards without regard to what the secular world thinks. Meaning, I don’t give a rat’s nether regions whether “secularists and anti-catholics” think of papal appologies or church teachings. I think you are engaging in tribalism and making rather sweeping generalizations about the denizens of this blog….in much the same way you suggest the “secularists and anti-catholics” do.

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      I’m not sure the stance of penitence this article is advocating is one of “institutional apologies.” I myself think the idea is sort of silly that people today can apologize for people in the past, or that corporations as such can be culpable for anything rather than the individuals in them.

      However, that doesn’t mean we need to take a stance of sectarian triumphalism as if our loyalties must be in all even temporal matters to the church AS temporal polity (which it is, though it cannot be reduced to that).

      I don’t think the penitence of Israel in Exile was so much about the sins OF the State or Temple institution or some notion of institutional culpability. Rather, the point was that so many individuals had been sinful, so many had turned to idolatry, and the correct attitude to take was not blame them and say “I personally was not involved!” or to blame the persecutors, but to say, “We were sinful, we were at fault, this is God’s punishment for our sins!”

      For example, I look at the pro-life movement. So much of it has the attitude of us against them. It’s the Forces of Light battling the Alliance of Death, etc etc. I’m not saying they don’t do good work or mourn, but it’s very much “This is your fault, liberals, and we need to smoke you out and run you down.” The idea is that “they” should repent. There may even be some notion that America considered as a State institution that did not protect lives should repent or make some sign of reparation, but the idea is still basically “We’re the good guys fighting the bad guys, and it’s the bad guys whose fault this is.”

      However, I think that attitude the article suggests is one where, for example, Catholics put on sack cloth and ashes and do fasts and penance (and, sure, flagellation!) and cry out, “O God, because of our sins you have sent this tragedy upon us, have covered us all in the blood of innocents by the hand of the instruments of your justice! Have brought upon our families and our culture a sea of perversion, have given the poor to suffer, the rich to be covered with greed, unjust wars to be waged!” This is all our fault, my fault. It doesn’t necessarily imply “institutional sin” of the Church acting as a juridical person (though there is certainly much clerical and hierarchal sin…also OUR fault for not being holy, we can’t blame the “them” of the clergy either).

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