On the Amazing Malleability of “Private Judgment”

On the Amazing Malleability of “Private Judgment” September 11, 2014

My reader Zippy Catholic used to note that when Progressives want to blow off Church teaching they appeal to “primacy of conscience” as the All-Excusing Catchphrase. Don’t like the Church’s teaching on the Pelvic Issues? Voila! Primacy of Conscience excuses you from obeying or even listening to what the Church says.

Meanwhile, he noted, conservative dissenters perform the same feat by invoking the magical incantation “Prudential judgment”. Does the Church bug you with its teaching on war, torture, capital punishment, your sacred wallet, the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable who happen to have been born in the wrong country? No problem! Just say the magic words “prudential judgment” and you can ignore the Church completely.

Both camps make use of Court Prophets to lend themselves an illusion of weightiness for refusing docility to the Magisterium’s teaching. Need an excuse for ignoring Humanae Vitae or Evangelium Vitae? Hey! Just quote Charles Curran or Dick McBrien or Hans Kung. Beside HV defined no *dogmas* so it’s optional.

Likewise, if you are a conservative dissenter who wants to torture somebody, just go get a screen grab of Fr. Brian Harrison’s tendentious (and long repudiated by the author) defense of torture in interrogation. Or if you want to launch an unjust war, just ignore two popes and all the bishops of the world and go read Michael Novak explaining why “prudential judgement” means you can go ahead and do it anyway. And if there’s something about the Church’s social doctrine that inconveniences you, just have George Weigel highlight it in red and gold so you can take the stuff you like and blow off the bits you don’t. Or, better still, you can simply hire a court prophet to declare to you that Catholic Social teaching is a complete myth *and* declare that anybody who says otherwise is an “idolator” for that extra-special below-the-belt sense of “‘Shut up!’ he explained” demagoguery that crushes conversation and scotches troubling intellectual inquiry in the egg.

The key to all this sort of thinking is to avoid docility to the Church’s teaching at all costs (the notion that you should listen to and obey the Church, even on on non-dogmatic issues unless you can show a *damn* good reason why not) and instead insist that as long as a single voice can be found somewhere in the Church advocating whatever you want to do or ignore then, as this guy says “the jury is still out” and you can go ahead and bullheadedly ignore the Church, even when it is quite luminously clear and unambiguous:

Yes. The jury is still out on a war that failed to meet a single criterion of just war teaching. The jury is still out on whether grave and intrinsic evil acts of torture are really always wrong when you want to call them “enhanced interrogation”. The jury is still out on whether to listen to the Church’s teaching on the death penalty when you really really want to kill somebody you could just as easily incarcerate for life. The jury is still out on whether you should help desperate children at the border or remand them to rape, sex slavery, and death in their country of origin because paperwork takes precedence over their lives. The jury is still out on whether you should give state benefits for poor families with “too many” children (though it’s not out on whether those families must not use contraception on pain of mortal sin). If you *dare* to suggest that you should heed the Church here, you are declared a “papal idolator” for thinking that docility is smart even when the Church does not define its teaching as dogma.

In all these areas, “prudential judgment” is used adroitly and perpetually to excuse dissenting conservative Catholics from listening to or heeding the obvious guidance of the Church.

But how about in matters like “whether Catholics should continue to be involved in a parade in New York?” or “whether the pope should marry couples who have been living together and have children out of wedlock?”

These questions–which really *are* matters of prudential judgment and patient of real debate and argument–are treated by many of the same Catholics who routinely invoke “prudential judgment” to ignore the Church as matters of settled dogma. In such cases, the failure of Cdl. Dolan and Pope Francis to do what the dogmatists demand is seen as yet another harbinger of the apocalypse.

Me: I think good faith cases can be made that

a) Dolan should back out of the parade since it is no longer Catholic (and hasn’t been for some time) and is merely an occasion for cheering about vaguely Irish things and getting plastered. As a local cultural event without even a tenuous relationship to the Faith anymore, it was basically inevitable that it would reflect New York’s (and let’s face it, America’s and the West’s) embrace of homosexual acts as no big deal. So to avoid giving the impression that the Church agrees with that, Dolan should back out.

BUT: This being a matter of prudential judgment, I also think that the case can be made that in absenting itself from this important part of New York’s cultural life, the Church is simply ceding the field rather than acting as yeast and that most non-Catholics would simply see this as Dolan hating on gays for whatever weird inexplicable reason Catholics do that stuff. Like it or not, the acceptance of homosexual acts (bad) and homosexual persons (good) is here to stay in the West and the Church can either engage with that or retreat into the Fortress.

Both of these are respectable cases to be made and argued in the recognition that this really *is* a matter of prudential judgment. Yet, for the “prudential judgment excuses all” Right, this is being treated as a matter of self-evident “wickedness” (in the words of one Chicken Little demagogue) and Dolan is (there is no other word for it) threatened with dangerous and reckless language like “Do not think the punishment visited on you will not be of the most severe sort when you die, perhaps even before you die, if you do not change” followed by vague calls to “have an Authentic Catholic uprising” to a mob that may well decide to make sure Dolan gets that “severe punishment” Chicken Little is calling for. (That’s the kind of language that very rightly gets the cops called and I hope the Archdiocese of New York does exactly that. As Gerard Nadal truly says, Chicken Little “has crossed a line. A very dangerous line.”)

My point is this: For a subculture that *thrives* on ambiguity and making excuses for ignoring the Church unless “Simon Peter Says” with a dogmatic pronouncement we are suddenly not in prudential judgment territory at all. When it comes to holy and sacred right wing culture war stuff, it’s dogma and there is only one possible opinion. To even consider the other side of the question marks you out as a CINO, as wicked, as not an Authentic Catholic, and as deserving “severe punishment” not only in the next life but (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) maybe in this one as well, if you catch my meaning, if you get my drift.

Same with Francis. There are cases for and against him celebrating these weddings. Against: Appearing to give approval to fornication, etc. In favor: Better to get married than to remain in fornication and so forth. (FWIW, I think the latter case is *obviously* the stronger one and is, in fact, done constantly as a a matter of pastoral practice anyway.) But the point is that it really is a matter of prudential judgment and the pope is entitled to his opinion.

But I can absolutely guarantee you that the Greatest Catholics of All Time are going to see in this prudential judgment, not a debatable case patient of differing views in good faith. They will see yet another catastrophic disaster, evil conspiracy, etc. Indeed, they are already panicking and convinced that the Synod on the Family is a Franciscan plot to undermine TRVE Catholicism. So again, prudential judgment is shown to have very strict limits. It’s useful when you want to kill or torture or crush weak and poor people, but the line has to be drawn at being merciful or pastoral or having contact with those outside Fortress Katolicus.

I look forward to the day when both real docility *and* real private judgment are exercised by Catholics toward the guidance of the Church.

"Then you will appreciate this....The Louisville Courier-Journal reports:Should pregnant women be monitored by the state? ..."

Simcha Fisher Has a Great Idea
"No wonder the atheists reject this supposed Catholic God.The Catechism of the Catholic Church1035 The ..."

Where Peter Is has a nice ..."
"I was referring to the problem of reconciling the claim of a god of perfect ..."

Where Peter Is has a nice ..."
""To believe and suggest that the pope "perhaps didn't even read" that crucial part of ..."

Where Peter Is has a nice ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Garbanzo Bean

    You can rationalize anything, make a plausible argument for anything. But Wisdom is proved right by her children.

  • Alex

    The trouble with the “you should listen to and obey the Church, even on on non-dogmatic issues” approach is that it leaves you writhing on the horns of a dilemma when that non-dogmatic teaching changes — especially when it changes radically over a short space of time.

    If docility is to be compatible with intellectual self-respect — and not an Orwellian “Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia/Eastasia” mentality — then you have to reconcile the demand for assent with the fact that the teaching to which we’re supposed to assent may be the exact opposite of what it was 50 years ago and for most of Church history.

    If you’re going to excoriate those who ignore the teaching of JPII or BXVI on, say, the death penalty, it would help if you could explain why it’s OK for you to blithely ignore the teaching of, say, PXII on the same matter. Was the Church wrong for all those centuries? If you choose to think so, I don’t see how you can deny reactionaries the right to believe the Church is wrong now. Once you admit the principle that the Church’s social teaching can be mistaken at times, the field is open to the free exercise of private judgement.

    (BTW, in his “repudiation” Fr Harrison does indeed declare: “I accept the Holy Father’s judgement on this matter, and so would not defend any proposal, under any circumstances, to use torture for any purpose whatsoever.” However, he also states: “I submit that whether or not [waterboarding] reached the point of torture does remain a seriously disputed question among reasonable and well-informed people”.)

    • petey

      but “you should listen to and obey the Church, even on on non-dogmatic issues” isn’t what the post says. it says: “obey the Church, even on on non-dogmatic issues unless you can show a *damn* good reason why not”

      so, if you can show a damn good reason why not, then don’t.

      personal note: over the past year i have had a violating experience of “private judgement”, though from a protestant source, and i say ‘protestant’ because that really is the source of the mindframe that produced what happened. i have been brought to a far more patient reception of Church teaching, and am in strong sympathy with the post’s impatience with the catholic version of private judgement too.

      • Alex

        Isn’t radical change in teaching, amounting to contradiction, a damn good reason to at least respectfully request clarification?

        • Marthe Lépine

          Maybe the change in teaching just appears radical if you just compare the earliest teaching on a particular matter with the current pastoral approach to the matter being taught and totally ignore any and all of the intermediary stages (in other words, the evolution) of reflexion during the years in-between. Or, alternately, you pick and choose the one statement you agree with, ignore everything else, and oppose it to whatever you don’t agree with in the current application of a particular teaching. This is what I would personally see as research made in order to prove an opinion, instead of research made to find a real answer while being open to the possibility that the real answer may not necessarily confirm that particular opinion.

        • There simply is no contradiction. Pope John Paul II admitted that the death penalty is licit, as Catholic teaching always has. He just asked pertinent questions about how prudent its use is. And even St. Thomas Aquinas said that the death penalty is not always the best penalty to use. In other words, the death penalty has always been considered licit, and never considered compulsory. The only difference is how the prudential judgment is seen and exercised.

          • Alex

            Well, Pius XII’s remarks on the death penalty emphasise the retributive and expiatory function of punishment. While he does acknowledge this function in Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II appears to subordinate it to questions of public safety:

            “… the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

            Likewise the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            “… the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means”

            But suppose I accept this is change of emphasis is development rather than discontinuity. I must therefore assent to the proposition that the death penalty should be eschewed in cases where non-lethal methods are available to safeguard society. Must I also assent to John Paul II’s particular judgement that this happy state of affairs was in fact achieved in AD1995?

            • No, the Pope’s judgment on ordinary matters of fact is not infallible. As I said, it’ a prudential judgment. I suspect he wouldn’t have said it, however, if it weren’t a widely held judgment. I believe the majority of nations in the world no longer have the death penalty, and this is probably one of the reasons. So I do think it would be wise to take what he said seriously. I think a Catholic could be either against the death penalty, or depending on circumstances, and what kind of law it is, give approval to the limited use of it, using the criteria the Pope stated. But for some strange reason, Catholics who are for the death penalty tend to be for it all the way, and make statements that Aquinas himself wouldn’t accept.

    • chezami

      It’s not super hard to grasp the growth of the Church’s teaching re: the death penalty. A deeper understanding that though error has no rights, *persons in error do have rights”. A recognition, made particularly acute in the 20th century, that giving the state the power to kill leads to massive excesses. An awareness that giving the state the power to kill is not going to be a good thing for Christians. The clarifying understanding that human life is so precious that the question is not “When do we *get* to kill?” but “How do we avoid killing unless absolutely necessary?” The Church has *never* said that everybody deserving the DP *must* be punished with it. There has always been room for mercy. http://www.mark-shea.com/dpmvlar.html

      • chezami

        And yes, Fr. Harrison does cling, as so many “prolife” Catholics do, to the struggle to make excuses for the torture known as waterboarding. A classic example of the “When do we *get* to inflict torment on somebody and how much can we get away with?” mentality that is totally at odds with the gospel counsel of mercy and the demand that prisoners be treated humanely.

      • Athelstane

        A recognition, made particularly acute in the 20th century, that giving the state the power to kill leads to massive excesses.

        And not least, Mark, because the one thing that’s been growing faster than almost anything else in human society over the past five centuries is the power of the state. NOT the Church.

        • Alex

          Exactly. Separation of Church and state means there are no effective limits to the state – it (or “the people it represents”) is sovereign. Ultimately a non-Catholic state will be an anti-Catholic state.

          • chezami

            One of many good reason why it is so massively stupid for Catholic to demand the state have the power to inflict the death penalty.

            • Alex

              A state has that power anyway. An anti-Catholic state is hardly going to refrain from using it against Catholics because the Church rules it shouldn’t use it at all.

              • Marthe Lépine

                But… it is not a reason for the Church to change her ruling!

                • Alex

                  No, but it is a reason to uphold the traditional Catholic view that separation of Church and state is a Bad Thing. : )

                  (Uphold on a theoretical level I mean. Obviously the modern Leviathan isn’t about to bend the knee to Christ the King.)

  • Athelstane

    Hello Mark,

    Like it or not, the acceptance of homosexual acts (bad) and homosexual persons (good) is here to stay in the West and the Church can either engage with that or retreat into the Fortress.

    Refusing to take part in this parade is hardly equivalent to a “retreat into the fortress.” There are many ways to engage the culture. Some are less prone to being interpreted as an approval for these acts than others.

    If it were a retreat, we would be left to conclude that Cardinal O’Connor in 1993 was advocating dashing into the Fortress when he threatened not to participate if gay groups were allowed to march in the parade. “Neither respectability nor political correctness is worth one comma in the Apostles’ Creed,” he said. Bloggers rushing to support Dolan’s decision and condemn the apparent Pharisees in their midst must come to grips with how they can reconcile the diametrically opposite actions of Dolan and O’Connor – and, indeed, Egan, and every previous archbishop of New York. Unless, of course, they’re the sort of Catholics who blindly embrace whatever a bishop does. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia, after all.

    • Marthe Lépine

      You are in fact confirming Mark’s arguments: Some matters of prudential judgement have taken the persona of dogmas. ,, Times have changed, unfortunately, and what was the best choice at the time of Cardinal O’Connor -over 20 years ago – may be seen by Cardinal Dolan in a different light. I think that considering that Cardinal Dolan is also a learned and experienced person and may have arrived at a different conclusion, most probably with prayer and the light of the Holy Spirit, are all of us are supposed to, by the way, I would trust his judgement in that particular situation. But it’s just me…

      • Athelstane

        With respect, Cardinal O’Connor did not present his course of action as a contingent one, but one which necessarily implicated Catholic doctrine. Go look at that quote again.

        It is sufficient that the inclusion of such groups constitutes sacrilege, the advocacy of notorious mortal sins as goods as part of an event honoring one of the Church’s greatest saints, led by the cardinal himself as grand marshall. But there are, as we know, nine ways in which we are accessories to the sin of another: 1. By counsel; 2. By command; 3. By consent; 4. By provocation; 5. By praise or flattery; 6. By concealment; 7. By partaking; 8. By silence; 9. By defense of the ill done. And more than one of these is implicated by official Church sponsorship of this parade under these circumstances.

        With the Sheen canonization situation, it’s possible to take a nuanced view of the situation. But it really is impossible to find a way to defend this action by Cardinal Dolan. Which makes it no less astonishing to see Catholic figures defending it who would, had they been presented with the dilemma a week ago, taken the O’Connor line without flinching.

        I don’t watch or support Michael Voris. But sometimes, I think, we get the bishops we deserve.

        • Impossible to defend Cardinal Dolan? I defended him here.

          http://subcreators.com/blog/2014/09/06/st-patricks-day-gay-pride-and-cardinal-dolan/

          I can’t say if I’ve defended him well. I probably should not have said “gay pride banner” because in fact we don’t really know what the banner will say. I actually assumed it will merely state the name of the organization (Out@NBCUniversal). If, as I explained in my post, the banner simply means that the people in the group are acknowledging themselves as having same-sex attraction, the we can’t necessarily say sin is being advocated, because even chaste homosexuals use this term. In that case, such a banner wouldn’t be directly advocating sin, and your argument would fall flat. But this is something we’re not certain of. Nevertheless, I don’t see why it is necessary to fan the flames by automatically assuming the worst about them (which is the constant practice of an enormous number of Catholics in this area.

          In any case, there is a strong case to be made that in marching in the parade, Cardinal Dolan would be sending a strong message about the other part of Catholic teaching on homosexual people: love and respect for them as human beings. Saying by your actions: “If you identify yourself as homosexual, then I don’t want to be anywhere near you” is also problematic for Catholics.

          I think Dolan himself must have found his decision difficult, especially since he has developed a strong relationship with many members of the NCB news team in New York, most notably at the Today Show. He has made a strong effort, one I think that few bishops have made, to actually evangelize the members of the press by his personal friendship as well as his witness. No, seriously, he is not with the press so much just because he is a publicity hound — another scurrilous charge so often thrown at him. Matt Lauer has said that Dolan has changed his whole way of thinking on religion.

          In other words, Cardinal Dolan knows these people. I think perhaps this influenced his decision because not marching would have upset that relationship. We can only hope that in the end, this attitude will lead some homosexuals back toward considering the Church a humane institution instead of an enemy. Conversions can come out of that; they generally don’t come out of denunciations of sin, especially when the other isn’t willing to listen.

          • Athelstane

            Hello Lori,

            Thank you for the extended reply.

            In that case, such a banner wouldn’t be directly advocating sin, and your argument would fall flat.

            But does it really need to say anything? Is there any doubt what Out@NBCUniversal stands for and advocates?

            But what if it does state something more directly: would you advocate that Cdl. Dolan withdraw?

            We can only hope that in the end, this attitude will lead some homosexuals back toward considering the Church a humane institution instead of an enemy.

            With respect: There’s an attempt at conversion being made, but it’s by the world (manifested here by the gay community of New York), not by the Church.

            I don’t think anyone is advocating giving these marchers the Westboro treatment. But we have reached a point where – as Mark himself has pointed out numerous times – any expression that these acts are morally wrongs is seen as a refusal to show “love and respect for them as human beings.” A hate crime, in short.

            • Is there any doubt what Out@NBCUniversal stands for and advocates??

              Did you look up anything about them before saying that? I did. They are an employee-relations group at NBC that works for equal-opportunity employment of GLBT people at the company, and advocates an “inclusive work environment” there. I don’t find the advocating of fair employment practices shocking. Some of their policies I might disagree with. But I see no reason they should be shunned as a group.

              But what if it does state something more directly: would you advocate that Cdl. Dolan withdraw?

              If they attacked the Church or advocated things that were utterly offensive to Christians, I think he would do it.

              But we have reached a point where – as Mark himself has pointed out numerous times – any expression that these acts are morally wrongs is seen as a refusal to show “love and respect for them as human beings.”

              Well, Cardinal Dolan has said that homosexuality is wrong, on a number of occasions. According to you, then gays should be constantly attacking him, but I don’t see this happening. Yes, it does matter a great deal how you say it.

          • Alex

            We can only hope that in the end, this attitude will lead some homosexuals back toward considering the Church a humane institution instead of an enemy. Conversions can come out of that; they generally don’t come out of denunciations of sin, especially when the other isn’t willing to listen.

            I wonder if that’s true and how many souls are lost because of an unwillingness to speak plainly and call a sin a sin. I’ve noticed that Catholic commentators on atheist internet forums/blogs who try to be conciliatory by proclaiming their progressive credentials often receive the fiercest abuse. They’re either accused of being lying hypocrites who’d whip out the thumbscrews given half a chance, or mocked as sentimental weaklings. To the guilty conscience even the mildest opposition is unendurable. The progressives will never be satisfied until the Church reforms herself out of existence and because she can’t do that she remains a standing reproof. To hostile critics, the modern clergy’s left-liberal stance on many issues only makes their incongruous opposition to abortion etc more outrageous.

            The then Cardinal Ratzinger famously described Gaudium et Spes as “an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789″. Alas, reconciliation doesn’t seem to be high on the new era’s list of priorities. At the end of the day progressives aren’t interested in making distinctions between the vile stuff the Westboro mob come out with and what the Catholic Church teaches. To them it’s all just “Christian bigotry”. If anything, they despise the Catholics more because they “hide their homophobic hatred behind weasel words of love and compassion etc”.

            The Second Vatican Council is often accused of capitulating to secular humanism. Let’s be charitable and say the intent was rather to outflank humanism and beat it on its own ground: “Look, you want to safeguard the dignity of the human person — well so do we! In fact, if you’ll only listen to what we have to say, you’ll come to understand that Christianity safeguards human dignity better than humanism. Let us be of service in enabling humanity to live a truly humane existence!”

            John Paul II gave this approach a slightly more confrontational edge by framing this appeal as a warning: “Look, secular humanism may seem liberating and life-affirming but if you’re not careful, it will all too easily mutate into a radically inhumane system, a culture of death. By contrast, elements of Christianity might seem superficially repressive and life-denying, but if you only give it a chance you’ll see it can foster a radiant civilization of love!”

            But the focus on the human is maintained throughout. So the Church condemns abortion, contraception and homosexuality because they are an affront to human dignity and prevent human love from fulfilling its potential as a mutually enriching self-giving between two persons. (Never mind that these practices flout the law of God and cry to heaven for vengeance.) Aggressive secularism is condemned because it infringes Catholics’ basic human right to worship as they please and the right of the Church to freely participate in the public square on equal terms. (Never mind that it is a rebellion against the divine plan for order in human society.)

            What the post-Vatican II approach says may be true as far as it goes, but the world isn’t listening because it doesn’t give a damn about human dignity. Humanists might say they do and might even convince themselves that they do, but at the end of the day this is just an attempt to rationalize the seven deadly sins. It’s not a love of humanity that drives them but hatred of God and anyone who speaks for God.

            So what’s to be gained by playing them at their game?

            At times, one gets the impression the postconciliar strategy is to buy into liberalism as a kind of insurance policy: “If we support universal freedom of religion then surely the impartial secular state will give us a measure of protection too!” But somehow it never quite seems to work out that way in practice. Dunk a Jewish Torah scroll in a jar of urine and you’ve committed a hate crime; do it to a Crucifix and it’s art. If an atheist professor stuck a nail through a Koran and posted the pictures on his blog, his career would probably suffer a setback; when he does it to a consecrated Host, he continues to enjoy tenure. It never is a level playing field.

            • Marthe Lépine

              I think that you forgot Pope Francis, who said something to the effect that conversions have a better chance to happen through attraction rather than proselytism. As you say, a secular culture is not listening to much talk about sin, so why insist that strongly and loudly denouncing sin should always and in every case take priority? There certainly are times when it should, but there are also times when a different approach can legitimately be considered.

              • Marthe, you beat me to it!

                Also the mere fact that people reject the truth is not a reason to think we have taken the wrong approach or spoken badly. People have free will. Often this means they will reject all the most brilliant arguments, the most unassailable logic, the most compelling pleas, and the greatest exposition of the Gospel in the world, in favor of their own wills. No one did any of these things better to Jesus, and not only was his teaching rejected by many people he was widely condemned, jeered, spat at and in the end crucified.

                So, Alex, I can share your frustrations about the failures of Post-Vatican II evangelization, but don’t blame the ideas or the methods, and above all don’t model your approach solely on what reaction you will get. Make your judgments above all on what it is right to do. As far as I am concerned, charity is always right.

                • Alex

                  not only was his teaching rejected by many people he was widely condemned, jeered, spat at and in the end crucified

                  I get the feeling the Church is being led like a lamb to the slaughter. It had to be that way of course and I daresay the traditionalists can sometimes fairly be reproached with demanding that she get down off that damn cross. But at least they don’t pretend a crucifixion is really a glorious resurrection.

                  charity is always right

                  Amen to that.

                  • Marthe Lépine

                    Just a minute. “Dont’t “pretend” a crucifixion is really a glorious resurrection” What do you mean, exactly? Christians just “pretend” a crucifixion is really a glorious resurrection? Does not sound like you really know what Christianity is all about. “Pretend”? We KNOW!

                    • Alex

                      The Crucifixion and Resurrection aren’t the same event. One follows the other, right?

              • Alex

                As you say, a secular culture is not listening to much talk about sin

                Did I say that? My sense of it is that they’re not being given a chance to listen because nobody is talking about it. Everyone is talking about mercy and nobody is listening to that. Can’t say I blame them — why would anyone feel the need for a merciful saviour if they don’t know there’s something they urgently need to be saved from? Maybe it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle. (“When they said ‘Repent!’ I wonder what they meant?”)

                • Marthe Lépine

                  “Nobody is talking about it”, really? You are. And a lot of other people are. Maybe the way you are talking about it actually “turns them off”…Really, “everyone is talking about mercy”? You are not. And a lot of people are not. Why then is nobody listening to you?

                  • Alex

                    I’m a nobody on the internet. Who are these lots of other people? Not the Pope, that’s for sure, and he’s the one who matters and whose message is going to be picked up and spread abroad by the media. But long before he became pope, when I was a regular churchgoer I never heard a word about sin from a Catholic pulpit — just interminable social justice boilerplate and how we should all hug a Muslim. No doubt you can hear a good old-school homily at a traditionalist parish, but that’s preaching to the converted; as far as the wider world is concerned they don’t exist. (And within the Catholic family they’re the mad relative chained up in the attic that no-one talks about.)

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      Did I really read “when I was a regular churchgoer” in your reply? So you are not, and you still write to complain that not enough is being preached about sin in Catholic pulpits? I sense a disconnect here: Sin is not limited to pelvic issues… Actually, I remember hearing in a homily that attending Mass on Sunday was NOT optional! As well, it seems to me that a lot more preaching about sin is not going to change much from the non-listening secular culture, since most of the members of that culture are probably not sitting in a church on Sundays listening to homilies like you do.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Indeed. Social justice issues are also issues about sin.

                    • Alex

                      Did I really read “when I was a regular churchgoer” in your reply? So you are not, and you still write to complain that not enough is being preached about sin in Catholic pulpits?

                      I admit I got tired of being informed that angels (including the devil) don’t exist; that the New Testament accounts (“stories”) of Jesus’ miracles shouldn’t be taken literally; that revolutionary Latin American socialism was “a prophetic struggle for justice”; and that singing smarmy modern hymns could help “build community and a new world order”. I confess I also found unappealing and inappropriate the spectacle of a Good Friday ‘Passion Play’ performed in the sanctuary which culminated in three young boys in their underpants being ‘crucified’.

                      Sin is not limited to pelvic issues…

                      Never said it was. But sexual immorality is a strikingly conspicuous feature of modern society, don’t you think?

                      Actually, I remember hearing in a homily that attending Mass on Sunday was NOT optional!

                      In my case, no shepherd came to look for the lost sheep. I have no reason to suppose they felt my soul was in peril. It is of course, but maybe slightly less so than when I would walk out of church on a Sunday full of disgust and despair.

                      As well, it seems to me that a lot more preaching about sin is not going to change much from the non-listening secular culture, since most of the members of that culture are probably not sitting in a church on Sundays listening to homilies like you do.

                      No, but they listen when the Pope’s words are amplified by the media.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      The way I was taught about the Mass, it is more a matter of showing up in order to give praise to God, as well as listening to His word in Scripture. It is not about us, or about what we “get” from the Mass, and rather about joining our brothers and sisters in a reverent visit to our Father. Therefore, by not attending because you don’t like what is or is not contained in the homilies misses the point. The Mass is not about you, but about what you bring with you to share with your brothers and sisters in your visit to our Father God, as well as partaking of the gift He has given us through the Eucharist. Of course, this is only a partial explanation, there is much more to it than that, but by not attending because it makes you angry you are really missing some of the essential.

                    • Alex

                      [The Mass] is not about us, or about what we “get” from the Mass … by not attending because you don’t like what is or is not contained in the homilies misses the point. The Mass is not about you …”

                      Couldn’t agree more. But I maintain that objecting to blatant heresy, kooky utopianism and borderline perviness is more than a matter of expressing personal taste. These are not things a Catholic should be able to shrug off with a “well, it’s not my cup of tea, but each to his own”. They are things the sensus catholicus should instinctively reject as just objectively wrong. I suspect once upon a time they would have been so rejected — once upon a time the idea of these things being not untypical features of a Roman Catholic Mass would have seemed like something out of a dystopian novel about the Last Days.

                      [The Mass] … is more a matter of showing up in order to give praise to God, as well as listening to His word in Scripture. It is … about joining our brothers and sisters in a reverent visit to our Father … about what you bring with you to share with your brothers and sisters in your visit to our Father God, as well as partaking of the gift He has given us through the Eucharist.

                      Again, I agree. All the more so because I dislike the liturgy of Paul VI intensely — the strongest argument against shunning the Novus Ordo is that it can be seen as a flight from the Cross.

                      Thing is, Marthe, my faith is weak. Intellectually I know what the Church teaches is true but (as I’m sure you’d agree) faith is not merely a matter of assenting to a collection of intellectual propositions. I’m not a disembodied mind and my intellect needs help to sustain my faith in what it knows to be true. It needs a powerful, beautiful, disciplined, impeccably orthodox presentation to shelter it from the blizzard of the world. If a typical Mass leaves me less sure of the truth of the Faith than I was before, something has gone wrong.

      • Athelstane

        P.S. And if we’re going to have a group of people formally presenting themselves as same-sex attracted in the parade, why isn’t it Courage?

        • Yes, Courage would have been the ideal solution. Unfortunately, according to Bill Donohue on EWTN last night, Courage was the first group the parade organizers asked. They turned it down.

          • sez

            I don’t blame them: anonymity is a blessing. And there’s that virtue called humility.

      • cmfe

        It’s always been a tight rope walk to be “in the world, but not of the world”.