Religious Life at Notre Dame

While Jason and the Callers are admiring the early church fathers, here is an observation on their contemporary brothers and sisters from Mark Noll in a review of George Weigel’s, Evangelical Catholicism:

It is mostly inconsequential, but perhaps also of some interest to record how I have read this book against the background of experience at Notre Dame. From that experience I would conclude that there are indeed some Catholics committed to deep church reform who already practice something like Weigel’s evangelical Catholicism. But it also seems obvious that such Catholics make up only one part of a church that in its U.S. expression includes many other Catholics eager to promote their respective visions of reform. This rainbow of reformers includes Garry Wills Catholics, G. K. Chesterton Catholics, Robert Barron Catholics, Joe Biden Catholics, Dorothy Day Catholics, Sandra Schneider Catholics, Opus Dei Catholics, Oscar Romero Catholics, and many more. As someone who has read several works by John Paul II and Benedict XVI with real appreciation, I hope very much that they have set the church on a path that it will follow, but then I wonder why in some conversations at Notre Dame, I as the non-Catholic seem to have the most positive things to say about these two popes.

One of the great privileges of being at Notre Dame has been to witness what can only be called Roman Catholic Christianity at its best, marked by profound understanding of fundamental Trinitarian theology, strong commitment to the Christology of Nicea and Chalcedon, expert deployment of philosophy in service to theology, deep personal piety, and dedicated Christian commitment to a wide range of social reforms. Examples of what to all appearances look like admirable personal religion supported by admirable family, parish, and social religion also abound.

Yet Notre Dame is also a place where a broad array of often incompatible ideals are proposed for Catholic reform, where cafeteria religion seems pervasive for what Catholics choose to do or believe, where students participate in dormitory masses and standard college dissipations with equal fervour, and where no one seems too concerned about vast stretches of nominal Catholic adherence.

25 thoughts on “Religious Life at Notre Dame

  1. This just in from the NYT:

    Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion

    Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.

    In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

    “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

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  2. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

    Wait, did the holy father clear that statement with Jason and the Callers?

    I think this pope is going to be the gift that keeps on giving.

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  3. I look forward to 10 years of this pope.

    All the people who told us we suck and that the RCC satisfied every desire they had in their life and that it was thoroughly consistent in teaching and history and blah blah blah are going to have fun defending what seems to be a twice-weekly cringe exercise.

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  4. C-dubs, Here’s a snippet of his paradigm;

    “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow

    …………………“The consistories [of cardinals], the synods [of bishops] are, for example, important places to make real and active this consultation. We must, however, give them a less rigid form. I do not want token consultations, but real consultations. The consultation group of eight cardinals, this ‘outsider’ advisory group, is not only my decision, but it is the result of the will of the cardinals, as it was expressed in the general congregations before the conclave. And I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation.”

    I ask, “So if the encounter with God is not an ‘empirical eureka,’ and if it is a journey that sees with the eyes of history, then we can also make mistakes?”

    The pope replies: “Yes, in this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.

    ………….“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

    …………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.

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  5. Still, there’s plenty there that the callers can nod “yes” to. They’ll shape the silly putty into something they profess to be proud of. I would like to have the Tums concession at the next Caller retreat, though.

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  6. C-Dubs, that group can accommodate anything that comes from the heirarchy’s mouth; contradiction, infidelity, denial of infidelity, et al. What’s significant is all those guys came in under Ratzinger’s hand either as head of the CDF or Pope. That trajectory is over. All those guys(prot-catholics) are either Latin-rite adherents or sympathizers and their ecumenical buzz was over this repudiation in form, including liturgical, doctrinal development, practice and pastoral ‘wideness’ that Vat II unleashed.

    What Frances has declared, is that trend, that return to the past is not only going to be temporary and novel but will likely be phased out. The church can’t sustain itself in its Vat I form in a modern society and furthermore it doesn’t WANT to.

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  7. “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

    The Pope did not say The Church is obsessed – he said it should not be. He did not say The Church transmits anything at all here, since this is merely a statement about what The Church should not do. On the same basis we can confidently declare that he neither stated nor implied that The Church has or transmits disjointed doctrines, or that a multitude of doctrines is a problem. To state or imply otherwise is neither logical nor charitable.

    – Muddy Cross

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  8. I miss the good ol’ days when a yes meant yes and a no meant no. And men of God didn’t beat around the bush but had the guts to wield the two edged sword of God’s Word.

    But hey, then everyone wouldn’t like you.

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  9. The Pope did not say The Church is obsessed – he said it should not be. He did not say The Church transmits anything at all here, since this is merely a statement about what The Church should not do. On the same basis we can confidently declare that he neither stated nor implied that The Church has or transmits disjointed doctrines, or that a multitude of doctrines is a problem. To state or imply otherwise is neither logical nor charitable.

    This in itself is the failure of the Roman Catholic Church. Dissembling about its own mistakes and weaknesses. Shifting blame elsewhere. “The Roman Catholic Church is Perfect, Always Has Been, Always Will Be, Because of Matthew 16:18”. Somebody else, everybody else, is misunderstanding this.

    The thing that’s really called for is not “the [Roman Catholic] Church should not be…” The time is long, long past for some pope to stop saying “I am a sinner…” (as he had done at the beginning of the interview), and to start saying, “The Roman Catholic Church has sinned against Christ’s true church and humanity” — and then, as is required by your doctrines of confession, he needs to articulate these sins clearly and in fact numerically.

    That alone will be a show of good faith. All the rest of this pope’s happy-happy statements are evasion and dissembling.

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  10. John,

    The thing that annoys me is that Rome sometimes admits to mistakes but it never outright says that at least certain elements of its teaching led to those mistakes/sins. Nobody owns up to the connection between a strong ecclesiastical infallibility and the abuse scandal. Nobody owns up to ex opere operato and widespread nominalism. Nobody owns up to its once decisive temporal authority and the Crusades, Jewish persecution, etc.

    It’s never the doctrine’s fault. It’s always the fault of those who misunderstand the doctrine. It’s always the fault of those who put that doctrine into words but didn’t understand what they were saying.

    At least with modern nominal RCs, there is a recognition to some degree of this and the people just ignore the Magisterium when they don’t like it. These Prot-RCatholic converts fall hook line and sinker for Rome’s teaching, which essentially makes the church unfalsifiable. How can somebody who says “the pope is not always infallible even when he thinks he is infallible” (as one told me) engage in anything approaching a rational evaluation of Roman doctrine and past sins.

    It’s a shell game and an absolute sham.

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  11. Radio silence from the Callitos on Francis’ latest effusion. Here’s an appropriate sound effect as they marshal the Swiss Guards in their multi-colored baggy drawers for damage control:

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  12. Hi Robert — I appreciate it that you give those guys a hard time. You are right, it’s a shell game, and nobody owns up. Pope John Paul II’s big “apology” at the Millennium was to apologize for “the sins of the children of the Church”.

    I’ve posted and Tweeted and Google+’d and Facebooked this article this morning:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/09/an-open-letter-to-bishop-bergoglio.html

    Hoping it gets shared a bit. The pope’s interview is entitled “A Big Heart, Open to God”. Let’s just see how open he really is.

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  13. Bergoglio: “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.”

    If he really means this, he needs to come clean. He needs to admit the things that never were valid, and the instances where Rome, specifically, was deluded.

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  14. John,

    Thank you for your work on this at Triablogue and elsewhere. I’ve learned a lot.

    In my mind, until Rome disavows Trent’s teaching on justification and rescinds Luther’s excommunication, everything else they say is just good PR that doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.

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  15. I like Robert’s line about the gift that keeps giving. I think the Callers are going to have a tough time with this pope since he is deeply and fundamentally of the left. With gays “who am I to judge” which is as close to “I don’t give a sh__ who someone has sex with” as he could possible go. On the other hand when it comes to priests who drive expensive cars and other examples of flaunting wealth, he has no problem laying in fast and hard with the judgements.

    He talks openly of tradition impeding freedom and progress. He hates “small minded rules”. He advocates reform. He attacks conservative authoritarianism. He has attacked the doctrine of papel infallibility (as pope) and instead advocates the liberal position that the church as a whole (i.e. including the membership) is infallible. He attacks “doctrinal security”. He endorses the ethnic / cultural “son of the church” standard over the theological standard. He believes in continuous revelation and denies the existence of a fixed “deposit of faith”. He specifically calls for “developing dogma”.

    Chris Hayes adores him. Rachel Maddow has made multiple positive comments about him. I really like him. The man is a flaming liberal.

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  16. The Pope – We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.

    Erik – ???

    I didn’t think that was supposed to be able to happen to the one true church that Jesus Christ himself founded (TM).

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