The Temporality of the Church

Looks like the Vatican is going green:

When a Vatican official suggested that Pope Francis was contemplating an encyclical on the environment a year ago, he signaled that climate change and environmental degradation were such pressing concerns that the pope wanted to address them in a teaching document.
No word has emerged on what the encyclical might say or when it would appear in 2015, but references by officials at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace have pointed to a document that Catholics can apply in everyday life.

Catholics working on environmental issues and climate change in the U.S. are eagerly awaiting the encyclical and have spent much of the last year preparing for it.

“There’s never been an encyclical just on the environment. It’s clear something like this is needed to move, especially policymakers, but even the church,” said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant.

“I’ve always said we need to recover ancient traditions that we’ve always had but we just forgot. About how we’re supposed to care for creation. About how St. Francis said it’s all kin, we’re all connected together somehow. ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon,'” he said.

Along with the U.S. bishops:

Joining other faith groups, the U.S. Catholic bishops are reiterating their support of federal rules limiting carbon produced by existing power plants.
In an open letter dated Wednesday to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the heads of the domestic and international committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference said they welcomed the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

[Update: A clarification from the bishops’ conference stated the bishops have not endorsed the specific Clean Power Plan but rather support national carbon-cutting standards that EPA could create.]

“We support a national standard to reduce carbon pollution and recognize the important flexibility given to states in determining how best to meet these goals,” said Bishops Thomas Wenski and Richard Pates.

Wenski, archbishop of Miami, serves as chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Pates, bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, heads up the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Their statement was entered as oral testimony Wednesday by Cecilia Calvo, coordinator of the bishops’ environmental justice program, during an EPA hearing in Washington. EPA scheduled public hearings throughout the week in four locations across the country, with other hearings taking place in Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh. Commenting on the proposed rules remains open through Oct. 16; the Catholic Climate Covenant, which works with the bishops’ conference, has urged Catholics to weigh in on the proposals.

At least we don’t need to worry about spiritual figures dabbling in temporal affairs:

Author Peter McDonough argues that since the Catholic community as a whole is mildly conservative and fairly complacent, the chances of an end to a moderately authoritarian and insistently hierarchical church are slim. Moreover, the fact that most contemporary Catholics vote with their feet on most if not all of the ethical teaching of the church, both sexual and political, reduces still further any righteous indignation for change.

As a teaching body, moral guardian or strong voice in the public arena, the church is largely irrelevant, but as a network of communities where people gather for worship and fellowship, it continues to be prized. The church will insist on teaching broadly conservative and patently inadequate sexual ethics while holding to the all-male makeup of the clerical leadership. Few will pay attention to the former, and not enough people really care about the latter.

One of the more original aspects of the author’s argument is that he marginalized the effectiveness of both conservative and reformist pressure groups in today’s church. While many think of the church as an intensely polarized community, McDonough’s message is that these strong feelings only influence a minority, while the majority of Catholics just go to church and then get on with their lives without paying much attention to either left or right or, for that matter, the voice of ecclesial authority itself.

Of course, none of this applies to Jason and the Callers.

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33 thoughts on “The Temporality of the Church

  1. Okay, this is where some 2K would do Rome a world of good. Who in the present Magisterium is remotely qualified to talk about Greenhouse emissions, climate change, or pollution? Any biologists? Anyone with a background in environmental issues? Anyone?

    And the second question is this (pretty much answered above)—Does anyone really care when the pope says anything about issues not even remotely within his scope of expertise? Are people flocking to him for economic advice? He can’t even get his church to toe the line on sexual ethics and other issues that are more directly addressed in Scripture and tradition, why would any RC, let alone non-RC, care in the least about what he has to say on the environment?

    And, to paraphrase the liberal Francis’ statement on homosexuality, if the CEO of a company known for pollution has a relationship with God, who is he to judge?

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  2. I never noticed the local Catholic churches here having a blessing of animals on their marquees. I’ve seen it on the ELCA churches and other flakes. Congrats, Jason, you’ve joined the trendy, un-biblical animal lunacy of (other) false churches.

    And Machen writing an essay on God’s wondrous creations is not at all, or even remotely the same as having a special church service to bless animals. Nor are Calvin and Edwards’ appreciation similar to parading animals around in a church.

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  3. Hi Matt,

    The blessing of the animals in Catholic parishes is not a “church service” or a Mass, nor does the event happen inside the sanctuary – at least not in any instances of which I’m aware. So there’s no “parading animals around in a church.” It’s a separate event that usually happens outdoors and involves a simple prayer and blessing. best, casey

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  4. It’s a separate event that usually happens outdoors …

    Yes, and avowed and proud lesbians should not receive communion. That is, if the priest is concerned with following the rubrics of the Church, versus his heart or his favorite progressive. Some are, some aren’t. And with an environmental encyclical loaded into 2015s chamber, just watch and wait…

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  5. Dr. Hart,

    Oh I know praying to the soon-to-be fourth person of the trinity is just like asking my friend to pray for me. Jimmy Akin, Tim Staples et al tell us all the time. I learn so much by listening to CA Live on my drive home. I learn just how false the RCC is.

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  6. Joe M,

    But I thought every Catholic believes the same thing. That’s what they say. That’s why solo scriptura is un-biblical and why it doesn’t work; everyone has their own interpretation. You know, 30,000 denominations being the result. Oh Mother Angelica, please set me straight.

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  7. MAtt: I suspect we actually agree. There is more uniformity in the OPC than the Catholic Church, and solo scripture may be unbiblical but it works as well as Catholicism, if not better.

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  8. Joe: I would posit sola scriptura IS biblical and works because it is so and Roman Catholicism doesn’t work because it ISN’T biblical.

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  9. The spirituality of the church‘s contrast:

    The Pope of the Catholic Church is not infallible. The papacy is. I understand this distinction. Spelled out, it goes like this: When the Holy Father speaks on faith and morals, he is speaking with the authority of Jesus Christ. That’s the parameter of his infallible authority. When he speaks on faith and morals, I listen. I obey. When the pope speaks on politics, scientific theory, or any other subject, I listen, but I am free to disagree, to disregard, and to choose to listen to those persons who actually do have authority in these areas. The pope does not.

    I regret that our current Holy Father speaks so strongly on topics about which no one expects him to know any more than anyone else. As far as his popular image is concerned, I don’t really care what color shoes he wears, what sort of car he goes about in, or where he chooses to set up housekeeping. I’m not given to judging such gossip-like details. Far from being impressed, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

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  10. That’s wonderful that Dena Hunt can pick and choose which infallible topic she wants to accept. We did see 2000 yrs of church history when the smoke n mirrors bird unveiled Francis so let them pretend they have their coniunctionis, in papa.

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  11. @Robert

    I can tell you flat out the left is eagerly awaiting what the Pope has to say on carbon emissions. This comes down to a question of view. On the right of the political spectrum there is a belief that there is some sort of scientific modeling debate that needs to take place. On the left there is a belief that while there may be some scientific and engineering questions we don’t yet know the answers to, we as a specific know far more than enough to take effective political action now. That the problem is the energy extraction industry having engaged in an effective campaign of propaganda and disinformation not a problem of lack of scientific knowledge.

    Pope Francis can effectually call this behavior of lying propaganda on the part of Exxon, BP, Gazprom, Shell, Petrobras Brasileiro, Chevron… He can say that right now when we have a structural surplus in energy and labor is an excellent time to in a serious way engage in the massive expenses involved in a planet wide conversion towards greener energy production and this window isn’t likely to remain open.

    If you think about the major Catholics in Congress this could have impact. Senator Ayotte comes from a state that could be amenable to this sort of investment but she’s been hesitant. Senator Casey’s key swing base comes from a coal producing region but lives in a state which is pro-environmentalism. Senator Heitkamp is one who might be influenced by the pope to take a brave stand…. Similarly in the house. And similarly globally especially in South America.

    The pope leading the world into “let’s not miss this opportunity of labor and energy surplus to fix this problem” is vastly more important for liberals than more discussion about who can put their penis in which holes. So while I get that conservatives could care less, liberals are thrilled he is taking this on.

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  12. cd-h, but what about all those lefties going to hell? Doesn’t Francis care about their souls? Does he care more about “flourishing” that leads to death?

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  13. @DgH

    I suspect that Francis believes that other sins are vastly more important even for avoiding hell. As I’ve mentioned before on homosexuality “who am I to judge” on the morality of priests driving expensive cars, he has no problem judging. He fundamentally disagrees with conservatives on the relative importance of various sins. I think Francis would believe the sins of Pluto to which middle aged men are tempted a more serious threat to spiritual welfare than the sins of Venus to which younger men are tempted. He might very well believe that hundreds of millions of conservatives destroying the planet because they don’t want to pay 20-100% aggregate energy costs, are in much greater spiritual jeopardy than the hundreds of millions of liberals planning on getting laid this weekend with someone they aren’t married to. Or at the very least that the liberals are aware of the teachings of the church with respect to their sins while the conservatives may be in denial.

    Anyway… that’s a slight shift from my answer to Robert which was about liberals being pumped about this encyclical.

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  14. CDH,

    I get that lefty RCs might get excited, even the ones in Congress, but I wonder how much the average left-leaning RC in the pew cares. They’ve already decided, so for them it’ll be more like—the pope finally gets it, I imagine. I’m not sure what impact this is going to have on others, however. You might get the hyper-papalists such as at CTC to go greener (if, indeed, they aren’t already), but I don’t imagine it swaying other conservatives at all.

    In any case, given the state of the Roman Communion, I don’t know how much what the pope says really matters to the average RC in the pew. I mean, they like the rockstar nature of this pope in particular, that Francis is making it “cool” to be RC again, but do they really take their direction from him in any unquestioning manner (if they ever did). Seems to me the answer is no. They pick and choose which doctrines to follow based on some other standard. For some it is there own preferences. For some it might be traditional pre-V2 Romanism. Etc.

    Judging what is taught by the church according to a different standard than the church itself. I don’t know, sounds fairly Protestant to me.

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  15. On a side note, I’m not really interested in hearing about climate change from those who are not experts in the issue (i.e., the pope), or from those with a vested interest on either side. The pro-carbon reduction voices such as Gore, Greenpeace, etc. maintain their living and existence based on the debate. The anti-carbon reduction voices do much the same thing. I only want to hear from those who are as impartial as possible when it comes to an issue like this.

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  16. @Robert —

    I get that lefty RCs might get excited, even the ones in Congress

    That’s a big deal. If you can shift 10% of congress you shift the actual law / policy on this issue.

    but I don’t imagine it swaying other conservatives at all.

    I think it might. Prior to mid 2000s there was a consensus on the science and a disagreement on the best policy. (example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi6n_-wB154 ) The gains the oil companies / conservative groups made in terms of convincing their people that there was much to debate scientifically was a huge step backwards on the issue.

    Think about issues like gay marriage. When people like Dick Cheney and Steve Schmidt came out in favor it discredited the idea that this was nothing but a liberal policy. Conservative Catholics will be torn and thus might fairly evaluate the evidence / arguments.

    On a side note, I’m not really interested in hearing about climate change from those who are not experts in the issue (i.e., the pope), or from those with a vested interest on either side. The pro-carbon reduction voices such as Gore, Greenpeace, etc. maintain their living and existence based on the debate. The anti-carbon reduction voices do much the same thing. I only want to hear from those who are as impartial as possible when it comes to an issue like this.

    You mean groups like the UN, EPA and NASA? They are all on the Gore side as far as what’s longer term. They disagree with Gore in terms of time frames and likely cost of adaption vs. energy usage reductions but on the core scientific issues there is very little room between Gore and the neutral bodies. Gore and Greenpeace don’t have the same position so I don’t want to defend Greenpeace.

    but do [liberal Catholics] they really take their direction from [Francis] in any unquestioning manner

    No of course not but I don’t think he’s aiming for that. Francis is a Catholic not a CtCer. What Francis has done is shifted the bar from their mostly rejecting the newer teaching of the magisterium in an unquestioning manner to being opened minded. Francis has won the ability to get thoughtful engagement. So for example Francis is not redistributing power locally like many of the liberal bishops wanted but rather is concentrating power in the college of cardinals. The leftwing Catholics in the pews are supporting him against their local liberal bishops, because he’s won their trust. His message of geographic and regional diversity within the central bureaucracy rather than localization is winning out. And as a result he’s able to continue the work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI faster and more easily because European and North America Bishops have 0 ability to push back. This is really key he’s got liberals in the pews backing him in putting 3rd world conservatives into the college.

    Or for example the Cuba policy. Catholicism is only 60% where the state schools still official preach atheism (24% of the population). Francis and the arch bishops want a more Catholic curriculum. They may very well get what they want, so you may have the USA supporting a non-Protestant state church’s advance….

    I think those are real accomplishments, it matters.

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  17. CD,

    You mean groups like the UN, EPA and NASA?

    I don’t think any of those are disinterested parties. Maybe of the three, NASA is most objective.

    That’s a big deal. If you can shift 10% of congress you shift the actual law / policy on this issue.

    I guess my point is that that the lefties in Congress are already convinced (and they’re now a decided minority anyway, at least for the next 2 years). And I don’t think that there are enough RCs in this country at least who will care enough about what the pope says to do anything like pressure politicians to change their minds. Call me a cynic, I guess.

    All I think Francis is really accomplishing is to make it cool to be RCC again in the eyes of liberal RCs and Rolling Stone. Between factors such as the Enlightenment, the Protestant influence on culture, the democratization of information,etc., I just don’t see where the pope has all that much influence on the average faith of the average RC, at least in the West. This is one of the problems with the CtC apologetic. Now, to the papacy’s credit, I think that Francis at least recognizes this and is trying to do something about it, but I think he’s fighting an uphill battle given the rampant individualism in our culture.

    All churches have to deal with this to some degree or another. Protestant elders have to deal with congregations who don’t really invest them with any degree of authority. RC bishops have to deal with congregations who don’t give a rip what they say.

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  18. ” but references by officials at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace have pointed to a document that Catholics can apply in everyday life.”

    Is the document going to include a little packet of apple tree seeds stapled to the upper left-hand corner?

    When my religion gets this trivial there’s no way I’m even bothering to attend services any more.

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  19. If this is true:

    The Pope has no special knowledge, insight, or teaching authority pertaining to matters of empirical fact of the sort investigated by, for example, physicists and biologists, nor do popes claim such knowledge, insight, or wisdom. Pope Francis does not know whether, or to what extent, the climate changes (in various directions) of the past several decades are anthropogenic—and God is not going to tell him. Nor does he know what their long term effects will be. If anything he teaches depends on views about these things, all he will have to go on is what everybody else has to go on, namely, the analyses offered by scientific specialists who have studied the matter. He has (just as we have) no guarantee of the soundness of the views of any scientist or group of scientists. A view that he adopts based on what a climate-change scientist or group of scientists—be he or they believers (known to their critics as “alarmists”) or skeptics (known to their critics as “deniers”)—say, could be wrong.

    Why won’t he stop talking?

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  20. Michael Sean Winters corrects Robbie George (and neither has the charism of apostolic succession — go figure):

    That first sentence suffers from several difficulties. First, the pope does have knowledge that you and I do not have, and that I suspect Professor George does not have: He listens to the bishops throughout the world and knows what concerns they have regarding the environment and other matters of moral concern. Second, many moral issues involve the intersection of biological and moral knowledge and I do not recall Professor George seeking to preemptively set out a case for limiting the pontiff’s right and duty to have his teachings accepted by the faithful. Take for instance the issue of when human life begins, or when it ends. Science has much to say about these matters. Would Professor George assert that if some scientists argue that human life begins at birth, we can dismiss what the pope says insofar as it is based on a different scientific belief about when human life begins? Of course, we Catholics believe that from the moment of conception a human life is present that deserves protection and possesses dignity. Even if that life is not yet individuated, and cannot therefore possess rights the way an individual can possess rights, the potential of that life is precious and must be honored. I do not see why we should be able to dismiss what the Holy Father says about the environment if he asserts, as I expect he will, that in various ways we humans are at least potentially damaging the earth in ways that are immoral anymore than we can dismiss what the Church teaches about the sanctity of unborn life just because a few scientists claim climate change is not a reality.

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  21. Can you appeal to a professor to explain papal authority?

    In light of these recent debates, it is important to correctly understand the various levels of church teaching authority, identify the level of potential encyclical teachings and appreciate the corresponding response to which Catholics are called by the church. This is especially true for political theologians, since Francis is likely in his encyclical to build on the support for an international climate treaty offered by Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, and Francis himself. As such, I here review levels of church authority and locate likely encyclical teachings in the hopes of providing prescient clarifications to political questions regarding Francis’ encyclical.

    Levels of Church Authority and Catholic Social Teaching

    In his chapter “The Ecclesiological Foundations of Modern Catholic Social Teaching” (Modern Catholic Social Teaching: Commentaries & Interpretations, ed. Kenneth R. Himes), Richard Gaillardetz describes Catholic Social Teaching (CST) as “the normative articulation of official church positions regarding social questions” (87). In addition, Gaillardetz points out that the church recognizes three levels of authority in CST. The highest level is “universal moral teaching.” These are dogmatic teachings that are divinely revealed, infallibly taught, and “call forth from the believer an assent of faith” (88-89). Examples include “the law of love, the dignity of the human person, respect for human life, and obligation to care for the environment” (89).

    Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of papal authority?

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  22. Imagine a minister having a chance to address the nation and not presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ:

    Good evening!

    I ask that you forgive my English. I know some of you speak Spanish, so if I have trouble, perhaps I even mix up my fútbol with your football, I will revert to my mother tongue, no? I am filled with joy to be in this beautiful country, a nation born of hope and ideals. All men are created equal! Through the fire of a civil war, your country held to that promise first given in faith by God and shed blood to overcome the sin of slavery. I think of the hands worn down by chains that built this magnificent Capitol building. Could those slaves have imagined someone with their skin color as president? The American story is about striving and struggle, of being lost and then finding a way through darkness. This is our human story. We are all on a journey. God gives us a destination and affirms our sacred dignity — even when we doubt it.

    My brothers and sisters, our world is broken. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to listen knows this. We sometimes prefer to be blind and deaf to this reality. So many people discarded, thrown away into vast oceans of indifference. We no longer weep! On my drive here tonight, I saw men and women — also children — bundled in the cold. The sidewalk is their bed. The same is true in Rome. In Buenos Aires. In Bombay. A homeless woman dies in the gutter. Do we stop? The stock market moves an inch, and that is front-page news. These upside-down priorities tell us our culture is sick. How do we heal the wounds of loneliness, alienation and injustice? All of us in this chamber tonight are privileged. Let us use whatever power we have not to glorify ourselves or weave cocoons of comfort around our lives, but risk going out to the margins, to the peripheries where there is pain, anger, disillusion. It is good to be made uncomfortable.

    “Woe to those who make unjust laws,” the prophet reminds us. Please do not forget the migrant who crosses the desert. She has a family and holds tight to dreams. Do not abandon the unborn in the womb. Justice and human rights are not served by defacing the image of God. Do not discard the elderly or think the dying are served by the false mercy of euthanasia. I beg you to use the great influence and wealth found in this mighty nation to serve the common good. Say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. Building a culture of life is impossible if workers can’t earn a living wage, pregnant women are denied the support they need, and families lack good health care. Some expect that wealth in the hands of the few will trickle down. This is a fantasy. The poor are still waiting! The market must serve human beings, not the other way around. The moral measure of your nation, any nation, is not judged by the stock value of corporations or the billions spent on weapons of war. Wealth is a gift, and that can be a good, but not when profit is made a god.

    I ask you with special urgency: Do all that you can to protect the gift of creation! Human beings are destroying our environment. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his 2010 World Day of Peace message, said: “Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers …” The growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees,” he said, must awaken our conscience and lead us to take action. We often speak today of rights. What about our responsibilities to each other? So many worship at the altar of individualism that we forget that human beings only flourish in community. Solidarity is a good word to remember. Listen again to one of your American prophets, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

    As I leave you, I give my sincere appreciation for your commitment to public service. This is a true vocation. I pray that you will live up to its noble calling.

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  23. The image of this post is from the episode Homer the Heretic (emphasis mine):

    Has Homer Simpson actually been in a COMA for the last 20 years?
    Theory claims Homer never awoke from a coma he fell into in April 1993
    An episode six months earlier said he was destined to die
    Every episode since is a figment of his imagination
    The show became more outlandish following the coma, theory says
    By DAILYMAIL.COM REPORTER
    PUBLISHED: 09:49 EST, 13 February 2015 | UPDATED: 14:00 EST, 13 February 2015
    It’s a new theory that could shatter everything you thought you knew about The Simpsons.
    Die-hard fans of the satirical cartoon have proposed that Homer Simpson never awoke from a coma he fell into during an episode in 1993 and that everything that occurred on the series after that happened inside Homer’s head.
    While seeming outlandish on the surface, the theory is gaining a lot of traction in online The Simpsons forums, with even the most devout of followers declaring they believe it.
    The theory lays claim to why the characters never age, and how the show moved from mundane episodes in the early 90s, such as Bart cheating on an IQ test, to plots that saw Mr. Burns capturing the Loch Ness Monster.

    The concept was put forward by Reddit user Hardtopickaname, who proposes the arc starts in the 1992 episode ‘Homer the Heretic’.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2952410/Has-Homer-Simpson-actually-COMA-20-years-iconic-cartoon.html#ixzz3RfJnHeRl
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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