Fundamentalist Controversy Redux

John Allen explains how Roman Catholicism has come along side Protestantism. The Left and Right aren’t even on the same page of what constitutes truth:

… at this point most defenders of Pope Francis haven’t accused critics of being dissenters, nor have they suggested that people who uphold contrary positions on the substantive positions associated with the pontiff, such as opening Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, are thereby committing heresy.

The implication seems to be that fans of the pope are more generous, less vicious, and less inclined to question people’s bona fides as Catholics. There is, in other words, often a presumption of moral superiority in the observation that “we don’t talk that way.”

Simply as a descriptive matter, that proposition seems a bit disingenuous. Many in the pro-Francis camp don’t invoke concepts such as “heresy” and “dissent,” because frankly, it’s not the worst insult they can think of with which to slur an opponent.

Instead, they use terms that Francis himself also regards as abhorrent, such as “rigid,” “inflexible,” “legalistic,” “clerical,” and, of course, worst of all, “anti-Vatican II.”

In effect, what’s on display here is one of the defining differences between the Catholic left and the Catholic right over the last fifty years.

For the right, “heresy” and “dissent” are about the worst things imaginable, so when they want to say “x is terrible,” that’s the language that comes naturally. For the left, the equivalent horror is “rolling back the clock” on the Second Vatican Council, so when they want to call something or someone awful, that tends to be the verbal packaging in which the complaint comes wrapped.

Someone trying to remain objective about today’s debates would probably have a hard time concluding that either side has a claim on the moral high ground, since both are charging the other with virtually the vilest crime in their respective vocabularies.

At the same time, gatekeepers like John Allen don’t see when modernism is part of the warp and woof of church life:

Despite challenges intolerance brings, Camilleri stressed that religion, Christianity included, has an endless capacity for good, not only for individuals and communities, but for society as a whole.

The Church, he said, “does not pretend…to substitute for politics. Nor does the Church claim to offer technical solutions to the world’s problems since the responsibility of doing that belongs elsewhere.”

What religion does, then, is offer specific guidelines to both the community of believers, and to society as a whole.

Religion by its nature “is open to a larger reality and thus it can lead people and institutions toward a more universal vision” and a “horizon of fraternity” capable of enriching humanity, Camilleri said.

The Holy See, then, “is convinced that for both individuals and communities the dimension of belief can foster respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, support democracy and rule of law and contribute to the quest for truth and justice.”

Dialogue and partnerships between religions and with religions, he said, “are an important means to promote confidence, trust, reconciliation, mutual respect and understanding as well as to foster peace.”

If religion did all that, I’m sure President Obama would have gotten on board. Wait. He did:

Holy Father, your visit not only allows us, in some small way, to reciprocate the extraordinary hospitality that you extended to me at the Vatican last year. It also reveals how much all Americans, from every background and every faith, value the role that the Catholic Church plays in strengthening America. (Applause.) From my time working in impoverished neighborhoods with the Catholic Church in Chicago, to my travels as President, I’ve seen firsthand how, every single day, Catholic communities, priests, nuns, laity are feeding the hungry, healing the sick, sheltering the homeless, educating our children, and fortifying the faith that sustains so many.

And what is true in America is true around the world. From the busy streets of Buenos Aires to the remote villages in Kenya, Catholic organizations serve the poor, minister to prisoners, build schools, build homes, operate orphanages and hospitals. And just as the Church has stood with those struggling to break the chains of poverty, the Church so often has given voice and hope to those seeking to break the chains of violence and oppression.

And yet, I believe the excitement around your visit, Holy Father, must be attributed not only to your role as Pope, but to your unique qualities as a person. (Applause.) In your humility, your embrace of simplicity, in the gentleness of your words and the generosity of your spirit, we see a living example of Jesus’ teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds. (Applause.)

You call on all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to put the “least of these” at the center of our concerns. You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and our measure as a society, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized — (applause) — to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity –- because we are all made in the image of God. (Applause.)

You remind us that “the Lord’s most powerful message” is mercy. And that means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart –- (applause) — from the refugee who flees war-torn lands to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life. (Applause.) It means showing compassion and love for the marginalized and the outcast, to those who have suffered, and those who have caused suffering and seek redemption. You remind us of the costs of war, particularly on the powerless and defenseless, and urge us toward the imperative of peace. (Applause.)

Holy Father, we are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people — (applause) — which holds out the promise of better relations between our countries, greater cooperation across our hemisphere, and a better life for the Cuban people. We thank you for your passionate voice against the deadly conflicts that ravage the lives of so many men, women and children, and your call for nations to resist the sirens of war and resolve disputes through diplomacy.

You remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely. (Applause.) Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty. It was the basis for so much of what brought us together. And here in the United States, we cherish our religious liberty, but around the world, at this very moment, children of God, including Christians, are targeted and even killed because of their faith. Believers are prevented from gathering at their places of worship. The faithful are imprisoned, and churches are destroyed. So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and free from intimidation. (Applause.)

And, Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, God’s magnificent gift to us. (Applause.) We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to changing climate, and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations. (Applause.)

Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example. And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency. All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true, what we know to be right. But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better. You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News, and give us confidence that we can come together in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free. Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to “never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope.”

For that great gift of hope, Holy Father, we thank you, and welcome you, with joy and gratitude, to the United States of America. (Applause.)

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4 thoughts on “Fundamentalist Controversy Redux

  1. Obama: “You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News, and give us confidence that we can come together in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free. Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to “never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope. ”For that great gift of hope, Holy Father, we thank you, and welcome you, with joy and gratitude, to the United States of America.”

    No surprise,the vagueness- if Obama is a Christian, he seems a confused one; hopefully those Christian spiritual advisors he mentions will counsel him better very soon.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thedudeabides/obama-on-faith-the-exclusive-interview/ Obama on faith – 2004
    OBAMA: I believe that there are many paths to the same place
    OBAMA: I retain ..a suspicion of dogma. And I’m not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I’ve got a monopoly on the truth
    GG:Who’s Jesus to you?(He laughs nervously)
    OBAMA: Right.Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he’s also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.
    And he’s also a wonderful teacher. I think it’s important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.
    OBAMA:I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell….That’s just not part of my religious makeup.
    OBAMA: What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die.
    GG: An example of a role model, who combined everything you said you want to do in your life, and your faith?
    OBAMA:I think Gandhi is a great example of a profoundly spiritual man who acted and risked everything on behalf of those values but never slipped into intolerance or dogma. I think Dr. King, and Lincoln. Those three are good examples for me of people who applied their faith to a larger canvas without allowing that faith to metastasize into something that is hurtful.

    re “the great gift of hope”- it will be interesting to hear more today re: Michelle Obama “We feel the difference now. See, now, we’re feeling what not having hope feels like, you know,”.. “What do we do if we don’t have hope, Oprah?”

    Jesus:
    1 Peter 13 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you

    Eph 24 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    Heb 10 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful

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  2. The Roman Catholic version of “smile and commit suicide”:

    In each paragraph, Allen begins by suggesting an end to name-calling. Catholic prelates and pundits should not be rushing to categorize each other as enemies of the faith or as psychologically unfit. Fair enough. But then, again in each paragraph, he goes on to suggest that we drop the crucial point of the argument. For those of us troubled by Amoris Laetitia, the only important argument is whether the document can be read in a way compatible with the Catholic tradition. And for all Catholics, surely including those who are on the opposite side of this argument, the proper interpretation of Vatican II is—and has been for several decades now—a matter of critical importance.

    In fact one could argue that the debate over Amoris Laetitia is just the latest in a long series of contentious disputes over whether Vatican II caused a break in the continuity of Church teaching—indeed, whether there can ever be a break in the continuity of Church teaching. We have been battling over that question for 50 years, without reaching a resolution, and the debate has led to dangerous divisions within the Church. Now the issue comes into focus anew with Amoris Laetitia.

    Allen is right to say that the debate should be charitable. But it must also be honest.

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  3. Does this sound like the OPC? I don’t think so:

    Indeed, the exact same post-“Amoris” pattern that we’ve seen on second marriages and the sacraments is playing out presently in Canada with assisted suicide. The bishops in the western provinces are taking the traditional line that Catholics who are planning their own suicides can’t be given last rites, because you can’t grant absolution to someone who intends to commit the gravest of sins shortly afterward … while the Catholic bishops of the Maritime provinces, citing Pope Francis’s innovations as a model, suggest that actually pastoral accompaniment could include giving last rites to people who are about to receive “medical assistance in dying,” because every case of assisted suicide is different and who are we to judge?

    In other words, thanks in part to the pope and to “Amoris,” we now have two different implicit teachings from two different groups of Catholic bishops on a literal matter of life and death. And saying “the train has left the station” and labeling one camp of bishops the “dissenters” – which, on the issue of euthanasia, I don’t think Ivereigh would do – tells us exactly nothing about how this conflict ought to be resolved.

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