Sunday, September 30, 2012

PG-13 Beware of Strong Language

Archbishop John Myers of Newark:
miter impeding circulation to the

Ok—to pick up where we left off: Archbishop Myers of Newark says that those who disagree with Church teaching on (same-sex) Marriage should not present themselves for Holy Communion.  Well, first for the ad hominem response.  His Grace, as he likes to be known, falls into the buffoon category of prelate along with Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Cordileone, Bishops Gracida, Lennon, Jenky, D’Arcy, Dewane and others who have demonstrated their inability to translate the basic principles of Christianity into evangelically sound leadership strategies.  I would distinguish these prelates from those of a much smaller group like Cardinal Law, Archbishop Lori, and several others whose professional integrity and primary commitment to the Gospel seems questionable.  By no means do I think that that the either of these groups prevail in the American Hierarchy. In addition to the buffoons and the bullies, there are also the bland and the brilliant.  While I wish there were more of the brilliant than the bland, I am grateful that the bullies are few and the buffoons are not more.  
Anyone who has spent any time in the company of John Myers knows that he is not a bad man.  He has a good heart.  His episcopal career, however, has often shown bad judgment—such as the summer of 1991 when as Bishop of Peoria and one of the pioneer turn-back-the-clock members of the American hierarchy, he ended up on the cover of either Time or Newsweek, I forget which, and declared in an accompanying interview “Rome has higher things in mind for me than Peoria.”  Cardinal Bernardin always told the story of how Myers’ secretary (just to prove that stupidity is contagious within chanceries), when Myers was Bishop of Peoria, confided to Bernardin’s secretary that Myers was “going to be sent up to Chicago after Bernardin to clean up the mess that Bernardin left.”  Chicago novelist-priest Andrew Greely invented the character of dumb-as-shit Bishop Gus Quill in The Bishop and the Missing L Train (Forge, 2000) as a parody of Myers.  When Myers was (somewhat surprisingly) saved from the obscurity of Peoria (I guess Newark is “higher” if for no other reason than as an archdiocese it carries a pallium) and sent to Newark, there was some apprehension.  But a combination of his bad health and Newark’s good presbyterate led to a relatively uneventful reign.  Thus just when he had a chance to graduate from the buffoons into the bland, this “pastoral letter” more or less sealed his fate among the mitered monkeys.   O well, when all is said and done, he is a good person and on the Day of Judgment that is what matters. 
But as for telling people that they should not go to Communion—well, let’s attribute that to his inability to grasp theological ideas at any level above the religion he learned at his mother’s knee. 
In the first place, the only thing that should separate a Catholic from the Eucharist is the communicant’s consciousness of being in mortal sin.  To disagree with Church teaching in the internal forum—i.e. within one’s own mind and not within any public protest—is not in any way sinful.  There are three requirements, at least according to the old catechism, for mortal sin.  The action itself must be gravely wrong.  Ok, perhaps—and I say perhaps—the action of rejecting (actively rejecting, not simply not accepting) the teaching of the Church on serious matters is gravely wrong.  People do it all the time, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right.  There are those who disagree with Church teaching on capital punishment.  And don’t give me that b.s. that certain doctrines are required and certain ones are optional.  That is what conservatives call “cafeteria Catholicism” and those who disagree with what the ordinary magisterium (in this case the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae) declares on capital punishment—or just war, or just economic principles, or rights of workers, or other liberal issues—are every bit as much “cafeteria Catholics” as those who argue for women’s ordination or “abortion rights” or marriage equality.  But let’s all concede the point that active dissent from the ordinary magisterium is gravely wrong; there are still two more considerations for a sin to be mortal.  One is that the person must have the freedom of the will for sin.  Normally we have freedom to make up our minds.  There are occasions, however, in which a person can be emotionally or psychologically blinded to an issue.  A woman who has survived a rape might be psychologically unable to freely choose to support the Church’s teaching that abortion is not an acceptable option in the case of a pregnancy resulting from a rape.  A person whose loved one was murdered might not be able emotionally to support the Church’s teaching on the death penalty.  Such examples, of course are the rare exceptions.
Then the third requirement and the one most pertinent here is that the person must know that it is wrong. This is the tricky one.  We don’t know something simply because someone told us.  When I was a child my father would keep me from swimming alone in the lake by telling me that he had to be there to keep an eye out for sharks.  I was still keeping an eye out for sharks in Lake Michigan when I was in my late thirties.  (If I were a bishop, I guess I would be in the buffoon category.)  We know something because it has been told us and we have come to see the truth of what we have been told.  If there is anything wrong in our society—and Church—today it is that people are not critical thinkers.  FOX News works on the principle that you can tell people the most incredible thing and they will swallow the lie: hook, line, and sinker.  Karl Rove made a career out of feeding the masses lies and the masses believed him.  Mitt Romney is totally right—47% of the American People are going to drink Obama’s Kool Aid.  And 47% are going to drink the Republican Kool Aid.  When are we going to learn to think for ourselves—to weigh the evidence we are being fed and seeing if it rings true or not???  And in this blog—you don’t have to agree with me—I just want you to think for yourselves.  God did not create us stupid, he made us in his own image and likeness.  Our intelligence doesn’t match his, but for heaven’s sake—and I mean that literally—use your intelligence whether it is the President speaking or the Pope; whether it is the Newark Star Ledger or Archbishop Myers,  whether it is this blog or that shi*-house rat crazy lady from Woodstock VA with her Hilly Holbrook Les Femmes. 
Anyway—to refocus—if you disagree with a Church teaching it is obviously because you do not know it.  If, for example, you disagree with the Church’s teaching on abortion it is because while you may know that the Church teaches “x” on abortion you do not understand the issue in the way that the Church teaches it.  You see complexities in the issue that the Church teaching has not—at least as far as you know—sufficiently addressed for you to be able to accept the teaching as the Church states it.  There is something that is preventing you from accepting the teaching—it may be you.  It may be your personal experience that has put an emotional or psychological block in the way.  It may be the Church’s failure to articulate the teaching in a way that you can understand or to examine the question from a perspective to which you have access.  An embryologist, for example, may have some detailed knowledge about embryonic development that leaves Church teaching on abortion or stem-cell research open to further questions.  In fact, a sophomore biology student may have questions that people in the Church have not yet sufficiently answered for the Church teaching to make sense to that student.  It is not reasonable to expect people to accept a doctrine that contradicts the knowledge that they already have until that doctrine can be explained in a way that answers their questions or demonstrates that the knowledge that they had brought to the question was itself faulty. 
Now, when we disagree with Church teaching normally we should do so discreetly. I agree that there is an element of scandal when we publically dissent from the teaching of the Church.  There are exceptions to this—and a future entry will perhaps explore that.  Scandal itself is sinful.  But simply to look at a Church teaching and say “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that” is no reason to refrain from communion and no shepherd concerned for the good of his faithful (I am not going to use the word “flock” or “sheep”—that is the problem these guys have in thinking that we are stupid) would suggest that they should refrain from the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation simply because they don’t agree on every point of doctrine.   A brighter intellect than John Myers would know that; in fact, a deeper man than His Grace would never have suggested it.    

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