Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Maybe If They Took Off Those Silly Hats, Bishops Could Listen Better

John Henry Newman,
now here is a Cardinal
for you!

Frank Bruni had an interesting editorial in this morning’s New York Times where he points out in light of last week’s Irish referendum on same-sex marriage, that Catholic countries are in the vanguard of societies that are coming to extend the benefits of marriage to gay couples.  He also makes this comment on American Catholics and the battles over same-sex marriage.
Catholics in the United States appear to be more, not less, progressive about gay rights than Americans in general are. In an especially ambitious survey conducted over the course of 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute, about 60 percent of Americans who called themselves Catholic said that they approved of same-sex marriage, versus about 30 percent who didn’t. The spread among all respondents was 54 to 38, and the group that clearly stood in the way of same-sex marriage wasn’t Catholics. It was evangelical Protestants.
He waters down the link between Catholic faith and the battle for marriage equality however as he points out that “Catholics” include not only regular church-goers but all those who for ethnic or cultural reasons identify themselves as Catholics regardless of their worship patterns.  He points out—and I believe truthfully—that regular worshippers would tend to be more conservative on this and other social issues than those whose Catholicism is a more abstract participation in heritage than a concrete commitment to faith.  On the other hand, as a regular church-goer myself and one whose social circle is drawn pretty heavily from regular church-going Catholics, I don’t think one can say that “good Catholics” (those who attend Mass regularly) are any less supportive of human rights—and access to marriage is at least perceived as a human right—than the larger self-identifying Catholic population.  What I mean to say here is that when one looks at the basic issues of sexual morality, I think Church-going Catholics tend to a more traditional view of what is right and what is wrong than the more secularized segments of American society, but when it is framed in a question of “rights,” I think Church-goers are just as avid, and perhaps even more avid, for social justice than the larger American society.  As long as there are legal and economic benefits to marriage, access to marriage must be open to couples regardless of their gender-composition. 
Now I want to pair Bruni’s editorial with a posting I saw on Father James Martin’s Facebook Page. 
Cardinal Walter Kasper believes that Pope Francis wants a "listening magisterium," a hierarchy that listens to the faithful, to the "sensus fidelium." Also, in an interesting approach, he says that the hermeneutic of continuity (meaning the view that the church does not change) must be a hermeneutic of reform.
This is something I have been harping on for a long time.  John Henry Newman—so beloved of the Katholik Krazies who obviously have never read him—spoke of the necessary balance between the magisterium of the hierarchy, the work of the theologians, and the faith of the faithful and warned that when they get out of balance the integrity of doctrine suffers.  The faith of the Church is the faith held in the hearts and intellects of the faithful.  The predominance over the last five centuries of what Dulles referred to as the Institutional Model of the Church reduced the laity to recipients of the teaching of the hierarchical magisterium and this has created an imbalance from which the Church and its credibility has suffered greatly.  The hierarchy needs to carefully listen to the faith as it is held by the People of God.  The Holy Spirit puts the truth in the heart of the Church—not in the pen of the hierarchy.  I am not saying that my opinion or your opinion is the truth but precisely where there is that consensus fidelium—where the hearts of all the faithful line up in harmony—the Spirit is speaking.  That is why, even in the pre-Vatican II Church, it was always acknowledged that doctrine must not only be taught for it to be established as the teaching of the Church, but doctrine must be received by the faithful.  Doctrine taught but not received is not yet mature enough to be considered an authentic expression of our Catholic faith.  There is a lot of stuff that bishops—and even popes—have taught that is yet to be received by the faithful.  Maybe it is time for our pastors to be more attentive and less on their own agenda.  
I don’t think that this means that the Church must recognize marriage beyond the traditional boundaries of one man and one women “until death do us part.”  Perhaps we would do best to clearly delineate the Sacramental form of Christian Matrimony and civil marriage as two separate realities, only one of which is  within our purview as Church.  But very frankly many of us good, regular Mass-going Catholics, don’t want our faith in Christ to be tarnished by the homophobic injustices committed in Christ’s name.  

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