Wednesday, April 21, 2010

His Holiness's Loyal Opposition

One of the things that occurs to me after reading that article on Newman again is that one of the huge problems in the Church since Vatican II (and probably since the time of the Syllabi, the Anti-Modernist Oath, and the solemn definition of Papal Infallibility) is the lack of what might be termed a loyal opposition.

I read a comment somewhere recently that basically said that, for some time now, someone has either been a "loyal" Catholic totally obsequious to the hierarchy even on issues that are not dogmatic or binding under pain of sin, or else a dissenter and heretic.

The Truth has come to be so narrowly and positivistically identified with the party-line of the current administration (and, more particularly, the person of the current Pope) that any critique or even what we might call merely political opposition has been taken as a sign of "disloyalty" or "dissent" by a certain crowd of self-appointed inquisitors (the Neocons).

And since they have been totally disowned and condemned for taking the other position rather than submitting like a fascist to the Vatican, is it any wonder the Liberals don't care what it says anymore (even about doctrinal matters)?

This is one facet of Traditionalism which has great appeal. In some sense, traditionalists in the Church have more or less tried to maintain (sometimes more effectively than others) a position something vaguely like a loyal opposition. Doctrinally orthodox, certainly not indifferent to the institutional church or its authority, but nevertheless willing to critique it, harshly when necessary (though often while romanticizing some given period in the past as perfect).

Of course, many have gone off the deep-end into all sorts of schismatic or sedevacantist groups with radical ideas. The more moderate traditionalists (in other words, the ones in full and regular communion with Rome still) are better, but even many of them would probably object to seeing themselves as the "loyal opposition" in some sort of dialectic process of debate and dialogue. They seem to rather prefer an antagonistic narrative where they are "the true remnant" trying to fight usurpers or some such thing.

And yet vigorous yet civil internal debate, tolerance on non-essentials, and self-critique are exactly what the Church needs right now.

I've mentioned strange bedfellows before, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe it's time to reach out to the old guard Liberals of yesteryear. Go to someone like Hans Kung and say, "Listen. Your project has largely failed. No one under 50 is really interested in your vision of Liberal Catholicism anymore. People in our generation who don't accept definitive Church teaching simply leave or don't care. The only young people still invested in the Faith are going to be doctrinally orthodox. Nevertheless, we are disturbed by the trend towards this almost fundamentalist, papolotrous attitude among Catholics, and definitely recognize the need for a loyal opposition on such issues as mandatory celibacy, church policy, liturgy, etc. With your resources and connections from a long career, can you help us?" Otherwise, to whom else are they going to pass that torch?

You might simply think it's a torch that deserves to simply be extinguished entirely, and I sympathize. But, at the same time, there is this whole liberal Catholic infrastructure already in place socially, with no young "takers" for the cause. Might it not be time to attempt co-opting that apparatus and bringing it back towards Tradition as a loyal opposition?

9 comments:

sortacatholic said...

Reference Hans Kung's circular of 16 April 2010 [Irish Times]:
http://tinyurl.com/23v5e45

I agree that trad/con Catholics and Benedict's curia would do well to co-op certain principles of the liberal old guard. Certainly, discretion is key.

Hans Kung's Humanae Vitae dissent, praise of the numinous "Spirit of Vatican II", and pot-shots at high church liturgy offend traditional sensibilities. Yet, one part of Kung's moral calculus is spot-on. His criticism of Vatican rapprochement with the SSPX and the new Good Friday bidding prayer should give trad Catholics in communion with Rome some pause. I am convinced that anti-semitism is the corrosive sin of Catholic traditionalism. I recently left a TLM parish over a priest's use of a reprehensible anti-semitic slur in his Holy Week bulletin. Kung's circular suggests that dissent, trad or liberal, must not depart from fundamental moral imperatives extrinsic from questions of liturgy and theological approach. Can the Tridentine faithful live without an Other, an eternal adversary? We must reject prejudice to advance in charity. Kung's criticisms should be viewed as an invitation for reconciliation and moral rectitude, not oppositional defiance.

Pater, O.S.B. said...

Dear Sortacatholic,

I'm sorry to hear about your experience. While I remain suspicious of the SSPX on this issue, I've never encountered problems with anti-semitism in the trad groups I've been in. About the SSPX, on the other hand, I think the Pope is right to do all he can to get them back in the fold. The longer they remain separated from the main stream life of the Church, the more of an insular persecution complex they will develop. We are talking about 600,000 souls here. There will be absolutely no hope of mitigating their fringe political and social elements apart from full communion with the Church. What problem do you have with the revised Good Friday prayer?

Tony said...

"I recently left a TLM parish over a priest's use of a reprehensible anti-semitic slur in his Holy Week bulletin."

A decision which was in my opinion rash and hastily decided, almost without second thought, and yet nevertheless, it was yours to make. I have asked the man who renders translations of the bulletin from Passion Sunday so I can see what exactly set you off. Patience friend, patience. You should send l'Abbe the letter after all so you can get this off your chest and quit depriving yourself of deep theocentric worship over a pithy term (which has sound historical and theological relevance any way you look at it).

A Sinner said...

Wait, was the word "perfidious"? Not this again...

It's insensitive to be sure. And if someone uses it, especially in a trad community, it is "usually" with valences of anti-semitism. People use that word very deliberately regardless of its technical valid meaning.

It really meant only "half-faithful," of course, to contrast the Jews with the "infidels" or totally not of the faithful. And in Latin, these categories might apply.

Apparently it was used apparently to contrast the Jews who didn't accept Christ with those who DID accept Him (who are still Jews) with those who didn't.

But it took on bad connotations and at the very least should have been translated differently in English (even something like "unconverted" might work).

People who use it sometimes are just being defiant. They don't like the idea of the Jews "meddling" in our internal liturgical affairs (and I sympathize), but they also don't seem to realize the connotations the word has and the insensitivity it represents.

As for the question of the Jews in general, well, I've already done my post on that.

The Jews ARE our "Other"...but at the same time, they also ARE us.

They are part of a very deep and nuanced symbolism that is clearly laid out in Scripture but which does extend beyond just the days of the Bible.

The fact that not all the Jews converted has been and will always be an uncomfortable point for Cristians.

But it is an ambivalent symbolism. On the one hand, the Jews DO stand for Christ-killing sinners. On the other hand, that's who WE are too. In a certain sense, they represent that WE are our own other. That WE are fragmented and disintegrated within ourselves due to sin.

I wouldn't single them out for special honor OR contempt. They will, however, always be of special "concern" for Christians, something like a mirror or foil against which we both contrast ourselves, but also see ourselves.

The anti-semetic trads forget the second half, focusing on the otherness rather than the sameness. But both are true, just like with Christ (who was a Jew) totally other and yet totally like us in all things but sin.

sortacatholic said...

Stale thread, but let me mention one matter. Maybe someone will read this in archive. All of the translations here are mine.

Pater, Pope Benedict's new prayer is scripturally sound in the second portion of the prayer (after the flectamus genua). The eschatological perspective of the second part of the prayer is quite an interesting turn and quite profound. All of humanity will be transformed at the end of days. This all orthodox Christians profess.

Yet the 2008 revision still reads, "that [Jewish people] might recognize Jesus Christ, savior of all peoples." (ut agnoscant Iesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum). Most Jewish persons would immediately read this as a call to conversion. An important aspect of Judaism is the cohesiveness of the faith and lineage. For example, many Jewish leaders voice concern about the high intermarriage rate between Jews and gentiles in Western countries. Explicit conversion prayers implicitly threaten the survival of a religious group that just lost a third of its body in the Shoah. We one billion Catholics must keep the small size and cultural stability of the Jewish community in mind when we bend our knees on Good Friday.

The 1970 prayer (poorly translated by ICEL) surpasses the 2008 prayer by not expecting conversion as a response. Rather, the prayer merely asks that "the people of [your] prior acquisition might have the opportunity [mereatur] to return to the richness of redemption." (ut populus acquisitionis prioris ad redemptionis mereatur plenitudinem pervenire). The 1970 prayer recognizes Christianity's common heritage with Judaism through the Abrahamic line. This prayer opens the door to Catholic conversion, but does not pray for it. In other words, we are brothers and sisters with the Jewish people through Abraham, but participation in the Christian community is always voluntary. Our love of neighbor never hinges on conversion. This affirmation of charity surpasses the request for conversion found in 2008 and all previous versions of the Tridentine missal.

The accusation of deicide against Jews in general and 1st century Jews in particular is impossible historically. Roman procurators alone held powers of execution. The only quasi-historical record of "Christus" in Tacitus' Annales specifically implicates the Romans as the culprits. The charge of deicide and collective guilt against all Jews merely represents a socio-cultural construct that has perpetrated immense destruction, hardship, and moral evil on a small minority of humanity. For this reason I always contend that conversion to Christianity is always voluntary. Human dignity never hinges on a person's beliefs, customs, or ethnic community.

A Sinner said...

"Most Jewish persons would immediately read this as a call to conversion."

And it is.

"Explicit conversion prayers implicitly threaten the survival of a religious group that just lost a third of its body in the Shoah. We one billion Catholics must keep the small size and cultural stability of the Jewish community in mind when we bend our knees on Good Friday."

Listen, I'd like to consider myself pretty liberal and tolerant, as you know. But at the end of the day, you either believe Christ is Lord and that we are the One True Faith, or you don't.

The Jews didn't get a special exemption from the objective need to convert to be saved (all questions of the internal forum aside).

There is no "parallel covenant," they are bound to seek the truth too, and we are bound to pray that they will find it.

Efforts at proselytizing targeting the Jews as a nation are bound to fail as their collective conversion will not come about until the Last Days under the ministry of Elijah and Enoch, but we should very much pray that individual Jews will convert.

"In other words, we are brothers and sisters with the Jewish people through Abraham, but participation in the Christian community is always voluntary. Our love of neighbor never hinges on conversion. This affirmation of charity surpasses the request for conversion found in 2008 and all previous versions of the Tridentine missal."

The old prayer never says our love for them hinges on conversion. It just says that they should, which is objectively true. It doesn't say we're going to force them.

We are merely saying with Peter in Acts, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know most certainly, that God hath made both Lord and Christ, this same Jesus, whom you have crucified. Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their heart, and said to Peter, and to the rest of the apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren? But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

This is our call to all mankind, but especially to the house of Israel.

A Sinner said...

"The accusation of deicide against Jews in general and 1st century Jews in particular is impossible historically. Roman procurators alone held powers of execution."

So does that mean we should hate the Romans? Obviously not.

I've seen the "actually, the Jews didn't kill Jesus, it was the Romans" card played before, and it may be true historically, but it makes little sense.

What should be critiqued is the notion of collective guilt in general...not merely question of which party was involved, which just passes the buck another step.

Though our religion does have a notion of collective guilt, remember. Namely, in Original Sin. And there can be no denying that the Jew's fall from their former status as the repository of the True Faith (transferred to the Church) is in some ways analogous, and was due to their rejection of Christ. But that was all foreordained by God's Providence anyway.

The Temple was destroyed as prophesied, the Jews were exiled, etc. To deny this is to deny the whole narrative of the New Testament. You can say "the Romans killed Jesus" all you want, and "historically" I might agree. But that's trivial.

Because the Church doesn't teach history. We're talking typologically, symbolically. And the New Testament makes it very clear who, internal to the narrative, we are supposed to see as agent there. Look at Peter's quote from Acts. Look at how the Passion narratives are written.

In the Gospel narrative, mystically, it IS the People of God who killed God. Which typologically means, of course: we ourselves. But you can't throw out the symbol without throwing out what is symbolized. The Jews are the microcosm of the humanity, and specifically the Type of the Church, in the Bible. And so that is the role they fill for us in our own internal narrative.

Notions of those alive today as somehow more personally guilty than any of us are silly and harmful, of course, but there is no doubt that as a people their continued existence is a not merely a neutral or indifferent matter for us.

It shouldn't effect how we treat them objectively, in our external relations with them they should be treated like any other non-believers.

But in our own internal narrative, they simply do hold a special and somewhat ambivalent place. They are (at least on the surface) the Esau to our Isaac, they are the servants who killed the Master's Son, there is no getting around that without simply throwing out much of the New Testament.

And yet, what needs to be realized, though, is that the Jews themselves are really not the issue. WE are "the Jews". Synagogue and Ecclesia are two principles in history that do not necessarily correspond to their visible manifestations, because the two principles, of Christ and Antichrist, are there in every one of our hearts. In actual Christians no less than anyone else, in actual Jews no more than anyone else.

"The charge of deicide and collective guilt against all Jews merely represents a socio-cultural construct that has perpetrated immense destruction, hardship, and moral evil on a small minority of humanity."

The Jews have been persecuted because they were a visible internal minority. Because they weren't Christian, because of the uncomfortable nature for Christians of their continued existence. It adds insecurity to our beliefs that Christ was not accepted by His own people...something even Paul begins to explore in his epistles.

Anti-semitic vilification is childish and evil. On the other hand, modern notions reflected in documents like "Covenant and Mission" may be important to remember on a practical humanitarian level, but if they are taken as doctrine they are simply unscriptural.

The actual truth is much more complex and nuanced, but much more subtle and beautiful in the end.

Pater, O.S.B. said...

I am totally with A Sinner on this one.

bill said...

Thanks for giving my brain and conscience room to explore and grow.