Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You Can't....

...expect to share in the credit for good things in which you were only indirectly involved, but then expect to avoid the blame of bad things even if you were only indirectly involved. Either it happening on your watch means something, or it doesn't, for both better and worse.

You can't have it both ways.

I say this in response to this quote in this article:
"This is not some multinational company where the chief executive is expected to take responsibility," Lombardi said. "The pope is not personally directing the actions of priests around the world."
Then the Vatican shouldn't get any credit for any of the good things either. If you want to share the credit by proxy, you also have to share the blame.

Another point from the article which shows they don't really understand:
"I can still very clearly remember the moment when Cardinal Ratzinger sadly told me that the other camp had asserted itself," Schoenborn told Austria's ORF Television. "To accuse him of being someone who covers things up -- having known the pope for many years -- I can say that is certainly not true."
I'm not accusing him of that, though. No one is saying the Pope was personally involved in any molestation. Some people are indeed saying he was involved in cover-up. But for most of us, it's not even that. It's that, when that "other camp" won...he didn't do all he could. He just sort of resigned himself to it.

He had a reasonably high profile. When something like this happens, you go to the media! You tell the world about how the other camp, the camp in favor of cover ups, was winning. You expose them to public shame and therefore force the previous Pope to take your side.

When it comes to protecting children from child molesters, that has to come before any ideas of deference or "protocol" or discretion or "keeping it all in the family." You make a scene, you throw a fit until the other camp isn't winning anymore, for the sake of the children!!!

You go to the papers and expose it! You storm in there and withstand Peter to his face. You scream at him, at the top of your lungs, shake him by the collar, screaming "Listen, you Parkinsonsy old Pole! Children are being sexually molested!!! And if you keep siding with pervert freaks like Maciel and all these people who want to cover it up, I'm going to resign and go to the media with everything I know!!!"

You don't just take it as if it were the loss of a piece in some abstract game of intra-Curial chess. You don't just get "sad" about it: you get angry! You raise hell! You don't just "lose" a battle of that magnitude and then move on. You fight to the death! For the children.

But he didn't. And I think that's the secrecy that's so bad; even when he disagreed, he wouldn't dare go over John Paul's head (ie, directly to the public) or call out the other camp publicly. The twisted code of clerical honor prevented that to the degree that I'm sure the idea never even occurred to him. The same blind-spot for giving other clerics the benefit of the doubt that caused John Paul to side with the "other camp" is the same one that made it constitutionally impossible for Ratzinger to fight tooth-and-nail in the heavy handed fashion that is called for in such a situation, as almost any parent would do.

This Pope has shown himself time and time again to be a brilliant man with the best of intentions...who just totally lacks the balls to act decisively on his own better judgment about things, to put his fist down. We need a leader, not someone who merely has good ideas and good words but who is too dithering and afraid to rock the boat or step on toes and actually take action or think outside the box. He completely lacks the courage of his convictions. It's funny how the hierarchy harps so much on sins against Chastity, but then doesn't say anything about sins against Fortitude. You may catch more flies with honey than with vinegar...but why are we trying to attract flies in the first place? I think flies are a nuisance, shouldn't we be trying to drive them away?

I'm seriously worried, because even when admitting "missteps," these bishops (including the Pope) always are defensive, always try to pass some of the blame, always make an excuse. And you can't truly repent until you take full responsibility for the gravity of your actions, whether you were directly involved or merely negligent or cowardly in your response. Remember, the ninth way to be an accessory to someone else's sin is silence. If they don't take full responsibility for what has happened, then they will burn in hell right alongside the priests who actually molested the children. And that scares me, not just because I don't want to see anyone in hell, but because if they are so brazen and cavalier about the fate of their own immortal souls, then how much can they really care about ours?? It makes them seem like total sociopaths.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prayer Vigils in Major Cities

Voice of the Faithful will be holding vigils on Good Friday in major cities:

They aren't trad, but this is a group to look into. They don't question dogma, but they do demand structural reform of the clergy, including now wanting mandatory celibacy re-examined.

Whispers the Loggia, that is. Some interesting tidbits from recent posts on that blog:
Further underscoring the challenge for the Holy See and its message operation -- its effectiveness of late a worthy topic for discussion -- a poll commissioned by Ireland's Independent newspaper and reported in its Sunday editions found that 51 percent of Irish surveyed thought the pontiff should leave office, something no Pope has done since the early 15th century. [Link]
However, a prominent survivor's advocate has made a very astute observation about why this wouldn't necessarily be desirable for reform, along the lines of what we were discussing on those earlier threads:

Meanwhile, the Stateside church's most-prominent advocate for victim-survivors has said that the calls in some quarters for the pontiff's resignation weren't only "highly unlikely" to be heeded, but just as counterproductive.

In an NPR op-ed today, David Clohessy of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said that "if the pope were to step down, like Cardinal Bernard Law did in Boston, it would create the illusion of reform while decreasing the chances of real reform" (emphases original).

A papal departure, Clohessy said, "would foster the tempting but naive view that change is happening. It would not address the deeply rooted, unhealthy, systemic dysfunctions that plague any medieval institution that vests virtually all power in a pope who allegedly supervises 5,000 bishops across the planet." [Link]
And on the topic of the Holy Week "surprise," that was rumored a few months back to relate to the priesthood and Holy Thursday, Rocco (and he's usually pretty up on things) says:

And given how what was intended as a celebratory year has instead found the broadest swath yet of the global church plunged into the scandals' "trail of tears," it wouldn't be sensationalistic nor unfair to expect something significant from the Pope at the one annual liturgy dedicated to the priesthood, this Priestly Year's theoretical climax: the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday morning -- the day's one liturgy held in St Peter's, and the only papal Mass through any year at which all priests present concelebrate.

If anything, given the ferocious climate and the story's root in the crimes of the ordained, a dramatic word or move of the game-changing sort would be even more conspicuous by its absence… and, sad to say, its failure to appear would rightly be decried or, worse still, cited as more "proof" of an inability to face the magnitude of a state of affairs that, as Benedict himself observed in last week's Pastoral Letter to Ireland, "has obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree" no external assault could ever have wished. [Link]
Also, I don't want to sound all crazy or superstitious, but I've been hearing a lot about dreams lately. Perhaps it is inevitable due to the pope and bishops being in the news recently, but I've now heard of several people, at least five, whom I know from both online and in real life, who have (independently of any knowledge of each other's) had, let's say, "reform oriented" dreams about the pope and/or bishops in the past week. If you have any other reports of strange dreams like that, contact me, I'd like to compare the content with those I've already heard about, though now I'm worried any more will just be the result of suggestion from this post itself...

"Papalgate" Isn't Pearly

I've referenced the Watergate analogy before.

Now comes this very good article showing the specific comparisons, how eerily close things are and, more importantly, what the Pope can do (if he acts quickly) to avoid the fate of President Nixon:

Yet the hierarchy resists these sort of analyses and analogies as if the human clergy is for some reason exempt from the natural rules of sociology, politics, psychology, history, etc.

I've mentioned before the need for more of political science, sociology, anthropology, and psychology to study the Church specifically. A friend has started to do just that with an ethnography of his trad parish. But we need more people willing to hold the institutional Church up to the same standards as other organizations, and analyze it according to the same principles we know hold true in other institutions.

Call No Man Father

"But be not you called Rabbi. For one is your master; and all you are brethren. And call none your father upon earth; for one is your father, who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, Christ."

Protestants often attack Catholics for calling priests "Father" or referring to men as spiritual fathers, etc. Of course, that is grossly out of context, as they still recognize and refer to their own familial father; and Christ said to respect fathers and mothers like that in other places in the Gospel. Obviously this is just, in the hyperbolic style Jesus was so good at, a reminder of the universal spiritual equality of all mankind (regardless of position or status), and the Fatherhood of God, "of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named."

However, one thing that has really started to annoy me is the sloppy use of the term "Holy Father," for the Pope.

I'm not saying it doesn't have a place, but I believe it is (or was originally) an informal title of address, analogous to "Father" for priests. The formal address is, of course, "Your/His Holiness", as "Reverend" is for priests. It is, or at least it should be, what is called in English an honorific, used in address.

That's all fine and good. If a member of the papal household, or even a subject who somehow manages to talk to the Pope one-on-one with filial piety addresses him, "Holy Father, I've got a problem to ask you about," etc...that makes grammatical sense and is fine.

What is a bit bizarre is the way that "Holy Father" has been transformed into a concrete particular noun, "the Holy Father." In third person references, I wouldn't refer to a priest in my parish as "the father," or even "a father" just free-floating like that. I'd refer to him as "Fr. Name", or else "the priest," or "the pastor there," or perhaps (though I find even this a bit affected) as "Father" with no article in front if it was already understood to whom I was referring. But never would "father" become a concrete noun meaning priest, rather than being understood as an honorific, as a title of address.

Yet it seemingly has in some Catholic circles with "Holy Father" and the Pope, to the point that some Catholics will say something like, "Benedict is the current Holy Father," rather than just "the current pope," or even more irritatingly, "the previous Holy Father said..." instead of just "the previous pope." If people can perhaps get away with applying it sloppily to the current holder of the title, applying it to the past like that as if it were the name of the Office in inexcusable.

Of course, the term "Pope" itself (which I'd say is the more appropriate concrete noun) comes from "papa" and just basically means "Father"...but in English that isn't as clear, so it makes a convenient concrete noun for the office and person of the supreme pontiff. But, to me, the use of "Holy Father" as a concrete noun equivalent to "Pope," is irritating, too precious.

We wouldn't use "mister" as a concrete noun like that, "The Mr. walked into the store," or "See that Mr. over there." We use it as an honorific when addressing someone ("Excuse me, Mister..."), or as a title before their name, but we don't treat it as a concrete noun any more that "sir" or "ma'am." Only in situations that call for affectation ("Is the Mrs. home?) would we ever do something like that.

Titles that are occupational or rank based (lieutenant, doctor, senator, etc) can also used as concrete nouns because the office or occupation is a concrete noun, with concrete instantiations in the form of the people. But "Holy Father" is an honorific or term of endearment, not the name of his office, at least in common English parlance; there is a "papacy," there is not (in English, at least) a "Holy-Father-hood" (analogously, the Church has a priesthood, not a "father-hood"). Hence why I said you especially should not refer to past Popes as "previous Holy Fathers," or anything so cloying.

"Holy Father" is something you should say to the Pope, not an equivalent concrete noun to be used when designating the Pope in third-person references. I mean, "our father" or "my father" both have other connotations (God and the person's familial father, respectively) that would exclude their use to refer to priests. Inserting the adjective "holy" in between doesn't seem to make that situation any better to me, especially when the founders of religious orders are also formerly referred to by their members as "Our Holy Father N." a situation made especially confusing for monks now that the Pope is named Benedict.

Now, perhaps the usage "the Holy Father" as a particular noun is slipping into common usage, though I find that affected and unfortunate. But it especially gets a sloppy and weird-sounding when people start using at as a generic noun and say things like, "Pius VII was a Holy Father in the 19th century," or even, now, using it as a concrete noun in the plural, as in "the writings of the recent Holy Fathers," meaning the Popes. Such usage makes me cringe. And it is confusing, not least of all because there are also the Fathers of the Church who have a more ancient claim to that sort of designation!

Ignorant Catholics act as if "Holy Father" and "Pope" are just synonyms, interchangeable in a sentence, for variety or whatever. It isn't true, they are not grammatically equivalent. "Pope" is a generic noun. We can speak of "a pope," "the pope," "past popes," "future popes," "this pope," "that pope," etc. You cannot throw around "Holy Father," like that. It is makes me cringe when I hear someone say something like, "That Holy Father did something, and now this Holy Father is doing stuff too." Even if you can get away with using it as a particular concrete noun, you just cannot use it as a generic noun like that!!!

I don't know all the exact rules of usage. Perhaps a grammarian or etiquettician could help. But I definitely think this usage is becoming disturbingly and annoyingly over-used, in the wrong grammatical contexts, by people (especially neocons) with a saccharine affection for the Pope. I'm not saying there might not be some contexts where using "the Holy Father" or "our Holy Father" in the third person would not be offensive to the ears, namely when (like Mr. or Mrs.) followed by his name: "Our Holy Father Benedict XVI." But, as a rule of thumb, I'd reserve "Holy Father" as a title of address, and stick to "Pope" in third-person references.

When in doubt, just say "Pope". It's affected to use four syllables when you can just use one, and it is simply stupid to turn an honorific into a concrete noun (especially of the generic variety).

Well, sorry for the petty rant, but as you can tell...this is really starting to get on my nerves. Not just because it's wrong grammatically, but because the people using it (albeit unknowingly) incorrectly are almost always obviously doing it to be obsequious towards the Pope.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Everybody's Free...

[ feel good.]

Life's too short; go out and fall [back] in love today.

Make your [separate] peace with God.

A great song from a movie with great [Catholic] imagery:

Authority vs. Leadership

Quote from an article:

Rev. John Pawlikowski, professor of ethics at the Chicago Theological Union, said the Catholic hierarchy traditionally expects to be treated as a moral authority while modern societies respect those who show real moral leadership.

"The Vatican has to understand that the new challenge is to move from moral authority to moral leadership," he said.

"Moral leadership doesn't come just because someone gives you a purple cap, a red one or a white one," he said, citing the colors of the skullcaps worn by bishops, archbishops and popes.

Et Tu, Shawn Tribe?

Does the rank-closing and defensiveness of conservative Catholics know no bounds of decency?

I had been very impressed by New Liturgical Movement's restraint over the whole crisis; for some time they didn't mention it. They are, after all, a liturgical blog, not generic Catholic commentary. Shawn Tribe even alludes to that when he says:

In the end, I determined that likely more than enough commentary could be found on any number of sites and perhaps there was something to be said for some calm and "business as usual" as a form of respite.
But then he publishes this reflection (at least he promises it will be the only one) called, rather blasphemously I think, "the Passion of Pope Benedict XVI," as if the Pope's "sufferings" at the hands of his "detractors" are to be spun as the unjust sufferings of a Christ figure! And Archbishop Dolan has recently been throwing around "crucifixion" language too in regard to this crisis! And apparently received a standing ovation!

Are these people all that delusional? Is their loyalty-instinct to portray the institution in the best light possible really that exaggerated?!?

However much or little personal culpability can be attributed to his negligence, the fact is he oversees an organization, and when something like this happens in any other organization, leaders take the fall. When you're the head of an organization, you represent and are responsible for those below you, regardless of personal innocence.

I'm not saying I want the Pope to resign. But the fact that the possibility is being totally dismissed as if it is out of the question, the way this is all being spun as "anti-Catholic" persecution, the way the Pope defiantly speaks of "not being intimidated" rather than expressing constant public contrition and penance...shows just how arrogant and out of touch these people are.

It should be recognized that, even if the Pope doesn't resign (and I don't expect nor want him to), this is definitely the magnitude of situation where that would be one appropriate response. There are others, and I hope he rather stays on and chooses one of those (for he remains an ideological ally, for better or worse). But if this isn't the kind of situation that calls for at least seriously considering papal resignation as one option...then nothing is. Then the inclusion of the possibility in canon law is just a joke. The way it is being dismissed off-hand as "ridiculous" shows that they still don't get it.

Personally innocent or not, the Vatican's insolent attempts at spin and the stone-faced way the Pope is going about business as usual...are just audacious. Staying the course like that is ruining the Church's credibility. So much for avoiding "scandal" for the sake of the Church, now it's all denial and defensiveness and face-saving.

Children were sexually molested by the glorified on-a-pedestal holier-than-thou bureaucrats put in charge of their souls by an organization that exists only for the purpose of salvation!! And the managers in charge of disciplining those perverts chose instead to cover it up!! And people have the gall to concentrate on the sufferings, not of the children, not of the tens of thousands of innocence-shattered permanently scarred lives, but rather of the negligent weaselly executives of that organization, and then compare that "suffering" to Christ's?!? I think I'm going to go vomit.

If people want to make that comparison to Christ, and if the Pope wants to show his contrition and keep his job, then maybe he should do what King Henry II did after the whole Becket affair and submit to being publicly whipped! If people want to claim that he's being "attacked" and "suffering," then I want to see some blood and real tears! They're making a martyr of him because some people have said some mean things, because he's losing some popularity or because his feelings might be hurt!? Oh, poor baby. It is just laughable compared to the psychological trauma and sufferings of the victims of sexual abuse.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Just Throwing It Out There

Some good points have been brought up in the comments section of the last thread about how exactly a "regime change" in the Church would be brought about without the risk of a liberal takeover? Or how do you overhaul the episcopacy and the curia when the men who'd be in charge of such an overhaul are insiders themselves, when what we need are outsiders?

I'd say there are some possible suggestions (again, I'm not necessarily advocating them, just putting them out there).

One might be having an upper age limit on the new bishops. Like...get rid of the current brood of vipers by lowering the resignation age to 55 (and accepting most of the resignations) and then replace them with all men under 40 (or 35, or 30...)

Or have the bishops discretely suggest as their successors single laymen who have shown themselves to be orthodox pillars of the community. The Vatican could do a quick interview (perhaps without telling them why or even that they are from the Church) to assure their orthodoxy/traditionalism, and then draft them as coadjutors and have them sped through Orders whether they like it or not. Like what happened with Ambrose, Becket, etc.; reluctant draftees pressured into it seem to have a sense of duty, and are certainly more likely to be free of ambition and careerism and intra-clerical nepotism.

Or...draft an orthodox Eastern bishop as Pope next time, perhaps a widower, and let him bring some new blood and new way of thinking to the curia...

There are lots of creative solutions if they're willing to think outside the box. The problem seems to be that they aren't willing to think outside the box. Well, we need to get some men in there who are. One major change would simply be becoming willing to consider such creative solutions and to open themselves to the suggestions of lay people and outsiders, and seriously consider their proposals rather than having it all be kept within the institution of the clergy, largely top-down, dismissive of innovation. To stop being a No Organization.

Any further creative suggestions you can think of will be very welcome in the comment box (but think outside the box!)

Of course, if there are not also structural changes to the socio-political dynamics of the clergy (like making celibacy optional), all these new men could wind up just as corrupted. A New Boys Club is little better than an Old Boys Club...


From an article:
"There is a real possibility that this is the tipping point of a 2000-year-old institution," said Peter Borre, chairman of the Council of Parishes in Boston. "The speed with which this thing has gone to the top is most alarming. It's like the early phases of Watergate."
I think I've made the comparison to Watergate before. Certainly, in no other institution would any executives implicated (if only just through negligence) in something this repugnant, of this magnitude, survive.

Of course, the conservatives are all battening down the hatches, showing all sorts of support for the Pope, being all defensive of the institution. Trying to spin this all out of existence and minimize the horror of it, worst of all by saying "but all sorts of groups have these problems!" Please. "Everyone else was doing it!" is basically as bad as the Nuremberg defense.

They can say what they want about media bias or spin or about people "using" the scandal to push for change in the Church...but the change is needed! The scandal proves it! Sure, quotes like that above may be chosen selectively but the media both reflects and influences public opinion, and this time (regardless of your opinions on the "objective" reality) they are stirring this up into a maelstrom. That's the direction it's going, and eventually that cannot be ignored. Nor should it be in this case.

The Vatican is once again showing its incompetence in the area of dealing with the press. Even if they truly believe there is no link between the closed culture of celibate clerics and the crisis of covering-up abuse, the fact that the chatter is growing louder and louder in that direction, the fact that the media pressure is increasing...cannot simply be written off.

Because their credibility and moral authority (inasmuch as they have any left) is determined by public perception, which is largely filtered through the media. If they ignore the rising outrage and demands for structural change, they could well find themselves facing severe political and economic sanctions.

Secularist politicians may well start dismantling the Church and doing things (like requiring them to "ordain" women, classing our teachings as hate-speech, etc) that they've wanted to do all along, but haven't yet been able to do. But if they gain the political support to do such things "for the protection of children," who knows what could happen. And certainly courts might start issuing settlements and sanctions that will bankrupt whole dioceses and force the closure of many churches. And if the institutional clergy is viewed as little less than a self-perpetuating perverse criminal enterprise (and at this point, it's sort of looking that way) then the public will support all that.

The conservatives will cry "persecution," but I'll have to say "it's your own damn fault." Because if they act quickly and make substantial structural changes, people will accept that response. And the structural change is going to have to be something on the magnitude of a massive personnel overhaul (this means firing bishops!), or ending mandatory celibacy, or the popular election of bishops, or lay control of finances, etc.

To clarify: I don't necessarily support all those options listed, especially not the last two. I was just saying something of that magnitude of structural change to the clergy is going to be needed to convince people that reform is real this time. I could as well have listed women priests, though I clearly don't support that or even think it is possible. My point is that people need to see a constitutional change to the socio-political structure and dynamics of the clergy. Somethings gotta give, and since ordaining women or lay election of bishops are's going to have to be mandatory celibacy, or their own careers.

Some Synod to simply reaffirm abuse-handling policies that were already technically in place (they just weren't followed) basically just a repeat of what happened in the US at Dallas. And that isn't going to cut it this time. Not by a long-shot. If people don't see systematic, structural changes that go beyond trying to legislate problems out of existence, then the current hierarchy will be perceived as the mafia it may indeed be, and people will rightly ignore it and fight to destroy it.

But that's not what we want or need, we need reform that is constructive, not destructive. But that means being willing to let go of some things, like mandatory celibacy...or your own careers and reputation. For the good of the Church.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Papal Resignations

All the news sources are saying the only two papal resignations in history were Celestine V in 1294 and Gregory XII in 1415.

This simply isn't true. Several Popes resigned during the Dark Ages. Well, history books often say they were "deposed," but deposition was only valid because the Popes in question consented. A Pope cannot actually be deposed against his will (as Popes, like John XII, who resisted attempted depositions prove). He can, however, give into heavy pressure (military or political) to resign.

Some examples of other Popes who have resigned besides the "famous two" include:

St. Pontian
Benedict V
Sylvester III
Gregory VI
Benedict IX (three separate times!)

Reviving a (Rather Messy) Handicraft

Most traditionalist Catholics know that altars, both fixed (a full stone table) and semi-fixed (a larger structure with a portable altar/"altar stone" inserted into it), are supposed to have three layers of linen cloth on top; two lower layers the size of the mensa, and a top "fair linen" hanging down the sides and possibly with trim. As I documented in an earlier post, I made a set of these earlier in the year (along with an antependium).

A little more obscure is the so-called cere-cloth, a waxed linen sheet, unblessed, placed under the other three to protect the altar. The original purpose was to protect the linens from the oil of consecration on the surface of a stone mensa (hence its other name, the "chrismale"), but it serves a variety of purposes including containing any spills and preventing them from staining the altar (especially if it be of wood), protecting the cloths from dampness, and protecting the stone from scratches when the bottom of the chalice clinks against it.

Catholic Encyclopedia describes it in its article on Altar Linens:
Besides the three altar-cloths there is another linen cloth, waxed on one side, which is called the chrismale (cere-cloth), and with which the table of the consecrated altar (even if part of it be made of bricks or other material, and does not form a part of the consecrated altar) should be completely covered (Caerem. Episc., De altaris consecratione). It must be of the exact size of the table of the altar, and it is placed under the linen cloths, the waxed side being turned towards the table. Its purpose is not only to prevent the altar-cloths from being stained by the oil used at the consecration, but also to keep the cloths dry. Hence it is advisable to have such a wax cloth on all altars in churches which may be, accessible to dampness. According to the rubrics, this cloth is removed once a year, that is, during the stripping of the altars on Maundy Thursday; but it may be changed as often as the altar is washed. The cere-cloth is not blessed. It cannot take the place of one of the three rubrical linen cloths.
It also has a useful section suggesting how they can be made:
To procure cere-cloths, melt the remnants of wax candles in a small vessel. When the wax is in a boiling condition, skim off the impurities that remain from the soiled stumps of candles. Dip into this wax the linen intended for the cere-cloth, and when well saturated hang it on a clothes-line, allowing the surplus wax to drop off. When the wax cloth has hardened place it between two unwaxed sheets of linen of like dimensions. Iron thoroughly with a well heated flat iron, thus securing three wax cloths. The table on which the cloths are ironed should be covered with an old cloth or thick paper to receive the superfluous wax when melted by the iron. It should be remembered that unwashed linen when dipped in wax shrinks considerably, hence before the cloths are waxed they should be much larger than the size of the altar for which they are intended.
This article also describes them, suggesting a rubberized alternative (sheets for bed-wetters, apparently) since "Waxed linen is impossible to find nowadays."

But, the industrious creative anachronist in me says, when something is impossible to find nowadays...make it yourself!

So I decided to do just that. First I took a sheet of 100% linen (the same I used to make those altar cloths earlier in the year) much bigger than the surface of our altar. Then I melted on the stove a bag of 100% beeswax in an old pan I could throw away afterward. Then when it was all liquid, I took it outside and soaked the linen in it.

Next time I do this, if there is a next time, I would use 2 bags of beeswax; it's expensive, but it would be worth it. The one bag gave spotty coverage initially, I'd say only about half the linen got covered on the initial soaking, in patches that looked like Rorschach blotches.

However, I wasn't going to be deterred, and remembered Catholic Encyclopedia's advice about ironing. Though I did not have big enough sheets of linen to make 2 other cerecloths of the same size (nor any need for more than one) I realized I could fold the cloth up against itself and iron it to spread the wax around and get a more even coverage. It picks up little pieces of dirt easily, so be careful.

At first I ironed it folded between a clean throw-away sheet to act as a buffer, but the wax, especially before I evened-out the coverage, made the cloth quite stiff and difficult to work with and prone to warping and wrinkling, so eventually I just had to lay it out on the big craft table and start ironing it directly on the surface, totally unfolded. It didn't seem to ruin the iron as long the iron was still hot and I ran it over a clean surface a few times to wipe the wax off after.

After working at it an hour or so, I ended up getting the whole cloth saturated with wax more evenly, though it then stuck to the table in some parts and so when held up to the light some patches look thinner/more translucent than others when I pulled it up. It looks fine lying on hard surface though, thankfully (though no one will ever see it, really).

Beeswax dries almost instantly in the air, so it was ready right away. When the wax was all spread out and more even and thinner, the cloth was easier to handle and smoother, though it is still prone to wrinkling easily. I then layed it out on the floor and cut it to size. Then, for transport, I rolled it up around a tube from some Christmas wrapping paper. Hopefully this will help keep it smooth and flat (as will the weight of the other cloths on top of it).

The table afterward was quite a mess, covered all over with wax. A lot of it scraped off with a scraper, luckily, and the rest dissolved with some WD-40 and some steel wool. Washed it down after that with soap and water and paper towels, and it was fine. I feel quite successful because no clothes or carpeting or anything got ruined or stained in the process. This is a very messy craft, but I managed to keep the mess contained.

New Answers to Old Questions

As I promised in my last post, I'd like to summarize Catholic teaching on grace and predestination in light of Fr. Most's solution on the topic, as he proposed in his book "Grace, Predestination, and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions," which solution he summarized in this article.

Perhaps the best way to start such a discussion is to remind people of the basic principles of Catholic teaching on these subjects, which can be basically divided into two "poles" around which various attempted solutions throughout history have revolved. Fr. Most compares them to two points on the edge of a circle and trying to draw a line through each that would also hit the center of the circle.

The first ideas is the primacy of grace, the infallibility of efficacious grace, and associated with this the absolute sovereignty of God and predestination. Many people associate the word "predestination" with Calvinism, but in reality any religion with a coherent conception of God must admit some sort of predestination. God is omniscient and omnipotent; He foresees all of history, including the choices of free creatures and their final destinations. And, furthermore, He is sovereign over all history, everything that happens He positively confirms by decree of His will, or it wouldn't happen.

Calvinism only involves a very specific form of predestination, namely double positive unconditional predestination (I will discuss the infralapsarian vs supralapsarian varieties in another post). This post is going to involve a lot of over-simplification of the other positions, but Calvinism basically means that God arbitrarily decides to save some and damn others from all eternity. Some people would find this very cold, a cruel, capricious view of God, and indeed it is, God seemingly creating people just to damn them. But there was an understandable motive behind it, namely trying to avoid the Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian idea that we can merit or earn our salvation in anyway.

The other concept, which some see as opposed to the first, is that of free will, of cooperation with grace. Arminianism is a soteriological heresy (held by most of the non-Calvinist Protestant groups) that is in some ways the opposite of Calvinism, teaching that God predestines in consideration of merit. This too is wrong because, while avoiding the seeming cruelty of God in Calvinism, it also tends towards a Semi-Pelagianism by giving people's merit (or at least non-rejection of grace) a causative role in salvation, something which is impossible: the agency in salvation must be attributed 100% to God alone.

This conflict in theology was, for a long time, due to the (mistaken) notion that, if God reprobated based on demerit, he must also elect based on merit but, on the other hand, if he elected without consideration of merit, reprobation must likewise be without such consideration, even though Catholic doctrine on the issue seemed to imply that election was unconditional, but reprobation was conditional.

Theologians had a hard time seeing how both could be true, thought that election and reprobation were "two sides of the same coin" and both had to be determined the same way. This let to quite an impasse in theology between the Thomist (Dominican) school and the Molinist (Jesuit) school, the Thomist leaning more towards Calvinism and an emphasis on God's sovereignty, the Molinist more towards Arminianism and an emphasis on free will. Both have some interesting points, but neither is perfect, basically attempting to put square pegs into round holes and vice versa. At one point during the Counter-Reformation a Pope held a debate between the two schools to decide the point, but decided neither was satisfactory and allowed both to continue, establishing a sort of status quo truce that lasted several centuries.

Fr. Most's solution, however, shows that the causation of election and reprobation can be separated. He proposes three stages to the logical order of causation in God's eternal decrees:

1) God wills the salvation of all...
2) unless they reject His grace; these are reprobate,
3) those left are elect, but not because of their own merit, nor even because of their non-rejection, but because they were in step 1 already.

An analogy might be helpful. Imagine a teacher writes on a blackboard: "AVE MARIA GRATIA PLENA" as part of a lesson on prayers. Later in the day, as part of a lesson on letters, he erases the vowels, leaving "V MR GRT PLN" written on the board. Now, it could be asked, why are those letters on the board? Some people might answer "because they're consonants," or "because they're not vowels," but they would be incorrect. That's like saying I'm sitting here writing this "because I'm not dead," a negative like that cannot be a cause. The reason the letters are on the board is because they were there as part of the first lesson on prayer. So were the vowels, initially, but they got erased. To say they're there because they're consonants is like saying they're there "because they weren't erased," which is simply tautological.

This "subtractive" view of predestination, starting with God's universal salvific will, seems to resolve all the problems that come with the previous assumption that predestination was an "additive" process whereby God chose some to include in salvation (either arbitrarily or based on merit) and left "the rest" to hell as the default. In Fr. Most's solution, God's first loving act in the process is to make salvation the default, and it is the reprobate who are then excluded (due to their sin)...a notion I think squares much better with our notion of a loving God and His purposes in creating mankind.

Fr. Most points out how this fits better with the language of "inheritance" that the Bible often uses when discussing salvation. For children, inheritance is the default, from their father's love...they don't need to earn their inheritance, there is nothing they could do to earn it if they father hadn't desired to give it in the first place. But, really bad children can be disinherited, they can lose their inheritance. But that doesn't imply that the other children get their inheritance "because they were good," nor even "because they were not bad." Rather, they get it since the father willed it prior to any such considerations of their own behavior, even if they can lose it because of their bad behavior.

So election can be unconditional of merit even while reprobration is conditional on sin. This fits the Catholic doctrine on the issue perfectly, which essentially teach that election is unconditional but reprobation is conditional. Double predestination: election unconditional, but reprobation conditional (unlike Calvinism which is double unconditional).

Some theologians attempted to square what they thought was impossible by distinguishing between "positive" and "negative" reprobation. They tried to argue that Catholics could believe in double unconditional predestination as long as the reprobation was "negative" (ie, wills them "not to enter heaven") rather than positive (ie, willing them "to go to hell"). But this solution had lots of problems. The two concepts being equivalent in their system, it is a legalistic distinction to try to pretend that God could see any difference. Election and reprobation are almost certainly both positive, the fudging whereby God merely wills non-heaven instead of positively predestining to hell is an intellectual cop-out.

But Fr. Most's solution, whereby predestination, though positive in both cases, is "subtractive" from an initial universal salvific will is very satisfying intellectually, and recent writings from the Popes seem to indicate that it has been implicitly adopted by the Church as the best solution to reconciling dogmas that many saw as hard to reconcile.

I would go further and apply the same principle to the question of grace and free will in the present moment, something Fr. Most hints at, though doesn't develop as explicitly as the question of predestination.

We must remember certain Catholic dogmas on the operation of grace, such as:
  1. There is a supernatural intervention of God in the faculties of the soul, which precedes the free act of the will. (De fide.)
  2. There is a supernatural influence of God in the faculties of the soul which coincides in time with man's free act of will. (De fide.)
  3. Grace cannot be merited by natural works either de condigno or de congruo. (De fide.)
  4. Man of himself cannot acquire any positive disposition for grace. (Sent. certa.)
  5. Despite men's sins God truly and earnestly desires the salvation of all men. (Sent. fidei proxima.)
  6. God gives all the just sufficient grace (gratia proxime vel remote sufficiens) for the observation of the Divine Commandments. (De fide.)
  7. God gives all the faithful who are sinners sufficent grace (gratia saltem remote sufficiens) for conversion. (Sent. communis.)
  8. God gives all innocent unbelievers (infideles negativi) suffienct grace to achieve eternal salvation. (Sent. certa.)
  9. God, by His Eternal Resolve of Will, has predetermined certain men to eternal blessedness. (De fide.)
  10. God, by an Eternal Resolve of His Will, predestines certain men, on account of their foreseen sins, to eternal rejection. (De fide.)
  11. The Human Will remains free under the influence of efficacious grace, which is not irresistible. (De fide.)
  12. There is a grace which is truly sufficient and yet remains inefficacious (gratia vere et mere sufficiens.) (De fide.)
The problem, similar to that of predestination, arises in that "efficacious grace" is taught to be infallible, and yet not irresistible. "Efficacious grace" is, by definition, efficacious; it by nature produces its salutatory effect, and yet somehow it does not coerce the will. And merely sufficient grace can remain inefficacious, so what good is it? Besides as a technicality to say that God didn't leave the person without anything, what exactly did it do concretely if it remains merely sufficient?

Again to oversimplify: the strict Thomists (including, apparently, Garrigou-Lagrange) seem to view mankind as the "massa damnata" and basically turn "free will" into something of an illusion, with efficacious grace being basically an arbitrary gift to a chosen few, and merely sufficient being basically just a technicality so that we don't have to turn God into some sort of monster. Whereas the Molinists are required to turn to complex appeals to God's "scientia media" (His knowledge of what someone would choose if put in certain circumstances) in order to deny efficacious grace to those who "would reject it anyway" in order to save the claim that it is infallible. Again, neither solution is terribly satisfying.

However, the "subtractive" method of Fr. Most helps to explain the relationship between sufficient grace and efficacious grace, and the relation of both to free will.

The idea had long been mentioned that efficacious grace is simply sufficient grace cooperated with or non-resisted, that efficacious grace is simply the name for sufficient grace that has been enacted. However, the problem is that cooperation itself has to also be attributed to God's agency. Even non-resistance to grace would have to be a grace, which for a long time seemed to merely move the causation back a step (ie, "turtles all the way down"). Now, for a merely objectively naturally morally good action, grace would not be needed, but for it to be of any salutary effect for the soul subjectively, God's supernatural agency must be present.

However, if sufficient grace is identified with the ability to non-resist, then things seem rather reconciled. Fallen humanity, without grace, is basically a massa damnata which can only resist God, its natural "default" is resistance. But, God gives everyone sufficient grace, changing their default, in practice, to non-resistance (but only due to sufficient grace). Then, if people still make an active choice to resist (which they are free to) then they sin, or at least do not enact the grace (ie, an "imperfection"). Whereas, if they do not make such an active choice to resist, then the grace (now coinciding with the free act of the will) is efficacious and so infallibly achieves its result, directing the will in a salutary direction while giving God all the agency (since even the non-resistance was a grace: the "sufficient grace" preceding the free act of the will).

Basically, it's the same principle as the predestination: merit is unconditional (everyone is given sufficient grace freely by God prior to any consideration of their own choice), whereas sin and imperfection is conditional on active resistance, on active rejection of that grace.

Basically, it is an application of the principles of election and reprobation to each individual act of the will. Rather than just considering the final eternal destination of all people, this applies it to each individual act. For God not only arranges or predestines the final destination as regards salvation for each person, but also each act of the will along the way, and yet leaving freedom just as meaningfully real.

And, once again, the best solution is a "subtractive" one; namely, God first wills every act of the will ever made by any person to be a salutary one as the default, a cooperation with His actual grace, and demonstrates this by giving everyone the sufficient grace to accomplish it; making the default of their will non-resistance to His. But then He excludes those acts where there is active resistance nevertheless. Those acts of the will left after that are efficacious in grace, not because of any independent act of the will (nor even independent non-resistance) on the part of the individual person, but because God already willed the cooperation in step 1 prior to any other considerations.

Well, I've probably just confused things for many of you more than clarified them, but hopefully it will at least help people consider these issues.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Father William Most and Theology

I would like to recommend to everyone the works of Fr. William Most, many articles of which are available here.

I haven't read everything, so I can't say I completely agree with him on everything. But I like what I have read and I will say that I find his style of Theology very refreshing if only because it is so simple, though I know little about the man himself.

Recently (and by that I mean...since Scholasticism, pretty much, lol) Catholic theologians have had two major problematic methods, as I see it, that make them deviate from the relatively straight-talk of the Fathers.

The first is what I might call the "philosophizing" of Theology which occurs in Scholasticism. This is something to which the Orthodox very much object (though they have a tendency to "mysticize" their theology which can be problematic too). Philosophy is to be the handmaid of Theology, and yet too often in Scholastic schools it seems like Theology is being made just a branch of philosophy. Theology is made to fit philosophy instead of the other way around.

Theology is boxed into this or that philosophy, as if the philosophy itself were the objective Truth in itself, as opposed to just a convenient "language" for speaking the Truth. In this method, a lot of time seems to be spent fitting Theology into the framework of a given philosophy, with more or less successful results, than with actually resolving cruxes or answering questions (though the definition of terms can help clarify things sometimes).

You will also find theologians arguing over little details that are essentially philosophical (which is to say, semantical) points, rather than actual theological points with application to our belief and praxis. This got worse and worse as time went on. Whereas the Summa Theologica can be a very helpful explanation of Catholic doctrine, by the time you get to the Neo-Thomism of the 19th-century (which some people treat as practically de fide in itself) you start to see a certain desperation. The Deposit of Faith contains only a finite number of articles (almost all of which have now been defined) and the work of synthesizing Christian doctrine with Aristotle was pretty much...done. So what work was left for those theologians at that point except arguing arcane points over just what constitutes the act of esse, etc??

Which gives rise to the second problematic method, wherein (seemingly to justify their continued existence) "theologians" write these dense academic treatises that don't ever seem to reach a definitive conclusion, or argue over distinctions so subtle as to be ridiculous.
Much of theology today, unfortunately, seems to involve not even so much a discussion of theological questions in themselves and objectively answering them, but in a sort of history of theology, seeking to apply various methods of "criticism" to the writings of the Fathers or other theologians, complicating what they say by reading more into it than is there through complex "analysis" that doesn't ultimately even answer anything about reality, only about some vague little nuance in a given author's writings (without any ultimate judgment on the truth value of the author's conclusion).

This can be dangerous especially because, according to this methodology, the writings of heretics are just as "analyzable" as those of the orthodox, and that makes for strange intellectual bedfellows. In this way, a Catholic "theologian," can even be a "Luther scholar" or an "expert on Arius," because they're not really doing any theology or philosophy themselves, merely learning about the theology and philosophy of someone else (who they may or may not personally agree with). I would argue that this has lead to a certain indifferentism towards the question of heresy vs orthodoxy, for an academic who "works with" heretical texts internally, if only as an intellectual exercise allegedly free of value or truth judgments externally, is simply going to be a little more comfortable with said texts, somewhat more inclined to view them favorably or at least as having redeeming value.
And it makes theology into little less than just a specific category of humanities "literary criticism" with no difference in nature, just which body of texts is being analyzed.

Even theologians who claim to be actual systematic theologians in the sense we think of often act as if they can find the answer to theological questions by selectively quoting other theologians and drawing connections between those quotes. They refuse to answer questions in a concrete way, but rather hedge and hem and haw and obfuscate, and end up just writing a history of the question rather than an answer, or if they do put forth an answer, it is only the most subtle of points, and usually is simply drawn from contrasts or tensions between the positions of other theologians.

Fr. Most, however, seems to answer questions and provide explanations in a manner I would call more "popular," meaning accessible to people, without sinking to the level of the vapid "popular theology" of the Apologetics crowd and their cookie-cutter answers. He especially wrote a lot defending the doctrine of Mary as Co-Redemptrix against those who would seek to minimalize her role, a topic I would like to write about soon (I'm planning a whole Mariological post). I might draw a comparison between his style and the Baltimore Catechism (really all you need), and between modern "theology" and the verbose new Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Most wrote in a style, and addressed topics, in a way that was very concrete and which did away with a lot of the endless talk with little content that has become Theology today. He cites sources when it's useful, but rather than "analyzing" picked-over texts to try to find "new" insight (academics will tell you it was there all along, just no one noticed!) he seems to realize that...if an idea makes sense, if it's a logical solution that seems to fit all the data...then it should stand on its own merits, you shouldn't need to write a whole dissertation to "prove" it, though he could when he needed to do so.

One such example is his book "Grace, Predestination, and the Salvific Will of God: New Answer to Old Questions" on the question of Predestination in Catholic thought. My next post is going to discuss the Catholic doctrine on Predestination and Justification in light of Fr. Most's solution.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Counter-Conspiracy?

So, the new sources I am consulting in the Conspiracy have brought me some more creepy information.

I don't know exactly what it means, maybe someone out there can explain themselves?

Someone from my university, or at least the same city, keeps accessing my blog, and it's not any of my friends in the area whom I've told about the blog. And they say they haven't told anyone else.

Alright, whatever. Local fans are as good as any.

Except, whoever this is...keeps searching the blog for terms that suggest they are trying to figure out who I am or where I'm from, it's really sort of scary.

And, perhaps more disturbingly, it seems like the IT people at one of the churches I attend may be tracking the blog for some reason, or at least like they've been asked to do so.

Whoever is doing all this, I think they will know who they are upon reading this. So...what the hell is going on?!?

Update: also, the Legionaries in Rome visited again today...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Opportunity For Entrepreneurs

Do you realize that mantillas and chapel veils go for, like, $15, $20, $30 online?!?!

Do you realize that you can make them for less than $5 each (the most expensive part is the trim/edging), and less than 10 minutes of labor apiece?

I mean, I'm all for a variety of head-coverings and scarves for women in church, but the [nylon] lace is actually the cheapest option and easiest to work with (it's transparency gives it a high tolerance for lines not being perfectly straight, etc)...

There's a bigger story here, obviously; I'll explain more later. I have to remain rather obtuse for now, but maybe you can already guess.

But I think there is an obvious business opportunity for anyone who wanted to drive down the cost (or for parishes that wanted to produce them in bulk...)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More On Preaching

Surveys indicate that "poor preaching" is one of Catholics' biggest complaints when it comes to their priests.

As I've discussed before, I think that the biggest problem is not even the quality of the content, but rather the manner of delivery. Surely they could learn some things about how to structure a sermon (there are a bunch of basic little techniques, like constructing parallelisms, that really spruce up a speech and make it memorable), but I think the biggest deficiency is in the performance.

It's always in this meek or patronizing tone, as if there is a lack of conviction about what is said or lack of confidence in themselves as public speakers. The delivery is so weak and effeminate that it's almost as if they don't really believe in any of it. At best the tone will be adult and natural, but still totally mundane, as if the sermon is just small-talk in the movie line.

Lay Readers don't help, especially when nasally accents make the whole thing sound just ridiculous and utterly profane.

I've recorded my own example of how the readings (when not sung, as they really should be) or the sermon could be more emotional, more charismatic, more inspiring. This was just my first attempt as an amateur with this text (John 12:44-50), so I'm sure if I practiced (or was professionally trained) it could be much better. For example, I would have liked to strengthen "life everlasting" more emphatically. And the recording has quite a lot of feedback. But still, it's better than most of what I've heard in Catholic churches all my life:

Unfortunately I think some people would mistakenly find this "racist" or treat it as a joke. Even though white preachers used to do this all the time too, and even though I'm quite serious. If some 10-year old Mexican Evangelical Creationist boy can do it, so can our priests.

Maybe people's reaction is a sign that they don't take religion seriously anymore, and thus assume that any non-defensive, non-meek, non-apologetic, non-embarrassed presentation of it must be a joke?

Or they'll say "no one talks that way" because they don't understand that oratory is a separate register of speech that of course no one uses in day to day life.

There is only one way to change this impression, and it's up to priests in the pulpit. They've got to stop hunching their shoulders, talking out their nose with their chin on their chest, speaking as if what they say is merely a long-winded suggestion for the people to "take into consideration." That is the shame posture, the affect of insecurity and learned helplessness, and it needs to be unlearned.

They need to speak with total confidence and utter conviction. They need to be emotionally stirring and charismatic. They need to lead like men.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Can Always Dream...

There was a lot of speculation a few months ago about a rumored Holy Week "surprise" that the Pope was allegedly going to issue.

There was wild speculation in the comments section of a post on Rorate Caeli, ranging from the restoration of the sedia gestatoria, to the abolition of communion on the hand, to a papal Mass in the Old Rite, to things more trivial, to things more significant. It may just be this collection for the rebuilding of the seminary in Haiti that was recently announced.

Still, the thread had been quiet for a while, but now this rumor has appeared:
It is no coincidence that the announcement will be Holy Thursday, and will be addressed to priests but with impact for all Catholic faithful. In seminary the news is that many meetings (some public, many not) have been leading the Holy Father to announce subtle but ultimately fundamental changes to the requirement for priestly celibacy (for new priests, there will be no release from existing vows of celibacy). We are amazed that so many think that an announcement to the the worldwide church would be so trivial as whether he should be carried in his chair or not.
If that's true (and I doubt it, but we'll see), then perhaps I judged the man too quickly. He's a smart guy, for sure, maybe he is finally getting it. I made a bet a few months ago that we'd see the end of mandatory celibacy within 15 years; this would certainly be a quicker pay-off than I'd expected! But I doubt it. Not quite yet; if the constant stream of abuse victims is any indicator, they haven't yet hit rock-bottom. And like all addicts, these power-addicted hierarchs need to hit rock-bottom before they will surrender and be open to change.

Still, we can pray. Though, even if this is true, I think it would have shown more media savvy to bump the announcement up a few weeks to confront the crisis that erupted immediately; in our 24-hour news cycle, every week, every day, every hour of inaction drains your credibility.

Like I said, I think this is all wild speculation. Why would the Pope keep defending mandatory celibacy in the wake of the crisis and in the weeks leading up to a planned announcement overturning it? Just to fake us out? Ha, not likely.

But, the important thing is that such speculation is taking place, even in the seminaries apparently! There is excitement, if restrained, over the possibility. Expectations are rising. And sometimes it is expectations which are the hardest to resist. They say that revolutions happen when rising expectations and hopes are disappointed, rather than when things are despairingly bad.

We'll see what happens, but either way, there has clearly been a paradigm shift on this issue.

Why Do They Care?

Whenever I see liberals pushing for the Church to change its teachings on sexual morality, I always have to wonder why they care? I think we need to analyze their motives, try to figure out what exactly, concretely, they are imagining.

Well, actually, there are two categories of issues here. The first set, if changed, actually would have some effects in practice. Such issues include:

-Making celibacy optional for diocesan priests. This is very possible, of course, and would change the whole social landscape of the priesthood, as well as opening up a whole new pool of men, and ending some of the secrecy and deception by allowing open marriages and maybe help to break open the isolated clerical culture and arrogant separation from the laity.

-Allowing divorce and remarriage would, I suppose, make people not have to go through the rigmarole of some long complicated annulment process; but, then again, so would merely adopting a more Orthodox pragmatism towards approving them (since the theoretical principles aren't going to change). There is this idea out there that the divorced-and-remarried are singled-out for exclusion from communion, but this is simply because they are publicly presumed to be in a state of grave sin. People don't seem to realize that no one in a state of mortal sin is supposed to receive communion, though I understand that the semi-permanent status of the divorced-and-remarried makes it harder for them. However, they can live as brother and sister, and I'm sure there are people who have made that resolve, gone to confession in order to receive communion again, only to resume sexual activity at some later point. Likewise, I'm sure there are people divorced-and-remarried who simply ignore the Church's teaching about not receiving communion in a state of sin. As do many sinners after many sins; this idea that the divorced are singled-out isn't really true, no one is checking ID cards in the communion line.

-Allowing women to be priests would likewise change the whole make-up of the priesthood, though that's not going to happen. At most you might see some sort of deaconesses brought back. However, women could have much influence in the Church even just in the role of Priest's Wife or "presbytera" as in the East, where she is a very important maternal figure for the parish.

-Approving homosexual marriage would obviously change who had weddings in our churches, and change the structure of the Church and society, and that's definitely not going to happen. The Church should, however, resist the "culture-wars" tendency to stigmatize homosexuality more than any sins (like adultery, etc). Resisting the self-righteousness of the older generation of conservatives, I think in the younger generations this is already happening. Lots of young, faithful Catholics I know accept the sexual morality of the Church, and oppose gay marriage politically, but aren't homophobic and also have gay friends, liberal friends, non-Catholic friends, fornicating friends (or fornicate themselves), etc.

Which gets to my main point; while changing the teaching (or, since that can't happen, the attitudes in practice) on the above issues might have some practical effects...I don't really understand what the liberals are imagining changing other teachings would accomplish. Recognizing something is immoral is different than having some sort of oppressive regime against it. Accepting theoretically that something is immoral doesn't actually stop anyone from doing anything necessarily.

So many of their other concerns would simply have no effect. Which is what they don't seem to understand. "The Church should allow contraception!" Why? Is the so-called "ban" actually stopping anyone who wants to use it from using it? No, obviously not, in fact one of their big arguments is that so many Catholics do it anyway. But so what? We're all sinners. So what would changing the teaching that it is immoral accomplish in practice? It's not like the Church is holding a gun to anyone's head forcing them not to contracept. "Catholics should be able to!" But Catholics already are able to if they so choose, that's not the question at all.

The same basic principle applies to fornication and prostitution and pornography (which they'd probably like to see reduced to merely venial sins), and to masturbation and impure thoughts (which they'd probably like to see exculpated entirely). The Church's teachings that these things are wrong are not like some sort of sharia law that is getting people stoned to death.

These teachings basically amount, in terms of external effect in practice, not to a statement that faithful Catholics won't do these things, but merely that faithful Catholics will mention these acts in confession before receiving communion after committing them (and inevitably someone will at some point). Big deal. Lots of us fornicate, masturbate, and have lustful thoughts sometimes, even while accepting the Church's teaching on the immorality of it. And so we go to confession before receiving communion and resolve to try harder next time. That's not hypocrisy, it's just sin, and we're all sinners, but God loves us anyway. It's really not the big scary oppressive regime they're imagining.

Is that what the liberals are so afraid of? Is that what they want to change? That they don't want to have to tell some guy in a dark box if they hook-up, use a condom, touch themselves, or have an erotic fantasy? It's really not that hard; the priests have heard it all before, trust me. So I really don't see why the liberals care. I don't understand why they're so emotionally invested in having the Church change these teachings which, in practice, are just that: teachings.

Perhaps they have a hard time bearing cognitive dissonance? Perhaps they are too disturbed by the thought that they too are (gasp!) sinners, and so would rather label what they do as not sin. But this is the very sort of self-righteousness they accuse (correctly) the conservatives of having. Because it's not about living up to the standard, nor is lowering the standard to fit your own abilities the solution to not living up to it. Rather, it's about upholding the standard even though everyone falls short, and letting grace fill the gap.

They're teachings, sure, but no one is "enforcing" them except for the individual conscience. If they are so troubled by the lofty ideal of chastity proposed by the Church, maybe it is really their own conscience which is disturbing them, maybe their war is really one to alter their own conscience. But it is in our weakness that grace comes in! It is in the gap between our ideal and our reality that God enters our lives! The difference between them and those of us who accept the teachings isn't that we are really objectively behaving all that differently, it's that we glory in our infirmities and don't mind being reminded of them. That's the path to humility.

Well, some of us who accept the teachings don't mind being reminded of our infirmities. There are, of course, several classes of people who accept the Church's teachings besides just those of us described above. The first class are those who actually live up to them due to holiness, but don't judge those who don't; these are the Saints-on-Earth, and they're not bugging or oppressing anyone. But then there are those who technically live up to the standard due to extreme repression (if you can call that living up to it) but are extremely judgmental and self-righteous nevertheless; they're spiritually sick, but rather rare. Unfortunately, the next category is rather common, perhaps the largest category. It's those self-righteous, judgmental types who don't, in fact, live up to the standards, but then strangely enough are all the more repressive and jansenist in their attitudes. Defensively, over-compensating for their own weaknesses instead of accepting and embracing them. Because their cycle depends on guilt (when they fall) and self-righteousness (when they're in the "good" phase) and because they feel a need to create a false distinction between themselves and "the sinners" even though they sin too. "But at least we try!" they'll tell you, or some such false distinction. As if they think they can make themselves better just because they feel guiltier or are more stridently condemnatory and judgmental due their self-loathing. Methinks they do protest too much.

Those two self-righteous categories of conservatives need to be stopped. They probably have ended up traumatizing all sorts of other impressionable young people with their toxic bile, born of their own twisted psyche and arrogant angst. But those attitudes are not something essential to the Church's teachings in themselves, so the liberals needn't worry. Talk of the Church "imposing" regulations on people or "controlling" their sex lives...are ridiculous. If people choose to follow the Church's teachings, that's their own choice, so why do the liberals care? Now, if the State was trying to enforce these things legally, coercively...I'd be mad too. But just as a moral code for's a private matter. If they want to reject those teachings and do their own thing, they're free to do so (and already do), no one will know or try to stop them. But publicly changing the teachings wouldn't really do anything except, apparently, make them more comfortable with themselves. Which raises the question: if they already believe these teachings are wrong, why do the liberals need them to be officially changed in order to stop them from nagging at their conscience? Why would the teachings be nagging at their conscience still if they've already decided they're incorrect?