Sunday, July 06, 2014
'Progressive Catholics': like angry babies
I have developed this theme before here: if the Church were to jettison Natural Law as a pillar of her moral theology in matters of sexuality, how would the end result not be that only consent remains as the sole criterion of the good?
After posing that question in some comments at Father Z's blog, a commenter pointed me toward this document: Listening to the Faithful: Recommendations to the Synod on the Family. Now, this looks like something serious, so I decided to take some time today to read it. Perhaps someone on the "progressive" side has actually thought this through?
Sadly, this document ain't it. I was only halfway through the introduction before I was feeling embarrassed for the people who put this out. Here are some examples:
"At the Second Vatican Council, we realized in a new way that the teachings of the Catholic Church could evolve..."
Well, that is a problem. The theory of evolution holds that new species evolve from old ones. Do the authors claim that the Mystical Body of Christ can "evolve" into a different species? Just think that through -- how is that possible? Does God need to evolve? Into what?
Then there's this howler:
"All of the Church’s social teaching is an attempt to clarify and amplify what Jesus taught by his words and by his deeds, recognizing of course that we face situations today that Jesus could never imagine."
There is no other word for this but stupid. Notice what they actually said: it is impossible that the second Person of the Trinity, once incarnate, could have brought his fullness of divine knowledge to his human brain. Just how can these folks know this to be true? Now, in the area of Christology -- the theology of who Christ is and how the implications of the incarnation work out -- we often find the idea that because Jesus was and is fully human, his divine knowledge was, in some fashion, "denied" to his humanity. I don't hold to that view, but I don't declare it an utterly impossible view to hold; I just think it doesn't make sense.
Ah, but these folks -- who can't bear to have anything condemned when it comes to sexual behavior, actually condemn the proposition that Jesus the God-Man had access to divine knowledge!
And it goes downhill from there. Within a few paragraphs, we learn that "in most cases," clerics haven't got any notion that any family ever struggles with finances, adolescent issues, "dealing with sickness," or marital conflict.
Oh, and: "women are to be feared."
Now, that's actually something I learned growing up with one mother and three sisters, as well as from dating before entering the seminary; and it's something I suspect not a few husbands would confirm; but it's definitely not anything I was taught in the seminary!
So what, if anything, do they offer on sexual morality?
-- It doesn't matter how many marriages people enter into. Now, admittedly, they didn't put it that baldly; but they did say that sometimes marriages "die" and therefore, a second marriage, after a valid first one, should not be a problem. So, why stop there? Can't second marriages also "die"? And third ones? Where do they draw the line -- and why? Nothing there.
-- Any partnership can be a relationship, "gender" notwithstanding.
-- For that matter, with or without marriage, sex is OK.
-- And of course, "Humanae Vitae was a mistake." Contracept and make babies in test-tubes all you like, folks! Because the Church should "Translate prohibitions into compassionate counseling based on the primacy of conscience."
So it goes. This isn't theology; it's a wish-list. From a theological standpoint, it's incoherent.
On the basis of this sort of reasoning, on what basis would a priest -- or a parent -- tell someone his or her "adulterous" relationship was immoral? "My spouse and I agreed to an 'open relationship,'" comes the response. So if the spouses agreed, what makes "adultery" wrong? And the same question arises for any other question of sexual behavior. As I said at the outset: the only remaining criterion is consent. Read this document and tell me I'm wrong.
Further, serious theology has to ask this question: why should this sort of moral reasoning be limited only to sex? Why shouldn't decisions about paying taxes, business matters, respecting the property of others, whether a statement is "true," also be governed by "prohibitions" translated into "compassionate counseling based on the primacy of conscience"?
Now, perhaps you think I'm being mean; after all, why should this group be expected to provide serious theology? Because they are proposing this for the bishops to consider; and the "board of consultors" includes not a few self-described theologians.
I'm tempted to claim this document shows that progressive theologians confirm my initial point about consent being the sole remaining criterion of the moral good. But this is too shoddy. But it does confirm, I think, that there is a huge hole left, that the "progressives" won't be able to fill -- that is, assuming they even care. But on the evidence of this mess, it seems their real issue is a kind of infantilism: they simply resent the h*** out of the word "no."