Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Observations on the Catholic Synod.


For those who are interested, my silence in the blogosphere has been due to other unforseen commitments which I have had to take on, principally, building and designing various elements of a house. I'm still keeping an eye on things and hope (for about the umpteenth time) to be blogging regularly in the next month or so.

However, I thought I would make a brief comment on the recent Catholic Church Synod.

Nial Ferguson, in explaining the rise of the west, explained its success in due to its ability to create "killer apps" which allowed it to overtake other civilisations. I think Ferguson presents a strong and compelling case (though some of his analysis is a bit simplistic) that certain cultural memes enable the flourishing of a civilisation. Ferguson does not go very much into the "software" by which these apps are written but in my mind, it is religious and philosophical culture which are the origin of the code.

Taking a Fergusonian view on the matter then, the recent Synod really needs to be thought of as a Western Civilisation software conference, and one of the foundational bits of Western Civilisational software is the Institution of Sacramental Marriage.  While a lot of Neoreactionaries seem to be concerned with politics as a driver of social change the real money is to found in the religous and philosophical underpinnings of society.  Religion more so than philosophy, because good religion seems to provide some protective effect against bad philosophy.

Tinkering with marriage comes with great peril though I feel we should be alright. I think a lot of strange things are going to happen to the Catholic Church in the next few years and all the gay talk (and I don't mean happy) has unsettled the true guardians of the faith Traditionalists. The problem with Tradition is that it is hermetically sealed, all that has been said about the Faith has been said and there is no new development that can occur out of it. Doubling down is the Traditionalist solution to every problem. I'm sorry people think this is a caricature but I'm calling it as I see it. The Traditionalists have stopped the development of any new "killer apps."

As I see it, the question that Francis is posing to the Synod is this, "How can we develop new applications using pre-existing software and code?" The issue remains inderminate.

Many see the very fact that Francis is asking this question as proof that he has gone "Lefty". But I don't think this is the case. In a speech, which was not widely reported by the media, Francis pretty much lays the boot into "alternative arrangements":

In an audience with members of an international Marian movement, Pope Francis warned that the sacrament of marriage has been reduced to a mere association, and urged participants to be witnesses in a secular world.
“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized[Ed],” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience.

He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it's an association. But it's not marriage! It's necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed.
This ain't no New Age Pope.  No wonder the media turned a blind eye. The Cathedral does not want you to know.




13 comments:

novaseeker said...

I wonder what, in brass tacks terms, this will mean.

I think some things can be excluded: the Vatican isn't going to be signing on to gay marriage. In that sphere, I'd expect that the idea will be to propose different kinds of pastoral approaches to people who are in homosexual relationships or who have a homosexual orientation which emphasize inclusion without going so far as to accept and endorse sin.

When it comes to heterosexuals, I think the main area where there may be changes is how the church handles divorced Catholics who have not had their marriages annulled. I suspect where things are headed there is also a more pastoral approach, particularly in situations where de facto secular marriages and families have arisen, wit ha view to reconciling these people with the church, rather than excluding them as living in sin, or requiring them to break up their families and de facto marriages in order to avoid sin. A lesser of two evils kind of approach comes to mind with respect to these situations. Trads will be annoyed about that, because they will say it mocks people who follow the rules, but that may be a bit like the non-prodigal son bitching about taking back the prodigal. I suspect, though, that the church is heading in this kind of direction when it comes to divorced (non-annulled) catholics who are de facto remarried.

A similar approach could be proposed to be taken for those millions of catholics who are engaging in pre-marital sex. Certainly the church will not endorse such behavior, but at the same time, different pastoral approaches could be taken with a view to reaching out more effectively to people who are alienated by the church's teachings about sexual behavior, and try to prevent that alienation from becoming a fully-blown alienation from God and the church.

One wonders if the annullment rules could also use some tweaks, but I doubt they will go there, really.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Nova

I think some things can be excluded: the Vatican isn't going to be signing on to gay marriage.

Agree. Nor will it be allowing "heterosexual remarriages" or legitimise fornication. The moral theology on the matter is simply too strong to permit any change on those matters.

I suspect where things are headed there is also a more pastoral approach, particularly in situations where de facto secular marriages and families have arisen

I think that a "pastoral approach" conceptulisation of the problem is the beginning of a slippery slope to outright liberalisation since the problem with pastoral approaches is, where do you draw the line? It becomes very easy to accept everything if you're willing to drop the bar low enough to get people to come to Church.

Briefly, I think that the practical workaround for those proposing changes is to place emphasis on two factors with respect to moral theology:

Firstly, God ain't a hanging judge. I wouldn't be appealing to God's Mercy on this issue rather God's understanding of human nature. He knows that we're weak and while he hates sin of any kind the reality of our natures in many instances mitigates the deserts owing for the commission of our sins. God's "putting up with divorce" in the Old testament is an example of this. Christ did not say God "forgave" the old time Jews for their divorce practices, he "put up" with it instead. A subtle but important distinction.

Secondly, the Church does have some dispensatory powers to make determinations on the moral severity of certain sinful situations. The Church may be able to make a formal declaration of "veniality" given and objective review of the circumstances and allow access to the sacraments. None of this is really any new stuff.

Trads will be annoyed about that, because they will say it mocks people who follow the rules, but that may be a bit like the non-prodigal son bitching about taking back the prodigal

Nova, that is a brilliant analogy and in fact, we should be considering the Trads as the "non-Prodigal sons" of the Church.

Jack said...

Hello Doc. Good to hear from you. Fun times building a house. Pay close attention to the drainage. Few things are more important to the integrity of a foundation than keeping water at bay.

That said, your post brings to mind a recent bit from Roissy:

Nor does the sexual promiscuity of Brave New World seem so very distant. There are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages. In a few years, no doubt, marriage licenses will be sold like dog licenses, good for a period of twelve months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time. As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator (unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.
– Aldous Huxley, 1947

I am surprised that a number of people I know take umbrage when I send them links to these things.

Roissy is worth a read. Snese of humor and wit not the least among them.

Jack

Greg said...

"A similar approach could be proposed to be taken for those millions of catholics who are engaging in pre-marital sex. Certainly the church will not endorse such behavior, but at the same time, different pastoral approaches could be taken with a view to reaching out more effectively to people who are alienated by the church's teachings about sexual behavior, and try to prevent that alienation from becoming a fully-blown alienation from God and the church."

What do you have in mind?

My diocese tried a range of things, and, suffice to say, it ended in disaster.

(e.g. Youth are now defined as 14-45, and they represent approximately 0.00043% of the population of the city. This is, by the way, a country that is [nominally] about 45+% Catholic.)

----

"Trads will be annoyed about that, because they will say it mocks people who follow the rules, but that may be a bit like the non-prodigal son bitching about taking back the prodigal"

You get more of what you tolerate. It's sort of like the tragedy of the commons, in a way.

novaseeker said...

What do you have in mind?

My diocese tried a range of things, and, suffice to say, it ended in disaster.


One idea is what SP suggested, in terms of declaring certain sins to be venial.

Another approach would be greater acceptance and understanding of the pressures on people, encouragement of confession, and understanding that people are going to fail repeatedly on these issues in the current culture with its pressures -- rather than pushing all of them away OR endorsing what they are doing. It seems there are some middle paths that could be explored.

With the remarried divorced catholics with new families, I'd think some kind of approach where people are brought back into the full life of the church, through confession and a regularization of the marriage, would be appropriate.

The issues aren't easy, but it's also clear that the current approach isn't working terribly well either at keeping people from pre-marital sex, to keeping them from getting divorced, to keeping them from remarrying and having new de facto marriages and families.

Greg said...

"The issues aren't easy, but it's also clear that the current approach isn't working terribly well either at keeping people from pre-marital sex, to keeping them from getting divorced, to keeping them from remarrying and having new de facto marriages and families."

How does this compare to more liberal churches in the US? (e.g. Unitarianism) How does this compare to more conservative/traditional churches in the US? (e.g. SSPX)

Which are growing and which are shrinking?

candide3 said...

The Catholic Church is simply far behind the curve. It can't leapfrog straight into gay marriage — it has to work on things in order. Notice that Francis has called for quicker and free-of-charge nullifications (which have already made the supposed indissolubility a joke) and, with Cardinal Casper, is pushing and will probably get communion for divorcees (i.e. those in a state of mortal sin). So they're behind some 100 years. My guess is they know it and they fully intend to catch up, but it has to be done gradually and not too quickly, to retain at least a semblance of continuity.

As for your larger point about "killer apps", human biology and neurophysiology (i.e. the hardware) being what it is, I don't expect there are many substantially different ways of maintaining high civilization. We have 10,000 years worth of history to look at, and it appears that absolute monogamy is a prerequisite to building one. It also appears that it doesn't last very long, and in our modern case, our version of this particular "killer app" was uninstalled quite a while ago. I allow that the traditionalists may be wrong in trying to resurrect this version — a withered tree will not bear fruit again, whether it is watered or no.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Jack

The house is built on reactive clay. I obsess about drainage and the foundations are so thick I reckon I could put up an office tower on them.

Roissy is an example of the direction that the New Right should be going in. Instead the old guard pillories him with a venom almost on par with the feminists.

Oh, an interesting thing in the local paper. Once again the Right shooting itself in the head.


@Greg,

An "ad hoc" approach is almost certainly bound to end in failure. "Gimmicky" Christianity does not work.

You get more of what you tolerate. It's sort of like the tragedy of the commons, in a way.

The thing is you don't tolerate it. You have to clearly state that "irregular" situations are exceptions to the rule and treat them accordingly. For example, access to the sacraments could be limited to only certain times and if certain conditions were fulfilled. In no way should there be any equalisation between a regular marriage and and irregular state. What you see in the Liberal churches is an equalisation between virtue and sin.

Which are growing and which are shrinking?

I know that the liberal churches are shrinking but I've got no idea about SSPX.

@Candide

Firstly, being a divorcee allows you access to communion, you're not allowed to have communion if you're a divorcee in an adulterous relationship.

Secondly, the pushback by the "traditionalists" in the Church show that things aren't going to the way that they have in the Anglican denominations. Casper is in a minority and thought the media give him a whole lot of time, he is far from the centre of intellectual gravity in the Church.

This pope isn't a liberal. Though to a trad, any change, which makes the demands of the faith easier is inherently liberal. For a trad, Doubling down=good. Relaxing=bad.

candide3 said...

My bad not checking it. Of course you're right, and the issue was allowing communion to those 'divorcees in an adulterous relationship'. (Is this an example of a "change that makes the demands of faith easier"?) It may not happen next year, but watch for it soon.

As for Trads' pushback, it appears to me that they instinctively sense that relaxing the demands of the faith is not what is called for now, but that they are not equipped to discover any other means than doubling down on what they already know. The fact that most intelligent people somehow end up liberal doesn't help, either. I agree that their pushback is misguided, and it will probably prove fruitless. The important point when considering this issue is, I think, not to fall into the trap of comparing the current situation in the CC to the current situation in the Anglican denominations. Recall that 100-150 years ago, when the situation in Anglican/Protestant churches was similar to where CC is now, there was also at various times lots of pushback and the reformers were frequently in a minority in the conclaves of the respective churches. But we know how it went and where it ended up. Believe me, although I am not myself a Christian, much less a traditionalist, I grieve for the Church. The best of Europe went into building up its spiritual walls, and the Church was the soul of European civilization for the longest time. But now I'm afraid that it is rotting. The healthiest communities of the CC are in the relatively backward and remote regions, such as Chile or Ukrainian Greek Catholics.

> Once again the Right shooting itself in the head.
It is a mistake to think of any mainstream political party as Right in any meaningful sense. Basically, at the current stage, if a party is not excoriated in all mainstream media as fascist or Nazi and targeted for political persecution, it is not sufficiently to the Right to be any good. Not that I think political parties are quite the way to go for rightists.

By the way, that was a funny video of the protesters who broke up that PUA seminar. I was expecting "feminists and manboobs", and I was not disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Ant attempt to placate the seething mass of libertines that now predominates is useless. They will go on in their career of iniquity regardless as they are filled with malice & vehemently oppose anything that would hinder them from living as bestial a life as they possibly can (May God have mercy on their souls). This apostasy was foretold in the Holy Scriptures, & in many private revelations & prophecies of the Saints. Our Lord Jesus Christ assured us that we would be hated by the world as it first hated Him. Doubling down as you call it is the only thing that in good conscience can be done. It will most probably result in the Remnant of the Faithful shrinking to an even tinier minority than it already is, but then that is to be expected in this dismal age for we are living in the latter times of the world. May God & His most Holy Mother have mercy on us that we will die well & be saved.

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standingagainsttheworld said...

I think the OT had a solution to pre-marital sex:

Exodus 22:16-17
''If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. 17"If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.''

I do not know if this is workable in our modern era.

Jack said...

Hey, Doc.

I'm looking for a post on your blog. I've spent a bit of time reading though your archive. I think it was pertinent to Serbia and assignation of malaise to another or more specifically 'the' other. Ring a bell?

It's Thanksgiving week here in the US. Insanity spreading as you may have seen. Hope all is well with you and yours.

Jack