Thursday, April 21, 2016

Corrected by Malcolm

The previous post involved a long exchange with Malcolm. In it I had to defend my view of the Pope's document, and I think what Malcolm's accomplished is sufficient to warrant me correcting what I've said.

I do not think that the vagueness of the Pope here changes doctrine - it simply cannot, on this question. And I do think there was good in the document. I maintain that traditionalists very often are wrong in their estimation of the damage this document can do, or what clarity could accomplish. As far as that goes, I maintain what I've said; trying to deal with liberals by fool-proofing your writings is impossible. They will ignore, rewrite or reinterpret you to their heart's content.

But I think I can explain a legitimate concern, a valid and real concern, that traditionalists have - and put it into words that give it some teeth.

Insofar as this document is vague - and vague about one of (and only one of) the central concerns that was had about this document - it undermines the morale of people who need support the most. A lack of clarity from the Pope himself on this topic has the effect of making strong priests a bit disheartened, and weary priests even more weary. When you're harangued by a culture on all sides already - and often, people in your own pews or (God forbid) your own clergy - then the Pope's decision to go wishy-washy and vague does not give you the support you need. It makes it easier to turn a blind eye, to give communion to the person who by God's law should be denied it. It's corrosive. It is, in fact, a pastoral failure - just as Vatican II ultimately was.

That is a legitimate complaint.

However, I also believe that this is the best way of framing the traditionalist complaint - and, framed that way, this document also lends *support* to many priests, who frankly are more beaten up over other issues. Let's face it: the divorced of the world aren't currently engaged in an outright media and legal campaign against the Church. Feminists and LGBT organizations, are. Those, the pope did shut down more forcefully, with more clarity. Morale improves on those fronts, and the culture is repaired a bit more (though oddly enough, the lack of realization of this by many traditionalists just ends up doing harm on that front by blunting that message.)

That is how I see this situation.

1 comment:

malcolmthecynic said...

I will say I am highly unimpressed by theologians who are trying to convince anybody that the document actually changes anything.

Like this article by Fr. Gerald Murray. First, he quotes some mushy stuff from Francis about mitigating factors and crap that was already the case anyway, then in terms of changing doctrine the only proof given is a very vague footnote followed by very vague statements by a Cardinal after the document was released.

And for somebody who has been following Pope Francis so closely, he sure seems ignorant of the Holy Father's previous comments reaffirming Church teaching.

Considering how directly a change would contradict previous Church teaching, in the presence of vagueness erring on the side of no change seems pretty obvious. But theologians are like anybody else, and seem to be choosing to look at this in the worst possible light - which, like you, I find unproductive.