‘Let Your Yes Mean No and Your No Mean Yes’

Didn’t Jesus teach us not to speak with equivocation or ambiguity?

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37).

Does this not also apply to Church authorities? Every day they send mixed signals on matters of faith and morals that had been historically established as revealed tradition and steadfastly upheld for millennia.

In some dioceses priests are expected to accept to Holy Communion remarried couples whose marriages were never declared null based on an understanding of a brief footnote in Pope Francis’ encyclical Amoris Laetitia (e.g., San Diego).  Others bishops see it differently and have forbidden their priests to give communion to those whom Jesus regarded as adulterers (e.g., Philadelphia). And Rome is fine with this?

Moreover, the Pope won’t answer questions. Does he believe in hell? Is there salvation outside the Church? Is homosexuality a sin? Did he know McCarrick was a pervert when he put him in his inner circle? Should Catholic pols that support abortion be denied communion? He refuses to clarify his position on these and other serious matters.

No wonder church attendance keeps dropping. The data supporting the sad statistic that for every one person in the U.S. that enters the Catholic Church six leave was confirmed by Pew Research:

Overall, 13% of all U.S. adults are former Catholics – people who say they were raised in the faith, but now identify as religious “nones,” as Protestants, or with another religion. By contrast, 2% of U.S. adults are converts to Catholicism – people who now identify as Catholic after having been raised in another religion (or no religion). This means that there are 6.5 former Catholics in the U.S. for every convert to the faith.

Those wonderful, rich, very well fed German bishops blame it on the failure of the Church to adapt to modern society, especially in terms of sexual morality and gender equality. But Protestant churches who have tried this only accelerated their decline in membership (since its embrace of homosexual bishops, the United Methodist Church in the U.S. has been losing members at a rate of 1,000/week).

Protestant denominations are generally open to change based on a reinterpretation of scripture in light of modern science. But at this point for the Catholic Church change or no change represents a ‘catch-22’ (damned if you do, damned if you don’t). To establish as Church teaching something that contradicts tradition destroys the Church’s credibility. On the other hand, to steadfastly uphold Catholic tradition without equivocation will put the Church in the crosshairs of an increasingly hostile modern world.

The 6.5 that leave the Church for every one received will probably continue for a while, whoever is pope, but at least it’s not ten to one as in the U.K.

…rjt

Amoris Laetitia and the ‘Humpty Dumpty Effect’

In E.D. Hirsch’s Validity in Interpretation, a classic on the subject of literary hermeneutics, professor Hirsch argues that the goal of interpretation is to understand what an author intended, a concept that had been abandoned by many authors and critics. One common error which he labeled the “Humpty Dumpty effect” struck me as evident in the general response to the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation. This particular fallacy was illustrated in the following lines from Alice in Wonderland:

“The question is,”, said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Humpty wants to make words mean what he’d like them to mean. T.S. Eliot, for example, had no problem with interpreters determining meaning in his poems that had no connection with what the poet may have been thinking when he wrote them. Continue reading “Amoris Laetitia and the ‘Humpty Dumpty Effect’”

A Pastoral Revolution?

medieval-confessionIn the Middle Ages confession could be an unpleasant experience; penances were severe and could last years. Priests had been taught that if a penance accorded was not in proportion to the gravity of the sin, a portion of the temporal punishment would be transferred to the priest. But around the middle of the twelfth-century priests were encouraged to develop a gentler approach to confession.

French scholar Pierre Payer, an expert on the penitential literature of the period,  called it a “pastoral revolution”, where the focus of preaching and the confessional was to educate and counsel rather than admonish and punish. Confession would become, according to Payer, “…one of the most intimate of human relationships that was institutionalized in the Christian Church”.*

Another “pastoral revolution” may be taking place in the Church with the implementation of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in which Pope Francis introduces a new development in pastoral discernment:

“[Seminarians and future priests] need to truly understand this: in life not everything is black and white, white and black. No! In life shades of gray predominate. We must then teach how to discern within this gray.” (link)

Continue reading “A Pastoral Revolution?”