A game changer…

In high school and college, I would have accepted the slur (or praise, as it was then) of being a devotee of liberation theology. I read fairly extensively in the field, and “lived out” what was taken to be its practical expression by doing Habijax summer missions, supporting poor children in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and serving in an intensive inner-city mission with IVCF.

At some point, however, I read more in “real economics” and realized that there was no coherent opposition between dogmatic rigorism and pastoral care (quite the opposite, in fact). So, while I still endorse my younger charitable efforts, I utterly reject the socialist, statist strings attached thereto. The sticking point came as I was reading James Cone’s God of the Oppressed. It is one of those vivid, episodic memories: I can remember lying on the bed in a motel in Florida, reading, though I cannot recall why I was in a motel, and I distinctly recall being caught short by something Cone wrote (on page 130 or so?), and reading the passage again to be sure–and realizing, “Houston, we have a problem.” If my commitment to social justice meant abandoning my credal faith, then fuhgeddaboutit. #honestly

And so it came to pass that I became Catholic, and, whilst serving at WYD in Köln, I read The Ratzinger Report (well, to be specific, it was during my follow-up jaunt to Rome), which either followed or triggered my reading of the CDF instruction on certain aspects of liberation theology. At that point my buyer’s remorse crystallized and hardened: I had been hoodwinked by the latent Marxism of my evangelical liberation theology, and would not be fooled again.

And so it came to pass that over the next several years I dug deeper into the libertarian, free-market theory of social commerce. And I loved it. It made sense. It dignified business. It made sense of micro-loans and every other “soft conservative” practice which I knew actually helped “the poor”. And yet it seemed at odds with various prescriptions of the Holy See. And so ripples formed afresh on the surface of my mind. Was I required to be a statist, after all? I dove into Distributism, but walked away jaded by the usual leftist slippage. At which point I was fairly profoundly disillusioned with “Catholic Social Teaching”, since it seemed to compel me to embrace the economic version of Young Earthism. In the course of becoming disillusioned, I burned a few bridges and finally just decided to withdraw from the discussion altogether.

That was about a year ago. Since then I have re-approached (not “reproached”!) the Church’s social teaching with a somewhat more open mind. It’s all of a piece with my larger aporia these days with respect to the Vatican and the Magisterium. (FYI: My current thorn is trying to understand what the point of internalizing and defending Holy Tradition is, if all we are obliged–and allowed–to embrace therefrom is “what Rome says now.”) I am often tempted by anti-realist views of science–a concern, note well, which predates by years my interest in economics and the even more grotesque carnival that is the end-of-the-last-and-the-current-papacy–and, so, my most soothing stance these days is to say that, since no economic theory is complete, I might as well go with the-threads-which-can-be-woven-into-an-economic-theory based on a century or more of Roman pontifications. In other words: what do I know and why should I care? Obedience is a virtue.

In any event, lest I lose the thread of this post (even more), let me explain the title. The game changer for me was the 2003 CDF document about Catholic responses to “homosexual unions.” I was reminded of the impact of this document upon my by a recent post from my colleague, Hilary White. The key lines of that CDF document, among many gems, are these:

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.

That hit my instinctively libertarian soul like a thunderbolt. I had been inclined to say that the State (that harlot) could do whatever she wanted in the game of bread and circuses, yet I was stopped short by the realization that a commitment to the reality of marriage was a call not to conservative quietism, but to social activism. And so I became a devotee of numerous CDF documents, including the much maligned “pastoral care for the road.” Years later I also read enough to see that the State is not a pure enemy, and yet I wonder if the state as we know it now still corresponds to the what the Magisterial Tradition has in mind as far as the limits of liberalism go.

Well, seeing as God writes straight with crooked lines, my soul finds itself clinging once more to the austere wisdom of those dusty, ole CDF documents. There is much hullabaloo about the “pastoral” foment at play these days, and I think it’s one of the great arguments in favor of traditionalism that all “modern” quandaries are but questions put to Tradition with insufficient knowledge thereof. As the Rorate piece just cited notes, no serious discussion about this “pastoral” gambit can be had unless we first admit that the crux of the question is whether the Church now wills to admit bigamists to Holy Communion. (Oddly enough, this parallels the starkness with which the “gay marriage” debate must be faced: is it in the interests of the State to subsidize any passing genital interest, and, if so, on what grounds does the State limit its patronage to only a pair of genitalia?)

What, then, do those old CDF documents say? Way back in 1994 we are told:

6. Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion. Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors, given the gravity of the matter and the spiritual good of these persons(10) as well as the common good of the Church, have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church’s teaching(11). Pastors in their teaching must also remind the faithful entrusted to their care of this doctrine.

This does not mean that the Church does not take to heart the situation of these faithful, who moreover are not excluded from ecclesial communion. She is concerned to accompany them pastorally and invite them to share in the life of the Church in the measure that is compatible with the dispositions of divine law, from which the Church has no power to dispense(12). On the other hand, it is necessary to instruct these faithful so that they do not think their participation in the life of the Church is reduced exclusively to the question of the reception of the Eucharist. The faithful are to be helped to deepen their understanding of the value of sharing in the sacrifice of Christ in the Mass, of spiritual communion(13), of prayer, of meditation on the Word of God, and of works of charity and justice(14).

7. The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one’s own convictions(15), to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissable(16). Marriage, in fact, because it is both the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his Church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality.

A few centuries thereafter in 1998 we are told:

The possibility of separation, which Paul discusses in 1 Cor. 7, regards marriage between a Christian and a non-baptized person. Later theological reflection has clarified that only marriages between baptized persons are a sacrament in the strict sense of the word, and that absolute indissolubility holds only for those marriages falling within the scope of Christian faith. So-called “natural marriage” has its dignity from the order of creation and is therefore oriented toward indissolubility, but it can be dissolved under certain circumstances because of a higher good — which in this case is faith. This is how systematic theology correctly classified St Paul’s reference as the privilegium paulinum, that is, the possibility of dissolving a non-sacramental marriage for the good of the faith. The indissolubility of a truly sacramental marriage remains safeguarded; it is not therefore an exception to the word of the Lord. …

Since marriage has a fundamental public ecclesial character and the axiom applies that nemo iudex in propria causa (no one is judge in his own case), marital cases must be resolved in the external forum. If divorced “and remarried members of the faithful believe that their prior marriage was invalid, they are thereby obligated to appeal to the competent marriage tribunal so that the question will be examined objectively and under all available juridical possibilities.

There is no shortage of orthodox commentary on this topic (here1  and here2), even in the age we inhabit centuries after those “querulous” CDF documents. Point being: don’t let the wave of verbose activism sweep you away.

About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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14 Responses to A game changer…

  1. Dear BC. Mr. Archbold has become increasingly disoriented vis a vis orthodox Catholicism (not long ago he was claiming that a Bishop in Texas owed him an explanation for that Bishop’s actions vis a vis the Vetus Ordo) and it has reached such an extreme stage that he is, in essence, whatever, when it comes to schism.

    I have a really radical suggestion; trust the Catholic Church.

    Jesus taught that He gave the Keys to Peter (Matt 16;19) and that Peter’s Disciplinary decisions would be ratified in Heaven but not necessarily in Creative Minority or Harvesting the Fruits of Vatican Two or Rorate Caeli or Novus Ordo Watch or New Sherwood, or The SSPX, The SSPV (and, coming soon, The SSP2.5) Dyspeptic Mutterings or The Remnant or Catholic Family News or Traditio, or Tradition in Action, or the Diamond Brothers, etc etc.

    If the Discipline of Admission to Communion is changed, just accept it.

    How will it profit anybody – least of all Mr Archbold – to oppose a disciplinary decision taken by Pope Francis?

    I have even read one of your write-backers in here state elsewhere (on his own Blog) that he will leave the Church if such a change eventuates; a form of killing your own soul (2 John 9) to spitefully sever connection with the actual head of the Church on Earth.

    Well, that’ll show ’em.

    This penchant for private judgment always ends-up in a form of protestantism owing to the fact that private judgment is the essence of protestantism.

    I do admit that I liked the second link to a Blog in your fifth paragraph.

  2. drprice2 says:

    Yep, I sure said that. Despite your serene sureties and soul-reading assertions to the contrary, I said it without spite and with a good deal of anguish. But it’s nice to see that despite your reconciliation/conversion/whatever some things don’t change, IANS/BAC: your smug, sneering sense of superiority is still intact. You’re still in an ivory tower, you’ve just filed a forwarding address.

    I stand by it, and am still anguished. I pray there’s no change. Which I mentioned, but I understand the fog often obscures your view of the ground up there.

    I had the option of becoming an Episcopalian once, and I rejected it. Little did I know that Catholicism would seriously consider embracing the behavior that founded Anglicanism. What does the Church say to Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More then–“Oops”? I guess Henry was the Defensor Fidei after all!

    That’s a moral horror.

    If Catholicism is merely the church of “That Was Then, This Is Now” then C.S. Lewis was absolutely correct in his criticisms.

    That’s a moral horror.

    It seems to me that approval of divorce (which is what is being proposed, with no limiting principle) despite Jesus’ clear teaching to the contrary and His modification of the Mosaic law–is no more than a concordat with the sexual revolution. Which will be followed by many, many more. Starting with official soft-pedaling of Humanae Vitae, it would appear–at least according to the most recent interview. But, hey, if the Church as a Synod says “return to sender” on the Sacrament of Marriage, so long as the Pope gives a thumbs up, eh, it’s all good! T’would be private judgment to raise a squawk, or even the merest of peeps.

    That Was Then, This Is Now!

    That should be a moral horror, but instead, these are “hopeful times” for which I should shake my pom-pons. Because otherwise, I’m a lousy crypto-Prot.

    Thanks for that display of pseudo-Christian care and concern, BAC. It is well and truly noted. I’d say “Don’t ever change!” but that would be superfluous.

  3. Dear Mr Price. Your reading comprehension is lacking. I never wrote one single word capable of fairly being construed as me being afflatic and possessing the power of reading your soul.

    My comment that included a reference to 2 john 9 was directed at the consequence of the actions you wrote you would take; as to how that is misconstrued by you to indicate I think my own self superior to anyone is a gnosis completely incomprehensible to me.

    Where is there approval of divorce?

    Threatening to leave the Faith because the Pope may take a decision on the Discipline of a Sacrament and that such an action horrifies you illustrates an already weak Faith; it certainly does not mean that the Catholic Church has become the Anglican community.

    A man with a strong Faith might experience horror at what he thinks is a wrong decision about a discipline and still remain Catholic but that would entail abandoning the Ebony Tower of Tradition and submitting to he who holds the Key but that takes humility.

    I can not even begin to understand how is it that my calling for obedience is seen by you as Ivory Towerism.

    As to my psuedo-Christian concerns, it is the best that I can do, Mr. Price. I am no longer a Soi disant traditionalist and so nothing that I do is genuine.

  4. drprice2 says:

    Your superior, callous disregard for your opponents is completely consistent. Back when you were one of the unacceptable Them, and now, when I’m apparently the New Them. You simply have a fresh set of targets, now able to start firing out of the right side window. It’s the only change in your behavior–at least as it manifests on-line.

    Your accusation of spite on my part is not a claim to read my motives? Oh.

    Your claim that my faith is weak is not a read of the soul? Oh.
    It may very well be. It’s gotten me through two miscarriages and losing my house, but I’ll defer to your superior knowledge. God forbid you offer something other than a reminder of how much better you are! The one consistent thing I’ve experienced in my struggles is that people like you have always been there to offer a hand.

    The back of it.

    And getting a lecture on humility from you detonates the irony detector. For a man who claims to feed on the words of the Holy Father, your inability to express anything other than the preening self-regard of a cold clinician in your interactions with others speaks volumes. For all my struggles with Pope Francis, he does seem to care about people, most of the time. It trips him up–as here, very badly–but it’s a good instinct.

    Whereas I’m still looking for the first bit of evidence online that you care for anything other than reminding everyone of your self-righteousness. Well, make sure to thank God you’re not like me. I think Jesus said something about that in the Gospels. To the extent his words still matter in this dreadfully complex, contemporary world, that is.

    To claim that it is a mere disciplnary change that isn’t an approval of divorce is…just baffling. Offering communion to those in “irregular” (f/k/a “adulterous”) relationships isn’t approval at all? Silly of me to have even suggested it? The notion that one gets more of the same behavior when it is subsidized in a fallen world is…contrary to reason and experience? Indeed. Apparently I’m in good company, but I’m sure you’ll find this link to be ritually impure. Still for the record:


    And, alas, the Kasper proposal is extremely encouraging to those who think even more is necessary to get with the times.


    Likewise, Bishop Drainey is ebullient:


  5. Proph says:

    Surely there’s a middle ground between schism/rebellion and shut-up-and-take-it?

  6. Tony Jokin says:

    The traditions of the Church are almost always bound to safeguard or put in to practice some Church teaching. If not, the traditions would not have any worth in any time period.

    I think your mistake is that you have completely removed tradition from Tradition. Such a removal is only applicable to purely social traditions since they may or may not have been born or developed based on Tradition. But even in the case of such social traditions, the ones that stem from protecting or putting in to practice Doctrinal teaching should never be abandoned to simply cater to the current trend. For an example, the social standards of modesty in dress of a society should not be abandoned. The modesty standards in dress are not religious doctrines but they stem from the particular society attempting to practice the doctrine. If one simply abandons all such standards and decides to develop from scratch, one just causes problems and a break down of that society. Even more gravely, one sends the message that the underlying doctrine has no merit (like in our current culture where the word “modesty in dress” is rarely heard). Without going too deep down the specific topic, the modesty in dress is an example where socially constructed traditions become tightly connected to Church truths and just like the Church traditions, should not be abandoned at a whim.

    But anyway, what we have here with the communion to remarriage is a Church tradition issue and not some tradition of society. So the gravity of the matter should be more apparent to you.

    If the Pope were to decide that communion for remarried should be by default, then we must conclude that

    1) The Pope has not condoned an action by the faithful that will actually be bad for their own soul (for it is a grave sin to receive communion while in state of mortal sin)
    2) The Pope is undermining the doctrine on marriage in the eyes and minds of the faithful for a change in practice will be interpreted as a change in doctrine.
    3) The Pope is therefore acting imprudently.

    All of the above does not destroy the faith. It does not spell the end of Catholicism in that the Pope has finally and definitively taught error, contradicting the doctrine on infallibility. But what it does spell out is that the Pope is doing a pretty bad job at governing the Church. The effects will be that many faithful will be lost to sin.

    Why does God allow it? Perhaps it is what we in our European and North American nations deserve for kicking and belittling the Church. Maybe God has finally give us up to our sin to experience that our “dream” of Utopia without the Church is really a nightmare.

    So yes, I am sure we all trust in the Church as traditional Catholics. But we are also not blind to keep us from seeing that a Pope can make bad governing decisions and that those decisions will lead to much suffering. There is nothing in doctrine to prevent a Pope from making a bad decisions and subsequently bringing about much suffering (I am not referring to temporal suffering but loss of souls to sin and confusion).

    I think traditionalist can weep because of such suffering. The soul that might be lost to sin and confusion as a result could be one’s own child. Or one’s own spouse. A parent, a dear friend. That is something to weep about. It is true that some parents are probably already weeping as their children use the “who am I to judge” on them to justify their actions. For that we must weep my Catholic friend and for that we must pray. Also for those selected few, they must strive to end or mitigate the confusion and losses.

  7. Tony Jokin says:

    I think the question everyone needs to ask is whether everything is ok if a Pope decides to say “This is the Doctrine which is unchanged. BUT, this is the practice which contradicts the doctrine which from now on will be our own!”.

    I think there is a problem with that for sure but I am uncertain whether it counts as contradicting doctrine or merely bad advise.

    What I am thinking is the following. Perhaps we will see the Church adopt a policy that “we will be allowing remarried to receive communion because from now on we presume they have been chaste”. I think such a policy will be imprudent but not a contradiction in doctrine. My guess is that if we see communion approved for the remarried, we will be seeing such type of reasoning which falls in the category of “worst advise/policy ever” rather than a contradiction in doctrine.

    I think this form of policies seem inevitable in light of Vatican II. For an example, the position of Church today with respect to anyone who holds opposing positions to the Catholic Church is that they are most likely not heretics. So all non-Catholic Christians by default must be considered not as heretics in the mind of “faithful” Catholics. One would think at least the Church would use a qualifier to check, right? No.

    So I think the same might happen in this case. By default the Church will assume remarried (perhaps even homosexual couples) as living chastely. The refraining from communion would be considered a responsibility of the one receiving.

  8. Your accusation of spite on my part is not a claim to read my motives? Oh.

    Nope. It was my, failed, oblique attempt to reference an old saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face (it is you who is the afflactic pot, Mr. Price)

    God forbid you offer something other than a reminder of how much better you are!

    That sentence would need a dozen weather balloons attached to it just so it could rise to the level of absurdity but, in the absence of any objective evidence to source your accusations, maybe I’ll just play along and confess my guilt. Feel better?

    And getting a lecture on humility from you detonates the irony detector

    It was not a lecture but if a reference to the simple fact of what we are called to do struck you and made you vibrate like a tuning fork, good. The easiest thing in the world to do is to submit to authority when we are in agreement with it; one real test of whether or not we are Catholic is whether or not we will submit when authority takes a decision we disagree with.

    Mr. Price. It is quite clear that you have no use for me so just ignore me and what I write and as for me not meeting whatever standard it is you measure others by, I really don’t care; not, not true; I am happy I do not meet with your approval.

    Even in this last exchange with you, I have tried my level best but I can see that will not be enough for you.


    O, one last thing. Discipline is not doctrine despite any claims you continue to make otherwise. I know you think yourself an expert on me but you certainly are not an expert on the Catholic Faith.

  9. Dear Mr. Jokin. You are writing about tradition and not discipline at least as far as I understand you.

    I begin by confessing I consider the Pope well-educated as to what Catholic Doctrine is and I do not think he is either committed to assaulting Doctrine by modifying Discipline (if he does that) nor do I think he is unaware of potential pitfalls.

    Oncet, trusting a Pope to do the right thing was an intellectual default setting for Christian Catholics but since the Rise of the Online Trad Machine that default setting has has been decimated; everyone, it seems, is more knowledgable, wiser, and holier than the Popes who have succeeded Pius XII and who have made a complete mess of everything while they intentionally destroyed Tradition.

    Cheer-up, there exists the possibility that someone somewhere will accuse the Pope of a diabolical orientation by changing a discipline that will lead the divorced + remarried to eat judgment unto themselves and, thus, increase the intensity of their suffering in Hell.

    As to weeping over a change in Discipline, I had no problem with that but refusing to accept authority making a change in Discipline is a problem for that is a repudiation of the Pope’s Universal Jurisdiction and his Divinely-Constitued Authority and if one is going to make such a refusal, one may as well throw-in with the Protestants in Fiddlebacks (SSPX) and be done with it.

  10. Dale Price says:

    Ah, so you’ve run out of labels from the New Enemies List?

    Somehow, I will endure.

  11. All Acronyms All The Time for Catholics Holding Other Opinions (AAATTCHOO).

  12. Tony Jokin says:

    Thank you for taking the time to reply. Let me try and address your concerns as best as I can.

    When you say “tradition” and disciplines are separate, here too there is a misunderstanding. Most disciplines of the Church come from traditional development. So a change of discipline does amount in most cases to a change in tradition.

    Second, when you say that the Pope is most likely aware of the pit falls, I think you are missing the point. The point put forth here is that there is NOTHING in doctrine that makes it impossible for a Pope to act without being aware of what is in the best interest of the faith. The Pope can make imprudent decisions and if you wish to dispute this claim, please provide some doctrinal points in this matter.

    Third, the reason why “trads” are upset is because the Popes after Pius XII ‘seemed’ to have no respect or regard for the men who went before them. Is that a heresy? Of course not. But, it does show a lack of any respect for those who went before them. The Pope’s since Pius XII have not heeded any of the warnings of the older Popes. There is a sense that all Popes since Pius XII view their predecessors as just too gloomy or too rigid.

    Now the faithful in this case can indeed feel a little disappointment toward the Popes since Pius XII. Those who fought strongly day and night in defense of the Popes of “old” can feel like the new Popes have betrayed the older Popes. Of course, the Popes since Pius XII are very quick to defend their predecessors actions too but this is to show that “what they did at the time was correct according to their mindset but NOT NOW!” That is not really respect.

    If we are truly respectful of our ancestors (Popes and Saints), we should be heeding their warnings. What they warned would tear apart the Church must not be undertaken without much thought or prudence. EVEN AFTER one decides to undertake such actions as the ones that were not allowed, one must continuously reevaluate the prudence of carrying it on further. Do we see any of that today? NO WE DON’T.

    Finally, please note this down because I think this is a straw man. The idea here is not that we not accept a disciplinary change. If the Pope says “this is how we do things”, then that is how things will be done. But obviously, this doesn’t mean that anyone has to accept what the Pope is doing as the right thing ESPECIALLY when they see the wisdom and reasons behind the warnings and disciplines of older Popes and saints AGAINST such new disciplines.

    On the matter of Protestants, I hope you do realize that the Church pretends (rather well) that there is no real issue with Protestants and their heretical position. Secondly, to equate Protestantism with traditionalism is rather naive.

  13. Tony Jokin says:

    I also would like to address your comparison to Protestants here. I think what you are perhaps trying to say is that trads like Protestants have adopted a view that excludes the authority of the Papacy and a Sola Tradition view as opposed to a Sola Scriptura view.

    However, I would like you to consider the following dilemma faced by traditionalists.

    1) Pope Pius XII (or a Pope before) has condemned practice X (where X denotes a novel practice) as destructive to the Church and has also pointed out reasons Y (where Y denotes the set of reasons given for such a conclusion regarding X).

    2) Pope after Pius XII comes along and adopts practice X but does not explain why Y no longer applies today and as far as a reasonable person can see, Y is still applicable today.

    Now here there is a dilemma. The Catholic who had formed his mind & conscience to think with the Church of Pius XII and before and convinced himself after studying reasons Y (and perhaps come to a deep appreciation of the wisdom behind originally condemning X), is now faced with a Pope who contradicts it.

    Here I see legitimate reason to perhaps stand ones ground and refrain from carrying out X if the reasons Y deal with grave harm to the Church.

    You might now say that things have changed and this is why the warnings and traditions of the old Popes no longer apply. But common sense and reason will question how society of Pius XII changed in a matter of years to a society completely different in it’s mindset when there is no historical data to suggest a shift in human thinking after Pius XII to anything different from the trends early in the 19th century (which were condemned).

    I hope this at least helped you realize the dilemma faced by a “traditionalist” or simply by any devoted Catholic who had been faithful to the Church during the reign of Pius XII and before.

  14. susan says:

    Gaaaawwwwww; drprice2 vs.bornacatholic…..it’s like watching William F. Buckley eviscerate obama-pajamaboy. And pajamaboy just keeps coming back for more of a public flogging.

    I’ve never seen a true masochist up close before…like watching a car-wreck.

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