Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ecclesia Delenda Est!

I’m away this week doing ministry at a family camp not affiliated with Madonna House. As I did when I was at Cana Colony, I am re-posting some good old posts from my first month of blogging, before anyone knew I was here. Hope you enjoy these voices from the distant past of July 2011.

The thirst for freedom is the form in which the yearning for redemption and the feeling of unredemption and alienation make their voices heard today. The call for freedom demands an existence uncramped by prior givens that keep me from fully realizing myself and throw up external obstacles to my chosen path…  The limits that the Church erects seem doubly burdensome because they reach into man’s most personal and most intimate depths. For the church’s rules for ordering life are far more than a set of regulations to keep the shoulder-to-shoulder traffic of humanity as far as possible from collision. They inwardly affect my course in life, telling me how I am supposed to understand and shape my freedom. They demand of me decisions that cannot be made without painful renunciation. Is this not intended to deny us the sweetest fruits in the garden of life? Is not the way into the wide open closed by the restrictive confines of so many commandments and prohibitions? Is not thought kept from reaching its full stature just as much as the will is? must not liberation consist in breaking out of such immature dependency? And would not the only real reform be to rid ourselves of the whole business?

Called to Communion

Reflection – Ratzinger shows in this passage how well he understands the modern world. He had, after all, been a university professor in 1968, when student riots swept across Europe. The soixant-huitards and their anomic anti-authoritarianism would define the next half-century in European intellectual and cultural life.

Ecclesia delenda est – the Church must be destroyed – this is the spirit of the age. It tells us what to do, and this is intolerable. For anyone to tell me what to do is intolerable. Ecrasez l’infame! Voltaire’s cry rings out louder than ever today. How dare—how dare!—the Church tell me what to do.

It is an interesting phenomenon, though. The indignation at the Church’s moral teachings does not seem to extend to other groups and individuals who have their own ideas of what we should do.

For example, the environmental movement tells us what to do every day of the week, and even indoctrinates schoolchildren to spy on and hector their parents. The government never tires of telling us what to do: what to eat, how to exercise, what we can and cannot do on our own private property (to use a quaint old-fashioned term!). The secular gurus – Oprah and all that – never ever cease for a day doling out instructions on how to live, shop, love, budget, what to read, what to think, etc. etc. etc.

And yet, when the Church, which has no police force, little indoctrination of children these days (alas), and nothing remotely approaching Oprah or Dr. Phil’s Neilson ratings, tells people what to do, there is outrage. Or, rather, OUTRAGE!!!!!!!!!

Hmmm. One might be tempted to suspect that the Church’s advice on the meaning and mores of life, unlike all of the above parallel magisteria of secularity, actually hits something in us, something deep and true, some innate knowledge of God and the truth of human life that we cannot quite suppress. So when Holy Mother Church tells us not to fornicate, or contracept, or abort (I mention these, not because they are the only or even most important teachings, but because they are the ones that cause the most OUTRAGE), it is intolerable.

We’re trying to forget; don’t remind us. We’re working on our denial; stop bothering us. We’re hardening our hearts against truth in favor of self-will; don’t touch those places in us that still know, a little bit, the truth of life.

I can’t think of any other reason why the Church’s teachings provoke such anger and rage when the far more intrusive and omni-present teachings of everyone else provoke none. Can you?


  1. Holy mother church has lost all credibility on sexual moral issues in America.

    It's not rocket science. When someone offends your sense of morality deeply, you turn away, you protect yourself and your children....and you get on your knees and ask Jesus to light your path. You try and make the best decisions you can in love... And you wait, you and pray and you hope that your tears will somehow count... Because don't stop praying for holy mother church, and you don't stop talking about holy mother church...but she is wounded, her morality is somehow skewed...and she is hemmorraging you try and make the best decisions you can, knowing holy mother is sick, very sick

    1. What is sick is this poor humanity that keeps failing to live up to the call to holiness. Like a good mother the church points out the path of safety. But she doesn't abandon us when we stray. So the church is full of sinners. Why is that such a scandal?

  2. YOu guys confuse me.

    Are we talking about holy mother church as the magisterium? Holy mother church as that body of teaching about faith and morals handed onto us by Jesus? Are we talking about some mystical way that Jesus is present in all of us as his body called church?

    None of it is easy for me to sort out. None ofthese less holy or beloved than the other.

    Scandal? Yes, we are all sinners. This is why Jesus came after all. Yes, Jesus loved sinners. But, his mercy is not like a cehcking account with overdraft protection. We can't keep overdrafting and expecting the mercy to be there. We have to balance the books. Have to look at it and be accountable. Everyone.

    Anyone who has ever been affected by abuse know that this accountability will take a lifetime or more. Anyone who has been wounded deeply in this way knows. Sure, there are "programs in place" addressing moral accountability within the church itself- the church as the magisterium- that process as I see it- has not even begun.

  3. With respect, I think you are mistaken. How is it that the church (ie the teaching church, the presence of Christ as head of his mystical body) is sick and lacking in credibility for teaching the True, the Good , and the Beautiful? Just because we fail (including priests and bishops and parents and children and husbands and wives) to live up to the standard? Should the standard therefore be abandoned? That is the response of secularism. If I can't do it or don't like it, then IT has to change, not me. And yes, his mercy is endless. Way bigger than overdraft protection. We need only acknowledge that we need it. That takes acknowledging that WE need to change, not the moral law. And that, my friend, is very, very hard to do. For all of us.

    1. umm.

      I am not sure that the issue is abandoning the moral law. Perhaps, the whole sex scandal thing is a invitation to go deeper into morality. Understand it more. (I am not saying sexual abuse is ever a good thing. Because it is not, is stealing someone's innocence changing them forever. It is horrible really) Maybe, I am responding as a secularist. I do not know, I barely inderstnad what those words mean.

      I sort of like the bank account image. Dorothy Day said somethng like that once, I think.

      Yes, accountability. I read about Penn State this morning- lots of accountability there. The sanctions were against the whole university it seemed. Then something Gary Willis wrote came in an email- talking about how institutions have to be held accountable and snactions severe when children are exploited- because we have to protect the moral law. It resonated with me.

      I do not know how the offenders in the Catholic Church were held accountable. But, I would like to know. I guess that is why I read the articles written about it. I read about Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Law. I assume the annons read about this too.

      It IS hard to understand this stuff. Plus, there are a lot of paths to understanding. I don't know that who holds the most moral truth is worth squabbling about.

      Simone Weil wrote that before Jesus is anything he is first of all the truth. If we focus on the truth, it will not be long before we find ourselves in Jesus loving arms. Catherine of Sienna also called Jesus truth. And Jesus comes to us, after all. We do not go to him. Merciful Jesus.

  4. So Catherine, what do you make of Pope Benedict's words above that church "rules" demand decisions which involve self-renunciation. Finding ourselves "in the arms of Jesus" as you say. Doesn't that involve a kind of self -dispossession? And doesnt that require first the acceptance that I am not the source of moral authority.
    We've all heard lots and lots about the sex abuse scandals. And God forbid that we minimize anyone's personal trauma. But really. Aren't we all victims? We all have a deficient mother or an alcoholic father or an abusive nun in our past. (Bearing in mind there are those really apparently well adjusted exceptions) The rest of us are just raw humanity. Isn't that how original sin gets passes on? I'm not simply saying "get over it" (though it is tempting). But it seems to me that Jesus has pointed the way to healing. And its the church. In the middle of this very easy world. I believe first.

    1. I think she was talking about the mercy of Christ. I rather liked it, Catherine. I am not offended at all

  5. Annon,

    I am so sorry if I offended you. It was not my intention. I was not really responding to what Pope Benedict wrote. I was responding to the comments.

    God bless you.

    1. Anon,
      I have been pretty busy and have even had shared internet time the past few weeks, but I wanted to try and answer your post. I am not steeped in either theology or philosophy I just come to this site trying to sort out my catholic mind. It occurred to me your question may be an invitation...
      I have this idea that freedom is a gift- that it is really a capacity to love, to do good, to be happy. As we grow in virtue,grow spiritual muscls or whatever- we gain the strength to choose our true good. "you will know the truth and thetruth will set you Free" John 8:32. We are free because in knowing Jesus- we are able to chose our true good, eternal life with God. Frredm then, is NOT the power to do whatever I want. Freedom is the power to act according to my nature, to chosse my God govn purpose, my true happiness.
      Mant people think at this freedom or conscience is inherently in oppoition to the law(better word than rules) But, I don't think so( at least on my best days) Conscience hlps me discern how God's law applies in ctain situatins. Conscience tells me how to love my neighbor who has offended me, not whether to love him. (which is why transparency counts). It tells me how to live in chastity, but does not excuse me from it. Conscience and the moral law are supposed to be in harmony, I think.
      It is not that I reject the church's moral teaching, I don't. There is the kind of faith that accepts the precepts of he church without question, but I do not have that grace. Then it seems like the sermon on the mount and the development of virtue and the quest for happiness are somehow more important. Nor is the answer "follow your conscience" when it is used somehow to excuse church teachings.
      For me I have found solace in the moral teachings of the sripture. I take notes on the homily at mass. I listen to BOTH the right and the left of the community. I pratice tradition. I am tryig to get Pope Benedict. And I pray.
      Dispossession? I could write pages more. It is better for me not to. I get even more arrogant then. Prayer for me is more about just really aching, hoping wanting Christ . He is merciful.
      I am still trying to figure out secular, secularism, an secularist.
      PLease pray for me


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