Appeals to Unity
I haven't blogged this week. It's not that there hasn't been lots going on in the Catholic world but just that I have been very busy, for one thing, but I was also quite deeply affected by some discussions which took place over last weekend. These discussions started in a reasonably good-natured manner. It seemed the protagonists were enjoying it initially, but unfortunately it deteriorated, first into sort of (at least perceived) petulance (I was boring or stupid), then into hurt and aggression, and ultimately it seemed, regret.
I feel quite bad about this, because the conversation was with a couple of young priests who were blatantly pushing ideas at odds with Church teaching. When they were questioned about the justification for what they were saying, one said it was none of my business, the other immediately appealed to unity.
Appeals to unity always set my alarm bells ringing. What I mean is, "unity" is the plaintiff cry heard from criticised theologians & clergy the world over.
They say something that properly damages the Church, contradicts her teaching, leads her children astray, then, when they are called out, suggest that you are damaging the unity of the Church. It is a fact that many in the priesthood and episcopacy extol unity over truth, which is, in reality, a false dichotomy.
Most obvious to me is that they have broken the unity of the Church by holding and teaching, or even suggesting for discussion, ideas which are fundamentally at odds with Catholic teaching. I am baffled how you can say something blatantly heterodox and then appeal to one of the four marks of the Church? Discussion is awesome. Let's go down the pub and throw ideas around. But if you are an ordained minister of The Church, you have a duty, you have the cura animarum—the care of souls!
One way that this unity issue has been levelled at me in the past is in the context of what is edifying for the "sheep" to be exposed to. We shouldn't expose the faithful to theological disunity. I agree completely, which is why I think there should be more people standing up and condemning what is not authentically Catholic!
If we fail to address error, the only voices heard are the heterodox/ subversive ones. I'm convinced this is a large part of why so much error has been allowed to proliferate. No one is willing to fraternally correct error. Most priests seem terrified of it and no wonder, it is, of course, much easier to excuse error and to accept it. To twist your epistemology to find a way to make it fit.
How much worse is this intentional deception when it is perpetrated by priests? Priests who's job it is to shepherd their flock, but who choose instead to push forward subversive ideas?
During the discussion, one such priest told me that so-called same-sex "marriage" should be accepted by the Church, because "a community without welcome is no community at all". When I said we should not condone sin, I was patronisingly told that it was Blessed John Henry Newman's theory of the Development of Doctrine which allowed him to blatantly contradict Church teaching in this way. But acorns develop into Oak Trees, not Ford Fiesta's!! This is so muddle-headed that I needed to sit down. I was scandalised that a Catholic priest was publicly contradicting what the Church holds and teaches, indeed, he seemed to be unaware of what the Church holds and teaches!
Newman's theory does not state that doctrine develops into something else, but that it unfolds, revealing deeper meaning. It was the means by which he bridged the gap bemoaned by post-Reformist Christianity in Britain and the Catholic Tradition. Newman's theory describes the way Catholic teaching has become more detailed and explicit over the centuries, while later statements of doctrine remain consistent with earlier statements.
There always have been men, of course, who equate the Church's cause with their own, and this in good faith. It does not occur to them that if they are to be truly faithful servants they may have to mortify much in themselves; in their desire to serve the Church, they press the Church into their own service. I suppose it is possible that we sometimes forget in practice something we know well enough in principle—that the intransigence of the faith is not a passionate unbendingness in the desire to impose upon others our personal tastes and personal ideals. Sincere attachment to the Church can never be used for the purpose of canonising our prejudices or making our partialities part of the absolute of the universal faith.
However rooted in history she may be, the Church is not the slave of any epoch or indeed of anything whatsoever the essence of which is temporal. The message she is bound to pass on and the life she is bound to propagate are never integral parts of either a political regime or a social polity or a particular form of civilisation, and she must forcibly remind people of the fact, in opposition to the illusive evidence to the contrary, which, in fact, derives simply from the bonds of habit—see Leo XIII, Letter to Cardinal Rampolla, October 8, 1895:
"Things human change, but the beneficent virtue of the supreme Magisterium of the Church comes from on high and remains always the same...Established to last as time, it follows with a loving vigilance the advance of humanity and does not refuse (as its detractors falsely claim) to come to terms with the reasonable needs of the time as far as this is possible."So what do we mean when we talk of unity?
The reference is to one of the Four Marks of the true Church; the Church of today shows continuity with the early Church which already bore the marks, or "notes," of the true Church of Christ which are still professed today in the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed declares the Church to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
The oneness of the Church denotes unity. The Church of the apostles was definitely one: "There is one body and one spirit," Paul wrote, "just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all" (Eph. 4:4-5). Paul linked this primitive unity to the Church's common Eucharistic bread: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread" (1 Cor. 10:17). Jesus had promised at the outset that "there would be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16).
The Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio Ch. 1, #2 states:
"This is the unique Church of Christ which in the Creed we avow as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. After His Resurrection our Saviour handed her over to Peter to be shepherded (Jn 21,17), commissioning him and the other apostles to propagate and govern her (cf. Mt 28, 18ff.). Her he erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth" society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and the by the bishops in union with that successor,..." [emphasis mine].
Thus Catholicity is necessarily bound up with oneness. The catholicity of the Church, which is confessed in all the creeds, can be seen as both an exterior and as an interior quality. Exteriorly, this is to be understood in the sense that it is ordered toward all mankind, to all peoples of all time (catholicity of persons). Interiorly, catholicity consists in the fullness of truth and the grace of salvation (heilontologische, "catholicity").
Truth is what unites us, adherence to that truth deposited by Christ; the revelation of almighty God. We are not commissioned to preach any other Gospel, indeed, as the Apostle teaches:
"if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!" Gal 1:9.This truth is not held, and the Gospel is not preached in a mechanistic, unintelligent way, but in a way that is always seeking the face of God and to serve his people. Sadly today, the majority of shepherds seem to place their security in the affirmation of the people and vice-versa. Popularity, affections and comfort have taken the place of God in their lives; false idols! They will not name the sins of our times and call their people to conversion.
Just look at the statement of the primate of Ireland who has distanced himself from Cardinal Burke’s comments that the people of Ireland are worse than pagans. The Archbishop says the theological language of the Church can seem to be offensive in public discourse. The problem with his argument is that the people who voted in favour of SSM in Ireland are Catholics who should know and understand the language of their faith! The fact they DO NOT is his failing, the failing of priests and bishops to hold and teach the faith as deposited! Can you imagine Hindus finding the language of their faith offensive??!!!! How ridiculous that a bishop of the Church should speak this way, perhaps he needs a new job?
It seems everywhere our leaders deny Christ, hide from the (admittedly sometimes) onerous task of explaining doctrine and instead capitulate to the zeitgeist and betray the truth. They justify their capitulation by reference to conscience and personal autonomy, but the Church has always taught that one's conscience must be properly informed.
Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. CCC 1783 (see also GS 16).
The soul that's habitualised in sin, can no longer discern the essence of truth without care of another, hence our priests and bishops are called to be shepherds of souls! Reverend Fathers, this is not a game!
Unity yes, but always unity in the truth revealed in Christ Jesus!
Unity yes, but always unity in the truth revealed in Christ Jesus!