Posts Tagged ‘ Second Vatican Council ’

Top 10: a postmodern deconstruction of the Francis interview

The pope’s recent progressive manifesto is still fresh.  Soon, leading academics will use their scalpels and deconstruct the meta-narrative of the Real Faith–you know, the one graciously bestowed on those who could read the Vatican 2 documents like tarot cards and intuit the “spirit of Vatican 2.” Well, you saw it here first. Here are the top 10 axioms we can read from Francis’s interview, if we tilt our heads just right and squint:

1. The church (actually, just the hierarchy) has, until this interview, taught with strict moral authority that only those who can read, understand, and follow arcane and old-fashioned rules can be a member of the church.

2. Said individuals, the elect, were said to have a basic, God-given right to disparage and publicly humiliate anyone who didn’t follow said arcane rules.

3. Henceforth, from last Thursday until the end of eternity, issues deemed by elite academics to be sensitive, such as abortion, are to receive the status similar to usury–yes, it’s technically a sin, but we can retire from speaking about it, cause it’s not that big of a deal.

4. Pope Francis, progressive though he may be, is not perfect. He did in fact break his own guideline about staying quiet about abortion by speaking out vehemently against the “throw away culture,” which so easily discards its most vulnerable members.

5. The Church really doesn’t have any business talking about imperatives any more than it has business maintaining traditions of the past.  The Church of now is the Church of reform.  It’s time to get going and get with the times.  The Church doesn’t know exactly where it’s going, but there is sure to be plenty of poor people to patronize…er…help.

6. Magisterium is out.  Collaboration and personal intuition is in.  Francis rejects the idea that there can be a governing body of the Church which, with the authority bestowed by Jesus Christ, teach the world about the human condition and its relationship to God.

7. Similarly, Francis teaches (infallibly) that the Church does not have any authority to teach about morals.  The Church may have some strong “opinions,” but really, whatever suits you is fine, man.

8. The Pope cares more about poverty than religion.  He claims to be a “son of the Church,” when it comes to religious-based  moral teachings, but really, that’s just a cop-out.  He’s not that in to religion, just like you and me!

9.  God is not in the past, but in the future.  We need to look at the signs of the times and read the theology of the now, rather than old, tattered pages from some ancient book.

10. Most importantly, the Catholic Church, especially with regards to its teaching, is malleable because it made mistakes.  Once it starts reading more Slate and less First Things, it will see how despicably counter-cultural and radical it has been for the past 2000+ years.


A Call to Arms

In the culture wars, everyone has an opinion.  As Catholics, our opinion, of course, is that Heaven is our destination, and that we need to get on that road, fast.  Part of getting on that road is pointing out the way for others to get on that road too.  This is the new evangelization.

The road to Heaven is the road to Truth and Goodness.  Jesus is the most pure Truth and most Good.  Of course, even people who don’t know about Jesus can know aspects of His Truth and aspects of His Goodness.  I think that logic is behind Vatican II documents’ and Pope Francis’ recent point about how non-Christians can be “saved,” of sorts.  People who know and live the Goodness and Truth of life, written in their hearts by the Author of life, essentially know Jesus.

We call this naturally-observed Goodness and Truth “virtue.”  The natural virtues are part of natural law.  CS Lewis, one of my Christian heroes, in his treatise on natural law Abolition of Man compiled a list of several virtues from across times and cultures throughout the world (pp 34-40 of the pdf).  Not surprisingly, each virtue he listed had support from east to west, north to south, since the beginning of written time.  Humble as ever, Lewis admits that this compilation is not a scholarly endeavor in that it is not a work of cultural anthropology.  However, one can easily deduce that the compilation demonstrates that virtues are more or less universally found in cultures throughout history.

If the natural laws are universal, and thus are written on the hearts of all, I am not surprised about the vitriol with which culture warriors argue against natural virtues.  People have written on their hearts the way to Truth and Goodness as exemplified by natural virtues.  Because of our collective fallen nature, it is not easy to live that way.

Here is my inchoate hypothesis about why.  Fallout from the industrial revolution splintered communities, making it more difficult to receive emotional security from the world.  It was harder to connect to people around them, but they still needed to connect on a deep way–we need connection and intimacy.  We are built to reflect the unity of the Trinity.  We need and crave community.  Though still connected with their family, and still connected, albeit in a less predictable and effective way to their greater community, isolation left a deep social-spiritual-emotional wound.  Without community and intimacy to help heal, people turned inward.  The pleasure principle took over–people turned to biological-ecological means of healing.  This ranges from the hard core (drugs, alcohol, binge eating) to the seemingly innocuous (exercise, mild use of antidepressants).  Either way, due in part to social isolation people tend to cope with the difficulties of this world and their isolation by biological means.

Because this pattern is naturally reinforcing (people feel bad, they turn to some external means to feel better, they feel better, and then they are more disposed to turn to that same means to feel better), it becomes an integral part of people’s functioning.  However, the pattern may be at times at odds with our tendency to live natural virtues.  The pleasure principle wins the day, and anything standing in the way of living that principle becomes anathema.  This explains the vehemence against the Church, Christianity, and Tim Tebow, as I discussed in my last post.

This brings us to practical considerations.  As I explored in my last post words are weapons in the culture wars.  Calling Tebow “polarizing” is an attack on Christian living, defending the belief that there is no right or wrong and thus maintaining the primacy of pleasure.

Two can play that game.  We have at our disposal more battle-weathered tools.  The virtues, written on our hearts, are our way to connect Jesus manifest in all our hearts with people who do not believe.  Using virtue-promoting language in secular contexts is our way to fight fire with fire.  We don’t have to debate first principles if we, like our “enemies,” implicitly promote Truth, Beauty, and Goodness by using virtues-promoting language.

The way that we describe our world in secular contexts can have a profound impact on how others view those contexts.  There are great benefits to this approach.  First of all, it does not necessarily presuppose revelation.  Thus, we don’t get into circular debates about epistemology or the relative costs or benefits to using scripture as the basis for debate in secular contexts.  Secondly, people are already used to hearing this sort of rhetoric.  It has become part of the cultural vernacular to imbue into our language our perspectives.  Third, it directly challenges the perspectives put forward by the “other side,” using their own tactics.  People are used to philosophical messages being subsumed by more overt statements.  Finally, this tactic is especially amenable to new media–texts, memes, twitter, facebook, instagram, youtube, blogs…all of these media thrive on the 10-second or 10-word bold statement.  By staking a claim on those platforms using virtues-promoting language, the message of Truth can thrive on screens, and therefore, in hearts and minds.

There is a caveat here.  Reducing Christianity and Jesus Christ to simply a model of living by focusing on the virtues is a dangerous heresy.  True Christian living is changing one’s heart as a result of an encounter with the Living Christ.  Without that encounter, virtue-guided living ends up as a sort of pantheism, which is one step away from relativism.  Additionally, this is not an easy tactic.  It takes a great command of language, an in-depth understanding of faith and philosophy, and, more practically speaking, an outlet.  Finally, it takes commitment.  Courageous Catholics need to step up.

Many already do–bloggers such as Marc Barnes takes this approach in his blogging and meme creation.  His approach is a model since he does a wonderful job writing for a broad audience.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Fr. Z, Simcha Fisher, and others.  But these fantastic bloggers tend to write for and attract a primarily Catholic audience of a certain flavor.  And that is fine, and necessary.  Their audience loves and needs them.  But as Pope Francis stresses, we can’t just be a church turned inward.  We need to reach out and get dirty.

The culture wars are far from over.  That said, it is up to us to be able to read between the lines and refute the implicit assumptions embedded in contemporary oral and written public discourse.  Furthermore, we need to ingest solid Catholic and Christian theology and philosophy and hone our expressive arts so we can embed in our discourse the language of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.



Quotes from  Sacrosanctum Concilium!  This is awesome.  It’s what really was said about the liturgy at time of reform.  Reading that, I’m even more saddened at the state of our liturgy.

Who knew?

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.


54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.