The Catholic Church has taught some basic things about human nature and moral theology quite clearly, quite consistently for a very, very, very long time.
From the beginning, in fact.
And in our Western society, with our tradition of freedom of conscience, one is free to disagree with what the Catholic Church teaches. One is also free to leave it if its teachings so offend one's moral, theological or philosophical sensibilities.
Unfortunately, that kind of intellectual honesty got lost somewhere after the Counter-Reformation. Leading the way in this profound intellectual dishonesty -- some might call it subversion -- are "Catholic" academics.
Two of them are mainstays of the theology department at Creighton University here in Omaha. Creighton is a Catholic school, meaning loosely that it is a place where many Catholic teenagers go to abandon their faith altogether or, perhaps, replace it with some quasi-Gnostic, self-gratifying facsimile thereof.
This brief background explains my amazement -- and glee -- that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops finally has stood up and taken down a couple of apostates within -- those who, ensconced inside the Catholic establishment, try to subvert everything Catholicism has stood for more than 2,000 years. And this academic, theological dismantling of the "work" of Creighton professors Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler is something to behold.
FEW WILL, though, because modern America -- and, indeed, the modern church -- is allergic to deep discourse, and such an involved fisking of The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology cuts against the grain of today's McNews and McThought. Here's a bit from the USCCB press release today:
In the statement, "Inadequacies in the Theological Methodology and Conclusions of The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology," the Committee asserts that the authors of The Sexual Person "base their arguments on a methodology that marks a radical departure from the Catholic theological tradition" and "reach a whole range of conclusions that are contrary to Catholic teaching."IN BRIEF, the bishops concluded the Creighton professors stretch the meanings of historical context and natural law to the breaking point, so that any interpretation of the demands of scripture and tradition can be transmogrified into "Do what thou wilt."
The Committee concluded that "neither the methodology of The Sexual Person nor the conclusions that depart from authoritative Church teaching constitute authentic expressions of Catholic theology. Moreover, such conclusions, clearly in contradiction to the authentic teaching of the Church, cannot provide a true norm for moral action and in fact are harmful to one's moral and spiritual life."
The views of the two professors previously came under episcopal censure in 2007, when Archbishop Elden Curtiss, then archbishop of Omaha, published a notification in his diocesan newspaper regarding the conclusions of two articles by these professors.
Archbishop Curtiss wrote: "In these articles, Professors Lawler and Salzman argue for the moral legitimacy of some homosexual acts. Their conclusion is in serious error, and cannot be considered authentic Catholic teaching." When in 2008, Salzman and Lawler published their book, The Sexual Person, Archbishop Curtiss wrote to the Committee on Doctrine asking for assistance. After studying the book and conferring with Archbishop Curtiss's successor, Archbishop George Lucas, the Committee decided that the most effective way to address the problem presented by the book was to prepare a statement on the problematic characteristics of its methodology, which leads the authors to a number of conclusions that contradict Catholic moral teaching.
Needless to say, this take on moral theology might well be more at home in the Church of Satan than it is within any historical understanding of Catholicism -- or, indeed, Christianity itself.
I'm not used to saying this, but . . . good on the bishops.
Likewise, Salzman and Lawler, in their work, elevate personal experience to the level of scripture, natural law and tradition in deciding what is right, and what is sinful . . . that is, if the concept of "sin" even exists in their moral universe, such as it is.
Well, I have some personal experience with Professor Salzman. And I think my personal experience -- elevated, as he would have it, to the level of dogma -- might serve to illuminate how, in the name of "compassion," he and his ilk are more than willing to use the tragedy and pain of ordinary Catholics struggling to be faithful to their church's teaching . . . use it against those ordinary Catholics, all in the name of "liberating" those "oppressed" by the cruel vagaries of "traditionalist" Catholic doctrine.
IN THAT LIGHT, I resurrect something I posted here in January 2008. Then, I called it "I am legend."
On Christmas morning, our little house bustles with the ghosts of children who never were.
They play tug of war with the ghosts of long-dead dogs and listen to stories of "way back there then" from grandparents who live only in memory. Then we all open presents never bought, tearing through brightly colored wrapping paper that never left its cardboard tube.
And someone always plasters someone's non-existent hair with non-existent bows.
THIS CHRISTMAS, the missus and I sit down for a late supper -- the two of us -- at a table built for six as the old radio on the bookcase plays carols about a holy infant, a mother and child, on some far-away station.
Through nearly 25 years of marriage, we have come to love one another more and more deeply, and we have learned to be thankful for the blessings that are ours. But after years of infertility, then cancer surgery that took a question mark and turned it into a period, we are haunted by the ghosts of our beloved children who never were.
My wife loves babies. She has an infant-seeking radar that will guide her to every small child in a room and have it in her arms as soon as Mama or Daddy will unhand the child. Most people don't realize what a remarkable thing it is to take such grief over what never was and turn it into such love of what is.
Even if "what is" belongs to someone else.
For years, we have volunteered with our church's youth group. And for a while now, we've been going to the weddings of kids the same age as our ghosts, then watching them have their own children.
So the years spin by and now the boy is twentyI NOT ONLY cannot improve upon how Joni Mitchell describes the "Circle Game" of life, I -- and my wife -- have been doomed to not fully participate in it. My better half says there's one question she wants to ask Jesus when she dies, being that we live in a country where there's so few children even to adopt because so many parents don't want to be . . . and can make that so.
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
I'll bet you can guess what that might be.
We live in a society that feels free to take our pain and use it as a weapon to smash the natural law to politically correct bits. In fact, during one youth-group session, we sat there dumbfounded -- and seething -- as a "Catholic" theology professor speculated upon the possible ecclesiastical permissibility of "gay marriage" someday, on grounds that -- hey -- infertile couples can't fulfill the procreative nature of matrimony, either.
A roomful of societally brainwashed Roman Catholic teen-agers nodded approvingly.
I wanted to kill the son of a bitch. Who, naturally -- being a Catholic theologian teaching at a Jesuit university -- was impervious to objections raised on catechetical and natural-law grounds.
WELCOME TO THE LIFE of a childless, middle-aged Catholic couple in the Midwest. I don't relish this opportunity to give you a glimpse into our world. To tell you the truth, I've been writing this in fits and starts.
When you take a hot knife and dig around in an open wound, you tend not to have a lot of staying power.
This, however, finally made me do it. "This" being Rod Dreher's "Crunchy Con" post on an article (and online discussion) in The Atlantic Monthly about the apparently grim and lonely dotage we Baby Boomers will be facing.
In his post, Dreher quotes extensively from an online observation by Atlantic contributor Philip Longman:
Another relationship between fertility and aging is less obvious but also important to the future. Within the Baby Boom generation there was a pronounced disparity in birthrates. Those who remained childless or had just one or two children tended to be well educated, liberal, and secular. By contrast, the roughly 30 percent of Boomers who had three or more children tended be conservative, religious, and less well educated. Members of the later group, though only a minority of their own generation, produced more than 50 percent of the next generation.
Already, as I have argued elsewhere, this pattern in Boomer birth rates (which is much more extreme than in previous generations) has led to the country becoming more morally conservative and pro-family. As Dick Cavett once quipped, “If your parents forgot to have children, chances are you will as well.” The anti-natalism inherent in the modern liberal mindset leads to a gradual return of patriarchy, if only by default.
What does that mean for Boomers in retirement? A majority or near majority of younger Americans, having grown up in conservative and religious households, will tend to view childless Boomers through their parents eyes: as members of an irresponsible, alien tribe. Though the minority of Baby Boomers who rebelled against tradition have a hard time recognizing it, most people wind up adopting their parent’s belief systems, particularly if they become parents themselves. The apple rarely falls far from the tree. Accordingly, in the eyes of many, if not most, younger people, a Boomer without a family will be taken for an aging yuppie, a decaying narcissist, or ailing atheist—none of which stereotypes will be helpful in drawing public sympathy.
THAT'S. JUST. GREAT. If Longman is correct, the answer to "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?" (or 84) may well be . . . "No!"
All because my wife and I are going to be lumped together with all of the most pathological of my fellow Baby Boomers. Accused, tried, convicted and sentenced to die "alone and unloved" by the millennials and their children.
And the ghosts of our children -- our children who were so loved but never born -- will not be able to speak to their compatriots on our behalf.
They will not be able to come back to their childhood home to visit us, and to indulge the waves of childhood memories that, alas, never will engulf them. And we will not sit down together at the family table, eating my wife's wonderful cooking.
Neither will we all gather together at the Omaha homestead for my traditional Louisiana chicken-and-sausage gumbo on Christmas Eve, and I will not tell them stories of growing up down on the bayou. And my grandchildren will not ask me, "Grandpa, why did black kids and white kids have to go to separate schools?" or "Papa, how come great-grandma grew up so poor and never got to go to school?"
I WILL NEVER GET the chance to struggle at giving them my best inadequate answer, because our children and our grandchildren are not there, and we -- my wife and I -- are incomplete.
And on future Christmas mornings, our little house will bustle with the ghosts of children who never were.
They -- and their children who never were -- will play tug of war with the ghosts of long-dead dogs and listen to stories of "way back there then" from all the grandparents . . . who live only in memory. Then we all will open presents never bought, tearing through brightly colored wrapping paper that never left its cardboard tube.
And someone always will plaster someone's non-existent hair with non-existent bows.
Then after a Christmas alone with our thoughts, and with each other, the missus and I will sit down for a late supper at a table built for six as the old radio on the bookcase plays carols about a holy infant, a mother and child, on some far-away station.
So if you're walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, "Hello in there, hello."