Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The red dawn of a new day? Oy veh.

We Americans think "the social gospel" is just fine.

Just so long as it stays where it belongs -- between 30 and 33 A.D. The Bible talks about things from long ago in the Holy Land, allowing us plenty of time and distance to reframe both message and Messenger a bit more to our liking.

We can deal with that. Things were simpler then -- it was before Obamacare.

But if you really want to see the fit hit the shan, start preaching and teaching -- and, Dow Jones forbid, living -- "the social gospel" today . . . which is to say living "the gospel" today, because Christianity isn't an à la carte deal, it's a combination plate. That combination plate gave "orthodox" Judaism gas in 33 A.D., it gave the Romans gas for 280 years, give or take, and it gives everybody gas today.

Particularly, Pope Francis' renewed emphasis on "the social gospel" -- you know, "blessed are the poor" and "the meek shall inherit the land" -- has a whole lot of "orthodox" Catholics in a toot. The latest blow-up comes in the wake of a couple of American speeches given by one of Francis' trusted advisers, Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras.

There was, for one, writer and editor John Zmirak on Rod Dreher's American Conservative blog:
Cardinal Maradiaga’s vision of the future of the Catholic Church is really a yellowed snapshot of the past—of the recent past of the Anglican church, which has buried the clear and consistent doctrines of Christianity, in favor of social activism on behalf of foolish and counterproductive policies. The result was predictable; it became spiritually irrelevant, a decorative tassel hanging from the left wing of public opinion, while its most fervent believers split off to found new churches that actually taught the Gospel, or decamped for Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy. If the Catholic Church follows its lead, to the point where it throws infallibility into question, the same thing will happen. Expect a torrent of converts to the Orthodox Church—made up of the most active, fervent, believing, Catholics.

As a North American who is grateful for the relative religious and economic freedom that produced a successful country, I reject the Marxian bromides being offered by men whose countries have never known such freedom. Amidst all Maradiaga’s rhetoric about Gospel solidarity with the poor, I smell more than whiff of brimstone, of a national and regional envy that has no clue how to lift up the impoverished, but would happily settle for tearing down the prosperous.
WHAT WAS the pope just saying about the dangers of ideology? And what exactly prompted such a furious reaction?

Stuff like this: 
The Church is not the hierarchy, but the people of God. “The People of God” is, for the Council, the all-encompassing reality of the Church that goes back to the basic and the common stuff of our ecclesial condition; namely, our condition as believers. And that is a condition shared by us all. The hierarchy has no purpose in itself and for itself, but only in reference and subordination to the community. The function of the hierarchy is redefined in reference to Jesus as Suffering Servant, not as “Pantocrator” (lord and emperor of this world); only from the perspective of someone crucified by the powers of this world it is possible to found, and to explain, the authority of the Church. The hierarchy is a ministry (diakonia = service) that requires lowering ourselves to the condition of servants. To take that place (the place of weakness and poverty) is her own, her very own responsibility.
ME, I was thinking "About damned time!" 

I also was thinking "This model either would have made the Scandals a lot less likely, or it would have enabled lay Catholics to deal with them a lot more effectively -- through less clericalism and more ass kicking." But that's just me. I'm a Bad Catholic who can digest clericalism and humorless scolds on the religious right no better than I can soulless Marty Haugen ditties during Mass or cheap-gracers on the liturgical left.

If I were just smarter and holier, I would have been able to discern the Red Menace lurking beneath the surface of passages like this from the cardinal's Dallas address:
There is no possible reform of the Church without a return to Jesus. The Church only has a future and can only consider herself great by humbly trying to follow Jesus. To discern what constitutes abuse or infidelity within the Church we have no other measure but the Gospel. Many of the traditions established in the Church could lead her to a veritable self-imprisonment. The truth will set us free, humility will give us wings and will open new horizons for us.
If the Church seeks to follow Jesus, all she has to do is to continue telling the world what happened to Jesus, proclaiming His teachings and His life. Jesus was not a sovereign of this world, He was not rich, but instead He lived as a poor villager, He proclaimed his program – the Kingdom of God—and the great of this world (Roman Empire and Synagogue together) persecuted and eliminated Him. His sentence to die on the cross, outside the city, is the clearest evidence yet that He did not want to ingratiate himself with the powers of this world. Shattered by their power, He is the Suffering Servant, an image of innumerable other servants, defeated by the ones who rule and call themselves “lords;” but it was He, poor, silenced, and humiliated, who was designated by his Father as His Beloved Child and whom God Himself resurrected on the third day.
THE MAN even referenced that noted pinko, Blessed John Paul II:
In contemporary pontifical magisterium, we have two significant benchmarks: John Paul II’s 1990 Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, and the apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, from the same pontiff, in 2001. “In Redemptoris Missio, the Pope teaches us that the Church is a mission. It is not that she has a mission, like she has other traits; she is herself a mission. Everything in the Church should be weighted and measured in regard to the mission of converting the world.” 
And in Novo Millennio Ineunte, Blessed John Paul II challenges the Church at the end of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, to leave behind the shallow waters of maintaining the institution and travel to the deep waters of evangelization. That is what Jesus tells his disciples in Chapter 12 of Luke, adding: “Duc in altum, put out into the deep.” [Luke 5: 4] This means that the Church will convert the world not by argument, but by example. There is no doubt that doctrinal argument is important, but people will be attracted by the humanity of Christians, those who live by the faith, who live in a human way, who irradiate the joy of living, the consistency in their behavior.
FOR WHAT it's worth, my wife and I are converts to the Catholic faith. No one argued us into the church; a number of people loved us into it.

Meantime, the Rev. Dwight Longenecker worries that the gospel will get lost in a sea of "social work." Because, obviously, all you need isn't love. Or something like that.
I am not so much worried about what Cardinal Maradiaga said, but what he left unsaid.
And there the Church, in humble company, helps making life intelligible and dignified, making it a community of equals, without castes or classes; without rich or poor; without impositions or anathemas. Her foremost goal is to care for the penultimate (hunger, housing, clothing, shoes, health, education…) to be then able to care for the ultimate, those problems that rob us of sleep after work (our finiteness, our solitude before death, the meaning of life, pain, and evil…). The answer the Church gives to the “penultimate” will entitle her to speak about the “ultimate.” For that reason, the Church must show herself as a Samaritan on earth – so she can some day partake of the eternal goods.
Really? The Church’s foremost goal is to provide housing, shoes, health and education? Surely the church’s foremost goal is the salvation of souls. To be sure we must be engaged in feeding the poor, but in his talk on the New Evangelization the Cardinal does not mention the salvation of souls or the spiritual work of the church or the sacraments at all. Is he simply a social worker dressed in red, and does the red indicate more of his political opinion than his status as a cardinal?

REALLY? What part of "the answer the Church gives to the 'penultimate' will entitle her to speak about the 'ultimate'" is unclear?

Again, I am a convert. I was "penultimated" into the Catholic Church. After all, God meets you where you are, not where He thinks you need to be. Where you need to be is a process -- one lasting a lifetime.

By the way, I only can assume that the good father's cheap shot about Maradiaga being a "social worker dressed in red" or maybe just a Red, period, was for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. I've seen stranger things done -- in all sincerity -- for the sake of kingdom come.

Ideology takes the invitation that is the Christian gospel and makes it into a hammer. Ideology takes suffering souls and turns them into nails -- into the proverbial Them.

Ideology say: Us, we so holy.

I'M NOT sure how much the cardinal's American trip told us about what direction the Catholic Church is headed. I fear the collective cerebral hemorrhage we're seeing so early in Francis' pontificate tells us a lot about the Catholic right.

"Cafeteria Catholicism," alas, is a bipartisan thing. And the cafeteria is getting crowded.

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