Monday, October 17, 2016

Do You Ever Wonder Why Prominent Catholics Openly Defy Church Doctrine?

Do you ever wonder why many prominent Catholics, such as Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and Tim Kaine, claim to be Catholic and still support certain immoral actions that contradict Church doctrine? If you read this column "Moral Theology: Software, Moral Formatting and Living in Sin," which was published in this week's Valley Catholic (from the Diocese of San Jose), it might help you better understand.  The author, Reverend Ron Rolheiser, is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, president of the Oblate School of Theology and a popular writer who has had a column running in the Valley Catholic, and I assume other diocesan papers, for years.[1]

Fr. Ron, or just Ron, as he refers to himself at his website, is one of the open-shirt-collar-wearing-no-clerical-collar-I'm-just-one-of-you-guys moral theologians (Jesuit Fr. James Bretzke[2] is another) who I've run across who seem to me to be expert at making clear doctrinal matters obscure. The writings of theologians like them are so nuanced that they make it seem reasonable for Pelosi/Biden/Kaine-type-Catholics to think they can disagree with traditional Catholic teachings about what is sinful and still remain convinced they are mainstream Catholic believers.
In this column, Fr. Rolheiser used a weak analogy when he compared classical Roman Catholic moral theology to "a highly specialized software ... that was honed, nuanced, and upgraded through centuries."  The analogy is weak because software determines how applications behave.  If Roman Catholic moral theology is software, then shouldn't it program how Catholics behave?

Fr. Rolheiser believes that the classical software has to change. He writes that he believes in the principles of classical moral theology, but we can no longer use its way of naming sin.  Why? Because much of our culture and many of our churches no longer understand that language, and, so, oh my goodness, many "good" people who are living in sin will be offended if we tell them that the way they are living is inherently disordered.

What is a modern "moral" theologian to do?  Teach people so they do understand the language of the Church's moral teachings? Defend Church teachings as inspired by God and existing for our benefit? No! Change Catholic theology! "We need a new software, a new way of morally formatting things."

That strikes me funny. I would like to find out what any of the many programmers I worked with during my career as a technical writer would think of the idea of a software program formatting such a thing  as morality. If you don't reject Fr. Rolheiser's analogy out of hand, his logic falls on its face because redefining a value changes how you treat it. If your moral theology software no longer defines a value as sinful or immoral, the program would no longer logically need to include any routines that would define how to change the no-longer-sinful value. 

Fr. Rolheiser describes a few different individuals (such as a housekeeper has been married many times and, like the woman at the well, living with a man who is not her husband) and a few different types of people who objectively are living in sin in other ways as having "life-giving" relationships, as good people who "bring oxygen into a room." 

So instead of having the kindness to tell sinners that if they die in sin they are in serious danger of being condemned to hell for eternity and if they go to Communion with unconfessed and unrepented mortal sin they are committing sacrilege and, according to St. Paul, are making themselves guilty of the death of Christ[3], he seems to want the Church tell sinners that they are just fine the way they are and not challenge them to change sinful behavior. That way they won't be offended.

I believe that Jesus would tell him there are worse things for a sinner to endure than being offended.

Fr. Rolheiser doesn't seem to consider that a more merciful way would be to not affirm people in their sinful ways, but to tell them the way to heaven, and to lead them to repentance, conversion, penance, and to make amends for their sins. Jesus did not leave the woman at the well satisfied with how life-giving her lifestyle was. 

And that, boys and girls, is one example of why Pelosi/Biden/Kaine-Catholics are confused and are convinced they are justified in contradicting Church teachings, and why they despise those of us who don't agree--because we are backward. They were taught this kind of modern "moral" theology in Catholic schools, in classes led by modern "moral" theologians like Fr. Rolheiser or by teachers who were trained by teachers like him.

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.  
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit: according to the tradition of men according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ.

The following quote from Saint John Paul II's encyclical on moral theology seems to apply to theologians like Fr. Rolheiser.

" Certain currents of modern thought ... exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values. . . [T]he traditional doctrine ... is rejected; certain of the Church's moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to `exhort consciences' and to `propose values,' in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices." 

[1] I found out from his Wikipedia page that Fr. Rolheiser has "a regular column in the Catholic Herald which is featured in approximately 60 newspapers in five different countries." Fr. Rolheiser is a mainstream, modern moral theologian, who has a doctorate from the University of Louvain.

[2] James T. Bretzke, S.J., is currently professor of moral theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  I met Fr. Bretzke when I was a student of his while he was teaching at the University of San Francisco and moonlighting as an instructor at the San Jose Diocese's Institute for Leadership in Ministry. In his book A Morally Complex World: Engaging Contemporary Moral Theology and in his courses, Fr. Bretzke teaches complex methods for evaluating the morality of actions - while Catholics who follow traditional teachings would call the same actions "sins" without Bretzke's methods. Putting individual conscience above Church teachings identifies Fr. Bretzke with a breed of theologians who believe the Vatican II Council licensed them to redefine what the Church teaches and to claim that traditional Catholic morality is wrong. People who think the way Fr. Bretzke does never bother to explain why they stay in a Church they believe was so misguided for so long, or how they were granted the exalted wisdom that made them able to understand what is moral better  than the great saints that came before them. I've written in several blog posts and elsewhere against Fr. Bretzke's teachings, for example, this article from San Francisco Faith newspaper: No Recipe for Morality Says Bay Area Jesuit.  Fr. Bretzke writes often for America magazine, including this recent article, "In Good Conscience" about Amoris Laetitia.

[3] Corinthians 11:27-32 is left out of the modern lectionary as a "difficult" passage, so Catholics are no longer taught these hard truths, that whoever received the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is "guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. According to St. Paul, many of those who do so sicken and die.

Corinthians 11:
27 Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man prove himself; and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord. 30 Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you: and many sleep. 31 But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.

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