Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hear Ye

Seven or eight months ago, it looked as if the next big thing, in the intellectual life of the Church, was going to be a showdown over the intellectual and theological compatibility between the American experiment and Catholic orthodoxy: Patrick Deneen called the disciples of John Courtney Murray out on the mat, John Zmirak was pulling out the long knives for traditionalists on social-policy grounds, I got banned from The Catholic Thing combox (apparently for my comments here), and it looked as if there was going to be a rumble. The Francis pontificate, with nothing good to say about existing economic systems, seemed a good time for it.

But then Cardinal Kasper crawled out of his hole. This topic does not need restating at length: suffice to say that there are persons within the Church, aided by secular agitators, who have mounted an attack on the truth of Christ's express teachings on the nature and indissolubility of marriage (as reaffirmed by, inter alia, the Council of Trent, Pius XII, and St. John Paul II). Their error incorporates ancillary assaults upon St. Paul's clear statement on the conditions for reception of the Blessed Sacrament and the Church's unchanging teaching about the nature of repentance. The confusion Kasperianism has already wrought has been substantial. The fact that it has been the topic of official discussion within the Leonine Walls has led, in places, to concern among the faithful over the nature of the Church's indefectibility. It is a pernicious heresy masquerading as an antinomianist canonical reform movement. The chicanery of the 2014 Special Synod was not its end: Kasperianism has plenty of dry powder.

The time has come, then, for all those who will withstand this error to do so. In order to do that in good array, orthodox Catholics need to lay aside their own disputes. This is no longer the time to revisit the merits of John Courtney Murray. It is no longer the time to play "I-told-you-so" over liturgical matters, or to throw bombs at people because of the perceived box in which they sit. Now is the time to pull together against a common foe.

Joseph Shaw had a series of articles on the nature of divisions amongst orthodox Catholics at his LMS Chairman Blog (here, here, and here). His thesis is that the heterodox are able to present a united front because their aim is destruction: who cares how the edifice is pulled down? The conservative, on the other hand, are divided, because before one may preserve a thing, he must decide what it is he wants to preserve, and there is disagreement about that.

Anyway, Modestinus picked up this idea over at Opus Publicum, and raised the prospect of a unilateral Traditionalist disarmament in pursuit of the fight against Kasperianism. He then announced such a move on his own part.

This page does not attract readers; I keep it for my own edification. But let me say, for the record, that Modestinus's proposal should be adopted across the board. That means you, Rorate Caeli: stop sneering at "neo-Caths" and "conservative Catholics" when something bad happens. Just report the news and write about goings on (a necessary service your blog does very well), but save the barbs for the common enemy. It also means you, writers and editors of The Remnant. The various interlocutors who have crossed swords with the traditional movement may not be correct; their errors may be dangerous in certain ways. But they are not as dangerous as the Kasperianists. Points of disagreement with them can almost certainly be discussed, when necessary, without resorting to epithets. But the internecine fighting amongst the orthodox needs to stop, and this has to be a first step.

Of course, one would hope for reciprocation. One could hope that Fr. Longnecker, Elizabeth Scalia, Matthew Schmitz (was I supposed to have heard of this man before he started making snyde comments about Rorate Caeli?), and even (mirabile dictu) Mark Shea and John Zmirak might stop hyperventilating over the perceived excesses or peccadilloes of those attached to the Old Rites and (or) a less Americanized view of Catholic Social Teaching. 

The time has come, at least for the time, to take a phrase from the parents' handbook: "Just Drop It, Y'all."

So let's. Just drop it. Stop it with the internecine squabbling, backbiting, and name-calling.

Postscript: "But, but, what about Vatican II?" you ask. What about it? The Council issued no anathemas, it defined nothing. You are free, so far as the Council itself appears to be concerned, to believe anything you like about it. It took place, it was an ecumenical council, and it did not definitively teach error: that's what we know. Beyond that, who cares? Even if we care for other purposes, the Council---or at the very least its contentious passages---have nothing to do with the present problem. So fights over the interpretation of the Council (which, given that the Council did not itself demand that we believe anything in particular, I find a futile endeavor) are irrelevant for the present. Lay them aside.