Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Worse than the pagans"

Cardinal Raymond Burke may not have used the exact phrase "worse than the pagans," yet that is how the media have headlined their reporting on his disappointment with most Irish voters. As a child, my sympathies lay with the pagans, for I felt the zeal of Patrick and his followers destroyed much that was good in ancient Ireland. I may be accused of romanticizing the serfs and slaves who more likely than kings and lords are my ancestors, but I hated to see Druidry damned.

The Tablet reports on May 28, in the week after Ireland's 62% yes vote. Katherine Backler and Liz Dodd explain, in an article I reproduce here to capture Burke's address and anguish best:

Ireland has gone further than paganism and “defied God” by legalising gay marriage, one of the Church’s most senior cardinals has said.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was recently moved from a senior role in the Vatican to be patron of the Order of Malta, told the Newman Society, Oxford University’s Catholic Society, last night that he struggled to understand “any nation redefining marriage”.

Visibly moved, he went on: “I mean, this is a defiance of God. It’s just incredible. Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviours, they never dared to say this was marriage.”
A total of 1.2 million people voted in favour of amending the constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry, with 734,300 against the proposal, making Ireland the first country to introduce gay marriage by popular vote.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, told RTE afterwards that “the Church needs a reality check right across the board [and to ask] have we drifted away completely from young people?”
Cardinal Burke, who speaking on the intellectual heritage of Pope Benedict XVI, went on to say “liturgical abuses” had taken place after the Second Vatican Council, after which he said there had been “a radical, even violent approach to liturgical reform”. Quoting Pope Benedict, he said that the desire among some of the faithful for the old form of the liturgy arose because the new missal was “actually understood as authorising, or even requiring, creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.”

On Tuesday Cardinal Burke presided over Mass at the Oxford Oratory, and on Wednesday he led Vespers and Benediction for the intentions of the Order of Malta.

Speaking at the lecture afterwards Cardinal Burke stressed the continuity between liturgical forms before and after the council. “The life of the Church is organic; it is a living tradition handed down in an unbroken line from the apostles,” he said. “It does not admit of discontinuity, of revolutions.”

Paraphrasing Pope Benedict, Cardinal Burke said that after the council, there had been a battle between a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture, and the hermeneutic of reform. This was because the nature and authority of the council had been “basically misunderstood.” Apparently departing from his script, the Cardinal voiced his own concern about similar misunderstandings around the upcoming Synod. “There seems to be a certain element who think that the Synod has the capacity to create some totally new teaching in the Church, which is simply false.” He went on to speak of the damage caused by “an antinomianism which is inherent in the hermeneutic of discontinuity.”

Though the talk consisted primarily in an overview of Pope Benedict XVI's chiefest intellectual contributions, Cardinal Burke adopted a more personal note in his answers to questions at the end. Responding to a question about the marginalisation of faith in the public sphere, he stressed the primary importance of fortifying the family in its understanding of how faith “illumines daily living”. ‘The culture is thoroughly corrupted, if I may say so, and the children are being exposed to this, especially through the internet.’
He told the audience that he was “constantly” telling his nieces and nephews to keep their family computers in public areas of the house so that their children would not “imbibe this poison that’s out there.”

Irish Central expands the way such influences affect Catholics. I cite this verbatim for its catechetical language and chastising tone. Dara Kelly on May 30 reports in her lead that: "a prominent American canon lawyer has branded all Yes voters in the recent marriage referendum potential 'heretics.'

Dr. Edward Peters, who was appointed a Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura by Pope Benedict in 2010, has described the outcome of the constitutional referendum on marriage in Ireland as 'a disaster.'

'Any Catholic who directly helped to bring about Ireland’s decision to treat as marriage unions of two persons of the same sex has, at a minimum, arrayed himself against the infallible doctrine of the Church and, quite possibly, has committed an act of heresy,' Dr Peters wrote on his Canon Law Blog this week.

The technical term for voting to allow same sex marriage is 'sin', wrote Dr. Peters, 'and the consequences of sin are always spiritual and sometimes canonical; and the solution for sin is repentance and Confession.'

Dr. Peter's [sic] counsels his readers not to pursue potential excommunications for the political leaders who led the nation toward the referendum, instead he suggests they focus their efforts on 'righting' the result 'as soon as possible.'"

The image I chose for me captures the Church's predicament, Looking at the tired faces of the feeble nuns, you can see that the traditions of Irish fidelity to the Magisterium may remain, but among fewer, and likely many elderly, congregants and clergy. My relationship to how I was raised is nuanced, as I lack the feral hatred a lot of my peers have for Catholicism. I teach comparative religion and meditate over two comments I have from online students about my critical approach. "They should hire a Christian so the course is not biased." "He compared consulting the Bible to a Ouija board." The truth might be more subtle, after all. Many resist any challenge to long-held belief.

I hold respect for certain elements of the Church, for I do counter that it did lead many people to care more about the needs of the less fortunate more than their own wants and desires. It reminded people of their limits within a short and difficult life. It encouraged a degree of intellectual exploration, and it curbed the excesses some of us had, in many directions, which led to the harm of ourselves and others. Many clergy as well as laity gave up careers and success in the secular world to give us a solid schooling, and in dark times, priests and those under their guidance assisted me. I doubt if a working-class kid could have received for so little money such a preparation for the life of the mind. 

My parents and family were devoted, and made sacrifices for me to attend such institutions. But I don't miss the shame, repression, and guilt that still haunt me in middle age, after such a traditional upbringing, even in the decade after Vatican II, a confused time for many Catholics. The future, as I blogged last week, seems to be with those who, rejecting the "reality check" called for by Archbishop Martin, find its dogma and doctrine wanting. This recalls Dan Savage, sex columnist, ex-Catholic, and gay rights advocate, back in 2013 as he reviewed Jeff Chu's "Does Jesus Really Love Me?":

"Chu worries that gay people like Mr. Byers have been ;pushed out of the church.' That’s not true for all of us. My father was a Catholic deacon, my mother was a lay minister and I thought about becoming a priest. I was in church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. Now I spend my Sundays on my bike, on my snowboard or on my husband. I haven’t spent my post-Catholic decades in a sulk, wishing the church would come around on the issue of homosexuality so that I could start attending Mass again. I didn’t abandon my faith. I saw through it. The conflict between my faith and my sexuality set that process in motion, but the conclusions I reached at the end of that process — there are no gods, religion is man-made, faith can be a force for good or evil — improved my life. I’m grateful that my sexuality prompted me to think critically about faith. Pushed out? No. I walked out." My own nation has now 13% ex-Catholics. For every convert, six others leave. The U.S. since 2007 has 8% fewer Christians. Change may be rapid for other nations too, like a thief in the night. 

Photo caption: Carmelite sisters leave a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015

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