Skip to comments.Papal pruning? A smaller but purer church may actually have more influence
Posted on 05/06/2005 1:07:06 PM PDT by Caleb1411
Spain used to be one of the most culturally conservative, devoutly Roman Catholic countries in Europe. Now Spain is about to pass a law legalizing homosexual marriage and adoption.
When equally Catholic Belgium legalized gay marriage and adoptions, the Vatican, under Pope John Paul II, opposed the action with words. But Pope Benedict XVI, in the first policy test of his papacy, is going much further.
A Vatican official told Spaniards that if the measure passes, they must defy it. Officials should refuse to marry same-sex couples or even process the paperwork if they try to adopt a child. Bureaucrats and others who find themselves complicit in gay marriage or adoption should refuse to obey the law, even if it means losing their jobs.
"A law as deeply inequitable as this one is not an obligation," said Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia, the head of the Pontifical Council on the Family. "One cannot say that a law is right simply because it is a law." To tell citizens that they should not obey the laws of their country is a very unusual and aggressive action. Said a history professor at a Spanish university, "I had never heard of such a direct call to civil disobedience."
American evangelicals, for all of their political activism, have not gone so far as to tell file clerks in Massachusetts to misplace the marriage records of gay couples, or a worker in an adoption agency to lose the application of homosexuals. And it is not clear that they should. It is a tough call on where to draw the line between Romans 13 ("be subject to the governing authorities") and Acts 5 ("we must obey God rather than men"). It may be easier under Roman Catholicism, with its ancientand unbiblicalteaching that the church has temporal authority over the state.
Still, if the new pope is going to be this assertive on cultural issues, evangelicals should pay attention. Evangelicals and Catholics have hugeand importanttheological differences, but when it comes to pro-life issues, sexual morality, and resistance to militant secularism, they find themselves on the same side of the culture wars.
Some critics say that a hard line from the pope will only increase the secularization of Europe. Eighty percent of Spaniards are Catholic, but only a third of them go to church and follow its teachings. Won't threatening the file clerks just drive them away? If the file clerks disobey and process the marriage licenses and adoption forms despite what the pope tells them to do, will the church excommunicate them? Whether the hard line makes the nominal Catholics quit or if the church expels them, either way the result will be fewer Catholics.
But this brings up the other part of the pope's strategy, one that is even more radical. Before he became pope, Cardinal Ratzinger argued that the church needs to get smaller so that it can become purer.
Some observers are interpreting this in institutional forms. "If it's true Pope Benedict XVI prefers a leaner, smaller, purer church as he has spoken of before," said Notre Dame professor R. Scott Appleby, "we could see a withering of certain Catholic institutions because they're not considered fully Catholic. This might include Catholic colleges, hospitals, and other Catholic institutions."
But surely it is precisely the nominal Catholicsthose who claim membership but hardly ever go to church and ignore its teachingsthat the new pope would be glad to be rid of.
The problem of secularism is not just with the outside culture thinking it can do without God. The deeper problem is that the church itself has become secularized. A smaller but purer church may well have more impact than the diffuse cultural Christianity that has lost its saltiness and its savor.
This is a challenge that evangelicals need to consider. With our megachurch, church-growth mindset, we often assume that bigger is better, and a church with lots of members is a strong church. Is this always true? In our efforts to reach the secular culture, is the secular culture instead sometimes reaching us?
The ideal would be to have both size and purity. But might there come a time when American evangelicalism too will need to be winnowed?
Now THAT is a good tagline.
but what did Jesus mean though when he said "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's"
Yes, I caught that, too. He forgets that Jesus told us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's - that is, the parts of our lives legitimately owed to the state. But our conscience and our duty before God to adhere to and defend the truth are not things that belong to Caesar.
I do think that the writer was aware of the difference in the Catholic attitude, even though he misunderstood it. This is because for many evangelicals, obeying secular law is synonymous with being a good Christian. But for Catholics, this has never been the case, and the Church has often been in conflict with the State. Today, btw, the Spanish Bishops' Conference reminded Catholic legislators that they may NOT vote for that law (which is still awaiting approval by the Spanish Senate, sometime next week or so). They didn't say what would happen to them if they did, however.
I spend 80 percent of my time at work working, but only a third of that is actually productive...
You say this like it would have been a bad thing!
Look, either JFK or one like him claims to be a Catholic but doesn't actually submit to the teachings of his religion (IOW, he's a fraud), OR he's willing to contravene his conscience because his political ambition trumps his conscience (IOW, he's an amoral opportunist), OR he's lying when he says he puts, as you put it, "his duty to the laws of the US above his obligation to Rome".
Fraud, amoral opportunist, or liar ... some choice.
good point, sort of like, a Muslim President of the US would be a very bad idea without similar assurances....
yeah Bin Laden's been saying the same thing about Muslims
>>yeah Bin Laden's been saying the same thing about Muslims<<
I'm sorry, are you comparing Bin Laden to the Pope?
I ponder the same question when I do tax returns every year. The way our tax code is written, you could say that not even Caesar knows what he wants in a given year.
For those who say government should not legislate morality, why are 18 year old soldiers unable to legally drink beer, while 13 year old girls can get an abortion without parental consent?
However, I understand your concern that good Catholics ought to follow the dictates of Church doctrine.
The difficulty arises in two areas:
1st--if their civic duty and religious duty conflict; and
2nd--does a foreign sovereign have the right to command American citizens in the performance of their duties to the republic?
In the first instance, painful as it may be, it seems to me that the only honorable course if one's civic responsibilities (freely undertaken as in public office) conflict with religous duty, is resignation.
In the second instance, the answer, of course is an emphatic NO. I believe that neglect of civic responsibilities at the behest of a foreign sovereign, such as the Pope, is seditious at least, if not treasonous.
>>does a foreign sovereign have the right to command American citizens in the performance of their duties to the republic?<<
Well, ya know, if they don't want to follow their Holy Father, there are other religions around.
Sorry FRiend, I'm Catholic first. The Pope is not giving commands for Protestants or Muslims, just Catholics.
This is a future Smackdown of the Kerry Catholics. Get it? The Pope saying that a Catholic must follow the teachings of his/her religion? Who da thunk it.
They should start by kicking all the queers out of the seminaries -- fast. The, perhaps, heterosexual men will be willing to go to the seminaries to become priests.
While in the past that may have been true, the Church's position has generally historically been that it's spiritual authority gave it temporal authority. The conflict between the Papacy and the various secular powers over temporal power is a major theme in European history.
In the United States, the Church has NO spiritual authority over the republic or any of the states (although technically as the Constitution was originally understood individual states could, and did, have established churches as late as the 2nd quarter of the 19th century). The very broadest claim permissible in this country is that the Church has spiritual authority over its members. Not temporal authority. It has no ability to punish members for not acting in accordance with it's dictates other than the threat/actuality of excommunication. Likewise, those whose conscience dictates they should follow Church teachings rather than the law of the republic cannot complain if the republic visits secular punishment upon them for violation of the law.
I'm suggesting that he was a CINO and proudly advertised the fact, and was therefore unfit for office. CINO-ism is fundamentally dishonest.
I believe that neglect of civic responsibilities at the behest of a foreign sovereign
To me, as a Catholic, that's a silly argument. If the Pope were an Italian citizen, would your argument be different? If the Pope were an American citizen, would your argument be different?
What if we were speaking of the President of some hypothetical foreign country, who happens to be a Mormon? His spiritual leader is then (more than likely) an American. Would the same argument apply? Would you suggest that a Mormon would be unfit to be President of, e.g., Argentina, simply because he owes relgious allegiance to a church headquartered in a foreign country?
To a Catholic, the Pope is a spiritual leader. The fact that he is temporally the chief-of-state of a "nation" the size of a large city park is irrelevant. His spiritual authority would be the same if he were legally a citizen of Zambia.
If you think that people in government ought to ignore their spiritual leaders just because those leaders are citizens of a different country, I think that's silly and provincial.
I am sympathetic to your emphasizing the importance of Catholics following Catholic doctrine. When doctrine conflicts with secular duty, however, what do you do? Do you (like the martyrs of old) cheerfully accept whatever punishment the state metes out for breaking the law? Do you withdraw from public life? It's not so simple, it seems to me, for Catholics in public life.
That is tantamount to the idolatrous worship of the state. If the state is executing Christians for practicing their faith, I have every right, responsibility, and duty to object to that. The state is not God, and has no authority to promulgate or enforce immoral laws.
Not according to God.
Actually, I think the pope would be glad if these nominal Catholics became faithful Catholics.
This could get very interesting.
I don't think your argument rebuts mine at all: the Pope isn't an Italian citizen, but rather a temporal sovereign as well as a spiritual leader. Furthermore, he is a temporal leader whose state has a 1500 year history of claiming temporal power over other sovereigns and which has never fully renounced its claims to temporal power. So, it is the very status of the Pope as a temporal sovereign that creates a part of the problem. You can't wish that aspect of the problem away without abandoning the notion of Papal sovereignty. (And, there is a lot of history about relations with the Vatican by temporal states as well).
As to your Mormon example, if the First President of the LDS Church claimed the right to order a Morman President of (say) Argentina to act or refrain from acting, in violation of the law of Argentine, then I would argue against electing a Mormon as president of (say) Argentina. And, if elected, if the Mormon president of (say) Argentina were not prepared to put the law of Argentina first, then I would argue him to be unfit for office.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.