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?
We're not talking about obligations to Rome here; we're talking about obligations to God. I think any and every Christian would agree with the principle Lex mala, lex nulla (a bad law is no law) when "bad" means a law which prohibits that which God has commanded, or commands that which God has prohibited.
There can be plenty of debate about civil disobedience: when is it misplaced? When is it allowable? wwhen is it required? and for whom? But the basic principle is clear.
In some ways, the legacy of John Kennedy for Catholic politicians was disastrous. It gave us the Law of Obligatory Hypocrisy (being required to promise in public that your beliefs about right and wrong will not influence your behavior) and the Cuomo-Kerry Corollary (the only Good Catholic is a Bad Catholic.)
People who cooperate with evil are still responsible for their actions, even if it was "their job" or it was "the law" or they were "following orders." Didn't we nail that down at Nuremberg?
Not according to God.
I'm so glad you told me. I had no idea you knew God's will exactly. Other than arguing who's right about God's will, there's no difference between your attitude and the Wahabi Islamofascists.
Why don't you address the hypothetical situation?
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.
What, exactly, are you referring to? Most of the quarrels between Church and state in the Middle Ages involved the state claiming illicit power over the Church, not the other way around. Regnans in excelsis? A rather special situation, involving an apparently-Catholic sovereign who was illegitimate and persecuting Catholics.
You can't wish that aspect of the problem away without abandoning the notion of Papal sovereignty.
Which isn't intrinsic to Catholic doctrine at all. The Pope's spiritual authority would be the same if he were an Italian citizen; his freedom to exercise that authority might not be.
no not at all let me try to explain
you made a remark that most Catholics are not in fact real Catholics because they don't follow all of the teachings of Vatican and/or Bible, fair enough
Osama Bin Laden and other Islamists say most Muslims aren't real Muslims because they are not following the teachings of Mohammad or the Koran which turns out to be a good thing
for the world in respect to the teachings which encourage the killing of infidels, as in the rest of us
however I guess my real problem is with fundamentalists who would impose their views on me, a non Catholic, for example but I realize now that here the Church is not imposing its views on non Catholics it is merely imposing its views on Catholics, or those that claim to be Catholic or better phrased, asking Catholics to follow the teachings of the Vatican even if that means contravening the secular law
hmmm, still not sure if that sit wells with me though, as a concept, and hey, I think gay marriage is a silly notion, I do not agree with it, I got no problem with civil unions,
but by telling your flock to disobey secular law are you not imposing your religion on me in a reverse kind of way by disrupting secular society
as far as the Presidency is concerned then, does that mean no person of a religious faith should ever be elected President if they are going to out their faith about the law they are sworn to uphold, by a Constitution that mandates separation of church and state,
is the world better if no person of religious faith never serves office, on the contrary.......
so where is the compromise?
It seems to me that a Catholic (or a Mohammendan or a Presbyterian, for that matter) in this republic who believes (or is told by a religious authority) that his duty as a citizen violates his religious principles must choose which duty to obey. If he cannot in good conscience obey his civic duty, he must perforce resign office (if his violation of religious duty was occasioned by the requirements of office) and (if the civic duty is one required of all citizens) accept the punishment of the state. Religious conscientious objectors to military service are an example, they either perform alternative service or accept state sanction for refusal of their duties.
Scripture says flatly that the secular power is subject to God, and gets its legitimate power from Him. It's not a Catholic thing; it's a Christian thing.
Other than arguing who's right about God's will, there's no difference between your attitude and the Wahabi Islamofascists.
The standard FR throwaway when you have nothing better to say: compare someone to al Qaeda. I think we need a corollary to Godwin's law: the first person who can't find anything better to say than to assert that their interlocutor is no better than people who fly airplanes into office buildings has automatically lost the argument.
As to the history of the Church's claims to temporal authority, I think we read the historical record so differently that discussion is fruitless.
ah but what I also meant to say, following on someone else who mentioned JFK, is that when the Catholic Church instructs its flock to disobey secular law, then don't be surprised when the Protestants in Northern Ireland for example don't want to be a minority in a Catholic country because they fear that Catholic not secular law will be imposed upon them, just as many Arabs don't want to live in Islamist theocracy, where the rights of the minority are not respected in the least......
hey if Israel can remain a Jewish state in a sea of Muslims...you can understand the Irish Protestant position...
It's not a throwaway. I'm simply observing that you apparently believe yourself possessed of The Truth. It is not possible to have a rational argument with you.
Nice try, but, sorry, this was the pretext used by absolutist rulers to deny religious liberty to their Catholic subjects. Abortion, gay marriage etc. defy natural law and no one can be compelled to obey "laws" that violate natural law. For the state to claim that power is for the state to play God. What Benedict XVI is doing in Spain is consistent with what John Paul II did in Evangelium Vitae The difference is that in 1995 it was largely hypothetical: abortion was "legal" but rarely was anyone being forced by law to cooperate in it. Since 1995, the pro-aborts, the sodomy lovers have upped the ante: they are using the courts to compel Christians to aid and abet their crimes against nature. The efforts to force pharmacists to sell abortifacients, the efforts to force Catholic hospitals to give out the morning-after-pill, the efforts to force justices of the peace to officiate at sodomite marriages etc.--these are all efforts (like taxpayer-funded abortions would also be) to force people against their will to cooperate in what they believe is evil. The Culture of Death people realize they are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the populace so they are turning to coercive means via the courts. The showdown is beginning because no longer is it merely a matter of someone else getting an abortion--increasingly it's a matter of trying to force all of us to cooperate in it. The pressure will only increase and pseudo-Catholic and liberal Protestestant judges and legislators will actually create and enforce the laws by which other Christians are persecuted. Heads-up before it's too late.
Think about it... this means mass excommunications. Just what the Church needs. The Whip Knotted From Cords To Drive The Money Changers From The Temple.
Mostly they will excommunicate themselves, but there will be rebels that will try to oppose Benedict. Then we shall see what we shall see.
This is precisely the point I was alluding to: claims of this sort bring up all of the visceral (especially Anglo-Saxon, German and Scandinavian) distrust of the Roman Catholic Church that led to discrimination against Catholics. It has not been so many years that Catholics were considered outside the mainstream of American public life, except in the Northeastern cities.
so in other words if you want to be true to God and your faith AND the US Constitution you shouldn't be a politician because you have to make that choice - to uphold the law you swore you would uphold upon taking office or putting God's law above it in which case you are breaching your oath of office
and you could extrapolate this as well, maybe you shouldn't be a cop or a judge or a soldier
however it would be very unfortunate not to have people of faith serving as politicians because they do represent a majority of people out there......
in other words, it could lead to chaos
As an historian whose major field was Modern Europe, I read the historical record far differently than you do. It's not worth arguing about.
It's not possible to have a rational argument with someone who actually believes in something? With someone who believes that objective moral truth exists and can be known with reasonable certainty?
I find your seeming willingness to subordinate conscience to the state, and to require others to do so, troubling. A good state does not require persons with a rightly formed conscience to do that, simply because a good state does not pass laws that contradict natural law. There aren't many good states today.
Certainly, if the non-Catholic majority of a nation found themselves unalterably opposed to Catholic morality, it would not be unreasonable for them to be wary of electing a Catholic as the nation's executive. That's part of the nature of the game.
The solution, however, is not for Catholics to disobey the Law of God, but rather for the Catholics within a nation to better evangelize their neighbors and compatriots, that they might be more open to the moral and spiritual truths of Catholicism.
To be able to participate and exercise political power in a nation, especially where we are not a majority, is a blessing from God for Catholics.
However, it is not one to be grasped at if in extending our fist to reach it, we must let go of our faith.
Pope Benedict has acted wisely regarding the Spanish situation.
Indeed is your challenger saying that the Catholic Church never denied liberties to non Catholic subjects, hello can we say Spanish Inquisition......
I think you've stated that well. However, one could debate whether a citizen's "civic duty" is to the Constitution, or to some howling-moonbat judge's distortion of the Constitution ... to the law, or or to a judge who puts himself above the statutes.
However we look at this point, the fact remains that it has never been easy to be faithful to Christ within a non-Christian society. This shouldn't surprise us - He promised us that it wouldn't be easy, but that "our reward is great in Heaven" if we "love not our lives, unto death."
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