Even before the Pope’s apostolic constitution erecting ordinariates for Anglican converts was released, there was no question but that it had the right people pouting. Across the board, among Catholics, Anglicans, and neutral spectators, hostility varied inversely with orthodoxy.
Here’s a lefty Catholic having a good cry in the pages of the Times of London:
I was hoping that the Church’s antipathy to female and openly gay priests would, in time, weaken and dissolve. Now instead, it seems, a whole lot of bigoted reinforcements are arriving to galvanize those more unpalatable aspects of Roman Catholic doctrine. Should I stay in a club that would welcome these people as members?
Just can’t grasp the mindset. These stances that progressivists today denounce as bigotry were stances held universally and invariably by the Catholic Church for two millennia, and indeed until the last 40 years or so they were held by all Protestant denominations as well. You could, if you were brainless, argue that the Church and her saints were bigots from the beginning. That’s not a reason to hope the Catholic Church will correct herself tomorrow, but a reason to reject Christianity root and branch. If you believe the Church was a purveyor of evil in the past, you have no grounds for denying she may be a purveyor of evil in the future. Moreover, the criterion by which you judge the Church wrong in condemning sodomy and correct in embracing it must be distinct from and more reliable than the Church herself, whence the Church is superfluous in any case.
Different perceptions of God
But these reasonings are largely beside the point. Orthodox Christians understand God as a being wholly distinct from his creation: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, unchangeable. Progressives, however, take a mushier view in which “God” is a kind of projection of human sensibility, which the believing community beams inward as a common consciousness. This fuzzy and ephemeral God changes along with changing cultures, and the Church is a human mechanism for giving voice to consciousness of God as it evolves and adapts.
The Church’s authority is a sociological datum, not a divine endowment, and to let yourself be taught by her is infantilism. Progressive churches claim to hearken to “the Spirit” in embracing contraception, abortion, euthanasia, high-fashion onanism, etc., but they are simply making their own the opinions belonging to a particular elite. Since they refuse to see their faddism for what it is, they regard persons who refuse to change as blameworthy: the orthodox are bigots for continuing to hold the views the progressives themselves held in the days before their enlightenment (this is why liberals cultivate amnesia about their past, like hikers who brush out their own tracks in the snow).
Most progressives acknowledge that the Church as a public institution— like the army or judiciary or Teamsters union—has some inertia to be reckoned with. For this reason those unconcerned for the Church’s flourishing feel entitled to rebuke her, even in matters theological. You’ll be amused by this editorial in the Los Angeles Times:
Under the 1st Amendment, churches in this country can’t be forced to alter their doctrine or to stop preaching against the supposed immorality of homosexuality. Even so, supporters of gay rights in particular—many of them Christians—should try to dispel the notion that belief in God is incompatible with full equality for gays and lesbians.
Now as before the pope’s action, Christians can be reminded—as they have been by both Anglican and Catholic theologians—that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality and that church leaders, including popes, have changed their thinking over the years about everything from usury to the culpability for the Crucifixion to the desirability of religious tolerance. You don’t have to be Catholic (or Anglican) to realize that society as a whole would be better off if the church’s views of women and gays underwent a similar evolution.
And to what place are the Church’s views of women and gays meant to evolve? Why to the perspective held by the editorial writers of the Los Angeles Times, of course!
As Mark Steyn says, “politics affords few greater pleasures than that of offering one’s opponents some friendly but hopefully lethal piece of advice.” Though miffed by the Holy See, the editors must have enjoyed the prank of recommending precisely those positions that have emptied every denomination that adopted them. Even within Catholic religious orders, the more “evolved” the opinions of their members, the more angry, ineffective, and aged are the lonely few that remain. Would “society as a whole” be better off if the Holy See went the progressive route? Only if you think we’d be better off with no Church at all.
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