The endless white flags of progressive Catholicism

Now is certainly not the time to give heed to those who have apparently lost their prophetic edge and their ecclesial nerve.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia in a 2015 photo. (CNS photo/Jeffrey Bruno)

Mary Eberstadt, in her wonderful new book from Ignatius Press titled Adam and Eve After the Pill: Revisited (an updated version of her 2013 book on the same topic), makes a great case for why the sexual revolution has been a catastrophic disaster in both the lives of individuals and in the broader culture. Building off of this analysis, she goes on to point out that there are many people in today’s culturally bankrupt and spiritually exhausted world who are waking up to the fact that the sexual revolution has been premised upon a set of empirical falsehoods about human nature and overt lies and deflections about the true extent of the damage it has inflicted.

Therefore, she concludes that now is precisely not the time for the Church to wave the white flag of surrender and to accommodate itself to the sexual revolution. Not at precisely the moment when millions of our contemporaries are ripe for hearing the prophetic challenge of the Church’s traditional teachings on these matters.

But isn’t this waving of the white flag so very typical of the modus operandi of contemporary progressive Catholicism? Claiming for itself the mantle of mercy and pastoral sensitivity through its reading of the “signs of the times”, it is forever two decades behind the latest trends, like a hound dog chasing after a squirrel, panting heavily and with tongue on the ground, long after the squirrel has escaped up a different tree. Vatican II did indeed teach that we need to read the signs of the times. But it did so with the understanding that one first needs to understand the culture in order to evangelize, with laser-like specificity, the exact neuralgic points of modern anguish. We are to share in the “joys and hopes” of the modern world, but with an eye toward how those same joys and hopes are in fact better fulfilled by the Gospel than the deceptive fulfillments given by the flawed illusions of modernity. This is the true aggiornamento of the Council, not the progressive’s aggiornamento of the chameleon.

In other words, the Council sought a re-evangelization of the world through a prophetic proclamation of the Gospel, put forward as a deeper and truer Christocentric humanism and anthropology than that of modernity with its shallow nostrums and an ultimately self-defeating humanism, which is larded with a latent nihilism. And the current internal debates over moral theology that are currently roiling the Church present to us, once again, the pastoral choice: either engaging the world prophetically with a full and robust rendering of the Gospel or accommodating ourselves to it in the self-immolation of a false humility that postures as “dialogue”.

Ever defensive and apologetic, the latter approach evinces the tell-tale signs of an embarrassment over Church teachings on moral theological issues, which are portrayed as “behind the times”, in need of “reform”, and lacking in pastoral sensitivity. And this recourse to the language of sensitivity is often just mere code for “we need to find ways around this”.

This latter point is demonstrated clearly in how quickly the current proponents of “accompaniment” go from discussions of the need for pastoral sensitivity to discussions of how the Church needs to change her teachings on topics relating to the rainbow alphabet of our new cultural religion of inclusion and diversity in matters of sex and gender. From Cardinals McElroy Cupich, and Hollerich, to the Germanic synodal silliness, to the slippery words and ministrations of Fr. James Martin, S.J., among many others, we see this dynamic in play.

But what I want to highlight here are not the usual complaints from folks like me that this represents a recrudescence of a 1970’s style of theologizing, but rather to get to the nub of what was wrong with this theology, both then and now, as a pastoral response to modernity. And that nub is that it lacks prophetic bite and represents a flaccid mediocrity, which creates a form of Catholicism that is boring and uninteresting, flattened-out into the dull and stale categories of a worldly horizontalism that despairs of the notion that the Kingdom of Christ’s grace really has changed the world from the ground up and links us to God’s loving transcendence in deeply transformative ways. And, as such, it is wholly unsuited to the cultural crisis that we face.

Eberstadt makes this point as well and asserts that what we face today in the Church is a deep bifurcation between those who understand the need for a prophetic response to the cultural crisis at hand versus those who see no such prophetic need and who seem insouciantly oblivious to the toxic nature of the cultural pathologies they are asking us to embrace in the name of accompaniment and aggiornamento. The latter also seem oblivious to the fact that wherever this path has been attempted by mainline non-Catholic denominations it has ended in abject failure and the wholesale down-sizing of their communions into demographic and cultural irrelevance.

Certainly, the notion of accompaniment is a thoroughly legitimate one, and it has a long pedigree in the Catholic moral theological tradition and in pastoral practice. Any good pastor of souls knows this, and the best of them engage in it with a true soul of empathetic sharing in the sufferings of others. And the words of Pope Francis on this matter seem to me to be squarely within this tradition of discourse and practice. Nevertheless, he seems all too ready to allow his epigones in the clerical ranks, as well as in the theological guild, to use the concept as a tool for revisionist renderings of Catholic moral theology. He also continually empowers those who think this way all the while giving a cold shoulder to those who do not.

Which brings me to the recent statements from Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who has stated that it is indeed possible for the Church to accept certain legal pathways allowing for doctor-assisted suicide. The proximate provocation of his remarks seems to be legislation that is currently under consideration in Italy that will allow for this, albeit under certain allegedly strict “conditions”, and which will include provisions that legalize doctor-assisted suicide even for those suffering from extreme forms of psychological illness.

Surely the good Archbishop is intelligent enough to know that in countries that have long since legalized such things that the initial legislation can now in retrospect be seen as the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. The Dutch, for example, have recently expanded the “right” to doctor-assisted suicide to children as young as five years old, and they have long since allowed for the euthanizing of dementia patients incapable of consent, and have proven themselves most willing to aid in the killing of those suffering from psychological forms of depression. If Archbishop Paglia thinks that once the genie is out of the bottle in Italy that it will remain immune from this evolutionary process of expansion, then he is a fool.

But I doubt he is a fool. And in my view, his recent statements on this topic are merely the next application of his general revisionism in Catholic moral theology in the direction of a non-prophetic accommodation to the winds of secularity. He seems not to believe that there is fire in the Church’s moral equations and therefore seeks the flame of truth elsewhere. Along these lines he states the Church is not the “dispenser of truth pills” and that she cannot act as if she if she is in possession of an “a priori given truth”, which somehow exists “above” culture. Say what? Of course the Church is in possession of an a priori given truth. And the name of that truth is Jesus Christ. And if the definitive and absolute Revelation of God in Christ, handed over by Christ to his apostles as its guardian, is not an a priori truth, then I do not know what is.

And even if one wants to read Paglia’s words charitably, as simply an awkward way of saying that the Church must always evangelize with an eye toward culture and cannot proceed with such an enterprise in a mindset of lifeless abstraction, the phrase still bespeaks a shocking superficiality of analysis. It appears designed to set-up his by now well established belief that settled Church doctrines are open to an endless open-ended concept of change linked to the changing mood of our cultural social contract.

So, for example, he states that, “Theological thought evolves in history, in dialogue with the Magisterium and the experience of the people of God (sensus fidei fidelium), in a dynamic of mutual enrichment.” Fair enough, and as it stands the comment is rather anodyne and unproblematic. Nevertheless, the “mutual enrichment” in his hands seems to be very one-sided with the Rhine flowing into the Tiber, as Dietrich von Hildebrand put it long ago, and not the other way around.

But what does this have to do with the sexual revolution, which is where I started? In a word: everything. They both flow out of a common anthropology rooted in modern Liberalism, which has an isolated, atomized, and hyper-individualistic sense of the human person. Think here as well of Charles Taylor’s famous elucidation of the modern “buffered self” as a purely horizontal and naturalistic reality without an openness to Transcendence as its deepest and most constitutive fulfillment. And, of course, such a view of the self is what has led to the current madness of claiming that the imperial self can even “choose” to be a different sex, or that “consent” is the only guiding moral norm in matters sexual, or that an individual can choose to seek aid in killing themselves if the suffering gets to be unbearable.

The internal logic of this view is decidedly atheistic, insofar as moral choosing has nothing to do with a divine law to which one must conform in order to reach the truest forms of spiritual well-being and happiness. Indeed, in the modern world such divine moral norms are viewed as oppressive and anti-human, and the entire modern project can be viewed, as Augusto del Noce pointed out, as a slow, but inexorable, series of endless transgressions of all that came before that are an open rebellion against all such constraints. But the constraints are the discipline which alone brings true happiness, as any parent of an adolescent seeks to instill in their rebellious child, and without which we are all like wet concreted poured aimlessly on the ground and not into any form that gives it a true shape.

This is why Eberstadt also says that the common link, latent within all forms of modern existence is, simply, “anguish”. And who is to relieve this anguish? What does the Church have to offer in the way of living water that can slake our existential thirst for something more than the secular shop of horrors in which we are trapped? The crucified and risen Christ is the only true arrow in that quiver, and without it the Church has nothing distinctive in her arsenal. And the therapeutic Christ of a non-prophetic accompaniment, and a Church without any “a priori truth pills” to offer a culture that is gasping for air as it flails its arms while drowning at sea, is tantamount to no answer at all and leaves the anguished soul wallowing in their own despair.

The upshot of this latent atheism is that it gives us no transcendent meaning to our sufferings and to our sacrifices for the sake of pursuing the moral to good. It is difficult to the point of impossibility to tame our sexual concupiscence without such a transcendent reference point, which alone can fuel our awareness that eros is meant for something so much more and so much better. And only such a reference point can give meaning to the sufferings inflicted upon us by bodily disease and mental illness. And, of course, to a modern person, such sufferings seem pointless and unnecessary.

Now is not the time, therefore, for the Church to abandon the robust moral and spiritual vision of the Church’s moral tradition in general or of Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor, in particular. Because its vindication is at hand if we but had the eyes to see it and the courage to teach it. And now is certainly not the time to give heed to those who have apparently lost their prophetic edge and their ecclesial nerve.

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About Larry Chapp 63 Articles
Dr. Larry Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for twenty years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. Dr. Chapp received his doctorate from Fordham University in 1994 with a specialization in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. He can be visited online at "Gaudium et Spes 22".


  1. Chapp, lauding Mary Eberstadt, hits the bullseye. “What we face today in the Church is a deep bifurcation between those who understand the need for a prophetic response to the cultural crisis and the insouciant”.
    Examples are worth their weight in gold when giving insight. A priest friend, now deceased, led a dissolute secret life. He suffered depression, remorse, then finally and thankfully repentance. Once we discussed sermons, and I spoke of the urgent need today for prophetic witness to the truth. He responded with deep sadness that’s what he could no longer do. Guilt suffocated that charisma. God’s grace, prayer and sacrifice, eventually brought saving light into that awful darkness.
    Archbishop Paglia’s insouciance is, it seems, similar in kind but different in expression. Apparently Paglia and others with similar mindset have told themselves that wrong is right. They sold their prophetic charisma.

    • Thank you, Father. Always appreciate your insightful commentary and your willingness to speak the truth about these quisling members of the hierarchy.

      • Tom, Our Lord is sending us reinforcements, those entering the Church acutely aware of the danger facing Christianity and the world and the need to be prophetic in fearlessly proclaiming Christ.
        “Vlaardingerbroek said, ‘If we don’t take our enemies seriously enough, and we don’t even dare speak up for Christ, after all he has done for us, how do we expect to win?’” (Dutch philosopher and convert Eva Vlaardingerbroek and her father to enter the Catholic faith this Sunday NCReg).

    • In lauding Mary Eberstadt, let us also now acknowledge people like Mark Steyn, who has warned us about the demographic disaster awaiting so many countries today. It is surely a direct result of the rejection of Humanae Vitae.

    • Larry identifies the therapeutic retreat from a deep loving but critical engagement with those suffering under modernity. Likewise this retreat does not draw people into living a love which delivers a real social justice but can only persuade many that there is no real point to the life of struggle and suffering revealed in Dorothy Day’s life and mission. The ‘sexuality’ the Church teaches is integral with the social teaching of the Church. Without the one there is no other – both involve self sacrificing love not mutuality of therapeutisation of egoistic desire.

  2. Appealing to Science Expert Hollerich’s “sociological-scientific foundation” for upending (!) sexual morality, we ask this about his “flaccid mediocrity” in such moral discourse…WHY (thinking sociological-scientifically, or course!) is it that the LGBTQ demographic is multiplying like rabbits even though its members exclude themselves from biological reproduction???

    Might it be the culture or moral surrender, sexual abuse, dysfunctional families, distant or absentee fathers, social media and the porn industry, AND perhaps especially random sexual experimentation even at an early age?

    All of this, ENABLED by the pastoral “white flag” accommodations exposed by Chapp, and combined with the scandalous ABSENCE of solid witness for families and personal responsibility? (All this “backward” sorta stuff of “rigid bigots”?)

    Forthwith, McElroy, Hollerich, poster-child Martin, Grech, Batzing & Co. are encouraged to scientifically validate their neck measurements—not for new clericalist collars, but for the fitting for promised MILLSTONES and for a long walk off a short “soteriological” pier.

    Sounds like “sociological-scientific peers”, but truly quite different!

  3. I wish I could be so sympathetic to these progressive Churchmen who are allegedly “reading the signs of the times” and attempting to “accompany” those on the “margins” in some effort to be “pastoral.” I just do not buy it at all. Call me a cynic but I’ve too often been duped by the good intentions of leaders of our Church.

    No, these poseurs are, in my estimation, leading disordered and sinful lives (very often of a homosexual variety) and are seeking to normalize and justify what is truly aberrant. And, I’m afraid, their number in the Catholic Church is Legion.

    • The moderns in the Church are increasing Catholics without God, Catholic Atheism, Matriarchal Marxism given the depth that feminism has penetrated the Church.

    • Deacon, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Not only are they looking to justify their own sinful lives, they don’t care about the harm they cause the Church. In fact, I’m certain they’re intentionally trying to destroy the Church from within.

  4. There are some in the church in rather high places that compare the current doctrine of the church on sexual matters to be merely a babe in “diapers”, the implication is obvious. We have a lot of “maturing” to undergo. 😳

    • And it is oblivious to the implication that God would have to be an evil God to deprive the peoples of the past adaquate knowledge of right and wrong.

  5. And it is oblivious to the implication that God would have to be an evil God to deprive the peoples of the past adequate knowledge of right and wrong.

  6. Another masterpiece by Larry Chapp.

    He writes: “If Archbishop Paglia thinks that once the genie is out of the bottle in Italy that it will remain immune from this evolutionary process of expansion, then he is a fool. But I doubt he is a fool.”

    Then he must be worse than a fool. At least a fool is just ignorant. But if he knows, if he is aware of what will happen, then he is malicious.

    This is an interesting time we are living in. The Magisterium has revealed clearly and unambiguously that it suffers from the same cognitive limitations that constrain everyone else. How infallibility works is obviously rather complicated, but the level of foolishness manifest today is breathtaking.

  7. I prefer the red flag of conservative Catholicism and be judgmental and condemnatory towards all who do not share my views and values and so self righteously being sure of the rightness (after all, I’m in the right wing of ideas and things!) of what I believe and do to others in the name of God.

    • Do you have any specific arguments to offer? What are “your views and values” when it comes to, say, euthanasia, homosexuality, contraception? And how is upholding Church teaching on euthanasia, sexuality, and other moral issues “conservative”? The term you are looking for is “Catholic”.

    • Martin: I agree with my editor Carl Olson. I actually put forward an argument as to why I find Paglia’s theology troubling. It is very telling that you do not engage my arguments but instead resort to ad hominem sarcasm. And I guess you do not see the contradiction, if not outright hypocrisy, of coming on here to accuse me of being judgmental and condemnatory, when your entire post here is nothing but judgmental and accusatory, offering no counter arguments to my actual arguments, but instead resorting to condemnatory insults.

    • That we all prefer the Sermon on the Mount, is undeniable:

      “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain…and he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
      ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. …
      Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. …
      You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste…it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.
      You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. …
      Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. …
      For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. …
      You have heard that it was said: You shall not commit adultery. BUT I SAY to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. …
      It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. BUT I SAY to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

      Seems rather strict of The Lord to speak to us in this way, yes?

      “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

      That’s light years beyond politics, even Church politics.

      Go tell it…

    • There’s nothing more judgmental and condemnatory towards all who do not share its views and values and is so self righteously being sure of ita rightness (after all, its on the right side of history!) than leftism.

      Any criticism or doubt of the emotional emesis they offer is immediately met with any or all of an array of disparaging names: bigoted, fascist, homphobic, racist, reactionatry, sexist, transphobic, etc.

      It’s hilarious as the left increasingly calls for suppressive censorship and political prosecution that it still postures as the voice of reason and tolerance.

      I am increasingly of the mind that the leftist mindset is the political manifestation of temper tantrum.

  8. As Christ’s great miracle, the multiplication of the loaves, prescient of the Holy Eucharist, our saving manna, some would be apostles Paglia, Hollerich, McElroy and compatriots are otherwise adept at the multiplication of errors, lethal fare for the unwary.

    • “And he asked him, ‘What is thy name?’ And he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion: for we are many'” (Mark 5:9).

  9. Progressive Catholicism. There’s a ridiculous oxymoron if there ever was one. Can someone be deeply committed to Catholic doctrine and moral teaching and subscibe to progressive ideology? Not sure. Those positions seem mutually exclusive based on what we’re seeing around us.

  10. Those who love and appreciate God rejoice that He remains the same. No irregularities or deviations!

    Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

    John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

    • Proudly Protestant Brian Young:

      God does indeed remain the same, and that’s why His One True Church remains the only One that people must belong to in order to faithfully serve God as He requires. All Protestants believe that they know better than God in setting up and/or belonging to their heretical churches, or considering themselves to be generic Protestants of no particular affiliation. Common to all of these proud Protestant manifestations is their numerous and ongoing deviations and irregularities that disobey God in many sinful ways.

      Let us all thank God for His promise to Only His Catholic Church that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it no matter how many individual Catholics may fall victim to Satan. Hades and Satan have indeed prevailed against Protestants and all others outside the Catholic Church.

      • Might the following verses guide the believer n Christ?

        Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

        John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

        Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

        Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

        Romans 10:9-10 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

        If a men focus on disputatious is it honouring to Christ? Christ is peace with God and love for fellow believers, unless I am mistaken!

        Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

        John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

        Let kindness and respect for other believers be the proof that Christ has begun a good work in us!

        Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

        Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

        Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

        May you be blessed.

        • We read: “If a men focus on disputatious [sic] is it honouring to Christ? Christ is peace with God and love for fellow believers, unless I am mistaken!”

          “Mistaken”? About what is disputatious toward Christ? How about THIS scriptural disputation:

          “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:54-56).

          “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” (John 6:60). “From that time many of his disciples went back, and WALKED NO MORE WITH HIM” (John 6:66).

          Brother Brian, you have much to offer the Church—scripturally—if now somewhat selectively…But, what about ALSO being incorporated—sacramentally—into the Mystical Body of Christ: Eucharistically, His gifted “body and blood, soul and divinity”? Which is to say, the Word as well as the words. The Catholic both/and, not either/or…

          Will Brother Brian also “walk no more with Him”, or, will he cross the Tiber? Nothing to lose scripturally, and much to gain…Come on in, the water’s fine! And some of it is even that surely blasphemous Holy Water!

          But, yes, not all the members of the Church founded by Christ are as pure and self-certified as the un-accepting onlookers of old who walked away. And–scripturally, again!–we do NOT read that Christ edited, reworded, or even retracted the disputation with any sorta falsified “kindness and respect.”

          Instead, as you so ably remind us…His “words will not pass away” (Mt 24:35).

          • Dear Peter:
            Your response is appreciated! Of recent posts you have used scripture to highlight your points. It is acknowledged.

            To accentuate Matthew 24:35 we look at he following:

            Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

            Psalm 119:89 Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.

            1 Peter 1:25 But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

            Some scripture is difficult to understand. We remind ourselves that the Bible interprets itself, proper context makes it easier to comprehend and accept.

            Jesus presents us with difficult sayings and yet God never goes against His own word so we must dig and contemplate what is being said. For example:

            Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

            John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

            Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

            It is left to one to garner the meaning by using our logic and piecing the puzzle together. To begin reading at John 6:29 and following to 6:70 puts matters into a better setting.

            2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

            1 Corinthians 2:12-16 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

            God bless you,


        • Proudly Protestant Brian Young:

          You are indeed mistaken about many things. Moreover, I and other Catholics are not engaging in disputatious actions with you, because you have proven yourself unworthy of such. Instead, we are correcting you and pointing out your numerous errors in your ongoing promotion of the heresy of Protestantism, as well as your ongoing attacks on various Catholic beliefs in this online Catholic home, thereby showing no real respect for the mission of this online journal and the Catholics who read it.

          May the Blessed Virgin Mary intervene on your behalf so that you soon give up your Protestant beliefs that directly disobey Jesus Christ while you disingenuously pretend to worship and follow Him, but never as He requires. In the meantime, so long as your heart remains hardened in pushing Protestantism and wrongly attacking Christ’s One True Church, you will face ongoing correction from faithful Catholics.

  11. And we wonder why so many Catholics in central and south American lands fly to evangelical churches: they are, many of them, unashamed of preaching the Gospel as they understand it. It is shocking to hear an anabaptist preacher on YT talking about the need for total repentance and shunning a life of sin, while at Mass we get the same old pathetic drivel.

    If there are any priests who are reading this, please know that it is a great work of mercy to speak plainly, without condemnation, out of a father’s loving heart, to try to turn people away from sin. There are, in your congregation, many who are ensnared in porn, fornication, adulterous second “marriages,” and homosexual activity. They are not served by your worry about the complaints of the unrepentant noisy. And they are MISERABLE and wanting to know God’s will and how it can lead to peace and joy. Fathers, if you yourselves are caught in these terrible tarpits, now is the time to throw yourself on the mercy of God and get out, so that you can preach without hypocrisy.

  12. White flags, yes, but also a little gray, and green around the edges?…

    In October 1939, the month after Germany triggered World War II, Winston Churchill said: “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” Today, is an ECCLESIAL ENIGMA our default alternative to proclaiming the Kingdom in a starkly new Apostolic Age?

    The retreat-strategy of camouflaging remnant Catholicism within a big-tent churchy-culture of ambiguity? The quiet burial of more than Veritatis Splendor?

    Instead, a more socially acceptable “riddle” of two voices, one which denies nothing true, and another which prohibits nothing clearly: not abortion (Cupich’s “rabbit hole” issue), nor euthanasia (now Paglia), nor unhinged sexual options of all stripes as signaled by the sin-nod-al hood ornament Cardinal Hollerich?

    “Time is greater than space” = a dhimmi within global pluralism as an amalgam of co-equal cultures? If so, then some parallels to, say, green-flag ISLAM whose self-understanding is as a cosmopolitan “culture” more than anything else. Think Andalusia…

    So, WHAT DOES IT MEAN—within a graying “Christian culture”—when an Anglican service is welcomed (welcoming!) within the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran (link below)? Only a few years after the centuries-long papal residence is downsized as a “museum and cultural site” (below)? Less pomp and circumstance, a good thing—but also leveling the institution of the papacy? And, what does it mean when substitute (?) Synodality, in the verbose Vademecum workbook, names “Jesus Christ” not even once (!), and then the diluted culture of “Christian civilization” only twice?

    POPE FRANCIS refers to the present political moment as World War III…

    …likewise, between the two earlier World Wars, the secularist-sociologist MAX WEBER said in a 1918 speech:” No summer’s bloom lies ahead of us, but rather a polar night of icy darkness and hardness…” (in “Politics as a Vocation”). Today, in our “polar night” is a big-tent, gray ecclesial enigma really the working of the Holy Spirit?

    Or, instead, how about this:
    “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure. . . than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

    President Theodore Roosevelt: an imperialist, yes…butt, firstly, unambiguously masculine. No white flags, nor gray, nor green.

  13. Athanasius wrote above: “Progressive Catholicism…Can someone be deeply committed to Catholic doctrine and moral teaching and subscibe to progressive ideology? Not sure.”

    I think it is a good question but for me the answer is closer to a decisive no. But I would like to be more nuanced because, as I have heard part of the reason ideologies are attractive, is due to their having true elements. A committed Catholic should for instance care about things like the plight of women, immigrants, the poor, the working class, unions, the environment, climate change, abolition of the death penalty, etc. Similarly a committed Catholic should care about things like the legal right to life of the dying and preborn, sexual purity manifested in law and culture, natural law, liturgical/sacramental beauty and lawfulness, etc. Still having these concerns about various social, moral and political issues need not compel anyone to the embrace of a party spirit ideological identity as a liberal/progressive or conservative/traditionalist.

    As I have advocated on these pages more then once now if memory serves, A person can be a Catholic and Christian. (note the period).

    Also I would like to say that the ever developing syntheses we have in the magisterial documents of the Church and the ministries of the Pope and legitimate Bishops are an indispensable resource in our ongoing formation as Catholic Christians.

    I do believe the Church is like a womb and if I dont engineer my own abortion by wilful infidelity She will bring me forth at length to everlasting life and freedom from the ‘strife of tongues’.

    Let’s not get too discouraged or distracted!

    Thank you for your consideration.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response. My answer is also closer to a decisive “no.” As believers, we can fulfill Christ’s mandate to care for others in ways that do not involve adhering to a deeply problematic ideology.

  14. One of the moral issues on which the Church has not folded is abortion. Recently a heavily Catholic Supreme Court reversed the Roe decision. It suggests that if the Church teaches clearly and passionately on moral issues the Church can make substantial inroads on these contested issues of sexual morality.

    On marriage, contraception and LGBT issues, the Church seems to be struggling (or maybe unwilling) to teach as clearly or passionately as it has on abortion. Part of the reason may be the difficulty of finding compelling arguments on those issues that speak to the modern person, whose framework for evaluating questions of sexual morality is dictated by our culture. I think the Church needs to develop a vocabulary for addressing matters of sexual morality that speaks to the modern ear and heart. I would love to hear from Larry on how he thinks the Church can speak to the modern world in a compelling way on those issues.

  15. Hello Mr. Chapp
    Though I’m not a CWR regular, I happened upon this article by chance and I’m so glad that I did – I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one who thinks this way. I’m a bit of a younger practicing Catholic at 21 years of age. I’m of the belief that younger Catholics ought to have stronger role models to look up to – especially in the overwhelmingly secular 21st Century western society – and I agree that our “Progressive Catholic” pope, priests, and even laypeople aren’t helping. As Catholics, we need to teach younger people being brought up in the faith resilience against the fleeting whims of society; to teach them how to stand strong in their faith and the views that go along with it. The only thing that “Progressive Christianity”, or rather, “Progressive Catholicism” teaches them is how to roll over and submit to the dominating ideologies of the time. We need to teach younger Catholics precisely what your article entails. To engage in patience, love, and understanding – but not through submitting to dangerous and contrarian ideologies that forsake the wisdom of Christ for the sake of mere earthly, societal acceptance, even if it’s the “popular” thing to champion.

  16. We have been seeing a lot of spiritual unilateral disarmament from progressive Catholics. They evidently see little, if anything, of the historic faith that is worth fighting or dying for. Pretty much lapsi Catholics.

    • And a lot of them are to be found at the very apex of the Church, from the summit downwards. It is difficult to stand for anything, if the Faith one is supposed to stand for is continually shedding doctrines and principles that not long ago were insisted upon as not negotiable.

      The CC has in effect become a one-man band perpetual motion machine.

  17. There seem to be a push by several Bishops, some of the new Cardinals chosen by this Pope, Vatican officials, some clergy and the progressive Catholics to revive a moral theological current called “Proportionalism” where intrinsically evil acts are denied its existence. The Magisterium of St JPII swiftly corrected this for good in Veritatis Splendor but the currents Pontif seems to give a pass to current novel renderings in the lips of some prominent folks who seem to resurrect this theological heresy while promoting a false accompaniment and mercy that deprive many of the full Gospel of Christ found only in the fullness of His Mercy which includes unconditional love and forgiveness but also repentance and conversion.

  18. Brian Young, you say: “We remind ourselves that the Bible interprets itself, proper context makes it easier to comprehend and accept.” I don’t think this is how it works. A book does not interpret itself – there is always an intelligent mind doing the interpreting. (pace ChatGPT) Even when you check the context, or search other passages, the Bible is not interpreting itself. You are interpreting it. So the question arises “what authority do you have to interpret it?” And perhaps you will cite the passage “when the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth…”. So you would be claiming that the Holy Spirit guides you. But the passage is part of the last supper discourse, and Jesus is talking to his apostles. He is not making a promise to any individual Christian who happens to read his words – he is promising the gift of understanding (through the work of the Spirit) to the men he has appointed to exercise authority in his church. And to their successors.

  19. There is no such thing as “progressive Catholicism “, there is only The Catholic Church, and the anti Catholic Church.
    If you are not for Christ and His Church, you are anti Christ and His Church.
    “For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles. ”

    “It is a sin to accommodate an occasion of sin and cooperate with evil”, thus we can know through both our Catholic Faith and Reason, that The denial of The Unity Of The Holy Ghost (Filioque), ipso facto separates oneself from Christ And His One, Holy, Catholic And Apostolic Church, outside of which there is no Salvation, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

    “Penance , Penance, Penance.”

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The endless white flags of progressive Catholicism – Via Nova
  2. The Endless White Flags of Progressive Catholicism | Mary Eberstadt

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