Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Vanity of Vanities

I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with... For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. Ecclesiastes 1:12
I haven't read anything so ridiculous in a long time. I'll grant that Joseph S. O'Leary is a learned man; what he seems to lack is sense. O'Leary seems to resent anyone suggesting that the texts Vatican II produced do not have infinite meaning. Hence he has a thing about Popes (and all Authority, really). Hence his blog is not about Vatican II, but 'the spirit of...' , whatever that might be. His July ninth post is a work of snark to behold, so let the fisking begin!
John Paul II thus bypassed and reached over the heads of the educated baby boomers, influenced by Vatican II, in order to address an audience who were a tabula rasa, and to communicate to them a world view that the Vatican II generation would find problematic on many points. His tactic recalls that of Mao in China. [HAHAHA! Whoo-EEE! That's rich! Just call them Hitleryouth and be done with it.- ed.] At the same time critical theology was ruthlessly discouraged and suppressed throughout the Catholic world. Fr. Chia's article tells how this was done in Asia. The fates of Kung, Drewermann, Leukel-Schmidt, Curran, McNeill, Boff, Lavinia Byrne and many others are a tip of the iceberg of the same process in Europe, the US and Latin America. The more warmly the youthful crowd applauded, the deeper the intellectual chill that fell on the Church.
Intellectuals like to play with ideas but when they operate in a faith structure, there is an obligation to play with ideas in a search for truth. The faith is not a set of tinker toys to bash together in a vain effort to make sparks. Why should theology be more free form that physics? This stuff affects how people live. Getting it wrong has the potential to hurt, and to kill. JPII as Mao - get real, dude. Hey, what are your views on the BushHitler? JPII and Benedict XVI were both a part of Vatican II; there is no reason for them to try and shut it down. As they have aged and grown wiser, they have tried to curb excesses of the time, such invoking always vague 'spirit of Vatican II' to browbeat anyone hesitant about the latest and greatest our supposed bettors have cooked up. We want to stick with the texts, which we hold to have specific meaning. In doing that, Ratzinger and Co. have chosen a direction that you disapprove of. Heaven's to Bestsy, how dare they! They obviously have no idea who you are. In elevating some texts over others they are being true to the Council. Claiming that this is akin to 'fundamentalism' or some kind of fascism is absurd.
["Neocatholics"] often seem to yearn for an idealized church of Pius XII, a vibrant flawless Catholicism that never was.
The kids are bad because they listen to the Pope and not to "educated baby boomers." I see why that's not good for boomers but utterly fail to see why it's bad for the kids. I listened to boomers all through school, and in university, and I still hear them in the media and the workplace. I've had quite enough of them. You can keep that tired shibboleth about conservatives wanting a 'time that never was' too. We want to keep things we see as valuable, no matter what period they are from. What to keep and what to reject is an ongoing debate. Hey, is there any Pope you like? Or would that transgress your hermeneutics of suspicion?
The Neocaths tend to sexual puritanism. Appalled by the consequences of the sexual revolution, AIDS, abortion, cohabitation, adultery, divorce, pornography, they retreat to the strictest Catholic doctrine as an ark of refuge. They are very vocal advocates and practitioners of a strictly-interpreted concept of sexual fidelity, with a strong emphasis on procreative sexuality. They insist that masturbation is mortally sinful, and have an especial enthusiasm for the teaching that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered and that homosexual acts can never be countenanced. They denounce as apostasy a massive rejection of Vatican teaching among Catholics and call for bishops and priests to stand up against the tide of laxism instead of floating along with it.
You say this like it's bad...
The Neocaths combine biblical and magisterial fundamentalism. They argue by proof texts, in complete contempt of biblical scholarship and hermeneutics. [Oh my! - ed.] Their ingenuity in defending their fundamentalist stances is extreme, and will draw on ad hoc hermeneutics when necessary, but they are estranged from the broad current of Catholic biblical scholarship. A Neocath who would admit, for example, that the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden in not historical would not be a worthy representative of militant Neocath ideology.
I guess I'm not a NeoCath then. It's funny as all get out, in a tragic way, that you appear to have more faith in hermeneutics than a faith tradition 6,000 years in the making. Friedrich Schleiermacher, one of the fathers of modern hermeneutics, was a Protestant. The search for an 'authentic, scientific' Hermeneutics of the Bible makes sense for Protestants. Without a recognized authority like the Church, they need some firm intellectual ground to stand on when wrestling with how to form their theology. I'm not convinced they've turned up much of value. It is exceedingly strange that one would want to import their methods into the Catholic faith.
The Neocaths are ill at ease with modernity. They feel they have seen through the myths of secular humanism, and the liberal culture of democratic discussion which they see as relativistic. They bewail confusion and uncertainty and call for a firm voice of authority to put an end to it.
Projected paranoia. How nice. Bobby Fisher would be proud. It is sad that when you see yourself as the Authority under a 'hermeneutics of suspicion' the reaction is one of contempt, confusion and an ill concealed, disoriented rage. The whole post reads like a Greek tragedy in which the third Act is just getting underway.
There is more - much more - about Father O'Leary at Against the Grain. The tip for this post came from my better half at Doxology.

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