Friday, June 14, 2013

Papal Developments.

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types--the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob.

Note: This is a religious post so those of an atheist disposition might want to leave now.

It appears that Pope Francis may have been surreptitiously hanging about on this blog. In this speech to some assembled priests, Francis outlines two approaches which stifle the development of the faith. Now, these comments that Francis makes are not ex cathedra, and therefore not binding on anyone, but they represent a certain strain of thought that I've noticed amongst some members of the more intelligent upper echelons of the Catholic hierarchy.

Prior to his election as Pope, Ratzinger/Benedict was colloquially known as God's Rottweiler, a sobriquet earned as result of being the inflexible orthodox enforcer of the Catholic faith.  Now it's on the record that Ratzinger, privately, deplored the modern liturgy, the liberalisation of morals and the general decline of the faith which followed Vatican 2, yet, he never either privately criticised it, and in fact many times reaffirmed it's goodness  privately ,publicly and on theological grounds. I imagine that his failure to "turn back the changes" must have infuriated the traditionalists who initially thought his election was going to put things back on track.

It's also interesting to see the current pope, Francis, in some ways echo his sentiments. Firstly, in the audience where his confirmation of the the "gay lobby" was noted, Francis, also made some disparaging remarks with regard to the traditionalist practices of some members of the Church. Francis, it seems, is operationg with a similar mindset to Ratzinger in that he  recognises that the further development of doctrine involves steering a middle course between errors of traditionalism and "adolescent progressivism";

This freedom of the Spirit requires embarking on “a path of continuous discernment to do the will of God” and this can frighten us, the Holy Father observed.

He warned that the fear that comes with this way “brings two temptations with it.”

The first, is to “go backwards” to say that, “it’s possible up to this point, but impossible beyond this point” which ends up becoming “let’s stay here.”

It’s a fear that “it is better to play it safe.”........

........ The second temptation that comes with relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance is to engage in “adolescent progressivism,” which ends up sending things off-track.

The temptation, Pope Francis said, lies in seeing a culture and “not detaching ourselves from it.”

“We take the values of this culture a little bit from here, a little bit from there ... They want to make this law? Alright, let’s go ahead and make this law. Let’s broaden the boundaries here a little.”

“In the end, let me tell you, this is not true progress,” he stated.

I think its safe to say that here he is criticising both traditionalists and progressive factions within the Church. Now, this may surprise many orthodox Catholics who tend to blame all the ills of the Church on the progressives, little realising that the traditionalist element is the Trojan horse in Church affairs. It's quite true that the liberal factions of Catholicsm have effectively abandandoned the Church but it is my feeling that should the Church liberalise some of its teachings, not in response to societal pressure but doctrinal development, it will be the Trads who will abandon it in droves.

G.K. Chesterton once said that Catholicism will end up keeping the "best bits" of Protestantism, and I suspect any new doctrinal developments will be "Protestant" in nature I think that the Church will move towards a more "Church assisted" rather then "Church mediated" relationship between man and God. I also think that there will be more room for "rigorous* conscience", and I feel that there may be further developments in sexual ethics and economics. On the other hand, things like the prohibitions against adultery, fornication, abortion  and homosexuality will be reaffirmed again.  I think we're in for interesting times.

*Rigorous conscience means a conscience that is properly formed, not merely opinionated. Note, to both trads and liberals. A properly formed conscience is open to the truth, no matter how inconvenient it is.