Friday, November 5, 2010

Speaking Of Cardinal Mahony, Et Al

Everybody should take a look at this recent bit from Boniface over at Unam Sanctam. If you've ever read Malachi Martin's Windswept House (which I'm doing now and is a topic for another discussion) you'll see how scary this all is.

To try and nutshell things, he starts with the obvious, namely, that there are a lot of Church teachings that people would like to get rid of. Stuff like hell, for example. These teachings obviously aren't going anywhere, which frustrates many in the hierarchy who want people to think they're just nice old men who love inclusivity and tolerance. Boniface takes up the strategy being used by these guys to try and get around dogma:

Yet, though these declarations will not go away, there is a way that the hierarchy has found to get around this problem. I have noticed that, in areas where the modern hierarchy takes vastly different positions than the traditional Church, novel positions are not given to the faithful by means of encyclicals or dogmatic statements, but are found throughout lower-level pronouncements, such as speeches, letters, addresses, bishops' statements etc. By repeating these novel positions again and again in very low-level pronouncements, the faithful get accustomed to hearing certain novelties "from the Church" and over time come to accept them as "Church teaching."

He uses the death penalty as a good example, which it is. Contraception would be another pretty blatant one.

Thus the strategy for "changing" Church teaching seems to be this: If you want to teach something contrary to what the Church has always taught, just do it at low enough levels of authority and eventually people will start to accept your low-level declarations as "Church teaching" if they are trumpeted about long enough.

But this is just one example. My point is that theologians, bishops, cardinals and even popes regularly teach novelties in unofficial organs with such frequency that the faithful mistake these pronouncements for the teaching of the Church. The main reason for this is a confusion between a Church official and official teaching. When an official of the Church speaks, it is taken for granted that what he is speaking is official Church teaching. . .

Thus, I fear, we have come to a place where instead of taking our bearings by teachings given ex cathedra we are now accustomed to assimilating teaching "ex voce," from statements repeated over and over again in low-level pronouncements. Novelties are put forward as teaching, absurd hypotheses are given credence and things abhorrent to the Christian faith are stated as matter of fact (a great example is Kasper's sloppy Reflections on Covenant and Mission regarding Judaism). Basically, I see a working out of the old dictum that anything repeated long enough is believed. It is really quite disingenuous, because everybody knows that lay people expect to hear official Church teaching from members of the hierarchy - the hierarchy also knows that, if they are using means of communication that are considered "low-level" in their authority, they have much more leeway to introduce their own opinions.

This is very similar to the Windswept House plot regarding the "common mind of the bishops." What I'm left wondering (and did so way before I started the book) is how much of this is (a) coordinated, (b) personally malicious, or (c) both.

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