In my previous blog I quoted Melanie Phillips who wrote about the challenges being faced by the Anglican Church as to how it responds to changes in society. The challenges I suggested, need to be faced by all churches. This week I want to quote from an article from a Catholic writer, R. R. Reno, speaking in similar ways about the challenge faced by the Catholic Church. Again, I think these thoughts are very helpful, not all are valid outside of the Catholic Church and I certainly do not agree with all the deatils, but they do demonstrate the need for all of us to decide how we respond to the changes taking place in our society.
Reno says that:
In Catholicism and other forms of establishment Christianity in the West church culture has merged with the moral consensus held by the good, respectable people who set the tone for society as a whole.
In the aftermath of the sexual revolution, that consensus shifted. For a long time now it has been socially acceptable to divorce and contracept. Soon thereafter it was OK to cohabitate, and then the good and responsible people who run things adopted an affirmative attitude toward gay sex. During all this, the same consensus became hostile to those who say otherwise. It became “cruel,” “hateful,” and “bigoted” to call something wrong that the bourgeois consensus now deems right. In this way, the good and responsible people did not just accommodate themselves to the sexual revolution; they took ownership of it.
This has caused the Catholic Church problems, as the sexual revolution worked its way through elite culture, bishops and priests were eager to sustain their place as chaplains of the establishment consensus. However, this goes against the traditional teachings of the church which cannot easily be discarded.
Reconciling the Catholic Church with the sexual revolution is necessary in order to preserve Catholicism link with the consensus. Unless this is done, more and more of the good and responsible people will come to regard the Church as a regressive, harmful force in society, a source of repression and bigotry that is antithetical to the spirit of inclusion and affirmation that promotes human flourishing. This is especially obvious in the controversy surrounding divorce, remarriage, and communion. These are good, sensitive people trying to make the best of a difficult situation! How can the Church deny them communion? The same is true for those who use artificial means of contraception or who are committed to another person of the same sex—which is why it’s reasonable to think the pontificate will seek to muddy the Church’s teaching on those issues as well …
Christianity orients us upward and toward the divine. We are being focused on the horizontal. It takes its cues from the consensus of the moment, the opinions of the good and responsible people. This reduces Christianity to a political religion organized to buttress the status quo. The Francis papacy largely follows this pattern, making it quite predictable. We can count on Pope Francis to talk about the poor in exactly the same way that people do in Berkeley, which means with great earnestness and little consequence.
Written by Tony Thompson