Quotes that Say Something

"Please, dad, get down and look. I think there's some kind of monster under my bed."

Life when seen in close-up often seems tragic, but in wide-angle it often seems comic. -- Charlie Chaplin

"And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear, you shout, but no one's there to hear. And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon." -- Roger Waters, "Brain Damage"

Jan 24, 2014

Relating to Relativism (Catholic Style)

           Friday, January 24 (2014)

           A piece by John Allen, a writer for the National Catholic Reporter newspaper, caught my attention this morning. The subject: put it under the heading of teachings and religious behaviors that are clearly black and white, except when they are gray.


          All things being relative, I try to stay away from comments and declarations (by me and others) that involve traditional religion as an institution or regulated system on this blog. Yet the matter does command a lot of attention in, and sadly too often sucks a lot of oxygen from, the cultural mainstream of everyday life. So I guess there is no harm in 'going there' re: church and religion every one in a while.

          So, put your paws up -- let's get rolling.

          The trigger point for this says something about modeling church doctrine, or at least talk about the subject today. There seems to be a disagreement, spat, or stand-off theologically (all metaphors) among two Cardinals @ the Vatican. Cardinal Muller's job is to be the keeper of the faith, the doctrinaire doctrine upholder. Cardinal Rodriguez-Maradiaga of Honduras is the main guy in Pope Francis' new advisory Council. While Muller spoke this week in hard and fast terms about the dissolubility of marriage, Rodriguez Maradiaga retorted from his pastoral experience that real-world judgment calls and pastoral insight must be applied in real-life matters.

          In effect, the Honduran leader told Cardinal Muller to lighten and loosen up.

          Crossfire! As good or better than any interchange that CNN could program.

          Allen writes this interchange should get us stoked in anticipation of next October's Synod of Bishops on the family. Issues discussions here we come:

          ' . . . Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics will be on the table (sic) and both
         Rodriguez Maradiaga and Müller should be present, . . . (it) will be great theater.'

          Here's what really drew me in as I finished reading John Allen's piece.

' . . . One could argue that the two cardinals weren't so much disagreeing as giving voice to two different pieces of the Catholic puzzle, which would be incomplete without either one. When Müller published his essay in L'Osservatore Romano in October, his mission was to lay out church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage -- in other words, to bring clarity to doctrine. Rodriguez-Maradiaga, on the other hand, was speaking from the pastoral experience of trying to apply that teaching to real-world judgment calls. To extend the image, perhaps the transition from Benedict to Francis could be analyzed not so much as a shift in substance, but in the balance of power between the church's theologians and its pastors. (Those are, of course, caricatures.)'

          In case you are murmuring 'So what?' -- As Allen points out in the NCR, the pastoral side of the matter is getting as much attention as the doctrinal. 'Usually Catholicism is terrific about communicating its doctrine, not so much its pastoral nuance,' he concludes.

John Allen of the NCR


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