Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Catholic Wars Episode I: The Phantom Heresy

Former First Things editor Joseph Bottum is now in favor of same-sex marriage. Or he thinks we ought to shut up about it. Or that we should accept it as a political reality. Or all of the above. It's hard to tell after slogging through that meandering essay. This has not gone over well in some quarters. I think that Douthat and Dreher have the best takes I've read so far.

American Catholics have always had a desire to fit in. We've been much more eager to make nice with Protestants and the world than our European and Middle Eastern ancestors in the faith. Pope Leo XIII condemned the "Americanist" heresy in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae. The American hierarchy of the time vigorously denied that anyone among their number or among their priests held any such views. Time would prove otherwise. Vatican II's declaration on religious liberty  was largely the brain-child of American Jesuit priest John Courtney Murray. It's beyond the scope of this post to get into details, but suffice it to say that Dignitatis Humanae's emphasis on religious liberty appears superficially in conflict with the old Church adage "Error has no rights." Should we Catholics surrender on the issue of same-sex "marriage" as Bottum suggests? Should we simply concede that same-sex "marriage" is an ontological reality as much as a marriage between a man and a woman?

Absolutely not. Same-sex "marriage" is as impossible and nonsensical as round squares and colorless color. The Church stands accused of being obsessed with sexual issues. I would suggest that this is a bit of projection on the part of the heathen and the world. I've no doubt that around the time Pope Leo wrote Rerum Novarum the world accused the Church of being obsessed with capitalism and socialism. When the world inevitably indulges in its favorite sins, it accuses the Church of obsession when the Church, in accordance with her mission, calls us out for our sins. If the Church dropped her opposition to SSM tomorrow, she would be just as hated then as she is now.

The details differ from time to time and place to place, but the one thing all anti-Catholics have in common is a deeply held sense of outrage at the Church's claim to be the one true Church founded by Christ for the salvation of souls. What they all hate is the Church's claims of authority. Not surprisingly, liberals and Modernists within the Church spend many of their waking hours trying to undermine the Church's authority as an infallible guide to faith and morals. What we sinful creatures hate is acknowledging any authority greater than our imperial selves.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. Americanism ranks as one of the most pernicious heresies in the history of the Church and yet it goes mostly unmentioned.