Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Rambling Rant

I stumbled across an article by Lisa Sowle Cahill recently.

I'd never heard of her before, but she is a self-described "Catholic Feminist." (Yes, the quotes around this term mean I think this is a contradiction in terms.)

In this particular article, she was expressing dismay over the fact that many priests had taken to the pulpit (ok, they stood at a lectern...) and let their parishioners know that voting for a pro-abortion candidate was a sin in the eyes of the Church.

She took the position that abortion was just one issue among many, and that Catholics had to vote their consciences, and that support for life took many forms in light of "Catholic social justice" teachings, blah, blah.

The article was published in the National Catholic Reporter. What distressed me most in reading this article wasn't her opinions, sadly misinformed and selfish as I think them to be. It was the posts that followed that made me feel downright sad and confounded.

From people who classify themselves as Catholic came assorted comments about how "Nobody knows when 'ensoulment' occurs, therefore, it's ok to abort." (I couldn't resist, I wrote a rebuttal comment asking - if you don't know, then why would you ever take the chance that you missed it by a day and actually killed an 'ensouled' child rather than an 'unensouled' human being in utero?) Another writer insisted that "viability" was the determiner for when it is ok to abort. And I couldn't help but state the obvious - 100 years ago, viability was a vastly different thing from what it is today. And viability varies enormously from developing child to developing child. My huge and well-developed son might have survived on his own at 22 weeks; my more delicate daughter might not have survived at 25 weeks.

Then you have to ask the question: what about medical intervention? Neonatal care has advanced enormously, enabling children who, 100 years ago, would inevitably have died, to survive, thrive, and grow up healthy. Why is one child, born at 20 week and wanted the object of care, prayer, and enormous outlays of money and effort; a child aborted at 20 weeks is biomedical waste? Why is the first child a human being (with the rights of a human - if I were to burst into the neonatal care nursery and shoot this child, I'd be accused of murder) and the second child just tissue with no rights?

Does anybody but me see the pitiful, terrifying irony in all this?

This - the illogic of it all - was disturbing enough.

But the fact that these so-called "Catholics" were so vehement, so dismissive, so sure of themselves, about how it matters more to "care for the living mothers and children" than to protect the unborn. How sure they were of themselves about "Catholics have always been told to behave according to their consciences" (what they neglect, of course, is the part about "well-formed consciences," that is to say, consciences that are the result of knowing, understanding, and accepting the teaching of the Church).

I wonder who these people are, where they came from, and why do they claim to be part of the Catholic Church?

But then, I feel the same way when I read some of the passionate and ugly controversy surrounding the liturgy.

The so-called "extraordinary form" of the Mass - the Tridentine Latin Mass - was the normative Mass for hundreds of years. As others have pointed out, it was the liturgy that inspired and consoled many, many saints. It was a form of liturgy that developed in a direct arc from the Apostles. This is not to say that it is identical to what the first Christians did. Of course not. They were also hiding beneath the streets of Rome, or sequestered out of sight in caves.

But that's another article - my point here is the uninformed and ugly debate that goes on about it. Many Catholics in their 40s today don't even understand the older liturgy - and, failing to understand it, can't see how rich, beautiful, and full of the story of our Faith it is. But they insist - as I pointed out in a previous post about a woman complaining about the return of the "I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof" prayer - that "their" Mass is being degraded; "their" Church is being compromised.

Again I want to know: who are these people? Who taught them? Where did this new Catholicism come from? Since when is it ok for a Catholic to support abortion, in any form whatsoever? When did Catholics lose their love of saints, icons, devotions, (as the aforementioned "Catholic Feminist" writer put it, "magic formulas"), sacred space, Christ as King... I could go on and on.

Moreover, what's going to happen to the Church? How can the forces of tradition and the forces of neo-Catholicism ever be reconciled?

Pope Benedict is moving wisely - small step by small step, or as Father Zuhlsdorf (What Does the Prayer Really Say blog) says, "brick by brick." But even his small steps toward a restored, enriched Catholicism are being met with resistence and criticism.

When I'm confronted by this stuff, my first reaction is to debate it - to argue, to "prove" my case, to sit down and write an empassioned blog entry. And then I am overwhelmed by grief and helplessness. I feel as though the damage is too great, the split too profound, the change in belief too basic for these opposing forces to ever find common ground.

What next? I can only say I am glad that the Holy Spirit has guided us toward the Pope we now have. Surely this means something...

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