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Friday, October 31, 2014

Deja Vu: Back in Mr. Reilly's Moral Theology Class

When I read the following article at Vatican Radio about the pope's homily today (linked below) I got chills -- not good chills I'm afraid -- the kind you get on Halloween (which it happens to be) when someone "walks on your grave." The pope's homily took me back to 1966 and Mr. Reilly's Moral Theology class where we studied Joseph Fletcher's Situation Ethics, Harvey Cox's Secular City and an entire panoply of authors promoting moral relativism. I don't recall studying Thomas Aquinas or the Fathers of the Church. Mr. Reilly was a modern Catholic. The message I got from the class was that, "There is only one law, the law of love." And then we read in Fletcher's book about how loving it was for the mother in the wagon train to smother her crying infant so the Indians wouldn't find them and kill them all.

I would like to read the Holy Father's entire homily. The article says he quoted St. Paul, but did he clearly define the nature of love? Mr. Reilly never did. He left young impressionable teens to draw their own conclusions from Fletcher's moral revolution. And the siren song was so appealing -- the only moral absolute is the individual's perception of love in a given situation. Premarital sex, abortion, lying, adultery, even murder could all be justified as the most loving option given the situation. (Interestingly, Joseph Fletcher began as an Episcopal minister and ended up as an atheist.)

The pope's homily coming immediately after a Synod where so many cardinals, like Kasper, Marx, Wuerl, etc. set up a dichotomy between doctrine (the law) and compassion makes me feel physically ill. This seems to reaffirm their accusations. How many people in the pews will be convinced that those rigid bishops who defend doctrine (as well as orthodox laity) are nothing but pharisees? Like the columnist at the National Catholic Reporter Online who quoted the pope's final address to the Synod Fathers where Pope Francis talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan:
Later in his address, Francis speaks of his vision of the church as “not being afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wounds.” The wounded church is a constant feature in his talks and writings. He has spoken about the church as a battlefield hospital and tending to the wounded. So he might easily be describing himself in his description of progressives. 
Sometimes a person’s wounds, whether physical, emotional, spiritual or mental need immediate attention, needing to be bandaged quickly to prevent further aggravation of the wounds. When is mercy deceptive and when does goodness become destructive is a conundrum in itself and we need Francis to explain in plain language what he means.
Overall, I think that the pope’s harshest criticism, judging by his use of language, is reserved for the traditionalist attitude. Referring to wounds and the pouring of oil and wine on wounds contextualizes the traditionalists and progressives. 
The traditionalist is like the priest or Levi (sic) passing by the wounded man on the road to Jericho because they are caught up and closed in on themselves. The progressive is like the Samaritan who stops to tend the wounded man, however deceptive his mercy may appear to be.
There you have it -- the rigid, unloving individual attached to the law who has no love for the wounded Jew. Have Pope Francis' words been twisted or was this the message? Here's the article. See what you think. Meanwhile, I'm going to bed to pray seven Hail Mary's for Mary's seven sorrows because my heart is filled with grief for the confusion in our poor Church.

Pope at Mass: Love and justice are more important than attachment to the laws
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis lamented the case of Christians who are so attached to the laws that they neglect the concepts of love and justice. His words came on Friday during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.

Taking his cue from the day’s gospel reading where Jesus asked the Pharisees whether it was lawful to heal a sick person on the Sabbath, the Pope reflected on how love and justice are the path to Christ rather than an excessive attachment to the laws. He reminded how Jesus described the Pharisees as hypocrites for criticizing him behind his back after he healed a sick man on the Sabbath.

“This way of life of being attached to the laws, distanced them from love and from justice. They followed the laws and they neglected justice. They followed the laws and they neglected love. They were the models. And for these people Jesus had only one word (to describe them): hypocrites. On one hand, you travel across the world looking for proselytes: you’re looking for them. And then? You close the door. Closed-minded men, men who are so attached to the laws, to the letter of the law that they were always closing the doorway to hope, love and salvation… Men who only knew how to close (doors).” 
Quoting from St Paul, Pope Francis said that the path towards being faithful to the laws, without neglecting justice and love is the opposite one: from love to integrity, from love to discernment, from love to the laws. 
“This is the path that Jesus teaches us, totally opposite to that of the doctors of law. And it’s this path from love and justice that leads to God. Instead, the other path, of being attached only to the laws, to the letter of the laws, leads to closure, leads to egoism. The path that leads from love to knowledge and discernment, to total fulfilment, leads to holiness, salvation and the encounter with Jesus. Instead, the other path leads to egoism, the arrogance of considering oneself to be in the right, to that so-called holiness of appearances, right? Jesus said to these people: You like to be seen by the people as men of prayer and of fasting…:’ To be seen, right? And it’s for this reason that Jesus tells the people: “do what they tell you but do not do what they do.’” 
The Pope said these are the two different paths and Jesus shows us the right one.

“Jesus draws close to us: his closeness is the real proof that we are proceeding along the true path. That’s because it’s the path which God has chosen to save us: through his closeness. He draws close to us and was made man. His flesh, the flesh of God is the sign; God’s flesh is the sign of true justice. God was made man like one of us and we must make ourselves like the others, like the needy, like those who need our help.” 
Pope Francis said Jesus’ flesh is the bridge that brings us closer to God and not the letter of the law. I hope, he concluded, that these examples of Jesus’s love and closeness can help us from sliding into hypocrisy because a hypocritical Christian is a really bad thing.

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