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Darrel Manson

Habemus Papam! Pope Francis of Argentina (Was Benedict to resign)

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Maybe Romney was not...but plenty of Republicans were wanting to fight culture war stuff at the time.  So, to say they stumbled into it is an inaccurate painting of the last election...

 

All to say, it is nothing like the scenario put forth by SDG.  :)

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All to say, it is nothing like the scenario put forth by SDG.  smile.png

 

Wait, what?

 

 

Well, you were noting the real obsession with sexual matters lies with the newspaper.   I was saying the 2012 elections were not quite as similar as Peter was making them out to be.

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As one of the few, lonely Protestants on Arts and Faith, I tire of the slavish talk about what the Pope said ... The Pope has no bearing on my life or spiritual growth. None. I think Catholics and Orthodox folks have a hard time with such blunt sayings, but I'm a Protestant. I don't care what the Pope says beyond how it might affect friends of mine. I watch it from a distance and sometimes find it curious, sometimes encouraging, often discouraging. But it doesn't inform my spiritual life at all.

Christian, it's interesting how the landscape of the church can change. For example, I admire that you even identify yourself as a Protestant. There are many of us who are not Catholic, who hold to the the basic creeds of historical Christianity and yet are not even sure if we should call ourselves Protestant either. I've moved from a Baptist/Evangelical background to attending nondenomination churches. The problem is that this results in a type of rootlessness that doesn't feel right. Historically, Protestants seem to have rejected a large amount of church tradition and authority. Then, American Evangelicals rejected a large amount of Protestant traditions and authority. Then, the whatever-you-want-to-call-thems (Post-Evangelicals?) rejected a large amount of Evangelical traditions and authority. At this point along the road, other friends and I are finding ourselves in a place where, while we believe the Bible is true, we are starting to genuinely think that traditions and authorities outside Scripture still might have value and that this is value that we have lost.

I think the most obvious thing that seems wrong about declaring that authorities like the Pope cannot inform the Protestant's spiritual life is that one wouldn't have to accept all of Catholic doctrine in order to agree with some of Catholic teaching. Scripture is a final authority for me, but that doesn't mean that Thomas Aquinas or John Henry Newman or G.K. Chesterton cannot inform and motivate my spiritual growth.

 

In case my point isn't clear, here's what I read from the excerpt above: While Rod was waiting for the Pope to point the way for him, millions of Protestants were reading their Bibles and concluding basic truths about the world. They then acted upon those truths. But Rod couldn't simply read the Scripture to walk in faith. He needed the Pope to speak out on social issues. He now worries about how the current Pope's utterances could wreck the faith of other Catholics.

If that is what Dreher was doing, then he was relying far too much on a church authority. But, in spite of the Catholic position on the Pope's authority, this is not at all unique to Catholicism. I have many friends who, while they don't rely on church authorities in theory, still do rely too much on church authority in practice. (Instead of the Pope, it's just John MacArthur or John Piper or, in the past, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. These guys' interpretations of Scripture are/were cited as Scripture.)

 

In this context, I think his words may have a profound effect on Protestants, particularly Evangelicals, who find the ruling conservative powerbase of their movement in a similar dilemma ... No matter how conservative bloggers try and spin it, Pope Francis has expressed himself in a manner quite opposite to themselves. I can almost hear the political gnashing of teeth ...

If there really was ever a "ruling conservative powerbase," I strongly doubt that it exists any longer. Moreover, I wouldn't brand conservative theology by its weaker and reductionist forms. The best conservative theological minds of the day are not worrying too much over what Pope Francis has been saying. If anything, from a conservative point of view, the main thing to worry about is seeing fringe outliers actually trying to argue against the perceived moderation advocated for by the Pope.

 

It brought to mind the old saying that the Reformation saw the people trade one Pope for a thousand popes. And that reminded me of a humorous addendum a good friend makes to that famous phrase: The Reformation didn't trade in one pope for a thousand popes. The Reformation traded one pope for a thousand less-qualified Luther's. I say all of that to say this: everyone has authorities in their lives, people who, when they speak, it matters. As Protestants, our problem has long been that we threaten to make ourselves the only authority--and not very good ones, at that. Every heresy in history was started by a guy sitting alone with his Bible, concluding basic "truths" about the world, and then acting on those "truths." We need each other, and that includes other people who can speak authoritatively to us.

That's just it, though. I think the younger generations in the church are finding themselves in a place where suddenly the very idea of authorities in the church has been rejected. They've seen the authorities of past generations and have decided not to follow them. Many of the sermons of younger pastors quote other fellow younger pastors and that's about it.

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No, I think SDG is wrong. The New York Times is in the business of selling papers and driving traffic to their site. Yes, they are guilty of sensationalist headlines; but is anyone who knows American media actually shocked by this? I for one, am certainly not willing to defend their professionalism in this case, but I wouldn't say they are "obsessed" with sex. They are obsessed with making money.

 

This strikes me as naive. Journalism is not overwhelmingly driven by "giving the people what they want." Cultural biases, ideologies and political and other kinds of agenda play at least as significant a role as "what sells" in determining the emphasis and tone of journalistic coverage. Yes, editors and marketers take note of what sells to their audience, and angle toward that kind of content. But it's equally true that a publication finds the audience it does based on the kind of content the staff wishes to produce -- and most serious journalists aspire to be shapers of public opinion, not just caterers to it.

 

Now, this I disagree with. The New York Times may be guilty of shitty journalism and lousy quote placement, but to say that the Catholic Church has not made cultural discussions about abortion, gay marriage and contraception a priority in their public dialogues over the past few decades is false as well.

 

I think you think this because you don't fully appreciate the extent to which the media, not the Church, have shaped the discussion around the Church's positions.

 

For decades, media coverage of papal teachings, documents, speeches and such have followed a predictable pattern:

 

a) A pope releases a document or gives a speech covering large themes in Christian teaching and belief, putting these beliefs in the context of salvation history, sacred scripture, Church tradition and so forth.

 

b.) In the course of treating all these themes, the pope may touch on some subject such as the sacredness of life, the nature of marriage or the Church's sacramental life  that has implications regarding some hot-button subject (abortion, homosexuality, women priests, etc.), which the pope may or may not draw out but which are at best tangential to his topic.

 

c) The media, fitting everything into their preexisting templates, ignore the vast majority of what the pope said, single-mindedly zoom in on the few bits that have anything to do with the controversial subjects they really care about (whether because of their own preoccupations, or because "it sells," or both, is another question), if necessary draw out implications and inferences the pope hasn't. And so

 

d) We get headlines like "Pope blasts abortion," "Pope lashes out at gays," "Pope assails disobedience," etc.

 

So. Not really the Church setting the agenda as much as you might think.

 

It's especially unconvincing to suggest that the Church has had any kind of cultural agenda or crusade regarding contraception until the HHS mandate forced the issue. For decades the Church has been basically silent on the subject, sticking to her teaching but making no effort even to address the widespread dissent in the pews and equally widespread acquiescence among the clergy. The vast majority of church-going Catholics in this country to day have never heard a single homily touching on the immorality of contraception, and popes since Paul VI have seldom addressed the subject in any significant way (John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae comes to mind, but nothing else offhand, though I could be forgetting something).

Edited by SDG

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I've read this whole thread and some of the links. i sympathize with comments I don't side with, like Christian's and Peter's , and I'm in acord with thoughts like Attica's and Greg's (and a comparison SDG draws). I really like what Jeremy's written above and I'll check back to see where it leads.  I just want to add something about the original interview. 

I don't understand the concern about repercussions very well, or what I take to be its prehistory. 

But I'm troubled that words like Pope Francis's are seen to espouse moral laxity and grease the slide of souls away from God. I f you go to the source, barring a poor translation, there's no point at which he glosses over or absolves sin. No suggestion that the sinner should be in denial. 

 

But what *really* troubles me is that to stress one's own failings, whether as a person or body of believers, along with love and compassion and servitude, and faith as a perpetual journey - all drawn straight from the heart of the NT - could seem incomplete or ill-chosen or evasive or soft. Through association with one side of an argument or for any reason. That it could disappoint and portend a 'long winter' 

I can't frame the larger question his words address. But I also believe that one answer or cure is the grand paradox: to see God in people is to perceive their humanity. 

 

I care what the Pope says because Catholicism is a pivotal face of Christianity and , however rightly or wrongly, its pronouncement alter lives. In the discourse of religion, his voice carries.  Maybe I even care because on one side, I'm 1st generation to not grow upwith Italian as a 1st language. So there's a little tug of heritage. But because I'm officially nothing - not Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Conservative, Liberal - I haven't any denominational or religio-political identity to be undermined or stirred. 

Somewhere in this thread, someone says his presumptive audience is Catholics. but I don't know. I think ifyou credit his sincerity , his audiene can't be bounded by Catholicism, he has to be speaking to the world. And for my own part, he is. 

 

'I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon'. I think his refrain is that we're all sinners, yet all redeemed , and that grace and salvation are beyond us in every sense: irreducible, illimitable, irrefutable, unfathomable. In  a word, divine. That on so many levels, the encounter with God's love is inseparable from the presence and confession of sin. And that devotion is larger than what binds us us together and splinters us and the massive, cauterizing upheavals of social change and also smaller - more local - as small as the person. That's how I took his words. In sum, they are beautiful and philisophical, disarming, humane, sometimes poetic. 

This is the idiom of faith that reaches me and probably many others. Maybe his assertions appear radical because they are so conservative: they restore a lapsed balance and the primacy of Christ and actually of hte Bible. 

Churches or the Church are outside my ken. I care about them too, I listen hard, but I can't speak for or about them. But when I try to put seeking God into words, even just in my thought, I hear a halting version of this langauge. I never knew a Pope could sound like this. 

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This thread has been fascinating to read. 

 

It's torn me up a bit, too. I'm not sure how much of the following will actually add to the discussion, so feel free to skip this.

 

Like Christian, I do self-identify as a Protestant. But I also care about the Pope, a lot. I came to faith in the Catholic church fairly young, and my parish and family were crucial in nurturing this faith up to college. I became a Protestant in the Reformed tradition in college, which I've been for the past decade. So yes, I am a Protestant, but the building blocks of my faith were placed as a Catholic, for which I'm thankful. 

 

But while I'm Protestant and Reformed, I'm also wary of some labels (not necessarily because I'm a Millennial, either). I hate being called a Calvinist (for a variety of reasons), and I especially don't like getting lumped in with the American Evangelical culture. I'm a member of a pretty small, (mostly) conservative denomination—I love my community, but I also feel like an outsider. (I've always felt like an outsider no matter matter the context, I guess.) Am I Protestant? Sure, but I don't fit in with some of the most common American Protestant cultures. Am I Reformed? Yes, but I don't fit in with the angry, Scottish Calvinists who populate my small denomination. Am I Catholic? No, but I value so much from this tradition. Am I non-denominational? No, but I've had many godly folks in my life who fit this mold. 

 

I don't know what I'm rambling about, but I love you all.

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It brought to mind the old saying that the Reformation saw the people trade one Pope for a thousand popes. And that reminded me of a humorous addendum a good friend makes to that famous phrase: The Reformation didn't trade in one pope for a thousand popes. The Reformation traded one pope for a thousand less-qualified Luther's. I say all of that to say this: everyone has authorities in their lives, people who, when they speak, it matters. As Protestants, our problem has long been that we threaten to make ourselves the only authority--and not very good ones, at that. Every heresy in history was started by a guy sitting alone with his Bible, concluding basic "truths" about the world, and then acting on those "truths." We need each other, and that includes other people who can speak authoritatively to us.

That's just it, though. I think the younger generations in the church are finding themselves in a place where suddenly the very idea of authorities in the church has been rejected. They've seen the authorities of past generations and have decided not to follow them. Many of the sermons of younger pastors quote other fellow younger pastors and that's about it.

I think I agree with you, Jeremy, about a good number of the younger generation, at least. You've mapped out nicely the push away from authorities, which was what I was getting at with my comment about the historical problem Protestants (and, by extension, post-Protestants) have with authority--we're part of a tradition that got started by throwing off ecclesiastical authority. It's logical that the pattern has continued beyond the Reformers, and, I suspect, will continue, possibly until Evangelicalism collapses.

That said, whenever you get a movement that pushes hard in one direction (i.e. away from Catholicism, away from ecclesiastical hierarchy and authority), you're going to inevitably get push back the other way. I think we've seen this with the Evangelical, post-evangelical crowd in a couple of ways. First, a significant number of younger folk who grew up Evangelical or entered the church as Evangelical, have made a move back toward high church expressions of the faith (Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox). This got some profile a few years back when the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, Frank Beckwith, left Evangelicalism to return to the Catholic church of his youth. Second, many of those younger folk who have remained evangelical attend churches that increasingly seek to incorporate elements of liturgy into the weekly service, making increasing use of the creeds and fathers in their services and sermons, situating their churches on liturgical calendars, etc. No doubt part of this movement as a whole is a result of people seeking something different in their experience of church, but I think part of that experience involves seeking out something where they can feel more rooted and less aimless.

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But I'm not against underlining the authority of Scripture in the Christian life. Yes, that opens you to various interpretations of Scripture, none absolutely authoritative. But that's OK.

This is I think, based on my admittedly limited thought and reading on the subject, close to the heart of where the Protestant/Catholic divide lies. From one perspective, allowing many various interpretations of Scripture is ok. But I'm beginning to think more and more that this is from a political perspective. From another perspective (theological rather than political), various contradictory interpretations of Scripture is not ok. The Catholic critique of the more extreme versions of Sola Scriptura carries weight, because some Reformed and Evangelical teachers do in effect deny general revelation in their effort to uphold the supremacy of special revelation. Christianity does teach the ultimate and final authority of special revelation in the form of Scripture. But, we cannot even properly interpret Scripture without using general revelation to do so. Arguably, hermeneutics itself (along with the particular school of thought in epistemology that it assumes) is a form of General Revelation. Tradition is arguably another form of General Revelation as well.

Christian, would you *really* demand that a Catholic or Orthodox believer accept "authority" outside of their own even more vocally authoritative tradition? That's no more fair than asking a Protestant to submit willy-nilly to dogma. A Catholic or Orthodox who accepts his church's claim to being the fullest expression of the Christian faith would not be under a burden to accept Protestant opinion on the matter - and nor should they be, if they really hold to their church's teaching. Please try to see it through that lens if you're troubled by Dreher's disinterest in evangelical teaching.

I don't think the Catholic position is as closed as you make it out to be. At least in my reading of Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic thinker can accept all sorts of "authority" with the necessary qualifications. Some of the Greek philosophers before Christianity existed can be considered authoritative by a Christian, whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or not. One of the most fascinating things you can find in reading the early church fathers is reading how they occasionally quoted Aristotle as an authority. If there really is such a thing as proper hermeneutics, then any theologian who demonstrates a consistent track record in the use of proper hermeneutics can be considered an authority no matter the variation of tradition from which he or she may derive. From this it follows that a Protestant does not cease being a Protestant if he accepts the Pope as an authority on specific theological questions.

If the Christian church is universal and if we all ultimately belong to one church, then I don't see a problem with arguing that a theologian (or a church council or a creed or a specific work of theological literature or a pastor/cleric/bishop/pope) ought to be considered as "authority." To refuse to accept any authority at all outside one's own "vocally authoritative tradition" is to run into theological problems with general revelation.

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Christian, would you *really* demand that a Catholic or Orthodox believer accept "authority" outside of their own even more vocally authoritative tradition? That's no more fair than asking a Protestant to submit willy-nilly to dogma. A Catholic or Orthodox who accepts his church's claim to being the fullest expression of the Christian faith would not be under a burden to accept Protestant opinion on the matter - and nor should they be, if they really hold to their church's teaching. Please try to see it through that lens if you're troubled by Dreher's disinterest in evangelical teaching.

I don't think the Catholic position is as closed as you make it out to be. At least in my reading of Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic thinker can accept all sorts of "authority" with the necessary qualifications. Some of the Greek philosophers before Christianity existed can be considered authoritative by a Christian, whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or not. One of the most fascinating things you can find in reading the early church fathers is reading how they occasionally quoted Aristotle as an authority. If there really is such a thing as proper hermeneutics, then any theologian who demonstrates a consistent track record in the use of proper hermeneutics can be considered an authority no matter the variation of tradition from which he or she may derive. From this it follows that a Protestant does not cease being a Protestant if he accepts the Pope as an authority on specific theological questions.

 

I agree. I wasn't attempting to say that all outside sources of wisdom or insight are off-limits to a Catholic (and re-reading it, I see that is the impression it gives). Very much the opposite.

 

What I was trying to get at is more to do with pastoral authority: a Catholic who is distressed about upholding Church teaching on sexual morality in the face of opposition, or apathy, from fellow parishioners and clergy, wouldn't feel beholden to look for pastoral guidance from a conservative Protestant minister (as I believe Christian was arguing Rod Dreher SHOULD have felt and acted, instead of suffering alone in his parish with only the balm of being vindicated by the Pope), because to do so would be to place oneself under the authority of a person/body that has neither the sacraments essential to Catholic life (as Ryan noted), nor the fullness of the Church's teaching on sexual morality and contraception, particularly in regards to the latter.

 

A Catholic couple struggling to live out a principle of openness to life would find little comfort from an Evangelical perspective on the matter, no matter how much it agrees with major pillars of their views (no sex outside of heterosexual marriage) because its disagreements with other pillars that don't matter (to an Evangelical) would be a deal-killer. To the Catholic couple, the Church's understanding of sex and marriage cannot ignore or downplay the question of artificial contraception, as it gets to the heart of what sexuality is. Ditto for masturbation, which tends to be a grey area in the Protestant world, with any number of perspectives supporting or decrying it.

 

In this sense, it's unreasonable to expect a Catholic who trusts in the teachings of the Church on these matters to place himself under the authority (pastoral and teaching) of a non-Catholic leader, even if he's the only faithful Catholic in his parish and feels isolated.

 

I'll say for myself as a convert to Catholicism from a melange of Protestant traditions (and a recent one who is perhaps still in the honeymoon phase), that while I have nothing but appreciation for the strong conservative teaching on sexual morals I received from my parents and various youth ministers growing up, nothing I learned there prepared me for the beauty of the Church's teaching on openness to life, and it's essential relationship to healthy sexuality. Nothing prepared me for its wholeness.

 

Like Christian, I do self-identify as a Protestant. But I also care about the Pope, a lot. I came to faith in the Catholic church fairly young, and my parish and family were crucial in nurturing this faith up to college. I became a Protestant in the Reformed tradition in college, which I've been for the past decade. So yes, I am a Protestant, but the building blocks of my faith were placed as a Catholic, for which I'm thankful. 

 

But while I'm Protestant and Reformed, I'm also wary of some labels (not necessarily because I'm a Millennial, either). I hate being called a Calvinist (for a variety of reasons), and I especially don't like getting lumped in with the American Evangelical culture. I'm a member of a pretty small, (mostly) conservative denomination—I love my community, but I also feel like an outsider. (I've always felt like an outsider no matter matter the context, I guess.) Am I Protestant? Sure, but I don't fit in with some of the most common American Protestant cultures. Am I Reformed? Yes, but I don't fit in with the angry, Scottish Calvinists who populate my small denomination. Am I Catholic? No, but I value so much from this tradition. Am I non-denominational? No, but I've had many godly folks in my life who fit this mold. 

 

I don't know what I'm rambling about, but I love you all.

 

Jason, I love your post. Bro-hug.

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There are many of us who are not Catholic, who hold to the the basic creeds of historical Christianity and yet are not even sure if we should call ourselves Protestant either. I've moved from a Baptist/Evangelical background to attending nondenomination churches. The problem is that this results in a type of rootlessness that doesn't feel right. Historically, Protestants seem to have rejected a large amount of church tradition and authority. Then, American Evangelicals rejected a large amount of Protestant traditions and authority. Then, the whatever-you-want-to-call-thems (Post-Evangelicals?) rejected a large amount of Evangelical traditions and authority.

 

I don't have anything to add per se, but I have been thinking about this exact issue more and more in recent years and find myself troubled by it.

 

Like Josie and Jason, I too am enjoying following this conversation.

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There are many of us who are not Catholic, who hold to the the basic creeds of historical Christianity and yet are not even sure if we should call ourselves Protestant either. I've moved from a Baptist/Evangelical background to attending nondenomination churches. The problem is that this results in a type of rootlessness that doesn't feel right. Historically, Protestants seem to have rejected a large amount of church tradition and authority. Then, American Evangelicals rejected a large amount of Protestant traditions and authority. Then, the whatever-you-want-to-call-thems (Post-Evangelicals?) rejected a large amount of Evangelical traditions and authority.

 

I don't have anything to add per se, but I have been thinking about this exact issue more and more in recent years and find myself troubled by it.

 

Like Josie and Jason, I too am enjoying following this conversation.

 

 

 

One interesting aspect is that many of these folks aren't looking to any particular movement for their authority, but are looking to the Ante-Nicene church, plus a little bit of Eastern Orthodox, mixed in with some anabaptist etc.  A lot of this movement seem to be investigating into what they think might be truths from across the board.  Hence the idea of "the great emergence."  Not sure where that will all end up though.

Edited by Attica

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Josie said:  

 

:Somewhere in this thread, someone says his presumptive audience is Catholics. but I don't know. I think ifyou credit his sincerity , his audiene can't be bounded by Catholicism, he has to be speaking to the world. 

 

 

According to conservative Catholic belief the Pope *is* the head of all of the church, including the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglican's, and Protestants and other smaller groups.  Which of course they all reject.  But yet.  Even if one was to not believe in this view as a whole, I see no reason why they couldn't say that some of the things the Pope is saying here is for humanity at large.  The same as many of us would say that some of the things Ghandi was saying was a "voice" for humanity.  Some thought crosses denominational and cultural lines and just kind of resonates.

Edited by Attica

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In this context, I think his words may have a profound effect on Protestants, particularly Evangelicals, who find the ruling conservative powerbase of their movement in a similar dilemma ... No matter how conservative bloggers try and spin it, Pope Francis has expressed himself in a manner quite opposite to themselves. I can almost hear the political gnashing of teeth ...

If there really was ever a "ruling conservative powerbase," I strongly doubt that it exists any longer. Moreover, I wouldn't brand conservative theology by its weaker and reductionist forms. 

The ruling conservative powerbase within Evangelicalism is dead?Ha! It may be a reductionist movement , but it's certainly not weak

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I think you think this because you don't fully appreciate the extent to which the media, not the Church, have shaped the discussion around the Church's positions.

 

For decades, media coverage of papal teachings, documents, speeches and such have followed a predictable pattern:

 

a) A pope releases a document or gives a speech covering large themes in Christian teaching and belief, putting these beliefs in the context of salvation history, sacred scripture, Church tradition and so forth.

 

b.) In the course of treating all these themes, the pope may touch on some subject such as the sacredness of life, the nature of marriage or the Church's sacramental life  that has implications regarding some hot-button subject (abortion, homosexuality, women priests, etc.), which the pope may or may not draw out but which are at best tangential to his topic.

 

c) The media, fitting everything into their preexisting templates, ignore the vast majority of what the pope said, single-mindedly zoom in on the few bits that have anything to do with the controversial subjects they really care about (whether because of their own preoccupations, or because "it sells," or both, is another question), if necessary draw out implications and inferences the pope hasn't. And so

 

d) We get headlines like "Pope blasts abortion," "Pope lashes out at gays," "Pope assails disobedience," etc.

 

So. Not really the Church setting the agenda as much as you might think.

 

 

 

Journalists try to cover things their audience will be interested in and that in turn will sell papers, drive internet traffic, etc.. This is the only "predictable pattern".

 

The media uses sound bytes of the Pope's speeches and documents because the content tends to be lengthy, dry and often deeply theological. Catholic adherents with a love for theology and the Church's history, will likely find art and inspiration in reading Papal encyclicals, but I reckon the majority of the US population doesn't. This doesn't mean people are shallow, dopey or sex-obsessed. It means the Pope talks about a lot of things, sometimes in a rather convoluted political manner and most people don't have the interest or energy to wade through it all and analyze every point. 

 

Pope Francis has spoken in a refreshing manner about reform, change and grace in the midst of other points. The content and tone of those statements seem more human and transparent than past Popes, especially to non-Catholics and that's why it's received the media coverage it has.

 

To paint the Church as some weak entity constantly being assailed and misrepresented by the almighty media, is a very distorted picture.

 

It's especially unconvincing to suggest that the Church has had any kind of cultural agenda or crusade regarding contraception until the HHS mandate forced the issue. For decades the Church has been basically silent on the subject, sticking to her teaching but making no effort even to address the widespread dissent in the pews and equally widespread acquiescence among the clergy. The vast majority of church-going Catholics in this country to day have never heard a single homily touching on the immorality of contraception, and popes since Paul VI have seldom addressed the subject in any significant way (John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae comes to mind, but nothing else offhand, though I could be forgetting something. 

 

 

This assertion is so outrageous, I had to re-read it several times to make sure I wasn't missing something. The Church has been virtually silent on the subject? For decades?

 

I have nothing really to add here by way of data, because I'm not sure it exists. But over the past three years, the only Church I've attended has been a large Catholic one. Even in that admittedly limited time, I've heard homilies on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. My girlfriend is a committed Catholic (she's speaking this weekend at an Emaus retreat!) and she heard these discussions all the time in homilies and would frequently come fuming to me about it (including a speech by a prominent Bishop several months ago, where he blasted homosexuality and abortion quite vociferously) She doesn't hear these rants at her Church lately because... the presiding priest is gay!!! ("closeted" and certainly not out-spoken, but definitely gay) 

Edited by Greg P

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Greg P wrote:

: The content and tone of those statements seem more human and transparent than past Popes, especially to non-Catholics and that's why it's received the media coverage it has.

The operative word here may be "seems" -- and who influences how something *seems* to people? (Methinks the answer lies somewhere in your remark that non-Catholics aren't inclined to read the statements of Popes in full, so the media goes for the soundbites.)

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Journalists try to cover things their audience will be interested in and that in turn will sell papers, drive internet traffic, etc.. This is the only "predictable pattern".

 

The media uses sound bytes of the Pope's speeches and documents because the content tends to be lengthy, dry and often deeply theological. Catholic adherents with a love for theology and the Church's history, will likely find art and inspiration in reading Papal encyclicals, but I reckon the majority of the US population doesn't. This doesn't mean people are shallow, dopey or sex-obsessed. It means the Pope talks about a lot of things, sometimes in a rather convoluted political manner and most people don't have the interest or energy to wade through it all and analyze every point.

True, Papal encyclicals can often be challenging and time consuming to read, and the media naturally has to use sound bytes.  However, there has been a noticeable trend for those sound bytes to be selectively focused on sexual issues at the exclusion of the context in which they were spoken.

 

Pope Francis has spoken in a refreshing manner about reform, change and grace in the midst of other points. The content and tone of those statements seem more human and transparent than past Popes, especially to non-Catholics and that's why it's received the media coverage it has.

 

To paint the Church as some weak entity constantly being assailed and misrepresented by the almighty media, is a very distorted picture.

A major part of the reason that Francis' comments seem more human and transparent is because of the way the media has selectively represented Francis' statements and those of former popes.  As Mark Shea pointed out, John Paul II and Benedict said almost exactly the same things.

 

This assertion is so outrageous, I had to re-read it several times to make sure I wasn't missing something. The Church has been virtually silent on the subject? For decades?

 

I have nothing really to add here by way of data, because I'm not sure it exists. But over the past three years, the only Church I've attended has been a large Catholic one. Even in that admittedly limited time, I've heard homilies on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. My girlfriend is a committed Catholic (she's speaking this weekend at an Emaus retreat!) and she heard these discussions all the time in homilies and would frequently come fuming to me about it (including a speech by a prominent Bishop several months ago, where he blasted homosexuality and abortion quite vociferously) She doesn't hear these rants at her Church lately because... the presiding priest is gay!!! ("closeted" and certainly not out-spoken, but definitely gay)

I've been Catholic eighteen years (since I was four), and in the time that I can remember (let's say the last twelve years) I have heard one homily on contraception, two on gay "marriage," and four on abortion.  There may be areas of the country where priests regularly preach on those issues, but I don't know of any of them, and they are hardly the norm.  Admittedly, in the last three years I have heard that a few priests are occasionally starting to preach more on sexual matters because of the HHS mandate, but those instances still seem to be few and far between.

 

By "virtually silent" I believe SDG meant that there have only been two Papal encyclicals that have discussed contraception (Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae) compared to the countless encyclicals and writings on other subjects.  The Church stated her teaching on sexuality and hasn't really done that much to expound upon it or address the cultural dissent.  It's the media that keeps harping on these issues whenever they get a chance.  In my mind, that suggests the MSM are the ones obsessed with abortion, contraception, and SSM.

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To paint the Church as some weak entity constantly being assailed and misrepresented by the almighty media, is a very distorted picture.

 

Well, which is why I didn't do so.

 

This assertion is so outrageous, I had to re-read it several times to make sure I wasn't missing something. The Church has been virtually silent on the subject? For decades?

 

Unquestionably. Overwhelmingly. Uncontroversially. No one familiar with the facts would question this. 

 

I have nothing really to add here by way of data, because I'm not sure it exists. But over the past three years, the only Church I've attended has been a large Catholic one. Even in that admittedly limited time, I've heard homilies on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. My girlfriend is a committed Catholic (she's speaking this weekend at an Emaus retreat!) and she heard these discussions all the time in homilies and would frequently come fuming to me about it (including a speech by a prominent Bishop several months ago, where he blasted homosexuality and abortion quite vociferously) She doesn't hear these rants at her Church lately because... the presiding priest is gay!!! ("closeted" and certainly not out-spoken, but definitely gay)

 

The operative words here are "in the past three years."

 

What you've experienced is the American Church's belated rear-guard response to the HHS mandate, which has forced the clergy to address a subject on which, as I said, it has been silent for decades. For decades, the large majority of sexually active Catholic women in the pews have used contraception, and the clergy tacitly ignored the issue, even telling people in confession "Follow your conscience."

 

Only now that the government is threatening to make the Church and other Catholic employers actually pay for contraception has the clergy suddenly realized it needs to actually preach what it says it believes—which is why, in early 2011, it was necessary for the US bishops to urge priests to reverse course and start preaching about contraception. From my perspective, God is chastising the Church for its silence through the power of the state, much as Israel was chastised by foreign conquerors. 

 

The larger picture is quite different from what you have experienced in the past three years. 

 

In the 20-plus years that I've been Catholic (not to mention the many Masses I attended before becoming Catholic), I've attended Catholic churches all over the United States. Furthermore, as a member of the Catholic press I get a lot of feedback from both liberal and conservative Catholics. I can't even tell you how many Catholics have told me that in 10, 20, 30 or 50 years of attending Mass they'd never heard a single homilist mention contraception. That has been my universal experience as well, with one exception: the very unusual parish where I currently hang my hat. 

 

Deacon blogger Greg Kandra reports an utterly typical incident in which a young priest in Washington State preached a homily against contraception — and was transferred two weeks later, as if he'd committed some kind of offense. 

 

It's anecdotal, not data, but it's overwhelming. 

 

This is absolutely typical: "I’ve heard many reports from Catholics across the country that their priest FINALLY preached on contraception. Thank you President Obama for pushing the men in black to this point!" 

 

And this: "We travel the entire United States of America proclaiming the Gospel of Life as it pertains to God’s plan for spousal love. This plan calls for a total gift of self to one’s spouse and the acceptance of her total gift of self in kind. Contraception makes such an unconditional gift impossible. Natural Family Planning fosters these values, and cooperates with them. Everywhere we go we find married couples asking, 'Why won’t our priests address the issue of contraception and sterilization from the pulpit?' Having heard these frustrated questions many times, we think it is time to list the top eight excuses given by priests and our answers to them…" 

 

And this: "In the seven years that I’ve been going to Catholic churches, I’d never heard a priest speak so directly about the Church’s teaching in this area." 

 

And this: "Is using birth control a mortal sin? If yes, does the Catholic Church believe that those practicing birth control would go to hell due to the state of the soul at death? If the answer is yes, then why do I not hear priests speaking on this and warning people at Mass of the consequences of their actions … It seems to me to be an avoided subject." 

 
I could go on and on. 

P.S. Evan, when was that one homily you've heard that mentioned contraception? In the last two or three years, or before that? 

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Greg P wrote:

: The content and tone of those statements seem more human and transparent than past Popes, especially to non-Catholics and that's why it's received the media coverage it has.

The operative word here may be "seems" -- and who influences how something *seems* to people? (Methinks the answer lies somewhere in your remark that non-Catholics aren't inclined to read the statements of Popes in full, so the media goes for the soundbites.)

Are you implying that this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin? 

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Journalists try to cover things their audience will be interested in and that in turn will sell papers, drive internet traffic, etc.. This is the only "predictable pattern".

 

The media uses sound bytes of the Pope's speeches and documents because the content tends to be lengthy, dry and often deeply theological. Catholic adherents with a love for theology and the Church's history, will likely find art and inspiration in reading Papal encyclicals, but I reckon the majority of the US population doesn't. This doesn't mean people are shallow, dopey or sex-obsessed. It means the Pope talks about a lot of things, sometimes in a rather convoluted political manner and most people don't have the interest or energy to wade through it all and analyze every point.

True, Papal encyclicals can often be challenging and time consuming to read, and the media naturally has to use sound bytes.  However, there has been a noticeable trend for those sound bytes to be selectively focused on sexual issues at the exclusion of the context in which they were spoken.

 

 

There is a broad discussion right now in the United States about sexual orientation and gay marriage. It is a very important discussion to many people.

 

There have been activists championing these issues on the periphery for decades, but the discussion is now mainstream and very much at the fore of our cultural dialogue at the moment. It's not at the fore because of liberal media conspiracy, it's at the fore largely because of the fact that we all know a friend or family member who is gay and the discussion is one borne of cultural honesty. When the Pope speaks to those issues, it's not surprising at all that his comments are singled out in the context of a larger discussion about Church polity. The Conservative spin is that it's all just the result of media and secular culture's "obsession with sex", which is a rather weak and knee-jerk bit of cognitive dissonance in response to the Pope breaking right wing protocol.  

 

I  think the New York Times piece took some obvious liberties in its framing of the Pope's interview, most egregiously to conservatives the bit surrounding the context and use of the word "obsessesion". Whatever liberties were taken by the press with that interview, I would argue that they still reported the spirit of the original text in a way that conservatives pundits have not. It would make far more sense for these Catholic journalists and bloggers like SDG to just admit their discomfort and say "Look, I didn't love the Pope's comments. I don't like where the Holy See is headed with this, but I'm Catholic so what can I do?" Instead what we get is this disingenuous spaghetti logic about "the liberal media did it" etc... 

Edited by Greg P

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P.S. Evan, when was that one homily you've heard that mentioned contraception? In the last two or three years, or before that? 

November 7th, 2010.  I was able to look up the date because the Gospel was Luke 20:27-38, when the Sadducees questioned Jesus about whose wife the woman who had married the seven brothers would be at the resurrection, and Jesus' response was that marriage is only for this world, because children of the resurrection do not marry because they no longer die.  Our priest said the only thing that response can mean is that we marry in this world because we die, and therefore a major aspect of marriage is the procreation of children.  And contraception, which deliberately obstructs that central aspect of marriage, is sinful.  Yes, the shit hit the fan after that homily.

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I  think the New York Times piece took some obvious liberties in its framing of the Pope's interview, most egregiously to conservatives the bit surrounding the context and use of the word "obsessesion". Whatever liberties were taken by the press with that interview, I would argue that they still reported the spirit of the original text in a way that conservatives pundits have not. It would make far more sense for these Catholic bloggers to just admit "Look, this Pope is making me uncomfortable with some of his comments...I don't like where he is headed with this, but I'm Catholic so what can I do?" Instead what we get is this disingenuous spaghetti logic about "the liberal media did it" etc...

I guess it depends how narrowly you define "conservative."  If you mean staunch Republican voter (even if begrudgingly) then maybe you have a point.  However, as many traditional minded Catholics have pointed out with quotes, nothing Francis is saying is really any different from what John Paul and Benedict said; the only perceived difference is media bias.  Yes, Francis has a more down-to-earth way of expressing himself, but the content of his message is unchanged from the previous popes.  Edit per SDG's comments below: Francis is admittedly shifting the emphasis of Church teaching from his predecessors, but that is not contradicting them or changing doctrine, which is what I was trying to say.

 

At least one conservative blogger wrote that the Pope's remarks unsettled him and made him really examine how he was living his faith.

Edited by Evan C

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Greg, 

 

Prescinding for a moment from the controversy du jour, I want to acknowledge and accept responsibility for my own culpability in our prickly interactions here at A&F.

 

I look back at what I wrote above and I wonder, "Why did I phrase that so confrontationally? Why am I so polemical when interacting with Greg?" 

 

It isn't just that you're polemical with me, although that's part of it. I recognize, if I stop to think about it, that I come to you with a chip on my shoulder, which I have the idea is the opposite of the way I approach most people, even if they start out with chips on their shoulders.

 

My idea of myself is someone who generally seeks to de-escalate confrontations. For whatever reason, though, I seem to go the other way with you, at least at this point in our relationship. I have the idea it may not always have been so, although I have a pronounced tendency to live very much in the present and to have very little sense of how relationships have changed over time or gotten to where they are. 

 

I don't take sole responsibility. I think you're part of the problem too. But I can't change you, and I want to try to change myself. 

 

I see that in the time I was working on these comments, you updated your remarks below to clarify that you were, in fact, talking about me. I think this is a massively unfair and inaccurate characterization of me and of other people, but I want to skip a beat and not reply right away to defend myself, thereby distracting from what I hope may be a slight turning point in the discussion. 

 

It would make far more sense for these Catholic journalists and bloggers like SDG to just admit their discomfort and say "Look, I didn't love the Pope's comments. I don't like where the Holy See is headed with this, but I'm Catholic so what can I do?" Instead what we get is this disingenuous spaghetti logic about "the liberal media did it" etc...

Edited by SDG

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I see that in the time I was working on these comments, you updated your remarks below to clarify that you were, in fact, talking about me. I think this is a massively unfair and inaccurate characterization of me and of other people, but I want to skip a beat and not reply right away to defend myself, thereby distracting from what I hope may be a slight turning point in the discussion. 

 

 

Steven, I just inadvertently deleted a lengthy reply to this by hitting backspace or some other key with my sausage fingers, one too many times, till I was on Facebook.

 

A few weeks ago at A&F an exchange took place where a member's article was referred to in a veiled comment that came off looking cowardly and maybe slightly passive-aggressive. I didn't want to post about "anonymous conservative writers" in that comment, because I was referencing you directly and didn't want to make that same mistake. Maybe it would've been better to leave it the original way. I may bust chops on issues, but it would bother me greatly to know someone's been hurt personally by something I've said. 

 

You and I come from opposite sides of a lot of these issues. As passionate personalities, the discussions can at times pack some heat. But I don't find these discussions rancorous or unpleasant and I think they are to a large degree healthy and beneficial. I don't see them as "prickly" at all, probably because when I write them I don't feel prickly. [edit: this does not absolve me of possibly writing shitty or offensive comments] Perhaps it's a writing-style thing with me. I have ZERO animosity towards you and no axe to grind, personally. I have said this in more than one thread here at A&F: I respect your writing on film and religion and greatly appreciate your contributions on these boards.But when I think you're wrong on an issue here, I'm going to to do my best to present another side.

Edited by Greg P

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