Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Don't Like the Charter, Don't Join the Club

My editor here at The Washington Monthly, Amy Sullivan, has an informative article advocating the liberal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, as the next pope. Here's why she argues liberal Roman Catholics as well as other progressive theists should advocate for his ascension to the papal throne.
The 72-year-old cardinal is the former head of International Pax Christi, the Catholic peace movement, and has been unusually outspoken for a man who aspires to his church's highest position. In the past few years, Danneels has urged his colleagues to debate controversial questions such as whether an ailing pope should be encouraged, or even forced, to resign; whether women should be allowed to fill top Vatican posts; and whether condoms are an appropriate tool in the fight against AIDS. Comments like these haven't made Danneels too popular in the Vatican. But in challenging the Church to embrace a new kind of openness, Danneels is championing a concept that was born in the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps more than any other leader in the Church today, Danneels has promoted what he calls "a culture of debate" that bucks the tradition of carefully choreographed Church gatherings--and would allow bishops to grapple with the pressing questions that really face their parishioners.
On pragmatic grounds,this would be an unparalleled good, especially if the Church could get behind contraceptives in Africa. Frank, open discussions about contraception and female priests could do a lot to bring liberals back to the Catholic fold. But I don't see this happening, and to be honest, I don't think the Church should bend on these principles - at least contraceptives. (There's no where in The Bible where women are excluded from being the shepards;actually, there's significant evidence that women led masses for centuries after Jesus of Nazareth's crucifixion.)

Therefore, I respectfully disagree when Sullivan argues:
While it is a common observation that liberals have left churches over the past few decades, it is also true that churches have too often left liberals.
How can churches leave liberals when their corpus of church theology is supported by papal decrees that are beyond earthly repute? For Catholics, contraceptives are wrong because sex is solely for procreation, which is why sex outside of marriage is also sinful. Now I don't believe the first two tenets, which essentially, like it or not, excludes me from being Catholic. (Which is good, because I'm an avowed, confident atheist.)

The point is that the Catholic Church essentially has core conditions you must uphold, or at least try your best to uphold, to be one of the faithful. So if you have no problems with open homosexuality, believe abortion is a legitimate choice and not essentially immoral, or believe the state has the right to end criminals' lives, you're not Catholic. I'm not judging; I'm just stating the objective, verifiable conditions a Catholic must try to meet.

If you don't believe in these conditions, this doesn't mean you're God-less, or not a spiritual person, but it does mean you shouldn't find yourself in a confessional booth any time soon, unless that is, your repenting for those above beliefs or practices. Essentially if you don't like the charter, don't join the club.

Another reason the Church hasn't left liberals behind is because church doctrine is supposedly apolitical, following the heavenly father's commands, not the subjective yearnings of man. Besides, lefties can find plenty of examples of beliefs entirely compatible with their beliefs: largely anti-war, anti-death penalty, and the doctrine of the preferential option for the poor.

For left-liberals, religious or otherwise, the most important thing is to advocate the social gospel of the historical Jesus, and leave the dogma and other-worldliness behind.