Friday, June 8, 2012


I was schooled in the theology of dissent in the seminary in the late 1970's. It was very much in vogue at the time and of course remains with us in the academic arena and in the lived experiences of Catholics.

I suspect, though, there are two kinds of dissent in the moral life, the first type of which we've always had since Adam and Eve, the second of which has come into prominence since the Second Vatican Council. Those who go to confession call it sin. When they choose of their own freewill with full consent of the will to disobey what they know is right, this is dissent but later they repent and are given a penance are forgiven and reconciled with the Church. Usually they don't brag about their dissent or try to justify it in confession.

But then there are those who believe that what they choose to do, even if it goes against the traditional teachings of the Church and natural law is right, because they have made a decision of conscience not to follow a particular moral teaching.

For example, many of my downtown neighbors are homeless. I could choose to ignore them and not support any cause that helps them (and there are many ways in Macon through my parish or other churches/agencies to help them). But if in my conscience I believe they are lazy, good for nothings and thus deserve their fate and that their fate is a punishment from God and even despite the moral law to love the poor, for they will inherit the earth, I could dissent from that and simply ignore them and not give to anyone who helps them because I believe they deserve their fate in life. Since I morally justify my dissent to love the poor, I see no need of confession, penance, forgiveness or reconciliation or a metanoia.

Now we all know about cafeteria Catholics. They exist in the Church today and I suspect they have always existed since sin, if one believes in sin, has always existed since Original Sin.

Catholics on the left make their dissent mostly on "pelvic issues" but also on dogma and doctrine but they don't have a valid schismatic group with a valid bishop yet. But the "pelvic" dissent is big in Catholic news today. I suspect priests and other men/women who abused teenagers, male or female (although female abuse is celebrated in the media when done by non-priests, especially when done by females to boys) (This is less of a pathology when directed toward teenagers than small children for the abuser, but don't tell that to the one abused, for that person it is hell) dissent from the Church's moral teaching about such ungodly behavior to justify their sinister behavior often couched in terms of "love." They justify there sin and pathology in their minds and dissent is at the core of it. They feel they are entitled to what they do and even justify it thinking those they do it with enjoy it also. In the 1970's and 80's I would suspect the majority of priests who abused teenagers were formed in their dissenting view by reading and accepting as infallible every word of the National Catholic Reporter and theologians like Hans Kung and Charles Curran. (Here I am not speaking about the radical pathology of pedophilia which is miniscule in the priesthood when it comes to the abuse crisis. This crisis is about teenage abuse and theology of dissent that exacerbated the crisis.)

Catholics on the far right dissent from some aspects of Vatican II, not just the wrong spirit that was used in implementing agendas never intended by Vatican II, but rejecting Vatican II itself and mocking this Ecumenical Council which in classical Catholic doctrine is a function of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and thus has a binding authority on Catholics, laity and clergy even though it is a "pastoral" Council rather than a "dogmatic" one. But keep in mind, traditional dogma and doctrine is contained in all of the chapters of Vatican II.

The main area of dissent (but not exclusive to it) has been focused on the reform of the Liturgy which occurred after the Council but by mandate of Vatican II. The dissent really is toward Pope Paul VI for approving a revised liturgy and then allowing for great experimentation of how it is celebrated and encouraging more of a "subsidiarity" in terms of supervising the implementation and experimentation of the revised Liturgy by local bishops, which many believe Vatican II also envisioned. So the dissent of the far right goes to the heart of the Bishop of Rome and local bishops and their exercise of authority (which is also at the heart of dissent of the far left oddly enough). Far right Catholics would prefer a dead Magisterium ossified prior to the Second Vatican Council or any reforms in the Liturgy begun by Pope Pius XII. they also scoff at any development of ecclesiology and the furthering of subsidiarity which has always been a hallmark of Catholicism style of governance and they hate ecumenism, interfaith dialogue and dialogue with the secular world. All these are the center of the anathemas they hurl at Vatican II and post Vatican II popes and bishops and those who strive to be faithful to Vatican II. They also decry that the Church today doesn't hurl anathemas at anyone in a formal sense anymore.

But far left progressives believe that Vatican II wiped out most of the Church's Tradition and tradition so that in their minds there is a tremendous rupture between the Pre-Vatican II Church and the Vatican II Church. In fact the epitaph, "you are so pre-Vatican II" is the worst kind of insult that can be hurled against a Catholic by a liberal progressive in the Church. But that kind of name calling is perfectly acceptable in Catholic academia. Although, we do see in many comments on my blog academic insults hurled against progressive liberals who do the same thing. So it is an equal opportunity form of insulting to denigrate positions and people.

But Catholics on the far left who believe they represent most disaffected Catholics who are now disengaged from the Church or disengaging rapidly, believe that their dissent from "pelvic issues" is the only way to save the Church from returning to a mustard seed. They justify their dissent and cafeteria Catholicism as a "good work." So they accept gay sex and relationships, fornication between heterosexuals, adultery if the circumstances justify it, artificial birth control if someone wants to use it, abortion if it is helpful to the person getting it, women priests, not to reduce a priestly shortage, but because of justice. Often many of the "pelvic issues" on the left are tied into the pursuit of civil rights and painting those of a more traditional mindset as bigots. This happens in the Episcopal Church and now also in the Catholic Church. The dictatorship of denigrating traditionalists won out in the Episcopal Church through its democratic processes and lack of a "Bishop of Rome" to keep things together and orthodox. There is a battle royal in the Catholic Church today, especially amongst academics, pushing for the Episcopal Church model of democracy and no centralized authority to prevent this agenda from being mandated through the tyranny of so-called democratic processes.

But on the left there is also dogmatic dissent. This was quite evident in the 1970's when the historical critical method of interpreting Scripture was still in its adolescent period and used recklessly by Catholic scholars who collaborated with liberal Protestant scholars who had used this method since the early 1900's. Catholics scholars began to use this method only in the 1940's when Pope Pius XII opened the door to it in his famous encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu." Pope Pius XII in his encyclical stressed the importance of diligent study of these original languages and other cognate languages, so as to arrive at a deeper and fuller knowledge of the meaning of the sacred texts. He stated:

"We ought to explain the original text which was written by the inspired author himself and has more authority and greater weight than any, even the very best, translation whether ancient or modern. This can be done all the more easily and fruitfully if to the knowledge of languages be joined a real skill in literary criticism of the same text." (Divino Afflante Spiritu, 16).[3]

This method in an unbridled way and without the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church and her Sacred Tradition and Natural Law can call into question the divinity of Christ, His incarnation without a human father, His virgin birth and what he knew and didn't know in his earthly existence. It can also call into question his sinlessness. It can call into question His bodily resurrection and the nature of the Ascension and Pentecost events not to mention the expect Second Coming. In other words it calls into question historical Christianity the fullness of which subsists in the Roman Catholic Church and her Bishop of Rome and Bishops in union with him.

It also calls into question the belief that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus, papal infallibility and the role of bishops, priests and deacons. It opens the door to a revision of all the sacraments especially Holy Orders. There are fringe groups on the far left, who advocate such things and have started practicing them. Fortunately, they don't have a charismatic archbishop such as Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve to create an actual schism or bishops like Bishop Fellay today. Progressive Catholics by nature are dissent-minded and thus have no real cohesiveness and have a disdain for episcopal authority. I wonder why? :)

This type of dogma and doctrinal dissent is sinister and of the evil one (of course liberal dissenting Catholics don't believe in Satan or any angels for that matter). But it is out there amongst liberal, progressive academic Catholics and their followers. It is much more dangerous than the dissent of the far right and Bishop Fellay's group. Bishop Fellay's dissent and cafeteria Catholicism is much more akin to the Eastern Orthodox break with Rome in the Great Schism on July 16, 1054. Since that time, the Orthodox dissent from papal authority has made them cafeteria Catholics, but in a very orthodox way--they haven't drifted too far from traditional Catholic dogma or morality unlike cafeteria Catholics on the far left of things.


rcg said...

FrAJM, the difference in the three, Orthodox Catholics, SSPX, and cafeteria Liberals in the Roman Church, is the degree they are distorting Church Teachings to get what they want. The pelvic issues are the foregone conclusion and they have been trying for ages to find a way to interpret doctrine to allow them permission. They want to have sex more than they want to have God.

Henry said...

There is no moral equivalence between the far right and the far left.

The far right--sedevacantists and Vatican II deniers--are a tiny miniscule largely outside the Church--and have had little or no effect (negative or otherwise) on the Church.

The far left--modernists who are a majority in many areas of the Church and at several levels and have largely succeeded in destroying catechetics, faith and belief, private devotion and public liturgy--have had a devastating negative effect on the Church.

And there is no logical comparison between Bishop Fellay's SSPX which strongly supports the papacy, and the Orthodox who reject the Roman papacy.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Very good point Henry!

Anonymous 5 said...

Three points:

1) I'll continue to differ, in charity, with Fr. McD's characterization of much of the Right as to VII. Re SSPX, it has raised legitimate questions of how some VII statements can be squared with a mass of prior dogmatic statements. The easiest answer is to go with the views of john XXIII and Paul VII that VII isn't dogmatic and thus may be dissented from by orthodox Catholics in full communion with the Church. But current Church leadership won't concede that for fear of alienating the huge numbers of Catholics who've been uwittingly infected with modernism.

2) Likewise as to the NO Mass. One may state that its promulgation was a terrible policy without calling into question the notion of papal infallibility. One may even state that it is objectively inferior to the Latin Mass without challenging papal infallibility.

3) As to pelvic issues: the fact is that in the last 50 or 75 years, the biological sciences have caught up with physics and chemistry, raising questions of when life begins and when it ends to new heights and giving us more technological input into life-beginning and life-ending processes. As a result, we as a culture have forgotten what the overwheming number of people throughout history--including Catholics--have known clearly. Sex is inherently dangerous. It causes not only infant mortality but the deaths of mothers in childbirth. It leads to property inheritance and paternity issues that can turn nasty (these things are actually MORE in evidence today, not less). It leads to the insidious spread of infectious, debilitating, and deadly disease.

The 1960's generation, drunk with the pill and the utopian ideal of worry-free polygamy and polyandry, chose to forget and to ignore these things. When Holy Mother Church sought to remind them of it, for the good of not only their souls but their bodies, they hysterically claimed that the Church consisted of a bunch of sexually-obsessed men who knew nothing about the subject. But really, now--when I spell it out as I have above, which side comes across as being the sex-obsessed one: the side that recognizes the dangers of sex, or the side that tailors its sociology, psychology, and theology around the notion of having unrestricted sex?

In short, it's the modernists, not orthodoc Catholics, who have pelvic issues. They only claim that Orthodox Catholics do.

Henry said...

"The easiest answer is to go with the views of john XXIII and Paul VII that VII isn't dogmatic and thus may be dissented from by orthodox Catholics in full communion with the Church."

And also Cardinal Razinger in 1988:

"There are many accounts of it which give the impression that, from Vatican II onward, everything has been changed, and that what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II.

"The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest."

And amplified as pope in his December 2005 remarks about the hermeneutics of continuity and rupture.

John Nolan said...

Everyone, from the Pope downwards, knows exactly what went on at the Council, its left/right polarizations, its ambiguous documents (Sacrosanctum Concilium is a prime example), the facile optimism of Gaudium et Spes (with which the young Ratzinger had issues with at the time) and the whole kit and kaboodle which is so, so, dated (and as a teenager in the 1960s I can tell you what about that decade is dated and what is relevant). Parts of V2 are relevant, and surprisingly Dignitatis Humanae is as relevant now as it was then (religious freedom in the 1960s was threatened by Communist regimes and now it is threatened by secularist 'democratic' States - US and UK in the forefront.

ytc said...

I'd like to let everyone know that Pope Benedict let down the liberals yesterday night with his homily for Corpus Christi.


Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 5, Very astute observations regarding "pelvic issues.". Now, let's look further at the liberal/modernists' theological methodology. Millie and other libs want to ignore the very visceral, very real issues of sexuality and lift the discussion into the academic realm of discussions of "personhood," "gender issues," "human rights." and "social justice" (we used to refer to such discussions as "mental masturbation," by the way). This removes the threat of actually having to deal with the consequences that you, Anon 5, mentioned and allows for all kinds of morally relativistic, intellectualization about possible "frameworks for understanding" and all that nonsense (Seriously, they all really need a dose of the clap.).

Now, theologically, they do the same thing. They do not want to consider the historicity of the Gospel accounts or of the events of Jesus' life and ministry. No, no. They want to remove these events to the realm of the "existential," the archetypal collective consciousness, and discuss them as possible philosophical "frameworks" for our understanding and self-awareness (philosophical masturbation, if you will). Now, if someone asks a simple question like, "do you believe Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb like you could have gotten it with a camera," they go ballistic and say things like Millie said..."answering that question is beneath me." Beneath you how? Now, I don't know about you, but I find a great deal of humor in fact, it tickles my pelvic issues. LOL!

Pope Benedict addressed this beautifully in his book, "Jesus of Nazareth," when he talked at length about the failed and incorrect methodology of separating the so-called "Christ of Faith" from the Biblical Jesus. They cannot be separated. They are one and the same person, that being the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. To attempt to do so is to imply an adoptionist Christology at the very outset. So, boys of academe, live with it. And, hey Millie, if you can't bite, don't growl.

Kitchener Waterloo Traditional Catholic said...

The left-right paradigm is useful yet needs caution in discussing Church matters. It can become inflamed in polemics which disrespects God and causes division.

Not everyone on the "right" is a sedevacantist or member of SSPX. When the SSPX reconciles with the Vatican, I doubt their ranks will swell with new members. There will be an increase especially in areas where they offer the only Extraordinary Form Mass.

I've grown to resist adjectives - you are either an obedient Catholic or not. Worse case scenario, you either are Catholic or you're not.

On "pelvic" issues, Humane Vitae is quite clear. Unfortunately, here in Canada our bishops essentially defied that papal teaching with their Winnipeg Statement shortly after the document was issued.

Those in our parishes who call for female ordination, support pro-abortion political parties, introduce novelties into the liturgy, etc, need conversion. The Enemy is very deceitful and works to weaken the Church.