Friday, July 1, 2016

ON BEING PASTORAL

There is a fine line between a pastoral approach to sinners and enabling sinners. Jesus was not an enabler of sin--"go and sin no more" but He was no control "Freak" and neither is God the Father and Holy Spirit. This is important for the control freaks of the traditionalist movement in the Church who have inflicted such damage on the reform of the reform and the recovery of so much good that was lost during the immediate post-Vatican II period by their rigid, puritanical approach to the Holy Father and authentic Catholicism.

As far back as I can remember, I was taught that God created us with free-will. The Almighty does not control us as though we are robots. He doesn't impose morality on us; He doesn't impose salvation on us. He offers us His love, His way, His truth and gives us what we need to receive these, but He doesn't control us.

Thus I am amused by those who freak out over the sexual sins of others and more so over the disordered affections many have be they gay or straight, homosexual or heterosexual.

Is it because those who hate some sins more than other sins fear they too may succumb and plunge into a lifestyle to which they have an affinity? Are they on thin ice, like the alcoholic who wants to forbid the consumption of alcohol by all people as it was attempted during prohibition?

Catholicism is the antithesis of Puritanism. Puritanism wants to enforce morality with law and jail time. Catholicism on the other hand is open to the legality of immorality but with clear teachings on virtuous living and the call to conversion.

European Catholicism even prior to the Second Vatican Council was at home in a corrupt society that would have red light districts and the such. Puritans are aghast at such liberality.

New Orleans is the closest example of what the pre-Vatican II culture of Catholicism in a city is like. It is strongly Catholic about allows all kinds of perversion and publicly so. Puritans see this as the work of the devil. Catholicism sees it at the clear choices we have and the graces we need to do good and avoid evil.

We cannot legislate morality try as we may. We live in a secular culture today that legally allows for so much, such as abortion, same sex "marriage" and the personal choice to decide one's gender. Are these against the natural law? Of course. But we have a choice and we have to live with our decisions and the consequences of these in this life and the next.

Control Freaks not only want to lead a horse to water; they want to use a hose and force the horse to drink. This is not Catholic--it is something else.

22 comments:

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"Catholicism on the other hand is open to the legality of immorality..."

Good Father, you need to do some serious research/reading to get the correct notion on this point.

Anonymous said...

For once, I have to agree with Fr. K.

You may not intend it but the gist of this post is get comfortable with your and other's perversions. For one thing, we are called to build a just society. Sinful structures such as exploit female sexuality, denying the worker just wages, abortion certainly, the sins crying to heaven for justice cannot be just dismissed as control freaks making a big fuss about nothing.

Did some one hack into your blog page, perhaps somebody from Germany?

Marc said...

Who are these "control freaks" in the "traditional movement"? Have you ever even talked to a priest who is a member of one of the traditional priestly fraternities? Have you heard their sermons or listened to the advice they give in the confessional?

You have created a caricature in your head that is very far from the reality. I think there are a lot of things about the "traditional movement" that would surprise you if you ever actually went to a traditional parish or had a conversation with a traditional priest.

Jusadbellum said...

Every law imposes SOMEONE'S understanding of what constitutes moral and approved behavior over immoral and illegal behavior.

I think I know what you're trying to say - that to completely ban say, drugs, we have had to erect a pervasive and invasive police surveillance state, militarizing the police, establishing permanent spy agencies surveiling the US population, etc. when we could just focus on rehab and drying up the demand rather than going after the supply.

On the other hand, do we really know if the example of New Orleans and Venice and other places where open vice was common is the ideal we ought to pursue? I suspect those excesses where what preceded the general loss of faith across Europe.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that Puritanism is by definition about enforcement, even though the best-known example of Puritanism was the theocracy of massachusetts bay that was big on enforcement.

A better definition is Mencken's: “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

As for legislating morality, I disagree. Laws are all about legislating morality. Every law is based on a value judgement, and the value is about what is good and what is bad. That's morality. The only question is that of which moral principles a law is based on. Example: Roe v. Wade. To argue that the case is avoiding moral legislation in that it neither compels nor forbids abortion is to misunderstand it. Rather, Roe rests on the principle that it's good (a moral judgment) to let women decide whether or not to abort their children.

Anonymous 2 said...

Father McDonald and Father Kavanaugh:

First of all, I hope you are both settling in well in your new assignments. You are both missed here in Macon.

Second, the issue of the appropriate limits of government in “legislating” or “tolerating” immorality or vice is a very interesting one. Here is one very thoughtful and scholarly treatment of the issue by John Finnis (my former tutor and a devout Catholic who was significantly responsible for leading me to the Catholic Church), based on a lecture at Mercer that we then published in a 1994 issue of our Law Review, entitled “Liberalism and Natural Law Theory.” The entire article is worth reading of course but I suspect that pages 691-98 are the most relevant ones for the present discussion:

http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1533&context=law_faculty_scholarship

Anonymous said...

Is the free for all beach mentality already affecting you?

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. The first sentence in the second point of my previous post should read:

Second, the issue of the appropriate limits of government in “legislating” morality/virtue or in “tolerating” immorality/vice is a very interesting one.

That’s what happens without benefit of caffeine!

Victor said...

The good order of society is the traditional reason for having governments using its laws. Yet, a democracy, as both Plato and Aristotle thought, is just a form of mob rule where the question of what is "good" tends towards the lowest instincts of a mob, as we see in our society.
From a Christian standpoint, governmental laws ought to foster divinisation, theosis. If you allow and glorify vices, that will not happen. Puritanical laws, as you call them, are reminders to the citizens that certain actions are immoral and with the force of governmental power there can be quite a bit of nudging to help the weak overcome vice. Call it a charitable redress. Of course, that is somewhat tyrannical for many, so the question is, should the government concern itself with conversion rather than coercion for morality? (That should get a laugh from those living in Western democracies.) By the way, the latter was the opinion of the pre-Vatican II Church when Catholics were a majority in the nation, while the former, through the influence of the Americans at the Council, is of the post Vatican II Church.

It is nice to see that you have adopted the method of Pope Francis to force awareness and discussion of important spiritual issues.

George said...


There is to be found in a just, free, and properly functioning society, an harmonious middle ground between unfettered libertarianism on the one hand, and oppressive totalitarianism on the other. Puritanism was just authoritarianism with a religious cloak, but employing a certain approach from that perspective, if applied properly and sparingly is not without merit. But restrictive laws cannot always justly be categorized in that way.
There is nothing wrong with a political subdivision in its laws and regulations either circumscribing abortion or banning it altogether. The purpose of moral legislation, if it does not impose upon what any man has a right to do in the justly and properly understood and accorded exercise of his freedom, is to serve the public good. The problem today is that for too many in our society, in our courts and in the government the spiritual-religious make up of their nature has become so weakened and corrupted that banning or restricting pornography for example, is no longer seen as necessary.
The principles of Divine and natural law, since their origin is from God, have a place in the public square and, if properly and justly employed and attended to, will not impose on the legitimate, authentic rights of the citizenry.

Gene said...

Getting back to being pastoral, there was a lot of Pastoral Care BS being given out back in the 70's when I was in seminary and grad school..."stay in the person's frame of reference," "don't be judgmental," "seek the client's comfort level," "don't support the parishioner's feelings of guilt," etc. All of these, of course, do nothing to help the sinner/parishioner change his life or come to terms with his problem. This was all born of the "I'm OK, You're OK" and Carl Roger's "Client Centered Therapy" approach that was adopted hook, line, and sinker by Pastoral Care departments all over the country....humanism and existentialism became the framework for counseling...the ultimate goal was self-realization and the path to such was the existential mantra to "live authentically"...whatever that means. The theological gods of protestant and Catholic seminarians became Paul Tillich and Teilhard. It was a mess that has never gotten cleaned up.

Fr. you spoke to this once in RCIA. You may not remember, but there was one persistent young woman in the class who continued to argue for the Church to "loosen up" regarding homosexuals and the divorced. Your final response to her was something like, "the Church offers confession and forgiveness for repentant sinners and has many varied support groups and means for helping them change their lives. You want the Church to change her doctrine and teachings so people will not have to feel guilty. That is not helping them." She did not join, BTW.

I received two responses in grad school that were a bit more pointed. One was from a good friend of mine who was a psychiatric resident at Vanderbilt. When I asked him about "I'm OK, You're OK," he replied, "If you are a bag of (feces) and I am a therapist and I say to you, "I'm OK, You're Ok," I have not helped you very much, have I?"

I asked a professor about Carl Rogers' "Client Centered Therapy," and he replied, "Yeah, sort of like Hitler's programs were Jew-centered." I think those about cover it. LOL!

Anonymous said...

Brother Gene (LOL) Where was it exactly the seminary for your studies? Did they teach you there to insult Priests, call the President of the United States the most insulting word known to man and use those big ole words you spout on this site?
I read a Novel about you today. Have you ever read any of C.S. Lewis' work? BTW never see you at mass anymore.

Anonymous said...

Father Gene are you familiar with a character.... Norman Bates?

Gene said...

Well, I won't engage Kavanaugh in his anonymous mode, either. LOL!

So, we were talking about being pastoral...and the fact that pastoral care is not psychotherapy. During the 70's, most seminary pastoral care departments were requiring their students to read psychology and psychotherapy books and employ the "therapy" mode in pastoral counselling. "Clinical Pastoral Education" was very popular, where those embarrassed by the faith and real pastoral care were able to pretend they were "therapists" and play all of Eric Berne's games for real with their so-called "clients." Many of these seminary students also went and got psychology degrees and counselling licenses and began calling themselves "psychotherapists," which should be written psycho therapists. Anything to avoid preaching the Gospel and mediating Christ's forgiveness of sins. *sigh*

Jenny said...

I don't usually do this (never?), but I just read a great article on Catholic Exchange about this very topic:
http://catholicexchange.com/confession-a-pain-that-ends-in-joy

Gene said...

Jenny, That is an excellent article and I agree with it completely. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

If you were in grad school and the seminary as you call it in the 70's you are way OLD and way out of date.
No wonder you spend all your time on this blog.... You probably did not understand what they were teaching you in the RCIA classes and that is why the church you thought you were joining is not the church you joined. Now we understand....

Gene said...

Ah, the Devil in another manifestation. LOL!

Jenny, that was, indeed, a fine article. I keep in touch with academia through several friends who are seminary profs or theology profs. They don't think much has changed since the 70's in the way of pastoral care. They do see more students who are disillusioned with post-modernist theology and religious expression, but not enough to tip the balance. I do not know anyone in Catholic theological education, so I do not know what direction it is headed. From where I stand, it does not look encouraging, but I keep hearing rumors of a new generation of Priests who are returning to traditional Catholic identity and the EF Mass.

Jenny said...

Gene, I hear of the new generation of Priests as well, and can only hope and pray it is a true renaissance of the true Faith. Thank God there are a few older priests out there like Fr. McD to guide them... We must never stop praying for them.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad day when you cannot be Catholic---or a "real" Catholic (like one who is opposed to abortion not just "personally" but also in public policy)---and be a Democrat at the same time, but you get the idea with the so-called vetting of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as a running mate for Hillary. As governor of Virginia he had something of a mixed record on abortion, but since going to the Senate in 2013 he has had a perfect voting record--unfortunately, perfect in supporting the pro-abortion agenda. Guess that fits with a party which in 1992 denied then-Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey a change to speak at the national Democratic convention because he did not toe the party line on that issue. How anyone can be a Catholic and a Democrat these days I don't know, but it would be nice to see a pro-life Democrat, number one, and one who does not "sell the hour to serve for power." In other words, one who sticks to his beliefs even if that stalls his advancement on the political ladder. Certainly Virginia's bishops (or I guess the one in Richmond) should be taking disciplinary action...

Gene said...

Bishops are afraid of their shadow...as Luther said, "they flee at the rustling of a leaf." They are political animals and most are completely remiss in defending the Faith, condemning heresy, and disciplining wayward Priests. I guess they are afraid that, if they disciplined all the Priests that need it, they would have no one to fill parishes.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anonymous:

“How anyone can be a Catholic and a Democrat these days I don't know”

The system is so broken and corrupted that one could perhaps equally well ask “How can anyone be a Catholic and a Republican these days?”

And so we are left to find our way through the political labyrinth with such guidance as we may find in Catholic teaching and pastoral initiatives such as the USCCB’s document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/

This website now also includes a very helpful video link orienting us to the issues and to the resources available to us (in English and Spanish) as we form our consciences for political participation.