Sunday, February 27, 2011


When I was in the seminary in the last half of the 1970's, one of the theologies that was developing was that of "dissent" from Catholic teaching if the teaching was thought to be non-infallible. But even "infallibility" was being tested and there was dissent from it too.

Academic theologians began to see themselves not only in terms of helping bishops to articulate the faith, but they saw themselves almost as a parallel magisterium. The political concept of "loyal opposition" became a battle cry for them as they developed the theological "loyal dissent" mode of teaching and helping people to avoid the hard moral, ethical and doctrinal issues of the day. In other words, it was/is a neo-protestantism.

I would have to speculate that this theology of dissent promoted in the late 1960's and onward is what has led to "Cafeteria Catholicism." Pick and choose what you like, agree with what you like and discard, denigrate and castigate what you don't like.

Progressive Catholics aren't the only ones who do this. Traditional Catholics do it also. Traditionalists want the pope and bishops to crack down on those who disturb the liturgy and manipulate it; They want dissident Catholics banned from Holy Communion and they want clear moral directives preached in a hell fire and damnation mode.

But when it comes to the social doctrines of the Church enunciated in many papal encyclicals that in some ways seems to support liberal politics, these very same traditional Catholics all of a sudden become cafeteria Catholics.

The bishops of Wisconsin have been urging the governor there not to trample on the rights of workers to organize. They are enunciating the best of Catholic teaching as it concerns worker's right and the right to organize unions.

That doesn't go over very well with those enamored with more conservative politics. In this case, they become like Nancy Pelosi but with a very different form of disregard for Catholic teaching, but disregard for it is exactly what it is.

But with that said, the following comment is very interesting too taken from an interview in the National Catholic Register:

Father Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, a free-market think tank, suggested that the bishops’ response to the union protests marked a new era of episcopal leadership and a more nuanced understanding of economic realities in the United States.

He noted that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had sought to reorient an overly politicized approach to social justice concerns and that new Catholic leaders had responded to this new direction. “Politics is not the governing hermeneutic of the Church,” said Father Sirico, “but for many years politics was the whole paradigm through which everything was seen.”

But he also suggested the Wisconsin bishops’ stance implicitly acknowledged “the changing reality of the American Catholic population as a whole. “The only sector of union membership that is growing is public unions,” he said. “That is highly problematic from a Catholic point of view, because these public unions publicly favor abortion rights and ‘gay marriage’ and seek to undercut the Church’s agenda on social questions.”



Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is identifying what the problem is. There is no value in a solution that demonises the union members. The unions are in trouble because they are fighting for their own existence rather than the benefit of their own people.

Here is comment for everyone: I think the problem is not that there are unions, but that there are not enough unions.


Henry said...

Fr. McDonald: "But when it comes to the social doctrines of the Church enunciated in many papal encyclicals that in some ways seems to support liberal politics, these very same traditional Catholics all of a sudden become cafeteria Catholics."

I'm not sure I have personally observed the phenomenon you allege here. Not if by a "cafeteria Catholic" you mean---as I would---a Catholic who denies certain clear cut Catholic dogmas, affirming only those that suit him.

Of course, Catholics of all stripes can and do disagree about the application of dogma in areas of prudential judgment.

Anonymous said...

Now wait just a cottin pickin minute! I'm a deeply committed Catholic and deeply disapprove of forced union membership--which in no possible way makes me a pick-n-choose Catholic. Before I could teach school here in Wisconsin, I HAD to (read was OBLIGED to if I wanted the job) join the teacher Union(s). These very same unions consistently, aggressively support and finance politicians and government policies that are diametrically opposed to Catholic Church teaching. Sure, unions can and do serve good purposes; but absolutely no one should be forced to join them against his will. If the Catholic bishops of Wisconsin were to hold otherwise (and they don't) then we'd be in conscience and perfectly justified in defying them.


Templar said...

Looking at the question from the opposite end of the spectrum perhaps, but before V2, when The Church was more authoritarian and less touchy feely, there was dissent because the lines were very clear. You were either in the The Church and followed the rules, or you were outside and did not. Pray, obey and pay, or you do not stay.

The Church needs that again. There are plenty of places in this world (and countless "other" religions) where democracy reigns. The Church, should, like Truth, be much more Black and White. Those who do not fear the Truth do not fear Authoritarian Rule. The ones who fear it are the ones who know that Truth is not on their side.

Gene said...

Unions began in response to a legitimate need. Now, they have become bloated, bureaucratic, monoliths that support, almost without exception, liberal/socialist political causes. The Church may want to take notice of the fact that, as Fr. alluded to, these organizations are hand-in-hand with the very powers that hate the Church and want to marginalize her. Perhaps some Bishops are waking up...good morning...finally!

Gene said...

PS There is a huge difference between a cafeteria Catholic who favors abortion, gay marriage, birth control, etc. and a Catholic who questions an over-friendly relationship with any political faction...liberal or conservative.

R. E. Ality said...

Father Mc Donald. Be precise in giving “credit” where it is due when identifying the proprietors of the expanded Cafeteria in the 20th century. As for those wascally wabbit conservatives you refer to concerning Wisconsin, please read Bishop Robert C. Morlino’s statement at:

In discussing the dilemma in Wisconsin, he explains why the Wisconsin Catholic Conference has taken a neutral position. He also supplements Bishop Listecki’s comments by quoting the 4th and 5th paragraphs of Section 20 of John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens. I would add consideration of the 6th paragraph as well. Ya’ll know where to find encyclicals on line.

I am in complete agreement with Bishop Morlino. I’m politically conservative, so how can that be? Which type of customer of the Cafeteria does that make me?

In the context of Wisconsin, read Bishop Morlino’s statement and those three paragraphs of Laborem Exercens to identify the elephant in the room. I look forward to your nomination of the elephant.

Anonymous said...

Like Bishop Robert Vasa who sffirms use of excommunication, is this fellow a cafeteria Catholic:

Vatican legal consultant Edward Peters has made international headlines by saying that New York governor Andrew Cuomo should be denied holy communion because of his open and consistent support for legal abortion, and because he lives in an adulterous relationship with his girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

I ma prone to reject all of these lines of reasoning. Our Church is a bad spot these days largely due to trying to deduce the exact action one should take in any given circumstance based on Doctrine.

Is it possible to have two situations where one would side with a union and another where one would side against? Of course. It is the use of our judgment that exposes our character to God, not our intentions.


Burke-man said...

Anonymous, I see what you mean. Bishop Vasa must be one of those “Traditionalist dissenters” Frajm talked about.

When asked if the pro-abortion ‘Catholic’ Senator John Kerry came up to you for Holy Communion, would you deny him, Bishop Vasa quickly replied:
“Absolutely. I would agree, certainly, with Archbishop Burke and Bishop Bruskewitz in their own actions in this matter. I literally could not give Holy Communion to a professed and actively committed pro-choice politician.”

Cardinal Ratzinger must be another of those “Traditionalist dissenters.”
He said, “The minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it when warning and counsel given to the manifest sinner “have not had their effect.”

Are there more offenders like them. Next thing you know, they’ll sugest people pray the Rosary.

Anonymous said...

Father McDonald, what would Jesus say about your gymnastics to indict people you call Traditionalists as dissenters so the liberal dissenters won’t feel picked upon? Might he simply refer us to St. Paul? The obligation to deny Holy Communion to those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin is a matter of divine law and not merely of ecclesiastical discipline; the text of St. Paul in 1 Cor.11:27-30 binds both those who receive and those who administer Holy Communion. Of course, so does Canon law.

Are the people who wrote and adopted Canon law Traditionalist dissenters?

R. E. Ality said...

PINANV525 said: “PS there is a huge difference between a cafeteria Catholic who favors abortion, gay marriage, birth control, etc. and a Catholic who questions an over-friendly relationship with any political faction...liberal or conservative.”
How very right you are. The majority of our bishops and the USCCB have bought into the liberal utopia and jumped into bed with them. Like the frog in one of your prior posts, it’s too late to remedy the error after the water is boiling.
What kind of morality is in play when bishops encourage increasing the size and long arms of the federal government? Those long arms are already into the pockets of not only our children but also our grandchildren, and so on. Like so many liberal politicians, most bishops have never really had a job and have no idea about Economics.

R. E. Ality said...

Frajm. What do you mean by this paragraph? “Progressive Catholics aren't the only ones who do this. Traditional Catholics do it also. Traditionalists want the pope and bishops to crack down on those who disturb the liturgy and manipulate it; They want dissident Catholics banned from Holy Communion and they want clear moral directives preached in a hell fire and damnation mode.”

Are you actually saying that those who want the Pope and bishops to crack down on liturgical abuses are dissidents? They are dissidents dissenting from dissident actions.

Do you really know any of the “they” who want dissident Catholics banned from Holy Communion? I haven’t met anyone like that, not even in my mirror, unless you mean those who want Canon 915 enforced.

What is “hell fire and damnation mode?”

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Re Ality, the point I was making is that traditionalists want the pope and bishops to crack down on progressive dissent, but these same people fail to see sometimes that they pick and choose too and that the pope and bishops could crack down on them too. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Maybe we should be careful for what we pray for? Many traditionalist Catholics have issues with papal encyclicals on social justice and the Church's clear moral teachings in this area. Just saying.

Gene said...

RE: Your question, "what is Hellfire and Damnation mode:"

"...and,then you will stand before Him, not the Man of Sorrows, not the Lamb That Was Slain, but the Terrible and Righteous Judge, the Everlasting Truth, whose mouth is a sword, and you will plead for your sins and for mercy. And, He will ask you for an accounting of your life... Liar,will you lie then? Con man, will you con Him? Cheater, will; you cheat your way through those mighty gates? Oh, no! You will fall on your wretched knees and grovel at His pierced feet and hear His final judgement...and you will be cast from Him into everlasting darkness, and you will hear the wails of your loving family in Glory as they plead in vain on your behalf, while you writhe in flames and agony and the sulphurous smoke of your burning perfumes the airs of Hell!" Amen...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Regarding my "gymnastics" I am in favor of denying people who are unrepentant public sinners Holy Communion. Private mortal sinners have a duty before God not to receive Holy Communion until they are reconciled to the Church and God through sacramental Penance. I would never deny anyone Holy Communion based upon my judgment of their moral worthiness, unless I knew they shouldn't be receiving Holy Communion because the bishop placed a censure against them, or canon law has done the same, i.e. a person divorced and remarried outside the Church and this is well known to the congregation and the priest.
So in terms of traditionalists denying the authority of the bishop even the area of social moral teachings, if they do so publicly and refuse to back down after the bishop has spoken to them, then sure, they should be barred from Holy Communion by the bishop.

R. E. Ality said...

Frajm. Firstly, I apologize for coming on so strongly. I know what you meant. I have no quarrel with Church teaching on justice, whether by encyclical or otherwise. Am I alone in seeing an analogy between Sola Scriptura Protestants who treat Scripture like a cafeteria and the liberals who treat the justice encyclicals as a cafeteria? The USCCB emulates the Sola Scriptura Protestants by ignoring and violating the principle of subsidiarity. Is that not cafeteria Catholicism? Obama clearly stated that his end goal for Obamacare was to have a single-payer system.
Subsidiarity: The basic unit of society is the family which is under constant attack by the liberals. The liberals are cafeteria citizens who decimate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, making a sick joke of the rule of law. We are supposed to e a republic but have in effect become a “pure” democracy. The founding fathers warned against that. A nation will not survive as such but be replaced by a totalitarian dictatorship of the right or of the left. The poor will suffer the most. The rich make out no matter what.

I am not a Traditionalist but rather an orthodox Catholic. As such, I agree wholeheartedly with the goals or ends of those encyclicals but where I and political conservatives differ with liberals is on the prudential means to achieve those ends. Socialistic class-envy means do not help the poor but rather hurt them; Rerum Novarum says as much.
Your comments on Canon 915 and subsidiarity?
Your blog is a wonderful opportunity to teach with unambiguous clarity and is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

That was my understanding of the original post as my point is the same. There are many answers that fit into Catholic and if one is trying to find the answers in that expanse then intentions carry some weight. If you view tolerance as a discovered weakness, then you really should hit the road ad find a church you don't have to fight or betray.


R. E. Ality said...

pinanv525. Sorry I asked - just kidding. The good news about such preaching is the saving on church maintenance - with a little wax applied on Saturday, the squirmig of parishioners in the pews would do the polishing.

The bad news? More and more nominal Catholics would depart for gentler pastures and attribute their departure to lack of fellowship, poor music or whatever.

Anonymous said...

The liberals, generally speaking, seemingly have no will to win wars. In itself, that’s sad. It is especially sad that they declared war on poverty with no desire to win it; they gave lip service to the “great society” and instead have given us a culture of death and moral relativism, killing the family and killing the babies. Democrats controlled the House of Representatives for 66 of the last 78 years.
Their demagoguery thrives best when economic and educational poverty continue to exist; they’d rather fight those battles than win them. Poverty, illiteracy and the class struggle increase the opportunities for Alinskyite community organizing at which Obama and crew excel. With the high regard Americans have for the office of the Presidency, it’s very difficult for them to recognize the obvious fact that Obama wants and works for our Republic and our free market economy to fail and be replaced with a Socialistic or Marxist totalitarianism. The saddest part of all is that Democrats have had the help of useful idiots for decades, including USCCB members and staff.

Burke-man said...

Get serious Mr. Ality; this is a serious discussion.

Anonymous said...

I was a cafeteria Catholic for many years, due in part to my cafeteria Protestant upbringing, in part to my Kumbaya catechesis and conversion in the early '80s, and in part to the ease of taking what I liked and leaving the rest. I take full responsibility for not taking my faith more seriously and am grieved at the damage I did. It would have been better if I had just called myself a non-Christian than to give Catholicism a bad name by my worldly, sinful behavior. I have finally accepted the grace of knowing that God is in charge and that humble obedience is the only way to follow Him. I still don't understand it all, but I accept it all and am grateful for the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

If we insisted on understanding before faith we would never arrive. If we understood God and his mysteries, we would "be God."

Anonymous said...

I fully support the right of labor to organize, but I think that the status of most public employees as "Labor" is arguable. In the firs place, most of the striking workers are the recipients of higher education and apply advanced, specialized skills in their work, which goes against the traditional definition of labor.

Second, and most importantly, the striking workers are supposed to be working in the public interest, not in the interest of capital. They do not serve as engines of capital and, therefore, they are not in danger of having their human dignity stripped away from them as they engage in work which is necessary and gainful. In short, the workers are, it seems, not "labor" as understood by Catholic social teaching because their employer, the state, is not "capital".