October 14, 2014

The tide has turned.

By Glenn

Having read the entire “Relatio Post Disceptationem,” I am struck by its embrace of, rather than its rejection of, the Catholic tradition. It is a tradition that has shown incredible flexibility and adaptation over 2000 years. The Catholic Church is not a fundamentalist church. Over the last 40 years, fundamentalists have tried to deny that tradition, ardently fighting the reforms of Vatican II. Pope Francis is simply revitalizing a tradition that recognizes perfect often stands in the way of the better.

According to “Relatio Post Disceptationem,” the problems in today’s society are individualism and hedonism. In other words, when confronted with the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper,” too many people around the world answer “No.” While this may make Ayn Rand smile, it makes Christ weep. Families teach us that we are not alone. Our actions can either lift up or tear down those around us. Families are the first to teach us to feed the hungry, cloth the naked and care for the sick. “Relatio Post Disceptationem” makes clear that any form of family is better than the Obectivist world of Ayn Rand.

For untrained eye, the restoration of the Catholic approach to living in a broken world might be hard to spot. The document uses precise philosophical language to make its point. First, there is a divine law, marriage, in which God joins a man and woman as one. This is a marriage. There is no other. We, however, do not live under divine law in this world. We live under “positive law” or “civil law.” The Church teaches that positive law should strive toward the divine law, but often falls short.

For example, the divine law says we must “turn the other cheek.” If we, as a society, put this law into practice, we could have no criminal law to punish law breakers or wars to fight oppression. Rather, the Church allows for human societies to do the best we can to limit violence, but it does not require a state to renounce physical force altogether.

In a similar vein, “Relatio Post Disceptationem” speaks about civil marriage or unions. These are “positive” institutions, mere human institutions, when compared to their divine counterpart. It is here that the Church sees a beneficial role for today’s society. These secular institutions can help humanity overcome individualism and hedonism. For example, even a homosexual civil union can provide a benefit when the couple raises children in a loving, caring environment. People who are loved grow up to love.

Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the restoration of the Catholic tradition to happen so rapidly. Pope Francis truly is a remarkable man. While I am sure the push back is already beginning, the frustration with Catholic fundamentalists has been building for the last 40 years. The tide has turned.

Here are the relevant sentences from “Relatio Post Disceptationem”

“Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. …In the same, perspective, that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies….Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries….In this respect, a new dimension of today’s family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences.” 18-19,22

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