Thoughts re the Hobby Lobby decision

The notion that a person should be forced to purchase a product that they believe to be immoral is a charmless one for which no eulogies should be read nor requiems composed. Had the Supreme Court actually killed the so-called “contraceptive mandate” in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, decided today, 1 we should say “good riddance.”

Joyous rumors of its demise, however, are greatly exaggerated. In fact, the court’s decision did little more than observe that, having riddled the mandate with exceptions, the administration’s insistence that one more exception couldn’t be made is laughable. “Laughable” isn’t the test under RFRA, but if you can barely make the argument with a straight face, that isn’t a good sign; what RFRA actually requires is that a federal regulation that “substantially burden[s] a person’s exercise of religion” must be “the least-restrictive means of furthering [a] compelling governmental interest.” 2 And how could a mandate be the least-restrictive means of accomplishing such an interest (assuming it exists) when so many are excused from that mandate?

I.

At any rate, one of the themes advanced by critics of the Hobby Lobby decision is that favored whipping-boy of the left, the “corporation.” True enough, the case does present that as a threshold question: RFRA applies to “persons,” so: Is a corporation, even a closely-held corporation, a valid RFRA plaintiff? But the “corporations aren’t people” argument, emaciated at the best of times, doesn’t even leave the gate here. It is emaciated at the best of times because no one seriously doubts that “corporations have rights” (a euphemism, but one that will do); had the Bush administration raided the headquarters of a left-friendly corporation—say, Apple—without a warrant, no one would suggest that Apple was unable to raise fourth amendment claims against the raid because it is a corporation rather than an individual. 3 And it is a non-starter here for two reasons: First, because the Dictionary Act expressly includes corporations in the definition of “person” where a statute does not more narrowly define it, 4 which RFRA does not, and second, because the government (and the dissent) concede that corporations can be RFRA plaintiffs, instead advancing the specious theory that a non-profit corporation (such as the O Centro Espirita plaintiff, or, in a non-RFRA context, the Church of the Lukumi plaintiff) is a person capable of exercising religion yet a for-profit corporation is not. 5

What’s more, one must ask the critics whether, in a case brought by different and unincorporated plaintiffs, they would concede the answer to the second question. Remember, Hobby Lobby presents two questions: Can a closely-held corporation be a RFRA plaintiff, and if so, can these plaintiffs prevail on these RFRA claims? Unless one concedes that an unincorporated plaintiff would prevail on the second question, what difference does the question of the plaintiffs’ identity make? It’s tough to see the rhetoric about corporations as anything more than, well, rhetoric—an attempt to sweep the case into an existing political narrative, and a smokescreen to disguise the real sentiment, viz. “the wrong side won.”

The last critics’ theme worth mentioning is the notion that the owners of these companies are “deciding for each individual employee what’s right or wrong for them.” Poppycock. Faced with such nonsense, one might think that these were wrongful-termination cases or discrimination cases à la Ledbetter v. Goodyear. The issue is whether an employer should be forced to purchase for their employees a good or service to which the employer has a serious moral objection, not whether employees can choose to use those goods or services. Notably, the critics have been unable to identify any person, ever, anywhere, who has been terminated by Hobby Lobby for using contraceptives. That failure dooms this line of argument.

A variation of this theme is a lie advanced in Justice Ginsburg’s dissent: The decision will “deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs  access to contraceptive coverage.” 6 This rhetorical flourish is at war with the basic timeline of the cases: The court is not cutting back on a right, it is, at most, restraining the government from forging forward. To the extent that the cases might be (mis)characterized as involving the rights of employees at all, they involve a right created by the government on April 16, 2012. 7 At its outside boundary, then, even if the decision were so sweeping as Ginsburg believes (which it isn’t), the absolute most that it could possibly do would be to roll things back to the status quo ante of April 15, 2012. And so, unless one can say that “women [lacked] … access to contraceptive coverage” on April 15, 2012, one cannot comprehend how restoring that regime could “deny” them access to it. Ginsburg’s statement rests on a false equivalence between “I’m not paying for that” and “you can’t do that,” a notion that the court has always rejected, 8 and that no serious person would entertain for a moment. The statement is therefore false and Ginsburg isn’t stupid enough to believe otherwise, which makes it nothing less than a lie.

II.

What lies beneath all these criticisms, I suspect, is a failure of empathy. Perhaps I can help. Imagine that the administration decided that insofar as meat is good for one’s health, all employers will be required to provide meat to their employees or face ruinous punitive fees amounting to tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars every year. 9 The administration then hands out generous exceptions to its donors and favored constituencies while insisting that it neither can nor will make exceptions for vegetarian employers who have an ethical objection to the production and consumption of meat.

When the vegetarian employers sue, the administration and its defenders wheel out crass populist rhetoric to complain that the vegetarians are trying to deprive their employers of a federal health benefits, that the vegetarians are trying to impose their meat-free ideology on their employees, and are improperly trying to make choices for their employees that properly belong to the employees. If the vegetarians don’t want to eat meat, that’s up to them—but they have no right to “force” that choice upon their employees, which they do, of course, by refusing to buy their employees meat, notwithstanding that the employees can still buy meat with their own money and no one has ever even alleged, let alone proven, that they were fired by one of the vegetarian employers for buying meat with their own money.

When the courts rule for the vegetarians, the administration and its defenders squeal about judicial activism.

That hypothetical is the gravamen of Hobby Lobby. If you don’t see a moral problem in that hypothetical, then (and only then) might you be at liberty to side with the government.

Notes:

  1. The opinion is available online at this link: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/13-354.
  2. 42 U.S.C. §§2000bb–1(a), (b).
  3. Yet that is precisely the catch-22 in which the government would ensnare the plaintiffs. As the court puts it: “HHS contends that neither these companies nor their owners can even be heard under RFRA. According to HHS, the companies cannot sue because they seek to make a profit for their owners, and the owners cannot be heard because the regulations, at least as a formal matter, apply only to the companies and not to the owners as individuals.” In other words, the plaintiffs cannot bring suit in their corporate identity because the corporation (unlike the owners) do not have RFRA rights, but nor can they bring suit in their personal identity because the owners (unlike the corporation) are not the immediate target of the penalties. If that argument has any force in any context, a closely-held corporation is not it.
  4. See 1 U.S.C. § 1.
  5. See slip op., at 20-21.
  6. Slip op., at 8 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting).
  7. See 77 Fed. Reg. 8725 (Feb. 15, 2012).
  8. Cf. Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980).
  9. If the Hobby Lobby plaintiffs “do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price—as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.” Slip op., at 2.

Altar girls, redux

Traditionally, altar service was a male-only business, 1 but females have been permitted to serve the ordinary form since the early 1990s, subject to the general approval of the bishop and ad hoc approval of the celebrant of the particular Mass at which they are to be employed. 2 “Altar girls” have remained controversial ever since, especially in conservative/traditionalist/Trad circles. 3

Against that backdrop, Father Zuhlsdorf notes a new survey that finds some 82% of ordinands of the class of 2014 once served as altar boys. 4 That is good, and it certainly supports the suggestion that if you want to foster vocations to the priesthood in your parishes, encourage boys to serve. But Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s suggestion is, instead, “[i]f you want to foster vocations to the priesthood in your parishes, have all-male service in the sanctuary,” which is a leap of logic: It makes sense only if we assume that permitting girls to serve diminishes the number of boys who serve. That is an unexamined assumption, as I have said before, and a counterintuitive one.

Received wisdom has it that a moderate is someone who, being in the middle of the road, is apt to get mowed down by traffic heading in both directions. By that measure, I suppose, I am a moderate on the question of altar girls, although I prefer to think, for reasons that will become clear, that I am less moderate than undecided. Two years ago, I offered support for Fr. John Lakeit, Rector of Phoenix’s Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral, who incurred the wrath of liberal catholics by returning the Cathedral to the traditional male-only altar service. 5 Fr. Lankeit did so because we need more priests and vocations flourish in dioceses, parishes, and religious orders “where they have the clear honoring of the distinction and the complementarity of men and women….” 6 And in turn, I did so because it is clear that altar service is apt to encourage boys to recognize a vocation to the priesthood, it is arguable that female servers might discourage boys from serving at the altar, and because we need more men to accept their call to the priesthood, we should support (or at very least defer to) any means that seem reasonably-calculated to serve that goal. One would expect, I wrote at the time, that “early returns would appear within a matter of a few years if not a few months,” which is precisely what happened. 7. The program continues to bear fruit, which suggests that it works. 8

Nevertheless, I do not reject altar girls on principle, as some do. 9 Nor am I convinced (yet) that substantial evidence bridges the gap jumped by Zuhlsdorf et al. I support Lankeit’s program and defer to his judgment that suppressing female altar service will help, and I stand ready to offer deferential support to any priest who makes the same decision. But I am unwilling to fault a priest who allows altar girls, so long as the decision is reasoned rather than reflexive.

Truth to tell, I retain some doubt on the point as an original matter, which is to say that were it my decision (that is, were I a priest or bishop: God help you all!), I would not necessarily suppress female altar service within my bailiwick. On the one hand, if the progressives’ arguments from things such as Galatians 3:28 and Gaudium et spes have any force at all, it is at least this: Lay ministries should, generally and all else being equal, be open to all who wish to serve. On the other hand, principled opposition to the use of altar girls is possible, grounded on the facts that they fly in the face of the Church’s constant tradition and that those who advocated their introduction were motivated, at least in part, by a desire to overturn the Church’s teaching on the ordination of women.

I have not previously resolved these competing considerations, and decline to do so today. For now, what matters is this: If one seeks to ground opposition to altar girls not on the facts just mentioned but rather on their effect on vocations, one makes the question conditional on the empirical question of whether that effect is negative. And on that question, good empirical data is scarce—which would be fine, except that, all too often, and not wanting to acknowledge that that question is empirical, we argue by competing anecdote. (I say that when I was that age, I wanted to be where girls were; you say that when you were that age, you wanted nothing to do with girls; we both shrug and assume that the other person is aberrational, absolutely nothing of use to the debate emerges, and the debate remains precisely where it was when we began.) Accordingly, a drop of Lankeit’s experiment is worth an ocean of the unjustifiable and condescending certainty that we see in other quarters, precisely because such experiments produce real data, useful data. Other priests can (and probably should) look at Lankeit’s success and rationally conclude that they should try it too.

(Digression: One might think that all this would be of interest to USCCB or Pew, which might helpfully do some systematic empirical work on the point.)

I would close by reiterating what I said in my original post: “In my view, the Church should, as a general rule, welcome the talents and contributions of women in every way that is appropriate and possible,” but that this general rule must give way if it “clash[es] with other general rules and create[s] a competition of needs.” If altar girls drive out altar boys, the need to foster vocations supplies an overriding imperative that they be removed, and if they attract altar boys, there is an overriding imperative that they be allowed. And because the data do not yet persuasively answer the question, we should support and commend experimentation and empirical work, notwithstanding personal misgivings.

 

Notes:

  1. See Inæstimabile donum, no. 18, 72 AAS 331, 338 (CDW, 1980).
  2. See Redemptionis sacramentum, no. 47, 96 AAS 549, 565-66 (CDW, 2004); Letter regarding admission of girls, adult women and women religious to serve alongside boys as servers in the Liturgy, 37 Notitiae 421 (CDW 2001) (prot. n. 2451/00/L), available at http://www.adoremus.org/CDW-AltarServers.html (last visited May 21, 2014) (episcopal approval “may not, in any way, exclude men or, in particular, boys from service at the altar, nor require that priests of the diocese would make use of female altar servers”).
  3. The distinctions between those groups, as I understand them, is explained in Simon Dodd, Conservatives, traditionalists, and Traditional Catholics, Motu Proprio, May 19, 2014, http://simondodd.org/blog/?p=1356.
  4. Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, Key stats for vocations to the priesthood – POLLS, Fr. Z’s Blog (formerly WDTPRS), May 18, 2014, http://wdtprs.com/blog/2014/05/key-stats-for-vocations-to-the-priesthood-polls. In 2012, it was 75%. See The Class of 2012:Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood, p.24, available at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/upload/Ordination-Class-of-2012-Report-FINAL.pdf (last visited May 21, 2014).
  5. Straight talk on altar girls, 1 MPA 60 (2012).
  6. Phoenix cathedral’s policy change on altar servers ignites discussion, The Catholic Review, Aug. 25, 2011, http://catholicreview.org/article/faith/vocations/phoenix-cathedrals-policy-change-on-altar-servers-ignites-discussion.
  7. See An update on Father Lankeit’s vocations program, 2 MPA 24 (2012).
  8. See Simon Dodd, Another update on Fr. Lankeit’s vocations program, Motu Proprio, May 23, 2014, http://simondodd.org/blog/?p=1376.
  9. Critics often perceive a nasty strain of gynophobia in some Trad and conservative circles; to the extent it exists, I do not subscribe to it.

Still Alive

Musicam novam præsento. Cued by my post here about the resurrection of the ISEE3 probe, I thought I’d take a shot at Still Alive; if there’s any context in which my reedy voice seems appropriate, it’s GLaDOS’ plaintive narration to this, Portal‘s endsong.

There are some new friends on this one and a couple of new techniques, too. The new friends are Minimal Systems’ take on the 1176, the Punch, Variety of Sound’s take on the LA2A, the Thrillseeker LA, and AXP’s Fender Frontman softamp, the FM25. (Lurking in the background of the guitar track is a bit of Aradaz White, a VST that has lurked in the inventory for a while without hitherto making it into the mix.) I also tried a couple of things in tracking and mixing that I haven’t done before. I tracked the acoustic guitars with two mics, a condenser aimed at the twelfth fret and a dynamic aimed at the bridge, and blended in the latter to pep up the former. The new (to me) mixing technique is how the bass track is handled. Everything else having been done to it, the final bass track was printed to a stem and cloned into two tracks: “Bass notched” and “bass notch” The former track has a notch filter to exclude much of the frequency space occupied by the kick drum, and, unsurprisingly, the latter is bandpassed to include everything that’s missing in the former. When both tracks are on, you have the whole sound of the bass; mute the “notch” track and you carve out room for the kick. We then sidechain the notch track, keyed to the kick drum, so every time the kick hits, the level is reduced just in those frequencies. The result is that we’re carving out of the bassline only the space needed, leaving most of it intact and limiting any pumping effect from the compression.

 

 

Another update on Fr. Lankeit’s vocations program

In 2011 and 2012, I noted and voiced support for the decision of Father John Lankeit, rector of the Cathedral of Ss. Simon & Jude in Phoenix, AZ, to end the cathedral’s two-decade experiment with allowing female altar servers. See Straight talk on altar girls, 1 MPA 60 (2012). The idea was to stimulate vocations, and initial returns were promising. See An update on Father Lankeit’s vocations program, 2 MPA 24 (2012). But the internet has a short memory, and I haven’t heard anything more, so I thought it worthwhile to contact Fr. Lankeit and ask how things are going.

Good news, everybody! With his permission, I reproduce his reply. He writes:

We have definitely seen an increase in the number of boys serving, particularly at our school Mass. Prior to the change, it felt like pulling teeth to get a half-dozen altar boys to serve the school Mass. During this past school year, I had 23 altar boys at one Mass. But it’s not only about numbers. I am confident that we have the most reverent, most well-trained altar boys in the diocese. There are “sparks” of interest in vocations among some of them. But you are correct to suggest that what we are doing is preparing the soil and planting the seeds. Vocations are not a direct result of “programs” or policies, but rather, a call from the Lord. To the extent that we can pave a clearer pathway from the Lord to the heart of a young man by helping him discern the full gamut of vocational possibilities, we are on the right track.

Some other wonderful developments:

1) We have a girls intercessory prayer group for young ladies aged 11-18 called the “Little Flowers of St. Therese”. These young ladies intercede regularly for me, for the parish, for the Church, etc. They were instrumental in supporting my efforts to establish Perpetual Adoration at the Cathedral. The past couple of years, they are the only representative group of laypeople (aside from those serving in the sanctuary) who participate in our (small, modified) procession during our televised Corpus Christi Mass. They are also part of the representative group (aside from those serving in the sanctuary) who venerate the Cross during our Good Friday televised liturgy (along with professed religious sisters). I had one little girl who made it very clear to me in the three months leading up to her 11th birthday that she couldn’t wait to join. So, it has not just been an effort to put the possibility of a consecrated vocation in the Church on the boys’ radar screen. The Little Flowers does the same for girls, without violating God-given sexual differentiation. These girls are truly prayer warriors (see below).

We have a very large diocesan event each October called the “Arizona Rosary Celebration”. The event begins with a very large procession of “altar servers” followed by the minsters and the bishop(s). There were hundreds of “altar servers”—boys and girls—processing in together. To see many of the girls in surplice and cassock (a clerical vestment), next to many boys in plain albs—all mixed together—was truly a picture of confusion. But here was the beautiful thing. Following the “altar servers” and immediately preceding the bishop(s) and ministers, was a group of our Little Flowers in black tops/skirts, white veils, with hands folded in prayer wrapped in Rosaries. The exaltation of feminine dignity could not have been clearer.

At one point, just prior to the procession, it was reported to me that a female “altar server” approached our Little Flowers and said something along the lines of, “Like, is that, like, what you wear when you, like, serve at the altar?” One of the Little Flowers responded politely, “We don’t serve at the altar.” The female “altar server” said, “Then, like, what are you?” The Little Flower responded, “We’re prayer warriors!” I wasn’t there to witness the exchange, but could not have been prouder of the Little Flower.

2) In addition to the increase in boys serving at the altar, we have also had an increase in adult men, including fathers of some of the altar boys who serve with their sons, and college students from a nearby university. There has been an emasculation of the Church in so many places in recent decades, which is, frankly, unfair to the wives/mothers who must assume spiritual leadership in the family when there is a (spiritually) absentee father. The fact that men are attracted to serving at the altar is an antidote to more than just the priestly vocation issue. It encourages men to be true men in the family as well.

So, we simply provide the avenue for the Lord’s still, small voice to reach more of our boys and girls by providing them ways to serve the Lord in ways that honor who they are. Whether or not I am here to share in the harvest is really out of my hands. But I have a duty to till the soil and plant the seeds. And, so far, some of the seeds are showing signs of sprouts.

It’s a thing of beauty.  God bless you, and please pray for us.

This is delightful to read! Hats off to Fr. Lankeit, and let us pray for the continuing success of his work.

“That is what you call a bishop who’s not afraid to bishop.”

Because the Church has no authority to ordain women, and because of active resistance by those who dissent from that teaching, the Church provides a canonical response to simulations of the sacrament of Orders: “[B]oth the one who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, incur an excommunication latæ sententiæ reserved to the Apostolic See.” 1 Such excommunications take effect ipso iure and need not be declared, 2 but on occasion it proves helpful, to do so, and his excellency Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield has seen fit to declare that Mary Keldermans, a laywoman in his diocese, has incurred one. 3 She did so when she carried out—over a warning from Bp. Paprocki that she would excommunicate herself by doing so—her publicized intention to be “ordained as a priest for Roman Catholic Womenpriests Inc. in a ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Springfield.” 4 (The person who simulated the ordination, Ms. Joan Clark Houk, a laywoman of the diocese of Pittsburg, remains excommunicated from her own simulated ordination in 2006. 5)

While I do not find the snide tone pervading much of the commentary to be helpful, I applaud Paprocki and find all this quite refreshing. Excommunication is not a punishment, but rather a medicinal penalty, a call to repentance—poen[a] medicinales is the underlying Latin. 6 It is medicinal in the sense that it calls a person back to the Church. People are not excommunicated in order to banish them from the Church, but because their conduct has already placed them outside of her; indeed, to the extent that they have placed themselves in a state of mortal sin, they may well be heaping far greater judgment upon themselves if they are receiving certain sacraments. When a man dreams that he is running in a meadow while he sleepwalks through a minefield, it is no kindness to let him sleep.

And far from being a relic or museum piece, excommunication is an old idea well-suited to modern times. In this age, words are ignored, bishops are dismissed, 7 and the notion of authority—the overweening authority of the state excepted—is non-existent; we live in a radically-individualistic cultural mileu in which people find it very hard to wrap their heads around the idea that they are subject to a criterion other than their own judgment. In such circumstances, people need to be accosted by dramatic action that breaks into their lives and shakes them up. Excommunication is, in the argot of therapy culture, an “intervention,” intended to bring a person to their senses if they can’t or won’t awaken by themselves. Think about it: Why would a man who believes that he is right with Jesus seek to get right with Jesus? He won’t. Indeed, he will resent being told that he has any such need. Only a dramatic intervention can break through and make that man realize the peril in which he has placed himself. (This is also, presumably, why God quite often uses crises to break through to the unchurched.) It may not work—but nothing short of it is likely to work. The care of souls requires more than mere talk! The enemy is playing for keeps; we must realize that this is a deadly game with eternal consequences, and there is nothing charitable or loving about letting a person walk blindfold into hell for fear of her taking offense if we should tackle her to the ground.

Would excommunication make the schismatic priests of the so-called “Pfarrer initiative,” for example, realize how serious their actions are? Perhaps; perhaps not; but nothing short of it will. And perhaps it will make the watching laity realize that something is very wrong, that this is the wrong crowd in which to get mixed up. And while it’s easy to be cynical about entrenched dissent, it sometimes works. For example, in 2010, Sister Margaret McBride, RSM, incurred a latæ sententiæ excommunication which was announced by his excellency Thomas Olmsted (D. Phoenix), but, despite initial resistance, deo gratias, Sr. McBride reconciled with the Church and her excommunication was lifted. 8 Will excommunication shake Keldermans awake? Probably not. You never know. But it isn’t just about her; it’s also about the watching laity; it’s about sending a message, about sounding the alarm. Like the excommunication of Greg Reynolds, 9 it sends a message.

So three cheers for Paprocki; it may be outré to say it in this climate of gathering storms, but we need more bishops like him. Bishops who know who they are to judge, if you take my point. 10 Bishops who are obsessed with what the Church teaches and who know that it very much is necessary to talk about it all the time. Bishops who will give a Catholic blessing. Bishops who don’t want people to make a mess and who see the risk in scandal. Bishops who don’t think that the truth of the faith isn’t conditional on one’s parentage. Bishops who care about those small-minded “rule” thingies. Sacristy bishops.

Notes:

  1. Decretum generale, 100 AAS 403 (CDF, 2008), available at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20071219_attentata-ord-donna_en.html (last visited May 21, 2014); see generally Ap. Con. Ordinatio sacerdotalis, 86 AAS 545 (John Paul II, 1994).
  2. Rev. Ethelred Taunton, The Law of the Church: A Cyclopedia of Canon Law for English-speaking Countries 330 (1906) (imp. +Johnson, 1906). They are disfavored, see Beal et al, New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law 1538 (2000), but the 1983 Code does impose them for some situations.
  3. See John White, Dear Woman Priest, You’re Excommunicated, Catholic Vote, May 22, 2014, http://www.catholicvote.org/dear-woman-priest-youre-excommunicated-love-bishop-paprocki (last visited May 23, 2014).
  4. Steven Spearie, Local woman to be ordained as Catholic priest, State Journal-Register, April 12, 2014, http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140412/News/140419782.(last visited May 22, 2014).
  5. See Marylynne Pitz, Despite excommunication threat, McCandless woman plans to become a priest, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, July 12, 2006, http://www.post-gazette.com/life/lifestyle/2006/07/12/Despite-excommunication-threat-McCandless-woman-plans-to-become-a-priest/stories/200607120195 (last visited May 22, 2014).
  6. See 1983 CIC 658 § 1
  7. Cf. Simon Dodd, Episcopal authority and the abuse crisis, http://simondodd.org/blog/?p=1065, 3 MPA __ (2013).
  8. Compare Dan Harris, Nun Excommunicated After Saving a Mother’s Life With Abortion, ABC News, June 1, 2010,  http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Media/church-excommunicates-nun-authorized-emergency-abortion-save-mothers/story?id=10799745 (last visited May 22, 2014), with Mercy nun at hospital that allowed abortion ‘no longer excommunicated’, CNS, Dec. 9, 2011, http://www.catholicnews.com/data/briefs/cns/20111209.htm#head13 (last visited May 22, 2014).
  9. See Brian Roewe, Australian priest, advocate for women’s ordination excommunicated, National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 24, 2013, http://ncronline.org/news/global/australian-priest-advocate-womens-ordination-excommunicated (last visited January 4, 2014).
  10. Cf. Simon Dodd, Of Humanæ vitæ and the approaching Synod on the Family, n.11, http://simondodd.org/blog/?p=1332, 4 MPA __, __ n.11 (2014)

Look at me still talking while there’s science to do!

Like GlaDOS, it turns out that the ISEE-3 probe is still alive!

Full story.

Notice: Site update

Next week, I plan to upgrade the WordPress engine that powers Motu Proprio; during that time, the blog may become unavailable for a short period of time.

Update: Upgrade complete. I’m going to leave this notice in place for now because upgrades do have a tendency to break things that don’t get noticed at first!

Conservatives, traditionalists, and Traditional Catholics

In the Remnant, Chris Ferrara contemplates the question “What exactly is a traditionlist?” 1 The nub of it is that a man who is, by Ferrara’s label, a “traditionalist,”

is a Catholic who lives the faith as if the ecclesial calamities of the post-Vatican II epoch had never happened—indeed, as if Vatican II itself had never happened. And the astonishing truth about the traditionalist is that no doctrine or disciplinary rule of the Church whatsoever forbids him to believe and to worship God in just that way, even though the great preponderance of Catholics no longer does. ¶ That Catholics who have simply gone on believing and worshiping as Catholics always did before the Council have come to be called traditionalists—quite suddenly in historical terms—that the very word tradition now distinguishes these relative few Catholics from the vast majority of the Church’s members, is the undeniable sign of a crisis like no other the Church has ever witnessed. Those who deny this would have to explain why it is only within that transformed vast majority, … described [by some] as neo-Catholic, that the faith has been steadily losing its grip on the people, with many falling away completely into the “silent apostasy” John Paul II lately lamented after hailing for so many years a “conciliar renewal” that was actually a massive collapse of faith and discipline.

I would think that Ferrara is describing what is often called a “Traditional Catholic” or “Trad.” To my way of thinking, a (small-t) traditionalist is more closely-related to a conservative—those whom some Trads dismiss, prissily, tendentiously, and unhelpfully, as “neoconservatives” or “neocons.” 2

Let me offer a partially-baked taxonomy. In a Catholic context, it seems to me that the difference between Trads and conservatives/traditionalists is that the former, as Ferrara perceptively suggests, seeks to “live[] the faith … as if Vatican II itself had never happened,” while the latter accepts what she regards as legitimate postconciliar developments. The differences between conservatives and (small-t) traditionalists are more subtle. I might suggest that it breaks down something like this:

  • The former is more normative and positivistic: Postconciliar developments are legitimate because and insofar as they are correct, reasonable, and promulgated by legitimate ecclesiastical authority. (To put it more critically, they are taken for granted because nothing else exists in living memory.) The EF is okay, but they see no real problem with the OF beyond a vague and often unguided preference that it be “done reverently.” Their (recent) hero is apt to be John Paul II.
  • The latter thinks in terms of the hermeneutic of continuity: Postconciliar developments are legitimate because and to the extent that they harmonize with preconciliar tradition. She acknowledges legitimate development in the postconciliar world but insists that it has been encrusted and obscured by abuse and illegitimate accretions, and hopes to fix those problems. Thus, for instance, the EF? Good. The OF? Problematic, but capable of being good.  Our (recent) hero is apt to be Benedict XVI.

If the conservative has one over on the traditionalist, it’s that he is more flexible and capable of growth whiles he can be too rigid and hidebound; if the traditionalist has one over on the conservative, it’s that she has a criterion external to herself while he is too wedded to his own judgment.

Both positions, by themselves, have limits and difficulties.But just as in the political arena, most (American) conservatives cut our conservatism with a measure of libertarianism, and vice versa, and both are healthier for it, 3 I think it fair to aggregate conservatives and traditionalists because most of the conservatives and traditionalists that I encounter in person are somewhere in between. Cardinal Dolan and the EWTN people might serve as high-profile exemplars of unmixed conservatives, but certainly I would say that there is a constructive middle ground.

Notes:

  1. Ferrara, What exactly is a traditionalist?, The Remnant, May 3, 2014, http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/601-what-exactly-is-a-traditionalist (last visited May 19, 2014).
  2. Or rather, have done since that became a fashionable term of abuse in political discourse, regardless of its aptness.
  3. See The conservative premise, 2 MPA 50, 51 (2012).

The role of the ordinariates

Elsewhere, the Anglican Ordinariates are criticized: “If you want to belong to the Catholic Church then be a Catholic; if you want to be an Anglcan, be an Anglican. If you want a bit of both then you need to find a church with a bit of both. A foot in 2 camps doesn’t work.” This criticism, while common, misses the mark.

I once saw a neat formulation from someone who had gone the opposite way from me; let’s call her “Lisa.” Lisa was “Episcopalian by confession, Catholic by disposition.” Disposition maybe too narrow a word (“sensibility,” “culture,” “attitude,” “praxis,” “taste,” and so on all go into it), but I understood what she was driving at: Lisa believed (i.e. confessed) what the Episcopal Church teaches, but she is disposed to (i.e. prefers, needs, is nourished and sustained in faith by) the external forms and incidents of Catholicism. What’s the problem? There’s no inherent contradiction in that. Certainly there can be; if Eucharistic adoration was Lisa’s bag, that isn’t going to work. That’s a Catholic sensibility at war with an Anglican confession insofar as it’s a pious action that conflicts with substantive Anglican doctrine—articles of religion 25, 28 and 31. But while Anglicans don’t generally pray the Angelus and the Rosary, they could. Anglicans don’t generally pray the hours (and if they do, they use the BCP not the Breviary) but they could. One would not be a bad Anglican if one did so. If Lisa finds her faith nourished by those things, what’s the problem?

So, likewise, the other way (and setting aside the ordinariates for a moment). I would invert Lisa’s phrase and adopt it as my own: In many ways, I am “Catholic by confession and Anglican by disposition.” I confess the distinctive truth-claims of the Catholic church, ergo I must be in communion with that church. But if I choose to pray before Mass “Almighty God unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no Secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name through Christ our Lord,” 1 why is that any more objectionable or problematic than the traditionally-inclined Catholic who chooses to pray before Mass (mutatis mutandis) the prayers at the foot of the altar from the usus antiquior, as some do? If I am as happy to use the BCP minor hours as those supplied in the breviary, what’s wrong with that? If I choose to use (mutatis mutandis) the BCP act of contrition rather than the (to my Anglican-formed sensibility) maudlin and difficult one often posted in confessionals, what of it? What’s the problem?

And so also likewise, it seems to me, the Ordinariates. If Rome sees no difficulty in dressing the Roman Mass in an Anglican garb by adding to the words and music of the Anglican patrimony a valid priest and such words as are needed, what’s the problem?

Much of the current puzzlement is simply because it is as yet unclear how the Ordinariates are going to work. In time, that fog will clear. It would help—because I understand the Ordinariates not simply as a lifeboat to bring Anglicans across the Tiber but rather a permanent part of the Church—if Catholics could join the Ordinariates. It would also help if there were greater clarity about exactly what the Ordinariates are, where they are, how they operate, what their liturgy is, etc., and about the correct vocabulary. Much could be solved if Rome said straightforwardly what is in fact true: that there is now an Anglican Rite celebrated by what amounts to personal parishes within the Latin Church.

Notes:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collect_for_Purity; http://friendsoftheordinariate.org.uk/official-introduction-of-the-ordinariate-use/; http://www.crisismagazine.com/1992/coming-home-the-anglican-return-to-rome,; cf. The Anglican Use, 3 MPA __ (2013).

Of Humanæ vitæ and the approaching Synod on the Family

Ross Douthat and Msgr. Charles Pope have written blog entries pertaining to the approaching Synod and the anxiety it is provoking; Douthat’s piece follows up on his own New York Times column; Pope’s, in turn, on Douthat’s. 1 Some background will help before we get to them.

I. Phonegate

This fall, there will be a Synod of Bishops on “the family.” There has been growing delight on the left, and concern among everyone else (excepting those neo-ultramontanes who have blinded and deafened themselves to every concern about Francis) that the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is in the crosshairs. 2) “When Francis summoned cardinals to a recent session to prepare for [the Synod] …, he entrusted the opening presentation to [Walter Card. Kasper] … undoubtedly anticipating that Kasper would say something about readmitting divorced and remarried Catholics to communion.” 3 Kasper predictably obliged, and with one exception, reaction was brutally negative—“[Camillo] Card. Ruini noted that some 85% percent of cardinals who spoke up after Kasper were against Kasper’s proposals.  [Ruini] opined of those who said nothing that perhaps they were simply ‘embarrassed.’” 4 Alas, the one high-profile exception was you-know-who, who promptly lauded it as a “beautiful and profound presentation.” 5

Against this backdrop, it was reported in late April that Francis had called an Argentinian woman whose irregular marital situation prevented her from receiving communion. He supposedly told her to go ahead. 6 The Vatican was invited to deny the story; two different spokesmen confirmed to two different outlets that the call had happened while refusing to comment on the content. 7 They instead complained that reporting was “confusing”—a preposterous posture insofar as they were not only in a position to eliminate any confusion, but were, indeed, being asked to do so. 8

One reaction might be to dismiss the allegations as absurd. A year ago, I would have; I would have urged caution, urged that a pope deserves the benefit of the doubt. 9 But it is not now a year ago—it is now, and our response to this has to take into account what we have seen over the last year:

The pope doesn’t just call people! Well, except… this one has repeatedly “just called people” over the last year. 10

The pope probably didn’t make this call! Well, except… the Vatican seems to have confirmed that he did.

The pope wouldn’t make so stupid and scandalous a comment! Well, except… this one has made a habit of making stupid and scandalous comments. 11

The pope wouldn’t do this particular thing! Well, except… this one effusively praised Kasper’s proposal that the Church do on large scale precisely what this call seems to have just done on an individual scale.

The pope wouldn’t do something so weird and passive-aggressive! Well, exceptthis one does. 12

Tellingly, the Vatican did not say “the allegations are frankly absurd, and the holy father said no such thing,” which is what one might expect if you-know-who said no such thing. I should imagine the Holy See should deny such a story as swiftly as the Clinton White House might have denied a story that Clinton had called a woman and had phone sex with her. 13 (Imagine that the Clinton WHPO, when asked, confirmed that the call took place, but, instead of denying the allegation as to content, said that it was private!)

No one supposes that this phone call changes church teaching, but, I argued (and maintain), is the scandal of it not troubling enough? Once the story became public, failure to drop the hammer on it swiftly and firmly allowed it to create scandal because there are many people who will cleave to Francis’ example over the Church’s teaching. They will deem such a dichotomy possible and legitimate, and they will conclude that the pope has “finally changed” the church’s “policy” on “divorce.” Father Dwight Longenecker—in a piece otherwise defending Francis, and so perhaps unwittingly—hit the nail on the head:

The bottom line for ordinary parish priests who are struggling with church discipline and the realities of marriage in modern life is that the secular press’ interpretations of the Pope’s actions become the new standard. 14

Quite. No matter how unwilling many people are to believe that Francis did this, their number and the intensity of their desire pales next to those who are very willing to believe it because they desperately want the church to accept their situation as regular. Francis didn’t change the teaching on marriage—but he didn’t change the rubric for the Mandatum, either, and yet, behold, his actions on Maundy Thursday are used to justify rubrical disobedience. In the same way, those who think the Church’s teaching is wrong, those who are desperate because of their own irregular marital situations, will gladly understand this as cover. 15 They will not seek to remedy their situation, they will not confess it, and they will compound the situation by receiving communion in a state of mortal sin. 16

II. Douthat and Pope

Francis’ praise for Kasper’s borderline-heretical and radioactive proposal, and indeed his very indulgence of the debate, were worrying enough, but the revelation of “the phone call” was the alarm call that should have woken everyone. It woke Douthat, who, in his original piece, destroyed the Vatican’s frivolous attempt to classify the call as a private action of no relevance to doctrine, and astutely proposed that we are risking “what you might call the late-Soviet scenario, in which Catholic doctrine is officially unaltered, but the impression grows that even the pope doesn’t really believe these things, and that when the church’s leaders affirm a controversial position they’re going through the ideological motions … and not actually trying to teach a living faith.” If that impression takes root (regardless of you-know-who’s actual, private intentions), souls will be lost.

In his follow-up, Douthat clarifies his concerns for a non-Catholic audience. 17 He points out that “what’s being proposed and discussed and debated … [is an] official mechanism whereby a divorced and remarried Catholic could, without having their previous marriage declared invalid, do penance for any sins involved in their divorce and then receive communion without their new marriage being a moral impediment to [communion].” For Douthat, “it is very hard … to understand how this kind of change wouldn’t create some pretty significant internal problems for Catholic doctrine as currently and traditionally understood,” and he recognizes that if Francis approved such a change, he “would be either dissolving important church teachings into what looks to me like incoherence, or else changing those same teachings in a way that many conservative Catholics believe that the pope simply cannot do….” And vitally, he further recognizes—he may even be the first to have said so publicly—that even if it is unlikely that Francis will do so, “it is being debated with his apparent encouragement, so the possibility has to be addressed….”

Msgr. Pope is unwilling to address the possibility. His post insists that the teaching is clear, and that it is not going to be changed. In comments, he says that we must not address the possibility, that we must trust the Holy Spirit. “For a little evidence,” he says, “go back to 1968 and everyone expects the Pope to cave on contraception. The ‘majority report’ of theologians urge him, priests and bishops are urging him. Everyone presume[s] the change is imminent. To almost everyone’s surprise Paul VI … had to say ‘No.’ Whatever Pope Francis’ personal practices of the past, when it comes time for him officially rule on the matter and write the synod exhortation, he will not, he cannot teach error in this regard.”

Six or twelve months ago, I would have said something similar. I am less and less optimistic about that, but let us set that aside and stipulate that Msgr. Pope is right. I agree that the parallel is apt, but I’m not sure that the Church’s scandalous dithering over contraception in the 1960s is entirely reassuring. Francis is heading for a “Humanæ vitæ moment,” I want to agree, and have said so, 18 but that’s not reassuring. Humanæ vitæ was catastrophic. Not because it was wrong, mind you, but because its effects were magnified by the Church’s failure to squelch the idea that it would say something else. It was “met with ‘bitter contestation’ from entire groups of bishops and was disobeyed by ‘countless faithful’” because it came only after the Church’s failure to clearly say “no” in a time in which anticipations created a “‘driving crescendo of anticipations of change.’” 19 When it came down, then, those who most wanted the change were not only wounded, they were able to convince themselves that disobedience was warranted because the decision was not only painful, it was illegitimate and wrong: everyone knew that the Church was about to change, and that everyone wanted the change, so what in God’s name was Paul doing?

On standard ecclesiastical assumptions, the Bishop of Rome will not teach error, period, 20 and on those assumptions, it follows that after the Synod, you-know-who must issue a postsynodal exhortation that is analogous to Humanæ vitæ insofar as it will reaffirm the Church’s teaching in the face of massive expectation of a different outcome. So: What happens when a freight train traveling at speed hits an immovable object? In the 1960s, the Church allowed lay opinion to get up to a dangerous speed down a track that led to an unacceptable result. In the end, as Msgr. Pope says, Paul did not actually teach error—but he was silent for too long, in an era in which the truth was openly challenged, and when he finally bestirred himself to teach the truth,  it was too late. The fallible part of the Church had already done the damage. The train was already in motion, and when Paul installed crash buffers with Humanæ vitæ, the result was a violent derailment that scars the Church to this day.

Now you-know-who is repeating the same mistake. There is nothing pastoral about letting people believe that an intimate and painful teaching is about to change when it isn’t. There is nothing merciful about all-but inviting people who are already hurting to go into schism. If our ecclesiastical assumptions are right, the expectations that Francis has raised, the hopes that he has raised or allowed to be raised, are going to crash into the buffers and violently derail at high speed, just like the hopes that were raised before Humanæ vitæ. 21 For many people, it will be unbearably-painful. Francis will (as Msgr. Pope says) suffer for it, just as Paul suffered for Humanæ vitæ, but in the end, it’s the Church that will be worse for it, just as she was after Humanæ vitæ. 22

What Paul should have done was apply the brakes years sooner. He should never have let the train get moving, and if it was moving before his election, he should have stopped it at the very first opportunity while there was still time to do so gently. It’s sterile to talk about what Francis should have done differently, but what he should do now, and the sooner the better, is to stop this train. Right now. Gently if possible, forcefully if not. Expressly and personally reaffirm the teaching, cancel the Synod, excommunicate Cardinal Kasper—a better-looking idea with each new day—and depose the renegade German prelates. Because with every passing day, it picks up more speed and the crash will be worse. The salient lesson of Humanæ vitæ, it seems to me, is not that the magisterium was preserved from teaching error, but that the Holy Spirit was pleased to rescue the Church from error only after every human element failed.

* * *

Tempers snapped so violently when Paul reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on contraception because hopes had been stretched so very taught in anticipation of change; as we reflect today on the run-up to the synod, as we consider that hopes are being stretched ever-taughter in anticipation of a change that cannot, will not come, we must surely foresee a violent reaction. And the more that you-know-who ups the anticipation that he’s about to apostatize on divorce, the more pain and disenchantment and blowback he will create when (or if) he affirms the traditional teaching.

When or if? I must admit that the last year has beaten Msgr. Pope’s optimism out of me. I applaud Douthat for being frank and honest enough to raise the possibility of catastrophic consequences; he sees clearly that “the church’s claim to a constant, non-contradicting authority lies close to the heart of why many conservative Catholics are conservative Catholics.” He’s right. If the Church of Rome apostasizes, there will be a very serious argument that the premise for my being Catholic will stand falsified. 23 The fact that she is even flirting with apostasy is scandalous and distressing enough! But if she actually does it, I may have to face the possibility that the Catholic Church is not what I thought she was. So will you.

That said, the Synod is unlikely to do anything cleanly and clearly, and this pope is incapable of it, so I think it unlikely that I will wake up one morning to discover in the newspaper that I have been wrong all along; whatever comes out of the Synod will probably have to be weighed and disentangled. There are certainly proposals that could come out of it that would be stupid, dangerous, pastorally unacceptable, and yet not actually heresy. 24 But I think we need to start thinking about the possibility. Everyone sees where this is going, the direction we are being dragged, and there seems little that we can do to stop it. So we have to start considering, as Douthat wisely does, what the world looks like the day after a postsynodal exhortation endorsing the Kasper proposal is handed down, lest we be blindsided. We have to start thinking about what can be said to calm the storm thus unleashed to allow the weighing and disentangling just mentioned, because if anything seems certain, it is that what comes out of the Synod will be less straightforward than it appears at first blush.

As Msgr. Pope recognizes, the Church cannot change this teaching. So what, then, will we do if the Synod makes a mushy, vague recommendation of “mercy” (=change) and Francis writes a mushy, vague endorsement of “mercy” (=change)? That seems the most likely outcome and we know what will be done with such statements “on the ground,” as Fr. Longenecker recognizes. If the Church is what she claims to be, she cannot do this. If she does do this, what will we then think?

Notes:

  1. Douthat, More Catholic than the Pope, NY Times Blogs, April 29, 2014, http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/29/more-catholic-than-the-pope/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0; Douthat, The Pope’s Phone Call, The New York Times, April 26, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-popes-phone-call.html; Pope, The Church Cannot Change Her Doctrine on Marriage and Divorce: Concerns for the Upcoming Synod, Archdiocese of Washington Blog, May 4, 2014, http://blog.adw.org/2014/05/the-church-cannot-change-her-doctrine-on-marriage-and-divorce-concerns-for-the-upcoming-synod.
  2. Cf. Ed Peters, Let’s understand what’s at stake, In the Light of the Law, Dec. 12, 2013, http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/lets-understand-whats-at-stake. As this post goes to press, Edward Pentin reports that Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri, the secretary-general of the Synod, and thus, as Father Zuhlsdorf astutely observes, a man positioned to skew the proceedings of Synod, “says he wants a change in Church teaching on marriage,” that “it is time to update Church marriage doctrine, for example in connection with divorce, the situation of divorcees and people who are in civil partnerships.” Edward Pentin, Synod Secretary General Wants Change in Church’s Teaching on Marriage, The National Catholic Register, May 7, 2014, http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/sec.-general-of-synod-wants-change-in-churchs-teaching-on-marriage; Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, What is Card. Baldissieri up to?, May 8, 2014, http://wdtprs.com/blog/2014/05/what-is-card-baldissieri-up-to/ . Nevertheless, the characterizations are Pentin’s, and it is not yet clear what Baldisseri said.
  3. See John Allen, Fracas over divorce stirred by call from the pope, The Boston Globe, April 25, 2014, http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2014/04/25/fracas-over-divorce-stirred-call-from-pope-francis/jooLklqtjP90teJpEk7drM/story.html?rss_id=Top-GNP .
  4. Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, Secret Consistory: How did other Cardinals react to Card. Kasper’s proposals?, WDTPRS, March 26, 2014, http://wdtprs.com/blog/2014/03/secret-consistory-how-did-other-cardinals-react-to-card-kaspers-proposals); see, e.g., Edward Pentin, Criticism Mounts Over Cardinal Kasper’s Speech on Divorce and Remarriage, National Catholic Register, March 25, 2014, http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/criticism-mounts-over-cardinal-kaspers-speech-on-divorce-and-remarriage; Robert Fastiggi, A Reflection on Cardinal Kasper’s Speech on the Family, Zenit, March 12, 2014, http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/a-reflection-on-cardinal-kasper-s-speech-on-the-family .
  5. Transcript: Pope Francis’ March 5 interview with Corriere della Sera, CNA, March 5, 2014, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/transcript-pope-francis-march-5-interview-with-corriere-della-sera
    .
  6. See generally Allen, supra note 4.
  7. See Daniel Burke, Pope stirs Communion debate with call to woman, CNN Belief Blog, April 23, 2014, http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/23/popes-stirs-communion-debate-with-call-to-woman; Vatican: Francis phone call doesn’t mark a change in Church teaching, April 24, 2014, http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/04/24/vatican-francis-phone-call-doesnt-mark-a-change-in-church-teaching. It was interesting watching the evolution of the neo-ultramontane spin on the story. First, they insisted that the call never happened. Then the Vatican confirmed it and the neo-ultramontanes said that we still can’t be sure, that the confirmation was ambiguous. Then the Vatican gave a second confirmation, and it became futile to deny the obvious. Thus defeated in spin 1, they next insisted that the call didn’t involve the alleged content. But in light of the Vatican’s refusal to deny the content of the call, which amounted to confirmation, it seems futile to deny the obvious.
  8. Doubts increase over Pope’s alleged phone call on divorce, CNA, Apr 24, 2014, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/doubts-increase-over-popes-alleged-phone-call-on-divorce/ .
  9. When you-know-who was elected, Rorate coeli and many in its orbit went berzerk. They insisted that Jorge Card. Bergoglio had been an avowed foe of the usus antiquior. I defended him; the evidence tendered was scanty at best and a pope deserves a fair shot. So I did not start as a critic.
  10. See Allen, supra note 4 (“As he’s in the habit of doing, especially with people from his native country or his adopted home in Italy, Francis picked up the phone on Monday after reading the letter and called her” (emphasis added)); Andrea Gagliarducci, Pope Francis calls a traditionalist writer who criticized him, CNA, Nov. 23, 2013, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-calls-a-traditionalist-writer-who-criticized-him/ .
  11. “Who am I to judge”; “small-minded rules”; “stubbornly try[ing] to recover a past that no longer exists”; “we don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back”; “we can’t be obsessed with abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives”; “I am a son of the church”; “[g]iven that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I give this blessing from my heart, in silence”; “even the atheists, everyone!”; “sacristy christians”; “yes? does this sound good?”; “the dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent”; “I want people to make a mess.” These are just examples that spring readily to mind.
  12. Compare Allen, supra note 4 (noting that regardless of Francis’ apparent sympathy for a doctrinal change, “[i]f a substantial bloc of bishops argues against change in October’s meeting, it might induce Francis to stay his hand”), with Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, Pope says married men could be ordained if world’s bishops agree, The Tablet, April 10, 2014, http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/659/0/pope-says-married-men-could-be-ordained-priests-if-world-s-bishops-agree-on-it .
  13. See generally Sandino, Parsing the Modern non-denial denial, Daily Kos, Jan. 25, 2014, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/25/1271623/-Parsing-the-Modern-Non-Denial-Denial-A-Field-Guide-to-Statements-of-the-Unindicted. Stories quickly gain legs when they reflect the existing narrative about a person. See Simon Dodd, Developing an idea, Stubborn Facts, April 21, 2007, http://stubbornfacts.us/politics/partisanship/developing_an_idea .
  14. Rev. Dwight Longenecker, Did Pope Francis Just Endorse Communion for the Divorced and Remarried?, Aleteia, April 24, 2013, http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/did-pope-francis-just-endorse-communion-for-the-divorced-and-remarried-5781297871978496; accord, e.g., Sandro Magister, Francis, the Pope of “Humanae Vitae”, Chiesa, May 1, 2014, http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350783?eng=y (the Vatican’s rationalizations of Francis’ actions and words “do[] not attenuate their impact on public opinion”).
  15. Cf., e.g., Chris Mooney, What is Motivated Reasoning? How Does It Work?, The Intersection, May 5, 2011, http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/05/05/what-is-motivated-reasoning-how-does-it-work-dan-kahan-answers/ .
  16. I want to suggest that there is another problem here. Not only does this pope scandalize and jeopardize the souls of those who will be mislead into thinking their marital situation is okay, it also occurs to me that there is a problem at the other end. I know at least one person who is so scandalized by this wretched pontificate that he is flirting with sedevacantism. I think that there are some people out there who cannot reconcile the stupid things that Francis says with their beliefs (often unexamined, neo-ultramontane, and erroneous) about the papacy, and they will reconcile that cognitive dissonance in the most straightforward, painless way, which will never be (of course) to examine and correct their mistaken beliefs about the papacy, it will be to simply declare that Francis is not or cannot be pope, thus lapsing into schism, which is very likely a mortal sin per se.
  17. The insult “more Catholic than the pope,” which Douthat invokes (presumably tongue-in-cheek) in his title, is incompatible with a familiarity with papal history. There have been many pontificates in which one could say with little fear of contradiction that most laymen were “more Catholic than the pope”; there is an era of papal history so depraved that it goes by the name of “the pornocracy”—google it—and you can infer what kind of men sat on the throne of Peter in that era. John XII seems to have been a murderer, fornicator, and gambler: A “coarse, immoral man,” says the Catholic Encyclopædia, “whose life was such that the Lateran was spoken of as a brothel, and the moral corruption in Rome became the subject of general odium.”  See generally John Julius Lord Norwich, Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy (2012). To paraphrase John Henry Card. Newman, be be in any way familiar with papal history is to cease being an unqualified ultramontane.
  18. E.g. http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/10/i-find-your-lack-of-faith-invalidating/#comment-435128.
  19. Francis will not be prisoner to public opinion, CNA, May 4, 2014, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/francis-can-stand-against-the-majority-vaticanista-says (quoting Magister, supra note 14).
  20. N.b., this is an assumption, and one with a significantly broader sweep than the Church’s formal teaching about the papal magisterium.
  21. Accord Magister, supra note 14 (“the decision will come at the end of 2015 or at the beginning of the following year, not before, under the formidable pressure of a public opinion that at that point is likely to be almost exclusively expecting a yes”).
  22. The pain caused by thwarted expectations left people too hurt to listen to what Paul eventually had to say. I would venture that few of the ex-Catholics who left over Humanæ vitæ has ever read it.
  23. See Simon Dodd, The Catholic Proposition, 2 MPA 80 (2012); accord Dodd, Authoritative teaching, liturgy, and authority, 3 MPA __ (2013).
  24. For example, as we go to print, Card. Kasper has just told Commonweal that you-know-who believes that half of all marriages are not valid. Patrick Archbold, Kasper: Pope Thinks 50% of Marriages Not Valid, Creative Minority Report, May 7, 2014, http://www.creativeminorityreport.com/2014/05/kasper-pope-thinks-50-of-marriages-not.html. So that suggests one possibility that would, presumably, satisfy Msgr. Pope’s insistence that the Church teaches that marriage is indissoluble, and she cannot and absolutely will not going to change that teaching, for she will do no such thing: She will simply declare that most purported marriages weren’t actually
    marriages at all, and while they would be binding were they actually marriages,
    they aren’t. So that’s okay, right? Nothing to see here. Cf. Benedict XVI, Audience with the Clergy of Rome, Feb. 14, 2013, available at
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2013/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20130214_clero-roma_en.html (noting that the media’s portrait of the a council may be mistaken for the council itself).