Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Cardinal Archbishop Francis George on "The Religion of the Day"

This address, from 1999, parallels many of the concerns expressed in the column about Cardinal Newman mentioned below.

An excerpt:

"Instead of understanding Vatican II as a limited accommodation to modernity for the sake of evangelizing the modern world, the liberal project seems often to interpret the council as a mandate to change whatever in the church clashes with modern society. To caricature somewhat, the project both for ecclesial renewal and for mission in the world takes its cues from the editorial page of the New York Times or, even worse, USA Today. The church provides motivation and troops to meet the world's agenda as defined by the world. This is a dead end, because the church's mission would then have nothing original to contribute to the world's self-understanding. This is not to say that many so-called "gospel values" or semina verbi are not to be found on the editorial pages of the New York Times, or even USA Today; it is to say that God's ways are not our ways and that the greatest contribution the church makes to the world is to preach gospel truths in ways that, inevitably, will both comfort and confront any society in which she takes up Christ's mission.

"Behind the crisis of visible authority or governance in a liberal church lies a crisis of truth. In a popular liberal society, freedom is the primary value and the government is not supposed to tell its citizens how to think. The cultural fault line lies in a willingness to sacrifice even the gospel truth in order to safeguard personal freedom construed as choice. Using sociology of knowledge and the hermeneutics of suspicion, modern liberals interpret dogmas which affront current cultural sensibilities as the creation of celibate males eager to keep a grasp on power rather than as the work of the Holy Spirit guiding the successors of the Apostles. The bishops become the successors of the Sanhedrin and the church, at best, is the body of John the Baptist, pointing to a Jesus not yet risen from the dead and, therefore, a role model or prophet but not a savior. Even Jesus' being both male and celibate is to be forgotten or denied once the risen Christ can be reworked into whomever or whatever the times demand. Personal experience becomes the criterion for deciding whether or not Jesus is my savior, a point where liberal Catholics and conservative Protestants seem to come to agreement, even if they disagree on what salvation really means. Liberal culture discovers victims more easily than it recognizes sinners; and victims don't need a savior so much as they need to claim their rights.

"All this is not only a dead end, it is a betrayal of the Lord, no matter the good intentions of those espousing these convictions. The call to personal conversion, which is at the heart of the gospel, has been smothered by a pillow of accommodation. The project for a liberal Catholic church is as unoriginal as the project for a liberal reinterpretation of the mission for the church. A church, all of whose ministries, construed only functionally, are open to any of the baptized; a church unwilling to say that all homosexual genital relations are morally wrong; a church which at least makes some allowance for abortion when necessary to assure a mother's freedom; a church accepting contraception as moral within marriage and prudent outside of marriage; a church willing to admit the sacramentally married to a second marriage in complete sacramental communion; a church whose teaching has to stand the acid test of modern criticism and personal acceptance in order to have not just credibility but legitimacy-there is nothing new in all this. It already exists, but outside the Catholic church."