Friday, September 08, 2017

On Pastoral Theology (Again)

Pastoral theology isn't just for pastors. Pastoral theology is the art and science of leading people to know, understand, and love God. It involves essentially "translating" the truths of the faith into language and experience that people understand. Sometimes, though, it involves sinners being sinners. We all know that correction and admonition can be part of that, but how do you actually speak the truth in love, in concrete situations?

If it is true that God has designed our sexuality in a particular way, such that any number of behaviors are contrary to His purpose by their very nature, I have to speak that truth at some point. Maybe not in 30 seconds. Maybe not upon meeting their loved ones for the first time. Maybe not. But if I never say it, if I don't hold out God's design and purpose as a goal, then I do not love them as God does, and for His sake.

But someone linked a story, obviously to provoke a reaction, of a "gay" couple bringing forward the gifts of bread and wine that would be used for the Eucharistic sacrifice. It will become the body and blood, soul and divinty, of Our Lord. Am I against that?

No. I want all wicked sinners to know and believe that they belong at Mass. You might not actually be worthy to receive Holy Communion. I've been there myself. But bringing the gifts is a great act of service to God and others. It's something praiseworthy that anyone should do, if they can.

I suppose another problem is that in most places, families bring the gifts. Well, true enough that we don't want to communicate that various arrangements are families when they aren't. But perhaps we should discourage the bringing of the gifts as principally a family activity. Just thinking out loud. I definitely want people to know that they are welcome, even if they are sinners. We all are, at one time or other.

But about Fr. James Martin, SJ: I find most things he says unclear, at best. At worst, from what I've seen, he distorts the teaching of the Church on human sexuality. I would never speak of "our LGBT brothers and sisters" and similar things, because I leave ordinary people with the impression that homosexuality is an acceptable part of a normal Christian life. Or that the Church will teach otherwise. She won't, because she can't. Father, you should know better, and I suspect you do.

If I encountered someone who was really emotionally harmed by Westboro Baptist Church or someone, I might be extra-gentle in presenting the topic. But it's not a time to be seeker-sensitive. Overall, I have not been in a place where Christian leaders were insensitive to good people who were struggling with sin. In fact, I see a much greater danger of Christians failing to speak the truth, or hold on to truths they know, because they are unpopular. Divorce, fornication, adultery, you name it. Someone somewhere is ready to excuse it, because it will cost them something to tell the truth.

It's absolutely true that God is Love. But actually, especially with God, it's OK to say, "Define your terms." It's the best thing I learned in school. You think at first you're being pedantic, but then you realize, "If we don't say what we mean, we won't know what we're doing."

If your child does drugs, it might feel good to say or do lots of things, but love wants, and wills, and goes toward what's best for another person. If you don't do that, it isn't love.

I don't find the Catechism hurtful or insensitive at all. Convicting, at times, perhaps. But I always return to the truth that God loves me, and He won't ever deceive me. "The Church teaches..." and "Jesus says..." are functionally equivalent. The Church's essential character is holiness, the perfect otherness that defines God's purity and perfection, not by nature, but by a divine gift.

So, you won't hear me whine about "the institutional Church," either. I digress.