Saturday, December 05, 2020

"Pastoral" Comes After Agreement In The Truth, Not Before

 You know, I don't have any time for a Catholic priest that won't tell the truth. If we have a paragraph in our catechism(s) about a serious issue that affects the way people live, and how they think of themselves, and how to use their bodies in this life, we should pay close attention to it. It means that something of grave Christian concern has come up that requires direct pastoral attention. We would always joke when I studied canon law, "It's in here, because it happened."

I will never tell someone that any feeling in itself is invalid. Even how we choose to identify ourselves sexually can have roots in something confusing or terrible that has occurred. Sooner or later, however, I must consider my primary identity. If I identify myself with something the Church describes as "intrinsically disordered," it means I have set myself in opposition to what is intrinsically ordered, and in this case, it means that I have chosen to express myself as a sexual being in opposition to God's own design.

Any cleric should want every person that he meets to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. How can anyone who is tasked to defend the proposition that the Church teaches salvation for all people in and through Jesus Christ, and at the same time, believe that something the Church has proclaimed as a fundamental truth of natural law, needs to change? That is, the truth about human sexuality is not even a point of Christian doctrine per se; it is accessible to all people of goodwill by reason alone. The Church couldn't change it, even if she dared in presumption to think that she could.

To be blunt about it, our task as theologians and pastoral leaders is to explain what the catechisms teach about the issues of concern to the people. I could sit around with my friends and go through every single paragraph, telling them which parts I didn't think were phrased terribly well, and we would fall asleep before we reached the end. Yet nobody cares what I think is phrased poorly. And if something is phrased in such a way that it causes pain, I will deal with that in the task of sharing the gospel as a pastoral theologian. But no one can see the truth or accept it, unless in some measure they understand the truth that is presented to them. You can't love what you don't know.

As one who in some form or fashion proclaims Jesus all the time, I too want to build bridges. But the thing is, if you build the bridge without carrying the truth with you, you've built a bridge to nowhere. I myself don't need to hear that everything is fine with me, because I know better. Why do we exalt these supposed teachers, whose basic message is, "I'm OK, you're OK, we're all OK"?

And I want you to understand who it is that is talking to you. I use words like "free grace" and "radical grace" and "total acceptance". It is not news that we mess up; it is good news that it ain't over till it's over. How do we do better, if we do not distinguish good from evil? It is an established fact that God loves me, and everyone else who has ever lived, or who lives now. It is also true that to live in the experience of that love, we must throw aside everything that hinders us. How then could we make a point of identity out of something that hinders us? That takes us further from what we want and need, which is communion with God.

Choose this day whom you will serve. And if you carry the privilege to be signified as Christ Himself in the world, you have an even greater responsibility. He is Love, tenderness, and all those things. But he is Truth embodied. Speak accordingly, or don't speak at all.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020