Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cafeteria Catholics

Over at The American Conservative magazine, John Schwenkler writes about Cafeteria Catholics:
Joe Carter asks how Catholics determine whether and to what extent they’re obligated to concur with papal encyclicals. If I may be permitted a moment of deepest cynicism, the obvious answer is that it depends on how nicely the relevant teachings comport with their partisan political affiliations and other preexisting biases, which is how we end up with the oh-so-unsurprising spectacles of predominantly Republican frequent churchgoers being among the most prominent supporters of torture, left-liberal Catholics preaching about the “seamless garment” as a way to justify prioritizing health insurance mandates over laws protecting the unborn, and alleged conservatives who were openly dismissive of Vatican condemnations of the Iraq war going on about Ex Corde and Evangelium Vitae while approaching papal articulations of Catholic social teaching – which seems as good a candidate as any for the second conjunct of the “faith and morals” criterion – with a hermeneutic of suspicion and a deconstructionist’s bicolored pen. (“[S]pinning so fast … I would be surprised if they haven’t fallen over a few times already” was Caleb Stegall’s apt description of the recent antics from the FT crowd; I would just add that simply watching the twirling is going to leave me motion-sick.) It’s a sad, sorry excuse for humility and prophetic witness, and while I’d love to see the Vatican attempt to combat it by issuing some strongly-worded official statements on the spiritual dangers of excessive partisan identification, the problem of course is that no one would bother to listen.

The rest of the entry, and the comments, can be read here.