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.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Former papal theologian praises Obama's 'realism,'

John L. Allen, Jr., writing in National Catholic Reporter, reports that "an influential cardinal and Vatican adviser has praised Obama’s 'humble realism' and compared the president’s approach to abortion to the thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas and early Christian tradition about framing laws in a pluralistic society."

We might ask, "Who saw that coming?"

The full article is here. Here is an excerpt:

Swiss Cardinal George Cottier, 87, former theologian of the papal household under Pope John Paul II, laid out those views in a cover essay in the current issue of 30 Giorni, perhaps the most widely read journal of Catholic affairs in Italy.

Styled as an analysis of two Obama speeches – his May 17 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame and his June 4 speech to the Islamic world in Cairo – Cottier’s essay was overwhelmingly positive, repeatedly arguing that Obama’s “realism”, as well as his commitment to finding “common ground”, resonate with Christian tradition and the social teaching of the Catholic church.

Seen through American eyes, perhaps the most striking element was Cottier’s analysis of what Obama had to say at Notre Dame. The university’s decision to invite Obama, and to award him an honorary degree, were widely criticized in Catholic circles in the States, given Obama’s positions on abortion, embryonic stem cell research and other life issues. More than 80 bishops publicly objected to the event.

Cottier, however, compared Obama’s Notre Dame address to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, in its accent on dialogue and common ground, and to the document Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) on conducting the search for truth in a pluralistic society. Christians, Cottier wrote, “can be in agreement” with Obama’s “way of framing the search for solutions.”