The Prodigal Son Among the Pigs

We’ve had a few days now to ponder the pope’s powerful interview last week. It is probably true, as one friend said, that most in the world and in the church will read the headlines and move on with a fuzzy idea that Catholics have finally accepted women priests, gay marriage and contraception and abortion…Alas.

But the world will forever misunderstand the Catholic faith in one way or another. One of the best comments I picked up was from an older fellow who said, “I seem to remember the media were in love with John Paul II for the first year of his pontificate. Things will soon settle down.”

We must try to put the media misrepresentations on one side and ask ourselves some more profound questions that come from the interview. Pat Archbold does here. He points out–like the boy who exclaimed about the emperor’s nudity–that “the pastoral approach”– in which we focus on the priority of the person over “mere” rules and dogma–has actually been the Catholic mainstream approach for the last forty years. The American Catholic church has been awash with puppies and kittens catechesis, soft feel good homilies about being nicer, kinder Catholics and a sentimental approach that avoids the mention of sin and is certainly NOT obsessed with abortion, homosexuality and contraception.

I cannot disagree with him. Furthermore, there does seem to be a certain element of what I call liberal insanity. You know the sort of idiocy when one is convinced of a certain ideology, puts that into action, and when you get the wrong result you assume that the problem is that you did not do enough of that seemingly correct (but wrong headed) action. Example: “There is a terrible rise of teen pregnancy, teen abortion and an epidemic of STDs among teens. The young people clearly need better sex education!” So the sex education becomes more explicit and is delivered to younger children. The pregnancy rate, STDs and abortions continue to rise alarmingly so instead of saying, “Hmmm. Could it be that all this sex education is encouraging children to become sexually active at a younger age? They say, “Gosh, it’s still  not working. We clearly need to have more sex education that even more explicit for children at an even younger age…”

Perhaps we are in the same situation with “the pastoral solution”. “See all those people sinning terribly? See them leaving the church? See them rejecting Catholic beliefs? Maybe we were too hard on people with all that sin, hell and damnation stuff. We should be more forgiving and kinder and walk with them. We must reach out and show that God loves them!” So for forty years we tell people that God loves them and forgives them. We say they should really only come to Mass because they love God and want to be there. We downplay rules and dogma in favor of feelings. People then draw the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what they do because God loves them anyway, and they needn’t go to Mass or follow the rules because what really matters is how much they love Jesus in their heart. We see them continuing to leave the church and live in sin and instead of questioning “the pastoral approach” we say, “We clearly were not pastoral enough. We need to reach out to them and walk with them in their pain and hurt.” It’s like putting orange juice in the gas tank of your car and when it doesn’t go you say, “I guess I didn’t put enough orange juice in the tank….”

However. On the other hand….Read More