I found Edward Feser’s essay on Schadenfreude to be especially helpful after the election of Donald J. Trump as President of These United States of America after the humiliating defeat of Hillary and everything she stands for. Truly helpful.
Feser has a piece right now that you might find helpful: Denial Flows Into The Tiber
He is riffing on the title of an exceptionally useful book about how Northern Europeans hijacked the Second Vatican Council by Ralph Wiltgen. (UK HERE). Clever.
It is about just about the only thing that matters right now, Amoris laetitia.
Fever’s piece is really long. However, I hope you will tackle it. Jumping into the middle, here are my bullet points, which are his subheadings, of what he deals with.
If all that makes the current situation sound serious, that is because it is. Yet there seems to be, in certain sectors of the Church, an air of unreality or make believe surrounding the crisis. With the honorable exception of Rocco Buttiglione, defenders of Amoris have not even attempted to respond to the substance of the four cardinals’ questions. They have instead resorted to abuse, mockery, and threats – all the while claiming to champion mercy and dialogue. They assure us that the four cardinals and others who have raised questions about Amoris are comparable to rigid and legalistic Pharisees and acting contrary to the gentle mercy of Christ. Yet as a matter of historical fact it was the Pharisees who championed a very lax and “merciful” attitude vis-à-vis divorce and remarriage, and Christ who insisted on a doctrine that was so austere and “rigid” that even the apostles wondered if it might be better not to marry.
Others suspect that there is something wrong, but refuse to express their concerns on the assumption that a Catholic must never say anything that might seem to imply criticism of a pope. They simply refrain from thinking or talking about the crisis, or they do so only when they can put a positive if tortuous spin on some problematic statement, or they badmouth as disloyal those who raise even politely expressed worries. “We are at war with Eastasia, and always have been!We are through the looking glass! Denial is just a river in Egypt!”
Several reasons are often put forward for taking these various attitudes toward the crisis. All of them are bad. Let’s consider each one and what is wrong with it:
- “To ask the pope for a Yes or No answer misses the point.” […]
- “Those who support the four cardinals are dissenters from Church teaching.” […]
- “If the pope says it, it can’t be contrary to traditional teaching.” […]
- “But there is a way to readAmoris that really is plausibly consistent with traditional teaching.” […]
- “Criticism of the pope should not be made in a public way.” […]
Quo vadis, Petre?
It is hard to see how a continued failure to respond to the four cardinals and the other critics could be justified. Ensuring doctrinal clarity and unity within the Church are two of the chief reasons why the papacy exists in the first place. And both doctrinal clarity and unity are now in danger. There is no agreement on the meaning of Amoris. Some claim that it is a revolutionary breach with tradition, others that it is perfectly in continuity with tradition. Different bishops in different dioceses are implementing different interpretations of the document, some maintaining previous practice, some departing from it. Some Catholics regard Amoris’s defenders as dissenters from binding teaching, while others regard the critics of Amoris as dissenters. Some worry that Francis is, with Amoris, undermining the authority of the Church and the papacy. Others seem to think that upholding the authority of the papacy requires punishing the critics of Amoris. Tempers are high, and many fear that schism is imminent.
There is only one man who can resolve the crisis, and that is Pope Francis. And resolving these sorts of crises is at the very top of the list defining the job description for any pope. When such a crisis has arisen precisely as a consequence (however unintended) of a pope’s actions, his obligation to resolve it is surely even graver.
There is also the consideration that, just as Arianism was the main challenge to the Faith at the time of Liberius, and Monothelitism was the main challenge to the Faith at the time of Honorius, so too is the sexual revolution arguably the main challenge to the Faith today. The modern, liberal, secular Western world regards the Catholic Church as an obstacle to progress in many respects, but there is nothing for which the Church is hated more than her stubborn insistence on the indissolubility of marriage and the intrinsic immorality of contraception, abortion, fornication, homosexual acts, and the like. Secularists and progressives have for decades dreamed of finding a way finally to break this intransigence and bring the Church to heel on these matters. Their greatest weapon has been the rhetoric of mercy, forgiveness, and non-judgmentalism. That is to say, they have used (a distortion of) one part of Christian teaching as a bludgeon with which they might shatter another part.
To quote a progressive theologian, Harvey Cox: “Not to decide is to decide.” Though, the longer a decision is delayed, perhaps the question of what Pope Francis will do will become less important. As Honorius could tell you, sometimes it is what the next pope does that matters most.
You might also want to check out Edward Feser’s books. He’s real smart.