The National Schismatic Reporter (aka Fishwrap) ballyhoos heterodoxy and immoral actions.
They have a story about a commencement address delivered by the Bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, to graduates at Jesuit-run Santa Clara University, a member of the Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley, who made strange claims about the teaching of Pope Francis. Although, given the locale of the talk, I’m pretty sure that very few people found anything odd about them. McElroy said of Pope Francis’ pastoral theology…
“It demands that moral theology proceed from the actual pastoral action of Jesus Christ, which does not first demand a change of life, [ummm…] but begins with an embrace of divine love, proceeds to the action of healing and only then requires a conversion of action in responsible conscience.” [According to the variant reading of John 8:11, the Lord said to the woman taken in adultery: “Fuggedaboutit! Go and amend no more! Take a little time to think about changing your life.”]
Noting that people are confronted with “overwhelming life challenges” that prevent them from following the Gospel, he added, “The pastoral theology of Pope Francis rejects a notion of law which can be blind to the uniqueness of concrete human situations, human suffering and human limitation.” [Is that another way of saying that, for some people, it is impossible to follow God’s commandments? That God denies some people the grace to live according to His will? I must misunderstand, because that would be a denial of the action of grace. I wonder if that is an accurate reading of Pope Francis. That would put Francis’ magisterium in direct contrast to the magisterium of the 19th Ecumenical Council, of Trent? In the balance, I’d rather think that the bishop got it wrong rather than the Roman Pontiff.]
McElroy encouraged the school’s faculty to focus on the pope’s pastoral theology and to place it “at the very center and life of this institution.” [And they should remember to study the Pope’s theology in the context of what the Church taught before 2013.]
“It will be one of the greatest theological projects of our age to understand how this new theological tradition should be formed — how it can bring unity, energy and insight into the intersection of Catholic faith and the modern world.” [A “new theological tradition…”]
So, what’s up here? What’s with… “the actual pastoral action of Jesus Christ, which does not first demand a change of life, but begins with an embrace of divine love, proceeds to the action of healing and only then requires a conversion of action in responsible conscience.”
What does “responsible conscience” mean?
An example of the actual pastoral action of Christ is found in John 8. An adulteress is brought to the Lord. She is probably going to be stoned to death. The Lord stops it. He tells her to do two things: 1) to go and 2) to sin no more. I cannot speculate about what amazing graces God poured into her heart at that moment. I’ll wager, however, that Christ meant what He said, when he said: “καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε … kai apo nun meketi hamartane… and from now on sin no more”. I have a hard time getting my mind around the notion that the “actual pastoral action of Jesus Christ”, does not first demand a change of life. I don’t think that the Lord was under the impression that every single person whom He dealt with would be the perfect person He wanted them to be thereafter without lapses (think Peter and his betrayal), but He doesn’t give me the impression that He thought people didn’t have to stop sinning. Am I wrong? “Go, and sometime down the line sin no more.” Nope. It’s not happening for me. Am I wrong? Am I missing something?
Let’s apply this. Does “does not first demand a change of life” apply to, say, a child molester? Does this apply to the employer who mistreats employees and cheats them of their proper wage? Does this apply to the drug dealer who gives free smack to kids to get them hooked? Does this apply to terrorists who recruit suicide bombers?
Fishwrap would have you think so. Don’t worry about your habitual sins. As a matter of fact, conversion is… down the line somewhere, if at all.
It seems to me that the merciful thing to do is precisely what Jesus did: Tell the sinner to “sin no more”. Then, help the sinner develop a plan of attack on the habitual sin and occasions of sin. Help the sinner get ready to face the suffering that comes from saying “no” to sin. While we recognize that not all penitents succeed every time, we don’t tell sinners that they can continue to sin.
The moderation queue is ON.