Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Putting Papal Possibilities in their Place

Mary Eberstadt nails it in this NPR interview.  She is able to speak to the nature of the Catholic and Christian church well, and deal with the persistent and even a little confused line of questioning that cannot believe that the Pope isn't going to accommodate Western, progressive sensibilities.
The progressive reaction to the new Pope had been nothing short of misguided and at times amusing.  As has been said a few times since the election of Pope Francis, the media expected a secular progressive to become Pope and were shocked that he was a Catholic.
As Eberstadt notes in the interview, the Pope's role is not about modernist sensibilities, or a culture that is accustomed to molding and shaping their elected officials and lifestyles.  The Christian faith is about Truth - "capital 'T' Truth" - as she put it.  Christian doctrine and moral teaching has been molded and shaped for us and handed down for centuries.  By contrast, secular progressivism is inherently about change and "progress." Toward what and to what end, there is no real answer.  And for what reasons there is no compelling argument. By its very nature progressivism is subject to public whim and political power.  And that is what frustrates and confuses progressives about the Catholic church and the Christian faith - it will not bend to modernizing whims just because some Americans think it should.  And even if the progressive point of view succeeds in lulling mainline Protestant denominations into a dogmatic slumber and eventual suicide, the Truth remains untouched by them. 
The modernist reaction has been a lot of sound and fury.  But it does not necessarily signify nothing.
It does signify the deepening cultural reality of individualist subjectivism and its odd consequences.  More and more, and in all kinds of arenas of life, people in Western culture have become accustomed to shaping reality to their whims. Consciously or unconsciously we treat fast food stands in the same ways we treat our politicians, careers, and our families.  The self is supreme, and the desires of the self are unchecked by any moral reflection or robust external authority system (like the Christian faith, even as represented in the Catholic church).  As a result, the typical modern is unable to understand that there is a reality to which they are responsible, and which will not change according to polling results.
Thankfully, the Vatican could not care less what nominal, progressive Catholics in the U.S. think it should do with the priesthood, marriage, or contraception.  Let us hope their courage rubs off on more evangelical and Protestant bodies.

No comments: