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02/19/2015

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Two things that mystify and disturb me -- according to polls, something like 55% of practicing Catholics in the U.S. approve of same-sex marriage, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is supposedly a devout Catholic, wrote the opinion that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.

How are those things possible?

It's one of those things--the biggest of all the things, I think--that make you wonder what the heck you can do.

For one thing, it reminds me of when I had to try--I think I miserably failed--to teach Algebra to my oldest daughter. To me, what we were doing was so obvious, I couldn't explain it to her. I feel the same way here. I don't get why people don't understand.

But aside from that, I just don't know what I can do aside from pray, and speak the truth in one-on-one situations.

AMDG

I don't think we can do anything to stop it. But we have to hang on to the truth. I remember a conversation with a 30-ish young woman a few years ago, in which I tried to articulate the concept that man-woman is an essential part of the whole idea of marriage, and man-man or woman-woman a contradiction. I could see that it had no more meaning to her than if I had been arguing that marriage was by definition between a blonde and a brunette.

The 55% doesn't surprise me at all. I had the first real suspicion that we were going to lose this argument, not to mention the legal battle, some ten years ago when a Catholic woman on a Catholic blog reduced the argument to heterosexuals feeling that their own marriages were "threatened." She didn't see how that could be, and therefore couldn't see any problem with ssm.

It really shouldn't have surprised us so much, when you consider what's happened to marriage over the past hundred years or so. Once it was reduced to the idea of two people loving each other and agreeing to a contract binding them until one of them decides that it isn't, with children being optional (and marriage being optional to child-bearing), this wasn't such a stretch.

Well, I didn't mean what I could do to stop it. Only a miracle could stop it now. I guess I don't know what I mean. ;-)

I think I'm already doing about as much as I can. Maybe I should start doing some more regular, intentional kind of prayer about Marriage in general--all aspects of Marriage.

I'm pretty sure that where we lost the homosexual marriage fight was when we caved into birth control.

AMDG

Yes, that's the root of it--separating sex from procreation.

I could amend my sentence above to "I don't think we can do anything"--in the sense of somehow turning things around in any near term.

I was struck by the words of Boston’s Cardinal Sean O'Malley last year around the time Pope Francis made the remark about the Church needing to avoid being "obsessed" with things like abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception:

The normal Catholic in the parish might hear a sermon on abortion once a year. They’ll never hear a sermon on homosexuality or gay marriage, or about contraception. But if you look at the New York Times, in the course of a week, there will be 20 articles on those topics. So who is obsessed?

My first reaction when I read that was not what Cardinal O'Malley probably was aiming for because I thought, well, no wonder so many Catholics are confused on these matters then.

More here on the "disconnect between official teaching and what is commonly heard at the parish level".

The whole controversy over this issue has given me an appreciation of how much public discussion at every level is never less than 50% humbug. I have to say it also stokes one's misanthropy. Did you catch the train wrecks at Catholic high schools in Charlotte and Providence? All these professional people who pay tuition to send their children to "Catholic" high schools and they're in fury that black-letter Catholicism is sometimes taught in contradiction to the kultursmog. It took them a certain amount of brains to get through law school and business school, brains they apparently never use outside the office.

Sermons need to take the readings as a point of departure if they're done properly. Still, a parish priest can put inserts in the bulletin on topical questions.

Yes, there will be at least 3 people who will read the bulletin before they throw it away.

AMDG

I'm kind of curious about the sermon having to take the readings as the point of departure. It seems like that is relatively recent, i.e.post-VII, but maybe I'm wrong.

The sermon is the ONLY opportunity to reach the uneducated parishioners with church teaching.

AMDG

The sermon is the ONLY opportunity to reach the uneducated parishioners with church teaching.

No, it is not, unless they never read their mail and never look at the parish bulletin.


I'm kind of curious about the sermon having to take the readings as the point of departure. It seems like that is relatively recent, i.e.post-VII, but maybe I'm wrong.

My ancient Melkite priest began compiling sermons in the 1940s, each derived from the day's Gospel.

Yes, there will be at least 3 people who will read the bulletin before they throw it away.

I understand that's what you do, but you shouldn't project that on everyone else.

She's the secretary who produces the bulletin, Art.

Art,

I'm not sure why you assume that's what I do. I write the bulletin, and then I sit and my office all week answering questions about things that people didn't read in the bulletin.

My point is that the people who read the bulletin and whatever may come in the mail are the people who already know the church teaching. The rest of the congregation will never hear what the church teaches if they don't hear it at Mass.

There is a core of people that attend any class or mission the church may have, always the same people--I know because I see them there-- and the rest come to Mass on Sunday and then spend much of their lives being evangelized by the media.

As I said before, I don't know if the idea that it is necessary to preach from the homily is old or not, and I would like to know the source. Knowing one person that's done it for a long time just means that one person has done it for a long time. You usually offer more factual information and I thought you might elucidate me.

AMDG

Cross posted.

You would appreciate my wife, Janet, who reads the bulletin carefully, cover-to-cover (our home parish's is four pages).

I've always had the idea that *not* preaching from the readings was the newer practice. But I don't know where I got that. At any rate, seems like preaching from the readings and talking about the basics are not incompatible.

But getting back to the earlier comments from Marianne and Art about the disconnect between the teachings of the Church and 50% or so of Catholics, well, that kind of thing no longer surprises me. I haven't read about the Charlotte and Providence incidents, but that makes me think of Dawn Eden's account of giving a talk on sexuality at what sounded like a fairly typical and fairly affluent Catholic high school. The kids were outraged at her telling them they shouldn't be Doing It.

At the FT thing I linked to in the post, there are links to reactions from George Weigel and Rod Dreher. Not particularly essential reading, but Dreher had an anecdote that struck me: a Methodist minister in his Louisiana town was inviting someone or other (Dreher himself? can't remember), someone of a social conservative bent, and warned him that whatever he did, *not* to say anything against same-sex marriage, because the kids would immediately reject everything else he said. Granted, that's not a Catholic instance, but I doubt most Catholic young people are much different. The crucial thing there is that this is a pretty conservative small town in the South. This is the situation we're in.

Well, I meant to say that too-- that they aren't in compatible. It would take some extra forethought, but it could be done. It's amazing to me that priests have time to prepare their sermons at all.

I would indeed appreciate your wife,but she is a case in point--the person who doesn't need to be educated by the bulletin because she knows her faith.

I don't know if it was an old practice that was let slip and then reinforced or something new. Could have been. I can't even remember whether that was the practice pre-Vatican II or not.

AMDG

The homily during Mass was always supposed to be an explication and application of the readings (in medieval parish churches it often didn't amount to much more than a translation from the pulpit of the Latin that had been read from the lectern - unless you had a friar visiting). Even so, it was often omitted or truncated. The parish priest who doesn't preach is one of the most common complaints in post-Tridentine visitation reports.

One of the Tridentine reforms was an insistence that all parish priests should deliver homilies, and that seminaries be established to train them (this being part of the training). (Previously the training was on the job: acolytes were apprentice priests, learning by observing. The higher clergy were often, but not always, university educated.) Tridentine preaching manuals can be found on Google Books, and most priests would just have read out what was in the manual: a short explication of the reading and Gospel for the day with some moral applications and exhortations. Funeral sermons were a special occasion to enjoin godliness and hope of heaven, and perhaps extoll particular vritues or warn of particular sins, and funerals were sometimes big public events.

Of course, in those days there would be sermons delivered on occasions other than Mass, sermons which might last a couple of hours and had a ceremony and an art of their own. These would be tailored to a particular message or occasion, rather than to particular readings. If you lived in a city of any size they would have been frequent. If you lived in a rural parish and seldom went to town, you might only hear a couple in your life, provided by itinerant Dominicans or Jesuits, or later other preaching or missionary orders.

Whether things changed in the 18th and 19th century (so that parish preaching became modelled on mission preaching, rather than medieval homilies) I can't say, so I don't know either what the practice was immediately pre-Vatican II. If Vatican II did change things to make sermons closer to readings, then it was a change that went back to medieval best practice and the canons of the Council of Trent.

I was forgetting feastdays of saints: another occasion for preaching on particular virtues, provided your parish priest didn't just read out the saint's entry in the Golden Legend.

The two most jarring sermons I've heard were an Irishman who didn't even refer to the day's readings, but launched into "I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about a book I was reading recently", and a Canadian, who started, "I don't know what the council fathers were thinking when they chose these readings for this Sunday" (and not in a tone suggesting he humbly intended to do his best to find out).

As to the topic of the post: it's really the same argument as contraception and divorce, which have been going on for close to a hundred years now. Contraception and divorce are both legal; does that mean we should be silent? It does mean we have to be careful what we say, not to scandalize our interlocutors or allow them to find offence where none is intended.

Elizabeth Anscomb, a woman of very clear intellect, once wrote that in the 1950s she would point out that many of the arguments given in favour of contraception would also work as arguments in favour of homosexuality, and found her interlocutors indignantly denying any such connection. And fifteen years later the same people were using the same arguments as arguments for homosexuality. She wondered how much of this was self-delusion and how much simple dishonesty.

Anscombe, with an e.

This is well worth a read.

Thank you for the elucidation, Paul.

I meant to say further, in reply to Marianne about the "obsession" with sexual questions: it's been plain for a long time that the obsession is in the mind of the media and other parties who can't stand the idea that anyone is still teaching these things. You can argue that there are groups of lay Catholics who are obsessed, but the Church as a whole--it's a fairly ridiculous statement.

Thanks, Paul!

AMDG

"Sermons need to take the readings as a point of departure if they're done properly."

There is a distinction between a sermon and a homily. The current General Instruction of the Roman Missal says,

The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended,63 for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.
In the 19th and 20th centuries priests in the Latin Church tended to preach sermons during Mass on a doctrinal or moral topic if they preached at all. the idea that the preaching at Mass schould be a "homily" rather than a "sermon" was part of the liturgical renewal that only caught on more universally after Vatican II.

It's amazing to me that priests have time to prepare their sermons at all.

He had a file of them for every Sunday of the liturgical year, worked on for over 60 years and updated now and again when he found something on point from the Church Fathers. They were quite stereotyped in their format and thus educative over time in a way no other priest I have ever known could be. He died in 2010, sad to say. His deacon has the file. They are a treasure and should at least be privately printed up.

Not particularly essential reading, but Dreher had an anecdote that struck me:

It's Dreher, and that's his signature. The vignette starts out with "a friend of mine writes..." and its invariably someone with some expertise who confirms some shtick Dreher has been flogging for the last six months. After an accumulation of these, it occurred to me around about 2010 that it was all so much yarn.

The rest of the congregation will never hear what the church teaches if they don't hear it at Mass.

Sorry Janet, not buying. People's retention of what they read well exceeds that of what they see which well exceeds what they hear. If they cannot be bothered to read a 1,200 word insert in the bulletin, what Fr. Whosiwhatsit says from the pulpit their not going to pay rapt attention to; the bulk of homilies are too vague and disorganized for anyone to figure out more than an apercu here or there anyway.

Once it was reduced to the idea of two people loving each other and agreeing to a contract binding them until one of them decides that it isn't, with children being optional (and marriage being optional to child-bearing), this wasn't such a stretch.

That would have been a deviant understanding as recently as 1967.

Re: the 55% of practicing Catholics and their errant views.

1. I am not surprised.

2. I think it's because only a comparative few are Intentional Disciples. Some are quite close to being disciples, but not there yet. One parish worker estimated that maybe only 5% of people who go to Mass regularly are disciples. The rest are on a spectrum which goes from "interest" through to "almost a disciple." If one is not a disciple, with a real relationship with Jesus and a firm commitment to the Church, then how can one withstand those secular views which appeal so much to the emotions? Of course, some non-disciples can intuitively see the truth on this matter, but they often cannot see it with other moral issues.

Maclin it may not surprise you that I have been on a Peter Hitchens kick lately. One of the interesting things I heard him say on one of his TV interviews was that he thinks it's utterly pointless to engage in this debate at all.

Now I happen to agree with you and to disagree with him on that point and I will keep on keeping on, knowing that prayer is the most important aspect in all of this. But I did empathise somewhat with his arguments against getting involved, which were (IIRC) essentially that it's a lost cause, makes us look like bigots and we'd be better off fighting for/against other things. (I don't think I'm misrepresenting him).

For me it's just always a matter of being prepared to speak the truth in various situations, regardless of (immediate) effectiveness. The truth will out, anyhow - or as you say, reality will reassert itself.

Thanks for posting on this issue.

Another thing which horrifies me even more than this barbaric concept (of same-sex "marriage") is that among those Catholics in the US who are apparently Intentional Disciples, which is to say that they believe in Jesus and the Church and are completely orthodox, there are many who, by disturbing mental gymnastics, manage to water down the Church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. I was banned from speaking about this issue on a FB forum because I insisted that one cannot BE a real disciple if one is doing the wrong thing re: marriage. E.g. leaving the marriage due to some imagined (and basically frivolous) "difficulty."

That makes things look as bad to me as when whole nations were Arian.

"The whole controversy over this issue has given me an appreciation of how much public discussion at every level is never less than 50% humbug."

:)

50% strikes me as a bit low.

"I have to say it also stokes one's misanthropy."

It certainly makes the whole Love Your Neighbour thing more difficult than ever before.

"Did you catch the train wrecks at Catholic high schools in Charlotte and Providence?

I did. Just awful. A sign of hardened sinfulness and/or demonic activity.

"Nine popes without a God".
Fascinating.
6 of those 9 are Catholics.
I know, it does not seem that it could be. But it is.
I know of many confused Catholics.
I know of many weak ones.
I know of many...well, you get the point.
I don't know of a single Catholic without a God...

Nice try though.
_______________________________________

All of that said, this battle is over. They won. We lost.
The church is out of the adoption business in Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Washington D.C. because they've given up. We lost.
"Hitching Post Wedding Chapel" case in Idaho:
They lost
"Lane Photography" case in (NM):
They lost
Craig v. Masterpiece Cake (CO):
They lost
Levin v. Yeshiva University (N.Y.):
They lost
Bernstein v ocean grove camp meeting association (OR)
They lost
In 2006, the house and senate gave "same sex" marriage the same status as, Race, Religion, Ethnicity.
We lost

"Nice try though."

What do you mean?

I only have my phone as a means of Internet access this weekend so won't try to participate in this discussion. "Nine popes without a God" refers to an old essay of mine called "Nothing At the Center" which I think can be found at the Non-Blog Prose link in the sidebar.

All of that said, this battle is over.

For how long?

Mac,
Thanks. I've not seen your essay. I'm hoping you understood my point. As stated, 6 of them are Catholics. They may be many things. "Godless"? Not likely.
All the best to you and yours.

Right, I got your point, but you didn't get mine. :-)

Which is that the U.S. has elevated the Supreme Court to a position analogous to that of the papacy: final arbiter of right and wrong. But the system is designed to exclude God in any except the vaguest terms. It doesn't mean the individual justices have or don't any religious allegiance, but it's inadmissible as grounds for a legal opinion.

Actually, no. The legal profession seized this ground and held it via adverse possession. The response of elected officials has been pathetic.

Actually, yes. The ground was seized and held, and there was nothing in the constitution to prevent that from happening. It's the fatal flaw in the American system: there is no acknowledged absolute to which appeal can be made.

I live in a very liberal city (probably second only to SF for this stuff) and periodically I get very overwhelmed by the immensity of what is going on. We are homeschoolers and generally keep to ourselves, but it still is inescapable. My oldest is not quite 9 and already we've been in situations my parents never would have encountered when I was a child. A mom trying to get my daughter to play with her tween son at the park, and the son is dolled up like a little Miley Cyrus and nagging my daughter to engage him in some "girl talk." Disturbing on multiple levels...we left, but I was too cowardly to come out and say why. 14 year old girls making out with each other at the bus stop, glaring around daring anyone to notice and disapprove. Many, many middle aged men dressed as women using women's facilities who we are supposed to accept as "women just like me" without so much as a shrug. The gender thing is very aggressively moving forward right now. It's very obvious that redefining marriage was only the very beginning.

Even as hermit-like as we are, we can't escape it, and I honestly don't know how to face it.

The ground was seized and held, and there was nothing in the constitution to prevent that from happening.
--
1. Impeachment of judges.

2. Statutory amendments to jurisdiction

3. Court packing.

4. Appropriation power: shutting down particular circuits and districts through withdrawal of staff, plant, and equipment.

5. Payment of recalcitrant judges in potatoes.

6. Issuance of subpoenas, and making use of the capitol sergeant at arms to arrest recalcitrant judges.

7. Withdrawal of the U.S. Marshall Service from particular districts. Refusal to enforce orders.

--

Tools were there, had anyone been willing to use them.

Lord have mercy, Cailleachbhan! May He protect your whole family.

"Payment of recalcitrant judges in potatoes."

Love it!

Taking the position of a scientific observer from another planet, I'm inclined to think that the kind of thing you describe, Cailleachbhan, is not going to become the norm in the provinces. Not because the provinces don't ordinarily go along, or get dragged along, with whatever trends the sophisticates take up, but because I find it hard to imagine that very many people really want to engage in the kind of ostentatious stuff you describe.

In particular: "Many, many middle aged men dressed as women using women's facilities..." I will be astonished if this becomes normal across the country.

Well, ok, maybe I should just say mildly surprised. Experience suggests that I shouldn't be astonished anymore.

I don't mean, Art, that there is no legal way to rein in judges. I remember seeing "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards. But what I mean about the Constitution is that it provides no means of appeal to absolutes. Maybe freedom, I suppose, and we see where that alone leads. No one is empowered to say with finality that something is wrong or right. But ultimately there has to be an appeal to absolutes, and we have de facto (culturally and politically) given that power, or something close to it, to the Supreme Court.

Although the remedies you name are there, the cultural climate is now such that it would probably be impossible to use any of them successfully. Much as civil disobedience worked wonders for the left, but was of no use the pro-life movement. Every liberal in the country began to sound like the White Citizens' Council when pro-lifers started defying laws.

Mac,
Just saw this:

"Right, I got your point, but you didn't get mine. :-)

Which is that the U.S. has elevated the Supreme Court to a position analogous to that of the papacy: final arbiter of right and wrong. But the system is designed to exclude God in any except the vaguest terms. It doesn't mean the individual justices have or don't any religious allegiance, but it's inadmissible as grounds for a legal opinion."

No, I did not. Now, I do.
I cannot disagree.

It goes back to that 18th century attempt to resolve religious tensions by making religion "private." That was workable as long as there was agreement about the fundamentals. Now we don't have that, and the gaping hole is revealed. The left (speaking very broadly) is now asserting its absolutes with more and more force, with not much more justification than force--legal and cultural force for now.

Armed with hyper-hysterics and micro-aggressions, the Left (speaking broadly) foists every minority grievance with turbocharged turbulence.
"More and more force". Yep. Community organizers (employing Alinsky-ite methods) in full throated fashion, scream to the rafters with their indignations.
Just as Shelby Steele wrote in, "White Guilt", those who are attacked with these methods (including political correctness) are rendered weak-kneed and curiously unable to counter the assaults. They simply capitulate and cave to the minority aggressors.
And just so it is perfectly clear----Christians are very much complicit. They do scant little to push back. In my own Catholic church, I have for 2 years appealed to the hierarchy a simple request in acknowledging the near-holocaust occurring in the Middle East. Christians slaughtered, raped, etc. What do I witness from the church; crickets. Christians (supposedly a significant majority) have failed to organize any semblance of a counterpunch or strategy or response to the assault on religious freedoms or on "fundamentals" in this country or foreign countries.
Failed.

Correction: "...a simple request in acknowledging the near-holocaust and offering-of-prayers to those on the receiving end of that which is occurring in the Middle East."

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