- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Why Separation of Church and State is good for the Church.
A professor in theological graduate school stated to our class, “The greatest tragedy for Christianity was the conversion of the Emperor Constantine.” By entrusting some government functions to the Christian clergy Constantine actually made the church an agency of the imperial government. the Church became one of the Departments of the State. When the Western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in 410 C.E., civil officials vanished in the wake of the barbarian invasions and clergy effectively filled the void. First, the Church was part of the government and then, government became a tool of the Church to impose/enforce its teachings on the people.
This remained largely unchallenged until the Protestant Reformation, but then it largely became a question of what would be the State Religion of England, Germany, France, etc. The American and French Revolutions were “game changers.” The United States of America became the world’s first secular state. We have no formal “State Religion.”
Old habits die hard and after fourteen centuries of defining laws and setting policies, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church does not want to let go of that role in society and the intoxicating power it grants to them. However, as my professor pointed out, this union between the State and the Church was an illicit marriage to begin with.
Religion provides an understanding of the universe and life, structure, rules and values to adherents, as does a loving parent for a child. Religion, like a family, forms a community of love for its members. It is the role of a parent to enable the child to stand on his/her own feet and face life as an adult. In the case of religion, it is the function of the religion to enable the adherent to attain spiritual maturity and be equipped to make informed moral decisions.
Simply because we become autonomous adults does not mean that we abandon the parent/child relationship, or our family. It means that the relationship (like us) matures and develops. How a parent relates to a child aged 8 should be different from how they relate to a child who is 18, 38 or 48. If it is not, then there is something seriously wrong in the parent and/or the child, and most certainly with the relationship.
If a child encounters a parent who demands that the relationship remain at an infantile level of development, the child will either cease development, or that development will strain and eventually rupture the relationship. That is what has been happening in the Roman Catholic Church since 1968.
The Catholic Church is suffering from such a dysfunctional relationship between its hierarchy and its laity. It began with the rejection by Pope Paul VI of the recommendation by the Majority opinion of a Pontifical Commission (established by John XXIII) examining the question of artificial contraception and his implementation of the Minority opinion in Humanae Vitae. In a book entitled “Sexuality and Catholicism” former Catholic Register Editor, Thomas Fox lists four probable motives for Paul VI’s highly controversial (and widely disregarded) prohibition of artificial contraception.
Fox asks why Paul VI took the stance he did and suggests that at the end of the day he may have had four motives.
1. One was the possibility that the traditional church had grown "increasingly defensive and even ghettoized" in the face of modernity's attendant "evils," and the pontiff wanted to draw a clear line in the sand against said "evils."
2. Another possibility was the danger seemingly imposed to the longstanding "systematic theory" the church had promulgated concerning matters of sexuality, a theory which linked moral beliefs about contraception with those proscribing extramarital intercourse, homosexuality, and masturbation.
If childbearing within marriage alone justified sexual expression, and if the church changed that teaching to allow sex for purposes of other than creating new life (such as cementing the loving relationship between husband and wife), might not changes concerning other matters of sexual morality be unavoidable?
3. A third possibility was that the pope might simply have wanted to reaffirm the church's "great emphasis on tradition."
4. And fourth, there was the question of the church's authority, never mind the details of the particular moral issue involved. If the pope changed the church's signals on birth control, would he not be admitting the church might have been wrong in other of its previous stances.
As Fox puts it, "How could the Holy Spirit allow the church to have been wrong?" If wrong on one important matter, then possibly wrong on others ... and the whole edifice of church authority might come tumbling down.
The real world result? The great cathedrals of Europe are not filled with worshipers, but with tourists. They have effectively ceased being churches and have become museums. This dysfunctional state of affairs was even alluded to by the current pope at the outset of his administration in 2005 when he set as his goal, “to re-evangelize Europe.” Europe will never be re-evangelized until the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is re-evangelized. That was precisely the intent and thrust of Pope John XIII and the Second Vatican Council.
Tragically, the current pope has spent the greater part of both his life and ministry as part of the Vatican Curia (a highly centralized bureaucracy). As with most bureaucrats, the institution is paramount and becomes seen as “the good.” This in part explains the mentality that prompted the pedophilia Cover-Up Scandal. Many changes ushered in by the Second Vatican Council, alarmed and disquieted both the Curia and many within the Church, since they called into question the very existence of the Curia. Bishops should instead govern in collegiality with each other and the successor of St. Peter.
Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae marked an attempted return to a more orderly age in which one was not disturbed by questions, simply by not questioning. This is Benedict XVI’s “smaller purer Church.”
Pastoral concerns regarding artificial contraception, divorced and remarried Catholics (in the USA annulments are easily obtained in other countries it is almost impossible to obtain an annulment), women priests, Marriage Equality, married clergy, ecumenism, or collegiality (bishops actually governing with the pope instead of being his functionaries), these are simply brushed aside. This may have worked in pre-Napoleonic Europe; but began to unravel in the twentieth century and even more so in the twenty first century. Pope John XIII understood this and that is why he convened the Second Vatican Council.
However this is not 1962; we live at a time when nuclear and biological weapons are proliferating throughout the world and not simply confined to two superpowers. We find ourselves in the midst of an AIDS pandemic that is consuming the African continent. We face a global recession that may well worsen into a global depression that threatens to ignite social unrest of unprecedented proportions. Scientists warn of cataclysmic climatic and oceanic changes that even now approach being irreversible. We do not find ourselves in the religiously homogenous Christendom of medieval Europe, but in a very diverse world made smaller by instant communication and by an increasingly interconnected global economy.
The world does not need and will not welcome an autocratic religious institution that treats and speaks to us in imperial tones. What the world needs from religious figures now, is not a failed attempt to restore the historic Constantine relationship between Church and State. Even if this were to succeed, it would ultimately simply create another theocratic state like Iran, which would only further exasperate the international crisis the world now faces. On a spiritual level, such a marriage between Church and State would reduce faith to a form of ideology and rob it of its spiritual value.
Catholics would profit by considering the motives that caused John XXIII to convene the Second Vatican Council. John Paul II said that the Church had to enter the Twenty-First century on her knees. Such humility suggests, that if more and more Catholics are leaving the faith, perhaps the problem is not with the people, but with the hierarchy.