Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ecclesia Delenda Est!

I’m away this week doing ministry at a family camp not affiliated with Madonna House. As I did when I was at Cana Colony, I am re-posting some good old posts from my first month of blogging, before anyone knew I was here. Hope you enjoy these voices from the distant past of July 2011.

The thirst for freedom is the form in which the yearning for redemption and the feeling of unredemption and alienation make their voices heard today. The call for freedom demands an existence uncramped by prior givens that keep me from fully realizing myself and throw up external obstacles to my chosen path…  The limits that the Church erects seem doubly burdensome because they reach into man’s most personal and most intimate depths. For the church’s rules for ordering life are far more than a set of regulations to keep the shoulder-to-shoulder traffic of humanity as far as possible from collision. They inwardly affect my course in life, telling me how I am supposed to understand and shape my freedom. They demand of me decisions that cannot be made without painful renunciation. Is this not intended to deny us the sweetest fruits in the garden of life? Is not the way into the wide open closed by the restrictive confines of so many commandments and prohibitions? Is not thought kept from reaching its full stature just as much as the will is? must not liberation consist in breaking out of such immature dependency? And would not the only real reform be to rid ourselves of the whole business?

Called to Communion

Reflection – Ratzinger shows in this passage how well he understands the modern world. He had, after all, been a university professor in 1968, when student riots swept across Europe. The soixant-huitards and their anomic anti-authoritarianism would define the next half-century in European intellectual and cultural life.

Ecclesia delenda est – the Church must be destroyed – this is the spirit of the age. It tells us what to do, and this is intolerable. For anyone to tell me what to do is intolerable. Ecrasez l’infame! Voltaire’s cry rings out louder than ever today. How dare—how dare!—the Church tell me what to do.

It is an interesting phenomenon, though. The indignation at the Church’s moral teachings does not seem to extend to other groups and individuals who have their own ideas of what we should do.

For example, the environmental movement tells us what to do every day of the week, and even indoctrinates schoolchildren to spy on and hector their parents. The government never tires of telling us what to do: what to eat, how to exercise, what we can and cannot do on our own private property (to use a quaint old-fashioned term!). The secular gurus – Oprah and all that – never ever cease for a day doling out instructions on how to live, shop, love, budget, what to read, what to think, etc. etc. etc.

And yet, when the Church, which has no police force, little indoctrination of children these days (alas), and nothing remotely approaching Oprah or Dr. Phil’s Neilson ratings, tells people what to do, there is outrage. Or, rather, OUTRAGE!!!!!!!!!

Hmmm. One might be tempted to suspect that the Church’s advice on the meaning and mores of life, unlike all of the above parallel magisteria of secularity, actually hits something in us, something deep and true, some innate knowledge of God and the truth of human life that we cannot quite suppress. So when Holy Mother Church tells us not to fornicate, or contracept, or abort (I mention these, not because they are the only or even most important teachings, but because they are the ones that cause the most OUTRAGE), it is intolerable.

We’re trying to forget; don’t remind us. We’re working on our denial; stop bothering us. We’re hardening our hearts against truth in favor of self-will; don’t touch those places in us that still know, a little bit, the truth of life.

I can’t think of any other reason why the Church’s teachings provoke such anger and rage when the far more intrusive and omni-present teachings of everyone else provoke none. Can you?