“Injustice comes not only from violent acts of men with power, but from the false prudence of the sage.” — Aquinas
Lost on us lot of protestants is the fever that is alive in the Catholic world these days. They have had a “Synod” of bishops to discuss and issue a statement on family issues, specifically, about the place of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and, since this is 2014 and many Americans remain Catholic, about homosexuality.
It seems that at some point there was a half time report that was really quite radical and was eventually calmed down significantly. The author is a German: Walter, Cardinal Kasper. It is not so much what he proposed that interests me but the criticism that is leveled against him. He is accused of “Pastoralism.”
What is Pastoralism, you ask? It seems that it signifies the excessive shapeless concern for the treatment of individuals that in turn leads to the ignoring of doctrine. (Michael Miller, Catholic World Report, Oct 18,2014)
The Pope himself spoke at the end of the synod and felt there were some serious temptations for the church that had been laid open in the discussions. Specifically:
- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.
- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”
- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfill the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantine-isms,” I think.
I am not sure he was trying to be profound but he kind of was. Every one of these paragraphs are worthy of lengthy discussion which I obviously cannot give it here but they are worthy to be pondered as we think about being a faithful church.
The more Reformation Sunday makes me think about what makes faithful church the more I realize how much this is a masochists event. There is always a ditch close by to fall into. Our texts this week really make our work as church not much easier. John speaks of freedom from sin in truth and in the word of Jesus. Jeremiah, however, speaks of the law placed within each heart. While Romans maintains that that knowledge of the law merely brings knowledge of sin and that a new standard, faith in Jesus is needed and has been given.
And faith can be made the bread that is turned into stone to throw at the unfortunate we are arguing with right now especially if they are not “going with the spirt” as Jeremiah would pose, something we can then throw further at those who insist that one needs to continue in Jesus’s words.
Maybe that is roundabout complaint that, as Francis says, we tend to be come byzantine after a few years of history. Church and world both tend to do this and there seems to be no escape and no easy answer. Humans are complicated and complicating.
Was the Reformation an attempt to simplify believing and having faith? Maybe so. Are we making it too complicated? Maybe so.