By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good, Reliable Closure on Various Stupidities Du Jour


Here is the overdue closure provided, to his credit, by journalist John Allen, who is not a "die-hard papist" by any one's definition of the term: click this link.

He is a correspondent for the left-wing National Catholic Reporter. 

By the way (I am no longer discussing the "stupidities du jour"), the Sunday N.Y. Times had a very interesting op-ed piece by (presumably non-Catholic) columnist Nicholas Kristof which said some true things and also said several misleading things:

1. I agree with Kristof in saluting the Catholics, clerical, religious, and lay, who do awesome work for the poor throughout the world. I admire his pointing them out for praise.

2. I  heartily agree with Kristof that nuns who serve the poor are "cool."

3. But there is no Manichean dualism within the Catholic Church--there is no "Vatican" Church versus a "Grassroots" Church. The papacy is, under Catholic theology, a gift of Jesus to provide a secure, doctrinal link back to the apostolic era and to his public ministry. Hence, from a Catholic point of view, it is absurd to try to concoct any sort of conflict between the papacy and Catholics in the pews or in the trenches serving the poor. It is all a seamless garment. Reform Yes, Rupture No.

4.  The fact that some non-canonical, gnostic documents praise Mary Magdalene (very, very old news) is not evidence of some kind of early, vibrant feminist Christianity that was somehow ruthlessly suppressed by an alleged orthodox patriarchal conspiracy. (In fact, my impression is that gnosticism was not necessarily "woman-friendly" or "body-friendly" or "Jewish-friendly" at all.) Kristof is making too much of too little in the way of the documentary evidence. I am all in favor of praising St. Mary Magdalene, but it is misleading to try to make her the basis for modern social or political agendas.

What we see here is what we see often in theological controversies: we tend to try to recreate the past in our own image. Kristof projects backward the ideological agendas of the present, agendas which are not rooted in the evidence we have of the apostolic and the immediate post-apostolic eras. For example, my own research on the issue of "deaconesses" indicates that they did not exercise a liturgical, sacramental role at the altar on a par with deacons (but if you know something I don't, please put it in the comment box).

All in all, we as Catholics should welcome our notoriety as an opportunity to communicate our side of things, even if that notoriety includes the necessity of having to try to remedy misleading statements by putting matters in their proper context. Remember that every misleading statement is an opportunity to set the record straight--and to do so respectfully and kindly in our common pursuit of the truth. Let us not retreat into a bunker mentality. Rather let us engage joyfully, with a sporting spirit.