Monday, March 06, 2006

Lifting the Trash Can Lid

Folks rave about the spasmodic, seemingly random reactionary columns of Jeff Jacoby. Yet the Boston Globe's true arch-social conservative remains Joan Vennochi.

For a glimpse into that chasm that remains between social progressives and such regressives, go no farther than Sunday's Globe. These clowns are mismatched bookends, each showing differing aspects of the authoritative personality. Such peeks serve to remind us how much they separate themselves from what needs to be done for a better world, and how much they rely on authority figures to excuse their reactionary beliefs.

There are the Massachusetts Bishops snapping to for almost-Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who has his orders from an unnamed papal unit. Jacoby excuses the RC Church-sponsored agency, Catholic Charities, from having to obey commonwealth adoption regulations and continuing to place kids with vetted same-sex couples. He has no problem with suddenly making the agency the same as the church.

He writes:
But the fact is, those ''within the church" who oppose placing children with gay and lesbian couples include the pope, and bishops are not free to disregard church policy. If the Vatican says, ''Thou shalt not," Catholic Charities -- which is subject to church authority -- cannot say, ''Yes, we shall.
That's all very interesting, but misplaces the authority here. The Pope can tell Sean and his boys what to do, but he does not legislate and does not regulate for Massachusetts. Those who like to hide behind an authority to support their own attitudes find their big shots where they can.

This is Caesar and God again, as it was 2000 years ago. Massachusetts has a vested interest in managing the adoption process to the benefit of the children. Catholic Charities has to play by the rules for such public services that extend beyond its churches and schools. When you enter the public market, you have to wear clothes, not matter what you do at home.

They have been pushing it considerably as evidenced by the scant dozen plus one kids placed with same-sex couples over the many years. Now they want to say this is strictly church business. Wrong venue. Wrong authority.

The you-can't-fight-City-Hall attitude is here recast as you-can't-change-the-Pope. Wrong and wrong. Popes and many other authority figure change in big and small ways all the time.

What this shows is more evidence of mind of the far right and other social conservatives. Do not challenge authority. Do not kick against the goads. You won't get anywhere by trying to change those in power.

Thank God, and Patrick Henry and John Adams that such thinking did not prevail in 1775, or at the start of the union movement, or before suffrage for women, or countless times in our nation when those in power claimed absolute wisdom and even authority of God.

Governments, religious bodies and corporations alike change. They each can be swayed and convinced. Hell, the worst cliché of pop psychology may be that people don't change. It's wrong-headed, wrong-hearted, defeatist and cowardly.

In contrast, Vennochi is not as conniving as dishonest as Jacoby. She is merely symptomatic of the bunker mentality of the obeisant, those who would rather be good soldiers than good citizens. Her Should liberals leave the Catholic Church is a very sad example of abrogation of social responsibility combined with a lack of courage.

She made it quickly clear that she thinks fellow conservative Catholics will reverse our commonwealth's respect for civil rights. And to read her, it would be woe to those who oppose the Pope's pronouncements. They need to leave the church, his church and her church.

One example is:
Liberals view the Catholic Charities controversy in Boston as a watershed moment, signaling a church hierarchy out of touch with ordinary Catholics. But the resignations in Boston, while laudable to fellow liberals, do not ruffle Rome nor Catholics who accept the rules. They are welcome. Just read the online posts to Catholic World News.
I lost count of how many times in the 1960s South that I heard a local say, "If y'all don't like it here, why don't you go back where you came from!"

Then and now, let no one pretend that even the Roman Catholic Church is immutable. For a couple of big examples, for centuries, it has mandated clerical celibacy and held the Holy Trinity as central to its belief. However, it is more instructive to note that neither of those canons came easily, quickly or suddenly.

There was no church hierarchical acceptance of even the concept of the Trinity until the Fourth Century. A political and theological compromise between numerous dueling proposals culminated in 325 at the Council of Nicaea in manufacturing an acceptable Trinity. Before that, nearly all Christians were what would now be called Unitarians, believing in a single God to differentiate themselves from polytheists.

Even more torturous was the road to celibacy. Putative RC Church founder Paul was celibate, but said marrying was okay if you felt compelled. Better a spouse than a fornicator, he might have said.

That took until 816 at the Council of Aachen to enter canon law. Even with that, it had taken four centuries of lobbying by religious scholars and some clerics to convince folk that this was the way to go. After entering the books, the new rule took further centuries before it was fully accepted.

Perhaps more important to note is that bishops and popes played politics with kings and emperors from the beginning of the church, first for survival and later for various advantages. Also, one infallible pope would reverse or alter the church laws and practices of other infallible popes. (Don't question...something magic happened there. Hmm mmm mmm.)

Yes, the RC Church does change, sometimes dramatically. Yes, many of these changes take decades instead of weeks and sometimes centuries instead of decades.

Telling dissidents and other thinking Catholics to beat it won't work any more than telling Pope Benedict to get real and reasonable. Many congregants and clerics, in Boston as well as the Vatican, are in it for the long haul. In the main, nobody's going anywhere, not even those who question current RC rules.

The Jesuits have hung around for many centuries, nipping at the irrational, emotional and military-style management locally and centrally. They didn't disappear.

As with the Vietnam War era, the equation is not America, love it or leave it. The accurate, hippy slogan became America, love it or change it. The hunkered-down naysayers who claim change is impossible eventually peek up from their hidey-holes. To their amazement, they find the world has in fact changed while they were quaking.

While Unitarian Universalist churches would welcome fleeing liberal Catholics, they are not about to get a flood of them. The vast majority of Catholics here, in Spain and elsewhere are sitting tight. In the long run, they will continue to liberalize this church, their church, as they have so often, so regularly and for so long.

May it be so.

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