Friday, May 24, 2013

More on the Pope Francis redemption flap

Due his hard ideological turn, I am not as big a fan of Stephen Colbert as I used to be. Don't get me wrong, often I still find him laugh-out-loud funny and, at times, quite brilliant, not merely clever. I just get the sense that, like Jon Stewart, he knows his viewer demographic and so most of the time just panders to them, which is the stuff of entertainment, I suppose.

Nonetheless, once in awhile Colbert strikes gold. When viewed as the reductio ad absurdum I think (at least I hope) it is intended to be, the clip below is a quite brilliant parody of the reaction of many in the in religiously illiterate news media and those still hoping for a morph from Francis into Pope Groovy the Oneth.

In addition to what I posted the other day, there are two things worth noting as regards the great Pope Francis redemption flap. The first comes courtesy of a Facebook friend, the very same one who reminded me that today is Bob Dylan's birthday, Chad Pecknold, who is a professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at the Catholic University of America. Dr. Pecknold was invited to comment on Pope Francis' remarks made in a homily this week, namely that everyone, including atheists, are redeemed by Christ, by CNN.

Pecknold tried to address this issue as a matter of redemption being an objective order in which each one of us are invited, but not forced, to (subjectively) participate. Sticking with the distinction between redemption and justification, being justified is the result of our subjective and free choice to participate in redemption. While analogies limp, here's one: I could offer to buy your lunch, but if you're intent on paying for it yourself, then my offer is voided by your refusal.

For Catholics the pope's statement that everyone, including atheists, are redeemed is non-controversial, or should be. The fact that it is proving to be controversial is just one more discouraging sign concerning the poor state of catechesis.

The second thing comes from Pope Francis' homily on the feast day of his baptismal patron, St George, back on 23 April. Referring to the first reading that day (Acts 11:19-26), the Holy Father said,
And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy." And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful (underlining and emboldening emphasis mine)
Theology that merits the name requires one to hold things in tension. In fact, one can argue, as Cardinal Newman did quite convincingly, that Christian orthodoxy, which foundationally has to do with dogma, is nothing but an exercise in holding what can easily be seen as disparate, but not contradictory, things in tension.

I think a good way to wrap this up is by pointing to a wonderful article by Megan Hodder that appeared in The Catholic Herald newspaper. In her piece, entitled "The atheist orthodoxy that drove me to faith," she wrote wonderfully about coming to subjectively participate in the objective order of redemption:
My friendships with practising Catholics finally convinced me that I had to make a decision. Faith, after all, isn’t merely an intellectual exercise, an assent to certain propositions; it’s a radical act of the will, one that engenders a change of the whole person. Books had taken me to Catholicism as a plausible conjecture, but Catholicism as a living truth I came to understand only through observing those already serving the Church within that life of grace

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