Saturday, March 5, 2011

Citizenship, Rules, Marriage, and Not Being Decently Quiet

I've gotten the impression that America's dominant culture regards religion the way folks in the Victorian era supposedly regarded sex: One knows that people do it, but decent folks never talk about it; and never practice it except behind closed doors.

As a practicing Catholic, I can't keep my faith decently in the closet.

Being Catholic, Living With Rules

The Catholic Church has a reputation for having rules about everything. As I've said before, there's something to that.

There's a rule that says I'm supposed to take an active part in public life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1915)

There are rules for folks in authority, and for folks who are under the authority of others. (Catechism, 2199, 2238-2242; summary, 2248-2257)

There are even rules about when it's okay to mount armed resistance to oppression. (Catechism, 2243) That's not the same as 'liberation theology;' and America isn't even close to being ready for the sort of housecleaning that's going on in Libya. In my opinion. I've discussed liberation theology before. (footnote 4 (January 27, 2009)) Short version, it's a bad idea: and the Holy See says so. (August 6, 1984)

Obedience, Yes: Blind Obedience, No

The opinions of 'serious thinkers' notwithstanding, the Catholic Church doesn't teach blind obedience. We're expected to obey those in authority over us - as long as what we're told to do isn't immoral. Sounds groovy, except that there are - what else? - rules about what we can and can't decide to not do for 'moral' reasons:
"The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'48 'We must obey God rather than men':49
"When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.50"
(Catechism, 2242)
Looks like "I was only following orders" may not cut it at the particular judgment. ("Particular judgment?" I've mentioned that before. (August 8, 2010) Can't say I'm looking forward to it.)

Freedom, Catholic Style

Freedom is an important idea in Catholic teaching (Catechism, 1730-1742) There's a catch, though, of a sort. It's freedom and responsibility. (Catechism, 1731-1738)

The section on freedom ends with this summary:
" 'God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him' (GS 17 § 1).

"Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one's own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good.

"Freedom characterizes properly human acts. It makes the human being responsible for acts of which he is the voluntary agent. His deliberate acts properly belong to him.

"The imputability or responsibility for an action can be diminished or nullified by ignorance, duress, fear, and other psychological or social factors.

"The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything.

" 'For freedom Christ has set us free' (Gal 5:1)."
(Catechism, 1743-1748)
There's more - there's always more, it seems. But I think that's a fairly good snapshot of what the Catholic Church has to say about freedom.

Remember, though: I speak with the full authority of "some guy with a blog." (October 11, 2010) Which is one reason why I have so many citations and links: They're 'for further reading.'

Marriage, America, and - You Guessed It - Rules

Here's what got me started, about why a Catholic in America can't be a good little citizen and just do what the President says:
"Administration's decision to abandon DOMA was 'lapse in judgment'

"House must join litigation fully to 'defend true meaning of marriage'

"Leaders of Catholic, Protestant and Sikh communities of faith—together representing tens of millions of adherents—joined together to urge the U.S. House of Representatives to fight for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal courts, in a March 3 letter to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), Speaker of the House of Representatives...."
(USCCB News Release (March 4, 2011))
I'm running late, and this post is already long, so here are the basics:
  • Marriage matters
  • Marriage, for Catholics, is limited to members of the
    • Same species
    • Opposite sex
  • The Decalogue can't be changed by a 2/3 majority
    • Not even the Pope has that kind of authority
Then there's how much America has changed in the last half-century: an interfaith group of Catholic, Protestant and Sikh communities?! This isn't the 'Beaver Cleaver' America of '50s television.

I've written about most of this before, anyway.

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2 comments:

anchovyspaghetti said...

I recently watched a video from I think around the eighties with the 2 opposing Catholic sides: "progressive" and "conservative", (one was Michael Novak who descibed himself as a former progressive with teenagers).

What I found helpful was that the "conservatives" explained John Paul II's encyclicals as a way to hold the feet to the fire of several different camps, so to speak, and that he was trying to emphasize and clearly define the Good, whether people (especially Americans) found it practical or not.

Brian Gill said...

anchovyspaghetti,

Well-said. I think I'd say "convenient," or maybe "palatable," instead of "practical," though. I've found that Catholic teachings are 'practical,' in the sense of being possible. ("A Little Soap, A Little Prayer" (March 1, 2011))

Thanks for taking time for your comment.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.