Sunday, November 7, 2010

Property Of...

I was reading about the Pope's trip to Spain, and the opposition to same, and a thought occurred to me. "You're going to have to change the message, Your Holiness."

I understand where the Pontiff is coming from. I grew up Roman Catholic, and still have a fair idea of Church dogma, theology and ideals. But I'm also an observer of people, and one of things that I've learned is that for the vast majority of people, membership in a particular religion fulfills something for them. And if it stops fulfilling that, they go on to something else (or maybe nothing else, as the case may be).

Now, I didn't listen to the Pope's sermon in Barcelona, so I'm pretty sure that I don't have the context 100% correct. (I should likely do something about that - find a translation, at least, given that I don't speak Spanish at all.) But the primary message that I understood from those of his comments that I have read was that he is dismayed that people are living up to their responsibilities to God and the Church. Which is fine. But if he's going to do more than preach to the choir, sooner or later, he's going to have to articulate what following the Church is going to do for the people who follow. It's fine to consider homosexual activity "intrinsically disordered." But if you're going to ask someone to either a) enter into a permanent relationship with someone that they feel no attraction to or b) remain celibate for their entire lives for something that they feel they have no control over, you're better off offering something in return outside of simply not going to Hell. (There are times when people make God/Yahweh/Allah out to be less of a loving divinity, and more of a supernatural mobster running a protection racket.) The same with things like divorce and abortion. Simply saying this is what you're supposed to do, regardless of the personal consequences, has rarely been a winning strategy.

Simply decrying people's rejection of God's "property interest" in them reduces them to pawns to moved around as befits God's purposes. For people that find this unsatisfactory, simply telling them that they have no choice is unlikely to be compelling.


JohnMcG said...

I think this was something the Holy Father's predecessor was more gifted at -- he was able to tell people, young people in particular, that they were being called to something heroic, which I think they have an appetite for.

The Holy Father's lamentations are valid, but maybe not the best stuff for a persuasive homily.


I think it also falls to us (I say "us" to include myself) in the laity, more than the clergy, to show that living the faith is a path to happiness. If people look around at Catholics trying to live the faith, and don't see happy people, they're not going to be too eager to join.

Aaron said...


Well said, well said. Looking back on it, I think you're probably right, although I didn't follow John Paul II as closely as I might have. But I would add one caveat... Living the faith has to be more than a path to happiness - it has to be a path to happiness that helps overcome obstacles to happiness that said faith itself generates. A person whose faith doesn't appear to demand that much of them may have a hard time connecting with someone who feels they are being asked to make a serious sacrifice. (In other words, a woman being asked to stay in an unhappy marriage for the rest of her life might need to see others overcoming that same level of hardship for her to be convinced.)