Like a few other voices from the Catholic left, Crittenden interprets B16's encyclical in opposition to JPII:
"[Ratzinger] is a famous theologian, but he resists the opportunity to give a turgid theology lesson. This is above all a pastoral encyclical, and it wears its learning lightly. The style is relaxed and easy to understand, even humorous in places. There are no syllogisms, no talk about essences, no norms, no endless footnotes quoting his papal predecessors, in short, it's nothing like an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. Above all, it is emphatically not an encyclical about sex, and not a papal fatwa. There is no mention of procreation, or contraception, or Humanae Vitae, or Pope John Paul II's 'theology of the body.'"Little wonder that Charles Curran is invited to weigh in, portraying the encyclical as "a huge relief" to the vast world of Catholics (expressing his initial concern that Benedict's encyclical might have chosed to meditate on -- horrors! -- truth).
The interview is interesting, as Crittenden and Curran basically feed off each others' mutual resentment toward John Paul II, "conservative Catholics," repressive Catholic moral doctrine and what Curran calls the "almost peripheral document" on gays in the seminary:
[Crittenden]: "Of all the virtues, the one that has been missing the most in the last 25 years is charity. I mean charity of Catholics towards each other. We saw a bitterly divided rancorous church at times. It strikes me too that a lot of that was driven by conservative American Catholics who really kind of heated up the whole debate around sexuality. Presumably there will be a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth when they read [the encyclical]."They crow over the citation of Nietzsche and Julian the Apostate ("this document dialogs with everybody!" -- again, not a suprise for one familiar with Benedict/Ratzinger's written works), and Crittenden fondly quotes "what, for [him], is the most significant passage in the document":
According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Christianity had poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice. Here the German philosopher was expressing a widely-held perception: doesn't the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life? Doesn't she blow the whistle just when the joy which is the Creator's gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the Divine?Again, as with any papal document, selective quotation reveals the readers' prejudice. It does, however, jive rather well with the take of Fr. O'Leary, our online manifestation of "The Spirit of Vatican II" or parody thereof.
Rocco discusses the portrayal of Ratzinger as Prefect ("panzerkardinal", "Vatican Enforcer") vs. the astonishing revelation of his gentle pontificate ("he reminds me of the best qualities of Pope Paul VI") and the Vatican's rapprochement with the SSPX.
Buried in the discussion are gleams of insight and snatches of good commentary (even from Curran) -- but the prevailing tendency to pit Benedict XVI against his predecessor, manifested in Crittenden's interpreting the Benedict's encyclical as a return to "a moderate, more inclusive" church vs. John Paul II's pontificate, led by what he characterized as "a right wing faction leader," is ultimately disappointing.
Listening to Curran, I am reminded that shortly after Benedict's election he authored the critical editorial "A Place for Dissent" (Commonweal May 6, 2005 / Volume CXXXII, Number 9), which demanded that
Catholic theology and practice provide some breathing room to those who disagree on some noncentral issues, especially in moral matters. People can make their own conscientious decisions and continue to participate in the life of the church despite practicing contraception, being divorced and remarried, or living in a committed gay or lesbian union.In 1993, then-Cardinal Ratzinger gave a written interviewed to Time, in which he commented on the Vatican's stripping of Charles Curran's theological credentials ("The Future Pope Speaks" Catholic World News May 2005): "With his theory of dissent Father Curran moved beyond individual questions to challenge the Church's teaching office as such. He wanted to accord dissent itself an official teaching role."
Crittenden, Curran and company -- Hans Kung takes a similar approach in his latest press release -- may hope that Pope Benedict has changed his mind on the matter, or at least is willing to downplay faithfulness to the moral teachings of the Church in the interest of promoting love and Christian unity. However, I'm inclined to think that Benedict would recommend love for Christ and his Church is expressed and demonstrated precisely in obedience.
Rocco has of late taken to characterizing a few unnamed "St. Blog's 'faithful'" on his blog as "angry, love challenged". This is reflected in the interview as well:
[Benedict] looks at a lot of his people who claim to embody the Church, and he's asking a very pointed question: How much love is there here? How much real love, not "I will say I love you, and proceed to judge you, and call you out for everything that conflicts with my worldview." How much real love is there?I think that one could definitely say that Christian charity calls for civility and respectfulness in dialoging with the opposition. For example, on the RFC's online forum and email list I've urged members to abide by Pope Benedict XV's admonishment (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 1914)
"As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline - in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See -- there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion. But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity; let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline."And with more success than not, I've tried to follow the same in discussions on this blog as well.
On the other hand, does "real love" necessarly preclude judging? Is it possible to disagree in charity and yet, criticize those who conflict with one's worldview (particularly if that "worldview" coincides with, say, the moral teachings of the Church")?
Does Benedict's call for charity call for a suspension of criticism of, say, the Rainbow Sash movement and the movement's protest against the Catholic Church? Should Catholics refrain from 'calling out' say, Senators Kerry or Kennedy (or a Governor Schwarzenegger, for that matter) for presenting the "pro-choice Catholic" position as a legitimate one within the Church?
That would be my question for Rocco.
On a related note . . .
- The Discipline Love Requires, by Al Kimel (Pontifications). Feb. 3rd, 2006:
"I have not yet read Pope Benedict’s new encylical; but when one finds Hans Küng, Charles Curran, Luke Timothy Johnson, Joseph O’Leary, and Andrew Sullivan applauding the document, one gets a bit nervous . . ."
- I'm Shocked--Shocked!--to Find Love Being Praised Here!, by Scott Carson (An Examined Life): "What struck me about the various voices heard from in the excerpts was not so much how little these people appear to understand Benedict XVI, but how very badly they understand Roman Catholicism."
- Deus Caritas Est: Still Catching Up On Love?, by David (Cosmos, Liturgy, Sex). February 5, 2006:
The “love” pundits are still roiling over B16’s first Encyclical. They cannot for the life of them, figure out how the Church can be positive about eros and still consider sex outside of marriage (between one man and one woman) sinful.. . .