More on the intrinsic viciousness of ‘pastoral accommodation’

November 5, 2017 § 27 Comments

Since 1999, I have directed a pastoral counseling agency that conducts over 12,000 [hours] of pastoral counseling per year.  That means that, over the last 18 years, I have either personally conducted, or been directly responsible for, over 216,000 hours of pastoral counseling, which is all about asking how one can apply the teachings of our Catholic faith to some of the most complex situations one could encounter in life.  Our agency’s services are delivered in English and Spanish to Catholic couples, families, and individuals across North and South America, Europe, Asia (primarily Hong Kong and India), Australia, and Africa, which has given me a uniquely multi-cultural lens through which to view this question of pastoral practice.  I am a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and I serve as the Chair of the Education Committee for the Catholic Psychotherapy Association, which is responsible for the professional  development of the next generation of pastoral psychotherapists.  I also direct a graduate program in pastoral studies which is forming the next generation of pastoral ministers.  I have written over 20 books and programs on a host of serious, practical, faith-based topics that have been translated into at least 7 languages.

The idea that the laity are doomed to be spiritual also-rans strikes me as a particularly pernicious failure of pastoral practice.  I am, frankly, appalled that what appears to be driving the progressive advocacy of an interpretation of Chapter 8 of AL that supports communion for Catholics who are remarried without the benefit of annulment is that lay people are just too weak to live holy lives.  It seems to me that some 50 years after Vatican II, lay people deserve a little better than “we think we have to lower the bar because, well, you suck.”

… I happen to work with an awful lot of people who have been heroically bearing the cross of living faithfully in their irregular marriages for years and who are a testament both to the fact that  the current teaching bears real personal and relational fruit AND the fact that heroism is for the average Christian (thank you very much).  On their behalf, I can only say, “How dare you.” to anyone, who out of their misguided approach to pastoral practice would seek to demean the witness of such faithful, courageous, godly, and yes, heroic people.

(HT: LMS Chairman)

 

§ 27 Responses to More on the intrinsic viciousness of ‘pastoral accommodation’

  • TomD says:

    Kasper had an interview where he said:

    To live together as brother and sister? Of course I have high respect for those who are doing this. But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian. That could also create new tensions.

    That line right there is the problem; Catholics don’t believe Catholics can be Catholic anymore – the Gospel just is the call to heroism for the average man! Everyone has a heroic story to live, and who are we to deny that to the weak, and permit it only for the strong?

  • Zippy says:

    One can’t help but get the overriding impression that much of this call for ‘pastoral accommodation’ is the work of guilty consciences on the part of the clerics calling for it: attempts to turn the sort of faux ‘mercy’ they want for themselves into the practice of the Church.

  • Our Heroine says:

    I am a Catholic who has remained faithful to a husband who has abandoned her. It is a cross. The refrain I hear from the clergy on a regular/tiresome basis is, “Why not get your annulment so you can be free and find love again? Consider that there is something wrong with you that you don’t.”

    I have virtually no support from the Church for my choice to live out my marriage vows under these circumstances. And yet, here I am, years later, still doing it. If I, as a truly nothing-special Catholic can do it (without support) I can only say that honestly, anyone can.

  • ignacy says:

    Zippy:

    One can’t help but get the overriding impression that much of this call for ‘pastoral accommodation’ is the work of guilty consciences on the part of the clerics calling for it: attempts to turn the sort of faux ‘mercy’ they want for themselves into the practice of the Church.

    I second that. I was pushing for the proof of intrinsic evil of the current pastoral practice (i.e. analogous to the pastoral practice of torturing the heretics) because in the moments of weakness I see great temptation to go full amoris on my own sins. If it is merely evil because imprudent, a cunning man whose reason is dulled by grave sin can find sufficiently good justfication for applying it in his own case (or find a supportive priest).

  • Mike T says:

    I see this as a general failure to understand what grace really means. Grace is not there to enable us to live haaaaappy lives, but to enable us to avoid the consequences (in eternity) that we justly deserve.

    You see this clearly on the abortion issue where so few people are comfortable locking a college girl up in prison for even 3-5 years for having an abortion after getting pregnant at a party. Then they act surprised when she genuinely cannot understand, on a cost-benefit analysis, why there is any harm to her from diving into the hookup culture. Similarly, a lot of people don’t treat marriage and divorce with gravity because aside from men getting divorce-raped in a lot of family law courts, it’s not treated as a big deal by most authorities anymore.

    (On a side note, gotta love the conservatives who castigated Trump for divorcing perfectly healthy women and womanizing, but aren’t 10x more vitriolic in their views on Gingrich and McCain; particularly McCain)

  • LarryDickson says:

    A problem with “living together like brother and sister” is that it requires cooperation of both parties and apparently, in Pope Francis’s experience of Argentinian macho culture, that cooperation is often not forthcoming. It then becomes a choice between being raped and abandoning your children.

    Aside from that, Zippy’s point is well taken. The requirement for moral heroism is a possibility in the life of any of us. The hardest requirement is faith – that God is still with us when the grind sets in seemingly forever. Of course, people who do not have such experiences tend to have an attitude of moral superiority over those who do and who break down.

    I think Mike T puts too much weight on authority and punishment. I would rather convert that college girl, even if after the fact. Assuming that she cannot get beyond a cost-benefit analysis amounts to despairing of her soul and making her a good slave. If cost-benefit analyses are the rule, the optimal solution is to legalize killing toddlers so their organs can be sold.

  • […] post is inspired by this recent post over at Zippy’s. A major point of discussion in the comments is Christian (in that […]

  • Alex says:

    Men who kill their wives so they don’t have to part with their possessions also can’t get beyond the cost benefit analysis. Frankly, I think abortion is one of the crimes where the death penalty would fit best, especially when it is this frivolous.

  • Ian says:

    Mike T.,

    On a side note, gotta love the conservatives who castigated Trump for divorcing perfectly healthy women and womanizing, but aren’t 10x more vitriolic in their views on Gingrich and McCain; particularly McCain

    What about the conservatives who castigated Clinton in the ‘90s but then downplayed Trump’s adultery? That seems like the more obvious inconsistency.

    As for Gingrich, the conservatives I know who castigated Trump for his infidelities also castigated Gingrich and were appalled by the thought of his nomination. Gingrich never got the nomination, so it didn’t become as big an issue as it might have otherwise. Then there’s Herman Cain, whose sexual peccadilloes sunk his campaign. Of course, that was in that bygone sexually-repressed puritan era of five years ago when GOP candidates were still expected to oppose public celebration of sodomy. What prudes we were back then!

    But the McCain example is a good one. American social conservatives seemed to have made their peace with being divorced once and remarried. But get divorced twice and remarried? What a mockery of marriage!

    Of course, one could make the same point about Reagan.

  • TomD says:

    Soon we’ll have reached the Orthodox position – once, twice, three times is ok, but four is just too much.

    But once you cross over to the lesser evil, there’s no evil you won’t vote for.

  • Ian says:

    Soon we’ll have reached the Orthodox position – once, twice, three times is ok, but four is just too much.

    At least we’ll still be able to signal our opposition to the moral decadence of Islam in that case.

  • TomD says:

    Islam has the “remarriage” option without the divorce one, too!

  • Scott W. says:

    “Soon we’ll have reached the Orthodox position – once, twice, three times is ok, but four is just too much”

    There’s a parody of Kenny Rogers in there somewhere.

  • Mike T says:

    I think Mike T puts too much weight on authority and punishment.

    It wasn’t until St. Ronnie started us onto no fault divorce that the problems got out of control. It wasn’t until Roe v. Wade that it became perfectly legal to slaughter a child to avoid responsibility. Now authorities are telling women that anything less than highly enthusiastic, fully informed sex with her on top could very well be rape.

    The sexual revolution was almost entirely driven by cultural elites and “competent authorities.”

  • Step2 says:

    Mike T,
    I’m having trouble with the “perfectly healthy women” description. Is there some weird manosphere angle that makes it more sympathetic to cheat on a healthy wife?

  • TomD says:

    All I know is some have tried to explain away Gingrich by pointing out that his wife was dying so he had to go somewhere.

  • Zippy says:

    Isn’t the modern wedding vow something like “for better but not worse, in health but not sickness, until being with you becomes burdensome and I want sexytime with someone else?”

  • Mike T says:

    Step2,

    Is there some weird manosphere angle that makes it more sympathetic to cheat on a healthy wife?

    Consider two situations:

    One man has a wife who is 35, healthy and eligible to take half of his money and move on with her life.

    Another man has a wife who is now badly crippled, cannot do for herself and would blow all of the alimony on therapy and eat cat food for the rest of her life.

    Are you going to tell me that both women are equally wronged instead of one being even more wronged than the other?

  • Mike T says:

    The fact that two things sit broadly in the same category of objectively evil act does not mean that they are equally evil. The fact that there is a floor on the level of evil does not mean that there is a ceiling.

  • Step2 says:

    Are you going to tell me that both women are equally wronged instead of one being even more wronged than the other?

    No, but my question was about sympathy for his selfish behavior. Even using Zippy’s rubric of “selfish modern marriage vows” he is doing the opposite of what he believes is in his own interest.

  • Mike T says:

    It’s not sympathy, it’s just a lack of respect for the voices doing most of the condemning. A lot of people are getting tired of the forced moral outrage. After a while it feels like getting told you’re going to Hell by a pastor who keeps getting caught in the red light district or hanging out with johns.

  • Karl says:

    “I happen to work with an awful lot of people who have been heroically bearing the cross of living faithfully in their irregular marriages for years”

    Heroic?

    More like f***ing for Virginity, more than anything else.

  • Step2 says:

    A lot of people are getting tired of the forced moral outrage.

    Irony is dead.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Related to TomD’s comment up top, I wonder how much of the idea that virtue is “not for the average Christian” is a product of the idea that monastic life and the evangelical counsels are “not for the average Christian.”

    Fr Richard Butler’s Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery harps on this problem quite a bit. Perhaps the best summary of the problem, though, is a quote he takes from the Dominican Fr Maggiolo, “The contemporary ways of considering religious vocation, although diverse and opposed among themselves, also have this point in common: that they suppose it to be something quite rare, even exceptional in the Christian life. This is a supposition as gratuitous as it is dangerous; for once admitted it is not possible to divorce it from its consequences, which just about amount to the total suppression of religious life.”

    First we made the Counsels “heroic” and shrouded them and the monastic life in what Fr. Butler calls the “hazy aura of ‘special-strange-something'”, and with that accomplished we’ve begun to do the same thing even to the bare minimums necessary for a just life.

  • Hrodgar:

    Excellent comment. I wrote a blog post on that book at my blog; very highly recommend the book.

  • Hrodgar says:

    That’s where it was! I had picked up the book at Rad Trad’s recommendation some time ago, and your mention of it bumped it onto the short list. I had been going to look at what you said to make sure I wasn’t being redundant, but somehow I thought it had been in the comments over here, and I didn’t realize it had already been two months.

    I’m actually only about halfway through at the moment, but from what I’ve read, yes, it’s a very good book.

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