Although Catholicism is in my genes, the fact that I do not practice the Faith indicates that I have problems with it. Fundamentally, although not entirely, because the Faith has problems with me.
The definition of ex cathedra in Roman theology concerns pronouncements about "faith and morals". An interesting distinction. As I have said, despite my personal shipwreck over The Problem of Evil and my subsequent connection to Gnosticism, as far as the oft-disputed doctrines go, the ones that challenge ordinary reason --the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Sacraments-- I never had much problem at all. My resistance and, frankly, resentment, was focussed mostly on morality.
The homosexual issue was the breaking point, of course. Yet as much as I regret the impasse, I can't really see any way out of it. Some elements of some documents on the issue have seemed to me unnecessarily harsh and unsympathetic, but I recognize that if the axiom that holds Catholic sexual morality together were to be unravelled, ethical chaos would ensue. So I recognize this but do not feel much about it any more, though I once did. After all I've had decades to work that through.
But what puts me off, passionately, is the current configuration of Catholic moral priorities, encapsulated in the phrase "justice and peace." To me it translates as "socialism and appeasement."
Some mewling priest was on Bill O'Reilly last night, chastizing America for celebrating the death of the man behind 9/11, the Muslim arch-terrorist Bin Laden. I wanted to punch Father in the mouth.
Twas not always thus with Holy Mother Church. Once, pardon the transgendered metaphor, she had balls.
Pope Pius V --both a Dominican and a canonized saint-- was the major force behind the European fleet that took on the Muslim Turks and beat them --with massive loss of life-- at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. And rather than demurely regretting that he was forced to be un-nice to them, he instituted an annual feast day of Our Lady of Victory to celebrate. And I have no doubt that he ordered the Te Deum to be sung in St. Peter's, thanking Christ and the Virgin for their help in slaughtering so many Mohammedans.
Was he immoral? UnChristian? UnCatholic?
Of course, not everything every Pope does or says is praiseworthy or true. But is the current pacifism an evolutionary advance or just one more accomodation to the morally-equivalent egalitarian Zeitgeist? As Bernie Goldberg said, coming on air with O'Reilly after the cleric had departed, "whether they are academics, or journalists or priests, liberals are pathetic."
But I do grant that the current mood of appeasement and high-mindedness has deep roots. The Gospels, complex documents though they be, certainly show that Jesus of Nazareth placed a very high premium on the forgiveness and love of enemies and persecutors. Perhaps my quarrel is with Him.
When I was a pastor, I remember being confronted by some pious type , who wanted me to do something (or not do something...I forget the details) because "that's what Jesus would do." My reply was heartfelt: "Jesus is not a useful model here. He had three years to deal with his disciples, from whom he demanded complete obedience, by the way, and then he died and went off to heaven. He never had to run a parish."
And that revealed one of my long-standing issues: what I perceived to be the inhumanly elevated ethical demands you find in the Gospels. I just never bought it. At least in the literal (dare I say fundamentalist) way in which soft-hearted liberals wanted me to. Funny, that. They are all against "fundamentalism" and "biblical literalism" when it clashes with their own worldview, but when it comes to their connatural attitudes of appeasement and pacifism, suddenly they are all WWJD.
Being a decent man (or woman) and still surviving in this fallen world is no easy task. And it strikes me as dishonest and hypocritical for high-minded people to rely on the brute force of other men to protect them and their loved ones, and then scold us for taking pleasure in the execution of justice.
If there is a place where Nietzsche's critique of Christianity rings true with me it is here, where being human is held in pious contempt by those who would demand that we be angels.
Pope Benedict XVI's Vatican gave a measured response, yet still piously reminding us that Christians are never supposed to take pleasure in anyone's death.
Frankly, I miss Pius V.