"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Am I getting it?

Perhaps I do the U.S. bishops an injustice. A few days ago I complained that they'd dropped the ball again on lay dissent from the definitive Church teaching on contraception. There are very good grounds for that complaint. I have found—and I'm by no means the only professional Catholic to have found—that serious-minded non-Catholic and ex-Catholic believers are scandalized by the undisputed fact that most Catholics don't take the teaching seriously and face no penalty whatsoever from their clergy for that attitude. The scandal is not so much the teaching, which is admittedly even more widely rejected outside than within the Church, as what is seen as the institutionalized hypocrisy of the situation. But it looks like the bishops are now trying to address it—sort of.

On the same day they released the document I discussed in my previous post, which is on the criteria for fitness to receive the Eucharist, the USCCB also released another entitled Married Life and the Gift of Love. It is mainly devoted to a sound, even appealing explanation of the teaching's necessary connection with the Church's broader, developed doctrine on sexuality and marriage. The sources used by the document are among the best available, and the document itself would be catechetically quite useful if widely disseminated to and studied by those in parochial ministry—which probably means that won't happen. But it's no coincidence that the bishops released no-compromise documents on sexuality on the same day as the one on fitness to receive the Eucharist. Even though the latter did not say what most needed to be said, the former said enough to let anybody connect the dots if they care enough to bother.

And yet, there remains no incentive for anybody who doesn't do so already. These are the topics on which, if you'll pardon the pun, the rubber hits the road for most American Catholics. Are the bishops ready to drive the bus, not just supply the map? Not just yet. But as the twelve-steppers say: "One good step at a time."
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