Truth In Crisis?

September 2008By Daniel J. Heisey

Daniel J. Heisey is a Benedictine monk of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he is known as Brother Bruno.

It is time to change the teaching of the Church. For far too long the Church has been the laughingstock of the enlightened world. The Church's teaching is backward and based on antiquated social norms that no longer obtain in today's society. But more important, what the Church teaches is simply impossible; it runs counter to human nature and human desires, desires that fall well within the parameters of normal, healthy human behavior. I refer, of course, to the Church's teaching on charity.

For those who thought I was about to launch into a diatribe about artificial birth control, I am sorry to disappoint you. But it seems to me that the arguments used to dissent from the Church's teaching on contraception could easily apply to other areas, such as her teaching on charity. After all, one could declare that expecting people to behave with selfless concern for others, to act with kindness and ask for nothing in return, to lay down one's life for one's friends, is unrealistic. And so one could insist that it is imperative that the Church change her teaching on charity so as not to lose members and even converts.

More than a dozen years ago, the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., former editor of America magazine, wrote Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (Harvard Univ. Press, 1996), in which he makes the following sweeping statement: "The relationship between theologians and the papacy is worse today than at any time since the Reformation." Apparently, Fr. Reese does not think that popes are theologians. Several pages later, Reese lays the blame for this sorry state on the papacy, not the theologians: "The magisterium's failure to convince significant numbers of the clergy or the faithful of its teaching on birth control, divorce, sexual ethics, and a male celibate priesthood has undermined its credibility on other issues." Might one of those "other issues" be charity?

The difficulty of what the Church teaches does not exempt one from striving to live up to that teaching. The Commandments do not expire after a certain date or wither if taken out of the desert in which they first bloomed, and the Beatitudes do not apply only to first-century Galileans or rely upon opinion polls. Even if no one were convinced of Church teaching, truth abides.

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I guess it's a case of there is no Truth and that's the truth. Problem with a lot of people these days is that they don't understand what the role of the Church is (or what the reason and meaning of truth is). I always felt that to become a theologian is a risk in that one can lose their way. When, as a Catholic and theologian you come to challenge the magesterium (politics aside) you should recognize that just maybe, you've lost your way. Posted by: awunsch
September 17, 2008 02:11 PM EDT
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