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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Feb 05, 2005

An Austrian zoologist named Konrad Lorenz identified a phenomenon called "imprinting" through his observations that newly hatched goslings tended to bond with the first object encountered after their emergence from the dark world of the eggshell.

There's a whole generation of liberal Catholics who, it seems, were "born again" in the 1960s, having burst free from the constraints of dogma, and who were imprinted with the first enticing stimuli they encountered at the moment. Time froze. For them, "Blowin' in the Wind" was, is, and ever shall be cutting-edge chic -- and the same goes for felt banners, General Absolution, faux-juvenile artwork, colored squat candles, kneeler-free theatre seating. If you suggest that folk-idiom liturgical music antedates the experience of today's youth by exactly the same time-span that the papacy of Benedict XV antedated their own, they stare at you blankly. "But .... it's where the action is."

The photo above shows an utterly null ordination of Sixties girls that took place on a Danube cruise boat in 2002. (Note that the ordinandae, good goslings that they are, vested themselves in tie-dyed cotton and paisley stoles to symbolize their contemporary understanding of ministry.) Those who point out the embarrassing fact that, in Anglicanism, woman priests have failed to bring about the promised Pentecost are wasting their breath. It's now. It's where the action is.

It's a sad reflection that, just as some people are permanently warped by confinement, others can be permanently damaged by emancipation. The generation of Rosemary Ruether and Thomas Gumbleton presents itself as fearlessly innovative, but, paradoxically, the characteristic most obvious to an outsider is its brittleness. Consider the case of Priests for Equality, a quintessentially time-struck gang whose mission is to combat "the self-destructiveness of an all-male clergy," and which found it necessary to chop up the Bible to get it past the bars of its self-erected cage. Richard Ostling is unimpressed:

Start with the Lord's Prayer -- er, make that the "Teacher's" Prayer. Since God can no longer be addressed as "Father" and his -- er, make that God's -- "kingdom" cannot come, we get: "Abba God in heaven, hallowed be your name! May your reign come ..."

"Abba" is simply Aramaic for "father," so the change seems pointless. But it's preferable to a proposed NCC option, "O God, Father and Mother," which sounded like two gods. "Reign" is awkward for oral readings because it hits the ear like a prayer for "rain." Elsewhere, the translation invents "kindom" minus "g" to replace the supposedly sexist "kingdom." ...

Or take Babylon, "the mother of harlots." Please. The famous symbol of the evil Roman Empire in Revelation 17:5 is deemed "genderist" and full of "misogyny" because "male prostitution is as old as female prostitution." The squeamish substitute: "Source of All Idolatry." ...

This Bible uses "partner" in place of traditional marriage terminology "to acknowledge and value nontraditional relationships." In the list of sinners in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, instead of the usual "homosexuals" it restricts the denunciation to "hustlers" and "pederasts." In 1 Timothy 1:10, criticism of "sodomites" is rewritten to target only "men and women who traffic in human flesh."

Pathetic. But not unparalleled. When your grey-haired pastor grips the ambo and, moved to fury by no apparent cause, begins spraying spittle as he inveighs against the altar rail or the Friday abstinence, it's clear that for him they only disappeared the day before yesterday. For him, like a Japanese soldier stranded on a mid-Pacific island and fighting for the Emperor 20 years after the Armistice, the war for the "primacy of conscience" is still going on. And when he corrects himself in mid-sentence to add "and her," and women," "and sisters," &c., remember in your kindness the circumstances of his imprinting. It's where the action is.

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