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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Catholic nudism, the USCCB, and bid to ‘eradicate’ evil

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 13, 2020

If one dares to search the internet, it may be possible to find twenty-year-old reports of Catholic nudism. The practice never got much coverage, although the proponents claimed to derive their ideas from Pope John Paul II’s innovative “theology of the body.”

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In a series of Wednesday addresses back in the 1980s, Pope John Paul II expounded upon the sacramental meaning of the human body, including human sexuality. His thought spawned the John Paul II Institutes in Rome and Washington, DC. Many of our priests studied at these impressively orthodox institutions and, today, provide hope for a Catholic restoration in a generation or two.

Unfortunately, without vigilance, every good thing can be undermined and perverted with hubris and lust. Remarkably, an eccentric guru, promoting his brand of the theology of the body, led a cluster of homeschool families into “Catholic nudism.” By their reckoning, when implementing the Holy Father’s teaching, not only was it possible to overcome Original Sin but also to eradicate the effects of Original Sin.

Entire communities could then happily return to the Garden of Eden, and everyone could walk about happily without fig leaves—just like Adam and Eve before the Fall. But the movement came to an abrupt end when law-enforcement authorities, unschooled in the nuances of fig leaf-free theology, objected. Eradicating Original Sin—and lust—isn’t always an easy sell.

“Eradicate” means to “pull up by the roots.” Gardeners know that they can only eradicate those pesky lawn dandelions by waiting for a rainy day, loosening the soil, and gently pulling what seems to be an endless string of roots. But you’d better get every rootlet, or you’ll repeat your work in a couple of weeks. It’s far easier to eradicate weeds using chemical warfare, but even those victories last only a season.

Many think it’s possible to eradicate all sorts of personal and social problems. We are still suffering from President Johnson’s futile attempt to abolish poverty with Great Society spending. But he and his successors were only successful in eradicating a healthy Federal budget and, many persuasively argue, expanding an economically and politically dependent underclass.

Of course, there are other noxious examples of eradication, from the Armenian genocide by the Turks, the Ukrainian famine by the Soviets, and the Jewish Holocaust by the Nazis. Fortunately these eradication efforts failed because many of the ethnic roots remained to sprout again. So here’s a good rule of thumb: When activists want to “eradicate” a problem, they’re likely up to no good. Grab your wallet and vote them out of office if you can. If not, bolt the doors, lock-and-load, and protect your family.

We struggle with sin and sinful patterns. Our spiritual battle is constant. Original Sin and its effects will be with us always until the end of time. Fortunately, Jesus and his Church will also be with us for the duration as well. The roots of sin remain, but regular treatments of God’s grace in the Sacraments control the troublesome sprouts.

But unlike the vice squad, we are quick to ignore Original Sin. So Chesterton’s well-worn words are worth repeating: “Certain new theologians dispute Original Sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” When churchmen presume to “eradicate” a vice with policies and workshops, the denial of Original Sin looms somewhere at the root of their thinking. The Catholic nudist gambit failed because the police see the effects of Original Sin every day.

But the USCCB often argues like Catholic nudists. In June 2020 the USCCB issued, “Open Wide Our Hearts, an Enduring Call to Love: A Pastoral Letter Against Racism.” The letter listed “Practical Steps for Eradicating Racism” with “actionable steps” to assist Catholics because the “persistence of racism demands our attention now.” Racism, intones the USCCB, is “embedded in our institutions and public policies.” There are many “actionable steps pastors and their communities may undertake to this end”—but only if you have a high tolerance for platitudes.

The USCCB believes that we can eradicate racism if we take the time to implement their political policies, procedures, and protocols (“rooted in the Gospel,” they claim, but more evidently in Democrat Party talking points). But if the USCCB thinks they can abolish racism (an astonishing claim), using the same logic, they could just as easily eradicate Original Sin.

The irreligious and irrational USCCB eradication policy template is painfully familiar. In the ongoing saga of the episcopal child abuse cover-up, Church leaders repeatedly promise to establish policies, procedures, and protocols to ensure that these crimes “never happen again” (another astonishing claim). Who needs Moses and the Ten Commandments when we have USCCB policies?

But just when the mammoth bureaucracy of the hierarchy placed all those child protection policies into place, the McCarrick abuse cover-up story broke, followed by a Vatican promise to issue a definitive report. Years have now passed, the interest of the public—and more notably of the mainstream media—has waned, and that promised report still has not been issued. Eradication of the promised “transparency” has begotten contempt and apathy.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon one’s point of view), the USCCB’s bold and irresponsible claims to eradicate sins have rendered them irrelevant. New York Times writer Ross Douthat had it right in 2018:

Thus the great irony of the McCarrick moment—that the kind of crimes once covered up because of the power and influence of bishops might now be swept under quickly because of the episcopacy’s obscurity and irrelevance. The question that the church’s leaders need to ask themselves, in America but especially in Rome, is whether they are happy with this settlement—happy to be ignored so long as they can also evade accountability for what’s still rotten in the church.

Notwithstanding USSCB virtue signaling, the eradication of racism, child abuse, and Original Sin with its effects, will not take place until the Lord returns. Ignore the nonsense for peace of mind. But let’s keep our fig leaves in place and get back to the basics of Catholic morality and the Sacraments.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: garedawg - Jul. 26, 2020 3:07 PM ET USA

    Years ago, before we met, my wife lived in Idaho, and was acquainted with the some of the Catholic-like groups on the fringe, which reinforced her view of the state being a refuge for eccentric communities. After I met her, I poked fun at Idaho by saying that it probably had sedevacantist nudist colonies. What if I was correct?

  • Posted by: doughlousek7433 - Jul. 15, 2020 1:27 PM ET USA

    Well said! Your last sentence with the addition of "preparing the congregation for salvation" need to become what we stand for!Heaven, hell, purgatory and the end times are but vague memories if we depend on homilies!

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Jul. 14, 2020 6:39 PM ET USA

    The USSCB kinda resembles the Supreme Court or Vatican II: they get some stuff right and they get some really important stuff wrong.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Jul. 14, 2020 3:07 AM ET USA

    Thank you, Father Jerry, for having the wisdom to see the truth and the courage to speak. Perhaps the weak-kneed and ambitious among our bishops, from the top down, could take a lesson from you.