follow the rules

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 05, 2006

The Boston Globe smells blood in the water. Again. Each day brings a new headline story about the Massachusetts bishops' unwillingness to allow Catholic Charities to continue arranging adoptions by same-sex couples. (See the item immediately below.)

Today the news stories-- themselves heavily laced with opinion-- are complemented by two op-eds by regular Globe columnists. The contrast between the two columns is instructive.

One of the columnists, Jeff Jacoby, the paper's in-house conservative, is an observant Jew. The other, Joan Vennochi, is... well, let her explain for herself:

We think we can be prochoice, pro-gay marriage , pro-gay adoption, and in favor of married and female priests and still call ourselves Catholic. The people who make the rules say we don't meet the criteria.

But give Vennochi credit. Her column honestly raises the question of whether liberals should continue to profess membership in a Church whose doctrines they regard as-- her word-- "neanderthal."

Jacoby's column is in many ways more interesting. Since he's not a Catholic, you certainly can't expect him to act as a Catholic apologist. Yet he is sympathetic with the bishops, to a degree. Here's how it comes out:

But the fact is, those 'within the church" who oppose placing children with gay and lesbian couples include the pope, and bishops are not free to disregard church policy. If the Vatican says, 'Thou shalt not," Catholic Charities -- which is subject to church authority -- cannot say, 'Yes, we shall."

Give Jacoby credit, too. He's putting forward the best argument that's being made, around Boston, for the beliefs of the Catholic Church. That argument is: These are the rules.

Look through the umpteen recent stories in the Globe and the rival Boston Herald, or on the wire services. Look for any explanation of the Church's stance on this issue that goes beyond a sentence-fragment quote from a Vatican document. Or spare yourself the effort, and take my word for it: You won't find anything.

This is what the DREs call "a teachable moment." The Church has taken a stand. The dominant liberal culture is howling with outrage. Pundits thunder about how the insensitivity of the Vatican is harming needy orphans and loving couples. But in response, all the defenders of Catholicism can muster is an explanation that "we've got to go by the rules."

If the rules are unpopular, and no one explains the principles behind the rules, the only question is how far the rules can be stretched. That's precisely the debate going on around Boston today: How far can the rules-- imposed by distant figures at the Vatican-- be bent by the local office of Catholic Charities?

The dueling columnists on today's Globe op-ed page illustrate the way the battle-lines are drawn in Boston today. On the one hand is the liberal who thinks the Church's stance is "neanderthal." On the other is the conservative who encourages stalwart obedience. Nowhere-- not even from the hierarchy-- do we hear the notion that the Church's stand should be accepted not merely as a matter of obedience, but because it is true, and the truth will set us free. Nowhere do we hear that the prohibition against gay adoptions is motivated by love, for the children and for the homosexual couples. Nowhere do we hear that the teachings of the Church are the guide to a truly happy life: the easy yoke crafted by a loving God.

It's just a matter of rules. And-- ask St. Paul-- nobody loves rules.

Phil, get that book written!

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  • Posted by: - Mar. 08, 2006 11:13 AM ET USA

    Ms. Vennochi confuses "rules" with "truths". However, I doubt this is a teachable moment for her.

  • Posted by: miasarx - Mar. 06, 2006 4:25 PM ET USA

    1. Jesus is God. 2. He calls Himself the Truth, and the devil the "Father of Lies" 3. Jesus REALLY cares about the truth. 4. Since He's God He really did send the Holy Spirit of Truth to His Church. (He said He would). 5. That's how come the Church is infallible. Because Jesus is God and the Truth is really important. To deny the above is to deny either Jesus' divinity or the importance of truth. How can one do either of those and be a Christian? Just wondering.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 06, 2006 1:49 PM ET USA

    Consider the CDF’s instruction “On the Pastoral care of Homosexual Persons”: #15 -“A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to AVOID the near occasions of sin.” This maxim applies to whole families, too. Exposing kids to sinful attitudes & homosexual acts as a "normal" part of family life is contrary to reason, common sense, God’s Will & ,yes, Church rules. Catholic Charities is BOUND to uphold THE moral maxim: do no evil that good may come of it.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 06, 2006 1:31 PM ET USA

    Just try explaining the Church's stand on any moral matter, and the liberals will shout you down with epithets like "neanderthal." As one wit put it: My mind's made up; don't confuse me with facts.

  • Posted by: Brad - Mar. 06, 2006 12:46 PM ET USA

    As journalists (and sadly many priests) see it, the Church is not motivated by love but by a lust for male-dominance of a world without sex. It's interesting that those in the Vatican are so "distant" while those in Iraq are so close to home. What we need is more people willing to read more than a paragraph in one sitting and to decide that they have a standard for where they get their information.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 05, 2006 9:14 PM ET USA

    The beauty of the "progressive" mindset is as follows: if I don't like Tradition, doctrine, and dogma, then I need simply claim that 'rules' is a man-made word and not from God. I can then call my own rules 'enlightenment,' which means it comes from God; everyone must follow what comes from God. Thus each "progressive" is a prophet of the most high! Since they have a common non-vision, why they must be 'Church,' and it is really the traditional folk who are not Catholic.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 05, 2006 6:27 PM ET USA

    Do these that call themselves Catholic ever read the instruction book? It's not rocket science.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 05, 2006 11:57 AM ET USA

    Joan Venocchi must have received her training as an intern at, say, People Magazine. One parses her offering for a single original thought, a sentence not marred by a jarring cliche. Even the human being she manages to dredge up for an opportune quotation has no evident connection to Catholicism at all, not even -- to use a phrase Venocchi certainly would have -- as a "disgruntled Catholic." If this is the intellectual level of "liberal" thought, the truth should indeed prevail.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 05, 2006 10:09 AM ET USA

    Write it in Latin and then we can all enjoy it. Maria est ancilla Domini.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 05, 2006 9:18 AM ET USA

    Yeah Phil, and get it translated into French; we need it bad up here!