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By Diogenes (articles ) | Jul 03, 2006

Today's refuse found buried in the dumpsters of yesteryear. Nice work by Gerald Augustinus, who rummaged around in Time magazine archives to discover the Bright Young Catholics of 2006 -- Hans Küng, Charles Curran, and Andrew Greeley -- congratulating themselves as the Bright Young Catholics of 1968:

The most striking fact of the contemporary Catholic rebellion is that the vast majority of dissenters ... feel free to create and define their own faith and still consider themselves within the church. "Fewer are leaving than ever before," says Bishop Hugh Donohoe of Stockton, Calif. "Their attitude is 'We're not going to be thrown out of the church. We are going to fashion it to our own liking.'" ...

"I don't know a well-educated young lay person who has religious concerns who's not a dissenter," says Greeley. Among Catholic college students, alienation from the church as an institution is almost a badge of maturity.

For Greeley, it goes without saying, a non-dissident Catholic is ipso facto ill-educated, so his failure to find a well-educated one is hardly surprising. Still, it's wryly amusing to hear resonances of the Petula Clark Ethik in the cutting-edge moral theology of the day:

Almost all the stern "thou shall nots" of Catholic morality are being similarly reinterpreted via a person-centered ethic based on the imperatives of love rather than on categorical negatives. Recently, Msgr. Stephen J. Kelleher of New York's archdiocesan rota openly proposed that the church allow divorce and remarriage in certain "intolerable marriages." ... Jesuit Lawyer Robert Drinan has proposed that abortion should be a matter for private decision. Some Catholic college chaplains will concede that where a boy-girl relationship is truly loving, premarital sex no longer need be considered a sin.

A boy-girl relationship -- how delightfully quaint! When Thinking Catholic Arnim Meiwes killed, cooked, and ate the boyfriend he met in the Gay Cannibals chat room five years ago (with said boyfriend's permission, natürlich), he understood full well he was applying "a person-centered ethic based on the imperatives of love" -- this, in fact, was precisely the defense he offered at his trial. Anticipating the objections of a "thou shalt not" morality, Meiwes had even made a videotape of the occasion to demonstrate that consummation, and consommé, were consensual. In this respect, he was an apt pupil of Küng, Drinan, Curran, and Greeley, since the only conceivable basis on which his romantic endeavors could be faulted is that of the "categorical negatives" his masters had laughed away. (The jury, imperfectly emancipated from the thou-shalt-nots, found Meiwes guilty.)

The same Time article begins with a reference to "God's natural law" as the basis of the reasoning in Humanae vitae -- scoffingly, as if Paul VI had proposed the Phlogiston Theory of air as immutably valid. Yet those who have followed the controversy know that it's the opponents of natural law reasoning who have changed their weaponry multiple times over the years, while the Church's traditional morality has proved not only applicable but indispensable in situations that, like Meiwes's, were not even dreamed about in 1968. Unlike the ethics of Küng or Curran, moreover, the Church's morality is accessible to all the Faithful, taught in its simplest forms by every Catholic mother to her child. As John Finnis explains in his essay on St. Thomas More, this is where the fides of the sensus fidelium is located:

Against the conception of revelation, faith and doctrine proposed or, more often, presupposed by the new men [i.e., dissenters] much may be said. But in meeting it at the level to which and at which it appeals, Thomas More's constantly reiterated appeal is most helpful -- his appeal to the true sensus and consensus fidelium. This is not the judgment of our generation of Christians more or less comfortable in a secular culture. It is the judgment of the many generations of Christians before us, very many of whom like More knew vast tracts of the Scriptures by heart, prayed not for minutes but for hours daily, and yet who lived in cultures which posed moral questions no less complex than today's.

You want fries with that, Father?

"Regrets, I've had a few ..."

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  • Posted by: - Jul. 06, 2006 9:21 PM ET USA

    Our bodies are given to us by God. We are to care for them. We are to treat them with respect. We have a moral obligation to protect our mind and body from evil influences. Basically, the body is on loan from God. What makes some people think and act as if they are in total control and independence from God? Too simple to grasp? Accountability is an factor they do not want face. That does not mean it won't happen.

  • Posted by: sparch - Jul. 04, 2006 4:28 PM ET USA

    It reminds me of a previous "Off The Record". I paraphrase, We know we have fashioned God in our own image when he hates the same peolple we do. If after these many years these people have not changed, not even an inch, toward their faith, what God , indeed, do they serve.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 03, 2006 9:25 PM ET USA

    Everyt once in awhile I get the feeling "We should have thrown the bums out!' God help us.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jul. 03, 2006 5:56 PM ET USA

    You left out an important parenthesis, Diogenes. "Recently, Msgr. Stephen J. Kelleher of New York's archdiocesan rota openly proposed that the church allow divorce and remarriage in certain 'intolerable marriages.'" The original goes on: "(Kelleher was promptly transferred to a suburban parish.)" It is not hard to conclude that Kung, Curran, Greeley, Drinan, Time & Co. have largely prevailed. Would anybody be transferred today?

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jul. 03, 2006 5:55 PM ET USA

    Brilliant attack at the root of the problem. However, the phlogiston theory, which now seems so quaint and passe, was not a theory of air, but of the burning process. Ironic application since it was Joseph PRIESTLY who discovered oxygen. Obviously it's a lack of spiritual oxygen that led so many astray for so many years.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 03, 2006 4:58 PM ET USA

    The TIME archives really are a "treasure trove". The good news, in a way, is that most of today's dissenters are the same as yesterday and thus rather long in the tooth, if they have any left at all, that is.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 03, 2006 2:56 PM ET USA

    Based "on the imperatives of love"? This love means approving the notion that a person can make morally and socially acceptable anything he pleases the Commandments notwithstanding. In a recent discussion with a woman now cohabiting she explained God loves me. She knows the Church has its rules but her decision should be respected. "And with ears itching they will pile up teachers to suit themselves" the Scriptures tell us. The remedy: keep insisting on sound doctrine in and out of season.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 03, 2006 1:29 PM ET USA

    The elitist "faith" of Bright Young Catholics is not the Faith of the Martyrs. It is just another gnostic soup in the contemporary cafeteria of secularist "spirituality."

  • Posted by: - Jul. 03, 2006 1:14 PM ET USA

    Quite a shocking way to make a point, but point well made. When the pro-contracept "my body is my own" women were pushing for birthcontrol, they could not have "conceived" of 1 out of 4 babies being murdered in thier mother's wombs. They would have found that idea shocking. But now doctors dismember them without a thought - ask yourself - why be shocked that some nutcase has taken to dismembering someone? Its only shocking because it occurred AFTER birth, albeit the difference of consent -eeew!