11 April 2010

More on Gaudium, Spes, and Sex

See the previous post.
Bishop Casey's chaplain, so I was told, was rather surprised to notice, as he drove the Bishop back one evening from some vibrant cultural event, that the Bishop and Mrs Murphy were holding hands in the back of the car. But he assumed that this was the sort of thing which charismatic bishops did after vibrant cultural events. Prurient tourists can now visit the former holiday residence of the Bishops of Kerry, the Red House on the Dingle, where His Excellency and Annie got it together ... it's currently a rather attractive guesthouse.

My suggestion is that the cheerful optimism of the Vatican II period and its aftermath generated a sense that the cobwebs of an old, dark, negative, sex-obsessed Catholicism had indeed been blown away. Out, so people felt, went rules, fear, and the ghost of Dr McQuaid; in came confidence in the goodness of human nature and ... a practical Pelagianism. As the altars and statues, the tabernacles and the altar rails disappeared from cathedrals and churches, there was a sense that the oppression and restriction of an entire old culture with its attendant mores were disappearing too. I think we underestimate the power which cultural discontinuities have in the psyche both of an individual and of a society.

Add to this the fact that from the day that the Council consented to leave the question of "The Pill" to the Pope, until the publication of Humanae vitae, there was de facto a complete practical vacatio legis in this whole moral area. How can you possibly leave an entire Universal Church in doubt about a matter which bears upon the daily sexual lives of millions of couples, without radically undermining the whole concept of discipline within sexuality?

Moreover, it is the job of the Church to counter, in each generation, not heresies which only live in history books, but the errors of the present moment. In a decade strongly marked by a secular sense of sexual liberation, it was a gross pastoral dereliction of this "pastoral" council that it failed to speak out with with strong warnings or even with anathemas (the cultural inadequacy of the relevant paragraphs in Gaudium et Spes is demonstrated by the fact that they are rarely discussed, whether by those who favour or those who oppose traditional teaching). The fact is that 'pastoral' care of Christ's flock implies and does require warning them against dangers; just as Railtrack would be seriously negligent if they failed to put warning notices around their high-speed tracks.

But anathemas and the wagging of an admonitory forefinger were not in the ethos of the cheerful, optimistic, aggiornamento of the Council; and still less were they elements in the subsequent era of the Council's 'Spirit'.

In terms of media scandal, Casey was the first swallow of this unwholesome summer. Switching metaphors, I suggest that the pedophile scandal represents the return to roost of quite a lot of conciliar chickens ... including some liturgical fouls.

Mgr Gherardini's book is to be distributed by Maurice Marshall at Carmel Books Exeter.


Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

In the same vein as your thought about the job of the Church being to "counter the errors of the present moment", and thinking back to those years, it is pretty surprising to an American that nothing negative, or even monitory, was said about such things as Freudian psychoanalysis, or any of the "social sciences", if there are any. It's not as if they were established upon such bedrock that they wouldn't be seeing vast "corrections" by their own practitioners within not too many years. Yet, post G&S we find them all being used as virtual replacements for Sacraments (especially Penance), and traditional moral and pastoral theology/counseling.

Something like a self-induced "sucker punch", it seems to me.

In my view, this is the Pelagianism that you (and Cardinal Ratzinger; Gherardini?) comment upon. But, how does the Church counter an inherently Pelagianistic view about its role in the "Modern World", when it is "the Church", meaning the Author of G&S, which holds the view needing countering?

There is a literary figure lurking somewhere in my head which I can't quite reach: something like a contrasting of the marital embrace and a promiscuous quickie. It's the Jack Aubrey in me!

Anonymous said...

This is really good stuff!

Sadie Vacantist said...

Ditto ~ outstanding. More, please!

Woody said...

Fr. H, Rorate Caeli has cited to you in its mention of Msgr Gherardini's reent article in the Osservatore Romano and also pblication of an interview with him.


Keep up all the good work.

GOR said...

Memories, Father! I had a passing connection to Bishop Casey. Back in the 1960s I ‘succeeded’ the then revered “Father Eamonn” in one of his assignments on your shores. While not a ‘stone’s throw’ from Oxford, it wasn’t a hundred miles away either. Hard by the place where the curfew tolled the knell of parting day.

Qui legit, intelligat…!

But pace Sadie Vacantist’s quote in the earlier post, I believe Bishop Casey did spend some years on the missions in reparation for his actions. Something many bishops since – with, arguably, more to be repentant of - might have emulated.

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

I had an additional thought about G&S's texts, based on a topic I wrote a thesis on 30 years ago. There is an epistemological difference between negative and positive statements. "Thou shalt not kill!" and "Life is wonderful!" are examples. G&S is replete with the latter sort of statement. Such statements admit of many "riffs", some of which may actually be untrue; the former sort usually have a single signification (and perhaps, no connotations whatsoever?).

P.S. Where do you acquire your word verifications from? They are always rather interesting. Mine just now is "tablubtd", which I surmise must be a devotee of the Bitter Pill?