Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fiddling While Rome Burns: Ryan Anderson's Lecture on the Catholic Crisis

Recently, Ryan T. Anderson was appointed as the first St. John Paul II Teaching Fellow at the University of Dallas, where he delivered his inaugural lecture on "Catholic Thought and the Challenges of Our Time."  Here's the video of his lecture.

He presents the history of the Catholic Church as a story of answering challenges to the truths taught by the Church.  First, the early Church answered challenges to its truths about God.  Then, the Church during the Reformation answered challenges to its truths about the Church itself.  Now, today, the Church must answer challenges to its truths about human nature--about man as created in the image of God.  He then spends most of his lecture arguing that Karol Wojtyla (who became Pope John Paul II) and Joseph Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI) have rightly defended the Catholic truths about human nature, which can resolve the current crisis of the Church.

What is most remarkable about this lecture is not what he says but what he doesn't say.  He says nothing about scandals in the Church over the clerical sexual abuse of young boys and seminarians and over the predominant homosexuality of the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy that has been responsible for covering up priestly pedophilia.  In particular, he says nothing about the fact that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were surrounded by homosexuals who hypocritically condemned homosexuality as sinful, while protecting tens of thousands of sexually abusive priests, which included some of the greatest pedophiles and sexual perverts of the past 100 years--such as Father Marcial Maciel, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, who abused thousands of children and seminarians.  He says nothing about the evidence that in the United States somewhere between 6% and 10% of the Catholic priests are pedophilic sex abusers, and elsewhere in the world the proportion is probably much higher.

Anderson is utterly silent about the many revelations of these facts--such as Carlo Vigano's letters and Frederic Martel's book In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy.  (There is a significant silence about Martel's book at The Public Discourse, the internet journal for the Witherspoon Institute founded and edited by Anderson.)  Moreover, he has only one sentence (at the end of the lecture) about Pope Francis, while remaining silent about Francis's warning about the hypocrisy and corruption of homosexuality in the Church: "Behind rigidity there is always something hidden, in many cases a double life."

This is the true crisis of the Catholic Church that has driven many Catholics away from their Church, and which may well soon destroy the Church completely.  I suspect that Anderson cannot confront this crisis because to do so would force him to consider the possibility that the crisis arises from the Church's false teaching about the human nature of sexuality, which can only be overcome by formulating a true account of the natural law of human sexuality.

As one illustration of the confusion in the Church's teaching on sexual morality, consider what Ratzinger has taught about homosexuality.  He has affirmed the traditional teaching that homosexuality is utterly abhorrent because it is "against nature" in that same-sex pleasure has no procreative end.  But then in his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1986), Cardinal Ratzinger distinguished between the homosexual "condition" or "tendency" and homosexual "acts," and then claimed that only homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."  And yet he also said that "the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder" (sec. 3).  A few years later, however, in the New Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the Church embraced Ratzinger's distinction between homosexual "tendencies" and homosexual "acts," and affirmed that only "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."  The Catechism even declared: "Homosexual persons are called to chastity.  By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection" (par. 2359).

The "Christian perfection" of homosexuality?  Does this imply that priests and clerics and even popes can be homosexual in their inclinations as long as they don't actually practice homosexuality--or as long as they are homophilic without being fully homosexual?  Or is it self-contradictory to accept homophilic inclinations as natural but not homosexual actions?

There is some evidence that the recent popes--Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis--have tried to live a life of homophilic chastity with their homophilic inclinations sublimated into "loving friendships" (such as Benedict's homoerotic love for Georg Ganswein), and in doing this they perhaps followed the example of Paul who struggled with "a thorn in the flesh."  But how is this consistent with Benedict's teaching that "the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder"?

Does the pervasive practice of homosexuality among priests and clerics show the failure of Benedict's intellectual project for separating homophilic inclinations from homosexual acts?  Is it unnatural to demand that homosexuals deny their sexual nature?

And does this confusion about homosexuality show a more general confusion in the Church's teaching about human sexuality that comes from a failure to recognize the natural goodness of sexual pleasure as serving the good of conjugal bonding even when it does not serve the good of procreation?

To answer these questions, Anderson--and other traditionalist Catholics--would have to recognize and speak about the true crisis of the Catholic Church as arising from its false teaching about human sexuality.

I will continue with this line of thought in my next post.

I have written previously about Ryan Anderson here and here.

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