Saturday, March 23, 2019

The politics of catechesis. . .

In the wake of Cardinal Dolan's seeming passivity while Governor Cuomo signed a pro-abortion bill allowing abortion literally up to birth in New York state, much has been made of the politics of it all.  Indeed, there are politics at work here.  Cardinal Dolan complained publicly about the fact that the Catholic Governor was happy to have the assistance of the Roman Catholic Church for issues upon which their positions agreed but appeared to be happy to distance the agencies of that church body from other issues, most notably the efforts to protect and even expand abortion.  There is a stirring of discontent within Rome on what to do with politicians like Cuomo who, unlike even his father, expressed little personal conflict in promoting positions at odds with the position of the church in which he claims to be a member.  While some have grown impatient for some sort of warning shot against such politicians, others are hesitant to use any means of church discipline for political stands.

Not everything is political.  Sometimes not even political things are simply political.  Sometimes catechesis is political -- not by intent but by consequence.  Those who would warn politicians when their public positions are in conflict with the positions of their churches are not practicing politics as much as they are being catechetical.  They are teaching the faith to the faithful and, in particular, to those who seem not to know the difference.  There is nothing political when pastoral care requires warning a member that they are living at odds with the witness of Scripture.  This happens all the time when members cohabit or commit adultery or violate the moral code and express commands of God in a public way and without penitence.  When those members are in political positions, the pastoral care may be public but it is still pastoral care.

We have too long lived in the expectation that it is enough to speak privately to such public individuals and to be patient in awaiting the fruits of such pastoral conversation in repentance and reconciliation.  In the end, when the church appears silent before such public sins the presumption is not that private counsel has taken place but that the church has accepted such wrongs.  When we no longer speak publicly about cohabitation, the presumption is that it is no longer considered wrong.  When we no longer challenge abortion and those who work to protect and promote it, the presumption is that it is no longer considered wrong to do so.  When we no longer challenge a morality in which pleasure is the primary consideration, the presumption is that pleasure is what determines right from wrong.  When we no longer advocate or provide for the orphan, the widowed, the aged, the refugee, and those in need, the presumption is that the church has ceded such to the state and no longer has an interest in it.  While such witnesses may be political, they are primarily catechetical.  Sometimes catechesis has a political edge to it.  An example of this is what took place a few months ago in the march for life.  It is not primarily political but catechetical and yet even this catechesis is not without its political impact.

Unless we speak pastorally but bluntly in witness to what we believe, teach, and confess, we have surrendered our voice to others who will gladly presume that either the church is without a stand or without the courage to admit this stance before the world.  No one is suggesting that we must be rude or arrogant or mean but to deny our voice to the public square because there are political consequences to our catechetical purpose is a most foolish path and dead end.  Whether Rome or Wittenberg, the faith must be first taught before it can be defended and in defending the faith we must catechize and teach it.  It is high time for us all to remember this truth and heed it.


Anonymous said...

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak 2 Corinthians 4:13

Come on, Church, find your voice.

JoeTownsend said...

How sad that bishops in Ireland or America have not spoken up for Life and seemingly ,therefore,to agree that our Christian civilization (so hard won with the blood of martyrs) should decline and die from apathy, ignorance of the Faith and plain old evil. We can never regain the millions of children murdered in their mother's wombs, but the bishops could stop being hireling shepherds and resign to allow others to proclaim the Christian faith, to restore some semblance of civilization and denounce the evil of murder.

Carl Vehse said...

Still waiting for any Lutheran shepherds to lead their flocks in imprecatory prayers to God to destroy the demonic actions of the disciples of Satan.

Anonymous said...

Carl the congregation you are attending doing this? Seriously, tell us. No? Why are you still there?

Better question: Did your LCMS Father *ever* pray such a prayer in the worship service of his congregation?

Did he?


Easy question. Tell us.

Anonymous said...

@Carl Vehse...crickets chirping. Your silence is deafening. We are waiting for you to leave your LCMS congregation that fails in its duty to offer imprecatory prayers such as you demand. Let us know when you do that, about you give your axe grinding near-lunatic posting a rest? MK?

Anonymous said...

Scripture is replete with imprecations calling down God’s judgement and wrath on those who oppose Him and His anointed. Jesus, being the fulfillment of the Law, commands us to love and pray for our enemies. Kermit Gosnell stands out as someone for whom Christians might reserve an imprecatory prayer. This is a tough question and not clear cut by any means. One thing is certain. The Church must not play rope-a-dope with our culture of death and not deliver a few body blows itself. We may not call out individuals (they know who they are) but categories of impenitent doers of evil should not be given the comfort of the Church's silence.

Carl Vehse said...

Kermit Gosnell was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. No imprecatory prayer is needed for him now. But there are others, some specific, who should be included in our imprecatory prayers.

Martin Luther had this to say in his LC about the imprecation in the Third Petition of the Lord's Prayer:

"... But for our own sakes we must pray that even against their [the devil with all his adherents] fury His will be done without hindrance also among us, that they may not be able to accomplish anything and we remain firm against all violence and persecution, and submit to such will of God. 69] Such prayer, then, is to be our protection and defense now, is to repel and put down all that the devil, Pope, bishops, tyrants, and heretics can do against our Gospel."

In his 1975 article, "The Interpretation of the Imprecatory Psalms," CTS Prof. Raymond Surburg (1909-2001) wrote:

"The imprecations and maledictions in the Psalter may be understood to ask God to do with the ungodly and wicked exactly what the Bible says that God has done (for example, the punishment of the world in the days of Noah; the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Abraham's day; the punishment of Israel in the days of the Judges), is doing, and will do."