As Lileks said, Ratzinger makes all the right people angry. Watching heads explode over the past few days has been absolutely humorous. Watching Andrew Sullivan twitch and lash out has been the funniest bit of it. See him here.
The issue is not change itself. The Church has changed dramatically – and will continue to change dramatically. The issue now is whether the Church can even debate its own issues and future. Some caricatures of my position, for example, say that I oppose this Pope because I want the Church to endorse gay marriage. Puhlease. I cannot see any basis within Catholic theology for granting the sacrament of marriage to gay couples. Such a simple inclusion strikes me as completely out of bounds. What many of us are asking for is simply the ability for lay Catholics and indeed priests and theologians to be able to debate respectfully such pressing issues as mandatory celibacy for the priesthood, a less rigid biological understanding of the rights and dignity of women, and a real dialogue with gay Catholics about how we can practically live lives that reflect our human dignity and our profound human need for intimacy and sexual expression. We’d also like to see greater autonomy for national churches, a respect for political secularism, and a more open hierarchy that cannot get away with a criminal conspiracy to hide the widespread sexual abuse of children and teens. None of this is that radical in the context of change in the last fifty years. None of it is subject to infallibility. And what we object to is the arrogant notion that lay people – let alone theologians or priests – do not even have the right to raise these questions within a formal church context. But our opponents want to construct a straw man in which Ratzinger presents orthodoxy and critics represent revolution. The truth is almost the direct opposite. Ratzinger’s views on freedom of thought within the church are deeply authoritarian; his views on what conscience is are totalitarian; his conflation of his own views with the Holy Spirit are offensive. But he is Pope now. And fairness suggests we should wait and see. I can only say that I do so with dread and fear.
I call BS. Whatever Sullivan says, everyone knows his position from the past year of reading him on the gay marriage debate. Until gay marriage is accepted by all of us, whether we want it or not and including the church, Sullivan will remain unhinged.
He may be accurate on wording, but he is parsing words. He knows the Church (capital C) is not going to “endorse gay marriage.” But what he wants is enough flexibility so that his church (small C) can accept homosexuals getting married without the mitered man in Rome getting all cross with the local bishop.
Silly Sullivan. This all goes back to the “dictatorship of relativism” that Ratzinger warned about in his pre-Pope homily. There are absolutes and neither Ratzinger nor I nor any Christ Follower object to discussion of the absolutes and why they are absolutes and on what basis they are absolutes, but we change for God, he and his absolutes do not change for us.
As an aside, I think it is time to start talking about “Christ Followers.” Everyone and their mother calls themselves a Christian nowadays. Too few actually follow Christ.