Who Would Choose to be a Catholic at a Time Like This?

The phoney war is over. Civil war has been launched within the Church by Pope Francis and his recent appointee Cardinal Victor Fernandez.

Many of the recent theological and political tremors that have emanated under the leadership of the Pope have produced a degree of incoherence and uncertainty. But the ambiguity is now over.

Secular culture has for many decades prioritised the sanctification of erotic and romantic relationships. It has additionally set them within an overall framework of what we might call “therapeutic ontology”. What this means in practice is that whatever makes people feel better is good. And since God is good, whatever makes us feel better is good. And God must therefore will it.

The problem is that this new philosophy and solipsistic religion is not Christianity. The old and well-worn jokey reply “Is the pope a Catholic?” has developed a dark shadow to it.

The Vatican has taken great care to cover its theological back by distancing the same-sex-blessing project from marriage. It intends to provide for itself a defence against the accusation that it is undermining marriage.

It has learnt well from the Protestant play book which has discovered that if you offer a “spirituality of the nice and reassuring” to people who present themselves as wounded and needy, few critics have the theological clarity of mind and courage of conviction to challenge it. Not being “nice” is the new definition of social and secular sin.

Liberal Protestantism has taken the line that if no one is allowed to ask indelicate questions about who is doing what with parts of their bodies and for what purpose, the fiction of “nice” can be maintained, and Fiducia Supplicans follows this strategy faithfully.

Little can be done to persuade progressives that the conservative or (dare we use the word) traditionalist concern for sin, particularly in terms of sexual self-expression, is not a form of “mental hate crime” or phobia.

But even less can be done to persuade faithful Catholics that the abandoning of the category of sin is not a heresy of the most serious and substantial kind. Which is why the publication of Fiducia Supplicans marks the beginning of a civil war.

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