Cross-posted at the Orthosphere. Please comment there.
Once again we see the folly of giving the papacy absolute control over the right edge of the Overton window. I refer of course to the idea that a layman necessarily makes himself ridiculous by “trying to be more Catholic than the pope“. (Notice, though, the backhanded compliment to tradition–everybody knows what the “more Catholic” position is, even those who don’t share it and yet object to being called “heretics”.) In fact, in my experience there is an unspoken rule that all laymen are supposed to be at least a bit to the Left of Rome, and those who fail to meet this expectation are presumed to be unable to “think for themselves”. Indeed, as soon as post-Vatican II clerical antics made orthodoxy optional for the laity, orthodoxy came to be seen as an intolerable aggression against sodomites, divorcees, loose women, and Jews. Neuhaus’ Law is vindicated again.
Now we are cursed with a Pontiff who seeks personal popularity with the enemies of Christ by sharing their scorn for those who defend Church teaching. At first, we were told that he only wants us to de-emphasize our opposition to the popular sins of the day and focus on spreading the gospel. Now, however, the Holy Father has condemned “proselytism” for the faith, so it seem that we are in fact being asked to shut up altogether. Are Catholic writers for the Orthosphere then required to relinquish our “obsessions” and retire, leaving the fight entirely to our Protestant and Orthodox friends? If not, how do we respond?
First, we remember that it is not the papacy, but the sacraments that are the heart of Catholicism. The Church is structured around them. This is obviously true for the clergy, whose essential functionis the Eucharistic sacrifice. Because this is the greatest sacrament and they are uniquely involved in its execution, the priests and bishops hold the highest dignity in the Church. And what of the laity? True, there are many sacraments that are for our benefit–baptism, Confession, the Eucharist, Last Rites (and, no, I’m not going to call it “Anointing of the Sick”–when I’m at death’s door, I at least want to be spared from euphemisms). But has Christ given us nothing of our own, nothing that is our special charge to keep holy, a sacrament for which we are active maintainers?
In fact, we do have a sacrament, one that has been entrusted specifically to us, the laity, by Christ. This is marriage. It is our sacrament. We, brides and grooms, are the ones who actually perform it, after all. All its duties fall on us; indeed they include most of what we spend our time on–providing for a family and raising children. We thus have reasons to be specially interested in personal sins and public ideologies that attack or demean our sacrament. I for one would never criticize a priest for excessive zeal for the Eucharist; it is the Body and Blood of our Savior Besides it is his special function, and I wouldn’t criticize him for focusing on his own work even if it wasn’t the most important, any more than I would criticize a dentist for being obsessed with teeth then there are so many other parts of the body. It would indeed be proper to criticize a priest for lack of zeal for the Blessed Sacrament, and since the Accursed Council many of them deserve to be so rebuked. Both the love I should feel for Jesus Christ and the dependence on his grace I cannot avoid entitle me to do so. Similarly, the clergy may rightfully rebuke the laity for failing to keep holy the sacrament given to us–they should do it much, much more often!–but it is utterly inappropriate for them to criticize us for guarding too carefully something that Christ entrusted specifically to us.
I have said before that clericalism was in fact a consequence of Vatican II. Before the Council, it was not nearly as bad a problem as it has since become. I mentioned before Integralism as the perfectly reasonable expectation that priests not make personal playthings of their parishes, but teach the doctrines that have been entrusted to them without change. Another example is how, since the Council, the Church has gravely devalued those things that are of spiritual significance distinctly to the laity. The refusal to fight over sexual sins and abortion (the latter a sin of violence rather than unchastity), at least on the correct side, by those infected by the Council is an obvious case. So to is the Church’s growing disdain for national and ethnic loyalties, things that secular clergy and religious are called to renounce along with family ties (of which they are largely an extension), but that the laity are called to sanctify. Even the Church’s social doctrine seems to have jettisoned what used to be its core principle–the family wage, an economy built on the single provider family model–in order to placate feminists and open-borders fanatics.
So there is my answer to the Holy Father. I shall not cease defending patriarchy, and defending it “obsessively”. Marriage was entrusted to us by a higher authority than the papacy. Marriage is our sacrament.
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