The art of accompaniment II

Matisse, painted blue nudeI cannot encounter another human being without being open. Any preconceptions I have of them, and especially any demands I might make of them, get in the way. I am not properly encountering, now, of course: I do not walk my talk because I am in conscious incompetence; but I see the possibility, and sometimes try it.

What the Pope says is beautiful- approach the other with sandals off, as on holy ground- and helps me see that conservative Catholicism is completely worthless. It is a set of moral rules, and frightened, hectoring demands that we all keep them. It is not even of use as ascetic discipline, because the demands are made on others, and the demands one emphasises are those one may accomplish easily, from inclination or circumstance. It might give a fragile sense of community, all people believing the same way until one has to be Cast Out for Sin, but at the cost of preventing any meaningful encounter with another, or any understanding of oneself.

Liberal Catholicism sees the failure of conservative Catholicism, but is hardly better in the Pope’s definition, which states the “objective evil” of the other’s acts, even if not culpable for particular reasons. Thomas Aquinas adapted Aristotle for mediaeval Christians, and is now a “Doctor” of the church, one of only 33 (three of whom are women). His explanation is the orthodox belief, though superseded by newer philosophy. In the same way, contraception is seen as always wrong, though experience shows the evolved human baby-making drives are quite strong enough to overcome a person’s rational commitment to contraception.

So the Liberal Catholic seeks to encounter the other, with a set of preconceptions. When this other is healthy and oriented towards God, s/he will behave in the correct Catholic way, eschewing contraception, celibate if gay. That prevents the encounter, prevents the Liberal Catholic from seeing the value in the other’s ways of being. The Catholic is trapped into thinking only her/his way can be good. Even for the liberal, there comes a moment where the other who sees the world differently must be excluded, because that other is incorrigible. In trying to remove the speck from the other’s eye, the Liberal whacks her over the head with the log in his own. At best, the liberal will tolerate church attendance of the Bad person, but not any teaching position or participation in the Eucharist. There are the Good people, who eat the bread, and the Bad people, who may receive a blessing or not as they choose.

When Francis said “Who am I to judge?” he went on The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby. He would welcome us in, and insist on his rules.

The Quaker way is to encounter the other without demands. Of course I make assumptions about how another is. I want things from people, and am perturbed or angry when they do not do as I wish. I project that as judgment on the other. This is contrary to the commands of Jesus. It excludes me from the Kingdom of Heaven. Seeing it, I have a chance of alleviating it.

4 thoughts on “The art of accompaniment II

  1. Well, speaking as a (somewhat ambivalent) Catholic I’d just like to make a few observations:
    1) What you are calling liberal Catholicism, distinguishing between objective sin while not judging the individual, should probably just be called Catholicism (or simply “Christianity”), given the Biblical basis. Most people I know who employ conservative-liberal terminology when speaking of Catholics call the ones who actually believe Church doctrine “conservatives” and those who make their compromise with the world “liberals.”
    2) The Catholic Church is no longer a European reality, and the opinions of European Catholics matter less to the Church with each passing year. France has less Catholics than Nigeria. Sub-Sahara Africa and East Asia are probably the future of the Church. Gay rights do not seem to be a big deal in those places. (In fact, the Catholics of Uganda could probably use a message like “Hey, lets not treat gays inhumanely! Love the sinner, don’t throw him in jail!”)
    3) The assertion that morals are easy for some people is odd: the teaching that fornication is a sin is easy for whom, exactly?
    4) I live in a country (US) where Catholics have always been a minority, and where there is not much taste for Church triumphalism. Most conservative Catholics I know are content to be in the minority as long as they feel they are being left alone.


    • Your observations are always welcome.

      On conservative and liberal, I think they all make their compromise with the world. That 98% figure of sexually active Catholic women who have used contraception indicates that. The conservatives show fear and hatred, as the Pope said they “transform bread into stone and throw it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick — to turn [the bread] into ‘unbearable burdens.'”

      On the issue of God-made gaiety, I don’t see any liberals at all: the demand for celibacy is not liberal.


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