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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Same sickness, different symptoms

In a newspaper at the other end of the country, a columnist asks, "Should liberals leave the Catholic Church?"

Writing in the March 5 edition of the "Boston Globe," Joan Vennochi complains that the bishops in Massachusetts want to "prohibit gays from adopting children from their Catholic social service agencies" because such adoptions would be "gravely immoral."

"If you agree with these principles," says Vennochi, "you are, according to the Vatican, a Catholic in good standing. If you don't, you're not."

Such principles don't sit well with liberals, she says. "We think we can be pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-gay adoption, and in favor of married and female priests and still call ourselves Catholics. ... Every pronouncement from Pope Benedict XVI draws another line between official Church doctrine and liberal ideology. When do liberals choose one side or the other?"

Fair question. While Vennochi doesn't say just what she herself will do, the implication is that it's time to jump ship. Why remain with the Barque of Peter if it's taking you where you don't want to go?


At the other end of the theological spectrum is Mel Gibson. He became a favorite of traditional Catholics when he produced "The Passion of the Christ." He took a lot of flak for doing the film and deserved the plaudits he received for not backing down from his project. But that was then and this is now, as the saying goes.

Now Gibson is moving ahead with what may end up being an independent church. He already has built a 9,000-square-foot private chapel on a hill in Malibu. The chapel is not recognized by and is not under the authority of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Tridentine Masses celebrated there, while valid, are not approved by anyone in authority, and the priests who officiate have not been granted an okay by the Church.

Gibson is funding a similar church in Pennsylvania, apparently at the urging of his father, Hutton Gibson. The elder man is widely known as a sedevacantist, and the new church presumably will reflect that point of view. It is unclear to what extent Gibson fils has adopted his father's opposition to "Conciliar Rome," but it appears that his thinking goes far beyond a mere preference for the old Mass.

Many traditionally-minded Catholics have been cozying up to Gibson, whose pockets are very deep. He may be the richest high-profile Catholic in the country. He is perceived by many who reject Vatican II as a potential savior, at least in checkbook terms. They may be wise to keep him at arm's length, since there's no telling where Gibson's church-making may end up.
Although ending up in very different places, both of the people discussed above are suffering from the same disease: thinking they know better than the Church. As I blogged on Monday in discussing the Boston Globe article mentioned above, if you disagree with the Church try to understand where they're coming from. Do this with openness and humility, and you'll be surprised how often you're wrong and they're right.

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