For my first post at The American Spectator, I write about the communism driving the Catholic Church’s current travails.
New York Times columnist Timothy Egan chose to confront the widening scandal within the Catholic church — namely, the allegation that Pope Francis’s power base is a homosexual cabal within the Vatican, leading him to advance known pederasts — by asserting two things: (1) The Church has a long history of Popes who deviated from church teaching on sex and (2) Church teaching on sex is all wrong, because Jesus Christ never explicitly said “It’s a sin for two men to have sex with each other or for adult men to use male children and teenagers for sex.” People more learned in Church doctrine than I have already addressed the second argument. Matt Walsh makes it simple:
I am not at the moment interested in discussing whether Christianity is right about homosexuality or human sexuality in general. The point is simply that Christianity does have a teaching on the subject, and, if you wish to be Christian, you can’t disagree with it. The Bible clearly condemns the homosexual act repeatedly, including in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10, and all across the Old Testament, most notably in Leviticus and Genesis. And Jesus Christ is quoted in two Gospel accounts explicitly defining marriage. He teaches that marriage is when a “man” and “his wife” come together and “become one flesh.” That is settled doctrine, right from the Son of Man Himself. It is not a liberal doctrine or a conservative doctrine. It is just truth. A Christian must accept that it is truth because it came from the One who Himself is Truth.
Q.E.D. As for the first argument — naughty Popes — Egan is not the first to the chasm between Church preaching and practice. Boccaccio’s Decameron, written immediately after the Black Death attacked Florence in 1348, tells of a group of wealthy young people who amuse themselves with stories during their exile from plague-ravaged Florence. Here’s just one example of many stories concerning lascivious priests and nuns:
An abbess, arising in haste and in the dark to find one of her nuns, who had been denounced to her, in bed with her lover and thinking to cover her head with her coif, donneth instead thereof the breeches of a priest who is abed with her; the which the accused nun observing and making her aware thereof, she is acquitted and hath leisure to be with her lover.
Other medieval and early Renaissance literature made similar points about the distance between priestly vows and behavior. The medieval Church responded to the manifest failings of its earthly emissaries, not by changing its doctrine, but by explaining that the priest, through his ordination, was merely a conduit to God. No matter how corrupt the cleric performing religious ritual, God’s power transcended the flawed vessel through which that ritual flowed. The pre-21st century Church has always had a consistent message: While man may be flawed, Church doctrine, which is a reflection of a perfect God, is itself perfect and immutable. Those who wish to be saved must live in accordance with doctrine whether their priest is a paragon or a putz.
Pope Francis, however, is taking the Church in new directions. He is not creatively interpreting or delicately eliding Catholic doctrine. He is, instead, undermining it. Long before Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò accused Pope Francis of returning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick to active duty after Pope Benedict had essentially exiled him gross sexual malfeasance, Francis had been pushing to upend Church teachings on homosexuality.