Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Back to the Bad Old Days? OR Giving 'jesuitry' a bad name?

Canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters begins his comments on Pope Francis’s decision to disregard liturgical law by washing the feet of two women in the Holy Thursday Mandatum rite by noting that “The background to this controversy is the antinomianism that prevails today.”  The Vatican Press Office explanation, he argues, just adds to the confusion.  We are passing through “a period in which the relationship between ecclesiastical law and the life of faith is widely misunderstood and the very content of Church law is often poorly explained.”

Peters actually favors changing the law to allow the washing of women’s as well as men’s feet, but is concerned about the implications and example of disregarding the law that other priests are expected to follow in the meantime.  Again, his concern is not with some abstract legalism, but is in the context of the period of antinomianism through which we have been living, which reached its low point in the dark days of the 1970s.  On the antinomianism of our own day see Daniel Ciofani's reflections on the question raised for him by the 2012 election: How can Christians of all kinds "all across the country vote so consistently to outlaw [their faith's] own historical and religious values?"   (See Ciofani's essay, Antinomianism: The Soft Heresy.)

In another column he also posted yesterday, Dr. Peters comments on an egregious case in which the president of a Jesuit high school, Fr. Edward Salmon, explains his reasons for allowing two male students to attend the McQuaid Jesuit High School 2013 prom as a couple.

Catholics who were mercifully spared the “Church of the 70’s” might find illuminating Salmon’s letter; it’s vintage what so many of us were force-fed for ten dark years: condescending, platitudinistic, partial quotes of Church  documents used to justify the exact opposite of what the Church wants her members to know about Christ and his Gospel. Folks may read the letter for themselves and reach their own conclusions on it.  Here I address only one assertion by Salmon: “I am not encouraging nor am I condoning homosexual activity just as I do not encourage or condone heterosexual activity at a dance.”

What on earth is Salmon talking about? He does not “encourage or condone heterosexual activity at a dance.” Of course he does! And he should!

The whole point of a high school dance, in America, over the last century or so, was precisely to encourage “heterosexual activity” in a relatively controlled environment where men and women who were moving toward making selections for life-long partnerships of the whole of life (Canon 1055 on the definition of marriage, anyone?) could interact publicly as part of the dating/courtship sequence. The formal prom was just a more grown-up version of the mixer, conducted in recognition of the fact that the youth were approaching adulthood and should know how to dress the part.

Read his comments in full HERE.

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