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The Road to Remonstrance

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

I recently wrote about the need for mainstream and liberal Catholics to offer remonstrance — an earnest presentation of reasons for opposition or grievance against the reactionaries now fomenting schism within the Church. I’d now like to further explain the need for such action.

Why is Catholic remonstrance necessary? Here are a few compelling reasons.

First, remonstrance is a form of dissent. Any institution, whether it be a national government or a religious hierarchy, needs to hear about potential problems before they become major problems. Listening and hearing such dissent is essential to institutional health. Arguably: No dissent, no health.

Dissent also draws attention to vital new ideas even if they were treated with scorn upon arrival. For example, a reconsideration of natural law principles in light of knowledge acquired since St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century offers strong arguments in support of artificial birth control and embryonic stem cell research while establishing homosexuality is not the aberration Church fathers believe it to be. Even the great Aristotelian thinker, St. Thomas Aquinas was treated as a heretic and excommunicated shortly after his death. And yet his ideas came to greatly influence Catholic theology.

Remonstrance also allows more the esoteric economic agendas of the Catholic Right to be exposed.

Reactionaries now control much of the structure of Church governance. For example, Archbishop Raymond Burke is now the current Perfect of Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, roughly the equivalent of a Vatican Supreme Court. Additionally, Pope Benedict XVI is expanding the ranks of conservatism in the Church by reaching out to the anti-modernist, anti-Semitic Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and attempting bring socially conservative Anglicans into the fold.

Although he also recently issued the economically progressive encyclical Caritas in Veritate, he is appointing and elevating economically regressive bishops and cardinals — especially in the United States. The very anti-health care reform Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, as well as Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop R. Walker Nickless, of the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa immediately come to mind. Many of these church princes cavort with Catholic neocons whose political agenda for the church has more to do with comforting the wealthy and extending empire than with Jesus’s concern for the oppressed, the marginalized, the vulnerable, and the despised.

Finally, Catholicism risks transformation as an appendage not only of neconic oligarchy but opposition to pluralism as espoused by traditionalists. Some such as Tradition, Family, Property, are downright scornful of modern democracy. To that end, these folks often abuse the Catholic notion of obedience. In their hands it is transformed from the idea of living a life in compliance with God’s will to one of blind obedience to those who abuse their hierarchical authority to violate other key components of natural law such as distributive justice. To people like these, dissent is a dangerous thing.

It is not difficult to see where this goes. If the faithful can be bullied into religious compliance by dint of damnation anxiety, then they can be an effective tool for oligarchs who join with traditionalists in equating dissent with disobedience to God.

That is why mainstream Catholics must now offer remonstrance; and refute the substitution of Caesar for God; both in the pew and in the public square.

Next: Catholics who exemplify remonstrance.

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4 Responses

  1. It’s good to see this article again.

  2. I think we gotdy need to get out facts straight. St. Thomas Aquinas was certainly not “treated as a heretic and excommunicated shortly after his death.”

    He died, of course, from illness contracted traveling to the second council of Lyon, summoned by Gregory X.

    A few years after his death, a number of propositions arguably his were condemned by the Archbishop of Paris (though they were more likely aimed at the teaching of Siger of Brabant). Within fifty years, of course, Thomas was canonized.

    In dealing with the highly disputacious nature of medieval theology it is always good to keep in mind a distinction made by Meister Eckhart. I don’t recall the exact quote, but what he said in essense was, It is possible that I may teach error, because that is a matter of the intellect, but I cannot be a heretic, because that is a matter of the will.

    I won’t repeat in any detail what I’ve said before here, that I think the articles here tend to exaggerate the menace of more conservative Catholics. I don’t agree with much of their political agenda, but they have the liberty to promote it, as more moderate and liberal Catholics have, as well.

    • Illijane, I wish the articles here were exaggerations as you say, but I have found that to not be the case.

      The article does not focus on Thomas Aquinas, but on an agenda that will essentially destroy the founding of democracy in the USA. Liberty for Christian authoritarians of the medieval mindset need not be silence, but be exposed. That is the purpose of Remonstrance.

  3. Well-written and well said Frank! I too believe that the all the faithful need to stand up, and openly respectfully disagree with the hierarchical leaders of the Church on matters of such importance as these.

    The encroaching cilmate of overtly conservative leadership within the Church is indeed discouraging. But if we all stand up courageously for truth–as you exhorted us all to do in your article–then perhaps the Church may be transformed in an astonishing manner by the grace and renewal of the Holy Spirit!

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