Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fr. Oakes and Some Current Benedict XVI thoughts

As a habitué of the more interesting cyber-spots for Jesuits who carry the Least Progressive gene, Fr. Edward T. Oakes, SJ can be counted upon to write things that are:

  2. Meticulous
  3. Wildly erudite
  4. Effectively disarming of opposing viewpoints

So, therefore, it was a delight to run across Father's stuff while cruising the Irish segment of the Jesuit blogosphere.

Some juicy random stuff:

An even greater virtue of [Ratzinger's book Introduction to Christianity] was the future Pope’s keen analysis of why the promising spirit of Vatican II failed to bring about a reunited Christianity and a re-Christianized Europe. According to his analysis, post-Enlightenment Christianity in Europe had been conned into adopting an evangelical strategy too superficial in its approach and too intimidated by Enlightened objections to Christian doctrine.


After Vatican II, we changed the language of the liturgy from Latin to the vernacular, called on nuns to modernize their habits, introduced guitars and folk music in the Church’s worship, addressed the modern world in tones of respect and hope, praised modernity for its achievements: the core of our message still seems absurd to the secular mind. It's not the aspects of our faith the secular world's the DNA of our faith it hates.


To my mind there really is no solution to this problem except one: the initial focus of evangelization must now be, for the foreseeable future, on Christians, at least in the West, which is becoming increasingly post-Christian and aggressively secular. Emphasis Fr. Oakes', and bloody well deserved, says I.


In the face of this dilemma, preaching must nowadays constantly stress precisely those elements of the gospel that best counteract the implied presuppositions of watered-down liberal Christianity. Above all, Christians must say forthrightly (to the world, to be sure, but above all to themselves) that when God sent his Son as the expression of his love for the world (John 3:16), he did so not to change the world, but to redeem it, Italic emphasis is Fr. Oakes', again something very different. In many monographs, the Kingdom of God, as preached by Jesus, is interpreted, both by biblical scholars (for example, John Dominic Crossan) and by theologians (most especially liberation theologians like Gustavo Gutierrez), as a call to “transform the world,” “change sinful social structures,” “engage in social action,” and so forth.


Little wonder, too, that Europe is so rapidly abandoning its ancient faith, that a secular morality (called “autonomous”) of convenience and self-indulgence prevails and becomes enshrined in law, that Christian morality (called “heteronomous”) is seen as an affront and a threat, that world Christianity finds itself flummoxed by a resurgent Islam, that faith is interpreted not as the justifying access to heaven but as a vague feeling of self-esteem, that love is praised as a sentiment rather than as a behaviour, that vows are discarded at the first sign of difficulty in living them out (the abandonment of which is chalked up as a “learning experience”), that equality and tolerance become buzzwords used to trump proclamation and evangelization, and that the pure gospel preached by St. Paul is dismissed by liberal Christians like John Shelby Spong as the rantings of a self-hating homosexual who was, to boot, a sexist, patriarchal rabbi. And yet the gospel is the gospel, which not even an angel can change or alter (Galatians 1:8); and no matter how much St. Paul grates on modern or postmodern ears, the gospel will have its effect. Benedict XVI’s election is, therefore, a blessing for the Catholic Church.

I could have quoted the whole thing and highlighted and commented until Armageddon; I cannot possibly urge you to go read this in strong enough terms.