Thursday, January 26, 2006

Deus Caritas Est

I haven't been able to read more than the first page of the first encyclical issued by Pope Benedict the XVI, but so far it's very good.

I love how the NYT manages to twist even those things that defy being corrupted. The headline of the piece on the encyclical is this: Benedict's First Encyclical Shuns Strictures of Orthodoxy. Hmmm...does anyone else see the problem here? The NYT lauds Benedict for not mentioning aboriton, euthanasia, contraception - issues that divide Catholics. What they don't realize is the call to love like God loves us through the gift of his Son Jesus, INCLUDES the rejection of these things. LOVE IS ORTHODOXY! It is because we follow Benedict's call to love in this encyclical, that we don't abort, contracept or euthanize. Love is the beginning and the end of all the doctrines of the Church. It is because Christ loves us that he commands us never to destroy married love by contracepting. And it is because of our love for him in return that we order our marriages (and our lives) according to the Church's teaching.

This is the reason Benedict starts with Deus Caritas Est. God or love is the alpha and the omega. True love is orthodoxy.


At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Orthordoxy from Crisis Magazine:

Why I’m Still Catholic
Greg Krehbiel

I’m not one of those cheerleading Catholic converts. On the contrary, I often feel like a man who has spent many years on a difficult quest to join the Arthurian round table only to find a bunch of sissies in velvet playing Chutes and Ladders. Comments like that encourage my Protestant friends to invite me back.

The appeal has its merits. I have a lot of respect for Protestantism. I miss the reverence and beauty of the Lutheran liturgy, the hymns, kneeling at the communion rail. I miss the sense of fellowship and community—even simple things like hanging up your coat as if you intend to stay a while. I miss Sunday school after worship and the biblical literacy of most Protestants. Moreover, I’m just not terribly pleased with Catholicism. The mediocrity of the bishops is almost proverbial. The Bible “translation” read at Mass is atrocious. Typical Catholic music sounds like something from Barney and Friends. The Eucharist can seem like a fast-food assembly line, and the traditional style of a Catholic homily doesn’t appeal to me, even when it’s done well.

But despite it all, I can’t see myself leaving the Catholic Church for a number of reasons. I present them here, in classic top-ten style.

10. My spiritual journey has had a certain logic to it. Going from atheist to Evangelical to Presbyterian to Lutheran to Catholic is like a climb up the church ladder. To go back wouldn’t make any sense.

9. Becoming a Protestant would throw me back into that self-selective church thing. Which communion would I choose? Why Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and not Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod? Or why Lutheran and not Presbyterian? Protestants have to make and reevaluate these choices all the time, and it’s a huge headache. When you’re Catholic you’re just Catholic. It’s peaceful.

8. As a Protestant I was always having to explain things to friends and acquaintances. Some lunatic Presbyterian denomination would ordain a gay sea lion and somebody at the office would ask, “You’re a Presbyterian, aren’t you?” Or when I became a Lutheran it was always, “So what’s the difference between the Missouri Synod and the regular Lutheran Church?” Not that Catholics don’t do and say weird things, but there’s an understanding that the Catholic Church is so big and so old and so full of both saints and sinners that individual Catholics aren’t held accountable.

7. When I first became Catholic, I had this extraordinary feeling of continuity with the Church through the ages. I realized that I was in the church of St. Patrick and St. Thomas. Protestant groups broke away, and the tie has been severed to some extent.

6. There’s an amazing amount of freedom in the Catholic Church. As a Protestant you self-identify with a narrow theological and cultural group. As a Catholic you might be an albino assassin or a “we are the church” fanatic, or just the guy who gets dragged to Mass by his mother-in-law. You don’t have to go to Bingo and you don’t have to be a Knight. You can have weekly Bible studies if you want, and sometimes a church committee meets at Red Hot & Blue.

5. Catholics have fewer bizarre hang-ups—about Halloween or beer or evolution. Protestants talk about “Christian liberty,” but Catholics live it.

4. With the certainty of faith, I can say that we’ll never have priestesses in the Roman Catholic Church.

3. The sacrament of penance is a wonderful thing.

2. While God is free to extend His grace beyond His promises, when I receive the Catholic Eucharist I know it’s valid.

1. The Roman Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. Period.

Greg Krehbiel is a former Presbyterian seminary student who writes the Crowhill Weblog and can be contacted at

At 8:19 PM, Blogger nugatory said...

I agree with you that love is central to Christianity. I sometimes find that "orthodox" Catholics overlook this tenet. I appreciate that you embrace the basic teaching of Jesus.

But I don't exactly see follow your "orthodoxy is love." Your explanation is incompletely circular, or simply incomplete. Catholic doctrine calls us to love. Check. Christ loves us. Check. Christ commands us to love. Check. Christ commands us never to destroy married love by contracepting? But contraception and abortion find no mention in the New Testament. Moving on. . . Christians love Christ. Check. Because we love Christ, we follow Catholic doctrine. Without Christ's command, where does the Catholic doctrine come from? If Jesus so commands us to order our marriages, would it not have been mentioned in the Gospels? Wouldn't Saint Paul have thought to bring it up? You're too bright for the use of the word "order" to be coincidental, so I'll bite. Where does Jesus mention that homosexuality is "disordered"? Jesus teaches us to love everyone, even prostitutes and villainous tax collectors. Jesus also teaches us not to pass judgment. How can I tell someone that they're disordered without passing judgment on them?

While I agree that true love is orthodoxy, I think our definitions of orthodoxy might differ. I can hope and pray that people learn to love each other the way Christ teaches us. But I hardly think that the place to start is contraception, abortion and homosexuality.

If Orthodoxy were True Love, I should see more orthodox Catholics working to improve social services, ameliorating the plight of the poor, finding ways to provde medical care to people who cannot afford it (particularly the pregnant woman who might otherwise choose to have an abortion). I recognize that you, personally, are Canadian and Canada is doing well on these fronts, but the United States is not doing so well. And if True Love is Orthodoxy, feeding the hungry and clothing the poor should be the priority of the Orthodox Catholics, not contraception, abortion and homosexuality.

Aside from that minor clarification, I'm pleased that we agree.

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Becky said...


Thanks for the comment. I'll try to explain my "circular" reasoning the best that I can.

First of all, Jesus' teaching the New Testament is intertwined with the Commandments in the Old. The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament and all that. Jesus is God - He and the Father are one. Jesus did not come to destory the Law, but to fulfill it. In that way, his command to Love stems from the Ten Commandments, from the Covenants made in the Old Testament and the natural law, which the Word of God presumes.

So for things like homosexuality, I look only to Genesis. Male and female were created for communion. Man is incomplete without woman. Humanity is incomplete without this communion of persons. A full exegesis of Genesis, which I won't get into here explains why I feel "orthodoxy is love." I suggest delving into the first part of JPII's "Theology of the Body" to see what I'm talking about. This explanation will also help with the other sexual sins like fornication, contraception, etc.

All I think I'm really saying is that Jesus' teachings that we find in Scripture are equal to the teachings of Jesus we find in the Holy, Apostolic Church. For Catholics, The Church predates Scripture, and indeed, decided what books would be contained within. So the teachings of the Church on contraception, homosexuality, etc. are considered by Catholics to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, just as Scripture is. Tradition, in the Catholic Church, is equal to Scripture.

Following from that - the commands of Christ (found both in Scripture and Tradition), are meant to show us the path of love. Christ's love for us is the reason that he gives us the "hard" teachings on giving up everything to follow him. Because he wants us to experience his love through marriage, he gives us the teaching on contraception.

I hope that gives it a little perspective. There was a lot in your comment, so maybe I'll have to look at the rest later.

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nugatory - Let me try this out for your consideration: The New Testiment says that homosexual acts are immoral. The desire to do immoral acts (whatever they may be) is disordered. Therefore, desiring to do homosexual acts (what most of us would describe as homosexuality) is disordered.

I think "disordered" sounds strange because we don't use it in the common vernacular, but aren't we really just talking about the temptation to sin here? -- A temptation that affects different people differently.

Does that make sense? Am I missing something here?


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