Papal Interview: “Disjointed Multitude of Doctrines”

In the excerpts of the papal interview I’ve been seeing, this one leaped out at me (emphasis mine):

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

because it reminded me of something I blogged about earlier, when discussing Roger Haight’s Systematic Ecclesiology:

Haight’s analysis demonstrates that the common pejorative “cafeteria Catholic” (wielded in both directions) is not only unfair, but inadequate, to describe what’s really going on. It is not a matter of cherrypicking items out of a coherent body of teachings based on personal preference. The fact is that the body of teachings is not presently coherent: faced with this situation, many Catholics are, with great integrity, constructing a self-consistent theological system, resolving contradictions by applying (what they understand to be) the core values of the gospel.

It also resonated very strongly for me with an experience I had as a young adult. I moved “back home” after college for about six months, and was singing with my parish choir during that time. It so happened that my last night to sing with the choir before moving out of town again was Ash Wednesday, which is a fast and abstinence day for Catholics (no meat, no snacks between smaller-than-usual meals).

After mass, up in the choir loft, there was a little farewell party for me, and one of the women brought out a cake that said “Good Bye and Good Luck” on it. To which my immediate, internal response was:

Oh no! It’s Ash Wednesday, I can’t eat this! It’s a fast day. We just started Lent!

followed immediately by the realization that

It would be a much greater sin for me to refuse to eat this cake, to reject this gift which was made out of love and hospitality for me, than it would be for me to break the church discipline of the Ash Wednesday fast.

So I thanked her effusively, and had some cake. Most of the other people in the choir rather awkwardly refused, so I made a point of having a second piece.

I find myself telling this story fairly often, because it was such an immediate and clear realization, and it made such a big impact on me. And it generally elicits a clear generational difference in response: current or former Catholics who were raised prior to Vatican II are adamant that they would never have eaten the cake.

Francis was ordained after Vatican II, and I think this excerpt is illustrative of his formation in the post-Vatican II church: all church doctrines and rules are not created equal. The doctrinal landscape is not flat: some teachings are more fundamental than others. Doctrines that are directly based on the core values of the gospel are more central, more essential, than others.

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3 Responses to Papal Interview: “Disjointed Multitude of Doctrines”

  1. Theophrastus says:

    This is a great post. Please consider cross-posting — or at least linking — from BLT.

  2. Theophrastus says:

    I know you are a fan, so here is another amazing interview for you to read.

    • Thanks! I did see that & was thoroughly delighted.
      Thanks for the kind words on this post, too – life has been so busy I haven’t had a chance to do much blogging. Hopefully things will calm down soon.

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