How to Be Enlightened


I excerpt an essay by the Reverend Professor Christopher Seitz, not as a piece of triumphalistic crowing, but to show how similar we are and in what a similar position we find ourselves to the American Episcopal Church:

from "Enlightened American Episcopalianism"
Revd. Professor Christopher Seitz

This needs to be confronted as a reality lest the dynamics of the present season fail to be grasped. Traditional Christians should not assume they are the possessors of a Catholic faith and practice that is being challenged by a new view of things, albeit a new view with a lot of power and influence. Traditional Anglican teaching on the Bible and human sexuality, even granting a range of traditional views on exegesis and interpretation, is not in any position of authority or antecedence, so far as enlightened Episcopalianism is concerned. At most it is quaint and out of date, and need not be taken seriously except as one of several post-modern options. The idea of a range of catholic and traditional understandings of the interpretation of scripture, outside of which there is error and misjudgment, is not possible for even the most generous enlightened Episcopalian. All interpretations are more or less valid, because the truth of the matter is that in the area of human sexuality, anecdote and personal experience are the only arbiters. That is what enlightenment in the nature of the case means. Something is unequivocally true because progressive Episcopalians know this is the case. Everyone else is either an opponent, or someone lacking the proper time spent with the enlightened ones, or is ignorant and culturally backward. But an enlightened progressive will not usually deliver this last verdict publicly because it is more congenial to defer to post-modern accounts of everything being a possible interpretation, or the view that 'enlightenment' comes through shared experience and just more time with the knowledgeable ones.

We can see in this discussion much of the modern Progessive Catholic viewpoint. Fortunately for the Catholic Church, we have a teaching magisterium which serves to moderate the swings we might otherwise take as popular opinion seeks to change centuries-old established tradition rooted in fundamental truth. It appears that parts of the Anglican communion are no longer able to accept the authority of scripture or of Church Teaching. It is possible that many progressive Catholics would find themselves in a similar boat.

That said, it is extremely important to have this agitating progressive voice to constantly speak up for those who we might otherwise find cause to treat quite poorly. It is undeniable that the human animal is a master of making distinctions, most specifically distinctions that redound to personal good often at the expense of others. When the progressive voice urges us to embrace the homosexual community, what we should hear there is not the extremes of what that can mean, but the necessary reminder that we are all sinners and should afford all sinners the love that we ourselves desire. We should not accept homosexuality, but we are absolute required to accept, embrace, and love homosexuals. A long while back Tom at Disputations shared a brief admonition that I had always believed, but have, as a result of his work, been able to place words on:

"Love the sinner, ignore the sin."

That's what we should hear in the cries for reform of progressive Catholics. We can ignore the error of what they are saying and look behind the words for the root cause they are invoking. When Sister Joan demands ordination of women, it is good to look beyond those words at how the Church, and we as members of the Church have or have not treated women fairly within our communities.

We have much to learn from each other. Strip away the rhetoric and see if there is an underlying truth, and underlying sense of hurt that may have resulted from past sins, and then adjust within anything that requires adjustment so that we don't unintentionally harm again.

All of this from the reflections of a beleaguered Episcopalian on the ongoing present pain of his Church. We have much to learn from one another.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 18, 2008 8:08 AM.

Soul and the City-- Marcy Heidish was the previous entry in this blog.

On the Real Pleasures of Henry James (and Georgette Heyer) is the next entry in this blog.

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