Friday, March 16, 2007

How infallibility is feeding the dissent

The Curt Jester has a post about yet more folly from Catholic women priesthood dissenters. The conservative commentators are predictably hauling out Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (OS).

They, and according to most polls, the majority of Catholics don't give a crap about OS. There is something totally off about how we conservatives/orthodox are communicating doctrinal truth. The argument by authority approach cannot be our default response. Clergy need to stop hiding behind the "we have not the authority" argument. It's a perfectly true argument, of course, but doesn't go very far by itself.

We have much to learn from the Orthodox East on this. They don't have parallel "womyn" priesthood dissenters worth any mention AND they don't resort to arguments by authority, which they rightly criticize us Catholics for relying too heavily on. The problem is that not even most conservative Catholics have a theological belief in male priesthood; they only believe it because the Pope says so (which is the stereotype of Catholics by the way). This rhetoric of "what part of NO don't you get?" is funny as a joke, but beyond that it's childish, legalistic, and only perpetuates the problem.

Papal authority is meant to protect the Truth, not serve as a substitute for a real confrontation with the Truth. By merely pointing to papal authority, we're diminishing Catholic Truth. It becomes an abstraction, yet another propositional idea up for debate, as all "ideas" are. For the Orthodox (and I see no reason why it can't be so for Catholics as well), male priesthood is an integral part of a densely-packed and tightly-intertwined way of life and liturgy, a unifying communal ethos and aesthetic, not something to be toyed with like a Legos set. There's no room for the impulse to question it, but doctrine and liturgy are never alienable objects of intellectual scrutiny to begin with. But when Catholic Truth gets reduced to papal infallibility, doctrines are no longer lived realities but power discourse. Then you create fertile ground for these idiotic dissenters. The modernism of Catholic conservatives is doing much to feed this absurd cycle of dissent and crackdown and more dissent.

It's about how we clothe doctrine and liturgy. Will we continue to clothe them in the thin threads of the Pope's say-so as an independent source of authority? Or will we follow the wisdom of the East (which if apostolic and patristic is our wisdom as well!) and clothe them in the tougher skins of a full-bodied liturgical culture, as in Old World Catholicism?

The polemics with Protestants really took us off course. Catholics stopped relying on the Liturgy itself as a source of authority and made it derivative of papal authority. That has proved to be disastrous. Conservative idiots will extrapolate that I'm advocating a diminishment or rejection of papal infallibility. I do not, though I suppose a strict, narrow reading of the docs might reveal some friction. I believe in papal infallibility; I just don't think it's the crux of Catholic faith, so we should stop hiding behind it as if it's all we got when it's plainly not.