• CarlosDiaz
    32
    Hi everybody, it is intriguing why somebody can be so staunch and firm about only an ideological stance, as if contingency and social realities were unable to make him abandon the world of ideas (ὑπερουράνιον τόπον). I think we live in a very platonic society: the hyperexaltation and deification of ideas make us not to care about what really have in life and for life, what we really must assume.

    Some days ago I talked with other people about all the aspects of the Social Doctrine of the Church and I realized how unaware I was of its political dimension. After the Papal Encyclical of Leon XIII, Rerum Novarum, the social side achieved much more relevance. This meant: direct defense of human rights, good working and life conditions, social and democratic values and, in summary, whatever has something to do with the dignity of human beings (i.e. a NGO with a religious τέλος). The Church not only takes into account the spiritual dimension of believers but also the needs that can't be meet by dysfunctional international politics. With Pope Francis, it keeps displaying that image, taking care of those who most need it (this is basically the Catholic church in Latin America). So, I wondered if the Social Doctrine of the Church should in fact be so political. ¿Must the help provided by the Church have more political visibility or it must confine itself to its institutional side?
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    "The church" -- the Body of Christ -- be it Coptic, Catholic, or Calvinist, has to be in the world without being "of the world". Tricky.

    If the church focuses on performing the requirements of Matthew 25:35-46, if it preaches faithfully, if it is salt and leaven--all to the good. The church has to take account of the social, political, and economic movements of the world without being partisan, without further afflicting the afflicted, and without siding with the princes and their palace politics. The church can't side with wealth and power and remain faithful.

    Preaching to the choir as if there was no world on the other side of the stained glass windows is failure. But still it's tricky to be in the world without getting stuck in the swamp.

    I'm no longer a believer, and I don't have very high expectations of The Church (however defined). Even so, the church can be a force for good (when it isn't busy helping the devil).
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    The Church must be in, of, for... the world or it won't be the Church and yes, it is tricky to do so many things well. Taking into account the social movements without, at the same time, being drawn into their fights, failures and internal dynamics is also very tricky but this is something to think about once you have jumped into the pool. The issue to discuss here was: should it first jump? and if so, where? We know that it can't be partisan, it can't be in any left-wing, right-wing... party so, if a political structure should be in place, which one?
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    ...if a political structure should be in place, which one?CarlosDiaz

    I'm perfectly free to be in politics, and to be partisan, so I'd say democratic socialist. Americans get nervous (and well they should) when church and state get too close, because the State is secular and it functions best when it sticks to secular business and secular values.

    The church can and should take about justice, fairness, the good of the people, moral public behavior, and so on. This may place it squarely in opposition to the partisan establishment of the state. Maybe the partisans in politics will praise the church for its messages about justice, but in either case, the church should avoid partisan involvement -- for its own good.

    Aside from partisan involvement, the church must even more avoid back-door involvement with a partisan state, especially fascist states (like Spain under Franco, Italy under Mussolini, the various S.A. juntas, US sponsored banana republics, and so on. Backdoor relationships with a benevolent socialist state should also be avoided by the church.

    The church should avoid these relationships because the generally the state will seek to use the church to cloak unsavory activities, and defang the church with complicity.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    how can the Church be non partisan but at the same time participate in the political life under classic denominations like democratic socialists, christian democrats...? Shouldn't be the political arena for the Church somewhere between the political parties, the NGOs and the state, not necessarily half-way from them. I agree with you, it of course should avoid any political cohabitation with fascists, socialist... movements but when you convey a message so politically charged (equality, human rights...) aren´t you shooting yourself on the foot if you decide that you are only an NGO with a half an hour meeting every sunday morning or a state without presence in United Nations?
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    916
    As if the Church weren't a (partisan) political structure in itself.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    the Church has a hierarchy, its message is politically charged... but it doesn't have a particular presence in the political arena, it seems to float around when in fact, it does many things for many people and its presence in society is clear and constant in many countries.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    916
    The Church, or any kind of organised religious institution, is a political institution, with a political message and has a particular presence in the political arena as "the Church". You don't have to be a party aiming to be elected as the government to be a political entity.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    The Church is a religious institution with a strong political message, it is true, but not a political institution. You miss the point and distort reality if you see things like that. It is present in the political arena but not in a structured way. They can't for instance be elected but it has a very clear political side. There is an ambivalence, a I-am-and-I-am-not-here which hasn't been able to solve.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    Well, that's the tricky part...

    In Europe there was the Zentrum Catholic party in Germany, for instance. There were also Christian democratic parties which were Protestant. That was part of their tradition and it worked for them. I can't imagine such an arrangement being tolerable in the US. A large number of Americans would be adamantly opposed to a Catholic-oriented party, just because it was Catholic. Similarly, a lot of Americans would be opposed to a political party explicitly aligned with evangelicals. (Never mind a Jewish or Islamic party.)

    In India the BJP is currently the dominant party, combining religious and nationalist elements. There are Islamic parties in various countries. It isn't just a Christian/secular issue.

    My preference is for secular political parties and secular states but... other people have other preferences.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    916


    Yeah, sure, someone can pretend absence. It's a useful strategy, some even fall for it.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    yes, political parties and the Church have mingled sometimes with each other and with different results. It is a possible way to find that political presence in society and it has happened many times but political parties in that sense or context look like or feel like crutches or props for the Church, nor real political structures that it can inhabit. 400-500 years ago things were much more clear: the Pope ruled and its power was immense. Now everything is much more ambiguous and it seems that it hasn't been able to find its place since 200 years ago.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    Nobody pretend absence here but if that's the way you see it, so be it.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    916


    Yeah, ok, maybe phrases like "it doesn't have a particular presence in the political arena" and "I-am-not-here" do not speak of an absence.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    Yeah, ok, maybe phrases like "...[Church's] presence in society is clear and constant in many countries" and "The Church must be in, of, for... the world or it won't be the Church" do not speak of a presence. If you want to read whatever you feel like, not the whole message or what I mean, please, go to another thread. Internet is full of "I am right-you are wrong" discussions. Enjoy them
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    916


    But it's not the presence that I'm disputing. It's the possibility of absence in the face of the presence. In my estimation, it takes some form of pretending to achieve that. But if someone equates clear political presence with something like this: "400-500 years ago things were much more clear: the Pope ruled and its power was immense.", it all makes sense.

    Internet is full of "I am right-you are wrong" discussions. Enjoy themCarlosDiaz

    Yep, but I suggest we enjoy them together, in communion, as you seem to enjoy them even if you don't enjoy them... "You miss the point and distort reality if you see things like that."
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    I never tried to talk about any kind of "possibility of absence in the face of the presence" but if that's what you want to discuss about, open a new thread. You will surely find other people ready to take communion with you. I don't.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    Another large and relevant issue. In the 1960s there was an exodus from the churches -- Catholic and Protestant both -- that greatly reduced the membership of the churches. Those people haven't come back. What is true in the U.S. is even more true in Europe, and conversely quite the opposite in Asia, Africa and South America where various kinds of church attendance is growing.

    But "the West" has become much more secularized and this changes what the church should do. As I mentioned, I'm no longer the Protestant believer I used to be, but if the Church has a valid and valuable message, then it ought to do a better job of preaching. I have not the slightest idea of how it should do this. Or secularists need to come up with a compelling morality and mode of being in the world (which would be a tough act all round).
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    more than hour writing and thinking about what to say, hundreds of words written and now, do I have to explain to you what I tried to talk? Come on...
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    I basically agree with your words. Those movements in and out from the Church are constant through history and they will never stop. I feel that the evident secularization of the West has not yet been digested by the Church, it hasn't been able to find its place. It is interesting to think about this and discuss about all this and the future possibilities for the Church. On the other hand, some secularists do try to imitate or recreate the best that religion has on offer. Have you seen Alain de Botton and his "sermons", the "masses" with Leonard Cohen songs...? He clearly wants the good side of religion to be enjoyed by everybody
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    You might be interested in a book that came out in 1964; I found it very useful in my thinking. The Secular City by Harvey Cox. I read it quite a while ago, but he lays out his ideas of the three-fold mission of the Church in a secularized, extensively urbanized world (the global village hadn't become a meme yet). It's very upbeat. He wrote some other interesting books on theology (On Not Leaving It to the Snake was good and short -- two pluses -- a reinterpretation of temptation story in Genesis.)

    The Secular City is worth reading but you might find it a bit dated -- he was writing in an up-beat time where extensive and (to many) desirable changes were happening in the world. 54 years later, we all aren't so upbeat.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    thanks for the recommendation, I downloaded the latest version of "The secular city" and it seems that it is not so dated after all, there is a forty-eighth
    anniversary edition and some parts are translated into Chinese (besides, if you let me to joke, I like books that relate "religion to the Miss America Pageant, Playboy magazine, and campus sex") Its central question "How is the biblical God, who acts in history, and not just in the church, present in our history today?" is clearly related to what I say here and thinking about the "dynamic interplay between the religious and the secular" is key for this discussion but it seems it focus on the theological aspects, not the political ones. In any case, I think it has ideas to discuss in other threads like "the “resacralization” that some observers speak of is due rather to the fact that certain deep-seated religious impulses have never died. They had once remained under the radar, out of sight of cultural elites, but they are now becoming more assertive and visible. I believe one of the main reasons for the return to visibility of religion in the secular city is the enormous impact of globalization." He also mentions interesting titles in the preface. All in all, it is sobering to see how seriously he and all those authors have thought about these issues, it is a much higher level that what we can try to say in a more or less orderly way in online forums.

    Thanks again for the recommendation and if you just want to have a look yourself, you can download the new edition from this den of thieves http://lib1.org/_ads/C59686EFACC6B4DDFE3969776945C09E
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    Thanks! I haven't read Cox in quite a few years, and now my aging eyes like e-texts instead of ink on paper.
  • Jake
    781
    but if the Church has a valid and valuable message, then it ought to do a better job of preaching. I have not the slightest idea of how it should do this.Bitter Crank

    The way to do a better job of preaching is to let go of the talking of the talk, and channel all that energy in to the walking of the walk. The walking of the walk is credible, talking of the talk is not, especially in the modern age when everybody is talking about everything all the time.

    This is an especially important shift for the Catholic Church, because it has been working over time at flushing it's credibility down the toilet in recent years. By "credibility" I'm referring specifically to one's ability to influence those outside of one's point of view.

    There is an institution within the Church that already has great credibility, because it has long focused on service, the walking of the walk. And that would be the nuns. If the Church was serious about it's message, it would have the nuns and priests swap jobs. The credibility of the clergy is totally shot for now, so they belong behind the scenes, not out front.

    But unfortunately, the Church is not serious about it's message, as proven by the fact that it insists on continuing patterns which serve the clergy, but not the message.

    Yep, just another lapsed Catholic here. Haven't been to Mass in 50 years and doubt I'll ever return. I wish them well, but don't have a lot of hope for the enterprise at this point.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    less talking and more doing? I (kind of) agree with you but nobody can deny that the Church already does a lot in many countries. Besides, isn't part of its DNA to preach and talk so that, later on, those words lead to actions? The sexual abuse cases have created a lot of bad press (which is the way it has to be, they have made many big mistakes) but we should go beyond that. Sooner or later, the press will turn its attention to other issues and the Church will still be there. Thinking or commenting about what will be its role in society and how its sociopolitical side could be embeded in it is what this thread is about.
  • Jake
    781
    less talking and more doing? I (kind of) agree with you but nobody can deny that the Church already does a lot in many countries.CarlosDiaz

    Yes, I agree with this. My favorite stat is that Catholic Charities is the 2nd leading provider of social service to the needy in the United States, topped only by the federal government. That's an impressive accomplishment which I salute.

    But if one were to explore the Catholic web for years as I have you discover that few Catholics are actually interested in discussing this accomplishment. Instead, there are thousands of sites focused on the talking of the talk. This is not in any way evil, but imho, neither is it credible or persuasive.

    The sexual abuse cases have created a lot of bad press (which is the way it has to be, they have made many big mistakes) but we should go beyond that.CarlosDiaz

    I respectfully disagree. The Church shouldn't go beyond it, the Church should fix it in a decisive credible manner which would persuade those outside the Church that the mistakes are really over. Chanting more of the same old sanctimonious platitudes has no chance of accomplishing such a positive transformation of the Church's reputation. Only decisive bold action can do that.

    Such decisive bold action should have the effect of making those outside the Church sit up and take notice and say, "Wow, they did what??" Having the clergy and nuns swap roles would accomplish this, without requiring the Church to stop being the Church.

    Regrettably, none of this is going to happen because anyone capable of bold thinking and acting has already given up on the Church and walked away. The Church has separated itself from the forces which could renew it.

    What will happen instead is what you seem to be suggesting. The Church will wait out the media storm and then go back to doing what it's always been doing. If we could run time in reverse and head back to earlier centuries that would be a good plan.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    I didn't know that "Catholic Charities is the 2nd leading provider of social service to the needy in the United States", I was thinking about Latin America, third world countries... but it reinforces what I was trying to say. At the same time, it is true, I myself sometimes feel that there's too much talking but it is debatable whether this is not "credible or persuasive". For people who left the Church many years ago that may not be the case but there are many other social groups out there. The Church is losing ground to the Protestants of any denomination but I haven't seen yet for instance World Youth Days with millions of people organized by them. Only the Catholic Church can do that.

    On the other hand, when I said "go beyond that", I didn't mean, "let's forget" the sexual abuses cases. I of course agree with you, they should be fixed "in a decisive credible manner" and "only decisive bold action can do that". My "beyond" means "let's see the whole picture". The Church is not a congregation of paedophiles, its prestige has just been exploited by them. It is also highly debatable the statement "The Church has separated itself from the forces which could renew it" (in fact it could be a good idea to discuss about it in another thread) I rather see it as a huge organization with many forces acting at the same time within it, some of them pulling it apart, some of them making it stronger, others acting only inside... Not having a Second Vatican Council in sight doesn't mean that things are not moving or evolving within the Church. Sentences like "who am I to judge gays?" said by Pope Francis were unthinkable a few years ago. The renewal of the Church is another huge theme to talk about. I would like to have more time to do it now but I don't
  • Jake
    781
    At the same time, it is true, I myself sometimes feel that there's too much talking but it is debatable whether this is not "credible or persuasive".CarlosDiaz

    The talking of the talk is credible and persuasive to those already in the Church. Perhaps it is also persuasive in the third world, I admit to not being very informed about that. But the reason the Church now has a third world Pope is that the talking of the talk is no longer credible and persuasive in the West. You know, the Church is being run out of it's traditional European homeland, which doesn't bode well for the future.

    On the other hand, when I said "go beyond that", I didn't mean, "let's forget" the sexual abuses cases. I of course agree with you, they should be fixed "in a decisive credible manner" and "only decisive bold action can do that".CarlosDiaz

    What decisive bold action do you have in mind? What decisive bold action does the Church have in mind? I may be under informed, but I haven't heard anything that would qualify in my mind.

    The Church is not a congregation of paedophiles, its prestige has just been exploited by them.CarlosDiaz

    This is what I mean by talk lacking credibility. The clergy has proven itself to be a congregation of paedophile enablers, not just here or there, but globally. We can't separate the Church from paedophiles as you are trying to do here, unless we are also going to separate the male clergy from the Church, which is basically what I was trying to do with my "put the nuns in charge" proposal.

    I'm just trying to be realistic. Whether it's fair or not, the credibility of the male clergy is shot, gone, dead, over, for some number of coming generations. I'm not suggesting we should hate the male clergy, only that they need to be taken off the public stage asap. But, we can probably agree that's not going to happen, which is why I'm not hopeful.

    It is also highly debatable the statement "The Church has separated itself from the forces which could renew it"CarlosDiaz

    Well, ok, you could point to specific renewal moves if you wish. Whatever such moves are, they don't seem to be working, as perceived from here at least.

    Sentences like "who am I to judge gays?" said by Pope Francis were unthinkable a few years ago.CarlosDiaz

    This is a very low standard by which to measure renewal, imho. Real renewal in this area might take the shape of some gay bishops and cardinals, such as is seen for example in the Episcopal Church. But of course, thank to the child rape scandal, this is now impossible.
  • CarlosDiaz
    32
    I started to answer your messages because I thought you wanted to talk and had something to say but I was wrong. Saying that Argentina is a third world country, that "the clergy has proven itself to be a congregation of paedophile enablers"... and nonsensical things like that save me the time needed to talk with you any more. If you feel any kind of rancour or anger towards the Catholic Church, internet is full of places for you. Enjoy them.
  • Jake
    781
    Well ok, this reply doesn't surprise me, as I've seen it a thousand times on Catholic sites. There's a great deal of talk about "dialog" in Catholic culture, but dialog is really only welcomed if it takes on the form of a mutual validation society. I should quickly add this is true not only of Catholics, but most groupings on the web including for example, atheists. A Catholic blog editor I was chatting with once labeled this phenomena the "tribal nature of the Net" which seemed a pretty good description.

    I take no offense because surely no one is obligated to engage with me, or anybody else either. If Catholics prefer to talk only with people who already agree with them, that is their right, and that choice is very normal.

    But you see, I thought the mission of the Catholic Church was to change the world, and that would seem to be impossible if Catholics are only willing to talk with other Catholics, and those who can't or won't present a challenge to Catholicism.

    I would remind you that once upon a time long ago, Catholics were confident and brave. They dominated Western culture to a degree unimaginable today for 1,000 years. A thousand years.

    But those days are gone. Today's Catholics are afraid of their own shadow, unwilling and unable to engage anyone who might present a threat to their worldview. And there's nothing really wrong with this either. But one can not change the world from a position of fear.

    I wish you well too, but predict you will find philosophy forums too inconvenient to bear. Catholic Answers is likely what you're really looking for.
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