What is the Church? That's the divisive matter, because by it is decided how we interpret the 'force' of its laws. When it teaches, what does this amount to?
If it says, Christ is God, does that mean that 'we think that in some sense Christ is God?'
If it says, contraception is wrong, does that mean that 'as prayerful people we are inclined to discourage the use of contraception is many situations?'
Some people interpret Church teaching this way.
I do not. If I did, I would not be Catholic. Simple as that. If the Church guaranteed me no greater insight into the mind of God than I can arrive at myself, I would not bother with it. I am smarter than most people in the world. I do not need priests and bishops to tell me their opinions if they are no more insightful than any other old men. I have read a lot more theology and philosophy than most priests. I don't need them for that. I did not join the Church because I yearn for human community. I got married for that reason. I did not get married so as to have a sure foothold on the mind of God. I became Catholic for that reason.
If I wanted to hear from smart people I would go to Oxford. If I wanted to hear from people who made me feel good about myself regardless I would go to my house.
I want to know about things that cannot be taught by men. I want to receive things that cannot be given by men, so I joined the Church and put myself under her discipline.
I put myself under her discipline. I am her disciple. I obey her, I learn from her. Because she is the oracle of God. MIT is the oracle of science; Aristotle and Kant, the oracles of pure reason.
Aquinas teaches that God reveals what we cannot figure out ourselves but which we need to be 'fully alive' and to attain salvation. That is the only reason why Catholic adhere to the Church. And that is the only hold she has on her members. Give me salvation.
Where is this discussion coming from?
The priceless line from it is this:
Under these two popes[i.e. JP II and B XVI], so many issues of morality -- read, "sexual and reproductive issues" -- were treated almost as if they were articles of faith that could not be questioned, doubted or debated.
Imagine, wanting clarity on important moral issues from the Church!
My question is, what the heck does he think we need a pope for, a Church for?
To open a conversation, it looks like.
I repeat, I did not join the Church for a conversation. I have friends for that. I have joined academic organizations for that. I go to academic conferences for that.
I had conversations before I became Catholics. I still have them now! What I need is a way out of Thomas' paradox: needing something that no person - not even myself - can give me.
Since sexuality is so important, I need to know when and how I can love God and my neighbor through the proper use of my sexuality, for instance. When I was a teenager I honestly did not know that masturbation and pre-marital sex were harmful to me and my salvation. I had some feelings on the matter, but no certainty. The Church gives me certainty.
One would have to be willfully ignorant, or plain stupid, to be an educated adult Catholic and not be aware of the fact that the Scriptures, the consistent teaching of the Magisterium, the Fathers of the Church and the spiritual writers have never differed on the issues of masturbation and fornication. Never. Thus, it is no real stretch to believe that these
were articles of faith that could not be questioned, doubted or debated.
What is the source of the author's surprise here?
He does not believe that there could be such a thing as a Church that can teach things definitively?
If there were not or could not be, I would not be Catholic. I would hang out at Oxford and listen to my betters.
I need the Church for freedom from doubt. Otherwise it is useless to me. I get my smartness elsewhere. I get my fellowship elsewhere. On those matters that I cannot figure out for myself, but which are important for my salvation, I need the Church.