The Fr Z Problem
Blogged by James Preece on 1st August 2008
Here is my problem.
Often on this blog I have made the observation that there is prevalent a dichotomy between "pastoral" and "intellectual". If you are one, you can't be the other.
And in this dichotomy, the "pastoral" is nearly always exalted at superior, in such a way that to be "pastoral" often winds up fostering an anti-intellectual condescension.
This is a common trait in many clerics, I'm afraid.
I see Pope Benedict breaking down this dichotomy, which is causing some people to scratch their heads in confusion.
It's really simple... just use a simple word substitution device (for "sausages", read "hostages").
When people say "pastoral" they mean "being willing to pretend that certain things are not true in order to make life easier". Pastoral Priests don't ask questions when you pitch up with two kids and ask to have just the older one baptised. They give communion to divorced and remarried people and bless second marriages. Intellectual Priests on the other hand have read Humanae Vitae and thought it made sense (Pastoral Priests have read about Humanae Vitae in The Tablet). For "intellectual" read "impractical".
At the root of all this, is a heretical denial of the teaching authority of the Church. Harsh James, very harsh. But stay with me a moment. Like all the devil's lies, this one has a grain of truth, a sweetner, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.
The grain of truth... theory is different from practice. You can read about fixing a car, but it's not like fixing a car. You can learn about the theology of marriage, but it's not like being married. You can study every book there is about archery, but if it's your first time picking up a bow and arrow, Ella is going to win. That's the truth. Learning about things in theory is very different from experiencing them practically.
Now here is the lie... if learning about things is different from experiencing them practically, perhaps understanding things intellectually is not understanding them at all. A priest can read a thousand books about marriage, but he can have nothing to say about real, practical marriage. His experience of marriage is purely intellectual. No priest can tell me how to treat my wife! He's never been married himself!
I've met priests who believe this. Who say "Who am I to tell you what not to do in the bedroom?"
Who are you to tell me anything? Idiots.
If a man denies the ability to learn things by reading or hearing them taught, then he denies the ability to teach. He denies the Church's ability to teach. He denies Christ's ability to teach. If Humanae Vitae, Gaudium Et Spes and CCC1601-1666 doesn't give you the authority to teach me about human sexuality, then what makes you think you have the authority to teach me about anything?
A child can learn, without practical driving experience and without a drop of ale having ever passed her lips, that it is a bad idea to drink and drive. A Priest who thinks his years of "pastoral" experience gives him the authority to contradict the teaching of the Church is like man who thinks his years of practical driving experience mean he can safely down six pints of ale and drive at 90mph while talking on his mobile phone. He's done it a few times before and got home okay... the silly highway code is just intellectual theory and it can't compare with his practical experience.
A Priest who thinks his "pastoral" experience makes him exempt from the teaching of the Church is like that driver. He is a danger to himself to those around him. He is going to hurt somebody. It's not going to be many years until Leona is old enough to cross the road on her own and I'm going to be pretty peeved with any man who thinks his driving experience gives him the right to take chances with her life. But long before I even think about letting Leona cross the road on her own, she's going to be old enough to go to mass and to school and to understand some of what is being said.
Any priest who uses his pastoral experience as an excuse to contradict the Church in front of my little girl had better understand that my pastoral experience as a parent gives me the right to contradict the eleventh commandment. Thou shalt not set fire to people's faces.