The whole controversy between the Vatican and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is rooted in a basic fact - if one enters into a dialogue by acceding to any of the devil's premises, any conclusions or resolution that results will be bedeviled by very subtle but virulent distortions and errors.
In light of this truth, we must first recognize that, the Vatican seems to be approaching the whole issue from the premise that the truth must be carefully discerned, humbly
reverenced and redemptively incarnated. In contrast to this, it seems that the LCWR is approaching the issue from the premise that a certain agenda, ever evolving so as
to conform with the increasing dictates of political correctness must be promoted and defended at all costs. Thus it is that, unless the Vatican and the LCWR agree unequivocally on the basic parameters, premises and methodology that are to be used in addressing their concerns, any hope for an integral resolution of these concerns is futile.
We must also note that authentic authority is must be exercised in fidelity to the sacred truths manifest in natural law and Divine Revelation. And truth is not based on consensus, whether that consensus be that of a lynch mob or that of the People of God, when they convinced Aaron to build a golden calf for them to worship. Rather, truth is based upon the mystery of God's commitment to promote integrity in all dimensions of creation, and, more specifically, in all dimensions of our shared humanity.
And the fidelity needed to recognize and proclaim the truth requires certain dispositions, especially reverence, docility, humility and repentance. Only through these are we able to allow the Holy Spirit to create in us that purity of heart, whereby we can see God's and appreciate the gracious wisdom of His holy will.
Unless these basic facts are recognized and respected, any dialogue will degenerate into some form of Hegelian dialectic, wherein truth is not proclaimed, but merely proposed. As a result, even the New Evangelization will degenerate into a New Capitulation. In this New Capitulation, we will see the continuing development of an Orwellian "New-speak", wherein a host of perverted premises will be able permeate our souls and our society.
Among these are the following:
1) virtue is vice (e.g., promoting chastity, modesty and marital fidelity is "waging war on women");
2) feelings and emotions determine the truth;
3) discipleship must be divorced from sacred discipline;
4) economic and social progress is more important than fidelity to the objective moral teaching of Christ;
5) fickleness is freedom;
6) justice is realized by the arousal and appeasing of resentments;
7) human dignity is enhanced by power, rather than by God's grace (Thus it is alleged that the poor are to be empowered, rather than reverenced so that
they can embrace us into a more profound and grateful docility to God's grace);
8) human development is guided by subjective or societal evolution,rather than by obedience to God's call to integrity and righteousness (evocation);
9) we are to approach God, religion and spirituality as with the cynicism and hostility of bargain hunters, rather than with the hospitality of repentant sinners and beggars (it should be noted here that repentance, at its core, is hospitality to a the mystery and ministry of pure gracious mercy, which is God Himself).
The new Gnostic spiritualities are full of exciting new "insights", but these thrills are rather vacuous and thus must continually be replaced with newer spiritualities.
These also leave people empty. As St. Paul points out in concluding his admonition to Timothy (I Tim 3:1-7): "For some of these slip into homes and make captives of women weighed down by sin and , led by various desires, always trying to learn but never able to reach a knowledge of the truth."
It may be helpful to conclude with a sign of our times. Virtual reality may be exciting, but it is not real virtue. And it definitely is not salvific.
Thus it is that we have to again come face to face with the reality of the cross of Christ as being central to the mystery of God's sanctifying and salvific graciousness. There can be no salvation without redemptive suffering (as opposed to resentful suffering).
And, in the wisdom of God's Providence, what seems most frustrating and futile from the world's perspective can, through communion with our crucified Savior, become fruitful and fecund beyond comprehension. For in the midst of frustration, a soul is offered by God to privilege of greater intimacy with Christ crucified, since in the midst of such frustration, it has the ability to dig deeply so as to invest not merely its surplus, but its very substance into the mystery and ministry of Christ.
And this world, with all its exotic and eccentric spiritualities, can neither give nor take away the joy and peace which come from such an investment.
Rev. Thomas Collins is a Catholic priest in service to the people of Virginia.