Monday, April 21, 2008

Rosemary Radford Reuther - "prophetic voice" or relic of the 70's?

It truly boggles the mind why the New York Times felt compelled -- after featuring a largely exemplary cast of commentators -- to trot out feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Reuther to regurgitate her clich├ęd criticisms of the Pope. In one of her rants, she charges that:

If Catholicism in the U.S. and worldwide presents the appearance of a hierarchical leadership which has lost credibility with much of the laity, the most important cause of this is the failure to rethink its teaching on sexuality and birth control.
Ruether’s comments are straight out of the 70’s -- the last gurgles of a greying "Vatican II generation" hostile to the Church. This particular post is fascinating for the sheer number of rebuttals from vibrant orthodox Catholics. As one observes:
There is a kind of sad irony in the fact people who view themselves as “progressive” are so easily stuck on the same issues that were important to them forty years ago. Of course, disparity between Church teaching and common practice with regard to contraception remains a very real problem in the United States (and most of the world)- but it seems somewhat silly to assert that it must be the Pope who is behind the times- and then to provide (as the sum total of “background” for the issue) events that took place prior to 1970!!! With all due respect to Dr. Radford Ruether, there is an inherent contradiction within this kind of approach that ought to be recognized and corrected.

As a practicing Catholic who is not yet thirty, born ten years after Humanae Vitae was promulgated to a woman who took the pope’s teachings seriously, it is sometimes difficult to suppress feelings of bitterness against those forces in the Church who have systematically taught the practice of disobedience to my generation. Rather than shepherd us toward holiness, they have spent their careers advocating new dogmas based on their own questionable authority- opinions which directly contradict the teachings of the legitimate shepherds- and they continue to insist that they speak for the future of the Church. As someone who will be a member of the Church for the next forty years, I think it is about time they surrendered the floor.

For the rest of my life, I will be dealing with a crisis in the Church that is rarely recognized and yet very real. I am going to have to spend the rest of my days cleaning up a tremendous mess: an entire generation that lives in confusion because the previous generation refused to be faithful… and tried to convince my generation that we were stupid for wanting to be faithful, at least on issues like contraception and abortion. The irony is that these same theologians do want young Catholics to obey the Church on social justice issues- and seem shocked when so many refuse to do so.

The number of commentators who convey similar sentiments -- frustration with the prior generation of Catholics who taught nothing but dissent, and expressing a counter-cultural enthusiasm for embracing the teachings of the Church, speaks for itself. (Via Fructus Ventris).