If Archbishop Dolan wants to stop the exodus, nailing shut the door to pastoral inclusion is not the answer.
Yesterday in a New York Times article, newly elected USCCB President Timothy Dolan had this to say about the priorities of the USCCB:
"He said the bishops would not stop speaking out on political issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration. But he said there was now a movement among them to confront internal problems like the “sobering study” showing that one-third of Americans born and baptized Catholic have left the church."
In the above quote there is a very important observation. It's one which may help Archbishop Dolan understand he needs to make a very distinct change in approach. If he makes that change he may indeed help stop some of the bleeding. He needs to stop using Catholic sexual morality as political fodder and start approaching these issues from a pastoral approach. That is the hopeful thing that struck me about Benedict's statements on condoms. Benedict is approaching the topic of AIDS and condoms from a pastoral perspective which places the emphasis on human life. He has turned from using these topics for political fodder.
In an op ed piece for The Daily Beast on Dolan's election to the presidency, author Jim Carroll wonderfully describes the prevailing attitude at Vatican II--a pastoral council:
The earlier bishops were men of the institution, too, but they were also part of the Church's reckoning, at the Second Vatican Council, with the accumulated cruelty that many doctrines and traditions had inadvertently come to embody. At the Council, ideology was measured by its effect on actual people, and when found to be inhuman was changed. That is the point, of course, of the nuns' protest this week—how the abstractions of Catholic dogma on homosexuality contribute to the moral confusion of anti-gay bullies and the intense suffering of their victims. But Dolan's job, in sync with the mission given to every bishop by Pope Benedict XVI, is to reverse the changes of Vatican II—or what is left of them after the triumphal reaction of the last three decades. Cruelty is sacrosanct.
What Carroll is describing is that notion that progressives call "the Spirit of Vatican II". It's that idea Dolan and his fellow bishops have thrown over board for the notions of "the Spirits of Ronald Reagan and John Paul II". If I had to give a short hand synopsis of JPII's papacy, it would be the substitution of political Catholicism for pastoral Catholicism. That has been a monumental betrayal to millions of Catholic in the West. It has directly caused the deaths of millions of Catholics in the South.
Pope Benedict has made a real offer to extend his pastoral hand over condom use and HIV. I pray that he is seeing the light. He was after all a periti at Vatican II and he most certainly understands the difference between pastoral Catholicism and political Catholicism. I don't know that too many USCCB members get this difference, but if they are serious about stopping the bleeding or re evangelizing the West, they better get it real quick like.
Eventually, Humanae Vitae will have to be re evaluated. This encyclical stands as the exit door that opened for the exodus. It betrayed the core fundamental principles of Vatican II. It kept sexual cruelty in place. It allowed for sex to become a political rather than pastoral issue. Yesterday the Russian Orthodox Church approved non abortive artificial birth control measures. There is no legitimately pastoral reason Catholicism can't follow suit and plenty of positive reasons to take the same stand.
Until sexual issues are taught from a pastoral approach emphasising growth and relationship rather than a political approach emphasising sin and hell, the permanent exit door will continue to be wide open. The entrance door to full inclusion will continue to be nailed shut