Our Lady's E-Newsletter: August 2015
Chasing Phantoms, Sidestepping Reality:
The Papal Strategy of Non-Confrontation
The curious and novel phrase “structures of sin” began to appear with some frequency in papal pronouncements and magisterial documents during the papacy of John Paul II. (See: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_30121987_sollicitudo-rei-socialis.html) Few, if questioned closely, would have been able to explain how a structure - an abstract and general concept - can be sinful, but there had developed by then an apathy toward linguistic novelty, which was no longer novel but rather usual.
With studious verbal contortions, the late Pope in his 1987 encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis, explains how personal sin morphs into structures of sin, which in turn become the causes of personal sin, a bit like the child giving birth to its father. Incredibly, John Paul begins by acknowledging that all sin is personal, then goes on to personify structures as though they had a moral character of their own capable of influencing individuals, whose own guilt is thereby mitigated, if not excused. Among his other accomplishments, John Paul II was the whirling dervish of illogic.
The New York Times, amazingly, saw the flaws in the late Pope’s reasoning, as well as the probable effect of his declarations: to encourage resentment among the poor by asserting entitlements that were being denied by unjust “structures” perpetuated by the greed of capitalism in the West, and the lust for power in the East. The predations of Third World dictators and the failures of socialism were ignored, as were the enormous benefits government-regulated free markets had brought to the world’s poor. To read the New York Times piece today is to see the sad continuity of Francis’ papacy with all that went before him. (See: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/22/opinion/essay-structures-of-sin.html)
The effect, seemingly desired, of talking about structures of sin was to shift the moral onus from the individual and his actions to disembodied social mechanisms that were difficult to define and impossible to hold to account. It also allowed the Pope to stand upon the grand stage of the world as the rhetorical champion of the poor.
Talk about structures of sin produced a sense of victimhood, then (and still) quite popular, among those who were said to suffer under such structures, and it created nameless and faceless bogeymen who were alleged to maintain (and benefit from) these structures.
Lamenting the existence of such structures, we can all become quite indignant about them, blame them on others, and feel personally aggrieved and oppressed - and not a little self-righteous. There is an ever-present readiness in us to excuse ourselves of responsibility, as evidenced by Adam’s attempted avoidance of personal blame in the Garden of Eden: “The woman, whom Thou gavest me to be my companion, gave me of the tree and I did eat.” (Genesis 3:12)
So it was not only the woman who was at fault, but God indirectly was to blame for having given Adam the woman. If the concept had been available to him at the time, Adam might have vilified the tree as a “structure of sin” and portrayed himself as its helpless victim. Someone, perhaps in Rome, may soon perform this neglected exegesis.
Adam’s weasel words have taken many forms in many languages and echoed down the long corridors of history to the present day, when they have acquired a great and growing resonance, not only in the world but in the Church. Perhaps, especially in the Church.
At a time when so many individuals are to be blamed for either committing, or aiding and abetting evil (e.g. Catholics voting for pro-abortion politicians, popes and bishops being silent about it), the target of ceaseless salvos from the Chair of Peter is a collection of ill-defined economic and social structures and the faceless phantoms who presumably profit from them.
Pope Francis, protected by armed guards wherever he goes, has denounced all Christians in the entire munitions industry as “hypocrites” and “phony Christians.” (See: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/06/pope-christian-arms-manufacturers-are-hypocrites.html) The Pope, whose travels consume a great deal of petroleum, denounces the nameless producers of that fuel, in his sweeping condemnations of just about all forms of energy, for somehow harming the planet. (See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/18/pope-francis-wants-to-roll-back-progress-is-the-world-ready/) While the Vatican bank discovers a misplaced billion dollars, the Pope rails against a rapacious worldwide financial structure that supposedly squeezes dollars from the blood of the poor. (See: http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/02/13/vaticans-finance-czar-reports-1-5-billion-in-hidden-assets/)
And while he put the finishing touches on Laudato Si, his rambling diatribe against the enemies of the environment, which seem to include everyone, with a special mention of those who abuse air-conditioning, he doubtless did so from air-conditioned rooms in Rome.
In a time of unprecedented moral crisis, the Pope is penning such gems as the following: “In some coastal areas the disappearance of ecosystems sustained by mangrove swamps is a source of serious concern.” (LS 39)
Mangrove swamps? Serious concern? The words of this Pope evoke surreal images, like Salvador Dali’s watches melting in the desert. The Church’s moral authority is melting away, dribbling onto the barren sands of political correctness, and disappearing as the world applauds the people’s Pope for his virtuoso performance in the theater of the absurd. (See: http://fatima.org/perspectives/sv/perspective761.asp)
Contrasting with the Church’s current penchant for denouncing structures of sin, is the Pope’s apparent rehabilitation of the structure of legal divorce. (See: http://www.politico.eu/article/pope-divorce-roman-catholic-church/) The social mechanism that has facilitated the breakup of so many families and caused so much suffering is unscathed by the constant papal barrage of condemnations of just about everything. What is to be blamed, according to Pope Francis, is the attitude of the “doctors of the law” who would insist on upholding the Church’s perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, which places those who divorce and remarry in the condition of living in adultery.
As the papal visit to the United States approaches, one can only envision a further conciliation of anti-Catholic politicians and policies, with the Pope’s likely focus being on climate change, ecology and “mercy” for those who live in adultery or are practicing sodomy and sodomite “marriage.” The structures of sin seem not to include the civil laws that facilitate sin.
Our Lady said that She is our only help in this time. Indeed, we have no one else to turn to, no other one in whom we can place our hope and trust. The only way to avoid despair is to take our eyes off the horizon and raise them heavenward.
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