The Personalist Project

In remarks opening the Extraordinary Synod on marriage yesterday, Pope Francis struck several characteristically personalist notes in a few words.

He called for "a fraternal exchange of views" among the bishops—a spirit of openness and receptivity. This is not a power struggle; they are not to vie for victory over one another, but to recognize the partiality of each one's perspective and the value of what others have to offer, trusting that the Lord would lead them to true unity. The fulness of Truth is much greater than any single individual can possess. We attain it together, under grace.

He urged the bishops to "take pastoral responsibility for the questions that this changing time brings with it." In other words, be attentive to the here and now, the concrete and real, as opposed to the theoretical and academic.

He wants those questions and concerns to "fill our hearts." They are not intellectual problems merely, but human problems and needs that are to be felt. He uses the vivid language of embodiment and embodied love.

We must lend an ear to the rhythm of our time and perceive the odor of people today, that we might be imbued with their joys and hopes, their sadness and anxiety: at that point we will be able credibly to propose the good news on the family.

He wants the bishops to behave as if the People of God is their spouse. Look at her; listen to her; let her make an impression on you. Only then will you be able to husband her well.

The Pope has well-absorbed the philosophical and theological legacy of his two great predecessors. I am full of hope and eagerness to see what the Holy Spirit is about to accomplish in and through the Church.

Comments (7)

Bill Drennen

#1, Oct 13, 2014 3:14pm

Katie, I love your observation regarding the church as a spouse. It goes the other way too as I am letting this pope impress upon me which stretches me at times.

The Synod is quoted in the press today as stating:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

Assuming this is accurate; I wonder how Von Hildebrand would feel about the choice of words. I have no issue with this statement with the exception of the word, "value".

How does the church "value" an orientation towards acts that are intrinsically disordered? Even if we say that only the acts themselves are intrinsically disordered, is it not apparent that the orientation itself, if not intrinsically disordered at least certainly falls far short of the order God intended?

 (over word limit so 2'nd coment will continue)


Bill Drennen

#2, Oct 13, 2014 3:15pm

I am wondering this because my understanding of gay attraction has been to me similar to alcoholism or addiction, a disorder which certainly is not “valued” in any sense except in that way that all sin may be valued in the ultimate sense, in retrospect as in the Easter prayer, “oh necessary sin of Adam that won for us so beautiful a savior”. Or perhaps it may be valued in a general sense like St. Paul when we see our weakness that keeps us dependent on grace.

Yet this is not what the Synod is saying questioning how the community can “value” a disordered orientation. Or, perhaps is the addiction model not appropriate for gay attraction? Is it perhaps more like a special needs person? Special needs or handicapped people may have obvious disorders in the natural realm and yet be a great blessing to the community.

Is this then closer to the mark for gay attraction or should I be upset as maybe Von Hildebrand would also be with the choice of the word, “value”? Would he insist that we can not truly VALUE a gay orientation?



Katie van Schaijik

#3, Oct 13, 2014 3:25pm

I don't think it's helpful to try to imagine how DvH would have reacted, since he lived in a different moment in history. A lot has happened since he died, including a complete collapse of the social consensus against homosexuality in the west.

In other words, the Church is now confronted with a completely new pastoral challenge.

About the interim report, I think we should bear in mind that it's just that: an interim report, not a final document. I suspect and hope that the final thing will be clearer and less open to confusion and misconstrual.

In general, I think you're on the right track in your interpretation. Every person is infinitely precious and has unique gifts to offer. There is value in the acceptance of the real and concrete of our being as individuals. And there is specific value in our weaknesses and defects, inasmuch as they teach us humility. They teach us of our absolute impotence to save ourselves, our complete need for a Savior.

C.S. Lewis somewhere mentioned his correspondence with a homosexual friend who was convinced that homosexuals had a perspective to offer that "normal people" lack. That rings true to me. 

Bill Drennen

#4, Oct 13, 2014 3:30pm

Another way I tend to judge issues like this is to imagine how it will be in the next life when all disorders are put right. Will addiction exist? Will people be blind or crippled? Will they be gay? Of course my answer was always no, of course not….yet, now I’m rethinking this. Is it not true that many of us have natural attractions towards particular things that are higher levels of appreciation then others have? I am attracted to the beauty of the mountains I think at a level much higher then many people. For me I experience a calling that cannot be left un-responded to. I also have, I think a heightened appreciation for feminine beauty. These appreciations could become disordered but are not intrinsically so. In fact they are intrinsically VERY ORDERED. When responded to appropriately they become my path to God.

Could it not be possible that a man can have a heightened appreciation for masculine beauty, even to the point of experiencing it as a calling the way all beauty calls us? Can it be possible that he may appropriately respond to this calling? Will there then be “gays” in heaven, or at least in the way I describe it here?

Katie van Schaijik

#5, Oct 13, 2014 3:42pm

I don't know. For sure, there won't be any disordered desires in heaven. 

But I think we'll have about us the specific marks of our earlthly individuality. Though the blind will see in heaven, I think the reality of their earthly blindness will remain a permanent aspect of their eternal identity somehow. 

Jesus' resurrected body bears the scars of his crucifixion.

About the analogy with addiction:

I wonder if the situation of Adult Children of Alcoholics (of whom, I am one) isn't an even better one, inasmuch as addiction entails freely chosen behavior, while the dynamics and tendencies of an ACA are things she finds in herself

A person who grows up in a dysfunctional home isn't responsible for the lacunae she finds in her personality and the difficulties she has relating herself properly to herself and others as a result.
But she has a chance to either pass on those dynamics or put a stop to them by her own way of responding. And those in the ACA program find that their way out and their way to wholeness is exactly through their condition.

I suspect the same is true for at least many gays. 

Bill Drennen

#6, Oct 13, 2014 3:49pm

great insights! And I like the way my ideas can be challanged without compromising truth.

Also however, there is the issue of how the Synod's words will be understood. The paragraph I quoted will be read as an invitation to have gays holding hands in the pews!

Bill Drennen

#7, Oct 14, 2014 5:12pm

More food for thought. Here is an article from National Review by George Weigel:

Critical of some rogue bishops he beleives influenced the interm document. I ignored all the defense against the press who always get it wrong but later in the article he goes into the inside scoup what he heard happened ect.

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