The Personalist Project

Yesterday, while working on the post below, I found two a propos items. An address given last month by Cardinal Cupich called, "Pope Francis’ Revolution of Mercy: Amoris Laetitia as a New Paradigm of Catholicity," and a blogpost claiming:

The new paradigm Catholic Church is the old 1970's paradigm that Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict tried to undo and is being resurrection [sic] again and with the same nasty results.

Feel free to google if you want to read it. As far as I'm concerned, that quote says it all.

I'm grateful to this blogger, whoever he is, for making explicit what I sense many conservatives think but seldom say so straight-forwardly. I suspect that it's basically what Archbishop Chaput thinks too. If he doesn't think it, many conservatives think he does, because his public words suggest it. And he, like Cardinal Burke, is widely seen as their hero—a hero for Truth against a dark force of liberalism that has taken over the Vatican.

It distresses and disturbs me, as I think (to the degree that they know about it) it must the Pope and his predecessors. It's not just that it's objectively bad and scandalous for popes to be pitted against each other and for there to be such ugly division in the Church, but the notion that Francis is in discontinuity with John Paul and Benedict is  not true. Conservatives think he is, because of their "excessive objectivism." They are so focussed on objectivity that they've missed the "turn toward subjectivity" that is the great and paradigmatic event of our time in salvation history. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were two of its prime authors and protagonists

Further, and really importantly, their misunderstanding of what's going on with this papacy is preventing conservatives from playing the vital role they ought to be playing at this moment in the Church. The Pope is calling for dialogue. Conservatives' values, insights, perspective and help is urgently needn't for the task we're facing. But it's as if, instead of bringing what we have to the table, we're scoffing at the idea that there's any need for dialogue at all. We're talking and acting as if the call for dialogue is tantamount to an assertion of relativism—as if our perspective is the same as Truth as such and other perspectives are a menace to Truth. 

In deepest theological and metaphysical fact, though, truth, like love, involves a communion of persons. We need each other to attain it. And the higher the truth in question, the stronger, deeper and broader the communion needs to be.

It happens that I've been re-reading a lot of JP II and Benedict in recent weeks, so I am freshly aware and in awe of how absolutely replete with subjectivity their works and witness are. Of course they were also great defenders of objectivity. That's the gift and the miracle.

Those two intellectual giants—popes, saints, Scripture scholars and mystics both—promoted subjectivity while they defended objectivity. They showed in their words and witness that there is a dialectical (not to say conjugal) relation between these two aspects of Reality, and between modernity and the perennial tradition.

It's meant to be a fruitful union. Modernists are contracepting one way; traditionalists in another. Both are "refusing to give" and "refusing to receive" the other in full. It's not okay.

I think I might need the rest of my life to explain.


Comments (15)


#1, Mar 11, 2018 5:12pm

I think it depends on what one means by paradigm shift.  Have you read George Weigel's article,  "The Catholic Church does't do paradigm shifts"?  ([url=][/url])

As Weigel points out for many the term, paradigm shift indicates a radical break with previous Catholic understandings -- a "dramatic, sudden, and unexpected rupture".  In this sense of the term, Weigel states, "the Catholic Church doesn’t do “paradigm shifts."  He goes on to say, "Something is broken in Catholicism today and it isn’t going to be healed by appeals to paradigm shifts."  I think I agree with him.  As long as people recognize doctrinal development is organic and continues to be developed over time, which is true, we are cool, but I think it could be confusing, if not also wrong to use a term like paradigm shift in the way it is being used.  Anyway, I'm less concerned about the term, paradigm shift, and more concerned about us coming to know and understand what Christ wants us to know and understand.  Getting hung up on semantics might be a distraction.   

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Mar 11, 2018 8:13pm

By what right does an Archbishop or an opinion-maker or anyone else suggest that a perfectly useful word is beyond the Catholic pale on the grounds that it might be taken to mean something other than what the authors say they mean? 

I have just made a point of showing that I think I think the "turn toward subjectivity" (Wojtyla's phrase) that has characterized the modern period and which the Church has made her own since Vatican II is nothing less than a paradigm shift—one that doesn't touch the fundamental teaching of the Church any more than Copernicus' discovery altered the movements of the galaxy. 

Is it just, is it courteous, is it anything but rude and insulting-almost to suggest that I am "adding confusion to a confused age" because one of my words might be taken to mean the opposite of what I've just said I mean?

Should George Weigel be taken to task for adding confusion to a confused age when he calls the Solidarity Movement "a revolution of conscience", because the word "revolution" is generally associated with Marxists?

How about we let authors choose the words that best express their meaning, and then engage their actual reasoning, rather than appointing ourselves Catholic vocabulary police?


#3, Mar 11, 2018 11:43pm

A perfectly useful word, if in fact, the word proves to be useful.  And who determines "useful"?  Is it useful to dub something a paradigm shift if that can be translated to mean we can never know if what we are receiving from Christ's Church is true and accurate -- it is simply based upon the day's current mindset and we should expect a paradigm shift in our understanding at any given moment? Is Church teaching to be taken seriously or merely seen as a reflection of the Church in her times?  Nothing delights atheists more than reducing the Church to a product of her times.  


#4, Mar 11, 2018 11:43pm

"Is it just, is it courteous, is it anything but rude and insulting almost to suggest that I am "adding confusion to a confused age" because one of my words might be taken to mean the opposite of what I've just said I mean?"

But doesn't that go both ways?  Isn't how something is 'received' by others valid?  So, while technically you might be right to remain stubborn in a certain word choice or use of terms, you could also take into account if others don't currently grasp your meaning.   

Again, when the current culture hears, "paradigm shift" they equate that to, "out with the old and in with the new and abrupt and sudden change from all things previous"  Now, you and I both know that isn't what is going on within the Church or has ever gone on within the Church.  For that reason, I personally would avoid certain words.  I just don't find them helpful.  Again, I find this a case of us both probably wanting the same thing, but simply having different views about how that is to be achieved.     

Katie van Schaijik

#5, Mar 12, 2018 9:12am

Alice, I'm sorry!

I accidentally deleted your comment while trying to reply to it. I don't know how to get it back.

My reply was to say that, yes, I am saying that I think conservatives misunderstanding and lack of receptively toward the Pope is doing serious harm to the Church.

I've been saying it almost since the beginning of this papacy. See here and here and here and here for examples.

Katie van Schaijik

#6, Mar 12, 2018 9:31am

Joy, it's a perfectly good and useful word, full stop.

It's up to an author or speaker to choose the words that best express her meaning. It's up to the reader or listener to do his best to try to understand what she means.

If a reader, instead of taking the word in context, jumps at it and protests that it's sometimes used to mean something else, we've got what's known as "a knee-jerk reaction." And a red herring. It's the opposite of a thoughtful response, and it's a conversation-killer.

Suppose I were to say, "I laughed so hard I nearly ruptured my spleen," and instead of asking me to share the joke, you said, "Um, Catholics don't like the word 'rupture', because in a theological context it implies a break with Tradition. Pick a different word." Would I say, "Oh, sorry, I didn't realize"? No. I would say, "Don't be such a jerk." Probably we wouldn't remain friends.

If a conservative Catholic prelate or opinion-maker publicly casts suspicion on the good faith and orthodoxy of everyone who uses a word, teaching his followers to do the same, it's worse. It "poisons the wells." It destroys communion. It's not okay.

Katie van Schaijik

#7, Mar 12, 2018 9:46am

I could extend the metaphor in my post by saying it's a kind of verbal spermicide.


#8, Mar 12, 2018 3:02pm

“My reply was to say that, yes, I am saying that I think conservatives misunderstanding and lack of receptively toward the Pope is doing serious harm to the Church.”

“I've been saying it almost since the beginning of this papacy.”

I guess I might argue that liberal (though I hate to use that term.  IMO, there is no such thing as a liberal or conservative Catholic – we are simply Catholic) misunderstanding and misapplication of the Pope’s words is doing serious harm to the Church.  Knee-jerk reactions come from both sides of the political spectrum. 

continued . . . 



#9, Mar 12, 2018 3:03pm

I have been a fan of Archbishop Chaput long before Pope Francis was elected.  Unlike many clergy, he did not seem to cower from the tough topics.  He didn’t seem afraid to speak the truth, even when that truth was hard to hear.  I see a place in Christ’s Church for those like Chaput.  I recognize that you don’t see him in this way.  I do not share the opinion that he is doing serious harm to the Church.  I do however understand that there are priests that I might argue are doing serious harm to the Church – Father James Martin comes to mind.  But I can admit that perhaps that is simply my opinion and others might feel his ministry is necessary or good.  So, short of heresy, there seems to be a bit of leeway in Christ’s appointed clergy.   Your views on Chaput have helped me realize Catholics come in all shapes and sizes and perhaps the Church has many different servants equipped with unique talents and gifts to better serve all of God’s children.  

Katie van Schaijik

#10, Mar 12, 2018 3:50pm

I see a place in Christ’s Church for those like Chaput. I recognize that you don’t see him in this way.

What?! Having particular criticisms of some of his recent public writings means I don't see a place for him the Church?! For goodness' sake, Joy.

I've been a fan of his for a long time too. I published an article (now behind a pay wall) expressing my joy and admiration at his installation as shepherd of my diocese several years back. In my post below, I lay out several major points of agreement with him. Even if there were none of those, I would never say there's no place for him in the Church.

Nor does a critique of conservatives' reaction to Pope Francis suggest that liberals are faultless.


#11, Mar 12, 2018 5:12pm

Hi Katie,

I laughed at you erasing my comment by mistake! At least it wasn't on purpose because we disagree! Although I do see many of the points your making and agree with many of them.

Getting back to my previous comment- I'm curious why you think there is a lack of receptivity coming from conservatives because they are asking for Pope Francis to clarify things.....Isn't that an acceptable form of starting a dialogue and showing a willingness to listen and hopefully learn?

Is it really causing disunity to ask for the clarification and state you disagree with the Pope on only some of Amoris Laetitia? I thought much of it was beautiful and prayed over it a lot. I do still see some serious issues with it though in my opinion and that's coming from just an honest questioning and desire to understand. 


#12, Mar 12, 2018 5:25pm

I'll go back and read your other posts- I think I only read one of them.

I forgot to add that I also am concerned for souls and the direction of the Church in our current times and culture- it's not just my desire to understand that is causing me to question things. I do want to understand more to make sure my assessments are accurate and that I am not jumping to conclusions too soon. I know many times in the Gospel Jesus Himself didn't answer others' questions and it was for good reason.....Many were just trying to trip him up or see what he was going to say to use it against him. But I don't think that's whats going on here.

Katie van Schaijik

#13, Mar 12, 2018 6:33pm

I don't think I've ever erased a comment because I disagreed with it! :)

I have blocked a few that I thought really rude. Yours wasn't the least bit rude!

I'm not against anyone asking for clarification. I am against a demand for clarification. And I'm against those who talk as if the Pope's declining to give instant clarification to those demanding it is proof that he secretly wants to change Church teaching or approves of the Bishops of Malta's interpretation or whatever.


#14, Mar 12, 2018 8:14pm

I completely agree with what you're saying because it doesn't respect the freedom of the person when you demand something. I also agree that interpreting peoples motives is unfair and can be a way to manipulate someone. That happened a lot to Jesus actually, I'm thinking of him before Pilate.

Now I went back and read another one of your posts, I want to read them all to get a better grasp on what you're saying. I did read about the one on respect for the Pope, and I want to make sure I am doing that when I'm sharing my opinions. I had a reconversion to Catholicism and I don't fully understand the idea of infallibility ( which now might be a good time to look in to!) I guess I am wondering how appropriate is it for me to post publicly what my questions are regarding Amoris Laetitia? 

I think Pope Francis' focus on loving our neighbor, being merciful and helping those in need is absolutely essential and beautiful. 

Katie van Schaijik

#15, Mar 13, 2018 9:11am

Alice, yes. Demanding may be necessary in some cases (like when someone is crossing a boundary or unjustly withholding something he owes me), but it's often a case of disrespecting the other's freedom. With respect to the Pope, it's wrong in a particular way, since Catholics believe that he is the Vicar of Christ on earth. We believe he was chosen through the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in our day. 

About infallibility: I've noticed many of my conservative friends confused on this point. I mean, they are talking as if since the Pope is only infallible when he makes a very particular kind of doctrinal pronouncement, everything else he teaches is up for grabs, as far as our receptivity is concerned.

This is wrong. The key for us is to realize that Pope has authority whenever he teaches in the area of faith and morals. That authority is greater when he teaches formally (in an encyclical or exhortation rather than in a homily, say) and in union with the bishops.

There's nothing wrong with expressing confusion or with raising questions, provided it's done in a spirit of "faith seeking understanding" rather than expert demanding answers.

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