Saturday, June 10, 2017

On Doctrine and Human Experience

Today one disputatious topic among Catholics is the liturgy. As Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was known as an proponent of the “reform of the reform”—a program that avoids liturgical disruption in favor of organic development, slowly bringing the liturgy back into continuity with its historic form. His nemesis in the debate, Cardinal Walter Kasper used the disruption that followed Vatican II to argue for further changes in Catholic life: “Our people are well aware of the flexibility of laws and regulations; they have experienced a great deal of it over the past decades. They lived through changes that no one anticipated or even thought possible.” Kasper was upset that Ratzinger did not see things his way: “Regrettably, Cardinal Ratzinger has approached the problem of the relationship between the universal church and local churches from a purely abstract and theoretical point of view, without taking into account concrete pastoral situations and experiences.” Ratzinger has failed to consult what Kasper calls the “data” of experience: “To history, therefore, we must turn for sound theology,” where we will find many examples of a commendable “diversity.”

In maintaining this view one detects the neomodernism in Kasper’s thought. In short, this understanding regards Church doctrine as follows: because the dogmas of the Church do not possess indisputable knowledge of the supernatural, they are relative to how they impact one’s imagination, and may be believed or disbelieved accordingly. Theologians susceptible to this argument believe dogma to be changeable over time (as opposed to development of doctrine), and that dogma may be disregarded when no longer fruitful for the individual, or reinterpreted to better meet with individual experience. This is a blatant misunderstanding of development of doctrine, and is most famously demonstrated in the dissent of many American theologians to Humanae Vitae so soon after its promulgation, heretical pure and simple, further reflected in the current controversy over whether or not to allow the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion. Read more in Chapter 4 of The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God (video above).