Leadership

On First Things, after talking about the attitude of Anglican leadership, J. Daryl Charles contrasts:

. . .
Compare these rather remarkable musings, and the tomfoolery that goes therewith, to the wisdom of the historic Christian moral tradition. One thinks, for example, of the thoughtful work of Karol Wojtyla (to become John Paul II) on human love, Love and Responsibility, published in 1960 when the present Archbishop of Canterbury was but a mere pup. With great care, Wojtyla describes the unit of truth and charity, exposing the false dichotomy that results from modern attempts to place the two in opposition. Truth will always seek to honor the dignity of the person, given the image of God within. But love will always seek to honor what is truth, since to ignore truth and embrace falsehood is to dishonor both Creator and creature.

Or, we might note the work of John Paul’s successor Benedict XVI, whose views regarding human nature and normative sexuality, based on the imago Dei, came in the form of the pontiff’s end-of-the year (2008) address at the Vatican—an address described by Elie as “notorious.”

Significantly, Benedict posed a rather intriguing—and quite necessary—pastoral question in his April (2008) address to the U.S. bishops who were convened in Washington, D.C., a pastoral question which the Archbishop of Canterbury might well consider himself. In the twenty-first century, how might a bishop best fulfill the call “to make all things new in Christ, our hope”? And how can he lead his people to “an encounter with the living God,” the source of that life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks (cf. Spe Salvi, 4)? Perhaps, Benedict concluded, the bishop needs to begin by clearing away some of the barriers to such an encounter. To be holy, not to be sexually “wanted,” as Williams intoned in “The Body’s Grace,” is to be authentically Christian.

Consider the wisdom of this statement: Not “openness” and dialogue, but “clearing away barriers”—understood as repentance and recognition of Christ’s unconditional lordship—paves the way for “an encounter with the living God.” Benedict further exhorted the bishops to lead the flock in “participating in the exchange of ideas in the public square, helping to shape cultural attitudes.”

But this “participation,” “exchange” and “shaping” will not be easy, particularly when those who speak in the name of God are themselves confused and wholly absorbed into the cultural fabric themselves. Nevertheless, it must be done.

Someone has observed that when a revolutionary group wishes to wage war on human decency, the first—and most effective—strategy is to co-opt language in the service of the cause. Surely, the rhetoric of “compassion” allows activists to capture the moral high ground. It is precisely this sort of verbal sleight-of-hand that George Orwell had in mind as he penned in 1947 a brief but highly important essay titled “Politics and the English Language”: “One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language.” “Political language,” he noted, is designed to make lies sound truthful, and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Activists are well aware that two obstacles prevent the wider culture from embracing “alternative” sexuality: the presence (or absence) of social stigma and the Church’s moral teaching. A moral state of affairs in which the Church’s leaders assume the same voice as the culture only confirms the truth in Orwell’s observation. When lines become blurred, it becomes necessary to re-state the obvious. . . .

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