Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mary "Monster Monstrance" Posting from 2008 Gets Its Eighth Comment in Six Years

This blog has been silent for the last three months, waiting to see if Pope Francis will actually deliver on his promising start as Bishop of Rome.  His revival of a liberation-theology approach to Catholic evangelization remains strong.  But for me the ultimate test is whether the upcoming Synod on the Family will actually produce much needed changes to official teaching on human sexuality, same-sex marriage, birth control, divorce and remarriage, and the church's stance on the civil treatment of these issues.  Or will the synod focus solely on the tactic that the teachings are sound but mercy should be shown to those who are incapable of living them?

The global invitation for people to comment on the issues raised the hope that the lived experience of real human beings might finally be taken seriously -- and respectfully.  However, the bland discussion document generated by Vatican officials to summarize that vast input was disappointing:  rather than considering that any of those teachings could be improved or updated, the officials dug in their heels and suggested that the problem was not deficient doctrines but inadequate communication of teachings that were not only sound but unsurpassable.  Once the bishops assemble for the synod, they may dismiss the document as the poppycock it is and actually debate the real issues -- as the bishops did at the Second Vatican Council when they were offered other reactionary drivel as discussion starting points.  But until the synod starts, it's impossible to know if that will happen, unless Francis plays some other card(s) in the intervening months.

Meanwhile, since life goes on in the months before the synod, my concrete discussion of specific church teachings probably needs to resume.  Among the first postings will be one on an academic paper by a theologian at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley (one of my almae matres) about the church's position on civil same-sex marriage.  The paper offers a way that the church could accept civil same-sex marriage without changing how it treats marriage internally.

But the immediate occasion for today's posting is a new development on a previous one from June 12, 2008, Mary Quite Contrary:  Monster Monstrance Promotes Mariolatry and Wafer Madness.  That posting commented on the public unveiling, with huge fanfare, of a 700-pound, nine-foot monstrance in the shape of the Virgin Mary at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Chicago.  More or less in the area of the statue's uterus was a 12-inch consecrated host.  The point of my comments was two-fold:  the monster monstrance was bad theology of Mary and bad theology of the eucharist.

The new development is that the 2008 posting has just received its eighth comment in six years.  When I made the comments, I did not expect them to garner more feedback than any other posting since I started the blog (in 2006).  The feedback has been positive and negative and often quite heartfelt.

In response to some of the more negative feedback, I have said more than once that I would do a more elaborate blog posting on the subject of eucharistic adoration.  But as I have re-read my original analysis and my responses to many of the comments, I don't think there is really too much to add.

The eucharistic theology I was taught in graduate school correctly emphasized that the Real Presence of the Risen Lord during the liturgy came about through actions (blessing, breaking, sharing, eating, drinking), and not through the kind of metaphysical change envisioned by theories such as transubstantiation.  I believe that Real Presence based on liturgical actions remains a sound theology, and that any theory that implies change to the bread and wine at an elemental (or even physical) level is a dead end.  Some who have read the original posting get that, and some deny that.  But saying more on the subject will probably convince no more readers than have been convinced already.

The theology of Mary and of the eucharist are not unimportant matters, and I am glad that my posting has caused readers to comment more and at greater length than on anything else that I have written.  However, I have done postings on many other church teachings that I think are more important than those embodied in the monster monstrance.  So I remain amazed that the monstrance post struck so many nerves, when issues that get my adrenaline pumping more have aroused nary a peep.

As W.H. Auden lamented on the eve of World War II, "All I have is a voice..."  I can wish that others will listen to it.  But whether they actually do, or provide feedback that tells me they are listening, ultimately is not for me to say.

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