A Reading Suggestion
By Bronwen McShea - New York, New York, USA - 27 August 2015
If you have not yet read it, I wish to direct your attention to a provocative essay by Patricia Snow, published in the April 2015 issue of First Things, on the subject of celibacy and the way it is discussed in the Church today vis-à-vis marriage. There is food for thought in it for persons of all states of life and experiences -- for all who reflect on the intersections between ordinary human desires and activities, God and grace, and both popular and neglected traditions of Christian thought and teaching. The essay is entitled "Dismantling the Cross: A Call for Renewed Emphasis on the Celibate Vocation" and it is available online here:
A longer version of the same essay was also published in the Spring 2015 issue of the peer reviewed international theological journal, Nova et Vetera. As of now, that version is only available to print subscribers of the journal. So here is a sampling of what Ms. Snow has to say in it, beyond what was included in the First Things version, in a section on the history of Church teachings broadly, where she sets the stage for her more specific discussion:
Not for nothing did G.K. Chesterton compare the Church to a reeling chariot, veering this way and that, barely skirting disaster. Great saints (recall Thérèse of Lisieux's childhood pronouncement, "I choose all!"), graced moments, and golden ages aside, the history of the Church is the history of a people continually struggling with the difficulty of holding seemingly contradictory truths in suspension. It is the history of a people continually tempted by heresy, which precisely stresses one truth of faith at the expense of another and simplifies, not by integration, but by subtraction. (Christ's divinity must go, or his humanity; predestination or man's free will.) So dualistic are man's temptations, and so ready is he to distinguish oppositions even where none exist, Satan, in his undertakings, frequently begins by carving up the good. (You, be concerned for the poor, and you, for the unborn.) The struggle for the whole truth -- both for the capacious mysteries protected by dogmas and for every kind of fruitful synthesis in ordinary life -- is perennial in the Church. She proceeds, not in a straight line, but by digressions and corrections, near shipwrecks and counterreformations large and small. Not only does she sometimes stress one truth of faith at the expense of another, she sometimes does so interminably, in long languishings more reminiscent of a swamped ship than a swift chariot. The harsh effects of Jansenism, for example, lingered for generations, the Church seemingly adrift in the long darkness of a polar winter, until finally, the wind of the Spirit rising in the persons of SS. Thérèse and Faustina, she turned and shipped slowly back in the direction of light and mercy.
Finally, of further interest may be the follow-up online interview Patricia did for First Things, with Mark Bauerlein:
I spread word about the essay and interview both because I believe readers of PILGRIM will find them thought-provoking (and perhaps in some cases inspirational) and because they give me occasion to acknowledge in this space that Ms. Snow has been a good friend to PILGRIM since its founding in 2010. She has served in an advisory capacity behind the scenes, and on occasion as a contributor. I first got to know her while living in New Haven, Connecticut, during my graduate school years. We attended the same church and, despite our age difference (she is the mother of two grown children, one of whom is my age), we hit it off as friends. I count a number of conversations I've had with Pat over the years as highly formative of the tone and emphases of PILGRIM. I wish to take this opportunity to thank her for that, while passing on to PILGRIM's readers what she has to say about the current state of preaching, and general attitudes, on sex and the sacred in and beyond the Catholic Church today.
I also wish each of you many blessings this season.