A senile bishop in aged care refused Communion with the comment: “I don’t believe that stuff any more”. Dementia speaking? Or the truth being freed? Between Vatican II and his decline that bishop became a fierce opponent of the catechetics born of Vatican II. He genuinely feared that the Church was going to the dogs. But was his commitment ideology or faith?
- Belongs to a tight, like-minded group;
- Subscribes to its platform - utters its mantras;
- Sees its opposition as enemy; demonises it and opposes it energetically;
- Likes black and white. Does not like shades of grey;
- Is fearful that the worst may happen; is alert and alarmed.
- Adapts its creed only under pressure and reluctantly.
- Is closed rather than open minded.
- Tends to fundamentalism.
- Tends to resist new knowledge – obscurantist.
- Personally commits to a community;
- Reflects on that community’s objectives and bonds imaginatively with its iconic figures – in other words prays. For Christians the central focus is Jesus, believed in as Son of God.
- Consequently emulates the attitudes and lifestyle of its founder and historical leaders.
- Is hopeful that good will win out over evil;
- Sees the community as dynamic – adapting its habits so as to keep its core values;
- Processes new situations and is open to new solutions.
The person of faith:
Karima Bennoune tells us in “Your fatwa Does Not Apply Here” that the main problem with Islamic terrorism is not Islam but ideology. ISIS is first of all an ideological movement. The ideology uses Islamic language and waves Islamic flags. But it is a very selectively tailored Islam. Jihad no longer means the inner struggle to find God’s will, but a murderous battle to enhance their control and diminish that of their opponents. Define jihad differently from them and you become an infidel. If they are on a roll they will not stop till they dominate all. The code of the group is clear, concise and unshakeable. No deviants tolerated. No new insights allowed. The mind is clear – and closed. As Baz Luhrman put it in Strictly Ballroom – No New Steps!
Prime Minister Abbot thinks that climate change is all rubbish. The scientific community overwhelmingly disagrees. He is impervious. Ideology and a closed mind rules. Ideology abounds in politics obstructing the development of fresh policy.
Ideology thrives on opposition. This helps to clarify its own boundaries. Unchecked, it creates authoritarian oppression. This characteristic is clear whether it be ISIS, either sides of the Spanish civil war, the Nazis, Russian Marxism, Mao’s communism (remember the Little Red Book), Torquemada, George Weigel, or the Wojtyla/Ratzinger papacy. Ideology has been a temptation for the Church since the doctrinal wars of the 4th century.
The 60s were so exciting because freedom to think replaced the Tridentine straightjacket of doctrine and scripture. After early, tentative steps, symbols and myths caught the imagination. Adam and Eve only made sense if they were mythical characters. The thanksgiving of Eucharist only made sense if there was something to thank a mystery-God for. God only intervenes when we see the challenge and do something about it. You can see the world charged with the grandeur of God - but only if you use your imagination. Prayer becomes a daily re-imagining of our universe because we are assured by faith that all will be well.
This freedom has been increasingly threatened over the last 35 years. Then along comes Pope Francis who understands and rejects ideology – of the left or the right. His rule that reality is more important than the idea is a shot at ideology. Philosophical ideas and rules are not as important as understanding the reality of the human situation. Each new situation calls for a new evaluation. If you don’t take the situation into account you are going to get it wrong. The letter kills; but ideology mummifies. He learned this dealing with left and right in Argentina dealing with civilian and military governments as well as experiencing the conflicts within Liberation Theology.
Culture wars are the happy hunting ground of ideologues. “A land without people for a people without land” said the Zionists. Today Israel has state of the art nuclear facilities at Dimona yet opposes any treaty with Iran.
Our aboriginals: it wasn’t genocide; we liberated them.
Asylum seekers: we are not violating rights; we are protecting them from drowning.
Latin America’s poor: John Paul II did not increase poverty by scuttling family planning; he was a champion true morality.
Climate change: Clean coal is the answer to today’s energy demand. Renewables are for dreamers.
Ideology drove the papacies of Wojtyla and Ratzinger.
Polish Solidarity – OK. South American Liberation Theology – not OK.
The Catholic Catechism is a Catholic ideologue’s handbook.
The ongoing debacle of the new English translation of the Mass is a monument to ideology over faith.
The embarrassing proliferation of incompetent bishops, chosen for their compliance and ideological purity, stalks today’s Church as it cries out for Christlike leadership. The clerical abuse crisis is now centred on bishops who covered up - as they thought they were expected to do. Another symptom of institutional ideology diverting a pastoral Church from its own chief objective. Clerical ideology snookers itself.
Will our seminaries produce the leadership this critical moment needs? Not if they continue to
prioritise ideology, producing the last thing we need - clerics.
In his stated belief that the reality is more important than the idea, Pope Francis has reset the focus of Catholic Church discourse. God’s love comes first. People living in real situations come first. Ideology has had its run. Now for sharing some faith.