You could find no better illustration of the “dictatorship of relativism” described by Pope Benedict than Joan Venocchi’s column in the Boston Globe. I have to give Venocchi credit for one thing. She knows she’s a cafeteria Catholic and acknowledges it. She just doesn’t understand that it is a bad thing. She also acknowledges that “progressive” Catholics should be asking themselves a serious question: Why do they remain in the Church?
Venocchi sees clearly that it is the American media that treat heterodox Catholics who dissent from all kinds of Catholic teaching like rock stars, but the Church has remained on message: “The Vatican is not progressive, nor is it a democracy. Accept the views or leave the pews.” I would agree that the Church (as opposed to the Vatican, since that implies that they are different things) is not “progressive,” it is the very definition of conservative in the sense of conserving what has been handed on. She’s right that the Church is not a democracy, but neither is she a dictatorship. She is a Body and a Bride and guided by the Holy Spirit. If Venocchi and those like her see a dictatorship, then it is a dictatorship of the Spirit.
A prominent Boston businessman heavily involved in archdiocese matters recently explained how he keeps the faith: He ignores what he doesn’t like, blocks out what he doesn’t want to hear and defines for himself what it is to be a good Catholic.
Does that even make sense? Being Catholic is about trying to understand who God is, who I am, who I am in relation to God, what God wants of me, what God’s plan is for the universe. What makes any person think that they have enough wisdom and holiness and knowledge to decide for themselves what God’s plan is?
Let’s just assume that someone spent every hour of every day in prayer and reading Scripture trying to answer those questions. It doesn’t mean you’ll come up with the right answer because there’s no guarantee that what you decide is true is God communicating to you. It could be just your own wishful thinking. This is the beauty of the Church. Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would remain with the Church to protect her and make sure that she never taught falsehood as truth.
What Joan Venocchi and other cafeteria Catholics have done is reject the Holy Spirit and set themselves up as arbiters of truth. They have made themselves God. And when you make yourself God, you become a prisoner of your own hellish universe, one in which your own flaws are magnified upon themselves, in which a sinful dictatoral potentated, I don’t know why your Church teaches these things I don’t agree with. Help me to understand. In the meantime, I assent to you and trust that you have the words of eternal life.”