Michael Hollerich Replies to C. C. Pecknold

Now up on our homepage is a response by Michael J. Hollerich to "The Progressives' Plot to Change Catholicism," a short article by C. C. Pecknold that appeared on the National Review website a couple of weeks ago. Here is Hollerich's summary of Pecknold's argument:

[A] secularized, meliorist humanism called “Progressivism,” having sucked the life out of a feckless and decadent Protestantism, is now moving to destroy “the most ancient form of Christianity, Catholicism.” (Orthodox Christians might want to contest that exclusive claim to antiquity.) The tools of this subversion are fake-o progressive Catholics who don’t even understand their own religion. Thanks to the WikiLeaks release of hacked emails from Democratic operative John Podesta, their plans have now been exposed to the bright light of day. In Pecknold’s view, they are working on behalf of a Democratic administration whose totalitarian ambitions have targeted authentic Christianity and Catholicism in particular—as shown most dramatically in the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

And here is part of Hollerich's response to Pecknold's argument:

Denying the good faith of those we disagree with is always tempting, and sometimes it may really be true that the other side is intending to bring the house down but won’t come clean about it. But in the inner-denominational tussles with which I am familiar, polemical demonization is most often just a way to deflect hard issues by denying that the other side even has the right to speak.

The problem here is not just a violation of charity within the church. Much worse is the way it occludes the actual course of change and development within the church’s living tradition. When I read Pecknold’s concluding line that “progressive” Catholics can’t seem to understand that “the Holy Catholic Church has survived 2000 years not by receiving truth from below but by receiving it from above,” I want to ask him how he thinks that reception has actually happened. Where should we start? With the contingencies that mark the formation of the biblical canon? With the contingencies that mark the history of the ecumenical councils, starting with the effort to identify which councils were ecumenical? With fresh understandings of church doctrine forced on us by scientific breakthrough and historical research? With the abrogation of the teaching about the inherited guilt of the Jews for the death of Jesus, forced on us by the Holocaust and enabled by the noble efforts of people like Jewish convert John Oesterreicher and Lutheran convert Karl Thieme? With the progressive—I use the word proudly here—changes in teaching on slavery, the rights of labor, and religious freedom? With the property, voting, and employment rights of women? If this is subversion, consider what exactly is being undermined: a reactionary identification of the Gospel with social, political, and economic codes and structures from which historic Catholicism has been able to separate itself only with the greatest reluctance and difficulty.

You can read the rest of Hollerich's response here.

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