Garry Wills takes to the online pages of the New York Review of Books, a venue that you would think might require some standards of cogent thought for publication, to make a very curious argument about same sex marriage. He suggests that the Catholic Church's view that marriage is a sacrament is simply a medieval "fiction." He makes this point by way of voicing his support for same sex marriage.
Hmmmmm. I can see that there is an argument, although not a Catholic argument, that there is no such thing as the development of doctrine and so the organic growth of the Church's teaching over the centuries is, per se, invalid. I can see, too, that there is a case to be made, although I have yet to see a convincing one so far, that the doctrine of the Church does develop and that such doctrine should now develop to encompass same-sex marriage. But, I cannot understand Wills' argument which seems to be that the only developments that are legitimate are those that end up agreeing with him. A magisterium of one, and on the pages of the New York Review. Who knew?
I am especially befuddled by his suggestion that the fact that Christian views about marriage are rooted in Jewishness somehow makes them less capable of sacramental significance. Does Wills suggest that the Eucharist is not a sacrament? Even Luther did not go that far! The Eucharist grows out of the Jewish Pentecost feast.
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Last week, there was a performance of Kiko Arguello's "The Suffering of the Innocents" at Boston's Symphony Hall. You can read about it, as I did, at Cardinal Sean's blog here. At one point in the evening, after mentioning how he was inspired, in part, by the thought of the mothers at the death camps praying the shema, just as he was sure the Virgin Mary must have prayered the shema, Arguello invited the entire audience at Symphony Hall, which included Jews as well as Catholics, to stand and pray the shema. Pope Benedict has written about the shema as the core of the believer's identity for both Jew and Christian alike, writing: "The believing Jew dies reciting this profession; the Jewish martyrs breathed their last declaring it and gave their lives for it....the fact that this God now shows us his face in Jesus Christ (John 14:9) a face that Moses was not allowed to see (Exod. 33:20) - does not alter this profession in the least and changes nothing essential in this identity."
But, hey, if Mr. Wills one day decides he doesn't like the shema you can be sure he will denounce it as a "fiction" in the pages of that great theological quarterly, the New York Review of Books. Or perhaps he will issue an encyclical letter on behalf of his Magisterium of one, to all those who think the tradition of the Church is something to be embraced only when it conforms, and never when it challenges. Or perhaps Mr. Wills will one day give the world his own urbi et orbi blessing, but presumably that blessing will not be the shema, but something more up-to-date, more in touch with the tastes of the Upper West Side.
I wish I could say that Mr. Wills is simply dumb, but that is not the case. The source of his craven manipulation of Catholic sacramental practice and tradition must be found elsewhere. I will leave it to him and his confessor to ascertain where they should best seek that source.