Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Audacity of Claiming the Last Word on This Word

Peter does a great job of illuminating the problem of giving people the title of orthodox (one of my pet peeves). Read on!

The Audacity of Claiming the Last Word on This Word

When it comes to religion, “orthodoxy” is a fighting word. That is why it is peculiar, to say the least, when the news media make themselves the arbiter of who is, say, an orthodox Roman Catholic or an orthodox Buddhist and who is not.

A recent New Yorker article on religion and the presidential race, for example, counterposed Catholics who welcomed the changes in the church initiated by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s with Catholics “who hewed to orthodoxy.”

Pope John Paul II, the article said, reinterpreted Vatican II “along orthodox lines” and found allies in a group of Catholic bishops who were “fiercely orthodox” and determined “to steer the American church more toward orthodoxy.”

Does this mean that the Catholics who rallied enthusiastically around Vatican II, and the popes who preceded John Paul II in interpreting it, and a majority of bishops who had been steering the American church for two decades, were not orthodox? Were they all, knowingly or unknowingly, unorthodox — or even heretical?

That would be a pretty sweeping judgment, but it is one held, explicitly or implicitly, by many conservative Catholics. (Of course, there are ultraconservative Catholics who think John Paul II was also a heretic.) The real question is, Why should The New Yorker decide?

To be fair, the New Yorker article by no means stands alone. This matter-of-fact assignment of the label “orthodox” to one faction among others has occurred frequently in the press, occasionally in this paper.

Read the rest here.

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