Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lectionary censorship

Who makes the decisions on what to censor in the lectionary? That's what carving up the lectionary up into a "Shorter Form" and "Longer Form" amounts to, when some passages presumably judged to be politically incorrect are omitted from the "Shorter Form," and sometimes even from the "Longer Form" altogether. What this means is that, all too frequently, Catholics are not only not hearing the Law of God expounded to them in their homilies; they're not even hearing it read in their churches. "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ," said St. Jerome.

"Yes, but what's all this negative harping about Law and sin and judgment but so much guilt mongering! Isn't there enough negativism in the world? Why not accent God's grace, the open embrace of the Gospel, the warm, personal hot tub of Jesus' love?" The answer to that, my friends, is all around us. God's love and grace don't even mean anything in a context where they have been eviscerated of their proper content. "Love" in the New Testament always has a content. It's not a free floating sentiment. It's tied to specifics. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Gospel cannot be divorced from law. A Lutheran knows that much. Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the author of The Cost of Discipleship, who railed against "cheap grace." By biblical accounts, the wisest man who ever lived knew a thing or two about wisdom. He was no sophist. He was a lover of wisdom in the profoundest sense; and he tied wisdom to -- of all things -- fear. The hot tub folks over with Barney and Friends aren't going to like this, but wisdom doesn't begin with Andrew Sullivan's editorials or Sr. Joan Chittister's diatribes against Vatican's patriarchal authoritarianism. Neither does wisdom begin with self-aggrandizing notions of self-empowerment, self-esteem, or self-assertion. No, the wisest man who ever lived says that the key -- oh, rue the day! -- is fear: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7).

Now what in the world has happened to the FEAR of the Lord in the Catholic Church? If our Lectionary is any indication, someone has been making a concerted effort to keep us from finding anything to be fearful of, much less offended by, in the Bible. In his New Oxford Notes back in January of 2003 and November of 2004, Dale Vree offered a brief review of how the "Shorter Form" in the Lectionary omits some politically incorrect sayings of the New Testament (Mt. 22:1-14; Mt. 25:14-30; Ephesians 5:21-32) having to do with Hell and with wives being (woe! woe! woe!) subordinate to their husbands (although they do appear in the "Longer Form"). These are worth studying in their own right, and the findings are, I'm sad to say, disturbing. [By the way, Tony Esolen has a great article on the subject of headship, showing that when read correctly, it is the more sobering to men, who are called to lay down their lives. I think it's in Touchstone.]

But then, when it comes to the Gay "Spirit-of-Vatican-II" Lobby's favorite subject of homosexuality, Vree points out that there are passages in the Lectionary that are completely omitted (not to be found in any "Longer Form"). He writes in the Editorial of the June 2006 issue of New Oxford Review:
In the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, First Reading, Cycle C, in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:20-32), the Lord says, "their sin is so grave," but we're not told what that grave sin is. The following chapter does make it explicit -- the sin of active homosexuality -- but the Lectionary omits it. In the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Abraham bargains with the Lord. Abraham says, "Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city...." The Lord replies, "If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Abraham continues to bargain, and at the end, Abraham says, "What if there are at least ten there?" The Lord replies, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it." The reading ends here on a happy note.

The Lord's raining down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah is not found in the Sunday Lectionary. Only in the Weekday Lectionary will you find it (Gen. 19:15-29), and only one percent (at a maximum) of Catholics attend weekday Masses. But again we're not told what the sin of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah is. It's made explicit in Genesis 19:4-7, the same chapter. It's the sin of active homosexuality, but the Lectionary editors chose to omit it.

With the biblical illiteracy of so many Catholics, how many will know it's the sin of active homosexuality?

You will not find Jude, verse 7, in either the Sunday Lectionary or the Weekday Lectionary: "Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns...in-dulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, [and] serve as an example by undergoing punishment of eternal fire."

In the Weekday Lectionary, the Twenty-Eighth Tuesday in Ordinary Time, First Reading, Year I, you will find Romans 1:16-25. But verses 26-27, where the Lord condemns homosexual acts, are left out: "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

Apparently, for the editors of the Lectionary, homosexual acts are not serious sins, if they are indeed sins at all. Oh, but they are. The traditional "Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance" are: willful murder, sodomy, oppression of the poor, and dishonesty in wage payments to workers. Homosexual acts are mortal sins, which can send you to Hell for ever and ever.
Vree goes on to comment:
The homosexuals and their fellow-travelers are deeply imbedded in our Church, apparently able to censor out scriptural verses in the Sunday and Weekday Lectionaries. With the new ambiguous document on homosexuals in the seminaries, nothing will change with regard to admitting homosexuals into the seminaries (see our Editorial, Feb. 2006). And as long as homosexuals are in the priesthood and episcopate, our Church will continue to slide downhill.

Yes, we Catholics have faith that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against Christ's true Church, but they could prevail in the U.S. and Europe, just as they prevailed in North Africa.
Of course, the Gay "Spirit-of-Vatican-II" Lobby has its own pet hermeneutic for its alternate, sanitized way of reading all of these passages, which turns these offenses from "Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance" into mere venial offenses against hospitality and so forth. But this is patent sophistry and a vain howling into the wind.

But back to the central topic: Who has authority over the editing of the Lectionary? This whole politicizing of Scripture is unconscionable. Let Scripture be Scripture. Let God be God. Fear Him. FEAR Him. Find peace. Find joy. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7).


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