Notable and Quotable: Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Ash Wednesday

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Confess your faults one to another” (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding bonhoeffercorporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. This pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. so we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!

But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

PMS 2: Why Can’t the Pope Be More Like Us

OK, the Washington Post editorial board didn’t actually say that the Pope should be more like a collection of journalists. It did say, however, that benedictthe successor to Benedict XVI should sound a lot more like an American liberal:

The hallmark of Pope Benedict’s tenure, for better or for worse, was fierce resistance to those changes. He rejected calls by Catholic progressives for reconsideration of doctrines such as celibacy and the ban on women in the priesthood; at a time when acceptance of the rights of gays and lesbians is rapidly spreading across the world, he was outspoken in condemning homosexuality as “unnatural” and unacceptable. With sectarian tension growing in Europe as well as the Middle East, he eschewed dialogue with Muslims and infuriated many by quoting a condemnation of Islamic theology as “evil and inhuman.”

1) Celibacy is not a doctrine, it’s a discipline, and is not universal among Roman Catholic clergy. 2) The Vatican under John Paul II closed the door on discussion of male priesthood, and those who continue to demand that it “reconsider” the question might as well demand that it repudiate the doctrine of the Trinity. 3) Acceptance of gay rights is “rapidly spreading” across the Western  world. Most of the world still regards homosexual behavior as wrong. 4) The Regensburg lecture is hardly the only thing Benedict had to say about Islam during the course of his tenure. And and as far as it goes, what he said in that lecture was a classic gaffe—factually correct, and problematic because solely because of external circumstances (in this case, the sensitivity of many Muslims to any form of criticism, no matter how constructive or benignly intended.)

Pope Benedict will leave behind a church facing the same debilitating problems that loomed after the death of Pope John Paul II — above all, how to remain relevant to an increasingly secular world and to its own changing membership. This pope’s response was to insist that only uncompromising adherence to past doctrine could preserve the faith. Catholics who seek a different answer will have to hope that a college of cardinals dominated by the pope’s appointees will choose a more progressive successor.

In other words, American and European Catholics (and the Post editorial board) who want the Roman Catholic Church to become the U.S. Episcopal Church must hope that cardinals appointed by two great champions of Catholic orthodoxy will elect a pseudo-Catholic as Pope. Hope they aren’t holding their collective breath. They clearly aren’t getting quite enough oxygen to the brain as it is.

National Cathedral’s Gay Marriage Stance Sparks Calls For Defunding

By Carly Schwartz
February 11, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC — A prominent conservative interest group has launched a petition to suspend all federal funding from the National washington cathedralCathedral in light of the landmark church’s recent decision to perform same-sex weddings.

“We believe the definition of ‘marriage’ to be the union of one man to one woman,” the petition, sponsored by right-wing activist Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, reads. “Pro-family and Pro-freedom Americans cannot sit idly by.”

Representatives for the National Cathedral remain undeterred by the petition’s threat. “We have absolutely no intentions of changing course [on gay marriage],” Richard Weinberg, the Cathedral’s director of communications, told The Huffington Post. “For us, it’s a theological issue and an issue of how we’re living out the gospel as faithful Christians.”

The 106-year-old Episcopal church announced last month that it would begin hosting same-sex nuptials, following the appointment of prominent gay marriage advocate the Very Rev. Gary Hall as its dean.

“As a kind of tall-steeple, public church in the nation’s capital, by saying we’re going to bless same-sex marriages, conduct same-sex marriages, we are really trying to take the next step for marriage equality in the nation and in the culture,” Hall said at the time.

Reed points to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, as justification for his actions against the Cathedral. “Taxpayers are being asked to subsidize gay marriage ceremonies for a church that can readily access millions of their own funds,” the petition states. “If the National Cathedral wants to continue to receive taxpayer funding from Congress, they should respect Congressional action like the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Reed’s organization claims that in recent years, the Cathedral has received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in federal grants. Indeed, the National Park Service gave the iconic structure $700,000 in May 2011 as part of its “Save America’s Treasures” program. Most of its funding, however, comes from private sources.

Weinberg told HuffPost that any federal funding the Cathedral receives is allocated toward upkeep and maintenance of the actual building, which receives more than half a million visitors each year. “We believe that the Cathedral is a national landmark and treasure that’s worthy of preserving,” he said. “Raising federal funds for other projects would not be consistent with the constitution as we understand it.”

Gay rights advocates claim that Reed’s petition directly contradicts his organization’s belief that the federal government should support religious institutions.

“[T]he same FFC which believes Obama is waging a ‘war on religion’ and trampling on ‘religious liberty’ wants the government to cut off its grants to a church due to its opposition to marriagae equality,” People for the American Way spokesman Brian Tashman said in a statement.

Gay marriage has been legal in Washington, D.C., since late 2009. The Episcopal Church became the largest Christian denomination to sanction the practice when it announced last July that its priests could officiate blessings to same-sex couples.

“We certainly stand behind our mission as a spiritual home for the nation,” Weinberg said. “We are rooted in our role first and foremost as an Episcopal curch, and the issue of marriage equality within The Episcopal Church is generally settled.”