Pastoral approach of the current Church has gone haywire?

So I thought I will finally post this controversial topic to see what others have to say.

After Vatican II, one thing that I am sure all Catholics can agree upon is that the pastoral approach of the entire Church has changed. This is true from the Pope to the layman.

But here I find a big problem that many in the Church do not want to acknowledge (perhaps just out of ignorance), and is perhaps the main fuel for those like the SSPX who want to remain outside the Church.

This problem is that of our actions, if we are not careful, can communicate ambiguous ideas. For one thing, deciding to change the pastoral approach of the Church itself communicates the idea that its previous approach was outdated. But this approach is still used in many parts of the world that are Catholic and still strongly remain Catholic. But in the West and in the limited communities in which these new pastoral approaches have been implemented show rapid degradation of Catholic values. This might be hard to spot for some who have always lived in the West. But as someone who comes from an Eastern background, I have seen the Catholic faith get abused, pushed around, and finally watered down within these circles.

I feel that about 500 years later, we will look back at this point in time and speak of the Church in these times as the Church before the reformation. It had nothing wrong with teaching but the Pastoral approach (or rather, mistakes) of the Church that was adopted by many became the fuel for the reformation.

Also, is there no need for some organic transition between pastoral approaches?

What are your thoughts?

Can you give some examples of what you mean by pastoral approach?

Well, for one thing among many others, how we approach sin itself.

I think an increasing difference in the Church’s stance is perhaps the emphasis on the distinction between SIN and SINNER. But I feel that this approach has failed to take in to account another important distinction of the sinner. That of REPENTANT SINNER and NON-REPENTANT SINNER.

The older stance, where it tended to (or is claimed to have) equate SIN with SINNER, it seemed more closer to the truth since it used to classify a SINNER in that context as those who without any repentance, or seeking Grace through confession, continue in the same sin. So it was not necessary that someone was without sin or free of any struggle with repeated sin in the Church before. Even saints claimed to have struggle with sin, even those who converted. Therefore it seems that the stance of the Church was really about being less friendly toward unrepentant sinners who continued to oppose the Church’s teachings on faith and morals rather than a general hostile attitude on all sinners. I think that such an attitude that the “old Church” used to have is necessary. If anything, the pastoral reforms should have been toward emphasizing the distinction between repentant and unrepentant sinner even more.

Today, with piling up everyone as just SINNERS and making the distinction between SIN and SINNERS, the Church has become friendly toward even those who do not repent and continue to oppose the work of the Church. In what sense, this seems to assume that sin just comes in to being without sinners committing acts which seems like a very weird notion. Anyway, all this leads to weakening and naturalization of these sins in the minds of the lay faithful. It becomes more tempting and even easier to fall in to the same sins and society as a whole tends to not provide resistance toward anyone who wants to commit sins. At the end of the day, it can also be discouraging for those who struggle with sin. One starts to feel “why waste time struggling to not sin” when the Church seems to act as if these are not big issues anyway. In other words, the gravity of the SIN itself becomes lesser as we see someone who commits the same SIN being accepted as if their SINS had no effect.

I believe that you are mistaken in your assumption that the Church didn’t distinguish between the sin and the sinner. This has always been the approach of the Church, derived from various examples of Christ’s life, most immediate in my mind being the adulterous woman. “Let you who is without sin…” etc. At this time, Christ did not condemn the sinner, only the sin that she committed. “Go and sin no more.”

I do think a greater emphasis should be placed on distinguishing between repentant and un-repentant sinner though.

Could you explain what you mean by this?

Well said, I definitely agree. The bolded is a very important distinction that is unfortunately not often made.

As you pointed out, the problems are in the implementation of the doctrine, not the doctrine itself.

I just happened to read this on a blog written by CA’s Jim Blackburn, and it is good advice from our CCC. Here are the two parts from the Catechism he included in his article:

Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct. Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another’s vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages (CCC 2480).

Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing (CCC 2284-2285).

A resounding yes.

Not sure how to word this but I think the pendulum has gone too far to one side. In some ways, we may have been too harsh in the past, but I think we went too far the other way now. I think we need to move the pendulum back in the other direction to balance things out.

Another way to put this might be that we went from more of a focus on God’s justice to a focus on God’s mercy. We need a balance.

I agree with this 100%.

And I believe that is what we are getting from Pope Francis. He is not afraid to tell it like it is, but he does so in a loving, non-threatening way, like a good shepherd should.


This is my hope for him. If he can speak the real Truth without watering it down, and in a way that people respond to, that’s great.

Personally, I don’t see why people see his style as more “loving” or “non-threatening”; honestly, he seems more blunt to me than past Popes. But many people seem to see it that way, and if it causes them to listen, then I’m all for it :slight_smile:

I think the “Pastoral” side of things has gone haywire precisely because it has been divorced from Orthodoxy and Truth, but there’s no reason it has to be that way; in fact it shouldn’t be that way. A true Pastoral approach can only be rooted in the Truth, other wise it’s not Pastoral at all becasue it’s leading people away from the Truth.

I don’t want to derail the topic, but I think one of the significant problems the SSPX has, and has had for decades, is the inability to distinguish causality; the other issue is obedience. That, has been pretty well laid out on another thread.

To some extent, ambiguity is created where none exists by someone, for an excuse, who needs it. I don’t think the Church has been ambiguous; but some of the bishops and many of the priests got caught up in ambiguity. That, however, was not sourced in documents but rather in a desire to reshape things to their own liking.

Pendulums swing; I would suspect that pendulums will swing more than once in the next 500 years. They never end up in the same place (as time marches on); but they do end up in similar if unrelated issues. However, at the exponential rate at which information (and misinformation) is gathered and disseminated, they may not be able to distinguish much of anything for the simple reason of too many facts and too little ability to correlate (in 500 years).

This is excellent information - we should all heed these words! It is a grave matter to lead another into temptation. We should not ‘flirt’ with evil. Unfortunately most of these behaviours tend to occur in some sort of secret - in some way in which the majority will not be aware of what has occurred or been insinuated. It is often covert. However we do know that whatever is whispered in the dark will be brought into the light for all tto see.:eek:

I don’t like the pendulum analogy. It suggests that errors will correct themselves by themselves if given time. I like the straight, narrow road analogy (especially when you recognize that well built roads have ditches on either side).

Before Vatican II, the bishops’ approach to the world was one that highly emphasized the identification and condemnation of errors in teaching and sinful behavior. As a catholic, I believe Vatican II was an ecumenical council, which means it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Personally, I suspect that the Holy Spirit was calling the church to correct an emphasis in which denunciation of error and sin was favored too highly over proclaiming the joyfulness of the gospel to those in need of hearing it. It was supposed to bring us out of the ditch on the right side of the road and back onto the straight and narrow road where the gospel was proclaimed as BOTH true AND joyful.

Sadly, what I think happened is that people overshot and landed in the ditch on the left side of the road. Instead of striking a good balance between witnessing to the saving power of Christ and guarding against error, many priests and theologians abandoned the guarding against error and reduced the gospel to little more than a hippy appeal to groovy love. But love severed from reality isn’t really love, is it?

The task at hand now is NOT to heave ourselves out of the left side ditch only to veer over the road top back into the right ditch, but to stop the correction when we reach the road itself. Then to STAY on the straight and narrow where we guard agains the devatastation of sin, but rejoice in the forgiveness of Christ.

I think we could say stop over correcting.

I think your explanation is closer to my second attempt to explain myself (balancing mercy and justice of God vs focusing more on one or the other). I agree that the pendulum analogy is probably not a perfect analogy. Then again, like with other things, sometimes it’s really hard to find a perfect analogy.

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