Thursday, July 19, 2007

What Does It Mean to be Pastoral?

Fr. Phillip Powell, O.P. has some comments on National Catholic Reporter's recent howling about the motu proprio. The name of his post is rather ironic (for reasons that will become clearer shortly): Dissenting Wolves Bleat at Their Dissenting Sheep.

What got my mental gears grinding in particular was this comment by Fr. Powell concerning the NCR's worry about the "pastoral studies" of seminarians:

Anytime you see the word “pastoral” attached to a noun—BEWARE! What this actually means most of the time is “emotive,” or “dissenting,” or “purely subjective.” The category of the “pastoral”—misused as I’ve described—has been one of the most effective soldiers in the PLRC/SAAM revolutionary army.


The word "pastor" comes from the Latin word pastorem, meaning "shepherd" (hence, the irony but utter fitness of Fr. Powell's title). The pastor is a shepherd. To be pastoral, one behaves as a shepherd. Let that sink in for a moment.

What does a shepherd do?

- Keeps the sheep within eye sight
- Protects the flock from predators
- Leads the sheep where they will be fed and watered

So a pastor's job is to keep those in his charge within he fold (the bounds of the Church's teaching), protected from danger (false teachings that lead us into spiritually dangerous places), and in an environment where we can be fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, the Living Water, and the Eternal Word.

But, as Fr. Powell notes, the term typically suggests something

- emotive
- dissenting
- subjective

Essentially, "pastoral" in the progressive mind means everything that drives one out of the fold and into the world of subjective "moral" choice. It's diametrically opposed to the true role of the pastor.

Now, I doubt that all progressives believe this is what they're doing. However, when a priest takes the role of comforter and consoler over the role of moral and spiritual teacher, they're doing precisely this. They're exposing the sheep in their fold to the very dangers from which they should protect them. They're placidly holding and patting the hands of their parishioners while those in sin skip along the road to Hell.

The pastor becomes a wolf in shepherd's clothing.
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