Blog Template Theology of the Body: The Yawn of Heresy

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Yawn of Heresy

Last night Fr. WB, MM and self went to see The Da Vinci Code. It lived up to its advanced press (see reviews by the NY Times and Roger Ebert, and this debunker from the unlikely source of the Slate) and was positively stultifying. The disconnected plot moved meaninglessly from situation to situation slowed only by laboured expositions of dialogue, which in fact explain nothing. The fact that the movie actually has three (possibly four) climaxes does nothing to help it. In short, DVC is just plain boring.

This has only added certainty to my growing conviction that heresy is, more than anything, dull. This came home to me last week while I was sitting in my final RCIA meeting (actually last night was the officual final meeting, but I was out of town). RCIA—for those of you who don't know—stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, and is the process through which one enters the Catholic Church. I affectionately nicknamed it "cataclysm" since, while it ostensibly is intended to catechize us neophytes because it increasingly apparent that the people in charge of it are heretics. My last night there was no disappoitnment, the subtle undermining of church teaching was in full force and (egads!) by a nun! Her talk, which concerned what the church was and what it meant to be part of it, was largely drawn from Avery Cardinal Dulles' book Models of the Church (a summary of which can be found here).

The gist of her talk—entitled "Myths and Misconceptions"—was that (1) the church as an institution is changing over time, and that (2) we are all "church." The myths addressed included such essentials of the faith as the divinity of Christ and his resurrection in the flesh, while the misconceptions concerned the authority of the Church to teach and mold Christians into the Imago Christi.

All this is terribly concerning, but what interested me is that people did not respond to this. Her talk excited almost zero interest. The reason, I believe, is that only orthodoxy is really exciting because only orthodoxy addresses both the actual state of our souls and of the conditions of our existence. Heresy tells us we're okay as we are, while orthodoxy is a challenge to turn from sin and through faith, to live in Christ. People respond to this, sometimes negatively, somtimes positively, because a response is demanded. You cannot be passive about orthodoxy, but you can only be passive about heresy. Heresy dilutes faith to the point where belief and disbelief amount to the same thing. Which is precisely what happens in DVC. Once it is asserted that Christ was only a man, why bother?

Post script: I am not trying to assert that Cardinal Dulles is a heretic, but only to give the context of the talk. My guess is that it was wildly misinterpreted and I would be interested to hear from anyone who has read it.