The reception of Archbishop Coleridge's pastoral letter on the abuse crisis has been interesting.
The Acatholicas have been very positive indeed, seeing it as a reiteration of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's views (albeit without giving him the credit for it). But while the Archbishop certainly uses some of the liberal buzzwords (triumphalism, rigorism, etc), I don't actually think that is a fair read of what he is actually saying if you read more closely. But hey, if for once they are not attacking....
At the other extreme, The Canberra Times' 'editor-at-large' Jack Waterford today offers a commentary (not available online) that one would have to say it is not a particularly kind.
It describes the Archbishop's realisation of the cultural and systematic nature of the abuse problem as a Paulian conversion, and backs up the point with long quotes from the then Fr Coleridge railing against victims groups in the mid-1990s, and his more recent reaction to Bishop Robinson's erroneous views. Waterford claims that the Archbishop has generally adopted an attitude of ' a certain affected weariness, defensiveness, and exasperation' on the abuse issue.
It paints the Letter as a job application for the presumed upcoming vacancy of Sydney, claiming such an outcome would be a win-win scenario for both dioceses given that almost anyone would be welcomed (by some?) after than Cardinal Pell (at least provided that they are not Bishop Anthony Fisher)....
What is rigorism?
Waterford also questions whether Archbishop Coleridge is correct in describing Jansenistic ideas about sexuality and the human body as 'rigorism'. Waterford is (unsurprisingly) wrong on this point.
Rigorism does have other technical theological meanings, but it is often used in this context to mean the opposite pole to laxity in relation to attitudes to the human body and sexuality.
And there is a genuine theological problem at issue - which is one of the reasons why Pope Benedict XVI devoted his first encyclical (Deus caritas est) to the concept of love. Pope Benedict XVI, however, was arguably more concerned about the problem of the laxity of secularism as a threat than rigorism of fanatical belief; his primary focus being the tendency of modern culture to reduce sex to a mere commodity.
Fighting old battles?
And on this issue, I commend to you an interesting article I came across when researching this issue by John Zmirak on Inside Catholic entitled the 'Rigorist menace to faith'. Zmirak argues that one of the great dangers is constantly looking back and worrying about the battles that have been won already - even while ignoring the danger sign in front of us:
"Read the works of theologians who reject the Church's teachings, and you'll find in them turgid page after page on the dangers of "Puritanism" and "Jansenism"....Such warnings were written even as "free love" was being proclaimed at Woodstock, suburban couples were swapping wives in the 1970s, whole new strains of venereal disease were cooking up in American bedrooms and bathhouses, and abortion was being legalized around the world. Clearly, the real threat to sanity and virtue that needed confronting was . . . Rigorism. Right?
On issues of eros, Christians are inundated with messages urging them to let their consciences go slack and presumptuously assume that God will be "understanding." How many of us have had to argue with a confessor, "Yes, Father, it bloody well is a sin -- now would you please absolve it?" How wearisome it has gotten, this fantasy football game orthodox Catholics have had to play for 40 years, doing research to correct our priests and teachers, greeting each new appointment of a bishop or a pastor with the almost idle musing: "I wonder if he's a Catholic?" Inevitably, since Humanae Vitae, the litmus test has to do with sex."
Do go and read the whole thing.