On the development of doctrine and practice

Recently, it came up in the news that an Italian priest was to hold a beauty pageant for Catholic nuns. The first ever of its kind–a fact that should have clued him in to the possible censure one might receive for this idea. And, it appears, the idea was not received by his superiors with overwhelming approval.

Originally I was interested in this story for the possible statements on fashion and its dialog with religion. As the story progressed, however, the interest turned toward the concept of the development of theology and the praxis thereof.

Before I begin, let me forward this by saying that I have a great respect for a man who 1) follows the call of God unto priesthood 2) can so openly appreciate the beauty of his sisters 3) seeks ways to recognize the often overlooked aspects of the life of the cloth.

Call me a traditionalist and a radical conservative, but I think what worries me most about the idea of a priest holding a beauty pageant for nuns is that it was to be the first of its kind. One might argue that this is a silly worry: there was a time when there were not beauty pageants, then God said “Let there be pageantry for beauty”, and the earth brought forth the cat walk; and, following in good manner the movement of their God, the Church brings forth pageantry for the beauty housed within Her walls.

It’s called progress, incarnation, ‘staying relevant’. There, however, seems to be a particular statute of limitations; Fashion, pageantry, Haute Couture have all graced the semblances of human reason for quite some time now–and the Church felt no dire loss in the lack of their share. And, to address more succinctly the good Father’s concerns, nuns have been viewed as old and dour for some millenia, again with no dire need for a face-lift.

What I see in this particular case, however, is not something unique. I recently had a conversation with a woman who was contemplating seeking to be received into the Roman Church (she being of a traditional Protestant affiliation at the time), part of the draw for her was the ‘blossoming’, as she put it, of thought and practice that she saw uniquely in the Roman Church. The Eastern Church, she felt was faithful to a fault, the Protestant churches, she feared, forsook the life of the Church historic and obedience unto presidency set by the same for personal pietism. Uniquely, therefore she concluded, do you see in the Roman Church a willingness to develop theology and harbor the growth of our Christian Faith. Here she used the analogy of a tree’s growth.

Let me affirm that I have great affection for the Roman Church, She has given much to anyone who calls themself by the Christian name, particularly in the west; and also a great debt is owed to Her by academia–religious or otherwise. It is, however, dangerous, I feel, when theology (or praxis) is developed.

This being said, I am a bit dissapointed he was not able to carry out his beauty pageant for the Sisters. There are few things I think more beautiful than a woman with her head covered in prayer (or, lest I be seen as sexist, a man in robes counting knots on a prayer rope).

~ by jeorgesmith on 28 August 2008.

One Response to “On the development of doctrine and practice”

  1. I personally was bummed that it fell through. I wanted to see the pretty sisters.

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