My thanks to Ross Douthat for taking the time to respond to my thoughts on Pope Francis’s recent Apostolic Exhortation. I’m just going to add a quick thought here that I hope will serve to sum up the dispute between us. Ross thinks that I don’t fully grasp Catholic teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. I think I do understand Catholic teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, but do not agree that specific practices of church discipline — employing the Eucharist as the chief instrument of such discipline — necessarily follow from that teaching.
That said, after reading Ross’s reply and doing some further reading have a better understanding of why the Eucharist is the focus of discipline for Catholics. (Of course, on some level I’ve understood this for decades, but I am thinking my way more deeply into the logic.)
One final comment: I continue to find it curious that Catholic conservatives today want precisely the opposite kind of governance from the Church than they want from secular states. In secular politics they want decentralization, subsidiarity, local knowledge and discretion in preference to abstract laws applied from above; in Church governance they want canon law set by the Vatican and merely enforced at the local level. Now, to be sure, there’s no contradiction here; there is no reason why one must think that secular governance and Church governance should operate according to the same principles; but I still think it curious. Of course, it could also be said that American Catholic liberals have equally curious views, but in mirror image: they tend to approve of state centralization with universally binding dictates issued from Washington, while wanting the implementation of Catholic teaching to be left up to the discretion of local communities.
Basically, Catholics are weird, is what I’m saying.