S GUIDE TO COVENANTAL THEOLOGY
or the ordinary magisterium and are the subject of dispute among 'private' citizens, should not be a feature of a
priest's or a bishop's public life, except perhaps in very extraordinary circumstances.
A bishop's intervention in Man's `private' work, however well-intentioned, always threatens serious
scandal and confusion. Man's `private' work to complete what is lacking in our Lord's afflictions is
irreducibly free, creative, and surprising; any intervention in that work by the episcopate always risks
obscuring what must instead be solemnly professed: the absolutely irreducible freedom, creativity, and
surprise of Man's `private' work or prayer. Not only the freedom, but also the creativity and surprise of Man's
`private' work or prayer, is, and will always be, utterly beyond the talent, ability, and even the purview of the
episcopate. God gives Man a freedom far beyond even the imagination of any bishop.
Second, and crucially, episcopal interventions in Man's `private' work or prayer leaves the 'private' work
or prayer with no public defenders. After all, the sole public defender of that `private' work is the episcopate.
To protect the sacraments, the episcopate can and should do everything. But by and large, bishops should
limit their public judgments regarding Man's `private' work or prayer in the civil sphere to those things that
are always and everywhere true.
We need to recall Covenantal Theology's stress on Man's awesome -- on his ridiculous -- freedom in the
Eucharistic Event. An episcopal defense of the sacraments is always a defense of Man's impossible freedom
in the New Covenant, and thus per se is plainly protective of Man and the unimaginable dignity, freedom,
creativity, and surprise of his 'private' work or prayer. The profession that contraception always gravely harms
Man's ability to enter into sacramental worship enables Man to make his `private' work or prayer a worship
in spirit and truth. Nor may Man put any limits at all on what the Lord, acting in and through his Body and
Bride, the Catholic Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may yet tell Man regarding the Eucharistic
`order' of history in which we live and breathe and have our being.
On the other hand, `prudential' judgments of bishops regarding Man's `private' work or prayer in the civil
order always carry very grave risks. On most occasions, the exercise of episcopal `prudential' judgment --
human judgments, not magisterial professions of what is always and everywhere true -- are either blatant
clericalism -- an attempt to give the merely human judgments of a bishop or bishops a more authoritative
status than the judgments of other men -- or, even more seriously, they represent an episcopal attempt to
speak from a time-less place, from whence a bishop may `look' at Man's `private' works and `understand'
This, as you now understand, does not limit Man's freedom -- it utterly removes it. When bishops attempt
to `teach' Man by standing in a time-less place, all of Man's freedom, his creativity, his ability to surprise
God himself, immediately goes into Mr. Minsky's middle box.
Without the full impossibility of Man's freedom, Mary could never have been "full of grace," the activities
of Our Lady's juggler would have been meaningless, St. Paul could not have completed what is lacking in the
afflictions of Christ -- and St. Therese would have nothing to do in Heaven. Residential bishops must make
prudential judgments all the time -- they must run their dioceses. But `prudential' episcopal judgments
regarding the civil order, even when they turn out to be correct (and they turn out to be correct, one can say
with complete confidence, no more often than the judgments of any other men), still risk a great deal. They
risk obscuring what God so plainly wants so badly that He was willing to risk the prospect that Adam and Eve
would use their impossible, ridiculous freedom to be completely destructive not only of themselves but even
of all reality, so far as their powers permitted. What does God want this much? He wants Man to surprise
Him, in the ways Man loves Him. These are thoughts that outside of the ideas of Covenantal Theology,
almost can not be thought: Man genuinely surprising God with his love, and God hoping for just that.
N.B. This is an html-ized copy of a page from the pdf file, The Knucklehead's Guide to Covenantal Theology.