Thursday, April 21, 2005

Is there a priest in the house? Medic!!!!!

The LA Times found what they were looking for – a disaffected Catholic who has written a book. First hint of trouble: check the byline. Is it normal to put a guy’s credentials up front? Don’t they usually reserve them for the end? Are they trying to convince us of his moral superiority before we read his diatribe? I editorialize liberally throughout the article.

It never ceases to amaze me that people think God’s rules change over time. I thought some people, at least including priests, would understand this concept. Guess not.

A Catholic Call for Dissent.

By Charles E. Curran, Charles E. Curran is a professor of human values at Southern Methodist University and the author, most recently, of "The Moral Theology of Pope John Paul II" (Georgetown University Press, 2005).

I grew up as a typical pre-Vatican II Catholic. I entered the seminary at 13 and became a priest 11 years later, never questioning church teachings. But as a moral theologian in the 1960s, I began to see things differently, ultimately concluding that Catholics, although they must hold on to the core doctrines of faith, can and at times should dissent from the more peripheral teachings of the church. (Ed. – OK, Charles, I’ll bite. Compare and contrast “peripheral” and “core”)

Unfortunately, the leaders of the Catholic Church feel differently. In the summer of 1986, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the powerful enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy around the world, concluded a seven-year investigation of my writings. (Ed. – sorry for interrupting, but I can feel some residual issues.) Pope John Paul II approved the finding that "one who dissents from the magisterium as you do is not suitable nor eligible to teach Catholic theology." Cardinal Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — told the Catholic University of America to revoke my license to teach theology because of my "repeated refusal to accept what the church teaches." (Ed. – before we get too much further, I want to thank you, Charles, for using direct quotes. So let me get this straight, popes don’t like you, right?)

I was fired. (Ed. – it would have had much more impact if you ended the above paragraph with those three words. See your editor.) It was the first time an American Catholic theologian had been censured in this way. At issue was my dissent from church teachings on "the indissolubility of consummated sacramental marriage, abortion, euthanasia, masturbation, artificial contraception, premarital intercourse and homosexual acts," according to their final document to me. It's true that I questioned the idea that such acts are always immoral and never acceptable (although I thought my dissent on these issues was quite nuanced). (Ed. – Indissolubility. What a great word! Root – Soluble. From the Latin “solvere” meaning to loosen; indissolubility – the state of being incapable of being loosened.

Sorry, Charles, what did you want to loosen and the popes didn’t? Oh darn! It seems the loosen bit probably only pertained to marriage. OK. Divorce: Charles, yes; popes, no. I guess everything else you wanted to change in a way more than just to loosen. Let’s see the issues. Abortion: Charles, yes; popes, no. I guess the same for euthanasia, masturbation (really?), artificial contraception, premarital intercourse, and homosexual acts. Charles, you devil!!!!)

Let’s see if I got this straight (no pun intended). You want people to be able to get divorced; have sex with other (now-single) people regardless of gender, and if none are available – no problem, just touch winkie yourself; you want to be able to have safe sex (I would hope so with all of those risk factors!); if by chance wrapping the wrascal doesn’t stop little spermies from swimming to momma, you want to be able to abort; and then at the end of it all, when all that is between you and eternity is a feeding tube or just the last miserable days on earth, you want to be able to end it all. With church approval. What part do you think those nasty, backward popes had an issue with?)

You know, Chuck (can I call you Chuck? Thanks), it sounds like you are in the wrong church. Try the Episcopal Church - they let in all sorts of folks.

Unfortunately, (Ed. – boy, there’s an understatement!!) the Vatican — which was already moving toward greater discipline and orthodoxy — was having none of it. (Ed. – HMMPH!!!!!) Seven years earlier, it had punished the Swiss theologian Hans Küng because of his teachings on infallibility in the church. Later, Cardinal Ratzinger "silenced" Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff, an advocate of liberation theology, for a year. Just recently, Ratzinger said U.S. Jesuit Roger Haight could not teach Catholic theology until he changed his understanding of the role of Jesus Christ. (Ed. – Hear! Hear! Fine examples, my young Catholic friend!! But an issue or two, if you’ll indulge me.)

Hans Küng wrote Infallible?, published in 1971. He lost his right to teach eight years later, in 1979. Claiming to be infallible sounds absurd, like such an easy thing to attack. Surely, the Catholic Church isn’t suggesting that everything the Pope does is correct? Well, no, it is much more limited. Let the Church speak for herself: "the Church is infallible in her definitions on faith and morals ..."

The Church speaks through the pope. So as God’s messenger, I guess it presumes a willing and obedient vessel. And Hans found some popes not quite so obedient. Fine.

But what else is Hans up to? Oh my, Hans said the next pope should also avoid giving moral verdicts on such issues as contraception, abortion and homosexuality.

What is it with these guys? They all want to wrap the wrascal, kill any mistakes, and have sex without regard to gender.

Next, the Rat-man "silenced" Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff. First, Tippy (can I call you Tippy?) you failed to mention that Boff is silenced no more, and that silence itself is typically for a period of repose only. Maybe you knew that – but remember your audience, Tippy. Regardless. Small point.

So what is Boff all about? “As Emiho Nunez observes, "liberation theology is a new method of doing theology," combining biblical paradigms with a Marxist sociological analysis. Consonant with most liberationists, Boff declares that all theology is built upon two foundations, the one of faith and the other of social reality. By engaging the linguistic, philological and sociological tools of modern criticism, theology exegetes in the most rigorous manner possible the biblical text, and then interprets such data hermeneutically and philosophically. For Boff, theology becomes the intellectual savior of faith, producing the light of synthesis between primitive faith and modern conditions.” Ut-oh. I feel another claim to gay rights coming!!!

Oh no, I spoke much too quickly. This guy is infinitely more off-track: Boff goes on to state that the Bible is not Divine Revelation: “The language of liberation, as diverse as the ramifications might be, articulates a new optic through which human history both in the present and in the past is interpreted. To think and to act in terms of liberation in politics, in economics, in pedagogy, in religion, in sociology, in medicine, in psychology, in critical ideology, etc. implies a hermeneutical turnaround and the enthronement of a new state of consciousness … Now we live under the dominion of this new age that permits a different reading of the texts and historical contexts of both past and present within the horizon of liberation or oppression and regression.” Interpretation: we may not have been smarter than God before, but we are now; that book, the Bible, let me tell you what it really means …

Hey, Tippy!! If you see this guy, make sure his tin foil hat is securely fastened, ok?

Finally, the Rat-man, your nemesis (it must really grate on you that he’s pope, eh?) said U.S. Jesuit Roger Haight could not teach Catholic theology until he changed his understanding of the role of Jesus Christ.

What’s the story here? Haight asserted that "because of modern pluralistic consciousness," one cannot continue to affirm … that Christ is the centerpiece of God's plan for salvation. Modern. Pluralistic. Consciousness.


That’s the best you can do, Pinky??? Back to your story … sorry for taking so much time.)

Since 1986, no Catholic institution has offered to hire me. (Ed. - I am apoplectic at such a turn of events!) Although I remain a baptized (Ed. – is that full immersion or just the top-of-the-head-non-Biblical-kind?) Catholic and a Catholic priest — the pope and the cardinal (Ed. – that would be former pope and then-bishop-and-now-present pope, to you) did not move to have me defrocked — my case sent an unmistakable and unequivocal message to Catholics around the world that deviation would no longer be tolerated.

(Ed. – Deviation? Killing humans in the womb (see Jeremiah 1:5)? Killing people before God’s time (Babylon’s days were numbered (see Daniel 5:26); Satan’s days are numbered (see Revelation 12:12); but not ours (see Psalm 90:12)? Homosexuality (see 1 Corinthians 6:9, Genesis 19, and every verse dealing with intimate relations – seems to be all mixed gender relationships, bub)? These are mere deviations?)

Official Catholic teaching has always given the impression that the pope and bishops will not and cannot change moral teachings because these teachings are based on God's law. Certainly Pope Benedict XVI will insist upon the same approach. (Ed. – One can only hope.)

But it doesn't have to be that way. History shows that the Catholic Church has changed its moral teachings over the years on a number of issues (without admitting its previous position had been wrong). A very sorry page in Catholic history, for example, is the fact that for over 1,800 years the popes and the church did not condemn slavery. (Ed. – you are equating slavery with homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia? Wow. That takes some cajones.) And until the 17th century, popes, in the strongest terms, condemned loans with interest as violating God's law. (Ed. – Exodus 22:25 (NIV): “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” What’s the problem?)

History is not the only argument for change in Catholic moral teachings. Catholics generally recognize that many (if not all) of Catholic moral teachings on specific issues belong to the category of "non-infallible" teachings. Despite the "creeping infallibilism" (Ed. – great word) that seeks to put more and more teachings beyond question, the fact is that many moral issues are open for reinterpretation and rethinking.

(Ed. – “many (if not all) of Catholic moral teachings on specific issues belong to the category of "non-infallible" teachings.” You must be joking. Please. Tell me you are. Infallibility pertains to, in large part (see above) and by definition, moral teachings; you suggest that moral teachings are to be labeled “not infallible." That would leave infallibility to statements on faith. A faith without morals. That’s an interesting concept. I think you’re an American. You know what I mean by “dufess”?)

Dramatic changes have occurred in some aspects of papal social teachings in the last two centuries. Pope Gregory XVI in an 1832 encyclical condemned freedom of conscience in society as an "absurd and erroneous teaching or rather madness." Pope Leo XIII in the 19th century condemned "the modern liberties" and opposed the equality and participation of citizens in civic and political life. The people, he wrote, are "the untutored multitude" that must "be controlled by the authority of law." Vatican II, however, accepted religious liberty for all human beings. (Ed. – Yes, yes, yes!!!! So now, by logical extension, we should be able to have premarital sex with any gender, kill the mistakes … well, you get the point. We are simply more enlightened on these “social” issues now.)

In dealing with civic, political and economic life, contemporary papal social teachings gives great importance to history and to the notion that social ideas can change with the times. In these areas, church teachings now emphasize the freedom, equality and participation of the person, as well as a "relationality" model that sees people in multiple relationships with God, neighbors near and far, the Earth, and self. (Ed. – Which one doesn’t fit? “Social. Gay Rights. Abortion. Morality.”)

But in papal sexual ethics, an older methodology still prevails. Unchanging human nature and the eternal law of God, not historical development or the person understood in light of relationships, constitute the primary considerations. The many people both inside and outside the Catholic Church who experience some dissonance between papal sexual and social teachings are right. There is a different methodology at work in these two areas. (Ed. – Dissonance. Cute. Poor logic, but nice try. Of course the people that see a difference are right. Because there is a difference. Social teachings are not moral teachings – but sexual teachings are. Different rules – infallibility, eh?)

Some changes would logically occur in sexual teachings if these teachings employed the same methodology as used in papal social teachings. Likewise, papal sexual teachings, like social teachings, would not be able to claim absolute certitude on complex and specific issues. (Ed. – Yes, some changes would occur. And if I change from putting gasoline in my lawnmower to putting water into it, a change would also occur. What’s your point?)

History reminds us that change in Catholic moral teachings always comes from the grass roots. Interviews with ordinary Catholics mourning the death of Pope John Paul II indicated that even those who admired and loved him strongly disagreed with some of his specific moral teachings. Even the staunch defenders of the papal condemnation of artificial contraception for spouses recognize that the vast majority of Catholics do not follow the pope. (Ed. – So not everyone wants to be under God’s rules? Isn’t that because we are sinners? Are you suggesting that because sinners exist, that the Church should change its position? I’m disappointed. Where do you reference the Bible in any of this?)

I'll pray for you, my friend, for you are seriously misguided. 2 Peter 2:1. Read it. Study it. Pray for your enlightenment.

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