NCR: Moral Theologians, on the Need for Doctrinal Change

The Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family, which will be taking place later this year, was never intended to produce doctrinal change. Many events, however, have unintended consequences. Pope Francis’ revolution in the Catholic Church has often been compared to Vatican II, but at the outset, nobody really expected the extent of the transformation it achieved. The synod will not directly produce any change in doctrine, but it is being preceded by an extensive global consultation on how the Church as a whole understands and accepts those doctrines. If anyone really doubts that the conference will not be forced at least to consider the urgent need for doctrinal change, they should pay close attention to the many reports now emerging on the responses to that consultation – and especially to the responses of the experts, the professional moral theologians. National Catholic Reporter has some commentary on responses from some German theologians:

German theologians critique church teachings, propose new sexual understanding

Two groups of noted German theologians have bluntly outlined how church teaching does not align with the concerns or lifestyles of most European Catholics in response to a Vatican questionnaire on Catholics’ attitudes on issues like contraception and same-sex marriage.

Church sexual teachings, say the representatives of the Association of German Moral Theologians and the Conference of German-speaking Pastoral Theologians, come from an “idealized reality” and need a “fundamental, new evaluation.”

“It becomes painfully obvious that the Christian moral teaching that limits sexuality to the context of marriage cannot look closely enough at the many forms of sexuality outside of marriage,” say the 17 signers of the response, who include some of Germany’s most respected Catholic academics.

The theologians also propose that the church adopt a whole new paradigm for its sexual teachings, based not on moral evaluations of individual sex acts but on the fragility of marriage and the vulnerability people experience in their sexuality.

The theologians are responding to a Vatican request last October that bishops worldwide prepare for a 2014 global meeting of Catholic prelates by distributing a questionnaire on family topics “as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”

full report at National Catholic Reporter.

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Catholic Magisterial Teaching on Transgenderism

We tend to speak freely about LGBT issues, but in practice, most of the time, we’re really thinking LG(bt), with both bi- and trans afterthoughts – if we think about them at all. I would imagine that most of us like to think about ourselves as trans allies, but it’s difficult for us actively to promote issues we don’t really understand. Ideally, we need to allow trans activists to speak for themselves.

At “A Catholic Transgender” (Blogging about being transsexual at the intersection of Calvary and Rome)there’s a useful, systematic assessment of what the magisterium says about transgender (i.e., nothing), together with well argued rebuttals of the usual claims that the Church cannot approve or recognize gender transition.

Here’s the opening: Continue reading Catholic Magisterial Teaching on Transgenderism

Small Victory in Uganda: President Blocks Anti-Gay Law

For some years now, Uganda has been held up (and with good reason), as a prime example of African homophobia, based on a proposed law that would have permitted the death penalty for gay sex. Slowly though, that extreme threat has shrunk. First, the original bill was withdrawn, and replaced with another which removed the death penalty, but applied instead lengthy terms of imprisonment. That law was passed by parliament – but in stunning news, the President has refused to sign it.

Catholics should note that in this instance, for once, the Catholic Church has intervened against discrimination, as New Ways recently reported in a blog post at Bondings 2.0.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni blocks anti-gay law

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has refused to approve a controversial bill to toughen punishments for homosexuals.

He has written to the parliamentary speaker criticising her for passing it in December without a quorum.

It’s not all good news: in explaining his action, the president spouted the nonsense, widely discredited by both the medical establishment and the Catholic Church, that homosexuals are “sick” – but this is Uganda, and this is still a long way from the death penalty, which was previously demanded.

Homosexuals were “abnormal” or were so for “mercenary reasons” and could be “rescued”, a local paper quotes his letter as saying.

The bill provides for life imprisonment for homosexual acts and also makes it a crime not to report gay people.

The promotion of homosexuality – even talking about it without condemning the lifestyle – would also be punishable by a prison term.

The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in the capital, Kampala, says the president is aware that if he signs the bill there will be an international outcry, which could see some countries suspend aid to the country.

Continue reading the main story at BBC News

 

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Jesuit Priest Endorses Students ‘Making a Mess’ in Seattle

From Bondings 2.0 (New Ways Minsitry):

#KeepMrZ2013 is a movement of high school students in Seattle organizing for their gay vice principal fired for marrying his husband.  Now one more voice is speaking out in support of these youth.

Father John Whitney, SJ, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Seattle, spoke about the students from Eastside Catholic High School in his homily earlier this week.  He begins by describing the conflict in early Christianity about whether to accept Gentiles as members or only Jews, and he reflects on how this controversy was resolved:

“We must imagine the scene: the Church, still subject to occasional bouts of persecution and yet growing feverishly among both Jews and Gentiles alike, faces a great conflict—how are Gentiles to be admitted into the community?…

“What is most amazing about this moment in the Church is how the community comes to decide, together, what is to be done. There is debate and disruption, but it is not seen as division; rather, it is the way the Holy Spirit is working within the community. Further, this debate is grounded on human experience, and not on tradition or on the power of office. Rather than beginning with Scripture—with the Torah or the Prophets—the community begins with the experience of the faithful: with the testimony of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas—none of whom claim special authority in the face of the communal discernment, but all of whom, instead, simply testify to the way in which they have seen the Gentiles touched and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit….Here is diversity without division, complexity with separation, debate and dissent without the need for punishment or condemnation. In listening for the living Spirit of Christ Jesus, the Church begins by listening to the sinners and seekers who are his body in the world.

“I have thought often of this scene in Acts, over the last year, and especially as I have listened to Pope Francis speak of the need for “uproar” by religious, or call young people to make “a mess” in their dioceses. Like many, I have been refreshed and renewed not by some great doctrinal changes, but by the absence of fear expressed in the words of the Holy Father; by his trust in the workings of the Holy Spirit and his passion for courageous acts of faith—even acts that risk error or end in failure. For Francis, it seems, the timidity of tightly held borders, the safe-harbor of accepted opinion and doctrinal purity risks a greater sin—a greater loss to the Church—than the dangerous paths of love and welcome….

“In the last few weeks, the students of Eastside Catholic High School, and their companions from other schools in the area, have given us an example of the kind of passionate discernment, motivated by the Gospel, that characterizes an important dimension of Catholic education—and, indeed, should characterize our faith both in and out of school. Regardless of the particulars of this situation (and personnel issues may have complexities I do not know), these students have spoken up as products of Catholic education, as women and men motivated by the Spirit and by their own experience of grace. Though it is a painful time, their teachers and their parents should be proud of the Gospel spirit that has been planted in these young hearts. Likewise, we in the broader Church should be grateful for the mess these young people bring, and should listen with compassion and openness to the Spirit that moves within them. Their love, their gentleness, their quest to make of the Church “the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” demands more than the silence of authority; it demands communion and engagement with the Church—i.e., education, direction, dialogue—since their spirit is a sign of the Church and is life-blood for the Church. May we engage, with fearless love, at the side of our younger sisters and brothers; and may trust in the God whose Church we are all becoming.”

You can read the reflection in full by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

via Bondings 2.0.

 

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Christmas Present for the Anglican Church: a Women Bishop ?

The Guardian reports that the Anglican Church is expected to name its first female bishop by Christmas 2014 – and one of the leading candidates produced a report “friendly to gay clergy” as far back as twenty years ago.

Church of England could appoint first female bishop by Christmas

Secretary general of church’s governing body says law could be changed in time for committee meeting in December

The Church of England could name its first female bishop by Christmas, its most senior bureaucrat has said – a move that would end nearly 20 years of wrangling since the church decided in 1993 that women could be made priests but must not be promoted to bishops.

The Church of England’s General Synod in November last year. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

William Fittall, secretary general of the church’s governing body, the General Synod, said that if the synod voted as expected at its next meeting, next month, the arrangements to promote women could become law in November after being approved by the dioceses and then by parliament.

The committee that chooses bishops has a meeting scheduled for December. If the legislation has been approved by then the committee is almost certain to choose a female candidate for one of the six posts currently free.

Christina Rees, one of the synod’s most prominent campaigners for female clergy, said of next month’s vote: “I think it will sail through. I expect the first woman bishop to be named and appointed before Christmas.”

Among the candidates most frequently mentioned are two women who have already been promoted as far as the law currently allows – Vivienne Faull, the dean of York, and June Osborne, the dean of Salisbury.

(….. Faull is the least controversial candidate). Osborne produced a report friendly to gay clergy 20 years ago that frightened conservatives

via  The Guardian.

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UK CHRISTIAN Counsellors Ban Conversion "Therapy"

When UK courts refused to permit a Christian counsellor to describe her work to convert gays as “therapy”, there were howls of protest from some quarters. But we know that both here and in the USA, even some of the most ardent practitioners and groups involved in so – called conversion therapy have come to accept that it’s a misnomer. It does not work, genuine “ex – gays” simply do not exist – and mental health professionals have found that such attempts can be profoundly damaging.

California and New Jersey have banned the practice, Maryland is preparing to do the same. The British parliament also may be doing something similar, so it is no surprise, but certainly welcome. that the leading British group of Christian counsellors have agreed to ban the practice themselves, without waiting for government to act.

Christian counsellors ban therapy aimed at ‘converting’ gay patients

Britain’s leading body for Christian therapists has instructed its members to stop trying to turn gay patients straight using so-called “conversion therapy”. The Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) said the practice should be stopped “in the interests of public safety”, but the move has prompted a furious response from proponents of talking “cures” for homosexuality who have promised to fight for what they see as the right to therapy of anyone distressed by “unwanted same sex attraction”. The controversial practice seeks to unearth childhood traumas, which are considered by conversion therapists to have caused homosexuality. Sexual abuse, bullying and having an overbearing mother or distant father are among the supposed triggers. Research by the US clinical psychologists Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder has shown such treatment routinely led to worsened mental health, self-harm, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts. The decision by the ACC to speak out against the practice follows similar statements in the last two years by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the UK Council for Psychotherapy and the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Department of Health.

– continue reading at  The Guardian.

Predictably, some Christians are again outraged, claiming that this is discriminating against their Christian faith (ignoring the fact that it was imposed by the most respected body of professional Christian counsellors). It is not remotely discriminating against Christianity, but against misleading advertising. If they want to convert their clients to thinking and behaving in a way which that conforms with their religious beliefs, they remain free to do so, but should call it what it is – religious counselling, not therapy.

Methodist Clergy, Defying Church Restrictions on Gay Marriage

In December 2013, Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer of central Pennsylvania was defrocked after he officiated at his son’s gay wedding. Huffington Post reports on a similar case, and other Methodist pastors who are defying church regulations, by conducting same – sex church weddings, or by living openly with a same – sex partner.

Rev. Thomas Ogletree, Another Methodist Pastor, To Be Tried For Presiding At Same Sex Wedding Of Son

 

The United Methodist Church has formally charged another clergyman for presiding at the same-sex wedding of his son.

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree will be tried March 10 for violating church law against officiating at gay unions, his spokeswoman, Dorothee Benz, announced Friday. It’s the second high-profile United Methodist trial in recent months over same-sex relationships. In December, pastor Frank Schaefer of central Pennsylvania was defrocked after he officiated at his son’s gay wedding. The church considers homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Ogletree is a theologian, a former Yale Divinity School dean and a retired elder in the church’s New York district, or Annual Conference. Some clergy had filed a complaint after his son’s 2012 wedding announcement appeared in The New York Times.

Ogletree, 80, said he could not refuse his son’s request to preside at the wedding, which was held in New York, where gay marriage is legally recognized.

-continue reading at  .Huffington Post 

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Vatican comes under sharp UN criticism for sex abuse

GENEVA (AP) — The Vatican came under blistering criticism from a U.N. committee Thursday for its handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal, facing its most intense public grilling to date over allegations that it protected pedophile priests at the expense of victims.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna

The Vatican insisted it had little jurisdiction to sanction pedophile priests around the globe, saying it was for local law enforcement to do so. But officials conceded that more needs to be done and promised to build on progress already made to become a model for others, given the scale of the problem and the role the Holy See plays in the international community.

“The Holy See gets it,” Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor, told the committee. “Let’s not say too late or not. But there are certain things that need to be done differently.”

He was responding to a grilling by the U.N. committee over the Holy See’s failure to abide by terms of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child which, among other things, calls for signatories to take all appropriate measures to keep children from harm. Critics allege the church enabled the rape of thousands of children by encouraging a culture of cover-up to defend its reputation.

Groups representing victims of clerical abuse, who have been active in civil litigation against the church, gave the U.N. committee hundreds of pages of documents that informed the questioning. The groups have welcomed the hearing as the first time the Vatican has had to publicly defend its record in what amounted to a courtroom cross-examination where no limits were placed on the questioning.

via Vatican comes under sharp criticism for sex abuse.

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Bilgrimage: Moral Theologians, on the Need for Doctrinal Change

At Bilgrimage, Bill Lindsey reflects on the German theologians’ response to the global consultation, in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family

German Moral and Pastoral Theologians Respond to Pope Francis’s Questions about Sexual Morality and Family: Time for Significant Change

What strikes me as I read the statement is that it depends on a distinction that Catholic moral theologians (and Catholic theologians in general) have been making for a long time now: the magisterium offers Catholics an “idealized” understanding of human sexuality that does not take into account the experience of lay Catholics to whom this idealized teaching is handed down. Magisterial teaching on sexual ethics is very conspicuously not “received” by lay Catholics–particularly, as the document points out, regarding the issue of contraception.

The gap between the idealized, acts-centered, non-experience-based sexual ethical teaching handed down by the magisterium and the experience-based understanding of human sexuality lived by lay Catholics in their lives of graced discipleship continues to grow (see: issue of same-sex marriage), and the gap is becoming insupportable.

The German theologians call for an understanding of sexual ethics that continues to enshrine the ideals to which magisterial teaching points, but corrects the idealized, acts-centered, non-experience-based teaching of the magisterium by incorporating dimensions of care (a “pallial” dimension), emancipation, and reflectivity:

-full reflection at Bilgrimage

Bilgrimage: Catholic Sexual Ethics and the Category of Justice: A Reminder about Margaret Farley's Pioneering Work

Bill Lindsey, writing about the German theologians’ response to the Catholic global survey on marriage and the family, remembered Margaret Farley’s Pioneering Work in the field of sexual ethics and justice:

Catholic Sexual Ethics and the Category of Justice: A Reminder about Margaret Farley’s Pioneering Work.

As I thought about that statement during the rest of the day, it occurred to me that I very much need to remind readers of the important work in the field of sexual ethics done by Margaret Farley. In 2012, I did a series of postings excerpting material from Farley’s significant book Just Love (which the U.S. Catholic bishops found objectionable). As that series of postings notes, Farley has been a pioneer among Catholic theologians in applying the norm of justice to Catholic teachings about human sexuality.

She has been a pioneer in insisting that we cannot adequately do sexual ethics while prescinding from questions about justice. And it’s perhaps for that insistence that the U.S. Catholic bishops think her theology is not sufficiently Catholic and not sufficiently deferential to the magisterium.

Here’s the first in that series I did in 2012 regarding Just Love. Click on Farley’s name in the label below that posting, and the whole series should pop up, in case you’re interested in it.

via Bilgrimage