Thursday, September 18, 2014

Quote for Day: Until Catholic Leaders Demonstrate Epistemic Humility to Listen, Teaching about Marriage, Family, and Sexuality Will Remain Unconvincing

As I did yesterday, Jamie Manson asks critical questions about Cardinal Sean O'Malley's recent statement that the Catholic church needs to find better ways of demonstrating to gay human beings that we are loved. I zeroed in on the problem of O'Malley's conclusion that gay folks can't understand that they are loved by Catholic leaders until the church "rectifies" the situation in which one gay employee after another of a Catholic institution is fired.

Jamie Manson focuses on the problem church leaders have in convincing gay Catholics that we're loved when Catholic pastoral leaders imagine that they have all the truth about sexual morality and homosexuality in their own hands, and are unable and unwilling to listen to gay Catholics as we speak from our graced experience — from our own lives of Christian discipleship. Citing her mentor at Yale University, Margaret Farley, Jamie notes that "the grace of self-doubt" enables us to transcend self-righteousness and listen attentively to others who experience life differently than we do.

Farley maintains that the inability of many members of the Catholic hierarchy to listen widely and attentively to testimony, grounded in graced experience, of Catholics about their moral lives ends up "muting" church teaching in the area of human sexuality. That teaching is not grounded in the wide, lived experience of the Christian community, and it is therefore not convincing to a majority of people for whom the apodictic utterances of the magisterium, hurled down from on high, conflict with real-life experience. Or have no connection to the real-life experience of the lay Christians to whom these utterances from on high are directed.

Jamie's suggestion:

Until church leaders are ready to demonstrate the epistemic humility necessary to listen to the concrete, diverse stories of Catholic relationships, it's hard to imagine how any progress can be made in church teaching on marriage, family and sexuality.

It's interesting to note that more than one contributor to the discussion thread following this valuable call for church leaders to listen carefully to the testimony of LGBT Catholics, grounded in graced experience, seeks to turn Jamie Manson's argument on its head. It's gay Catholics, many contributors propose, who need to demonstrate epistemic humility and listen to the Catholic magisterium.

Here's what's interesting about this proposal: several of those making this proposal are regulars at the NCR website, where Jamie Manson's essay is published. They contribute regularly to NCR discussion threads, and so it's not difficult at all to know where they stand on a variety of issues, from the use of contraceptives to women's ordination.

Several of the very same people calling for gay Catholics to exercise epistemic humility and kowtow to magisterial teaching have repeatedly stated in other NCR discussion threads that they reject magisterial teaching about artificial contraception and about women's ordination. And so one has to ask: how — on what ethical grounds — do Catholics who, in their own lives, reject key magisterial teaching such as the teaching prohibiting the use of contraceptives justify singling out a targeted minority group and demanding that this group exercse an epistemic humility they themselves do not exercise?

In their own lives.

How do some heterosexual, married lay Catholics justify the targeting of their brothers and sisters who happen to be gay, demanding that these members of the Catholic community exercise a mindless, automatic fidelity to magisterial teachings that, when it comes to their own lives as heterosexual, married Catholics, they themselves reject? Or to ask the question differently, what about the Catholic system of teaching people to be moral thinkers and moral agents has resulted in such astonishing blindness among some heterosexual married lay Catholics?

Who want to turn their fellow Catholics who happen to have been born gay into objects, into moral lessons in license and depravity insofar as those gay Catholics ask probing questions about the sexual teachings of the magisterium that these same heterosexual married lay Catholics permit themselves to ask about magisterial teaching, as long as the subject of discussion is magisterial teaching for themselves.

What kind of moral education yields such repulsive self-righteousness and such inability to exercsie the most basic principles of justice or fairness as these heterosexual Catholics deal with their gay brothers and sisters? What kind of moral education allows them to be so gilbily at ease with critiquing and rejecting magisterial teaching about contraception, while they demand that magisterial teaching about homosexuality in all its gory absolutism be imposed on their gay brothers and sisters? How has it happened that Catholic systems of catechesis have so badly catechized many lay Catholics in the areas that really count for the moral life — in the areas of love, justice, and mercy while it has apparently succeeded in training them to apply Catholic principles regarding sexuality to targeted, demeaned others with the utmost scrupulousness?

While it has succeeded in training them to pick at the mote in someone else's eye as they blindly ignore the log in their own eye?

The graphic is a screenshot from a Goodreads "Quotable Quote" page for the Rule of St. Benedict.

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