A theme emerging in several comments I've read at blog sites today regarding the pope's remarks in Manila about same-sex marriage and contraception: the theme of listening. Which is what many of us had understood that botched first round of the synod on the family to be all about — permitting the voices of those actually living family within the Catholic community to be heard, as matters of family and sexual morality are discussed . . . .
At New Ways Ministry's Bondings 2.0 blog, Francis De Bernardo proposes that, if Francis wants to be heard with any seriousness by the people of God, he first and foremost listen to the people of God:
The hallmark of Francis’ papacy has not been his outreach to LGBT people, though indeed that has been more marked than his predecessors. The hallmark has been his openness to dialogue and discussion. He should have followed his own principles and been a listener in the Philippines, rather than a talker.
At her A Seat at the Table blog, Claire Bangasser gives the pope (whom she admires) a piece of her mind:
Shortly after Pope Francis' support of Humanae Vitae (and contraception), he came out demanding greater attention to women's voice (see article here). "Women have a lot of things to say to us in today’s society," said Francis in Manila.
Really, most Holy Father? To my women's ears, your declaration sounds like a bad joke.
If truly we have something to say, why hasn't it been heard that women and men need to use contraception when they have sex if they are not ready to have a child at this point in their life?
At his Christian Catholicism site, Jerry Slevin speaks to Francis as a Catholic father and grandfather who knows from his real-life experience things about sex and family that seem to be escaping the pointiff:
Francis, a 78 year old celibate bachelor, thinks he is infallible on marital sex. I am a father and grandfather and I think Francis is dead wrong wrong here, yes he is not infallible. And the more Francis rambles on about about contraception, the more he proves his fallibility.
Effective listening — real listening — requires a willingness to change. As theologian David Tracy notes in his now classic works Blessed Rage for Order (1975) and The Analogical Imagination (1981), the word "conversation" derives from Latin roots meaning "with" (cum) and "turn" (verto, vertere). In any authentic or meaningful conversation, each dialogue partner turns with the other.
In real conversations, we end up at some place entirely different from where we started, because the conversation has "turned" us: it has changed us. It has transformed our way of seeing and doing.
Conversation is impossible when one of the dialogue partners decides in advance that he or she already owns the truth, has the uniquely correct angle on reality, is there to dictate and not to listen. Popes cannot listen when they have predetermined that, no matter how wrongheaded the utterances of a predecessor, they are locked into repeating those utterances. Because infallibility.
Francis's decision to keep repeating what Paul VI said about birth control, against the advice of the commission of theologians and lay Catholics he struck to advise him about that issue, has fateful consequences for the future of the Catholic church. Not the least of these is that it will assure that very many lay Catholics in the developed sectors of the world (and increasingly in the developing parts of the world as well) will simply shrug their shoulders and stop listening, no matter what the pope says.
Francis's choice to ignore the possibility of dialogue about — and, therefore, change in — historically conditioned, non-infallible moral teachings of the magisterium is a fateful choice to continue his predecessors's policy of writing off huge numgerf of lay Catholics who will (and perhaps should) no longer care about anything the Catholic hierarchy says, as long as it continues along this belligerent, intransigent, ultimately cruel, and erroneous track of non-listening and repeating marred teachings that the laity, who live the lives being taught about, have long since determined simply to be in error.