In her comments at the recent Commonweal panel discussion of the topic "Fortress or Field Hospital?" that I discussed yesterday, moral theologian (and Sister of Mercy) Margaret Farley points out that the venerable tradition of natural law thinking in Catholic moral theology requires church teachers to pay careful attention to concrete reality, and to listen carefully to the graced experiences of the faithful. On any given day, much of the conversation on this blog is, it seems to me, a valuable snapshot of contemporary Catholic thinking that could, if any Catholic pastoral leader chose to pay attention to it, be extraordinarly instructive to pastoral leaders. If they chose to listen and to learn . . . .
Here are a few noteworthy comments yesterday, in response to Sister Margaret's commentary as well as that of Michael Arceneaux in The Guardian about why, as a gay black man, he will not return to the church despite the "Francis effect," since the leaders of the Catholic church remain determined to speak primarily to and in the voice of straight (or pretend-straight) white cisgender males:
John Bijarney responding to Michael Arceneaux:
I fish and every now and then I get a backlash of line on my reel. Generally they're easy to fix but every five years or so I get a tangle which is so complex and unyielding I must take it home and cut the whole batch of line off the reel and start over with fresh line. I very much see the church in this position. Yet I doubt the church is near being willing or able to take a sharp knife to its off putting tangles of ancient puzzles and intercomplexities.
Katy, also addressing Michael Arceneaux's analysis:
The Church has to be dragged every inch it gives towards being more inclusive. The South American Pope is, of course, a concession and admission of where the demographics of the Church are, and of where it sees its future.
The sexism issue is HUGE and LGBT issues aren't even on the board.
All of which is fine, I guess, when the Church feels its position is secure. But if the future looks uncertain, then it takes at least tentative steps towards other demographics in the hope of changing its fortunes.
Diane on the same issues:
I keep thinking of evolution when I think of the church. Things that do not change, adapt and die out. Is//has the church changed enough to survive? In this rapidly changing world, I don't think so.
Wild hair looking at Margaret Farley's thesis about natural law:
The barque of Peter is like trying to turn around, even a little 180 degree turn on a dime, a Nimitz size aircraft carrier like the USS George H.W. Bush commissioned in 2009.
Margaret Farley says and for me this is all I need to know: "They don't rethink it. And if they try to rethink it, the reason it doesn't work is because they're not thinking about it." So Archbishop Chaput has already banished any groups like New Ways Ministry from rc church property before Francis' visit. That says to me the magisterium, especially Archbishop Chaput, has closed its mind. Chaput probably doesn't have the faintest idea how even to begin to open his mind. No hope for thinking here.
The magisterium idiots who profess to be grounded in reality don't even want to talk to those people who live in reality. So folks like Chaput continue to live in their own heavenly world wherever that is.
And Lean Mickens also responding to Margaret Farley and my commentary on her:
I think that publications like America and Commonweal have gotten so much abuse from conservotrads for being "unorthodox" that they probably just gave up and decided that it wasn't worth it to go against the grain. Occasionally, there are some good articles in both, but you won't see them thinking critically about church governance issues or the major issues of the day.
Part of the problem is that the Catholic media, regardless of orientation, is still an all-whites affair. One of the things I used to really like about the Catholic church is that it really felt "catholic" or universal. Going to the Eucharistic Convention, you could see people from every community imaginable: white, black American, African, Vietnamese, Mexican, LGBT, and even the Latin Mass community would put in an appearance. This diversity is completely absent from what passes for discourse in the Catholic media. I wonder if this is one reason why so many Hispanics are turning to evangelicalism. Yesterday, I read a First Things article about this issue, and the commenters (presumably white) were completely tone deaf. The article mentioned that a majority of Hispanic Catholics prefer mass in Spanish, and a number of commenters said that they needed to just "assimilate" and go to English language masses. Or better yet, just go to a Latin Mass (because we all know how many of those there are around). I wonder if the move towards evangelicalism among Hispanics is a sort of assimilation in a way or if it's a way to have some measure of cultural autonomy, much like how the black Protestant churches function vis a vis white society. I suspect it's a mixture of the two.
If discussing race produces such ridiculous responses, should it come as any surprise that we get these howlers about reproductive issues? The Catholic media is essentially a "circle jerk" (pardon my French), and the only people who have the guts to point it out are outsiders. In an example that goes back to your opening post, a couple of weeks ago, the National Catholic Register did an article about how beefed up crisis pregnancy centers could replace Planned Parenthood. Only one of the comments on the article dared mentioned that few women would have an interest in going to a clinic that ignores their need for birth control. These are the links to the article and my commentary.
And as these valuable discussions (teachable moments for Catholic pastors willing to listen and learn) were taking place at this site, Tom Krattenmaker was writing at Religion News Service,
"Love is our mission." So proclaims the promo language for the Catholic World Meeting of Families, which begins Sept. 22 in Philadelphia and will feature the most famous and well-loved Catholic of them all, Pope Francis.
But what's being shown LGBT Catholics and their supporters in the run-up to Philadelphia feels less like love and more like a chill wind.
And, as that valuable commentary was coming online, the Catholic website Crux (which has been as unwelcoming towards gay people as other mainstream Catholic publications tend to be) chose to publish an article by a straight, white, cisgender male defending Kim Davis, and, as Colleen Baker points out in a comment here this morning, in the thread following this article by Steven Greydanus, a brilliant commenter, Victor Victoria, was mopping the theological floor with the stolid Greydanus and his completely unconvincing argument that the church's refusal to accept same-sex marriages because they are non-procreative is a case apart from the church's acceptance of marriages by heterosexual couples incapable of procreation, because symbolism. Or something of the sort.
Symbolism is, I'll grant, important. And what I hear one commenter after another saying at one blog site after another today as these issues are discussed is that they symbolism for many women and many LGBT Catholics when straight, white, cisgender males speak as if their voice is the Catholic voice is a loud, clear, symbolism of exclusion — of who counts and who does not count in the Catholic church.
Such that a lot of us are tacitly walking away from a church that is intent on branding itself as a privileged boys' club for straight, white, cisgender males who are never challenged to look at their unmerited power and privilege, as they lord it over the rest of creation, pretending that such lordship reflects the divine plan, and nattering away about their "mission" to "love" people they are turning away from their church in droves . . . .
When stolidity wins the day in a church, solely because it happens to have the right genital equipment and the right skin color, and when intellectual acuity and intellectual honesty are ridiculed by that the stolid — who imagine they own that church and the God it proclaims to the world — said church is quite clearly in very serious danger. Especially if it points its adherents to a natural law method of doing theology which requires people to think, to learn, to recognize that they do not have all the answers and can always be taught more . . . .
This graphic appears at a number of blog sites online, and appears to be a photo originally uploaded by a user of the 9GAG.com website with the username Forever Alone.