Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frances Kissling on Benedict's Condom Remark: Procreative Ethic as Crux of Problem

Frances Kissling writes today at Religion Dispatches about Benedict's condom remark and the discussion it has prompted, noting--as I did in my posting focusing on Peter Steinfels' interpretation of the controversy at Commonweal--the way in which even liberal Catholics of the center continue to defend a procreative ethic that does not reflect what graced experience about human sexuality has taught many Catholics.

Kissling writes:

It will be seen as churlish in the face of the Pope’s welcome comments to point to the past (and probably to continuing sins) around making condoms available, but it is not unfair. The Pope’s remarks to Seewald—and the reactions of mainstream clergy, even those who are progressive—still centers on what for many is the crux of the problem: a sexual and procreative ethic that is based on long abandoned fallacious understandings of “natural law,” and a fixation on heterosexual marital intercourse for the purpose of procreation as the only legitimate expression of human sexuality.

As she notes, in official Catholic discourse about human sexuality, which is dominated by celibate men who ostensibly have no experience of the issue about which they make pronouncements, there is a fixation on "ordered" and "disordered" sexuality, "rather than . . . on the range of loving, justice-seeking relationships."  Kissling notes that, in their graced experience, Catholics who are not married but engaged in intimate relationships, who have been divorced and are not permitted to remarry, and who are married but using contraception have long since worked out a more adequate--a relational and justice-oriented--approach to these issues than has the magisterium, with its fixation on natural law, biology, and "disordered" acts.

And so she asks what would happen if a really open and free discussion of human sexuality now took place in the Catholic church, following the pope's condom remarks.  I don't think that conversation is going to take place.  If it did, however, it would have to focus on the obvious but never-discussed injustice apparent when married heterosexual Catholics of the intellectual center of the church call for latitude in using contraceptives, while they continue to promote a procreative-centered natural law ethic that reads every action and relationship--and the very nature--of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as disordered.

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