Saturday, April 2, 2011

End of Week News Round-Up: Catholic Congressional Briefing re: Gay Rights, Elizabeth Johnson, Other Philadelphias

A number of interesting news items as the week ends:

Sr. Maureen Fiedler has an excellent report at National Catholic Reporter about a briefing held in D.C. this past Wednesday.  As she notes, "The Catholic Bishops of the United States have been lobbying for years against equal rights for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community."  (And what a shocking indictment of the U.S. Catholic bishops and implicitly of the church they lead, if you think about it, this bald statement is: a group of leaders of a major Christian church in the U.S. actively lobbying against equal rights for a marginalized minority group!)

But, as Fiedler notes, since a majority of American Catholics have come to a different moral judgment about the issue of gay rights than that of their pastoral leaders, the group Equally Blessed this week met with members of Congress to ask that Congress listen as attentively to what lay Catholics think about these matters as to the bishops.

As Fiedler concludes, this is a positive development, in which we see (parallels here to the Elizabeth Johnson story) that, no matter how loudly the bishops insist that they own "the" Catholic voice, there's an increasing willingness on the part of some other members of the church to claim our right to speak on behalf of the church, too.

Also following up on the Elizabeth Johnson story: at the Catholica site today, Brian Coyne posts commentary by Australian theologian Emmy Silvius which notes the importance of Elizabeth Johnson's 1993 book Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit.  As Coyne's preface to Silvius's commentary notes, it's serendipitous that Silvius sent her piece to him in the last week, before the USCCB condemnation of Johnson's work came down.  And as he adds, "People are no longer listening to the bishops and the old patriarchal line anymore."

As I've been noting, and as Silvius's outstanding article richly illustrates, people of faith are now looking to theologians like Elizabeth Johnson, Denis Edwards, Thomas Berry, Ilia Delio, Neil Ormerod, Tim Flannery and others to understand who God is and how we relate to God.  Not to the bishops.  No matter how loudly they keep squawking about their exclusive ownership of The Truth and the tools by which salvation is effected for the rest of us.

And speaking about how the bishops have perhaps most definitively undermined their claim to teach with moral authority: the New York Times has an editorial today encouraging the bishops to get on with that house-cleaning they've been promising us since the abuse crisis broke wide open in 2002, promises that the Philadelphia grand jury report calls into question in a startling way.  As many Catholics and other people of good will are noting, the Times editorial notes,

The haunting question is how many other Philadelphias may be out there. 

And Paul Moses follows up on that question with a good reflection at the Commonweal blog, entitled "Other Philadelphias."   Where Frank Gibbons notes, rightly, that if we need any indicator that there definitely are other Philadelphias out there, we need look no further than the case of the Jesuits and Fr. Donald McGuire.

2011 is shaping up to be an interesting year in Catholic news.  And with the beatification of John Paul II now just around the corner, I expect it's going to get interestinger.  And curioser.

(Also, as I noted in a comment to yesterday's posting about the Elizabeth Johnson story, there's a thought-provoking thread now underway at Commonweal in response to Mollie Wilson O'Reilly's piece about this story entitled "It's Not About the Feminism (Except When It Is)." 

The graphic is Oregon artist Linda Ethier's cast glass piece entitled "Newspaper Reading Room."

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