Friday, September 30, 2011

In Catholic News: Scalia Talks Moral Truths, Benedict Calls German Church to Poverty

In Catholic news: Supreme Court justice (and right-wing Catholic) Antonin Scalia has made the news several times the past week, by addressing issues including

1. discrimination against gays on Catholic campuses (he's for it)

2. abolition of the death penalty (against).

As Ian Milhiser reports at Think Progress, in a lecture he gave recently at Catholic Duquesne University, Scalia "urged the university not to stray from a religious identity hostile to gay and lesbian students . . . . "

And at National Catholic Reporter, Jamie Manson notes that, in the same speech, Scalia defended the death penalty as consonant with Catholic faith, and said that if he believed Catholic moral teaching opposed capital punishment, he'd resign--presumably, from SCOTUS.

Manson wonders whether Scalia can now be denied communion, and what the ardently pro-life new archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput might have to say about this matter.  Since he is, you know, unambiguously and unreservedly pro-life.  And in favor of bishops speaking out to let the public know where the Catholic church stands, unambiguously and unreservedly, on moral issues.

Chaput hasn't been shy about informing the public that the Catholic church is unambiguously and unreservedly against same-sex marriage, for instance, and under his leadership as bishop, his former diocese, Denver, refused to allow the children of a lesbian couple (who are practicing Catholics) to attend a Catholic school, claiming that the lifestyle of the children's parents violates Catholic moral standards.

If anyone knows of a statement Chaput has made following Scalia's recent Duquesne observations, I'd like to hear of the statement.  I haven't seen any feedback from the new, ardently pro-life archbishop of Philadelphia about Justice Scalia's avowed Catholic defense of the death penalty.

Meanwhile, on the Vatican front, Ingo Senft-Werner and Marc Herwig report at Monsters and Critics that Pope Benedict rattled German Catholic leaders by suggesting that the Catholic church in Germany divest itself of its considerable wealth.  The article notes that theologian Hans Küng responded to Benedict's off-the-cuff observations about how poverty purifies the church and liberates it from earthly concerns by suggesting that Benedict dropped this bombshell to derail discussion of real reforms many German Catholics think are necessary to keep the church functioning at all--like opening up discussion of women's ordination and clerical celibacy, and eventually ordaining women and married men. 

Küng says, "The Vatican are the worst ones to talk about how fine it is to be poor."  And he sums up Benedict's advice to the German church as akin to that of a "doddery old doctor handing out spiritual fruit juice" instead of the real medical treatment necessary to cure a real illness.

I must admit that the pope's remarks about poverty fall on deaf ears in my case, given his propensity for pricey sartorial resplendence--though the Vatican has hotly denied that his spiffy red leather shoes are Prada shoes.  They represent, don't you know, blood and sacrifice.  And Benedict worries not about accessories, but about "the essential." 

When one of Benedict's most high-profile goals in his former position as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was to squelch the liberation theology movement, with its call for the church to become a church of the poor by allying itself with the poor in their struggles for liberation from economic and social oppression around the world, and when he silenced one theologian after another writing about this call to the church, I find it hard to hear his talk about poverty now with anything but cynicism.   

When he issues these challenges about poverty from a favela in São Paolo, and not (as it were) while sitting amidst the gold and glitter of St. Peter's, wearing his red-leather shoes, I might begin to take him seriously--as I will when he also issues an apology to liberation theologians and to the poor with whom they have stood in solidarity, for seeking to destroy their theological movement centered around the preferential option for the poor.  And for implicitly siding with the powerful, and even with ruthless dictators, as he tore up the liberation theology movement . . . .

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