Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekend News Roundup: Hans Küng and Catholic Revolution, Birth Control and Abortion, Scouts and Anti-Gay Discrimination

As the week turns, I want to direct readers to a miscellany of news items on the religious front that, to my mind, seem important.  Many readers of Bilgrimage many well have read some or all of these stories, and some of you have, in fact, brought several of them to my attention.  But for those who haven't yet run across these items, here's my Sunday news roundup:

1. As Kate Connolly reports in The Guardian, Swiss Catholic theologian and Vatican II peritus Hans Küng has issued an appeal to lay Catholics, priests, and religious to engage in a "revolution from below" against Catholic hierarchical leadership, which Küng characterizes as "corrupt, lacking credibility and apathetic to the real concerns of the church's members."  Küng notes that the way in which top Catholic leaders including Benedict are now exercising leadership reminds him of the "authoritative system" demanding total obedience that he remembers from his youth during the Nazi period.

Küng thinks that the only viable avenue for reformation of the corrupt system crafted by the church's current leaders is "reform from the bottom up."  He maintains that if a critical mass of priests in any given part of the church refused to cooperate any longer with the corrupt system and demanded reform, the hierarchical leaders of the church would be forced to listen.

Küng points to what has happened in Austria and his own Switzerland, where over 300 and possibly up to 400 priests have made their voices heard in Austria in public statements on behalf of reform, and where about 150 priests have done the same in Switzerland.  Küng thinks these numbers will increase.

He also notes that Benedict, who was a colleague of Küng's at Tübingen and who collaborated with Küng in supporting the reforms of Vatican II during that council, has shifted from a very modest style when he was a simple theologian to a grandiose style now that he holds the highest office in the Catholic church.  Küng states:

He [Benedict] has developed a peculiar pomposity that doesn't fit the man I and others knew, who once walked around in a Basque-style cap and was relatively modest. Now he's frequently to be seen wrapped in golden splendour and swank. By his own volition he wears the crown of a 19th-century pope, and has even had the garments of the Medici pope Leo X remade for him.

2.  At National Catholic Reporter, Tom Fox reports on a recent research study published by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, which shows that the provision of free birth control to low-income women "dramatically lowers rates of abortions and teen births."  As Fox notes,

The results of the study bolster unsettling - and long held claims - that Catholic church teachings on human sexuality, with its emphasis on the absolute immorality of artificial contraception, have led, in certain circumstances, to an increase, not a decrease, in abortion rates.

And as he also notes, this study has political implications, given that the Catholic bishops have declared war on the Obama administration due to the administration's HHS guidelines calling for making contraception available via insurance plans--though the bishops simultaneously urge Catholics to make abortion one of their leading considerations as they choose one candidate or another in any given election.

3. Finally, a number of news outlets and blogs are talking right now about a case in which the Boy Scouts of America have denied a gay California teen an Eagle Scout award because he's gay.  I first learned of this story when I read a Reuters news summary of it at the Yahoo site.

As I say in the opening paragraph of this posting, I'm posting news items with religious implications, and I'm posting this story for the following reasons: first, BSA has stated that they can't give this Scout an Eagle Scout award because he's violating the Scouting principle of "duty to God" (!).  And second, when the news broke this July that BSA refuses to relinquish its discriminatory policy vis-a-vis gays, a talking point that circulated among many Catholic conservatives is that the Scouts don't discriminate against gay Scouts and never have--that the policy is directed only to gay Scout leaders who, these conservative Catholics and their religious-right counterparts maintain, might molest Scouts.

This story proves that that talking point was entirely false.  The Scouts do, in fact, overtly discriminate against gay young men.  For further discussion of this issue from a Catholic standpoint, Lisa Fullam has posted a very helpful statement at the Commonweal blog site, and a good discussion has developed there.

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