Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "If We Accept, As a Sort of Constraint, That The Church Isn't Going to Change Its Fundamental Teachings on Same Sex Marriage"

The first Catholic birdcage dropping I've found particularly noteworthy as the new year gets underway:

In the Commonweal thread discussing Eduardo Moisés Peñalver's latest posting about the firing of Mark Zmuda by Eastside Catholic school--I highlighted this thread yesterday--Deacon Jim Pauwels writes

If we accept, as a sort of constraint, that the church isn't going to change its fundamental teachings on same sex marriage [then dissent is not an option for anyone at Eastside].

"If we accept, as a sort of constraint, that the church isn't going to change its fundamental teachings on same sex marriage…" 
Well, certainly, if we accept the status quo, then pretty much by definition, nothing will change. But we are nevertheless in the midst of great change. At such a time, let us by all means submit our intuitions to reform, if a careful review of them shows the need for reform. 
But let us also examine the nature of this fundamental teaching of the Church. Is it divine revelation and unalterable? Or is it ancient prejudice hardened into doctrine, with a wash of natural theology coating it, for centuries unchallenged by anyone, and certainly not by those most affected and most fearful, for very good reason, of speaking out. 
Maybe the teaching can stand up to rigorous review. Or maybe it will come to be seen in the same light as the horrible persecution of the Jews, which was only acknowledged as error in our lifetimes. Maybe the time draws near for another act of contrition.

I'm struck, of course, by the wisdom and saneness of what John Prior has to say here. Those of us who have actually lived through the Catholic church's revision of its approach to the "perfidious Jews" (as we freely called our brothers and sisters of Judaism well into the 20th century) know full well that church teaching can change. That it has always changed . . . .

I'm struck by the insistence of some groups of Catholics these days that Catholic teaching about homosexuality and women's ordination, in particular, is set in stone--that it has always stood as it now stands, and that it simply cannot be changed. I'm often struck by the fact that those pressing this argument are rather predictably heterosexual men who have everything to gain from having the teaching of the church appear to accord them a quasi-divine status in relation to both women and gay men. And I'm struck by the fact that many of those very same men are delighted to talk about changing church teaching, and about how even papal statements are simply "opinions," when the subject on the table is the church's socioeconomic teaching, with its overriding concern for those on the margins of society.

What's sauce for the goose often seems not to be sauce for the gander, in these discussions.

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