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Showing posts from October, 2014

Let's Get Everything on the Table

So, Ross Douthat, predictably, expressed his views on the Synod on the Family in the pages of the New York Times Sunday editorial page yesterday.  I like Douthat, even though I don't agree with many, many of the things he says, and this piece was a good example of what I like about him.  In this piece, Douthat says what has been apparent for a while, but no one has been willing to actually admit/threaten---the conservative/traditional wing of Catholicism (i.e. Cardinal Burke, EWTN, Douthat, etc.) are not going to stand for a return to status quo pre-John Paul II, and they are prepared to walk, or at least consider walking, if that looks like Pope Francis (or whomever) is actually going to push things in that direction.

To understand the Douthat piece, it's important to understand the theology of history used by conservative, EWTN-style Catholics to understand the last 50 years of Catholicism.  It goes something like this.  In the beginning, there was the pre-Vatican II Church,…

Another Theology of the Body, Part III--The Dangers of "Loving" in the Abstract

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At some point, I will get to talking about specific moral rules, but I wanted to take a quick detour to talk about one consequence of Rowan Williams's framing of love (including sexual love) in terms of vulnerability.  Looking at love this way takes it out of the abstract and grounds it firmly in the personal and the concrete.

As discussed in the last post, the act of being vulnerable, of showing another person who I am in an unfiltered way, can be thought of as the engine that powers the "good stuff" about love.  If the other person doesn't see me as I am, and I in turn don't see them as they really are, I will be skeptical of the love I am receiving in return.  That "breaks the spell" and short-circuits the power of the experience of being loved.

This experience of vulnerability does not necessarily have to be binary, especially if you zoom out from a strict focus on sex.  For example, I come from a family of six people (now seven, with the addition …

A Small Milestone

When I started this blog, I really didn't expect anyone to read it.  I was more like a personal journal that happened to be available for other folks to look at.  Maybe a couple of my friends would come by and check out what I was doing, but that would be it.
This morning when I logged in, I saw that I now have 10,000 page views.  I have no idea how that relates to other blogs, or even how that is counted, and I really don't care.  It seems like an enormous number to me.  It is far, far more than I ever expected to get in 20 years, let alone around 1 year.  It is profoundly humbling, and I am very grateful to everyone who has read, commented, and given me feed back.  Thank you.
Special thanks to Jason (the official twitter PR guy for the blog), Gene, Neil and Erin, as well as Frank from Letters to the Catholic Right.  You folks are awesome.

Equal Time, of an Unfortunate Sort

St. Gregory of Nyssa is one of the true heavy-weights of early Christian theology.  He, along with the other Cappadocian fathers (St. Basil of Caesaria and St. Gregory of Nazianzus), defined theology, and particularly the theology of the Trinity, in the period immediately after the Council of Nicaea in the early 4th Century.  It doesn't get any more rock solid than St. Gregory.

St. Gregory wrote a book called The Life of Moses, in which he reflects on the stories of Exodus and the rest of the Torah.  In doing so, he deals with the climax of the plagues that God has sent to Egypt--the killing of the first-born sons.  Here's what he says:

It does not seem good to me to pass this interpretation by without further contemplation. How would a concept worthy of God be preserved in the description of what happened if one looked only to the history? The Egyptian acts unjustly, and in his place is punished his newborn child, who in his infancy cannot discern what is good and what is not.…

The Politics of Certainty Triumph Again

The preliminary relatio (emphasis mine):
50.  Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing [...] them [...] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

     51.        The question of homosexuality requires serious reflection on how to devise realistic approaches to affective growth, human development and maturation in the Gospel,  while integrating the sexual aspect, all of which constitute an important educative challenge. Moreover, the Church affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same level as marriage between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that the pastor’s outlook be pressured or that international bodies make financial aid…

We All Might Be Wrong

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Despite the fact that this is my third post in a week about the Synod on the Family, I find that I am not all that engaged in what is going on in Rome.  I don't really care one way or the other.  Part of that is that I am skeptical anything of substance coming out of this Synod, but my ennui is much deeper than that.  It's taken me a while to figure out what has been turning me off to the Synod, but I think I have figured it out.  And, like all good insights, it came to me in an unexpected place--listening to the radio driving home yesterday.

When I get bored with the stations on my satellite radio in the car, I often find myself turning to EWTN radio.  It's kind of like picking at a scab--I know I shouldn't do it, but I can't help myself.  Anyway, the topic was pornography, and they had a bishop on talking about some document he had recently written about the topic.  I am sure this will come as no surprise, but the bishop took the position that pornography viewin…

What Exactly Is the Nature of the "Crisis" in the Family?

For those readers not living in the United States and/or are not sports fans, allow me to tell the stories of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

Ray Rice is a professional American football player, playing (until recently) a high-profile position (running back) for a team that two years ago won the Super Bowl.  He was not a super-star, but he was a star.  And, he was generally seen as one of the "good guys"--a stand-up figure who did good things in the community.

This summer, a video surfaced from a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  In the video, Rice was seen dragging the unconscious body of his girlfriend (now wife, BTW) out of an elevator.  In the wake of the video, there was a great deal of public conversation, inside the sports world and outside of it, regarding the proper punishment for Rice.  He initially got a 2 game suspension, until a second video emerged, this time from inside the elevator, that showed Rice cold-cocking his girlfriend and then appearing to look fo…

Updates from the Synod

After all of the strum und drang, we finally have some concrete product from the Synod on the Family being held at the Vatican.  Released this morning, the document is essentially a summary or survey of the comments that various speakers have given.  It is the most preliminary of preliminary documents, so I think it is a mistake to put too much weight on it.  Nevertheless, it is notable on a couple of levels.

First, it represents a significant change in tone from the preparatory document that was produced by Vatican insiders prior to the Synod.  There is still a great deal of talk about how modern culture is terrible and the Church needs to evangelize that culture to save it from itself, but there is also talk about how the Church needs to listen to people and try to find where God is working in their life.  Indeed, the very first section of the document was about listening.  One might dismiss this listening talk as pro forma, and maybe that's right, but at least it is encouraging…

Another Theology of the Body Part II--The Importance of Vulnerability

The biggest criticism of "progressive" Christians regarding sex, especially by more conservative folks, is that their position is entirely negative.  Progressive Christians may be very clear in articulating the laundry list of sexual mores that they don't agree with, but often are very vague about what mores and rules they do agree with.  As a result, Progressive Christians end up defaulting to the sexual ideas of the broader culture, which are, at best, incoherent in many ways.

I think this criticism is basically a fair one.  It is not enough to say that you reject what has come before--you need to articulate a positive program to replace it.  Moreover, I think Christianity has important things to say about sexuality and sexual morality, and I am unwilling to cede the field to the broader secular culture.  Since questions of sexuality have become so central to our dialogue both in the Christian church and in the broader culture, if progressive Christians want to partici…

Another Theology of the Body, Part I

In my previous post, I listed as #9 of my ten beliefs the idea that there is something fundamentally broken about the way that Christianity has approached questions of sex and gender.  In the next couple of posts, I want to unpack that idea a bit and work through some of my thoughts and reflections on this topic.

Rachel Held Evans is hosting on her blog an extended conversation about Matthew Vines's book God and the Gay Christian.  This book has been more or less the book of the year in Christian circles, both progressive and conservative.  As a quick summary, Vines was raised in a conservative Evangelical household, and during the course of his time at Harvard he realized and came to accept the idea that he was gay.  The book is in many ways a journal of his personal journey to reconcile his faith and his orientation--there are extended reflections on Biblical verses dealing with (or, purported to deal with) homosexuality, but also a discussion of his relationship with his parent…

The Time Has Come

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I am going to warn you ahead of time--I am about to show you a picture of what, according to many, is an example of the most dangerous people in our society.  A Catholic bishop recently said that "standing firm" against these folks "makes an irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society."  So, this is serious.  Are you ready?