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Showing posts from May, 2015

Two Boxes, the Benedict Option, and The Self-Consciousness of Gender

Over the course of the last twenty-four hours, I have come across three articles that have left me shaking my head.  On the surface, the articles cover unrelated topics, but I think they are all at their core about the same topic.  That topic is the degree to which we are seeing the opening up of a broad and increasingly unbridgeable chasm between two identifiable "sides."  I believe this chasm is fundamentally an intramural divide among Christians, but given the fact that the U.S. is 70% Christian it also plays out in the broader culture as well.  The problem is not that the two sides don't agree on things; the problem is that they increasingly can no longer even relate to one another.  The two sides stare at each other with a look of mutual incomprehension.

1.  The first article is clearly the least significant--the ever-strident Fr. Dwight Longenecker's praise of "militant American Catholic men."  As I read the piece, my overwhelming thought is "you…

Why Marriage Equality is Going to Win, Ultimately

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I am not Irish; I was born here (well, in the United States--New York City, to be exact).  I have never lived in Ireland, and so I am not really equipped to analyze and parse all of the reasons that the people of Ireland overwhelmingly voted to change their constitution to allow same sex couples to get married.  For that kind of analysis, you should look to Irish sources--the Irish Times has had typically excellent coverage.

I have a feeling, though, that I know the reason.  While I am not Irish, the vast majority of my family originates from Ireland.  There is some German blood on my paternal grandfather's side (Hinler--not to be confused with notorious Nazi mass murder Himmler, as my father is quick to point out), and my maternal grandfather was born in England, originally of Welsh descent (Jones).  Otherwise, it is all Irish--Boyle, McDonald, McGonigle.  So, while I am not Irish, I think can see the echoes of the traits common to the people of Ireland in my own family, and even…

"Revels in Pious Outrage and Constant Failure"

Until stumbling upon this article today, I had not heard of Michael Coren.  He's Canadian, known primarily for existing in that narrow subculture known as "Catholic apologetics," along with the Catholic Answers crowd, Scott Hahn, Mark Shea, etc.  Most of those folks are converts, and Coren was as well.  He wrote books with frying pan-to-the-face titles like "Why Catholics Are Right."

I should say he was part of that crowd, because now he is part of the Anglican Church of Canada.  His reasons for leaving Catholicism are not unique--LGBT issues primarily--but perhaps a little surprising for someone who used to walk in those circles.  Still, his discussion of why he left seems honest and heart-felt, and certainly something I can relate to very easily.  He is walking the line that I am walking, and so I wish him nothing but the best.

What was interesting to me is his discussion of the reaction from his former fellow travelers to his decision.  I suppose I can under…

Who Are We Inviting to Our Table? Part 1

It seems pretty clear that divorced people are going to be the defining issue of the upcoming Synod of Bishops in October.  Five hundred British priests signed a letter encouraging the Synod to "stand firm" on the question.  The Germans seem to be willing to walk over the question.  It's a big deal.

But here's the thing.  While the motivating force behind these issues is sexuality, the locus of these issues--the place where the abstract doctrines become concrete--is the Communion line.  If you are divorced and remarried without a proper annulment, (in principle) you are forbidden to walk up into that line and receive the Eucharist.  Likewise, if you are in a non-celibate same-sex relationship, or any one of a host of delineated situations (sexual or non-sexual), the official doctrine of the Catholic Church is that you are forbidden from joining that line.  The base-line Eucharistic theology of the Catholic Church is that some people, those who meet certain predefined…

A Brief Reflection on the Pew Study

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The bombshell on the "religious Internet" this week was a new study from the Pew Forum, looking at trends in religious identification ("The Religious Landscape Study").  You can dig through the data to your heart's content here.

In short, the two big takeaways are that lots of people are leaving Christianity for no religion, and that Catholicism is not doing appreciably better than the Mainline (and even the Evangelicals are showing cracks).  Lots and lots of people have expounded on these topics and broken them down in various ways, so much so that I don't really have much to add.  Instead, I want to talk a little bit about the notion of leaving and staying in a religion.

It is true that I will attend religious services on Sunday in the same religious tradition that I was raised in.  But to say that I have "remained" a Catholic implies a straight line from being baptized to the present day, and that is simply not true.  My arc is something like t…

Beyond the Abortion Wars, Chapter 4.1--The Heart of Liberty

In Chapter 4, Camosy turns his attention away from philosophy and toward public policy.  This is an important move, because it recognizes that simply because one has a philosophical objection to abortion, it does not necessarily follow that it is appropriate to ban it.  Such recognition is often in short supply in many segments of the pro-life community, so it is good to see that acknowledged here.

Here, though, I am going to change my pattern here, and talk about the first section of Chapter 4 and an anecdote Camosy offers in Chapter 5.  It is here that I have the greatest disagreement with Camosy, so I'm going to go into a some detail, and come back and discuss the rest of Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 in the next post.  Bear with me.

Camosy begins on very strong footing when he begins with a discussion of the claim that it is inappropriate to ban abortion insofar as the position that the fetus deserves legal protection is the product of religious belief.  This is idea is, to put it s…

Open versus Closed Theology

Here was the First Reading at Mass yesterday (in the Revised Common Lectionary, it was the third paragraph only, but the same basic idea):

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.”

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”

While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.  The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Then Peter responded, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”  He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Earlier in th…

Watch Germany

I mentioned this in passing in yesterday's post, but it bears a closer look.  The Catholic Church is Germany is putting down its marker in preparation for the October Synod on the Family, along several dimensions.  First, this week, it approve changes to its internal labor guidelines, clarifying the status of people in non-canonically recognized relationships, either straight or gay.  A rough translation of the press release:

The renewed civil marriage after a civil divorce is to be seen as a serious loyalty violation [and thus cause to be fired] if that behavior on the specific circumstances is objectively likely to attract a significant nuisance in the service community or the professional sphere of activity and affect the credibility of the Church. The same applies to entering into a registered partnership [i.e. a recognized same-sex union].

These actions thus must be considered under the circumstances and therefore only in exceptional cases are relevant. This is the case when th…

More Thoughts on Polarization, and What It Might Mean

Some (perhaps poorly organized) thoughts on polarization in Catholicism, and Christianity in general, and what that might mean for the future.

1.  Whenever conservatives talk about the polarized debates in Christianity, they almost always frame them as a debate between Team Christianity (i.e. them) and Team Secularism.  There is no question that there is a significant segment of folks in the West who were raised on Team Christianity who at some point have moved to become card-carrying members of Team Secularism.  And it is equally true that the members of Team Secularism often (not always, but often) have progressive positions on the big culture war issues that are similar to those of progressive Christian denominations and progressive Christians.  But it is simply incorrect to group together progressive Christians and Team Secularism.

Progressive Christians believe that their positions on things like LGBT rights or women's rights are mandated by their commitment to, and interpret…

Post-Script on Making Perfect the Enemy of the Good

A few days ago, I said that I think people should cut Pope Francis some slack for trying to talk about gender discrimination in a positive way.  Well, Frank Bruni is not willing to cut anyone any slack.

Let me say, first off, that Bruni is completely right on his substantive criticisms.  You cannot talk about pay imbalance as a "scandal" and also prevent women from even having leadership positions in the first place in the context of the Church.  The supporting infrastructure for the idea that "Jesus wanted only men as priests" is somewhere between flimsy and non-existent.  The current ban on women's ordination is an injustice, full stop.

It is also correct of Bruni to point out the ways in which opposition to artificial contraception limits opportunities for women in a concrete way, and how the Catholic vision of sexuality reflects a masculine perspective.  And he is right that the investigation of the Sisters in the U.S. was an embarrassing, misogynist farce.

Making the Perfect the Enemy of the Good

I have a very, very dear friend who grew up in a very, very conservative Christian background.  And by very. very conservative, I don't mean Southern Baptist; Southern Baptists were seen as soft and wishy-washy by the group my friend was raised in. His group had two "wings"--various "farms" set up in out of the way places that were absolutely, positively cults by any reasonable definition, and then "city churches" that had the same theology but lacked much of the destructive sociology.  My friend grew up in the city churches, so he had only a tangential connection with the Full Crazy, but it was still pretty out there.  To give a bit of color, I introduced him to the HBO series Big Love, which included a barely fictionalized description of Warren Jeff's FLDS church and commune.  He told me that the depiction of the compound might as well have been a depiction of the "farms" in his old church.  So, yeah.

He has left that background behind…