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Showing posts from August, 2015

The Joy of Being Wrong Essays, Part 1E--"It is a Fearful Thing to Fall into the Hands of the Living God."

This last part of Father Alison's talk (the other four can be found here here here and here) is, in my view, the most thought-provoking and challenging.  In the last two posts, Alison touched on how individuals need to seek out and foster a kind of sacred space for people to come together and be wrong together.  That space, in principle, is the Church.  But, as seen in the first two parts, there are problems with the way the Church approaches that task, problems that stem in large part from the language with which it understands itself.  Bringing these two ideas together, Alison provides a sketch of how we should think about the Church and how the Church should talk about itself.

But, first, some starting principles.

If it is true that what Jesus did was to knock out the centrepiece of the mechanism by which humans make anything sacred, that is, by offering himself up to death in a typical sacralised lynching so as to show that the victim is innocent, and that what appeared to be s…

The Joy of Being Wrong Essays, Part 1D--Real Catholicity

In the last part, we talked about the idea of why it is important to accept that all of us are wrong, and all of us are always capable of being wrong.  So, let us begin with where I know I have been wrong.

I may well be wrong on the gay issue. That is to say, wrong in my belief that the discovery that there is just such a thing as being gay, is part of how the Gospel has worked in our midst, teaching us to discover what God’s creation really is by teaching us how to detect our lies and violence in ganging up on scapegoats. I may well be wrong about this. But I do not think I am wrong to trust that God wants to make it easier for me to discover how wrong I am, not more difficult; and he longs for me not to head up paths that do me no good, rather than capriciously leading me into them.


But this means that there is a very serious obligation on me to make it easier for those I consider to have got it wrong, not more difficult. To reach them, not to provoke them. It means, for instance, tha…

The Joy of Being Wrong Essays, Part 1C--"The Kingdom of God is Like a Big Party"

In the last few posts, we have discussed the idea that we don't know how to talk in Catholicism anymore, and out failure to talk makes many of our problems difficult, contentious, and insoluble.   So, what language should we use?  How can we talk to each other?

We can start by paying attention to how we talk about this thing that we are all involved in together--the Church.  An almost endless series of metaphors for the Church have been employed throughout the centuries.  I tried my hand at the plow with the "train to the Land of Hope and Dreams" (borrowing from the Boss).  Alison has a similar, if perhaps more festive, suggestion:

I’d like to say that for me being Catholic is being at a huge and very spacious party at which there are an awful lot of people, most of whom are not at all like me and with whom I don’t have much in common. Furthermore this is a party to which I have been invited not because I’m special, or any of the other people are special, but because the …

The Joy of Being Wrong Essays, Part 1B--Language as a Indult from Reality

The last post ended with a discussion of language and the importance of having the right language.  Alison picks up with a point that I have never seen anyone else make:

As you all know, the clerical culture within the Catholic Church is an all male affair. Until fifty years ago, it was, and had been for over a millennium, an all male affair whose members were socialised into thinking in a language other than the maternal language of any of them, and who learned to debate and to discuss things in that language. Elaborate rules regarding the agonistic structure of discourse were observed. Debates were syllogistic fencing matches and so on. I don’t think we have any clear idea of our current difficulties in the Catholic Church if we don’t have some sense of the consequences of the astoundingly speedy collapse of Latinity in the west.

"So what?" you might ask.  "Why does it matter that Latin is no longer the language of instruction for priests?"

Languages are not neutr…

The Joy of Being Wrong Essays, Part 1A--"Human Sexuality...or Ecclesial Discourse?"

I said I was going to do a series of reflections on James Alison's book The Joy of Being Wrong, and I intend to do that.  But before I get there, I want to talk about what I think is Alison's best work, an essay entitled "Human Sexuality...or Ecclesial Discourse?"  You can find the essay on his website here, or you can find it in a collection of Alison's work entitled Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break In.  Either way, do yourself a favor and take the time to read it.

Alison's essay is structured into five parts, and so I am going to do a series of five posts about each section.  Alison first gave this talk in 2004 at a forum about sexuality in Christianity.  Into this environment, he begins by arguing that we shouldn't talk so much about sexuality in the Church:

The first point I would like to make is a little provocative, setting up a distinction between the thought of Freud and the thought of RenĂ© Girard, whose disciple I am. Imagine a…

Quick Blog Update

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Hello, 'all.  Hope everyone is having a good summer (at least, here in the Northern Hemisphere).  I'm taking a couple weeks away from the blog to recharge the batteries a bit, but I have a couple of series that I am working on that should start up soon.

The first is a couple of essays on a book by Father James Alison entitled The Joy of Being Wrong. It is an absolutely fantastic book, but it has taken me a while to get through it because it is a dense book, in the sense that it has a very high "deep thoughts per page" ratio.  It deserves to be read slowly, and slowly is how I have been doing it over the last couple of weeks.  Instead of reviewing the book (which would be difficult to do), I am going to talk about some of the insights that I have spun off from reading the book.  So, it will me more like reflections inspired by the book, and hopefully they will make sense even if you haven't read the book.

The second big series, a little farther off, is one that I a…