Reactions, Once Removed

I’m a bit surprised at the tone taken at open book. I do think that anybody can stake a position against recent editorials criticizing the bishops for their stands on sexuality. In turn, there is nothing wrong with poking holes in these reactions. It also seems a trifle disingenuous to theorize about the bishops consulting with married couples or homosexuals. Because we know they didn’t, at least not in any ordinary fashion. And even if they did, what is this, a democracy of the morally upright?

Greg Popcak from his site:

The simple fact is that the NCReporter and Commonweal editorials do not consider that the Bishops may very well have consulted plenty of married Catholics who do, in fact, live out the teachings on married love quite happily. I actually know several couples with whom they spoke.

Okay. Did they or didn’t they? If a bishop rubs shoulders at a dinner or reception and drops the question to a homosexual or a married couple it probably counts as consultation. I’m sure it happened and Greg knows about it. But would it be in any way part of a systematic consultation?

Many bishops held listening sessions in the late 80’s for the ill-fated women’s pastoral letter. The one I attended featured lots of publicity, a few hundred folks in attendance, lots of talking by laity, lots of listening from the bishop. The way it should be. If you’re consulting, you listen more than talk. A lot more.

I think the bishops have pretty much given up on consulting the laity. They Don’t Get It on covering up for predators. Why do the conservatives even bother throwing up the argument, “Well, there are more sexually moral Catholics than most any Protestant denomination. The USCCB could have consulted with millions of loyal Catholics. So there.” Like the bishops’ statement carries more weight because several million Catholic laity can’t be wrong. Right?

Here’s what Commonweal had actually to say:

It is especially disappointing that before issuing their statements, the bishops didn’t bother to listen in any systematic way to either homosexual or married Catholics.

This includes something St Blogosfield has overlooked in this discussion: a systematic listening. No such thing went on in my diocese. I wonder how many bishops showed up in Baltimore not even knowing what was on the agenda?

Why is this kind of listening important? Easy question. Here’s what it accomplishes:

– It cultivates a relationship. Bishops and lay people do have a relationship. Not everything is channeled through a parish priest. This would be a good relationship to cultivate, especially now. If the bishops and laity worked together on a positive project rather than get bogged down in the bad news/bad news world of “I’m sorry for letting that sex offender slip through my fingers, and by the way, I’m closing your parish.”

– It gives an opportunity for bishops to listen to people who indeed do support the Church’s moral teaching. And put their voice and advice into a document. Not just for psychological reinforcement, but for the wisdom of those who manage to adhere to the Church’s sexual teachings and to do so with a good degree of fruitfulness. The problem with Humanae Vitae wasn’t so much that it was a wrong teaching, or that parish clergy rebelled against it, or that stubborn lay people tuned it out. There was no substantial back-up to implement it couple to couple. The bottom had already fallen out of the extended family in the First World. There was no pastoral infrastructure to support HV. It was dead in the water before it even had a chance to float.

– It gives the bishops a chance to be confronted and to answer the hard questions. Because good policies should be fire-tested. If the bishops can’t field the tough questions from loyal but doubtful Catholics, what hope have they of making an impact on morality in the world?

Permit me to point out the vast consultation going on with liturgy changes. And these are matters of prudential judgment: how much Latin, how much chant, what style of translation, music lists. The BCL knows a poorly inplemented Roman Missal III will be a disaster on every given Sunday.

Which leaves me with the question for the day:

Why on earth wouldn’t the bishops consult on contraception and homosexuality — systematically — when they’ve made a choice to do so on issues with far fewer moral implications? What are they afraid of?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Reactions, Once Removed

  1. crystal says:

    I read the editorial at NCR and I thought it made many good points. Would the Bishops have taken into account feedback from gays and married couples? They themselves stated, I believe, that about 95% of married Catholics use contraceptives.

  2. Tony says:

    I read the editorial at NCR and I thought it made many good points.

    You’ll have to point it out, I didn’t see any.

    Would the Bishops have taken into account feedback from gays and married couples?

    Why should they? Why should the feedback from any married couples have any affect at all on the truth, and that is what the Bishops are called to teach us. Not go on “listening tours”, not “consult with the laity”. They are to determine God’s truth, enlightened by the Holy Spirit and teach it to us.

    They themselves stated, I believe, that about 95% of married Catholics use contraceptives.

    So what. I’d imagine 99.9% of all Catholics lie. So should the Bishops go on some sort of “listening tour” to determine is lying should remain a sin? Why is it when we discuss pelvic issues, people think that the hierarchy are a bunch of morons, out of touch with the current “human experience”? Could it be that their celibate state allows them to look at human sexuality much more dispassionately than we and come to “cleaner” conclusions.

    I have already fisked the NCR article, so I won’t bother doing it again. I really think they ought to remove “Catholic” from the name of their particular publication, because it is definitely CINO. :P

    And Todd, you took unfair potshots at Greg Popcak in my opinion. You seem to be under the impression that sinners are not able to identify and speak out against sin without being some sort of hypocrite because they are sinners too. If this is the case we can just forget about the teaching of those guys called “Apostles”, because they were sinners just like the rest of us.

    And guess what. I can even speak the truth with regard to sexual chastity even if I’m not chaste myself. It doesn’t alter the truth of the message at all.

  3. Tony, my “shot” at Greg was over the mentality of comparing “faithful” Catholics to other denominations and attempting to draw a conclusion by inserting some wedge of separation in the Body of Christ. I thought his line of thought was unbecoming a Christian, as well as logically weak.

  4. Tony says:

    From Greg’s site:

    Specifically, even if only 5% of Catholics actually subscribe to Catholic teaching on Natural Family Planning (and there are some polls that dispute this), that amounts to about 3.5 million Catholics in the US alone.
    If we were to view this segment of the faithful as its own religious denomination, it would be the 8th largest denomination in the country.

    The quote appears to be “this segment of the [Cahtolic] faithful”. He doesn’t appear to be contrasting “NFP Catholics” against the rest of Catholicism, but merely drawing some attention to how big a number of people 5% of Catholics is.

    And he’s not driving a “wedge of separation”. The “separation” already exists. He’s just drawing attention to it. “NFP Catholics” are a bigger “denomination” in the US than the Presbyterians.

    And here’s the best part. They’re going to be getting bigger.

  5. crystal says:

    They themselves stated, I believe, that about 95% of married Catholics use contraceptives.

    So what.

    If you had a message that was very important to share, and 95% of those you shared it with ignored it, I’d think you might care, and want to dialogue with them, if only to figure out a more efficient way of getting your message across.

  6. mio says:


    That might be true if I’d been trying really, really hard to get my message across, but somehow despite my strenuous efforts it just hadn’t been getting through.

    If, on the other hand, I really had never really tried very hard to get my message across before …

  7. crystal says:

    I guess I don’t know enough about how all this works (being a convert, perhaps). An interesting article on the subject is Roman Catholic Sexual Ethics: A Dissenting View

  8. Tony says:

    Another name for someone who dissents from Catholic teaching is “heretic”.

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