Damage Control

I assume it was a plan to release a mid-meeting document from the synod. Why was it a surprise? Josephine McKenna at RNS reports on admitted “damage control,” or at least that’s what it looks like to Cardinal Wilfrid Napier:

The message has gone out, it is not what we are saying at all. Once it is out there there’s no way of retrieving it. It is not a true position. Whatever goes out after looks like damage control.

Cardinal Dolan:

It’s not the final word and we’re going to have a lot to say about it. And there were some that said we probably in our final statement need to be much more assertive about the timeless teaching of the church.

Wait. Don’t we already know “the timeless teaching of the church”? A lot of people are aware the Church also teaches about love and mercy. Are participants looking at catechesis as a whole, or just favorite teachings they like to repeat and feel comfortable repeating?

Maybe some of the rest of the Church will have something to say about it all, too.

My understanding is also that this month’s meeting is a preliminary event to the full synod which gathers next Fall. October 2015 will have a significant word. Whether or not it will be “final,” is likely not under the control of any prelate or group of prelates.

Personally, I think it would be good to take several years to explore marriage and family by the people who practice it. I think that lay theologians would also have some significant things to say. I’m sure the bishops would get somewhat nervous if lay people suddenly took over seminaries and diocesan vocation offices. Maybe I would too. I’ve worked closely with priests for over three decades. I might have something constructive to say here and there. But I’m largely content to let clergy take responsibility for recruiting their own.

FrMichael’s insistence on keeping lay Catholics as breeding stock points to the poverty of “traditional” understandings of marriage and family. That would be true whether he has somewhat misrepresented Catholic teaching–which I think he has–or if his writings here constitute the state of theology. There has to be something more, otherwise Church legislation is a tangle of misconceptions (so to speak) and tortured justifications and just plain incomprehensibility.

Some synod commentators have mentioned there’s not enough being said on the couples who have been fruitfully married for decades. I thought those were the token two dozen invited to present to the bishops. But otherwise, yes: I think it would be worthwhile to gather significant input, and not just surveys online.

My own suspicion is that many married couples, both troubled and fruitful, do not recognize competence or credibility in many clerics, especially bishops. As for the October 2015 ordinary synod, my suggestion is that no prelate be permitted to speak or vote unless he has prepared a non-relation for marriage and witnessed at least one marriage. And if the synod is really about families, I think it’s time for more lay people to speak. We might also have something to learn from spouses who were abused, abandoned, or otherwise harmed by a partner.

Meanwhile, I’m fine with an open discussion. I have no problem, even, with letting bishops and cardinals speak up, even if they struggle with a perception of the topic. Even their ignorance tells us something, and might point in a good direction.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to Damage Control

  1. FrMichael says:

    “FrMichael’s insistence on keeping lay Catholics as breeding stock points to the poverty of “traditional” understandings of marriage and family.” ????

    Natural marriage and sexual acts have two proper ends: unitive and procreative. These are linked indissolubly. Christian marriages have a third end: sacramental. This end is also linked indissolubly to the sexual activity of baptized Christians.

    What we have under discussion here are people who are denying that procreation is an essential part of sexuality. They have to if homosexuality is ever to be normalized in Catholicism. They cloak themselves under the rubric of “pastoral,” but n. 50 of the document let’s the cat out of the bag. Rather than valuing the person with same sex attractions, we are the respect and value the sexual orientation, which we know theologically to be a disorder. There is doctrinal change being proposed here and God bless those raising the hue and cry against the Synod’s chicanery.

    • Todd says:

      Like aging and disease, procreation is a post-Fall aspect of human existence. That an older couple is prevented by the former or a younger couple by the latter from conceiving children does not relieve them of responsibilities on a different plane: to live a sacramental relationship that is generative.

      The poverty of your argument and of tradition is not that you are wrong. You are incomplete and limited.

      As for same-sex attracted persons, that might be a personal choice, but in most cases is simply how they were made. If we acknowledge that God works through the laws of nature, and if we ever get to a point where it can be scientifically sure that people are gay, then theology on this point will be based on a phantom, like an Earth-centered universe. I think we, meaning the Church, will undergo much convulsion before we get to that point. I doubt that believers or hierarchy are sufficiently strong or open to do that today. In the meantime, we live in days of worry, of questions, and of curiosity. Those are not theological matters, but human experiences.

  2. FrMichael says:

    “Like aging and disease, procreation is a post-Fall aspect of human existence.” What the heck?

    Genesis 1:27-28 God created man in His image; in the divine image He created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” … v. 31 God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good.

    That the human species would procreate was the intention of the Creator even before the Fall.

    As for your other point, whether same-sex attraction is voluntary or involuntary is irrelevant to its moral evaluation in an objective sense. Gluttons, pedophiles, alcoholics, and kleptomaniacs also have temptations that are unwanted and involuntary, but that doesn’t make overeating, molesting children, drunkenness or stealing morally right acts.

    • Todd says:

      What the heck, indeed. The physical bodies of human beings are made to age, as are all physical beings. What God’s intent for the whole self, inclusive of non-biological aspects, goes beyond the Fall, but as far as biology is concerned, how we are made is a given.

      Your stances are earnest, but they belie a certain contortion: you have the conclusion and you manufacture an argument to fit what you already “know.”

      Same-sex unions also produce moral good: permanence in friendship, commitment, care of the sick and aged partner, medical and legal protection, emotional comfort, and such.

      Your assessment of “voluntariness” speaks to the heart of what constitutes sin.

      But I think you’ve helped to make my point: the theology of marriage is woefully underdeveloped, ignorant of natural law–at least as we better understand human biology, sociology, and anthropology, and does little enough to move men and women believers forward into the Gospel mission of Christ. In its underdeveloped state, Catholic theology places men and women in the role of breeders for the benefit and whim of secular and ecclesiastical aristocracy.

      And again, the failure is not that traditionalism on these points is wrong. It’s just that it’s incomplete, and insufficient.

  3. FrMichael says:

    “The physical bodies of human beings are made to age, as are all physical beings.” Better said as “The post-Fall bodies of human beings are made to age, as are all physical beings.” It is unclear that the Adam and Eve would have aged if they had remained in Original Justice, and even if they were designed to age, that they would have a ceased being fertile is highly unlikely since the they had perfect bodies. It seems illogical to think that perfect bodies would have had an important non-functioning system like the reproductive.

    Once again, since we live in a post-Fall world and have no experience of human persons with the preternatural gifts, what seems “normal” to us was not the experience of our First Parents for however long the earthy Paradise existed. I’m with Dante in thinking that Paradise was a matter of hours before everything hit the fan, but nonetheless that our First Parents were different from us in this regard is unquestionable doctrinally.

    “Your stances are earnest, but they belie a certain contortion: you have the conclusion and you manufacture an argument to fit what you already ‘know.'”

    Well, I already “know” because I have the virtue of faith and believe what the Church already knows from God about marriage and sexuality. No contortion needed. You are getting tripped up in the same point that the Humanae Vitae dissenters got wrong: that the two ends of marriage and sexuality, unitive and procreation, need to be respected for the duration of marriage as well as during each and every sexual act. They postulated that the two ends needed to be respected in the overall course of marriage but theorized that individual acts didn’t need to maintain the two ends. It is even worse for those who want to pretend that homosexual activity isn’t evil, because there is no sexual act between persons of the same sex that respects the procreative end by the very design of the human species, pre- and post-Fall.

    • Todd says:

      “It is unclear that the Adam and Eve would have aged …” Of course it is. It is also clear that procreation didn’t occur until after the Fall.

      “Well, I already “know” because I have the virtue of faith and believe what the Church already knows from God about marriage and sexuality.”

      It seems to me it’s less about the quality of faith and more about the will. You choose to be satisfied with Church teaching as it exists today. No curiosity. No expansions or clarifications. In a way, human beings have produced something perfect, post-Fall. Imagine that.

      “You are getting tripped up in the same point that the Humanae Vitae dissenters got wrong …”

      Actually, I’m hoping for an expansion of the notion of generativity, not just breeding. Older couples should have an expansive relationship to include a deeper charity, a deeper hospitality, and a nurturing or apprenticing of young couples or youth or children.

      I think I’m pretty far from how the right characterizes HV dissent. I just think you guys weren’t sufficiently catechized or experienced. I’m not rejecting the teaching because it’s too much. I’m stating that it’s incomplete and insufficient. Two big differences.

  4. FrMichael says:

    “You choose to be satisfied with Church teaching as it exists today. No curiosity. No expansions or clarifications. In a way, human beings have produced something perfect, post-Fall. Imagine that.”

    Actually, my knowledge of St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body is rudimentary. It isn’t for lack of interest but a severe lack of time and other priorities that have kept me away from a serious in-depth study of those volumes.

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