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    • To my Republican Friends July 6, 2020
      You voted for Trump even though you didn't like him. Doubted his character. Questioned his fitness for the job. Yet, your aversion to Hillary was even greater The post To my Republican Friends first appeared on Spirit of a Liberal.
      Obie Holmen
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      The Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) recently named Wormwood and Gall as one of three finalists for a Midwest Book Award in the Religion/Philosophy category. The awards program, which is organized by MIPA, recognizes quality in independent publishing in the Midwest. The post Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist first appeared on S […]
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    • Rob Sheffield Pays Tribute to the “Peaceful and Stormy at the Same Time” Songs of Christine McVie December 6, 2022
      Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine has written a heartfelt and insightful appreciation of the life and music of Christine McVie, who died last Wednesday, November 30.Following, with added images and links, are excerpts from Sheffield’s tribute that particularly caught my attention.Christine McVie always came on like the grown-up in the room, which admit […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • “Your Perception Is a Choice” December 5, 2022
      My friend Iggy is dedicated to facilitating mind and body transformation – within his own life and the lives of others who are similarly interested in holistic personal growth and change. To this end, Iggy’s professional/vocational life involves providing a range of services, including mindset mentoring, naprapathic massage, and personal training in boxing, […]
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    • So the Former US President and Current GOP Candidate for the Presidency Calls for a Coup and the End of US Democracy — And? December 5, 2022
      President Donald J. Trump 2 March 2019, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD; official White House photo by Tia Dufour, at Wikimedia CommonsHeather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American: December 3, 2002":The leader of the Republican Party has just called fo […]
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      I've now succeeded in setting up an account on Mastodon.My handle there is @wdlindsy@toad.socialPlease feel free to connect to me there if you wish. I'm hoping to reconnect via Mastodon to as many of the friends and conversation partners I had on Twitter, with whom I've lost touch after I left Twitter when Musk acquired it. I'm a total no […]
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    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
       A saint for the millenials: the young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 of galloping Leukemia, will be beatified today in Assisi by Pope Francis (last step before being officially declared a saint). Carlo came from a luke warm Catholic family, but at the age of 7, when he received his first 'Holy Communion', he displayed an astonishing […]
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    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
      (Jack Vidgen)Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Hust […]
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    • We the People December 6, 2022
      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.Trump has called for ... Why? So […]
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On Dialogue, Disagreements and Dissent in Church

I frequently come across Catholic writers and commenters (the rule-book Catholics) complaining in horror on-line at the existence of Catholic “dissenters” who insist on calling themselves Catholic, even while flouting the teaching of the church.

As I am one of those who publicly disagree with the teaching on some issues (by no means all) but refuse to deny my Catholic identity, I am directly affected. In my own mind, the position is simple. I am in agreement here with Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who made clear a few months ago that Catholicism is not in fact about blind obedience to authority, but rather it is a commitment to a search for truth (and with it, in consequence, to service, and justice and the rest). I have stated before that I accept the teaching authority of the Church, but “teaching” does not mean legislating, and any good teacher will fully expect and encourage students to argue a case where they disagree.

A useful article at America magazine by Nicholas Lash makes much the same point, but does so much more effectively than I could hope to do.

When the Second Vatican Council ended, several of the bishops who took part told me that the most important lesson they had learned through the conciliar process had been a renewed recognition that the church exists to be, for all its members, a lifelong school of holiness and wisdom, a lifelong school of friendship (a better rendering of caritas than “charity” would be). It follows that the most fundamental truth about the structure of Christian teaching cannot lie in distinctions between teachers and pupils—although such distinctions are not unimportant—but in the recognition that all Christians are called to lifelong learning in the Spirit, and all of us are called to embody, communicate and protect what we have learned. Much of what is said about the office of “teachership” or magisterium seems dangerously forgetful of this fact.

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“The Sexual Person”: Bishops, Theologians Clash on Sexual Ethics

In 2008 two Catholic academic theologians at a reputable Jesuit university published a book, “The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology (Moral Traditions)“,  on the Church’s sexual theology which represented a fundamental critique of its entire foundations. The United States Catholic Bishops have now launched a strong counter-attack, concentrating their fire especially on the authors’ section on homosexuality.

I am grateful to the Bishops for this attack: it has brought to my close attention a book that I was previously aware of, but had not considered too seriously. After reading some reviews and the extracts available at Google Books, I will now most certainly read it in full – and will later discuss its conclusions with my readers. As I have not yet had this opportunity to read the book for myself, I will not attempt in this post  to evaluate the content or conclusions. However, I have read the authors’ intent and methods as presented in the prologue, and can contrast these with the bishops’ disappointing response, which I have read and re-read in full. Continue reading

Conscience Formation, Spiritual Formation, and The Holy Spirit

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David Ludescher, a regular OT reader, has put to me some important questions on the formation of conscience. These arose in response to my post on empirical research findings on the current state of British Catholic belief, and some observations I made on the implications for our understanding of the sensus fidelium (on sexual ethics and priestly ministry in particular).

These questions were put in a comment box, which I have reproduced in an independent post for easy reference. Just follow the link to read the questions in full. This is my response: Continue reading

ELCA Social Statements: Consensus Teaching Documents: Part I

The teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church, referred to as the magisterium, resides in the episcopacy and especially the papacy.  The parallel teaching authority of the ELCA is the process of study, debate, and adoption of various social statements.

Social statements are social policy documents, adopted by an ELCA Churchwide Assembly, addressing significant social issues.  They provide an analysis and interpretation of an issue, set forth basic theological and ethical perspectives related to it, and offer guidance for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, its individual members, and its affiliated agencies and institutions. They are the product of extensive and inclusive deliberation within this church.

At the 2009 Church wide assembly in Minneapolis, the ELCA adopted revised ministry policies encouraging “recognition and support” for persons in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous” same gender relationships and also allowed such persons in such relationships to be ordained.

Separately and coincidentally, the ELCA adopted its tenth social statement entitled, Human Sexuality:Gift and Trust.  Of course, it was the two pages (out of thirty two) devoted to homosexuality that garnered the most interest and resistance.  The significant aspect of the document vis a vis homosexuality is that gay sexual ethics are treated exactly the same as straight sexual ethics.  Human sexuality, both gay and straight, is treated as gift of God entrusted to humans for good but also with the potential for abuse.

Sexuality especially involves the powers or capacities to form deep and lasting bonds, to give and receive pleasure, and to conceive and bear children. Sexuality can be integral to the desire to commit oneself to life with another, to touch and be touched, and to love and be loved. Such powers are complex and ambiguous. They can be used well or badly. They can bring astonishing joy and delight. Such powers can serve God and serve the neighbor. They also can hurt self or hurt the neighbor. Sexuality finds expression at the extreme ends of human experience: in love, care, and security, or lust, cold indifference, and exploitation.

The process of adopting a social statement begins with an enabling resolution from the church wide assembly of voting members.  Typically, the enabling resolution calls for the formation of a task force, a blue ribbon panel, that will consider issues theologically and with appropriate input from secular, social science.  The process typically takes years of study, debate, dissemination of preliminary documents for feedback from all ELCA constituencies, and finally the preparation of a lengthy document that will be considered and voted upon by the biennial church wide assembly of voting members, the ultimate legislative authority of the church.  For instance, the enabling resolution for the recently adopted human sexuality statement dates back to the 2001 church wide assembly, so the process from beginning to end spanned 8 years.  According to the ELCA constitution, social statements require a 2/3 supra majority for passage, and the 2009 assembly adopted the human sexuality statement by precisely that 2/3 majority without a single vote to spare.

The human sexuality statement was the tenth social statement adopted by the ELCA.  Here is the list; each statement may be reviewed and downloaded from the ELCA website:

  • Abortion
  • Church in Society
  • Death Penalty
  • Economic Life
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health and Healthcare
  • Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust
  • Peace
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

The 2009 Convention also called for the study process to begin on another possible social statement entitled “Justice for Women”.  The process of study and creation of a social statement takes years and resources (about a million dollars).  The recommendation that was adopted calls for Churchwide assembly action in 2015.  Two other study processes are already underway based upon earlier Churchwide authorizations—Genetics and Criminal Justice.

Here, in Part I, I will offer brief snippets from the first few policy statements passed in 1991.  Each quote comes from the statement itself, and is offered as insight into the gist of each statement.

Abortion (passed in 1991).

Marriage is the appropriate context for sexual intercourse. This continues to be the position of this church. We affirm that the goodness of sexual intercourse goes beyond its procreative purpose.  Whenever sexual intercourse occurs apart from the intent to conceive, the use of contraceptives is the responsibility of the man and of the woman.

Prevention of unintended pregnancies is crucial in lessening the number of abortions. In addition to efforts within church and home, this church supports appropriate forms of sex education in schools, community pregnancy prevention programs, and parenting preparation classes. We recognize the need for contraceptives to be available, for voluntary sterilization to be considered, and for research and development of new forms of contraception.

This church recognizes that there can be sound reasons for ending a pregnancy through induced abortion.

Church in Society (passed in 1991).

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is called to be a part of the ecumenical church of Jesus Christ in the context in which God has placed it — a diverse, divided, and threatened global society on a beautiful, fragile planet.  In faithfulness to its calling, this church is committed to defend human dignity, to stand with poor and powerless people, to advocate justice, to work for peace, and to care for the earth in the processes and structures of contemporary society.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” church. Its witness in society is informed by the history and the various theological traditions of the one church of Jesus Christ. The suffering and hope of churches in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas strengthen its life and calling.

The gospel does not allow the church to accommodate to the ways of the world. The presence and promise of God’s reign makes the church restless and discontented with the world’s brokenness and violence. Acting for the sake of God’s world requires resisting and struggling against the evils of the world.

Death Penalty (passed in 1991).

The human community is saddened by violence, and angered by the injustice involved. We want to hold accountable those who violate life, who violate society. Our sadness and anger, however, make us vulnerable to feelings of revenge. Our frustration with the complex problems contributing to violence may make us long for simple solutions.

The state is responsible under God for the protection of its citizens and the maintenance of justice and public order. God entrusts the state with power to take human life when failure to do so constitutes a clear danger to society.  However, this does not mean that governments have an unlimited right to take life. Nor does it mean that governments must punish crime by death. We increasingly question whether the death penalty has been and can be administered justly.

Yet, capital punishment makes no provable impact on the breeding grounds of violent crime.   Executions harm society by mirroring and reinforcing existing injustice. The death penalty distracts us from our work toward a just society. It deforms our response to violence at the individual, familial, institutional, and systemic levels. It perpetuates cycles of violence.

In Part II to come later, I will address the other six ELCA social statements.

Scripture and the Catholic Tradition

Several months ago, I had a troublesome interchange at “Queering the Church” with a commenter who kept referring me back to “the Church says”, and to “Scripture says”.  These are standard responses thrown out by people who prefer not to think, often in complete ignorance of what the Church and Scripture really do say, beyond the well-known headline sections. Still, the experience left me thinking, so I set off in search of what the Church itself has to say about Scripture. I thought the results were revealing: This is what I wrote.

The problem with attempting to deal with the Magisterium of the Church is that it is so vast, that the only way to do it is as one would eat an elephant:  one piece at a time.  I propose to do just that.  Today’s contribution represents just the first course – more will follow.

As the people who insist we follow the Magisterium often also refer us to the Bible, I thought it would be helpful to begin with a look at what the Magisterium has to say about the interpretation of Scripture. Even this is a vast topic.  One good starting point is to look at the useful report of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1993, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” (which may be read in full at the excellent “Catholic Resources” website of Felix Just, SJ).

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