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      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.
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    • Ruth Ben-Ghiat on the Return of Fascism in Italy September 29, 2022
      Perhaps like me you’ve been long aware of (and troubled by) the rise of authoritarian leaders and governments around the world.The most recent example of this is in Italy where, in the wake of recent elections, the country’s first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini, Giorgia Meloni, has declared victory, as the right-wing alliance led by her Brothers of […]
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    • Summer’s Parting Gift September 21, 2022
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    • Ruth Krall, A Bilgrimage Bibliography April 2, 2021
       A Bilgrimage BiographyRuth Elizabeth Krall, MSN, PhDNote: Since 2015 my friend William D. Lindsey (Bill) has published my work on his blog Bilgrimage. At this time, the blog is inactive, so I have decided to pull together my various posts so that future researchers and academics can find them in one place.  I have arranged this bibliography so that more rec […]
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      Ancient portrayal of Demeter and Persephone, Apulian red-figure loutrophoro, ca. 4th century BCE, from the J. Paul Getty Museum, at the Theoi Project websiteWhen I announced at the start of this year that I've decided no longer to maintain Bilgrimage, I also noted that if readers have something they'd like me to consider for posting here down the r […]
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    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
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    • Elendil October 6, 2022
      There's an interesting article about The Rings of Power in the Hollywood Reporter: ‘The Rings of Power’ Showrunners Break Silence on Backlash, Sauron and Season 2[...] The call from the lawyers came in to Amazon on a Friday in 2017: The Tolkien estate was going to entertain proposals for a Lord of the Rings show. Prime Video, along with every other ente […]
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Cohabitation, and the Church’s Redefinition of Marriage

Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe has written a strongly worded pastoral letter about Catholics who are living together in cohabitation, those who are married, but only by civil law, and those who have remarried after divorce. He writes:

First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Archdiocese of Santa Fe

There two totally extraordinary things hidden in this statement. The first, as Jamie L. Manson has observed at National Catholic Reporter, is that this is emphatically not the message of the Gospels.

In fact, there is only one passage in one of the gospels on marriage, in Matthew 19: 1-12. Sadly, the rest of Jesus’ teachings in the four gospels seem lost on Sheehan.

National Catholic Reporter

That one passage from a single Gospel may be taken as a condemnation of divorce, but there is definitely nothing, anywhere, to suggest a prohibition on any state other than full marriage or total chastity. Our bishops, sadly, are remarkably fond of claiming authority from “the Gospels” for views which are in fact rooted in nothing other than their own tradition.  (In this case, he is not even being true to the full tradition- as I will return to later). Continue reading

“The Sexual Person”: A Reader Responds

In response to my post on the evolution of Catholic teaching on sex and marriage, based on Salzmann & Lawler’s “The Sexual Person”, Mark has placed a lengthy riposte, which he previously placed at NCR on-line (where, he says, he is still waiting for someone to take his questions seriously).

I do not believe that a lengthy contribution such as this deserves to languish in a comment thread, and so have copied it here, as an independent post. I believe that this is an important book which demands to be taken seriously, and equally, so should all commentary on it.

Cover of "Kinsey"

Cover of Kinsey

 

Here’s my beef with Todd & Mike. (Previously posted at ncronline.org):

I’m still waiting for someone to take my questions seriously. As I wrote over a year ago: Submitted by Mark Andrews (not verified) on Feb. 26, 2009.

[Julie Hanlon] Rubio (in words that sound like a quote from the book jacket) says the authors, Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler, are “squarely in the Catholic tradition.” Its more accurate to say the book is “squarely in a Catholic tradition – that of the authors.”

Presuming the good intentions of Salzman and Lawler, their arguments raise a number of questions, if not problems. In no particular order:

1. Epistemology is not so socially and culturally conditioned that humans cannot gain real, reliable of our real existence in the real world. If “it is impossible to gain pure knowledge of nature. We can only reflect on our limited human experience of nature, acknowledging that it is always partial, evolving and in need of application” then how is possible to know enough about the world to survive within it, much less engage in an intelligible exchange of meaning-laden symbols about that world?

2. The replacement of what I’ll call “traditional” complementarity with a so-called “holistic” complementarity appears (as the authors claim) take a wider, more realistic view of actual human relational behavior, and what constitutes “human relational flourishing.” Missing from their analysis is:

a. Full incorporation of Kinsey’s landmark work of observational zoology with respect to the very wide array of human sexual behavior. To appeal to “sexual orientation” as commonly defined – heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual (which the authors do not address in their book) – fails to to see these as mere labels for what is, according to Kinsey, an exceeding wide array of stable sexual behaviors and orientations, most of which lack labels and cannot be easily collapsed into straight, gay or bi.

b. Looking at the ACTUAL wide array of ACTUAL human behavior, who is to say that some other relationship, say a “group marriage,” might or might not support “human relational flourishing?” No where do the authors make this argument – and nowhere do they rule it out. It can’t be done using the authors “flourishing” criteria.

c. Who is to decide what constitutes authentic “flourishing?” An appeal to some abstract, external notion of virtue, say the cardinal and theological virtues? Why privilege those virtues over any others humans may construct or find? If appeal to some external authority is desirable then why privilege a “theological” magisterium over the pastors of the Church? If the ultimate authority is internal, when why address the topic of virtue at all, if, in the end, I and/or my partner(s) are the final arbiters of what constitutes virtuous, flourishing behavior?

d. The hundreds, if not thousands of years of Catholic pastoral experience, in which the Church recognizes itself (or not) in the wide array of human behavior is ignored by the authors in favor something subjective. The real danger here is that people can justify any behavior, no matter how self-serving, as virtuous, flourishing, loving, just, moral, unitive and pro-creative.

The pro-creative aspect is particularly important, as the actual actions of an actual woman and man to bring an actual human living human being into actual existence – in and of themselves without reference to any form of assisted reproduction – trumps any abstract notions of virtuous, flourishing, loving, justice, unity and pro-creativity. Secular marriage and the Christian sacrament are merely recognition of this fundamental cell of human society, within which human beings love their children into being and create an environment in which those children flourish.

I challenge anyone to deny or doubt this. Look yourself in the mirror and ask how you got here. Last time I checked, no amount of non-reproductive sex, no matter how virtuous, flourishing, loving, just or moral, ever brought new life into this world. Its no stretch to use the involuntarily infertile marriage of a man and a woman as an icon for and of the fertile variety. For Christians to say otherwise renders all the nuptial imagery of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures powerless and only loosely metaphorical.

A final thought is the attempt to Catholicize the decoupling of biological sex, gender identification, marriage, reproduction, children and the family seems to have more in common with a transhumanist agenda than a Catholic one. Beware.

 

The Evolution of Catholic Teaching on Sex and Marriage.

In “The Sexual Person“, the Catholic lay theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler give a useful historical review of the substantial shifts in the orthodox doctrine on sex and marriage – while also illustrating how much of that teaching is stuck in the fourth century thought of Augustine, and that of Aquinas from the thirteenth century. (Is there any other field of human thought that is so rooted in those two distant periods?) This is an important book that I will be discussing regularly in small bites. For now, I simply want to point to the briefest summary of the main argument, in preparation for a specific extract referring to Pope Paul VI and Humane Vitae.

Two things strike me in this account. As I have frequently noted before, it is completely untrue that the Catholic Church has a “constant and unchanging tradition” on sexual ethics.  Rather, the tradition has been constantly evolving. Just consider the complete transformation of the view on sexual pleasure – from one that it is to be avoided at all costs, even while begetting children or in nocturnal involuntary emissions, to one where it can contribute to the sacramental value of marriage. What has evolved in the past, will surely continue to evolve. That evolution will surely be aided by the capacity of theologians and popes to retrieve, when required, obscure and forgotten pieces from history – and proclaim them of fundamental importance. In two thousand years of theological writing, there will surely be a plethora of documents now obscure, which contradict some current thinking. Some of these will no doubt be retrieved by scholars – and being rehabilitated, will influence further adjustments in the changing tradition of the Church.

 

St Augustine - 6th cent fresco, Lateran

Continue reading

The Pope Pontificates Again: Gays as Threat to World Ecology

Benedict and Cardinals, Christmas 2008

I had a teacher in college, a brilliant, multi-lingual Jesuit, who once told my class about a stunning poem he had written. He had awakened in the night with the poem complete in his head, Athena springing full-clad from Zeus’s brow. He wrote the poem down and went back to sleep satisfied that he’d captured a dazzling insight that would surely change the course of history.

Then he got up in the morning. He read what he’d written in the night and found it was total gibberish—a mix of six or seven different languages that didn’t make a whit of sense in any or all of them. The lesson our teacher told us he drew from this experience: be careful about those stunning inspirations that promise to cap every argument, explain everything for everybody, or provide the singular key that unlocks all mystery. Continue reading

The USCCB Pastoral Letter On Marriage…zzzzzz

This post was originally posted 10/12/2009 on my personal blog.  This ‘pastoral’ letter was one of those times when it became really apparent to me that I did not live in the same Catholic world this USCCB letter strongly suggests I live in……

I really did try to make it through the whole pastoral draft, but I admit, it was beyond my patience and tolerance level. In an effort to save readers some time, I’ll paraphrase the entire draft.

Everything is intrinsically evil when it comes to sex, unless sex is discretely engaged in for the purposes of procreation in a sacramental marriage.
That about sums up the entire message. No need to read the fifty or so pages which expand this basic concept–unless you want to subject yourself to excessive verbiage on the intrinsic evils of not understanding this basic concept.

The pastoral begins in the garden with Adam and Eve where we are informed that Eve is made to be Adam’s help meet and they are to be fruitful and multiply, and yes indeed they are made equally in God’s image with COMPLIMENTARY roles. This leads directly to the first of numerous cut and paste statements from one or the other of our last two popes. Oh yea, and the often stated but completely erroneous idea that the Church has always recognized marriage as between one man and woman for ever and ever amen–except for when it hasn’t, which was more or less it’s first 1100 years, which for some reason isn’t mentioned.

By the time I quit reading this pastoral it had more or less condemned 97% of American Catholics to hell if they don’t mend their ‘intrinsically evil’ ways. Which leaves about 3% of American Catholics saved and pastorally directed. A reasonable person might wonder what a Church actually has to offer when it’s leadership wipes out 97% of it’s membership in one pastoral letter.

A reasonable person might wonder if this statistical fact might just indicate that said leadership is completely out of touch with the real lived experience of their flock. Or maybe this is just an attempt to rally the true believing base, ala Rush Limbaugh. Judging from the comments on the NCR itself, it is not rallying the 97% it condemns to potential hell.

I personally agree with the NCR editorial board that the USCCB should just let this one quietly die, exactly as they did their ‘pastoral’ letter on women. At least with the pastoral letter on women they actually consulted women. Some people feel the disconnect this consultation presented between the teaching on women and women’s real experiences of the teaching is why that letter was dropped. Too much truth I guess.
This current pastoral letter most certainly didn’t consult anyone but JPII and Benedict. In my book, that’s kind of a definition of a cult when only one or two voices are consulted. This letter actually reads like most Opus Dei letters which constantly reference the thoughts of St. Escriva. I imagine a lot of members of Opus Dei are in that 3% and so they will be quite supportive of this letter. I wonder how many of them secretly wonder where God is when they sit at the kitchen table and try to balance the bills.
In this pastoral letter God is much more concerned with creating children than providing for them. In fact I don’t believe this pastoral letter even deals with any of the ‘providing for” aspects of creating the children we are to ‘raise and educate’ as our primary marital duty. Kind of like the abortion debate. There’s nary a word about providing the post birth care those potential humans will require.
I guess we are to trust in the providence of a God who lately has seemed quite indifferent to providing post birth care. Or maybe He is trying to provide–health care reform comes to mind–but His erstwhile leaders are too busy accepting provision for themselves from the very folks who aren’t interested in bringing God’s providence to fruition for the rest of us. Just a thought.

In any event, save yourself some serious frustration. Don’t attempt to read the whole thing. The NCR article and editorial has it about right. This letter is intended to be read by the Vatican for a pat on the back and career advancement. It’s not a useful or meaningful communication for American laity.

The Madness of Robert P. George

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Catholic neoconservatism has been guruless since the passing of  Richard John Neuhaus.  I thought at first, that newly minted conservative Catholic Newt Gingrich might be the logical successor.  Much like Neuhaus, Gingrich was a Protestant who converted to a strident form of Catholicism, thus straddling both worlds.

But I was wrong.   Gingrich is, after all, just a politician who may even be casting an eye towards the 2012 Presidential Elections.  Both neoconservatism and its religiously orthodox variant, theoconsevatism, require leaders who do not themselves seek elected office but instead, seek to influence others who do.  To that end there is another contender for the Neuhaus Throne:  Robert P. George.  I should have known. Continue reading