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Contemporary Catholic Belief and Action

 

The mission of ARCC is to bring about substantive structural change within the Catholic Church by seeking to institutionalize a collegial understanding of church where decision making is shared and accountability is realized among Catholics of every kind and condition.
 
Once people start to believe change is possible, 
the drive to achieve it accelerates. 
                                          -   Patrick Sullivan, ARCC Emeritus President
 
 
 An Open Letter from
 
Roman Catholic Women Bishops

(Certainly one of the most hopeful developments in the Roman Catholic Church has been the ordination of women as priests and bishops.
This week I am pleased to post this letter, sent to me by my friend Bishop Nancy Louise Meyer.
It is dated January 6, 2023. – Dr. John A. Dick, Editor ARCC Newsletter)

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An Open Letter to: the People of God, Pope Francis, Curia Officials, Conferences of Bishops in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania.

Hope arrived for women in the Roman Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Pope John XXIII called the Church to open the doors and windows and to “read the signs of the times”. When Pope Francis recently called for a global synodal process, we, the women bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, dared again to hope that the leadership of the Church would listen and walk with all the People of God. 

In a November interview published in America magazine, Pope Francis attempts to justify the exclusion of women from ordained ministry utilizing the archaic, patriarchal theology that Jesus was a man and he chose men as his apostles, therefore, priests must also be male. He appealed to the medieval spousal imagery of an active-receptive relationship, in which the Church is the bride and the priest the bridegroom. This disregards the fundamental message of the Gospel and contradicts our baptismal oneness in Christ: “. . . there is no longer male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Baptism rests on faith, not on gender, not nationality, nor any other form of discrimination.

In the interview, Francis fails to acknowledge the many times in Scripture where women are chosen by God or Jesus to minister. Mary of Magdala was proclaimed ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ and a host of other women named in Scripture went out to proclaim the Good News in the early church. The argument that maleness is necessary for ordination damages the Church and greater society. A church subjugating women with their structures supports similar subjugation in the world. In this the Roman Catholic Church violates its own words from the Second Vatican Council which states that, “Forms of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed or eradicated as incompatible with God’s designs.”(Gaudium et Spes 29) Francis’ attempt to justify the exclusion of women from ordination is a failure to “read the signs of the times” and to understand the basic human rights of all members of the Church.

Roman Catholic Women deacons, priests and bishops have answered the call of God and their communities through valid ordination in apostolic succession. We are providing a vibrant experience of community and sacraments where we live. We are not responsible for people leaving the Church, we are bringing people back to the faith. We heal those grievously wounded by physical, emotional and spiritual abuse and exclusion. We offer a model of church easily recognizable as Roman Catholic, but offering transparency of governance, the inclusion of those marginalized, and recognition of gender equality.

We call on Pope Francis and the Conferences of Bishops in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania to meet with us, the Roman Catholic Women Bishops serving across the world. Despite his call for dialogue, Pope Francis refuses to engage in authentic conversation with us. Francis can use his Petrine key to unlock that door.

On behalf of Roman Catholic Women deacons, priests and bishops around the world:

+Jane Kryzanowski, Regina, SK, Canada; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

+Martha Sherman, Washington, IA; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+Mary Eileen Collingwood, Cleveland, OH, USA; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Pettenbach, Austria; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+Jane Via, San Diego, CA, USA;This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+Olga Lucia Álvarez Benjumea, Envigado, Colombia

+Jean Marie Marchant, Boston, MA, USA

+Suzanne Avison Thiel, Portland, OR, USA

+Mary Keldermans, Springfield, IL, USA

+Ida Raming, Stuttgart, Germany

+Bridget Mary Meehan, Sarasota, FL, USA

+Marie Evans Bouclin, Sudbury, ON, Canada

+Merlene Olivia Doko, Pismo Beach, CA, USA

+Andrea Michele Johnson, Annapolis, MD, USA

+Sibyl Dana Reynolds, Pebble Beach, CA, USA

+Joan Clark Houk, South Bend, IN, USA

+Patricia Fresen, Johannesburg, South Africa

+Nancy Louise Meyer, Brownsburg, IN, USA

+Dr. Gisela Forster, Berg, Germany

www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org

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Human

Contemporary Catholic Belief and Action

 

The mission of ARCC is to bring about substantive structural change within the Catholic Church by seeking to institutionalize a collegial understanding of church where decision making is shared and accountability is realized among Catholics of every kind and condition.
 
Once people start to believe change is possible, 
the drive to achieve it accelerates. 
                                          -   Patrick Sullivan, ARCC Emeritus President
 
 
 

Homosexuality and Contemporary Belief

John A. Dick

Historical Theologian

Leuven Belgium

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Joseph Ratzinger, who passed from this life on December 31, 2022, generated a lot of reaction and questions. One issue that many people have commented about was his strong affirmation of Catholic teaching about gender, human sexuality, and specifically the same-sex orientation, traditionally called “homosexuality.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "homosexual acts" are "acts of grave depravity" that are "intrinsically disordered….Under no circumstances can they be approved." Regarding homosexuality as an orientation, the Catechism describes it as "objectively disordered." The Catechism, as I mentioned last week was drafted by a commission chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1992.

Certainly today the scientific and experiential insights available to us clearly indicate that the RCC’s theological tradition can be and must be approached critically, to clarify its foundation, rationale, and continued meaningfulness in the changed socio-historical circumstances of the contemporary world.

The Bible and Homosexuality

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) turns to the Bible in its discussion of the "problem of homosexuality" and asserts that "there is ... a clear consistency within the sacred scriptures for judging the immorality of homosexual behavior.” The texts on which this "clear consistency” is built are: Genesis 19:1-11; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10.

Nevertheless, in the light of contemporary biblical scholarship, it is impossible to agree that the texts on which this Catholic tradition about the immorality of homosexual acts is based are "unambiguous" and provide "solid foundation." Contemporary theologians would stress that the biblical accounts are complex and socio-historically conditioned literary forms that demand careful historical-critical analysis.

First of all, neither the Bible nor the Christian tradition rooted in it prior to the twentieth century ever really considered the homosexual condition as a specific sexual orientation. They took for granted that everyone was heterosexual. To look for any mention in the biblical texts of what today is called "homosexual orientation" is simply unfounded. One might just as well search the Bible for advice about buying a cellphone or a laptop computer

The context in which both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New testament condemn homosexual acts is shaped by the socio-historical conditions of the times in which they were written, namely that all human beings naturally share the heterosexual condition and that, therefore, any homosexual behavior is a perversion of "nature" and immoral. Because that biblical assumption is now scientifically shown to be incorrect, the Bible has little to contribute to the discussion of genuine homosexuality and homosexuals as we understand them today. In fact, the Bible also contains many questionable moral teachings about sex: the evil of sexual relations during menstruation for example, or about the stoning of adulterers, about women's role, about slavery, and a host of other issues. All of these issues have been rejected by modern Catholic moral theology as archaic misunderstandings. But homosexuality?

In this reflection, I cannot go into a detailed analysis of all biblical texts touching on homosexuality. For a detailed analysis of the biblical texts I suggest the book: The Sexual Person, Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, by Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler (Georgetown University Press / Washington, D.C., 2008). It is still an excellent book. I have known and respected Todd for many years, from the time he was a theology student at the Catholic University of Leuven and then completed his doctorate in 1994.

The Catholic tradition also teaches that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered because they are  “contrary to the natural law.”

The Natural Law Argument

In determining contemporary moral values and behavior, a realistic understanding of human life requires an historically conscious worldview, because human reality is dynamic, evolving, and changing. We certainly see this when it comes to medical science. During the 19th century, for example, bloodletting was a very common treatment for basically any ailment you might be suffering from. At the time, doctors believed that too much blood would throw off the balance in your body.

People today laugh at such ignorant foolishness. People, however, do not always apply new human insights to moral moral values. As our human understanding develops and changes, so too do our human concepts, theories, and courses of action. This is not a matter of relativism but of changing human perspectives. There is indeed a human thread from generation to generation that links faith and moral values. People in every age reflect, evaluate, and interpret that faith and moral values tradition in terms of their contemporary culture and understanding.

When people determine moral obligations from “nature,” they are really deriving them from their own human interpretation of “nature.” The challenge with “natural law”and “human nature” is that our understanding of human sexuality – with its biological, emotional, psychological, relational, and spiritual dimensions — has developed historically and it continues to develop. I learned this years ago from my Louvain (Leuven) professor, Louis Janssens (1908 – 2001), founder of the Louvain tradition of personalism. Janssens made an original contribution to the study of the human person through the approach which he coined as “the human person adequately considered.”

Personalist moral philosophers and theologians stress that the old “traditional” biological and strictly physicalist understanding of traditional natural law and human “nature” must be transformed into a contemporary personalist, relational understanding. The former defines the morality of acts based only on the physical, biological structure of those acts. The latter defines the morality of acts based on the meaning of those acts for persons and relationships. Marital sexuality in a personalist relational understanding, for example, is about much more than simply linking genitalia to produce progeny.

The ethical criterion for human choices and actions therefore is the extent to which these choices and actions respect and enhance a person’s living together in time and space, in all the many different dimensions of a person’s life world and life history: familial, social, material, environmental, spiritual, physical, and psychological. This is “the human person adequately considered.”

"Nature" and natural law have always had a prominent place in Catholic moral theology and, in official Church teaching, not only homosexuality but also masturbation, premarital, extramarital, contraceptive, and non-reproductive types of marital sexual activity have been condemned as “contrary to the natural law.”

I would emphasize, however, that every interpretation of "nature" is a socially constructed reality dependent on human perspective and interpretations. The reality of "nature" must  always be subjected to scrutiny, even if the interpretation be advanced by the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Homosexual sexual acts are "natural" for people with a homosexual orientation, just as heterosexual sexual acts are "natural" for people with a heterosexual orientation. Period. Sexual acts are moral when they are natural, reasonable, and expressed in a truly human, just, and loving manner.

The historical Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. He did say “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

(Mark 12:31) 

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If you have reactions about this article please write to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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 Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
 
 

Quick Links... 

JOIN ARCC or RENEW

CONTACT ARCC 

 

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Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, ARCC,

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Human

Contemporary Catholic Belief and Action

 

The mission of ARCC is to bring about substantive structural change within the Catholic Church by seeking to institutionalize a collegial understanding of church where decision making is shared and accountability is realized among Catholics of every kind and condition.
 
Once people start to believe change is possible, 
the drive to achieve it accelerates. 
                                          -   Patrick Sullivan, ARCC Emeritus President
 
 
 

The Incoherence of the Catholic Pro-life Position

Ann Marie B. Bahr 

Ann Marie B. Bahr is Emerita Professor of Religion 

at South Dakota State University, 

a biblical scholar, and a practicing Roman Catholic. 

She is the author or editor of seven books and numerous shorter publications.

****
 
 

The Catholic intellectual tradition contains some of the finest systematic philosophical reflections in the world, but I cannot make sense of its pro-life argument. I examine it here not out of animus toward the Catholic Church but because its internally contradictory claims are also found in debates in the broader society about abortion, animal rights, and the rights of persons in law and medical ethics.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person” (paragraph 2270, my emphasis). The underlined words are derived from two different ontological and ethical positions, both used by contemporary Catholics, one of which was defined in pre-modern times and the other in the modern era.

The first (“human being”) draws upon the modern science of genetics. It refers to a member of a particular biological species: homo sapiens. It is used in pro-life arguments because the fertilized egg contains the entire DNA of a unique individual. Thus, it is argued that human life begins at conception. And so it does if we are talking only about a particular member of a specific biological species.

The term “person” derives from ancient Western drama, pre-modern theology, and law. It was used in ancient Greek drama to refer to the mask used by an actor. Early Christians used it to explain the Trinity, defined as three “persons” in one God. Jews and Christians used it to describe the biblical statement that men and women are made in the image of God (Bereshit/Genesis 1:26-27). It remains an important philosophical and theological concept today. For example, it is “persons,” not human beings per se, who have legal rights and responsibilities. Personhood is a robust concept designed to capture the most significant characteristics of humanity, e.g., the ability to reason, being a moral agent, having free will, being self-aware, displaying self-motivated activity, ability to communicate with other persons, and the ability to form relationships with other persons.

While “human being” and “person” overlap, they are not identical. One can be a human being but not a person; e.g., a child who has not attained “the age of reason” is not a legal person, and therefore s/he cannot be held legally responsible for a crime. And one can be a person but not a human being, as is the case with the three persons of the Christian Trinity. Other examples of non-human persons include angels, who are a rung above humans in the medieval “great chain of being,” and, some would argue, animals who are a rung below humans but seem conscious, self-directed, and can form relationships. Another indication that the two terms are not identical is that the older concept (“person”) has not faded with the development of the modern science of genetics. That is because attributes like moral agency and self-direction are necessary for the practice of law and medical ethics. It is persons, not human beings per se, who have rights and responsibilities. 

Thus, it is not true that “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person” (paragraph 2270 of the Catechism). Personhood and its rights develop over time. A two-year-old does not have the right to vote. A seven-year-old does not have the right to marry. We grow into our rights and responsibilities.

When I asked why a fertilized egg, which does not have the characteristics of a person, should have the rights of a person, I was told it was because the DNA contains all the information necessary for the development of a unique individual. The replication of that original blueprint creates the person. 

But does it? Do self-awareness, self-motivated activity, moral reasoning, relationality, and the ability to use language emerge from my genetic endowment? I suspect that the characteristics of personhood are instead the result of nurture and relationships that form as we grow from infancy through childhood and into adulthood. The experiences and the educational opportunities have been used for developing my ability to reason, the activities in which I choose to participate, my language and communication skills, the relationships I have with others, and my reflection upon my role in those relationships—these all shape who I am as a person. They create my identity. This means personhood and personal identity develop after birth, and even then, only gradually.

The Catechism also says, “357 Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, and freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons.”  Precisely—this statement captures the traditional concept of personhood.

But to confuse identity with genetics means we are neither relational nor free. The fact that we hold persons to be legally and morally responsible for their actions means that they could have done otherwise; they are not enslaved people by birth, nor are they fated by destiny to do what they do. The modern application of this anthropological insight means that the self we will become is not written into our genes. It is nurtured by family, education, religious organizations, etc., but ultimately chosen by us as we choose which of the many paths we will follow. The legal and moral definitions of a person are premised on reason and free will, not genetics. If to be a person means to be rational, then I cannot be considered a person until I am able to reason well. Therefore, an uneducated human being has been deprived of a crucial part of their personhood. If to be a person means to have free will, then enslaved people have been deprived of a critical aspect of their personhood. Someone held in isolation, cut off from other human beings, has been deprived of a fundamental element of personhood. Indeed, our ideas about human rights are tightly interwoven with our beliefs about personhood as developed in the past millennia. It is persons and only persons who have rights. 

Perhaps one could argue that even though most rights are attained after birth, the right to life occurs at the moment of conception. Suppose we grant that premise (just for the sake of argument); in that case, we have an unborn but genetically complete human with a right to life and a female with a more extensive set of rights (perhaps including the right to complete her education and find gainful employment). The female also has a set of responsibilities (possibly other family members to care for, attaining and maintaining living quarters), while the unborn has none. It is easy to see that the unborn’s right to life and the rights and responsibilities of the pregnant female might conflict. This forces us to ask whether there is a hierarchy among rights. Does the right to life trump all other rights? This question arose when I noticed that a Catholic priest was privileging the first triad of “unalienable rights” (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) in the Declaration of Independence. When I asked why, the reason given was that the right to life is the prerequisite for all the other rights. Accurate in a temporal sense, but does that give it a higher priority than other rights? The authors of the Declaration of Independence were among the many in the course of history who have been willing to sacrifice their life, if necessary, in order to gain liberty. I see no reason to assume that the founders prioritized life over liberty. 

It is, of course, a noble and beautiful decision to set aside one’s rights to education, career, etc., to give life to a child, and we should all be grateful to the woman who sacrificed a portion of her life to give us life. We should probably feel morally obligated to sacrifice something for her in return. But both the woman’s sacrifice and that of her offspring are freely chosen, compelled by conscience perhaps, certainly by gratitude, and hopefully by love, but not by legal or spiritual coercion. 

In conclusion, the Catholic Church needs to address the confusion that results from equating “human being” and “person,” given the non-identity of the two terms in ethics and law.  The Church also needs to recognize that what is needed is a balancing act between the right of the unborn to life and the rights and responsibilities of the woman. There are two lives to be considered, not just one. Finally, the Catholic Church needs to recognize that women are full persons with intelligence, moral agency, and decision-making authority. They may appreciate advice and assistance from someone who respects their autonomy, but they do not need anyone to direct their life and make decisions for them.

[This article is re-published: Courtesy of the  iPub Forum,  division of iPub Global Connection LLC.]

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 Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
 
 

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