Wednesday, May 9, 2012

all right then.

I live in PA, not NC, so I haven't really been following the news about Amendment One. But I heard today that the ban on same-sex marriage passed.

My first thought was, "What the hell, NC?" But my actual thoughts are a little more complicated than that (uh, did you expect them not to be?), so here are some of the things that are running through my head. My head is a spacey, disjointed, chaotic place, so forgive me if my thoughts come out that way.

1. I'm a politically liberal and (probably) theologically orthodox Catholic. I don't think that's a contradiction, and just because a certain subset of voices speaks the loudest doesn't mean that we don't exist. (helloooooooo, Catholic Workers.)  When I became Catholic, my dad said to me, "But you're so anti-authoritarian." Yeah. Still am, a bit. And, frankly, the leadership of the Church has done almost nada to convince me that they're morally superior to your average Joe Schmoe (or Jane Schmoe) on the street. See: sexual abuse cases.

2. I don't think that religious beliefs about sexual orientation or marriage should influence how the state views them. And vice versa. And I think that married same-sex couples should get the same rights and privileges as, umm, non-same-sex (heterosexual? opposite-sex?) couples.

3. Marriage has not always been one man and one woman. If you want to make an argument based on history, that's not the way to go (and for years and years, women and children were considered property. Yeah, history: real moral).

4. Anyway, bullshit on the "marriage being redefined" thing. The Church isn't being forced to redefine the sacraments, is it?  And really, if your marriage is so weak that a gay couple getting married is going to screw it up...well, I really have nothing to say to you.

5. My God has much more to say about things like taking care of the poor and standing up to injustice than he does about sex. And if I'm wrong? If I stand before God one day and he looks down at me and condemns me for supporting marriage equality? Well, in the words of the immortal Huck Finn, All right then, I'll go to hell.

6. My life is not affected by this. Really. It's not. I'm a straight girl. Hell, I don't even know if I want to get married. So I don't even have a dog in the so-called fight. But...

7. Cliche of cliches: I have gay friends. I have gay friends who are couples, who are married. And this kind of thing? It hurts them.

There you are, darlings. Let me know if I used one of these, and don't do it yourself.


  1. Maybe I will respond over time to each point. I responded to your facebook post, because well, I knew you in college, although not in depth, but I know you converted so, well, I was a bit surprised by your comment about the news. So I will start a friendly/frank discussion of things with you.
    About point 1: Your argument to support your point about trusting the church as morally superior is the typically flawed view of most who are NOT Catholic; where one uses examples of sins committed in the church by individuals within to try to discredit the authority entrust to the church by Jesus Christ to teach on matters of Faith and morals. Yes, morals are included. It is important to distinguish that the church has never, in her teachings approved of, or supported child abuse. The church's teachings always point both her lay people AND the leaders of the church to the IDEAL what we should be striving to be. But human frailty and sinfulness is what it is, and human views are affected by the times they live in as well. So child abuse in the church at the time was covered up just as it was covered up in general in society at that time. My own mother is a testament to that. Also important to note that a MUCH GREATER degree of sexual abuse happens OUTSIDE the Catholic Church, in other public institutions and protestant denominations, but the Catholic Church is more greatly deomonized for it, which is to be expected considering her great dignity as the one true Church. So I am not letting her leaders off the hook for that. However, the scandal itself is a modern-day testament to the true-ness of the Catholic faith, because Christ does not allow the gates of hell to prevail against it, no matter how sinful members within become.
    So as a closing note, if we do not believe the church's authority on morality - which is an explicit authority we are bound to accept to consider ourselves faithful Catholics - then what stops us from rejecting other teachings as well? Why not pick and choose? Wait... that would mean I am no longer a faithful Catholic...

  2. Also important to note that a MUCH GREATER degree of sexual abuse happens OUTSIDE the Catholic Church

    If true, why is that important? How would the greater atrocities committed by other people lend moral authority to people who are still committing atrocities? If my brother became a thief, would that make me more righteous than if he did not steal?

    So as a closing note, if we do not believe the church's authority on morality - which is an explicit authority we are bound to accept to consider ourselves faithful Catholics - then what stops us from rejecting other teachings as well?

    I think I'm confused on how this is supposed to work. The Catholic church is supposed to be the best moral authority and promulgator of divine views and commands in the world, and the Catholic faithful are supposed to accept divine authority, but the authorities of the church are not generally considered infallible - to my understanding, speaking ex cathedra is reserved for the Pope and has happened infrequently enough to count on one hand. So if the church authorities acknowledge that they sometimes improve their understanding of divine will over time and so change policies, why must the emphasis be on the need for the lay-faithful to accept the statements of those with church authority, rather than on the need for the church authorities to continually and humbly seek to improve their understanding of divine will?

    To perhaps phrase it more briefly: knowing that human fallibility is inevitable, how can absolute acceptance of human statements be reconciled with absolute devotion to the immortal Church?

  3. The issue isn't that some priests are pedophiles and rapists; the issue is that the church has not used its moral authority to roundly condemn pedophilia and rape in actu (rather than merely in doctrina) and protect actual children from them. Instead, it has chosen to emphasize its authority at the expense of the needs of morality, and continues to do so, by actively defending their misdeeds in courts of law, expending huge sums of money defending the act of covering up pedophilia. This is not a merely Protestant objection: one needs only look at the incredible drop in church attendance in Ireland since the scandal broke there to see Catholic laity--a Catholic laity with a deeply in-grained heritage of resistance to Protestantizing--losing faith in the moral authority of the church, and indeed losing faith altogether.

    Now, I fully recognize that church teaching is an ideal, and that we do not toss out ideals simply because people fail to live up to them. But there is a difference between failing to live up to an ideal and outright hypocrisy, which is failing to live up to an ideal and then denying that you have failed to live up to that ideal and indeed setting yourself up as a moral judge of others. The church does not show humility and does not listen to its laity; it literalizes the metaphor of priests as stand-ins for Christ to an extreme degree, driving the laity out of the body of Christ, driving women religious out of the body of Christ. And why? Why are these people being cut off? Because they deny God the Father, or God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit? Because they deny any particularly controversial point of church dogma, such as the Immaculate Conception? No, they deny none of these things. They only claim that certain doctrina about the poor, about reproduction, even about what the state should recognize as marriage (a distinct category, as Sarah has pointed out, from what the church recognizes) are less essential, or even that they do not stand up to reason.

    It is important not to conflate doctrine and dogma. Doctrina is answerable to quaestio and disputatio, to principles of reason, and reason should take into account church teaching. But, and this is a very significant but, church teaching is not monolithic, it is not historically total. It has evolved. This truth attests to two things: that God's revelation is still working in the world, and that it is part of the church's work to test each potentially new evolution of understanding and to hold fast to what is good. But it also attests to the fact that there is no historically stable definition of church moral teaching which we can use as an easy fallback position, a stronghold to retreat to. We make a serious mistake if we think that the church's present teachings did not come out of reasoned debates about what Scripture meant, even about what previous "authorities" (the word derives from "auctor" which simply means author, writer) such as Augustine and Jerome meant, among priests, monks, and highly educated laypeople. The authority of the church must be founded ultimately on the reasonableness of its arguments and its moral authority on the love and humility with which it presents these arguments. The appeal to reason is not a license to intellectual anarchy, to the "pick and choose" straw man, but to considered debate, respect for the limitations of human knowledge, acknowledgment that though the church has been entrusted with a great responsibility the church is not God and cannot speak as God but only as a mediator of God (any more than Scripture, for Protestants, can speak as God, with an unmediated, uncritical authority), and the recognition that all persuasion, all conversion, is an act of love, not authority.

  4. Also, there's the issue of faith, which is just so sadly and completely missing here. What stops us from picking and choosing to reject, I dunno, that Jesus died for our sins? In part, it's the relationship we have with God, the encounter we have of loving God which leads us to fuller knowledge of God, to the knowledge that, to paraphrase Bernard of Clairvaux, we owe him our lives twice, for he created us in love and in love he conquered death for us. Having written such a wall of text, there are just too many problems with an epistemology that depends entirely on church authority to count.