Thursday, October 02, 2008

Uncomfortable Question, Enlightened Response

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong (pictured at right) has recently given an enlightened response to a reader of his regular online column.

Shari Miller of Denver, CO, asks why the current Roman Catholic Church position on transgenderism is “so dreadful, so lacking in compassion”?

Following is Spong’s response:

Dear Shari,

The Catholic Church, like most religious bodies, is in an inner struggle between the values of yesterday and the rising consciousness of a changing world. Because that church is also autocratic and allows so little dissent, it is very difficult for them ever to change their thinking until new truth is so established in the world at large that their position becomes embarrassing. It was not until December of 1991 that the Vatican announced that they now believed that Galileo was correct. This was only 50 years after human beings had launched space explorations, which were based on Galileo’s insights. Similarly this is why their stated opinions on birth control, the role of women and homosexuality are, as you say, so lacking in compassion and dreadful.

On the other hand their attitudes toward capital punishment, war and the need to care for the poor are sometimes far more advanced than what one finds in Protestant fundamentalism.

No one can fully escape the culture and ideas that form a particular age. The rise in human consciousness toward such things as war, the role of women and homosexuality is never implemented at once by all. It grows, beginning with a single protest, until it becomes a heresy, then a movement and finally a reformation. It then becomes a new orthodoxy equally resistant to change.

You serve the Church well when you raise uncomfortable questions. I hope you will continue to do so.

– John Shelby Spong

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
To Whom the Future of the Catholic Church Belongs
What it Means to Be Catholic
A Church That Can and Cannot Change
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
It’s Time We Evolved Beyond Theological Imperialism
The Holarchical Church: Not a Pyramid but a Web of Relationships
A Smaller, Purer Vision of Church – and Why it Won’t Work
It’s a Great Time to Be Catholic . . .
Uta Ranke-Heinemann on the Future of the Catholic Church
An Australian Bishop’s “Radical” Call for Reform
Keeping the Spark Alive: A Conversation with Chuck Lofy

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