Monday, October 18, 2010

Daniel Maguire on the Progressive Core of Catholicism

Theologian Rita Nakashima Brock describes Daniel Maguire (pictured at left) as “among the most important Roman Catholic social ethicists writing today.” The Marquette University professor and author, says Brock, “has never hesitated to expose his church’s most unjust, life-denying teachings with both a sense of humor and a sensitivity to tragedy. He has, more importantly, spent his career drawing out the best in Catholic ethics.”

In the field of Catholic ethics, Daniel Maguire is renowned for his informed critique of the sexual theology presented by the clerical leadership of the Roman Catholic Church – a theology sadly divorced from human experience and the insights of the sciences. This is especially evident in the clerical leadership’s stance on homosexuality and gay marriage.

As one of the founding members of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, I’m happy to announce that Daniel Maguire will be in the Twin Cities this Thursday, October 21, as the keynote speaker at a Catholics for Marriage Equality MN event entitled “Why You Can Be Catholic and Support Gay Marriage.” At this event (the details of which can be viewed here), Daniel will explore how support for same-sex marriage can be found in all of the world religions, including Roman Catholicism.

It will definitely be an enlightening and timely event, especially given the MN Catholic bishops’ current anti-gay marriage campaign ahead of the November 2 state elections. Of course, the result of the gubernatorial component of these elections will determine the future of same-sex marriage in Minnesota. After all, gubernatorial candidates Mark Dayton of the DFL and Tom Horner of the Independence Party support same-sex marriage. Republican candidate Tom Emmer does not. And as Nicole Sotelo notes, “Any Catholic Minnesotan who watches the [bishops’ anti-gay marriage] DVD and [Emmer’s] television ad – both issued in the same week – receives a one-two punch and knows exactly who [the bishops are] championing.”

In the lead-up to Daniel’s October 21 presentation, I start today a special Wild Reed series featuring excerpts from his latest book, Whose Church? – A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism. Enjoy!


There is an old Russian saying: “Fear has big eyes.” Right-wingers are scared, hyperventilating people – scared of other nations, other classes, other races, other genders, other sexual orientations – and so their eyes are big and focused. They know that in politics, power wins. And they know that religions are powerhouses pumping energy into the public square, defining everything from what counts as “moral values” or “family values” to how good people should vote. They even throw in religiously disguised meat to pump up “the dogs of war.”

Power-hungry politicians drape themselves in pious rhetoric. God talk rises in proportion to the mischief afoot.

. . . Now here’s the zinger. The world’s religions are left-wing movements. It’s hard to imagine Jesus or his mother, or Moses, or Isaiah, or Mohammad, or the Buddha or Lao-tzu, or Confucius or Gandhi being asked to give the invocation at a Republican national convention. All the world’s major religions started out powered by the left-wing passions of justice, hope, and compassion for the powerless. In their own flawed way they are classics, classics in the art of spotting and targeting exploitation of the have-nots by the haves. Filled as they are with lots of nasty flotsam and jetsam picked up on their voyage through the chaos of history, the world’s religions are still at root left-wingers.

Of course, aberrant piety tones down the heroes and heroines of these religions and baptizes them into the cult of the cozy, where the well salaried and well caloried dwell. Look at what they did to Jesus’ mother, Mary. Much of the Mary-cult presents her as the queen of the Stepford Wives. In life she was a rebel. The Gospels allowed her one little speech and it was a blockbuster. She began cagily, putting power-holding listeners at ease: “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Harmless enough. The power holders could say, “Magnify away there, little lady; you’ll do no harm.” But a few verses later she tore into the rich and privileged, routing the “arrogant of heart” and the “monarchs” and lifting the humble and the poor on high! She was into the redistribution of wealth and power. Her short speech has been called “one of the most revolutionary documents in all literature, containing three separate revolutions” – moral, political, and economic. No wonder they never let her talk again. She scared the guys!

This compassion, justice hunger, and hope – the passions of healthy left wingism – found form in the Catholic social justice tradition, which draws on centuries of theories of justice.

Of course, the next question is “Where did all this good social justice stuff go?” How did it get smothered in the pelvic orthodoxy obsessions of much of contemporary Catholicism?

Good question.

The progressive tradition has been reactivated by Catholic feminists and Latin American liberation theologians, and it is alive and well in Catholic peace groups like Pax Christi and in Catholic lay groups like Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful. It never died out in Dorothy Day and her Catholic Worker movement. But it definitely got shoved out of the Catholic mainstream. Catholic pews have been emptying and its “bare ruined choirs” are bewailed. There is a reason for that. Catholicism suffered a terrible blanding over time as it lost touch with its fiery justice core. In a world with deserts spreading, oceans swelling, and bombs bursting in every air, all sources of moral energy are needed to save this self-destructive species that dares to call itself sapiens.

. . . Christians [need to] read the signs of the times and find the renewable moral energies of their religion and apply them with smarts and courage to a world in terminal peril.

For the next installment in this series, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
In What Sense Are We Progressive Catholics? – The Editorial Team (The Progressive Catholic Voice, February 10, 2009).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 15, 2010).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 19, 2010).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 28, 2010).
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission – Paul Lakeland (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 19, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“I Love the Radical Catholic Church”
Our Progressive Catholic Youth
Remembering Dorothy Day
Remembering the “Radical Ethic” of the Catholic Worker Movement
Francis of Assisi: The Antithesis of Clericalism and Monarchism
The Roman Catholic Pyramid is Crumbling
Authentic Catholicism: The Antidote to Clericalism

1 comment:

colkoch said...

Powerful post Michael and I look forward to more of Dr Maguire's thoughts.

In my thinking what the Church is promulgating is a teen age boy sexual morality and a teen age girl spiritual piety. A powerful faction of the hierarchy is treating progressives like rebellious teen agers, while their lay cohorts attempt to kick us out of the 'in crowd'. I am personally sick of all the immaturity.

Adults are not generally fear driven over identity, esteem, and power issues. Not so teens which is why bullying works so well with that level of personal maturity. The Holy Spirit is sending clear messages about all of this and it's time progressives took back the megaphone.