Saturday, August 19, 2006

Those Europeans Are At It Again

Now here's something you won't see on American or Australian screens. It's a clever, insightful, funny, and poignant French commercial promoting condom use. I'm guessing it's shown in cinemas before featured films.

Its message is simple and universal: "Live long enough to find the right one".

I particularly appreciate the filmmaker's depiction of childhood experiences of difference and ridicule around gender expectations, and the fact that standing up to such ridicule and condemnation can lead to deeper self awareness and acceptance. I mean, that knowing smile of the hero when we first see him as a young adult is just priceless!

And did you notice the rather overt (and negative) reference to God?

From my experience, however, God isn't to be found in any real or imagined finger condemningly coming down from the sky, but in our honest searching for right relationship with others. It's a search that, like our young hero shows, may well involve missteps and mistakes.

Nevertheless, such experiences can, without doubt, serve as vehicles for learning and transformation. I'm not advocating that we all go out and purposely do things we know are not life-giving for either ourselves or others. But what I am saying is that sometimes I have to find out for myself what is true and "life-giving" for me and those with whom I am in relationship. It's a journey, a learning process - and one that should be open to questions, exploration, and the possibility of mistakes along the way.

Having said that, I don't believe personal experience is the sole norm governing behavior. Yet this doesn't mean that personal experience, including the personal experiences of LGBT people, should be ignored completely when, for instance, the Catholic Church makes ethical and/or doctrinal judgments on matters related to human sexuality.

As Australian theologian Paul Collins reminds us, "Consulting the laity in the formulation of doctrine is part of Catholicism's theological tradition. Also, the whole Church's acceptance of papal and episcopal teaching is an integral part of testing the veracity of that teaching. The hierarchy does not have a monopoly on truth." Collins finds support for such claims in the writings of the great English theologian, Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90), "who said unequivocally that the laity have to be consulted in matters of doctrine, especially when teachings concern their lives so intimately". (Collins, P., Between the Rock and a Hard Place: Being Catholic Today, ABC Books, Sydney, 2004, p. 12.)

Wrote Newman: "The body of the faithful is one of the witnesses to the fact of the tradition of revealed doctrine, and . . . their consensus through Christendom is the voice of the Infallible Church". (Newman, J.H., On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, (1859), ed. John Coulson, Collins, London, 1961, p. 63.)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Rejecting the "Lesser Evil"
The Non-negotiables of Human Sex
A Lesson from Play School

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