Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In This Example of Dissent I Find Hope

. . . and Evidence of God’s Life-Giving, Transforming,
and, Yes, Trouble-Making Spirit

Here is proof, my friends, that dissent is not necessarily a dirty word and that it can and has an important place in Roman Catholicism: Clerical Whispers is reporting that Roman Catholic Bishop Manuel Clemente of Porto, Portugal, has told reporters that in certain cases the use of condoms is not only recommendable but “ethically obligatory.”

This, of course, contradicts Pope Benedict’s controversial contention that the distribution of condoms increases the problem of HIV/AIDS. In other words, we’re seeing a bishop faithfully and, most encouragingly of all, publicly dissenting from the Pope’s (and by extension, the Church’s) uninformed and impoverished teaching on human sexuality.

But wait, it gets even better! According to Clerical Whispers, Bishop Clemente is the second Portuguese cleric to engage in public dissent: “Armed Forces Bishop Januario Torgal Ferreira said a week ago that to ban condom use was equivalent to consenting to the death of many people. He added that the people giving the pope advice ‘should be more learned.’”

I think it’s great that there are bishops who are speaking out on this issue. Their words are like a breath of fresh air! May more be inspired and emboldened by the example of these two particular prelates. I particularly appreciate Bishop Ferreira’s critique of the lack of informed opinion and knowledge in the Vatican when it comes to issues relating to sexuality.

This situation reminds me of when I interviewed Dr. Simon Rosser for CPCSM’s Rainbow Spirit in the fall of 2004. Toward the end of this interview, Dr. Rosser declares:

I have a lot of hope [for the Roman Catholic Church] because I think the situation is so bad that American Catholics will be forced to think for themselves. And that’s a good thing. Whether it’s homosexuality, contraception, premarital sex, divorce, masturbation, or HIV prevention, the official Church position is now so extreme, so negative, so ultra-conservative, and ill-informed, that I’m confident that less than 5 percent of Catholics actually believe or follow Catholic sexual teaching. In this situation either the church reforms or it dies. . . I’m confident it will reform. But we have to do our part.

In my view the situation has deteriorated further under the pontificate of Benedict XVI. So much so that we’re now seeing not just American Catholics thinking for themselves, speaking out, and doing their part but the Pope’s own brother bishops! What incredibly interesting and exciting times we’re living through as Catholics.

In the realm of the Church’s understanding of gender and sexuality, things are changing and will continue to change. The Spirit is afoot – and is definitely stirring things up!

And when I hear stories of faithful dissent by bishops and by Catholics at the
grassroots level of the Church all around the world, I am compelled to give thanks and praise to God and to recommit myself to embodying God’s life-giving, transforming, and, yes, trouble-making Spirit!

To be honest, as a follower of Jesus - whose life offers the ultimate example of such embodiment - I’m not sure what else I can do.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Pope Accused of “Distorting Scientific Evidence” on Condom Use
The Pope’s Message of Ignorance in Africa
The Vatican Considers the Lesser of Two Evils
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 1)
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 2)


Phillip Clark said...

Michael, I share you're joyful enthusiasm at this most recent news from Portugal! This is indeed what the leaders of our Church are called to do. Conscientiously dissent when they know what is true within their hearts.

Now, I guess we have to wait and see how long it will be, or ever, before reprecussion from Rome rains down upon these Portuguese prelates... If it never does, it's a great sign! Here's for wishful and hopeful thinking... =D

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess the Church is about to undergo a revolution. TWO BISHOPS dissent from the most outrageous pontifical proclamation in modern times, and some SEE "revolution."

What percentage is TWO -- YES TWO -- Portuguese bishops in the Episcopal College? Does this mean Armageddon is at hand? Any ENGLISH-speaking bishops concur?

Michael, have another, but don't get all sentimental over JUST TWO. With a faith that impoverished, what would THREE do?

Anonymous said...

English speaking bishops dissent? You must be kidding, particularly in the US.

“We’ll not get leadership from the clergy. They only ordain people who are celibate and pious and can’t lead anything. We could really use some bishops who embody the tradition of Catholicism. That could be a beginning.”

Dutch theologian, Eric Borgman

Jim McCrea

Veneration said...

Thankfully most bishops are not as cowardly and ignorant as these two dissenters. The use of contraceptives and promotion of the contraceptive mentality has encouraged a view of sexuality so depraved, it has made large numbers of Catholics willing partners in the abortion holocaust, a form of mass murder so vast, it has surpassed all other episodes of mass murder combined.