Thursday, June 04, 2009

Spring Round-Up

“Howdy, pardners!” Or should that be “Gidday mates,” given the opening image of Hugh Jackman as The Drover in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia?

Either way, I’m happy to share with you a “spring round-up” of some online articles I’ve recently come across and which I find to be particularly insightful, interesting, and/or inspiring.


First up is my friend Paula Ruddy’s Progressive Catholic Voice article, “One Archdiocesan Community, Two Mindsets,” in which she makes the case for the Pentecost encounter last Sunday between Archbishop John C. Nienstedt and the Rainbow Sash Alliance being illustrative of the two different mindsets articulated by Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., and which he terms “Communion Catholic” and “Kingdom Catholic.”

Currently in the comments section of this article there’s a great dialogue taking place between Paula and “Jamez.” I particularly appreciate the following from Jamez:

Catholic culture is far more than that which operates within the formal institution. As more people are chased out of the formal institutional [church], we will experience an informal renaissance of Catholic culture. I believe we are in it now. The Spirit moves where it wills. Vatican II is working.

Paula’s article and the dialogue it’s facilitating are well worth checking out – not to mention jumping right on into, if you feel so inclined!


Another post that has generated much conversation is a well written and interestingly researched one by Eric (over at Serpentis Sacra) on gay sexual ethics.

Some of the back-and-forth comments in response to Eric’s post that I’ve found to be particularly interesting include the following:

Matthew writes: Growing up in an inner city Anglo-Catholic environment, it was the gay couples who were most honest about sex in and out of their relationships that seemed the healthiest and most loving. The ones that attempted monogamy, namely me, or even continence, namely the clergy, just seem in the end to be uptight, dishonest and lacking in love.

Davis writes: [Matthew wrote that] “safe non-relational or ex-relational sex, would not seem to be bad for spiritual/physical health, so why forbid it?” I do dispute this. My experience is that the lack of commitment shows a lack of regard for both (or more) parties involved. Whether or not the physical health is imperiled, the spiritual health and self-esteem can be imperiled. “No man can serve two masters...” The depths of love cannot really be plumbed in casual encounters, again in my experience. Rather than seeing the casual encounter as “forbidden” it can still be seen as less fulfilling.

Joseph writes: As Christians [we] are called to reflect the everlasting love of the Most Holy Trinity. God says that He is a jealous god, meaning that our love for him is not to be shared with any other god, whether metaphysical or temporal. If we share our sexual love with more than one person, are we not in danger of creating jealousies, hurts, etc? From a practical standpoint, I happen to think that adding a third (or more) sexual/romantic partner is more than likely to create division, jealousy, pride, and many other non-desirable (at least to Christians) attributes. Every gay couple with an open relationship that I have known, have failed as a couple.

Gabe writes: A sacramental union is foremost about mutual aid toward the salvation of each other’s souls. . . . I could not be sexually active with someone besides my spouse without feeling that I had betrayed him, and if he sought sexual gratification elsewhere it would feel like the same against me. He feels the same way. Hormonally and otherwise, there is no such thing as casual sex, and to attempt it while in a committed relationship is to deliberately entertain temptations to abandon your partner.


Speaking of committed relationships, Terence over at Queering the Church has recently posted a great piece entitled “Marriage Equality and the Church,” in which he surveys the status of marriage equality in both the U.S. and Europe.

I find his conclusions heartening:

There is no longer any doubt: marriage equality is spreading steadily across the world, and across the US. As it does so, the churches will increasingly be forced to grapple with, and re-examine, their own beliefs. In doing so, many will reverse long-standing opposition to same sex relationships, and see the value of recognising commitment, whatever the orientation or gender of the partners.

The Catholic church will be behind the trend – but will not resist indefinitely. Here, too, truth will triumph in the end.

Amen, brother!

Terence also has a great piece on St. Patrick as a gay role model! It can be viewed here.


PrickiestPear over at Far From Rome is yet another blogger who maintains a consistently high standard of writing on topical issues within the Church. I particularly recommend his post on Why the Vatican is Wrong About Contraception, and his review of Steve McIntosh’s book, Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution.


Joseph O’Leary has recently raised a number of important questions and valid critiques in response to the release of the Ryan Report on the clergy abuse scandal in Ireland, and in particular, the way it’s findings have been reported by the mainstream corporate media. He writes, for instance, that:

Increasingly I am feeling that we have witnessed one of the most disgraceful weeks in the annals of Irish journalism. No journalist seems to have studied the Ryan report in depth. Lazy repetition of the most lurid details and lots of soapbox oratory replaced the journalists’ duty to provide critical perspective.

The report focuses primarily on a small number of Industrial and Reformatory schools, maintained by the Irish State because they were cheaper than what Britain in the same period had got around to providing for children (brothers and nuns providing cheap personnel). 161 other schools and institutions were also examined, and of these schools the report has limited criticisms to make. The vast majority of Irish schools lie outside the bounds of the report.

To read more, click here.


Over at Perspective, Crystal highlights an important and insightful 2006 National Catholic Reporter article by Raymond A. Schroth on “Why Bonhoeffer Was Wrong.”

As Crystal notes:

[Many in the] conservative blogosphere [view Dietrich Bonhoeffer] as a heroic representation of the ends justifying the means. Bonhoeffer collaborated in plans to assassinate Hitler, and conservatives want to see this as proof of the morality of murdering doctors who do abortions.

And Schroth writes:

In no way does the Sermon on the Mount make wiggle room for political assassination. . . . The argument against assassination is the basic Kantian principle that underlies the Geneva Conventions against torture: For us to kill Saddam Hussein or any world leader, particularly because the leader is the embodiment of his society, is a moral invitation to our enemies to do the same to us. Furthermore, assassinations almost always fail to achieve their purpose and they kill the innocent as well. The Israeli-targeted killings of Hamas leaders with rockets fired from helicopters kill everyone else in the car and bystanders as well. Our targeted bombings in Iraq aimed at Saddam and his generals missed Saddam and the generals and killed hundreds of civilians in the neighborhood. The July 10, 1944, plot, a bomb planted in a meeting room, missed Hitler and killed four others. In retaliation, Hitler purged and executed 5,000 opponents of his regime. Some were tortured to death.

Except in civil disobedience, where one protests an unjust law and takes public responsibility, whenever anyone with power - president or priest - starts to go above, outside or around the law and gives himself a license to kill, beware.


Richard Gray has a fascinating article in the British newspaper, The Telegraph, in which he highlights the “growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans.” Writes Gray:

Until recently, humans were thought to be the only species to experience complex emotions and have a sense of morality.

But Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are “hard-wired” into the brains of all mammals and provide the “social glue” that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.

He has compiled evidence from around the world that shows how different species of animals appear to have an innate sense of fairness, display empathy and help other animals that are in distress.

His conclusions will provide ammunition for animal welfare groups pushing to have animals treated more humanely, but some experts are sceptical about the extent to which animals can experience complex emotions and social responsibility.

To read more, click here.


And finally, Busted Halo has posted an interesting conversation with a Roman Catholic nun and her gay cousin.

Following is what the gay man, Paul Mages, says about coming out to his family – including his cousin Sr. Bernadette (Mary) Reis of the traditional Roman Catholic religious order, the Daughters of St. Paul.

I didn’t come out to anybody in the family until I met somebody that I thought at that time that I’d be with forever. Because I thought that would add some validity to being gay, and then they wouldn’t think it’s some sexual thing that you just try out and it’s casual and not serious, not meaningful.

So after I met my partner — I was only with him a few months — I thought that would be forever. So I told my parents. And surprisingly, they were very nonjudgmental. Because, you know, my parents aren’t maybe quite as extreme as far as their religious observance, as Mary’s family is; but they were still pretty traditional and there were things you did, things you didn’t do. You went to church every Sunday, no questions asked. So I was pleasantly surprised that they were kind and supportive and loving, you know, “We’ll always be here for you,” “We love you,” “Nothing’s changed.” And so I wanted to tell other people too.

Slowly I let people in, you know, telling other people in the family. But it wasn’t difficult to tell Mary. Because first off, she’s family, so I expected her to be loving. Secondly, she’s a religious, so I was thinking she wouldn’t be judgmental, which she wasn’t, but I guess a lot of religious might be, even though they probably shouldn’t be. I just knew that she would let God do the judging and she wouldn’t make me feel at all like I wasn’t accepted. And then personally I just knew that she’d be compassionate and she’s a great listener, too. So it was an easy environment for me.

And here’s Sr. Bernadette reflecting on her relationship with her gay cousin Paul.

I think that I am here to be a friend to Paul. From the level of experience, to go over to Paul’s home and to see a home set up for him and his partner to live as a couple, it was the first time I had ever been in a situation like that, so of course it’s going to feel — what’s the word? — different, you know. But we do exactly the same things together as I do with other friends, we have the same conversations together, they invited me out with their friends — I mean, I really felt a level of acceptance. And I was glad, you know, that they could just freely bring me, when you know in the back of my mind, what I represent is something that Paul has been hurt by. But in terms of what I would hope for everyone, because I’m a part of this too, is that we can be in a dialogue with ourselves about why we behave the way we behave, and the choices that we make, and who we love, and what we like and what we don’t like, so that we each fulfill God’s Will for us.

How I do that is going to be different than Paul because my background is different, my calling is different, the way I work things out between myself and God is different. And so I can understand the Church’s teaching. For me, I’ve worked that out. And I mean, I’ve grappled with things, I’m still grappling with some things, and I’m not perfect. And it’s the same for him. But I’m not God; I’m not his God. And if Paul invites me in to that process, that’s different.

I really had to reconcile the fact that I’m the one that has to make the decision about what I feel comfortable with in terms of talking about his lifestyle with Paul. I decided that my gut feeling would be the thing that would lead me. And I had to trust it.

At one point in the conversation Paul recalls:

I would kind of pray about it and talk to God, ask God: “Is this okay? I feel like I’m gay, and this is how I’m born and how I’m intended to be. Is this all right?” I kind of went through that. You know, once I was in a relationship with somebody and it was based on mutual respect and sharing and love, I thought now there’s no way God can be looking down and saying, “Nope, I don’t approve of that. That’s not healthy, that’s not good.” I thought if two people were loving each other with respect and sharing, I just couldn’t see how that could be any worse than a man and a woman doing the exact same thing. So I’m glad [that when she first visited my partner and I, Bernadette] noticed that it was just two people instead of two men, instead of a man and a woman.

And, lastly, here’s how Sr. Bernadette reflects on how knowing Paul has changed her.

It’s changed me in the sense that what had been an issue that was very clear for me, is not so clear anymore — not in terms of what the Church teaches but in terms of my own understanding, I guess, just because of how murky and messy — ‘messy’ is not really the right word — how mysterious, I think is the better word to use. I don’t have access to all of the experience for me to even figure it out, I guess. So I’m willing to just let it go. I’m willing to really believe . . . that God is a father. And He’s working out with each one of us our salvation. And going back to the fact that each of us is extremely wounded and broken, you know, regardless of the life that we profess or live. And I think I’m a lot more ready to leave it in His hands rather than try to correct someone.

. . . I guess the message I would like to give is that our main concern should be the person. And getting to know a person — allowing a person to reveal who he or she is rather than forcing my own revelation onto a person. And in that way, I think, in a relationship of openness and acceptance, I think we have the greatest ability to grow. And if there are ways that we need to be able to grow, I think that because of the love that a person has for another person, that it creates the ground for growth to be able to take place. And to allow myself to be challenged, too. I mean, because Paul and his partner, the gift that they’ve given me, has really challenged my understanding and has left me a lot like — I thrive on being sure — and I’m a lot less thriving on that.

See also the previous Wild Reed round-ups:
(Australian) Summer 2009
Fall 2007
Spring 2007


crystal said...

Thanks for the mention, Michael.

PrickliestPear said...

Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate that.

Anonymous said...

I am stunned that writers would claim the assassination of Der Fuhrer, the End to WWII, the Holocaust, and the saving of millions is not justified, because the means never justify the ends.

I take no issue with the axiom that the means never justify an end, never. But ethics, unlike strict dogmatic morality, always takes the "best" choice available, and given the circumstances during the 1930s and 1940s, what OTHER CHOICE was there?

Sure, if Der Fuhrer submitted to elections; if a Court indicted him, and found him guilty; but the Madman of Berlin left few, indeed, NO CHOICE but political assassination. Therefore, because it was the ONLY CHOICE, it is by default the BEST CHOICE, and therefore the "golden mean" to the means, because it is the ONLY means.

None of this reasoning applies to the Abortion Doctor Killer. But to indict an ethical man for choosing the best, indeed, the ONLY choice, is not a moral indictment, but the courage of ethics at its finest.

Oh, btw, Jesus never stated the sole Universal Moral Imperative: Do NO Harm of Injury. If someone does, then individuals are morally bound to stop them. Sorry, folks, your way off base.