Monday, November 29, 2010

Behind Benedict's Shift on Condoms

By Daniel C. Maguire
November 29, 2010

There is nothing new about the recent shift of Pope Benedict on condom use. It is also no novelty when conservatives in the church say no shift is happening at the very moment it is happening.

Read on.


Dean Taylor said...

"Errors followed by corrections are part of the warp and woof of church history."

Quite. And, Aquinas (1225-1274), one of the Doctors of the Church, argues that in determining one's course of action, if it is a matter of obeying the Church or one's informed conscience that we are OBLIGED to follow conscience--i.e., INFORMED, PRAYER-GUIDED, LONG-SUFFERING conscience.

Has the Church erred--often grievously--in 2000 years?

Obviously. But, let us analyze, then, who is most shocked, or outraged--disappointed?--by this essential truth, and why is it that that might be so.

Growing up Catholic (a "cradle Catholic") in the early sixties I was taught that I share a burden in how the world is going to unfold, i.e., that I am responsible. I can recall that we were instructed--e.g., in homilies--that the one hour, or so, that we invest each Sunday at mass was definitely NOT enough, i.e., that we were enjoined to live out our faith with ACTION--i.e., "good works." "Faith without works is dead" is how it was put to us. This can be read in more detail in James 2:14-17:

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

"If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,

"and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?

"So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead" [New American Bible].

That comment and narrative within verse 16 was a personal favorite of Dorothy Day--"journalist, Catholic activist, succor to the poor in inner cities across America..."--wherein she would provide a Lower East SideApologia, as it were, i.e., the impetus of the Catholic Worker mission.

So, yes, the Church has walked a crooked path in the two millenia of its reality. But, and nevertheless, God, we are told, draws straight with crooked lines, i.e., the Church God. Many of the Catholics that attended my parish in Queens, NY, I felt, understood this essential fact. Many--not all, possibly not even most--but many did understand.

Want to understand the Church? Draw nigh. Did you suffer a grievous loss, owing, you feel, to the Church? When supplicants approached the Church at Delphi--in order to consult with the Oracle about, e.g., one of life's pressing problems--they were met by three injunctions:

γνωθι σεαυτόν--gnōthi seautón = "know thyself", μηδέν άγαν--mēdén ágan = "nothing in excess", and Εγγύα πάρα δ'ατη--engýa pára d'atē = "make a pledge and mischief is nigh". That last idea might be paraphrased as: be careful the ideas you cling to, i.e., the vows you make.

When we are visited by calamity, a loss of order in our lives, a death of one kind or another, we tend to distance ourselves from the things, events, people, institutions, etc., that we were "leaning" upon at the time of our heartache. We "believed" that we would be spared heartache (sometimes an over-sized cross, in fact) in this life if only we were "faithful" to that idea, personal belief system, etc. That idea is something that we taught ourselves--a DANGEROUS false sense of security.

Dean Taylor said...


God, though, is NOT a belief system, NOT an idea, NOT the Church, NOT a spouse, or child, or parent, etc. (and certainly not one of the many other "surrogates" that we conjure up and worship--e.g., our career, wealth, esteem from others, etc.).

God is the Wholly (Holy) Other, i.e., that Being whose fearful symmetry can never be framed. Ever. NO matter how "holy" we fancy ourselves.

At a Cursillo weekend in 1976 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, we were told --during one of the many wonderful dialogues--the following:

"How we feel has nothing to do with how close God is to us."

In fact, Sister Helen Chassé had repeated the sentence, and then instructed those in attendance to write it down (to inculcate same).

And, why was it so difficult (for me) to internalize the seemingly simple idea, once and for all?

Because we're individuals, alone, and afraid of our own personal mortality--we want to believe that when we "feel holy" that God is imminent.

Beware the "DANGEROUS false sense of security." Let us be careful what we teach ourselves. Sarte declares: we are condemned to be free (theology presupposes philosophy). Do we, rather, crave security? Then feel secure in the idea that everything is unfolding to us (i.e., is WILD, like Almighty God).

That is--and, in the long term of our lives--there is no "security" (not in the sense that we conjure up). NOT in the Church, NOT in "good works", NOT in the conceits of our minds. But only in God, who is WHOLLY OTHER. How do we follow that which is WHOLLY OTHER? First be open to the possibility--God will get in touch with you! Pray for a time. Get out to others for a time. OBSESS ON NOTHING ("nothing in excess")--we can never compass God. And, certainly do not obsess on the Church--neither from within, as a "pious" member, or "on the outside, glaring back" in rage. God is standing next to you, waiting on you, as you feel holy contemplating--or glaring at--the Church. Church God.

The Kingdom of God is an ALL-INCLUSIVE realm--seek first the Kingdom of God--i.e., seek first an all-inclusive sense of community. That is, nothing special, no "sacrifice", no clinging to things cherished--family, ideas, things. Still feeling fearful, vulnerable, helpless? The child is father to the man. On the Kingdom:

"So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?'

"All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

"But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides" [Matthew 6:31-33; New American Bible].

Would you like to understand the Church of the West? After studying from within, let it go for a while and study Eastern Thought. According to Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner (one of the architects of Vatican II) God's Grace is EVERYWHERE--but nowhere in particular, nowhere exclusively. Buddhist thought says that suffering comes from clinging to that which we feel is "special". And, that special--i.e., EXCLUSIVE--thing/person/idea can never save us...

γνωθι σεαυτόν--gnōthi seautón = "know thyself", μηδέν άγαν--mēdén ágan = "nothing in excess", and Εγγύα πάρα δ'ατη--engýa pára d'atē = "make a pledge and mischief is nigh".

The Church God. From the center of the storm, though, things are a lot calmer than witnessed from a distance...

Anonymous said...

As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

Anonymous said...

Das war ziemlich vorausgesetzt, es gibt eine Menge draußen warten nur auf der rechten Seite.