On Progressive Catholicism

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First, I want to thank M. Jcecil3 for the removal of labels from some people on his site. I think my point may have been misconstrued, so I do want to make it clear--I don't stand opposed to being labeled (that is part and parcel of humility), but I do find the use of labels not terribly helpful, and potentially lacking in charity--but these are subtle issues. I wanted once again to engage in dialogue with M. Jcecil because he is so lively and courteous a correspondent.

First I thought I would address the following list of "controversial" topics that he lists on his site--with each point, I will indicate my own position. This is more a reminder list so that I might be able to address those points on which we disagree.

M. Jcecil's list:

(1) I believe that God can be called Mother as well as Father--For me, not a matter of controversy--it has been done throughout the history of the Church and within the Bible itself--at least tangentially and by implication. Most radically, the hymns of St. Anselm to Christ our Mother.

(2) That inclusive language in reference to the people of God should be used in liturgy--I don't know about this. I suppose if it is a proper and accurate translation fine--however, if it is the hideous jumble that often results from the over-the-top attempts at inclusivity, I'd rather not.

(3) That women could be ordained ministerial priest, and perhaps should be ordained (The Pope has clearly said no to this one)--We will disagree on this.

(4) That married men should be ordained--some are--usually converts from other faiths who have faculties within those faiths. And certainly in Anglican Use and Eastern Churches this is already done. I don't feel particularly attached to this discipline of the Church, but perhaps I have too vague an understanding.

(5) That even with original sin, we image the divine and we are inherently capable of some good--We will disagree on this. I am with the traditional teaching that argues that self is sufficient for sin alone--good may only be accomplished through the power of God.

(6) That the ancient rite of adelphopoiesis could be restored as a union for homosexual Catholics--We will disagree--I hope to spell out my disagreement in more detail.

(7) That divorced and remarried Catholics can participate in the life of the Church--I leave this to the Canon lawyers; however, I think not.

(8) That artificial contraception in marriage is morally equivalent to natural family planning--While I disagree with the notion, I do find it interesting that the morality of either is not commented upon.

(9) That ecumenical dialogue is essential to contemporary Catholicism and we can learn from non-Catholics--Unquestionably.

(10) That social justice is part and parcel of the gospel--Absolutely, depending on whether one intends that to mean also the fullness of the gospel, in which case it is not true.

(11)That salvation is integral for the whole human person (involving liberation)--Uncertain what the codicil (involving liberation) means; however, if it indicates liberation theology, we will most probably disagree.

(12) That there is room for democratic forms of Church governance--There certainly is room for it, and then one ends up with what happens in the Anglican communion. Historically, this is a very unstable way to govern churches--22,000 different denominations of Protestants are a fairly strong argument against this.

(13) That Catholics should be committed to conserving the environment--Certainly, we are stewards of Earth's resources, we must care for them and see to it that they are used wisely, or in some cases not at all.

(14) That Catholics can conscientiously object to all war on principle--I think this may be true--I find just war doctrine a case of special pleading that has yet to really convince me. I don't know that just war is possible--although I wonder about conscientious objection to something like WWII. But I can be persuaded.

(15) That Catholics should be opposed to the death penalty in the modern world--I believe the Holy Father basically says as much, despite what justice Scalia may remark on the point. I agree.

Here are fifteen "controversial" issues on which I agree in whole or in part with nine. Now, I may be agreeing to something not proposed, and may not be agreeing on issues of subtlety--but some of these issues are, it seems to me, only controversial in a very small part of the Catholic population as a whole. I doubt seriously whether many well-informed Catholics would suggest that the Earth is ours to pillage and destroy as we will. There might be a few, but vanishingly few.

So it seems on some issues of controversy, I find myself at least sympathetic to the views likely to be espoused by M. Jcecil3. On the issues wherein there is disagreement, I hope to spend some time later.

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I look forward to further discussion.

Peace and blessings!

The problem I got with "social justice" -- how does the modifier affect it? What is wrong with simple "justice"? How can there be unsocial justice? If there isn't, how does "social justice" differ from "justice"?

Dear Mary,

Social justice, unlike legal justice, should be both just and fair. I think social as a modifier is perfectly appropriate to eliminate the legalistic overtones of "justice" which could be calling for someone's head on a plate. But that's just one view.



(12) That there is room for democratic forms of Church governance--There certainly is room for it, and then one ends up with what happens in the Anglican communion. Historically, this is a very unstable way to govern churches--22,000 different denominations of Protestants are a fairly strong argument against this.

If by "democratic means of Church governance" you mean replacing the current Catholic church polity with a representative form such as ECUSA -- then I completely agree, Steven, with your rejection. But if you mean that democratic structures of any kind are inappropriate in any setting within that established structure, then I would disagree on historical grounds. Consider Chapter 65 of the Rule of St. Benedict which set out, in the closing days of the Roman Empire, that the Abbot was to be chosen by the monks themselves, and not by an outside party. Most Benedictine constitutions provide that the community must vote on the admission of all new monks, as well. The Order itself is structured so that each house is a member of a particular confederation, and the abbots of that confederation elect a prior general. The prior generals elect the abbot primate. But most of the "power" in the Orders that use the Rule is still in the individual Abbot or Abbess.

Dear Claude,

Thank you. I don't know precisely what I mean, but dialogue like this will help me determine where I am. Thanks for your comment.



The problem with the "social justice" vs. "legal justice" is that if legal justice is what the legal system hands out, social justice is what society hands out. Anyone with any experience with gossip knows that such justice makes all but the most totalarian system look good by contrast. As one man who had received just legal justice observed afterwards, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?"



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 1, 2003 7:59 AM.

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