‘Theology as Survival,’ an interview with James Alison.
Just posted to the main page, Brett Salkeld’s conversation with Alison:
Salkeld: Your writing reminds me of Joseph Ratzinger’s, because both of you manage to say very traditional things in fresh ways. But on the question of homosexual acts, you disagree with the teaching of the church. Can you tell us what you believe about the morality of homosexual acts?
Alison: Thanks for the flattering comparison! But, to the area of our difference: I think you are mistaking me for a moral theologian, or someone who is professionally interested in sexual ethics. I’m honestly not sure that I’ve ever tried to talk as a theologian about “homosexual acts,” per se. My disagreement with the current teaching of the Roman Congregations is about what I consider to be their fundamentally flawed premise of the objectively disordered nature of the inclination. I don’t think it’s even worth beginning to talk about what acts might be appropriate before there is a recognition that we are talking about people whose way of being cannot properly be deduced from other people’s way of being. To do so would be like discussing different moves within a game of rugby while agreeing to hold the discussion under an enforced misapprehension that those moves are somehow defective forms of soccer playing.
Salkeld: How do you think your views line up with the tradition on this question?
Alison: I think I have quite traditional views on original sin, grace, and the real but difficult nature of we humans being able to learn something true about being human that we didn’t know before. And yet the consequences of this traditional view are really quite radical, in that they oblige us to face up to a question for which we have no precedent in the tradition. Given the most traditional Catholic understanding of the relationship between nature and grace, I wonder whether it is genuinely possible to defend the following thesis: “The comparatively recent human realization that there is no objective psychological or physiological disorder that is intrinsic to people whom we now call gay makes no difference to our understanding of the forms of flourishing to which such people are called by virtue of being what they are.” That seems to me to be the real question here: is it compatible with Catholic faith to claim that an authentic human discovery of this sort makes no difference to the shape of the flourishing of the people involved?
Moreover, it would seem to me that the recognition of the non-pathological nature of the minority variant in the human condition which you call homosexuality (I dislike the word myself) does inevitably alter the self-understanding of those of the majority condition, affecting how they understand the relationship between the unitive and the procreative dimensions of their loving. It would be very interesting indeed to hear a defense of it making no difference at all.
Read the rest right here.