dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Eastside Catholic

The fallout continues:

The president of Eastside Catholic School has resigned amid the fallout from her decision to dismiss the school’s vice principal for marrying his gay partner. . . 

Her resignation, submitted to the Eastside board of trustees Sunday, was effective immediately, and in an email sent to parents, staff and others on Tuesday evening the school said a search for her replacement will begin right away.

The handling of Zmuda’s dismissal has presented a public-relations challenge for Eastside, with Tracy’s statements about whether the vice principal was fired or resigned, and what role the Seattle archbishop played in that decision, appearing at times to contradict those of the school's attorney and the archdiocese.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

"The handling Zmuda's dismissal" is hardly the issue. The gay rights movement will not brook opposition, and anyone who stands up reasonably to the agenda on any principle will be villified and hounded until they either submit or lose all influence. Letting alone the rightness or wrongness of "gay marriage," this tactical proctocal is a moral outrage.

Kathy, I think you're thinking of the Illuminati. The gay rights movement is too busy building landing strips for gay martians to get involved in this kind of thing.

And teh students get some kind of lesson! Not sure what it is yet, but one can gues the range of thoughts and feelings that will make this year like o other fo them...now without Princpial and vice principal.

As has been suggested as an example in the past, suppose a Miss Jones returns from vacation as Mrs. Smith.. and some knew the other, first Mrs. Smith. Does anyone ask if Mr. Smith had an annulment or where the wedding was performed.  Or if they had been cohabiting previus to this union? Let's check it out!!!!   

While I am sympathetic to the Vice Principal, I also get that tghe school has its rights including the right to require its employees to abide by Church teachings.  Whether those teachings are right or wrong is an interesting and whole different discussion.  I do think that the President likely did the right thing in resigning.  At some point in a situation like this, the best solution is to bring in new leadership regardless of how well or how effective the current leaderhsip has been.  As long as she is there, Sr mary will be a lightening rod and this will be an issue.  With her gone, things can return to some degree of normal.  I've seen comparable controveries in other business and government situations where I've found myself over the years.  At the end of the day, unless and until a change is made, the controversey just continues to bubble.  A new leader gives everyone a chance to let it go. 

"To let it go..."? Is that the goal here? Arguably yes and it is a school and the students need to focus, but this is also a situation whihc demands far greater discussion and an atempt at justice. I still wonder about the scenario I posited or many others where the indiviudal -yet public lives of teachers - are in play at the discretion of the administration. And may no one ask if they are using  artifiical contraception!!!!

 

Kathy and Jim Dunn,

As a religious organization, the school has the right to choose its ministers (and teachers are legally considered ministers for this purpose). However, the community also has a right to express its disagreement with how it chooses to use that right. It is the student community at the school, not some outside organization, that is the driving force behind this story.

If we were Las Vegas bookmakers - what are the new odds that Zmuda gets his job back?  I think they may have just ticked upward at least a little.

Ryan,

From the sounds of things, the atmosphere is pretty poisoned there at this point.  That's what I mean by "let it go."  The other discussion, whether Mr. Zmuda or any other staff member, should or should not have been fired  is not likely to be discussed or settled effectively going forward without new leadership.  A new President allows those discussions to occur in a far less rancorous environment.

Jim P. 

I would bet Zmuda does not get the job back.  On the other hand, if you ask if the Calculus teacher gets fired for marrying her girlfriend next year, I think the answer would be no.  But again, that is just a gut feeling on my part based on watching these types of incidents over many years.

Sorry, this storyline needs more context and data.  Reality - if the reason for the dismissal was because he married his partner; how consistent is the local bishop and principal?  Have they used the same standards for other teachers - for example, what about any teacher who is divorced but receives communion?  what about any teacher who may be involved in an extra-marital affair?  what about any teacher who may be living with a significant other?  (is the real test here the fact that this *marriage* became public?  Is that really the core., dividing line?)

Again, appears to be a hypocritical decision and am sorry that two of the initial commenters only continue the usual - bigotry masquerading as *orthodoxy* and appealing to the fact that they know the *truth* and have utter *certitude*.  Really?

From Francis:

 

The bishop must always foster this missionary communion in his diocesan Church, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul (cf. Acts 4:32). To do so, he will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind and -- above all -- allowing the flock to strike out on new paths. In his mission of fostering a dynamic, open and missionary communion, he will have to encourage and develop the means of participation proposed in the Code of Canon Law, and other forms of pastoral dialogue, out of a desire to listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear. Yet the principal aim of these participatory processes should not be ecclesiastical organization but rather the missionary aspiration of reaching everyone.

--"The Joy of the Gospel " (Evangelii Gaudium), Nov. 24, 2013

 

(is Sartrain following this?)

Francis, again:

Francis again stresses humility as path to God

NCR Staff  |  Jan. 22, 2014 The Francis Chronicles

Share on facebookShare on twitterMore Sharing Services0

 

PrintemailPDF

Pope Francis says we need to be small and humble to dialogue with God, but at the same time, God always chooses those who are small and who have the least power.

This was the core message of the Francis' homily at Tuesday morning Mass in the Santa Marta residence, according to Vatican Radio.

Francis explained how our Christian loyalty is all about "safeguarding our smallness so that we can have a dialogue with God." That's why, he continued, "humbleness, gentleness and daily habits are so important in the life of a Christian" because it safeguards our smallness and pleases God.  He concluded by imploring God to give us the grace to safeguard our smallness before him

Did this decision reveal an ability to *safeguard our smallness so we can have a dialogue*?  Was this decision one of humbleness, gentleness?

Sorry, find the decision to lack any type of pastoral sensitivity; claim a certitude that the church just doesn't have; slaps the gospel imperatives in the face, etc.

From a church perspective - is this the *rule of law* or the *law of the ruler* approach?  Do we rreally want ourselves and our church to be know by its laws or by its compassion, mercy, and love?  (what does this decision really teach these high schoolers - appears that many of them have grasped the core of the gospel imperative)

 

As has been suggested as an example in the past...

 

IMHO, this question is irrelevant.  The issue is:  did Zmuda breach his contract?  If so, then the decision was correct regardless of how the rules are applied to others.  We are all hypocrites; thats not a good reason to ALWAYS be a hypocrite.

Bruce, that's not how we Catholics think. We don't think exclusively and automatically in terms of laws and rules to figure out what is right. Rules are there to help us but are not the last word.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis) wrote in his book On Heaven and Earth that same-sex marriage was "anti-value and an anthropological regression".  He said that it "transcends the relgious issue, it is anthropological." He defined this "anthropolical regression" as "a weakening of the institution that is thousands of years old and that was forged by nature and anthropology." 

 

 

I agree with Claire

However, the school seems to be still concerned with drawing nitpicking distinctions:

The Eastside Catholic drama coach who feared for her job after coming out as gay on The Ron and Don Show now says she is being embraced by the school's administration and was even offered a raise.

 

Stephanie Merrow met with principal Polly Skinner Thursday afternoon. She described the meeting in positive terms and said the principal was "warm, welcoming, and kind."

 

"They made me feel valued. She told me she was happy that I'm there," said Merrow, who will continue working on the upcoming Eastside Catholic production of "Guys and Dolls," set to debut in March.

 

The choreographer decided to go public with her sexuality following student protests over the firing of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda. Eastside Catholic argued he violated church teachings after marrying a man.

 

Merrow plans to wed her partner of five years in August. On Thursday, the school's administration presented her with a contract to clarify her employment status.

 

"It's very clear that I'm an independent contractor and that I'm seasonal," Merrow explained. "They actually gave me a little raise."

 

An attorney for Eastside Catholic, Mike Patterson, confirmed to KIRO Radio that a part-time worker like Merrow is not subject to the same policy that prompted the school to fire Zmuda.

 

"She's contractual, she's a consultant, she's part-time, and she's seasonal," said Patterson.

 

http://mynorthwest.com/108/2429818/Gay-drama-coach-can-stay-at-Eastside-...

Bill deHaas,

I would guess that the "public" nature of the marriage is indeed the dividing line.  As to all the rest of it, I suspect, is handled with a certain amount of "don't aks, don't tell." As long as nobody comes out and says, "I'm living with my girlfriend," or I'm having an affair with a married woman," nobody knows for sure and thus, cannot take any action.  For what its worth, I am aware of a teacher who was let go from a Catholic high school for living with his girlfriend.  And another one who was let go for re-marrying after a divorce, so its not unheard of for this to happen.  I will say that in both cases the people involved technically resigned, but that was more of a formality than anything else.  As a side note, one was a football coach, who was very quickly hired by another Catholic School in a neighboring diocese.  They neither asked nor did he tell them of his living arrangements.  He was, and is a very successful football coach.

Statement from the former Principal before she left:

"The head of Eastside Catholic, Sister Mary Tracy, sent a short statement to KIRO Radio through student Julia Burns Tuesday:

 

"I look forward to the day when no individual loses their job because they're married to a person of the same sex."

 

http://mynorthwest.com/108/2428033/Eastside-Catholic-staff-member-defend...

John Hayes,

While I agree that it is nitpicky to some extent, I actually do think that it is legitimate to draw a line somewhere and that a contractor is different than an employee so that is at least arguably a reasonable place to draw the line. After all, if you don't draw it, you need to be willing to fire your lawyer(what about if one of his law partners marries his male partner?), your accountant, the guy who plows the snow and mows the lawn, the plumber...at some point it becomes both ridiculous and impossible.  So saying these rules apply to direct employees is pretty reasonable, I think. 

Just for clarity, I am not opposed to gays marrying.  Nor do I think this was a good move on the part of Eastside Catholic.  The difference is that I think these are reasonable distinctions if you wish to make the decisons that Eastside made.

 

 

Claire:  Bruce, that's not how we Catholics think. We don't think exclusively and automatically in terms of laws and rules to figure out what is right. Rules are there to help us but are not the last word.

Actually, under the combined papacies of John Paul II and Benedict, the institutional church seemed to quite definitely embrace a "law and order" approach to official Catholic thinking while opposing much thinking at all on the part of individual Catholics, including theologians - the last two popes very much seemed to want to make rules "the last word". 

Individual  "thinking" was strongly discouraged (look at the numbers of theologians, priests, sisters etc who were silenced or even excommunicated because of the fact that they refused to toe the line of rules and regulations -  primacy of conscience was redefined in their catechism to essentially make the claim that anyone who dissents from any official teaching has not, by definition, "properly" formed his or her conscience. .  

Claire:  Bruce, that's not how we Catholics think. We don't think exclusively and automatically in terms of laws and rules to figure out what is right. Rules are there to help us but are not the last word.

Actually, under the combined papacies of John Paul II and Benedict, the institutional church seemed to quite definitely embrace a "law and order" approach to official Catholic thinking while opposing much thinking at all on the part of individual Catholics, including theologians - the last two popes very much seemed to want to make rules "the last word". 

Individual  "thinking" was strongly discouraged (look at the numbers of theologians, priests, sisters etc who were silenced or even excommunicated because of the fact that they refused to toe the line of rules and regulations -  primacy of conscience was redefined in their catechism to essentially make the claim that anyone who dissents from any official teaching has not, by definition, "properly" formed his or her conscience. .  

He defined this "anthropological regression" as "a weakening of the institution that is thousands of years old and that was forged by nature and anthropology."

Anthropology created marriage? (He might be on to something!) And isn't appealing to both "nature" and mere "thousands of years" problematic unless that nature is subordinate to the human activity of those thousands of years, a historically conditioned nature? The only way this "nature" can be "Nature" as in the laws of the natural world is if we accept that only "thousands of years" ago, God created men and women who acted according to Nature. Otherwise, any earlier human beings would have had a different social order that was "against Nature". Huge holes open up when the reason in 'Faith and Reason' refuses to be reasonable.

But most Catholics aren't Genesis fundementalists, which creates a problem for the marriage primordial: if they acknowledge that the human species is older than the institution of marriage, then they cannot defend marriage as anything more than historical convention by appealing to nature (which allowed an earlier social order), anthropology (categories of which are therefore, admittedly fluid), or Genesis (which is not literal and in which marriage at Creation must be considered an anachronism). Bergoglio does not appeal to Genesis because Catholicism isn't biblical literalism. However, his appeal to history ("thousands of years") has the ring of Ussher to it. Why not 10,000 years? 50,000? Are they confused by or just unconcerned with 'real existing anthropology' so to speak?

Either Catholics would have to become biblical fundementalists and jettison their tradition of Christian Faith and Reason (ahem, aka Catholicism) all for the sake of defending the Church of Don't Be Gay - or they will adopt a dishonest and patchwork 'alternative natural science' in order to attack and marginalize the unclean.

Anne Chapman,

Having read Fides et Ratio three or four times, I'm unable to conclude that Pope John Paul II discouraged thinking.  In fact, he pratically pleads with people to return to a "love of wisdom" to help them answer life's "fundamental questions." It's a remarkable document and I enthusiastically recommend it.  

" --- this tactical proctocal is a moral outrage."

There must be a branch of theology dedicated to proctocality that can handle this.  Would a practitioner thereof be called a Proctocologist?

" Have they used the same standards for other teachers - for example, what about any teacher who is divorced but receives communion? what about any teacher who may be involved in an extra-marital affair? what about any teacher who may be living with a significant other? (is the real test here the fact that this *marriage* became public? Is that really the core., dividing line?)"

In the words of Bl. Ronald Reagan The Great (rumor has it that, with the new funding standards in place, his sainthood is a shoo-in in 2016):

"There you go again!"

There is much unknown in this from the legal viewpoint about the contract and prior understandings, it seems.However, what the example and reflection will be among the students is of great interest. It isa "teachable moment," but what are they being taught? About the Church? About sexuality? About commitment?  I would bet that more than 75% of these youth will look on this incident in the future...from a distance from the institutional Church.

I should have added one more phrase-- "...and who would blame them?"

Actions like the firing of Zmuda used to be justfied as necessary to avoid giving scandal to innocent and tender consciences, especially those of the young. How it has come about I don't know, but young people now seem to be the age group least shocked and scandalized by the living arrangements of others. They haven't learned this live-and-let-live approach in classrooms, certainly not Catholic ones, and they probably did not pick it up from parents, who often don't exhibit it themselves. So perhaps it is partly a reaction to reports from here and around the world of the horrific treatment often meted out to certain people merely for being who they are, and even more, a wholehearted response to "love thy neighbor." These students may well fulfill parents' dearest hope of having children better than they are themselves.

The real scandal (stumbling block) to pretty much everyone is the church discriminating against gay people.  It's reminiscent of the Mormon Church's early policy and recism.

This whole episode reminds me of how catholic high school used to deal with teenage pregnancies - student was quietly removed from school.  Yet, there were usually no reprecussions for the football quarterback who got her pregnant. 

Double standards appear to be alive and well!

Michael Paulson has an article in the NYTimes today about Eastside but also linking to newspaper reports of firings in 8 other states

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/us/gay-marriages-confront-catholic-sch...

Paulson wrote the Religion column for the Boston Globe for a number of years and did a good job of it. After the Globe went through a cutback and discontinued the Religion column, he moved to the New York Times - apparently as a general assignment reporter since this is the first religion-related article i have seen from him at the NYTimes. 

Claire:  Bruce, that's not how we Catholics think. We don't think exclusively and automatically in terms of laws and rules to figure out what is right. Rules are there to help us but are not the last word.

 

Claire,

Church teaching on any sexual activity outside of marriage is quite clear and has been for 2000 years.  Further, Church teaching on gay marriage is equally clear.  While that might not be the exclusive source of guidance for us Catholics, I certainly find it quite unsettling and angst provoking when my conscience seems to disagree with such a clear teaching.  And I'm not smart or confident enough to face down people like Aquinas and Augustine.  So if Mr. Zmuda thinks he's being led by his conscience in another direction, it seems to me he should have humbly and quietly walked away from the school.   

Bruce: and then, when people don't respect that teaching, what should one do? What is the "correct decision"? Is that so clear?

"Church teaching on any sexual activity outside of marriage is quite clear and has been for 2000 years.  Further, Church teaching on gay marriage is equally clear.  While that might not be the exclusvie source of guidance for us Catholics, I certainly find it unsettling and angst provoking when my conscience seems to disagree with such a clear teaching."

Church teaching on human slavery was "quite clear and [had] been for 2000 years." 

"As recently as June 20, 1866, the Holy Office had upheld the slave trade as moral.  The justification was based both on philosophy (natural law) and on revelation (divine law).  Various quotations from Scripture were cited in support of this position...The Fathers of the Church and local church councils, laws, Popes, and theologians were cited in the attempt to show that the approval of slavery was part of an unbroken, universal tradition" (Thomas Bokenkotter, A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, pp. 487-488). 

"Also close to the era of Vatican II, Karl Rahner...published the thirtieth edition of DENZINGER.  This authoritative and convenient handbook, first produced in 1854...contained the teaching of popes and councils from Clement I in the first century to the date of the edition...Not a single word repudiating or condemning slavery occurred in the collection" (p. 117).

Yet Vatican II bishops finally condemned slavery.  Why?

According to CCC-1785, we "are guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church."  A guide is a resource, not a mandate. 

Had you been around back in the day in 1866, would you have "[found] it unsettling and angst provoking" if your conscience had disagreed "with such a clear teaching," to wit, that slavery was justified by recourse to both natural and divine law?

Church teaching on any sexual activity outside of marriage is quite clear and has been for 2000 years.  Further, Church teaching on gay marriage is equally clear.

Bruce,

It seems to me that the issue is not Church teaching on premarital sex or same-sex marriage. It's what the Church teaching is on hiring and firing "homosexual persons." I really don't think there is a "Church teaching" that, since the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage, the principal of a Catholic school must fire a vice principal who enters into a same-sex marriage but is free to hire "homosexual persons" as part-time, seasonal contractors. 

Claire January 23, 2014 - 11:26am

Bruce: and then, when people don't respect that teaching, what should one do? What is the "correct decision"? Is that so clear?”

 

From “The Crisis of AUTHORITY in the Catholic Modernity” by Michael Lacey:

---  The gap between clergy and laity does not measure apostasy but rather points to the problems facing merely formal authority and the need to narrow the distance between it and the deeper grades of legitimacy and trust. The numbers show that the leaders of the Church seem too remote, too caught up in the formalities of office to be taken seriously, too prone to flattering themselves when they claim that by God’s design they speak for everyone on the difficult moral and political issues of life.

A necessary starting point for any improvement in the life of the Church is candid discussion and debate within it, a point registered by most within the Church. That such a simple thing may be impossible at the moment shows how deep the crisis of authority has become. Observers of church affairs are mindful of the unhappy fate of Cardinal Bernadin’s common ground initiative of 1996, which had this aim. What is needed is to start with the problems of Catholics who are divorced and remarried, to rethink celibacy in the priesthood, the greater roles of women in the church, and the issue of contraception under specific circumstances.”

The authority of the magisterium has been fractured for so many reasons since Vatican II. Has modernity infected many in the clergy, most theologians and laity with a cancer that distorts the workings of God’s spirit? Are most of the members of the Body of Christ adrift in sinful behaviors, invincible ignorance and ills of modernity? Can Catholics follow their informed consciences if certain church teachings are in marked tension with human experience? Can those that disagree be faithful to Christ and His Spirit?

The issue of authority must be understood and balanced against a theology of non-reception if we want to move the conversation forward and resolve the Crisis of Authority and Truth in our Church.

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=16479#comments

 

Some interesting background material on this issue:  http://ncronline.org/blogs/young-voices/knights-columbus-redefine-charity-giving-bishops

Note:

- KCs paid for special bishops workshops not on medical ethics but on gay marriage, etc.  Three speakers are previewed who hold non-scientific and non-professional beliefs - counter to documented studies, professionally staffed boards of certifications, etc.

Who sits on the USCCB board to schedule these things:

Chaput - episcopal cultural warrior (not in tune with the approach of Francis)

Nienstedt - wasted more than $1 mil on political campaign against same sex marriage and now on leave over sexual abuse issues

George - another cultural warrior and embroilled himself in abuse scandal and waiting for his replacement to be appointed

(would suggest that Sartrain falls in line with Chaput (think LCWR investigation and his own multiple abuse scandals in Joliet)

Article ends with: 
 

"The Knights of Columbus leadership themselves could benefit from an ethics workshop, one that focuses on the difference between politics and charity."

The comment I posted @ 12:40 was originally made by Michael J. Barberi, December 26, 2011 - 9:11pm

Per CCC-1935, "The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:

"Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design."  Sexual orientation is not mentioned.

CCC-2357 describes "homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity...intrinsically disordered...contrary to the natural law."  CCC-2358 describes homosexuality as a "tendenc[y]...inclination...objectively disordered".  "Every sign of *unjust* discrimination in their regard should be avoided" (emphasis added).  Is it unjust, therefore, to fire a teacher who has entered into a same-sex marriage, i.e., a union "incompatible with God's design"?

According to CCC-912, "The faithful should '...[remember] that in every temporal affair they are to be guided by a Christian conscience since no human activity, even of the temporal order, can be withdrawn from God's dominion.'"  Is same-sex marriage not part of "God's dominion"?

Given increasing Catholic support in the USA (and elsewhere?) for same-sex marriage, perhaps the official teachers (the hierarchs) need to revisit current doctrine on homosexuality and revise the CCC accordingly???  Rome certainly set a precedent with respect to doctrinal change on human slavery: The conciliar fathers at Vatican II learned from the rest of us that slavery is morally wrong and could no longer be justified by natural or divine law.

 

 

Brian,

I obviously cannot speak for him, but one at least wonders if Pope Francis might not take a different position from the one given by Cardinal Bergolio.  The current Pope has indicated that on occassion his views on social issues were  criticized by the Vatican.  Given his comments on homosexuality since becoming Pope, his position might be less strident.  As far as the anthopology of marriage, one certainly wouldn't look to the Old Testament for support, at least not for one man-one woman marriage.  At least a fair number of the patriachs had multiple wives and not a few had concubines as well. 

Perhaps part of the problem is the conservative wing's efforts to normalize discrimination - this article at NCR is about the Knights of Colombus sponsoring workshops for and giving money to US bishops to oppoose LGBT equality ...  http://ncronline.org/blogs/young-voices/knights-columbus-redefine-charit...

One of the more frightening aspects of the KoC's efforts to educate US bishops on these issues is the involvement of someone like Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons.

Fitzgibbons is dangerous on many levels.  He actually still believes in reparative therapy for gay teens.  This long ago discredited pseudo-psychology harms children and adults, leads to self-hatred and even suicide. 

If this weren't bad enough he has a history of convincing bishops that despite evidence to the contrary, pedophiles in the employ of the church are not pedophiles.

http://www.kansascity.com/2011/11/16/3270664/psychiatrist-who-examined-r...

Richard Fitzgibbons, who examined Ratigan in January after disturbing photographs of children were found on the priest’s computer, is an adviser to Opus Bono Sacerdotii, according to the group’s website. The nonprofit organization provides services to accused and imprisoned priests, including financial, legal and emotional support.

After his evaluation, Fitzgibbons told Finn that Ratigan was not a pedophile and that his pornography problem was a result of loneliness and depression, according to a report commissioned by the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.

Finn relied on Fitzgibbons’ opinion in his decision to send Ratigan to a Vincentian mission house in Independence, where he remained a priest and allegedly continued to take lewd photographs of children, the report said.

It would appear that Finn "doctor-shopped" for a psychiatrist who would "go soft" on Ratigan.  At the time, Fitzgibbons was identified as a board member of NARTH, and the doctor's resume/CV did not show board certification in psychiatry.  As I recall, even a new medical school graduate can practice a medical specialty without certification, and no doubt there are competent physicians who have either not sought board certification or have allowed it to lapse.  Nonetheless, such certification is considered a "plus" by most physicians.  If Fitzgibbons is not board-certified, why not?

Because he rejects the APA, etc. best practices and violates their standards by *preaching* and using treatments that have been rejected by professional boards, by peer reviewed colleagues, etc.

The Eastside Catholic situation is symtomatic of a larger problem which the Church faces on the whole question of homosexuality.  Put most simply, it is on the wrong side of history.  Virtually every survey shows support for gay marriage growing, not slowing.  Even among self identifed Republicans it has grown by 6% over the past decade.  While still a substantial minority within that group, the trend is clear even there.  Among younger folks, it is barely debateable.  Recent surveys put support at 70 plus percent.  Even seniors are now over 50% in favor.  And as it becomes more and more common,these numbers aren't going to go down.  The other point is that once given, it is rare in western democracies from rights to be taken away.  So this isn't changing in the near future either.  The bottom line here is that much like Church teaching on birth control, the teaching here is going to be ignored at best, and will drive prople from the Church at worst. 

One other note here.  At some point, certain "teachings" become irrelevent.  People have used the example of slavery which wasn't formally changed until the 1960s as an example of a teaching which was wrong.  I would agree with that, but would argue that certainly in the West, and certainly by 1880 or so it was utterly irrelevent what the Church tought on the subject. It was just not practiced and nobody bothered to even consider the official teaching of the Church.  I think one could make the same argument on birth control.  When 90% of Catholic couples ignore a teaching, it doesn't matter whether it is formally changed or not. I can't remember the last time I heard a priest raise this matter. They look out and see the families in the pews with 2-3 kids evenly spaced and understand that there was something besides the Holy Ghost  at work.   It really doesn't matter because it is just not anything that Catholics worry about or even consider anymore.  Within a decade, if it isn't already, the teaching on homosexuality will be in the same catagorey.  The practice will be generally accepted and nobody will even bother to look at what the church officially teaches. 

 

I think that's exactly right, Jim Dunn. If an institution takes the long view—and what view is longer than the Church's?—it can let oblivion do the work of rescission and never have to admit, even to itself, that it is wrong. Of course, during the transition, real people are harmed for what turns out to be no good reason. And the Church is shamed for doing what it would condemn in its own members, purposeful forgetting to avoid responsibility. Strangely, that is thought to be the way to preserve its teaching authority.

Jim Dunn,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply and contributions to this thread. 

One obstacle to the damnatio memoriae of obsolete teachings is that the institutional church, through its most vocal defenders, champion those same obsolete teachings as proof of the Church's legitimacy (e.g. a voice in the desert, etc) and, furthermore, increasingly identify the entire Christian faith with those obsolete teachings.

People often mention the slavery issue for a comparison. But the issue of, "who will be the slaves?" rarely disturbs Rome's cosmology. Instead, we should look to the abolition of feudalism, during which the Church took (i.e. had arrived at over the years) a position that almost saw Roman Catholicism abolished. The institutional church can't even read the riot act to some kids at a school in Seattle and yet they're doubling down on the anti-gay, anti-women agenda. 

This feels more like the anti-democratic intransigence that almost saw the end of the Church than it does the blase shoulder shrug given about the ending of slavery.

 

Share

About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.