One Extreme is Worse than the Other

Saint Sébastien soigné par Irène, Francesco Cairo, 1635. Oil on Canvas, 68x84cm. Musee des Beaux Arts, Tours, France

Saint Sébastien soigné par Irène, Francesco Cairo, 1635. Oil on Canvas, 68x84cm. Musee des Beaux Arts, Tours, France.

It turns out when talking to sexual minorities as a Church, it is very hard to say that “you shouldn’t have sexual relationships or get married” at the same time as “We love you and want to offer a path to personal joy and fulfillment in your life.” Recent Post II described when I stopped believing the second part because the first was so overwhelmingly loud. And Post III described when I willfully ignored the first message, because I bought into an exaggerated, mushy version of the second. Both times were terrible–I did call the posts “The Danger of Extremes”–but I believe one is worse than the other.

In my experience, the sense of rejection by the Church that I internalized for a period was far more damaging than the time I gave myself a pass on the Church’s sexual teachings. Why? Continue reading

How will we teach? A thought on gradualism, the Synod, and “pastoral challenges”

I had no idea how to address the moderate craziness ensuing at the Vatican right now, and even wilder craziness the media has spun out (although, to be fair, there is a good deal of level-headed and accurate reporting to be found in mainstream outlets like TIME). Then I read this amazing article by Mark Shea at Patheos which you should stop and read right now. I’m such a fan that all three four hyperlinks go to the same place. Among many thoughtful points, he incisively highlights how the most extreme members on both sides are operating as atheists. (Perhaps more on that later.)

I want to respond to one thing:

1. (in a list of one) The scope of what is at stake here

First of all, the document causing the kerfuffle is a “relatio post disceptationem” which is a totally non-binding collection of some thoughts so far that have been aired (and were not even voted on or meant to reflect a majority–just commonly mentioned ideas as recorded by a few of the participants), in the first smaller segment of a Synod (which is a meeting of Church leaders lower than a Council with no ability to change doctrine, that I know of…), which will take two years, which was called by the Pope to discuss the topic of his choosing: “Pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”

This topic alone indicates that the participants of the synod are NOT doing what the BBC reports in a byline: “Senior clerics taking part in a review of Catholic teachings on the family.” For me this conjures the laughable notion of bishops studying for a theology midterm by re-reading their professor’s PowerPoint slides one more time. But for the public, this misleading sentence indicates that the teachings about the family are “under review”–that people are deciding if they are good or bad. This is not the kind of thing that happens at a Synod anyway, and it also defies the purpose of the meeting as outlined by the Pope… to discuss “pastoral challenges.” Perhaps this term lacks obvious meaning–which is just one more example of the big problem at stake: The language (and related mindsets) of our Church leadership is lost on the public. That’s why this synod was a great idea.

Continue reading