Last month, one of Commonweal magazine’s cover features was a pair of articles from two theologians on the topic “The Church and Transgender Identity: Some Cautions, Some Possibilities.” The theologians were David Cloutier, associate professor of theology at the Catholic University of America and the author of Walking God’s Earth: The Environment and Catholic Faith (Liturgical Press); and Luke Timothy Johnson, emeritus Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University and the author of The Revelatory Body: Theology as Inductive Art (Eerdmans).
In today’s post, Bondings 2.0 will present Cloutier’s argument, and tomorrow we will present Johnson’s perspective.
If we think of the pairing of these two articles as representing a pro and con position, Cloutier’s essay would have to be put into the con column. I’m not sure that this is a totally fair assessment, though, for while Cloutier clearly questions a lot of transgender discourse, another dimension that comes through his essay is some sensitivity to people who identify as transgender. He seems interested in finding a way that understands and respects them, even though it is obvious that he does not approve of what he sees as underlying assumptions of a lot of transgender equality rationales.
Source: Bondings 2.0
The Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family, which will be taking place later this year, was never intended to produce doctrinal change. Many events, however, have unintended consequences. Pope Francis’ revolution in the Catholic Church has often been compared to Vatican II, but at the outset, nobody really expected the extent of the transformation it achieved. The synod will not directly produce any change in doctrine, but it is being preceded by an extensive global consultation on how the Church as a whole understands and accepts those doctrines. If anyone really doubts that the conference will not be forced at least to consider the urgent need for doctrinal change, they should pay close attention to the many reports now emerging on the responses to that consultation – and especially to the responses of the experts, the professional moral theologians. National Catholic Reporter has some commentary on responses from some German theologians:
German theologians critique church teachings, propose new sexual understanding
Two groups of noted German theologians have bluntly outlined how church teaching does not align with the concerns or lifestyles of most European Catholics in response to a Vatican questionnaire on Catholics’ attitudes on issues like contraception and same-sex marriage.
Church sexual teachings, say the representatives of the Association of German Moral Theologians and the Conference of German-speaking Pastoral Theologians, come from an “idealized reality” and need a “fundamental, new evaluation.”
“It becomes painfully obvious that the Christian moral teaching that limits sexuality to the context of marriage cannot look closely enough at the many forms of sexuality outside of marriage,” say the 17 signers of the response, who include some of Germany’s most respected Catholic academics.
The theologians also propose that the church adopt a whole new paradigm for its sexual teachings, based not on moral evaluations of individual sex acts but on the fragility of marriage and the vulnerability people experience in their sexuality.
The theologians are responding to a Vatican request last October that bishops worldwide prepare for a 2014 global meeting of Catholic prelates by distributing a questionnaire on family topics “as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”
full report at National Catholic Reporter.
- What We Don’t Already Know (commonwealmagazine.org)
- And So It Begins … ? (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- German Moral and Pastoral Theologians Respond to Pope Francis’s Questions about Sexual Morality and Family: Time for Significant Change (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Catholic Sexual Ethics and the Category of Justice: A Reminder about Margaret Farley’s Pioneering Work (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Mary Hunt on What Worries Her about Francis: “Substantive Structural and Doctrinal Issues Do Not Evaporate Just Because the Pope Does Not Wear Prada” (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- German theologians and the family synode (stefanhippler.com)
- “The Meaning of Sex” (Letters to the Catholic Right) (queeringthechurch.com)
The smooth certainty of the right is just as unattractive as the moral smugness of the left
The question of the hour is whether the Episcopal Church can continue to muddle into a sixth century, or whether falling levels of membership suggest inevitable decline. Critics such as Douthat link the church’s progressive stand on sexuality — the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003 and now the vote on the same-sex rite — to its troubled numbers. “It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows,” wrote Douthat. “But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.”
Eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes. As I read it, his argument, shared by many, is that the church is essentially translating liberal views of sexuality into the language and forms of the faith. If the Bible speaks out against homosexuality, then a church that moves to embrace homosexuals must be acting not according to theological thinking but to political factors. Put another way, the Episcopal Church has taken the course it has taken on sexuality because it is politically fashionable to do so, not because there is a theological reason to open its arms wider.
The problem with this argument is that it ignores a long tradition of evolving theological understanding and changing scriptural interpretation. Only the most unapologetic biblical fundamentalists, for instance, take every biblical injunction literally. If we all took all scripture at the same level of authority, then we would be more open to slavery, to the subjugation of women, to wider use of stoning. Jesus himself spoke out frequently against divorce in the strongest of terms. Yet we have — often gradually — chosen to read and interpret the Bible in light not of tradition but of reason and history.
-full commentary by John Meacham at TIME.com.
- US church approves gay blessings (BBC)
- Can Liberal Christianity be Saved? (Ross Douthat, New York Times)
- Can Non- liberal Christianity be Saved? (Patheos)
- For Douthat, Church Either Uncompromising or a Secular Den of Promiscuity (Relition Dispatches)
What is the strongest theological argument in favor of same-sex marriage? The answer, I contend, is that such relationships are visible signs of God’s grace — an amazing kind of one-way love that is a pure gift and cannot be earned. I’ve come to this realization based upon over 20 years of being together with my husband Michael, through our ups and downs, and for better or for worse.
Same-sex marriages are sacramental because they are a reflection of the larger grace-filled relationship between God and humanity. The classical theological definition of a sacrament — including baptism, eucharist and marriage — is that it is a visible and external sign of God’s invisible grace. Same-sex marriages are holy because they are vehicles in which we can experience and gain a deeper understanding of God’s unearned and unmerited love for us.
Michael and I have experienced a healthy dose of grace in our relationship over the last two decades. First of all, falling in love itself is an act of grace. As most of us have discovered, one simply cannot force another person to fall in love with her or him (that is, outside of the world of Shakespearean comedies and magic love potions). Love — whether same-sex or opposite-sex — is a manifestation of God’s amazing grace precisely because it cannot be planned or earned. Love is not just a matter of works, but rather of grace.
-full reflection by theologian Rev. Patrick S. Cheng, Ph.D, at Huffington Post.