Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Father Geoff Farrow's press conference statement

Go here to read what Father Geoff has said regarding Prop 8, counseling gay people, what he did and why he did it. Here is the comment I left on his post:

Exactly. You know, of course and probably by heart, the rebuttal. Your bishop will claim that following the teachings of Christ is challenging but not impossibly onerous. He will say that Christ speaks through his Church and that His truth has been revealed through the magisterial authority of the Pope and his bishops, and that the route to salvation is revealed through Church tradition and laws based on that tradition. He will discount your compassion. He will say that your conscience is malfunctioning. He will say that you have fallen prey to modernism and a theology of convenience.

He will make that which is so simple and clear very complicated and distorted. It will come down to whether the listener decides that he is speaking for Jesus or that you are speaking for Jesus.

Permit me a story. My own mother once faced a moral dilemma. She wanted to pursue something that she knew was against church law but it seemed right to her. She was conflicted. Did she think it was right just because it was desirable, she wondered. She asked my counsel. I told her to do it. (I think I may have said "Go with your bad self".) She said, "I knew that's what you would say." She then asked a priest who was a good friend of mine. She worked as his parish secretary. He told her the same thing I did. Her response to him was the same. Finally she went to an elderly Monsignor who had known our family for decades. He said "Marge, you know in your heart what you must decide." She took this to mean "No, you can't." She did it anyway, but she went to confession to the elderly monsignor and she felt forgiven and relieved. All four of us got a good laugh out of it, and it clearly demonstrates how traditional Catholics think their way through stuff.

Times have changed. Those quaint games are over. It's time to take the lid off the nonsense of 20th century Catholicism and return to a healthier more mature (I won't say sophisticated) approach to Jesus who has patiently been waiting lo these many years for his priests to do exactly what you have done.


Birdie said...

There is a semester’s worth of discussion in this letter. A healthier approach to Jesus is in fact not at all sophisticated. So many people, including clergy, want to make it incredibly difficult to understand and believe. There will always be mystery, for who can fully understand the mind of God? Those who claim to know what God thinks exhibit the same hubris that put the earth at the center of the universe. They seek the comfort of certainty. It’s a checklist mentality, marking off each item that God will approve. We must help people find comfort in the search for truth, allowing for the mystery which must remain. What we can find is total and complete acceptance in what God made us to be, and we can hope to pass it on.

thomas tucker said...

Sounds nice in a warm fuzzy sort of way. Th problem is that your picture of Jesus is one-dimensional and leaves out the parts of the Gospel in which he condemns sexual vice and lust.
How conveeenient, as the Church Lady used to say.
The Gospel in its entirety is not the Gospel of If It Feels Good Do It.

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Dear Thomas Tucker,
I am surprised by the weakness of your argument but you really don't have much supporting material in the gospels to work with. You know perfectly well that Jesus made only the broadest of moral directives. Basically, "Do good. Avoid evil". Sexual vice? Where? You are not even on thin ice here. You're under water.
We do know that Jesus got really pissed at the pharisees and money men, and that he knotted a rope and chased them out of the temple with it. Does that speak to you? Do you wear kevlar when you go to church?

thomas tucker said...

I agree somewhat- Jesus does paint a broad picture of doing good and avoiding eveil. It is obvious when you read trhough the entire Gospel accounts that avoiding sin, and repenting of sin, and seeking holiness in dealing with both god and man is paramount to Jesus' preaching. The importance of this is underscored by the real potential for punishment for sinfulness (Mt 13:36-43.) And sometimes Jesus gets rather specific over what kinds of sins to avoid- see Mk 7:20-23, and also Mt 15:19-20 and Mark 10:11-12.
The overall thrust of Jesus' teaching is presaged by John the Baptist's call for repentance of sin and turning toward holiness, and Jesus emphasizes even more that this must be hearfelt and real rather than just going thru the motions.
Jesus did not do away with the idea of following the Commandments, or do away with first century Jewish sexual morality. If anything, he made it even sticter, by emphasizing the internal qualitities that must accompany it, or calling for a return to strict interpretation (don't just refrain from adultery but instead don't even lust; return to the practice of no divorce, etc.)
Oh, and btw, I would wear Kevlar if I didn't go to Confession first.

Birdie said...

It seems to me that the lists of sins, from the holiness code of the Old Testament to the admonitions of the New Testament, are naming within the culture of the day those behaviors which would lead a believer away from God. (Mind you, NOT away from salvation.) There are two measures of sinfulness, whether by commission or omission: harm to others and harm to oneself. A given behavior might in one instance be harmful and in another be benign.

By what measure do we determine an act’s sinfulness? We cannot in good conscience simply accept the English translation of the day at face value, ignoring the context and language in which it was originally written. While the Bible does not change, we do. We must acknowledge that divorce does not demand a death sentence today, because leaving a woman on her own today is not also a death sentence as it was thousands of years ago.

Sexual vice and lust within the context of Bible times had far more implications than we see today. Idolatry and violence were the primary goals of sinful sexual behavior then. How do we understand it today? We go back to the measure of sin: harm to others and harm to oneself. Harm to others can be observed and regulated; harm to oneself most often lies between a person and God. We aspire to godly behavior as we see it.

I must admit that the greater understanding I have of the Bible, the greater awareness I gain of my own shortcomings. But with it comes a humbling awareness of God’s forgiving grace. Forgiven, I am able to share what I experience with others. And isn’t that what this whole imbroglio is about: allowing ALL people the right to participate—as citizens, as congregants, as clergy—fully, in whatever capacity each desires.

Mike said...

Modern American Catholic thought has been wholly taken over by a cabal of neo-con right-wingers who adapted their Cold War wet dream fantasies from the Communist threat to the fabled "enemy within." The constant search for new persons to purge from the righteous clique never ends. So the gay, divorced, users of birth control, and anyone in favor of women's rights receive full wrath.

Did you notice sins of the flesh that don't involve sex, such as gluttony, greed, war-mongering or just plain lying don't get anything more than ten Hail Marys at confession, faint lip service from the pulpit and whole-hearted endorsement at election time?

Have you noticed the absolute SILENCE that accompanied the worldwide stock market crash? Maybe the cardinals were crying in their beer,no, scotch or gin and tonics at all the loot they lost.

thomas tucker said...

I agree with Mike that certain sexual sins receive far too much attention, as does sexual immorality in general, compared with other sins such as gluttony and greed. But this is true primarily for certain sections of society. In most Catholic churches, preaching about sexual immorality is actually pretty rare.
As for Curch commentary about recent economic news, I have seen some very pointed statments recently about this from Pope Benedict. How would you know whether or not other bishops have said anything- we see and read what the media decide to tell is newsworthy!
I appreciate birdie's comments but and I agree that Scripture has to be read in context. But that doesn't mean that everything therein is a museum artifact and irrlevant to modern man. Cultural and historical context can also become something of a copout. Asking how we know that something sinful in Scripture remains so now is a huge topic, of course. Ultimately, I think you either believe in the constant teaching and tradition handed down by the Apostles, or you don't. If you don't, you have to be very careful that your own sinful impulses are not affecting your judgement of the true and good. You may also fail to see that your contemporary view is deeply conditioned by your own societal context.
Having said all that, it is clear from the gospels that Jesus did not ignore sexual immorality even as he preached about much much more than that.

Birdie said...

Thomas, can’t we incorporate the wisdom of the ages with our own culture, wisdom and selves? I cannot in good conscience sublimate my own God-given intelligence and accept traditional thought without discernment. At the same time, tradition is there because it has stood the test of time and therefore deserves examination. Tradition also provides a communal framework which offers a sense of belonging (in the RCC, as long as you’re not gay). We are born first in relationship before we become individuals; and we spend the rest of our lives trying to return to the intimacy of relationship. Tradition gives us identity and relational community but risks stagnation if it does not acknowledge modern societal context. We need each other to form an identity as a body of believers, but each of us also has identity as an individual. I must merge those aspects of myself as a Christian. Blending tradition, modern culture, community and indpendence is a careful balancing act.

My own societal context will absolutely affect my view of Scripture; how could it not for every human being who has ever read it? We pray for insight and clarity, knowing that true clarity is not possible in this life. Thus remains trust in God that we will see, if dimly for now, what He would have us do. The degree to which our vision is clear is the degree to which we submit ourselves to God. I cannot say to you what that is for you. We unfold the meaning of the Bible as best we can, each of us according to our progress in our journey of faith.

thomas tucker said...

birdie- fundamentally,we have opposing views of Scripture interpretation. Yours is a basically Protestant view that is one of personal interpretation and self-guidance. Mine is the Catholic view in which interpretation is vouchsafed to the teaching authority of the Church. Each view has its advantages and disadvantages. The problem with your view, of course, is that ultimately you may find in Scripture what you basically want to find, and so you will end up conforming the will of God to your own will instead of the other way around. And this can be done sincerely but still be misguided- we all are aware of how much we tend to rationalize our behavior.
Ultimately, private interpretation of Scripture leads to thousands of different denominations, all proclaiming various teachings which are incompatible yet all of which are supposedly the will of God. And yet this situation does not square with objective truth and universal morality.

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Dear Birdie and Thomas Tucker,
And there you have it: either you buy the teaching authority of the roman Catholic Church or you consider its interpretation of scripture as just one of those "thousands of different denominations".
Personally, it seems to me that since all those denominations can be traced back to the Roman one, that is the one I want to keep, but I want to gut-renovate it and clean out all the bullshit that has accumulated in recent centuries. (I heard that, Thomas).

thomas tucker said...

LOL, Father T.

Birdie said...

Well, guys, I'm betting each of you has forgotten more than I have ever learned. I've got a lot more to study and discover. But I sure enjoy these discussions.

thomas tucker said...

birdie and father t- It is nice to be able to have amicable discussion even though we may disagree with each other. You don't find that in many comboxes, I must say.

Марко Фризия said...

sI believe that homosexual acts are gravely sinful, but only if they are done very poorly.