Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nondiscrimination and the Roman Catholic bishops

Tremendous essay in the National Catholic Reporter today about the ongoing participation of the Roman Catholic Bishops in the anti-gay "religious freedom" culture war. (This on the heels of firing the Editor of the Catholic News service because he tweeted something critical about the anti-gay laws in North Carolina.)
"Hollenbach and Shannon advise, and we agree, that "the church should not ask the state to do what it has not been able to convince its own members to do." 
It should not ask the state to enforce a teaching against homosexual acts that it cannot convince the majority of its own members to accept. The burden of proof is on the church to demonstrate that homosexual acts are destructive of human dignity and cannot serve "the good of the person or society." So far, it has not offered a compelling argument. An unproven assertion should not be advanced as the basis for an abusive use of religious freedom aimed at preventing or repealing nondiscrimination legislation and imposing the church's morally questionable doctrine on the broader society. 
The bishops have every right to advocate for their moral position and to protect religious institutions from participating in what they perceive as immoral activity, but they do not have the right to impose their moral teachings legislatively in a pluralistic society. That, we conclude, would be the very worst kind of proselytism."
Exactly.  Put another way, the RC Bishops do not have the right to tell Episcopalians who can get married.

1 comment:

wdg_pgh said...

It is interesting that even though the NCR article is a far more enlightened take on the issues than that of the RC hierarchy, it still exhibits some of the classical RC attitude toward the identity of the church and who has authority to determine moral and theological truth. One gets the message that "The Church" is distinct from "its members."

E.g. 'Hollenbach and Shannon advise, and we agree, that "the church should not ask the state to do what it has not been able to convince its own members to do."'

Also: 'The fact that the majority of Catholic faithful do not accept Catholic teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts or contraception is not an argument for their morality, which is not determined by majority consensus. The burden of proof, however, is on the church to make a compelling argument that convinces Catholic and non-Catholic citizens that the teachings are true.'

Majority consensus may not be proof of morality, but surely it should be a legitimate part of the argument unless one takes it as a given that only priests and bishops are capable of theological discernment.

To quote theological historian Frederica Harris Thompsett, "As Anglicans we are entitled to emphasize the centrality of the Bible in matters of faith as it is interpreted through the critical, collective wisdom of the community." [We Are Theologians]

One of the main reasons that I am glad to be an Episcopalian.