13Aug New Evangelisation: Getting real. Mary Cunningham

New Evangelisation: Getting real.
Recent postings notably those of Jo O’Sullivan, Sean O’Conaill, Rosemary McHugh and the article by Tom Rostrelli, have served to highlight what has become increasingly clear to me to me over the past number of years.
Any effort at new evangelisation or renewal of faith in the Roman Catholic Church is doomed to failure unless there is a radical shift to address the dysfunctional magisterial teachings on sexuality.
My reasons for this view are as follows;
1. The Vatican’s core conceptual understanding of homosexuality is flawed and out of line with copious empirical psychological/sociological research over the last fifty years.

2. The November 2005, ‘Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders’ (see Vatican website), is evidence of this contention.  Change ‘homosexual’ for ‘straight’ and see how bizarre the criteria of having ‘deep seated straight tendencies’ ‘supporting straight culture’, ‘overcoming adolescent straightness for the past three years’ appears.
3. If this document formed part of the Instrumentum Laboris for examining seminaries, no wonder Timothy Dolan ran into trouble.  Diarmuid Martin is correct in observing that some seminarians may be fragile.  This Instruction is perverse and conceptually on a level with the ‘flat earth’ theory

4. Any homosexual who achieves a healthy self-acceptance and has a positive attitude toward his sexual orientation is precisely the one this instruction excludes from the seminary.  The healthy are unacceptable; only the pathological may apply.  What is bad psychology has to be bad theology.  (John M Neill ‘Objective Disorder’ 2005)
In January 2011 the first National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland, ‘Share the Good News ‘was launched.  In light of Diarmuid Martin’s reflection that ….’its application has been very slow and it has not yet made the inroads into popular catechetics and parish life that it needs to’, and in full agreement with Sean O’Conaill that ‘The really good news for me in the Gospel and the Eucharist is that we are all indeed, and in every moment, of equal and infinite value’, I ask the following:
1. The everyday reality of people’s lives and their lived experiences are difficult to discern in some of the rhetoric used in ‘Share the Good News’.  For example, “The dignity of the human person demands that justice and solidarity be recognised as key dimensions at the centre of all catechetical efforts”.(p.161).  What about basic dignity, and justice for the equal rights of women, gay people, those who have babies via IVF etc.?

2. In relation to young people ’Share the Good News’ proclaims ” It is only when the young person knows who they are and what is important for them that they can truly move forward toward a more intimate understanding of relation with others and, indeed, with God”(p.149). 
Where does this leave ‘intrinsically disordered persons’, as the Vatican describe some, because they stand in judgement on their sexual orientation?

3. Church teaching on sexuality will have to be addressed in any effort to evangelise our idealistic young people.  Among their main areas of concern are suicide and homosexuality, (Diarmuid Martin).  Their sense of fairness, compassion and ability to discern hypocrisy, would put many of us to shame.  You hit the nail on the head, Jo O’Sullivan.  ‘Young people accept that discrimination in any form is simply wrong, so they cannot accept the misogynistic, homophobic aspects of Catholicism’.

The closing sentence of the SYNOD OF BISHOPS XIII ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY THE NEW EVANGELIZATI ON FOR THE TRANSMISSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH (VATICAN CITY.2012) reads
‘May the words, “Do not be afraid!”, be the words of the new evangelization, by which the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, proclaims “to the ends of the earth”(Acts 1:8) Jesus Christ, the Gospel of God, so that everyone might have faith.’
Is there a fearless ‘holy terror’ among our bishops who can put aside ambition and display the moral courage necessary to take a lead in this regard?
Mary Cunningham

27 Responses

  1. Cyril North

    These words are congenial to someone who sees catholicism as visualized by many at the time of Vatican II and after, who now feel alienated because over the past thirty years or more the view of the church from within the institutional hierarchy is focussed differently; on a struggle to preserve the authority of this hierarchy by making an issue of the traditional role of women in the church and rejection of any discussion about sexuality.

    For fear of losing control, the Vatican, as well as the bishops they appoint or dismiss, steadfastly cling to the status quo before the second Vatican council: an exclusive clerical structure at the top and a compliant laity below. Who dares to criticize gets ostracized.

    This is an institution driven by fear rather than hope. They may flaunt slogans like new evangelization, but not much chance of morally courageous leadership there. I fear the alienation of those seeking change is only going to go on.

    Sorry to be so pessimistic, because there was a time I believed John XXIII had brought about a permanent change for the better.

  2. Frances Donovan

    Tremendously well said, Mary!

  3. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Cyril,
    What everyone doesn’t know is that this is the “New Evangelization” of the Roman Catholic Church. If the Associations were not legally viable for what they stand for, then there would be an honest attempt to completely silence the dialogue that has taken place thus far. Pope Benedict has made his public address to the Initiatives. He welcomes theological debate, it’s just that the Inititiative hasn’t signaled what that is yest. Sounds like a lot of personal preference to him. This is ultimately a legal battle which will eventually signal the discord between Canon Law and St. Thomas’s works on Natural Law. This is how we measure the viability of human/positive Law. We run it against Natural Law. If the Pope says that Canon Law is Human Law/Positive, then things must change. This is the strategic initiative. Throw in that you have a UN Convention and a UN Charter that calls for this change, the deal has been sweetened slightly. I’ve tried to contact the Irish group. They have been silenced. No response. The Vatican can’t be a totalitarian state and Canon Law should never trump Natural Law. St. Thomas backs that strategy and what we are witnessing is the fallout of such disorder. We need to all come together and speak about the changes we want to see in society as a whole and force the agenda. You’d be surprised with how much we can take on. We are driven by fear too. Fear that the dialogue will lead to nothing no matter what it may be labeled. And as for courageous leadership; I haven’t seen so much courage in all my life – don’t look for the leaders to find courage; look for the courage to find the leaders.

  4. Eamonn Keane

    Magisterial teaching on sexuality is about love, life and truth. As such, it expresses in propositional form the truth concerning God’s plan for the flourishing of life and love in his creation. With the Western World’s deepening crisis of imploding populations and faltering economies, accounted for in part by a failure in ethics, including false perceptions in regard to the meaning of sexuality and marriage, magisterial teaching in these areas is a light illuminating the path out of the abyss of the culture of death.

    Eamonn Keane

  5. Eric Conway

    Just a brief word of support for Eamonn Keane. Both Pope Benedict & Pope John Paul 11 have written beautifully on this subject. In the area of human sexuality it’s the surrounding culture that has developed a warped one-dimensional view. The Church’s teaching is counter-cultural & unpopular, but totally reasonable.

  6. Anthony Boland

    Very well expressed, Mary. The problem with Church. family and societal homophobia is that it is internalised from such an early age. Those of us who are gay begin drinking in what is said and more importantly what is not said about our emerging sexuality from a very young age. It becomes our truth and we often become our own worst persecutors. A change in Church teaching is vital for the generations yet to be born. Equally importantly for now, is the need to engage with the psychologial and spiritual support of laity and religious who are torn apart today by their inner shame and guilt over their sexuality.

  7. Joe O'Leary

    “Magisterial teaching on sexuality is about love, life and truth.”

    It also drives teenage gays to suicide or their parents to throw them out on the streets.

    “As such, it expresses in propositional form the truth concerning God’s plan for the flourishing of life and love in his creation.”

    A better expression is found in Scripture: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.”

    ” With the Western World’s deepening crisis of imploding populations and faltering economies, accounted for in part by a failure in ethics, including false perceptions in regard to the meaning of sexuality and marriage, magisterial teaching in these areas is a light illuminating the path out of the abyss of the culture of death.”

    Overpopulation causes a culture of death in countries where kids live by scavenging on rubbish dumps and die at an early age.

    “Both Pope Benedict & Pope John Paul 11 have written beautifully on this subject.”

    If “this subject” is gayness, could you point out the encouraging statements for glbt folk, or the apology for the treatment of gays over the centuries?

    “In the area of human sexuality it’s the surrounding culture that has developed a warped one-dimensional view.”

    Yves Congar, no mean theologian, faulted the Church in 1978 for its focus on the “sacrosanct semen”.

    “The Church’s teaching is counter-cultural & unpopular, but totally reasonable.”

    Like its teaching on slavery in 1866, or its teaching on religious liberty during the 700 years when the Inquisition (still unapologized for) was at the centre of its theology, politics, canon law, spirituality.

  8. Mary Burke

    Once again, we owe a debt of gratitude to Joe O’Leary. Your reply to the two comments is persuasive, clear and trenchant. Please keep them coming! MB

  9. Eric Conway

    Joe in my opinion you are being unfair. Ascribing all of the ills in the world to the Church’s teaching is to put it mildly, ott. It seems to me you want the Church to apologise for it’s very existence. The Church tells us to love the homosexual person. As a heterosexual, married male, the Church also recommends courses of action which sometimes go against my selfish inclinations. But I know the teaching is ultimately for the best. It’s not arbitrary & cruel. As the writer PJ O’Rourke said regarding western views on overpopulation – ” just enough of us, way too many of them “. Regarding glbt folk, as you put it, they are not all saints ( neither am I ). I had the misfortune to be in Dublin during the recent ” gay pride ” march. Suffice to say, thankfully I had no children in tow. God bless.

  10. Perry

    Eric, have you any experience of gay people other than ‘PRIDE,’ which could arguably be said to be a consequence of ‘Church teaching’ too – and people like you ?

    Not all LGBT people support PRIDE for various reasons. Sexual promiscuity, drink, drugs etc are very often consequences of abuse – deep spiritual abuse in this instance – by the RCC, and other denominations and religions.

    When you have been denied the right to love your self, give up your wife willingly and your children, for the ‘love of God’ – then I’ll start listening to you, or try to.

    Of course you are entitled to your opinions and beliefs, as are all.

    As another poster rightly pointed out – I hope you have an answer to God for the reality that those beliefs send children and young people to early deaths.

    When any of you have learned what the commandment, “Love your self,” means – then preach about it, teach others how to do same.
    And in a few eons maybe you’ll even learn to teach a homosexual how to love him/herself and she/he might return the favour.

    I’ve been searching far and wide. And relgious minded ‘straight’ people are nearly as, often more ‘self loathing’ than the others. Could just be a question of numbers of course.

    And men who flagellate themselves in some kinky attempt to master the flesh/passions are fooling no one.

    I had a friend used to work in a place where honest men paid to have that done for/to them. “Beat me, beat me….. ” I am not kidding.

    To each their own. After Maciel, nothing shocks.

  11. Sean O'Conaill

    Catholic teaching on sexuality obviously includes sacred principles that must be upheld. I greatly value the fact that my own marriage of 43 years began in the belief and mutual commitment that, with the Lord’s constant support, it would be lifelong.
    However, I cannot now for the life of me see how the durability and sacredness of my marriage was ever strengthened by my church denying to people whose sexual orientation is entirely different from mine the enjoyment and full human maturation that comes from physically intimate and mutually binding relationships.
    If Catholic heterosexual marriage can survive all that has been thrown at it by Catholic bishops (including the betrayal of many Catholic families), why on earth should it ever be threatened by committed gay relationships?
    Not an expert on sexual ethics I cannot see either why a recent attempt to situate Christian sexual ethics within a conceptual framework of justice should have been summarily censured by the CDF. (M.A. Farley, ‘Just Love: A Framework for Sexual Ethics’)
    If the church’s teachings on gay sex are not just, how can they be defended? And if they are indeed just, why can that not be established in persuasive detail by the CDF, or by a papal encyclical?
    Jesus’s stern warning against a fixation with motes in the eyes of others is also surely to be remembered. The unjust practises of the CDF, and the institutional narcissism of the episcopal magisterium, are eye-beams that certainly need to be addressed urgently if Catholic bishops are ever to become convincing bringers of the Good News.

  12. Eric Conway

    Perry, my Church teaches me to love homosexual people & I do so. My parents brought me up similarly. To despise bullying of all kinds, and I have stood up for same on many occasions. But it works both ways. I agree with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. You are free to disagree. However, your post seems to want to deny me that right. I would disagree with a heterosexual pride march on the same basis as a gay pride march. They are a bit too in your face, & can be offensive. I don’t really want to comment on the last few sentences of your post, it strikes me as a rather ad-hominem attack. But I hope you find peace & I wish you well. God bless.

  13. Anthony Boland

    This debate is very heady….why do some people want to deny me access to the full range of my human experience? I want to explore it all with curiousity and interest and know the landscape of my being intimaately….Believe it or not, I won’t descend into moral chaos…that will only happen if I’m censored from my experience. The soul knows what it needs, it knows its way home and it doesn’t like fear and repression – if we don’t give our sexuality its true voice, gay or straight, it will demand one, that’s when the compulsions and distortions arise….’beyond all right doing and wrong doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there…’ (Tagore)

  14. Eric Conway

    With respect Anthony, no one wants to deny you anything. Feel free to take Tagore’s advise. But unbridled freedom may not turn out to be quite the nirvana suggested by Tagore. I agree that an overly puritanical repression is not good, but a degree of self-imposed repression ( some of our baser feelings do need this ) is vital. Take care & God bless.

  15. Soline Humbert

    Some may find useful this website on Christianity and sexuality http://www.thebodyissacred.org/body/sex_homo.asp

  16. Anthony Boland

    Eric – your perspective becomes clearer here, yet I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood me. Indeed I want ALL of my experience available to me. I’m long enough in the world to not to assume that this leads to any Nirvana experience. Your use of the word ‘base’ is interesting here as is ‘unbridled freedom’. So much judgment! Some of what arises is us can be frightening – hatred, powerful sexual drives, jealousy, anger etc. Repressing them doesn’t mean they are not there – in fact it simply sets the course for a distorted ‘spilling out’ which can hurt self and others. Such repression is triggered by the belief that these feelings are ‘base’. It seems wiser to me to bring interest, curiosity and understanding to all of these experiences/feelings, so I can begin to own and take responsibility for my own hatred, sexual power, anger and jealousy. Perhaps then I can be more skillful. What we discover when we do this, is that we don’t want to act out hedonistically, we want to go where our soul gets nourished most. Church teaching should be a source of such nourishment and at its best it is. What it shouldn’t be is the moral censor of our experience – that’s not what I look to the church for.

  17. Eric Conway

    Anthony, thanks for your interesting post. I would contend that ” judgement ” is essential for our survival. We have to make judgements every day of the week, from the mundane to the more serious. When people use the phrase ( I’m not at all suggesting you are ) ” you are being judgemental ” my reaction is – so what, the development of sound judgement is vital to our humanity. In helping us to refine our judgement, I would view the Church as acting as a concerned parent. Of course in life we frequently go against our parents advise, but that’s free will. I don’t think we are that far apart, & at least we can agree to differ. Thank you for the reasonable tone of your reply. Best wishes & God bless.

  18. Perry

    Dunno if you can post this. How the mighty are brought low.

    “Psychiatry Giant Sorry for Backing Gay ‘Cure’.”

    Maybe the RCC will catch up in few centuries.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/19/health/dr-robert-l-spitzer-noted-psychiatrist-apologizes-for-study-on-gay-cure.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

  19. Anthony Boland

    Eric – it’s your very point that saddens me…I don’t want the Church to be my concerned parent – I want the Church to engage with me as adult. When I bring my presence to my sexual power, my rage, my jealousy and my anger, I can then enquire into what I’m experiencing…and that’s when I make adult judgments about how to behave…I may, for example, judge that in a certain context, sexual expression is life-giving for both me and another (albeit not the kind of life-giving the Church requires for such expression) – at other times I will judge that sexual expression may be not appropriate in the given context – but all the time I’m reflecting on, being present to and enquiring into my experience – parenting myself – which is a very different experience to reacting to an internalised critical parent’s voice which tries to frighten me into believing that I’m ordered towards intrinsic depravity…I think we’re still some distance apart. Am off on holiday today….now where is my bridle….

  20. Joe O'Leary

    “Ascribing all of the ills in the world to the Church’s teaching is to put it mildly, ott.”

    I addressed a specific ill: the miserable lives and deaths (executions) inflicted on gays largely thanks to the Church’s teaching and practice over the centuries.

    “It seems to me you want the Church to apologise for its very existence.”

    John Paul II called for a purification of memory and public repentence for the Church’s crimes, against the Jews for example. This is an effort to defend the divine mission of the Church against the cloud of scandal with which its history surrounds it.

    “As a heterosexual, married male, the Church also recommends courses of action which sometimes go against my selfish inclinations.”

    This is a very superficial response. The push for gay marriage is not about indulging selfish inclinations but bringing to fruition one’s capacity for love, fidelity, intimacy, etc. The more you respond with such casual arguments the more the gay marriage case gathers force.

  21. Eric Conway

    Anthony, on reading your latest post I agree, we are poles apart. Essentially you want the Church to engage with you on your terms only. Jesus said – ” if you love me, keep my commandments “. I’m afraid I totally disagree with your analysis. To me it reads like a 1960’s hippy mantra ; and if I may say, slightly over-obsessed with sexuality. Ok in theory, but not a recipe for happiness. But you have free will, so it’s your choice. Your adulthood is irrelevant. Adult’s are as much in need of the sacrament’s as anyone, frequently more so. Anyway, enjoy your holidays, and don’t forget the sun tan. Joe O’Leary uses descriptions such as superficial & casual in berating me. I tried to state my opinions with sincerity & respect, sorry for not measuring up Joe, but my views have’nt changed. God bless & take care.

  22. Soline Humbert

    There is an interesting radio programme to explore further the issue http://ncronline.org/news/people/radio-program-explores-homosexuality-different-faith-communities

  23. Jimmy

    “This is a very superficial response. The push for gay marriage is not about indulging selfish inclinations but bringing to fruition one’s capacity for love, fidelity, intimacy, etc. The more you respond with such casual arguments the more the gay marriage case gathers force.”
    Yeah Joe, gay marriage is about freedom, about love, not about two people doing anal in a cabin somewhere. It is about intimacy but some homophones call it sodomy. Gay marriage will gather force, it’s got support from Eamonn Gilmore and he’s lovely.

  24. Jimmy

    Joe says:
    “I addressed a specific ill: the miserable lives and deaths (executions) inflicted on gays largely thanks to the Church’s teaching and practice over the centuries.”

    Yes the record is incredible in 1099 under Pope Homo the XX in concert with the then Greek Byzantium and Muslim Turkish Bath crowd, Gay pride marches were banned or severely curtailed. Some gays were lined up had their bottoms canned which thoroughly outraged Amnesty and various Human rights organizations but it was whispered in the courts of the day that said gays enjoyed it.

  25. Joe O'Leary

    Under the guise of humor Jimmy manages to trot out a host of homophobic cliches. He has no idea of the damage inflicted on gay folk throughout the centuries by a church that not merely burnt “sodomites” at the stake but poisoned the wells of psychological wellbeing for millions upon millions of innocent human beings.

    “Joe O’Leary uses descriptions such as superficial & casual in berating me.” — hmm, rather touchy. “Ascribing all of the ills in the world to the Church’s teaching is to put it mildly, ott”, and of course a distortion of what I said. But dismissal of gay people on the grounds of unreflected personal distaste is not a response. A serious question is posed to the Church, and it requires a serious answer. And the answer requires a long process of dialogue, consultation, and reflection.

  26. Joe O'Leary

    From Soline’s link: “Many faith traditions have roughly the same stance on the morality of homosexuality that is found in Catholicism: The “orientation” is not sinful, but homosexual activity is forbidden. This is true of Islam, Orthodox Judaism and many Baptist traditions. (I found no other religions, however, that characterize the orientation as “intrinsically disordered.”)”

    Could it be that the invention of the “intrinsically disordered” diagnosis in 1986 has something to do with the fact that the Catholic clergy are probably the gayest of any religion? Some kind of subtle interiorized denial is afoot.

    The Kama Sutra (a scientific survey of sexual practice) is a gay friendly text, relatively speaking, and the programme contrasts it with Hinduism today. Note that Hinduism today is affected by the puritanism of the British overlords, whereas the Kama Sutra stems from the high point of classical Indian culture, the reign of Candraputra II around 400 CE.

  27. Eric Conway

    It seems that Joe O’Leary is entitled to be disrespectful and attack the writer with impunity, without a right of reply. Not very ecumenical. Why is this ?. I found his posting no. 25 highly offensive.