In The Monthly on 31 October 2011, Robert Manne recalled the efforts of Cardinal George Pell to discredit the case of those who were concerned about climate change. Cardinal Pell said that Robert Manne was following fashionable opinion on the subject. Extracts from Robert Manne’s article follow below. John Menadue.
In the Sydney Morning Herald of October 28, Eugene Robinson, a columnist with the Washington Post, reported the findings of the most comprehensive study of the Earth’s temperature ever undertaken. The study had been conducted by the Professor of Physics at University of California, Berkeley, Richard Muller. His team had collated 1.6 billion temperature readings. Interestingly, Muller had begun his study as a climate change “sceptic”, mocking Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph; sympathetic to those responsible for hacking the University of East Anglia ‘Climategate’ emails. The “denialists” were confident that Muller’s study would produce results favourable to their cause. Muller even received a grant of $150,000 from the great sponsors of US denialism, the fossil fuel industry-based Koch brothers. As it turned out, however, the study confirmed earlier findings. Since the 1950s the Earth’s temperature has indeed risen by about 1°C. Muller argued in the Wall Street Journal: “When we began our study, we felt that sceptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups.” He concluded: “You should not be a sceptic, at least not any longer.” Of course these results were immediately contested. Muller was once a climate change sceptic. His new enemies are climate change denialists. Nothing illustrates the distinction between climate change scepticism and denialism more neatly than the differences that are presently opening up between Muller and his critics.
Although the Australian is owned by the same corporation as the Wall Street Journal it chose not to publish Muller’s seminal opinion piece. Instead, on October 27, it published a somewhat less significant article by that well known climate scientist Cardinal George Pell. The article revealed that Pell presently regards himself as an authority on climate change. He informed his readers that, unlike him, many politicians had not investigated what he called “the primary evidence”. Had they done so they would have learned, as he had, about the inadequacies of both the “evidence” and the “explanations” being offered by the climate scientists with regard to global warming. Pell expressed strong disagreement with something I had written. “Recently”, he argued, “Robert Manne, following fashionable opinion, wrote that ‘the science is truly settled’ on the fundamental theory of climate change; global warming is happening; it is primarily caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide; and it is certain to have profound effects in the future.” Pell complained about the fact that I appealed to something called “‘the consensual view among qualified scientists’”. For him, such an appeal was “a cop out, a way of avoiding the basic issues…” Indeed, to write of the core conclusions of the climate scientists as “settled science” or as the “consensual view” represented what he called “a category error, scientifically and philosophically.”
There are many ways of demonstrating the existence of this scientific core consensus, about whose non-existence the Cardinal seems to me entirely wrong. One obvious way is to provide a brief account of some of the statements released by some of the world’s most important scientific academies in recent years.
In 2007, the presidents of the Science Academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States published a common statement. In part it read: “[C]limate change is happening …[A]nthropogenic warming is influencing many physical and biological systems. Average global temperatures increased by 0.74°C between 1906-2005 and a further increase of 0.2°C to 0.4°C in the next twenty years is expected. Further consequences are therefore inevitable, for example from losses of polar ice and sea-level rise.” In October 2009, the presidents of eighteen relevant scientific associations in the United States, led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, signed a joint letteraddressed to every member of the US Senate. “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.” And in November 2009 in the United Kingdom, the Met Centre, Hadley Office; the Natural Environment Research Council; and the Royal Societyreleased a joint statement. “Climate scientists from the United Kingdom and across the world are in overwhelming agreement about the evidence of climate change, driven by human input of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” The meaning of these statements seems clear.
The existence of a core scientific consensus on human-induced climate change has also been proven by surveys of climate scientists. The results have been published in three recent academic articles each using a different methodology. In Science in December 2004 Naomi Oreskes published an article that showed that of the 928 peer-reviewed articles published in relevant scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, not one “disagreed with the consensus position” on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. In 2009 Doran et al in EOS, The Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, asked 3146 Earth scientists whether they thought human activity was “a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures”. While only 77% of non-climatologists thought it was, among the climatologists who published in the field of climate science, 97.4% agreed. In 2010 in PNAS, The Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of the United States, Anderegg et al conducted a survey of the peer-reviewed articles of 1372 climate scientists who had signed public statement either for or against action on climate change. Their conclusion? “97%-98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of anthropogenic climate change outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” The conclusion to be drawn from these academic studies is clear. About 97% of climate scientists actively publishing in peer reviewed journals support the idea that global warming is happening and that it is primarily caused by human activity. If that does not constitute a scientific consensus I am at a loss to know what would. Yet Cardinal Pell characterises all of this as something as frivolous and as politically determined as “fashionable opinion”.
Pell is not only wrong to deny the existence of a core consensus among the qualified climate scientists about global warming and its human cause. He is also wrong to believe that laypeople, like himself (and me), can arrive through uninstructed reasoning or speculation at our own conclusions about climate science. Commonsense ought to tell us that those without the requisite training or understanding have no rational alternative but to accept the conclusions of the scientists. In this area of highly sophisticated science, as in so many other similar examples, as Clive Hamilton once wisely put it, our problem is not what to believe but who. This situation of course is not without serious potential problem. If the climate scientists were divided on the core questions of climate change, laypeople would simply have no way of knowing what to believe. Fortunately, however, the scientists are not divided. They accept the fact of a rise in the temperature of the Earth in recent decades; the role played by human activity in that temperature rise through the burning of fossil fuels; and, in general, the kinds of grave potential danger posed. While concerning the precise pace at which the different outcomes of climate change will occur in the future there is no scientific consensus, on these core questions, consensus among the climate scientists undoubtedly exists. Consensus, of course, is not the same as unanimity.
If Cardinal Pell believed he was able, through intuition, to understand particle physics better than the particle physicists or evolutionary biology better than the evolutionary biologists, his hubristic self-confidence would be merely absurd. He is however living at a time when fossil fuel corporations and other vested interests are seeking to create public confusion about the likely impact of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and when people are searching rather desperately for rationalisations that will allow them, in good conscience, to preserve their way of life by denying the need for radical action to reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Climate scientists are telling us that the future for humans and other species is imperilled. In combination with the current deluge of similar pieces by the expanding army of climate change denialists, Pell’s pronouncements have influence on public opinion and thus the potential to do real harm. In my view, he has used the authority bestowed upon him by high office in the Roman Catholic Church imprudently and irresponsibly.
Cardinal Pell apparently believes that someone like himself – without scientific training; without scientific publications; without the capacity to read and understand academic scientific literature; without even the capacity to pass a first year university examination in one of the relevant climate science academic disciplines – is in a position to disregard the conclusions of 97% of climate scientists actively publishing in peer-reviewed journals which have been supported by the world’s major scientific academies. In denying the existence of a consensus among the climate scientists on core questions, and in arguing that laypeople without scientific understanding or expertise can come to their own conclusions on global warming, as if it were all merely a matter of opinion, Pell has committed what he might call a category error but which I prefer to call a cardinal mistake.
Robert Manne is Emeritus Professor and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at La Trobe University and has twice been voted Australia’s leading public intellectual. He is the author of Left, Right, Left: Political Essays, 1977–2005 and Making Trouble.
The Case of Mike Moroski[i]
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati dismissed Mike Moroski, the assistant principal of Purcell-Marian High School (Dayton, OH) after he refused to remove a private blog expressing support for same-sex marriages. Here are the words of Mike Moroski describing the situation that has been imposed upon him:
On Monday, February 4th  I was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Namely, to take down my post on this site entitled, “Choose Your Battles,” sign a number of documents assuring my silence and keep my job – or, resign.
After much deliberation with my wife, family, trusted clergy, professionals from all walks of life and my own meditative silence, I decided not to take the post down, nor to recant my position that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. . . .”
If I take that post down I would not be able to look at the thousands of former students and families with whom I have worked for twelve years in the eye. . . . What would I say to all of them if I were to go against my OWN conscience[ii] so that I could keep my job for four months?
I refused to agree to the Archdiocese’s terms BECAUSE OF my faith formation at Catholic schools and relationship with Catholic family members & clergy – not in spite of it [. . .]
If any of you Cavaliers [students at Purcell-Marian High School] are reading this, please know that I love you and I am in your corner. I hope that someday you may come to understand why I am not in my office to share a laugh, a cry or a story. . . . As I always tried to teach you – NEVER compromise who you are for someone else – and NEVER let anyone make you someone THEY want you to be. Be strong and take care of one another [. . .]
After the dismissal of Mike Moroski and after the Archdiocese was successfully sued in court by a fired teacher for $171,000,[iii] it appears that Archbishop Schnurr met with his lawyers and was advised to include a “morality clause”[iv] in all teacher contracts so as to better protect the interests of the Archdiocese in future court cases.[v] This “morality clause,” would make it perfectly clear that teachers acknowledged certain ways of acting as incompatible with their employment in the Archdiocese.[vi]
The “morality clause” of the new teachers contract for the 2014-2015 school year permits not only for the firing of gay and lesbian school employees, but also for anyone supporting of the “homosexual lifestyle” [which presumably includes same-sex marriage] as grounds for dismissal.
In response to Archbishop Schnurr’s “morality clause,” Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the Human Rights Campaign published the following analysis:
At a time when Pope Francis is talking about support of civil unions, the Cincinnati Archdiocese, in a throwback to past times, is talking about firing gay and lesbian teachers and silencing their straight supporters. This isn’t in keeping with the olive branch Pope Francis has extended to LGBT people around the world, but even more importantly, it’s not in keeping with the living message of God’s love of all people.
The majority of Catholics and people of faith believe LGBT people deserve dignity, respect, and equal protections under the law,[vii] and at the same time leaders of the Cincinnati Archdiocese are determined to weed out supporters of LGBT equality. This must stop.
The new contract also prohibits membership in an LGBT equality organization, such as the Conference of Catholic Lesbians or DignityUSA. Creating a safe space for LGBT young people, by placing a multicolored-rainbow sticker on your car bumper, for example, could [presumably] be grounds for dismissal.[viii]
I had the opportunity to interview some Catholic teachers perplexed by this change in policy. All of them were angry at the heavy-handed coercion involved in the imposition of the “morality clause.” One teacher noted that “signing this new contract effectively meant that we [the teachers] would lose our civil liberties outside the classroom as the price for continuing to teach inside the classroom.” In contrast, Paul Kindt, a high school religion teacher, reported that he proudly signed the contract because he believed that the Catholic Church has “THE TRUTH” about love and marriage and that is precisely what he presents to his students—“no human opinions,” he emphasized, “just God’s point of view.”[ix]
Another teacher I interviewed was much more personally distressed by the “morality clause”:
My own brother has just recently come out that he is homosexual. I personally want to listen to him deeply but also to publicly support him in the changes that this will produce in his life. In signing this contract, I feel that I am endorsing a Catholic education that forces young people to suppress or deny any homosexual leanings because they are indoctrinated from their earliest years that such a condition leads to serious sin and the threat of eternal hell-fire. This was what my brother was saying to our family. That he was scared out of his mind to even admit the truth to himself while he was in Catholic schools.
“So how is this to be resolved?”, I asked. She continued:
I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t. I love teaching and I had made the choice of Catholic schools because they give kids a challenging moral code. But on this issue of homosexual unions, I’m completely at a loss. If I sign, I will feel that I am betraying the best interests of my brother. If I don’t sign, there is no way in hell that I could find a full-time opening in a public school this late in the summer.[x]
My third interview was perhaps the most critical one:
Our pastor gathered us in the rectory and heard some of the grievances surrounding the “morality clause” in the new contract. By way of an action step, he proposed the following:
“I have no investment in policing your private lives or in scrutinizing those causes you are supporting in our society. In fact, I detest the Archbishop’s senseless meddling. I’m more concerned with our ability, as a parish, to welcome with dignity all the diverse sorts of families that we have in our midst. When we celebrated the baptism of the twins adopted by Karl and Adam, I was proud of the diversity of our parish and proud of the way that everyone accepted gay parents with enthusiasm.
“This is the kind of worshiping community that Jesus would have championed had he been present. So, I don’t see any reason to mount a protest in the face of the Archbishop’s senseless meddling—it would only put us in the limelight and give him a reason to begin disrupting the excellent ministries that we already undertaken. Hence, I trust you and our parents trust you with their children.
“I would, accordingly, ask you to sign the contract for this greater good and to let go of your anxieties. Be not afraid. I will stand behind you. How many would be able to live with this?”
Everyone gave a visible sign of relief. Not a single voice opposed the resolution this pastor proposed to his teachers.[xi]
This interview illustrates how a local pastor had compelling reasons to take the side of his teachers and, for grave pastoral reasons, to deliberately subvert the intentionality of Archbishop Schnurr to purge the ranks of the 2,200 teachers employed by the Archdiocese.
Molly Shumate, a first-grade teacher, is directly touched by one of the newly highlighted restrictions because she has a son who’s gay. She’s ending her career teaching at her childhood school rather than agree to the restrictions spelled out in the “morality clause” that she says “could restrict her from publicly supporting her son.”[xii]
“In my heart, I know I need to go. I need to find another avenue because I am going to support my son,” Shumate told CNN. “If in five or ten years he finds a partner and he wants to be with that person, I’m going to be in the front row with the biggest bouquet.” [xiii]
The Cincinnati Chapter of the Voice of the Faithful mounted a campaign in support of teacher rights. They petitioned to be able to discuss this issue with Archbishop Schnurr, but he declined to meet with them or with representatives of the 2,200 teachers.
The situation in the archdiocese of Cincinnati is not unique. Toughening up teacher contracts and getting rid of persons in same-sex unions or persons visibly supporting same-sex unions is growing.[xiv]
Archbishop Schnurr is in a real bind. He believes that his divine mandate is to be a courageous shepherd and “to protect the faith of his flock” in the face of doubters on the inside and critics on the outside. Archbishop Schnurr argues quite correctly that those parents who send their children to Catholic schools do so in the good faith that their teachers themselves affirm that faith in both their hearts and in their conduct. What is in the heart of a believer cannot be seen or judged. The conduct of their lives, however, is very much open to public observation and public judgment. This is why the “morality clause” deals with issues of conduct that is to be expected of exemplary Catholic teachers. “By their fruits, you shall know them” (Matt. 7:16)
So far, so good.
Needless to say, Archbishop Schnurr has not called for workshops designed to persuade his teachers that the Vatican has “the truth and the whole truth” regarding sexual morality. Moreover, notice also that Archbishop Schnurr has not called for open dialogue or for further research or for sensitive listening groups with gays and lesbians present precisely because he takes for granted that it is too late for such “soft measures.” In his mind, these issues have already been investigated and authoritatively settled by virtue of the Cardinal Ratzinger decrees (all approved by John Paul II) that were sent out to all bishops by the Vatican.
This is also the reason why Archbishop Schnurr deliberately avoids meeting with “distressed teachers” or their supporters. As the Archbishop sees it, these distressed teachers have signed on to be “Catholics,” so let them step up to the plate and deliver the goods. If they cannot, perhaps their gift as teachers needs to be used elsewhere.
In this instance Archbishop Schnurr has adopted an authoritarian leadership style. He is committed to purging Catholic schools of teachers unwilling to accept his “morality clause.” But does that go far enough? In the face of any call for open discussions among the parents and maybe even mild protests from among the students, does Archbishop Schnurr expect to play the authoritarian card when dealing with parents and students as well? You can bet he does!
Did Archbishop Schnurr act justly?
While it may be the case that Archbishop Schnurr has the right to hire and fire whomever he wishes, this does not mean that he can act arbitrarily. In other words, he must act justly. Here are some reasons to think that he did not.
Bishops are required to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination in employment. When Archbishop Schnurr formulated a “morality clause,” he effectively barred the way for any qualified gay or lesbian faculty member from teaching in Catholic schools. Their only crime would be their sexual orientation. And since “sexual orientation” is never a sin; it would be a gross miscarriage of justice to fire someone solely on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Hence, the morality clause is prejudicial and a direct violation of the Vatican ruling that Bishops are required to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination in employment.
Archbishop Schnurr went even one step further. He fired a teacher solely because he was unwilling to cover up his advocacy of “same-sex marriages.” Yes, I want to make clear that Archbishop Schnurr never met with Mike Moroski to see whether he could change his mind. And why not? Was he too busy to do so? Was he aware that open dialogue on this point had little promise of success? Was he aware that even Pope Francis had argued that “civil marriages” would be of benefit for same-sex couples?
We will never know the answer to these questions. What we do know, however, is that Archbishop Schnurr was clear that if Mike Moroski removed his online post then the Archbishop would allow him to continue as a teacher in good standing. Sad but true. Archbishop Schnurr goal was to silence Mike Moroski. Then Archbishop Schnurr could go back to that person or those persons who originally objected to Mike Moroski’s post and say, “Mike Moroski has withdrawn his statement. I, accordingly, have removed my threat.”
But make no mistake here. Archbishop Schnurr was party to creating a public deception. He was effectively saying to Mike Moroski, “I know and you know that your mind is made up in favor of same-sex marriages. When you remove your online post, this will not change. What it will do, however, is to remove you from being in direct violation of the ‘morality clause’ in your teacher’s contract. Your private views are of no consequence. It is only your public advocacy that is troublesome and punishable.”
Mike Moroski was correct in understanding that “marriage” would help to protect the civil rights afforded “same-sex unions.” Dozens of high-ranking bishops and cardinals have already gone on record to advocate the civil protection of “same-sex unions.” Pope Francis himself has favored for a long time the legalization of “same-sex unions” while reserving the term “marriage” in its traditional meaning.
All in all, Archbishop Schnurr’s decision to dismiss Mike Moroski on this issue alone is a gross violation of justice. The Catholic Church has made it clear . . .
- That no one ought to be coerced to act against their conscience;
- That since the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has already made room for a diversity of views[xv] respecting how the rights of gays and lesbians are to be best protected, it follows that Mike Moroski was entirely justified to express his opinion on this matter;
- That a just punishment must always be measured by the gravity of the crime committed.
Archbishop Schnurr thus acted rashly and unjustly. Instead of honoring Mike Moroski’s rights, he effectively trampled over them. He imposed grave harm on Mike Moroski and on his family. He deprived Purcell-Marian High School of a capable, dedicated teacher and administrator. Even beyond this, Archbishop Schnurr, given the trust that he has due to his office, has given grave scandal by mismanaging the affairs of the Church.
Furthermore, Archbishop Schnurr acted against the interests of gays and lesbians within the Catholic Church by his lashing out at Mike Moroski. Archbishop Schnurr has the obligation to honor and protect gays and lesbians as loved by God and as deserving the pastoral care of his office. Thus, in the case considered, he rashly presents himself as the enemy of gays and lesbians themselves. How so?
Archbishop Schnurr will be seen by some to join himself with those parents who rashly disown their own children when they “come out” as lesbians or gays. These are the children who are forced to live on the streets and who are forced to commit petty thefts and sometimes even to sell their own bodies in order than they might stay alive. These are the children who, despairing of ever being truly understood and loved, are tempted to cut themselves and to commit suicide.
Archbishop Schnurr will be seen by some to join himself with those parents who hate “queers” and insist upon sending their own children to a Catholic school because they mistakenly believe that teachers condemning the lifestyle of “queers” will provide a measure of protection that their own children never turn out to be “queer.” The parents who took notice of Mike Moroski’s website and who reported him to the Archbishop Schnurr might indeed have had this frame of mind. They might even have threatened to withdraw their children if appropriate action was not taken.
If Archbishop Schnurr was himself involved in the personal and spiritual lives of gays and lesbians, do you not think that he might have included in his morality clause for teachers “those who demonstrate by word or action an irrational fear or unchristian prejudice against gays and lesbians.” And how about a teacher who writes on his online blog that he would “immediately disown any child of mine who admitted that he was gay”? Would Archbishop Schnurr want to welcome teachers such as this into the diocesan schools? I would hope not. In that case, should not the Catholic teachers of Cincinnati expect Archbishop Schnurr to provide them with a much more balanced “morality clause” in their future employment contracts?
No Effective Learning is Possible when Teaching Is Reduced to Indoctrination
No learning can take place if the experiences and the thoughts of students cannot be acknowledged and explored. Authoritarianism may succeed in forcing teachers to toe the line, but any successful teacher knows that authoritarianism in learning only leads to indoctrination, intimidation, and quiet conformity. As soon as students are free of the school atmosphere, they say what they really think among their chums and, in many cases, they also discuss their “doubts” with their parents as well.
If parents blindly enforce the authority of the Archbishop, then these parents effectively “bully” their own children by “setting them straight” and, wittingly or unwittingly, collude with the Archbishop who demands submission of mind and heart. This, of course, has limited results because it sets children on the road to rebellion and prepares them to throw off everything that has been “crammed down their throats” the moment that they leave home.
But let’s face it. When Archbishop Schnurr plays his authoritarian card, he effectively treats his own teachers much like the authoritarian parents that unwittingly alienate their children and set them on the road to rebellion. If children need acceptance, trust, and openness to their grievances, then, with an even more urgent care, even an archbishop needs to do the same when it comes to teachers. Vatican II makes this abundantly clear:
It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature (Declaration on Religious Freedom = Dignitatis Humanae, §2).
When the Vatican mandated a hostile takeover of the LCWR (Leadership Council of Women Religious) because these Sisters were not sufficiently compliant relative to Vatican norms regarding homosexual unions, ordination of women, and the use of contraceptives, the Sisters refused to cave in and stood their ground. Dialogue, yes; submission, no. Sister Sandra Schneiders, Superior of the IHM Sisters, set the pace for this dialogue: “There is no avoiding the challenge and the obligation of discernment; ‘blind obedience,’ i.e., uncritical submission to power, is neither discernment nor obedience.”[xvi] The end result is that the Sisters gained the respect of the authoritarian investigators by standing their ground.[xvii]
Archbishop Schnurr’s authoritarian tactics are bound to fail, both in the short term and in the long term. He may achieve some immediate outward compliance, but he risks reaping what he has sown. His time will be fritted away in dowsing brush fires. His credibility as an advocate for gays and lesbians will tumble in a freefall. He may receive letters of congratulations from nervous parents who want their children to grow up in an atmosphere that stubbornly maintains their hard line “intolerance” of gays and lesbians and their same-sex unions. These parents (and some teachers as well) are normally accustomed to indoctrinating their children at home (“for their own good”) and, in turn, they expect the Archbishop to weed out any teachers who would hesitate to maintain this indoctrination at school. Often, they expect that this coordinated indoctrination will, by the grace of God, inoculate their children with a perpetual immunity[xviii] from all “homosexual inclinations.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
Woe to those Catholic households where, despite the best-laid plans for coordinated indoctrination, a child confesses having “homosexual inclinations.” A mother known to me, let us call her Gloria, had a son of seventeen who confessed to such inclinations. Upon hearing this, Gloria passed through many stages of grief.
First, angry denials: “No child of mine could possibly be gay!” And threats: “Remember your teaching, son. Sexual sins are always mortal. Repent and confess them to a priest or, God forbid, you will go straight to hell.”
Second, there comes bargaining with God: “God, how could you have permitted this? I have been a faithful believer and have supported your true Church all my life. What must I do to get this unwanted sickness in my child’s life reversed?”
Thirdly, some months down the line after Gloria’s ceaseless prayers and novenas did not get the miracle she wanted, self-doubt emerges: “Where did I go wrong? Or my husband? Or his teachers?”
Then, her son leaves home and travels over a thousand miles away: “For the first time, I can breathe freely without my mother continually hounding me and prying into every aspect of my private life.”
With her son’s absence, Gloria becomes emotionally fragile. She breaks down in tears multiple times every day and, invariably, whenever anyone asks about her son. She seeks therapy.
Then she unexpectedly finds great solace in a support group of parents of LGBT children. For the first time, she hears from parents who have arrived at the point where they accept the sexual orientation of her children. She is horrified initially, but then she comes to realize that this acceptance enables parents to return to a supportive relationship with their children after a horrible period filled with harsh judgments and estrangement.
As a result of this realization, she begins to avoid her parish priest entirely because she no longer wants to hear “any judgments he might have regarding the conduct of her son.”[xix] Gloria gradually stops going to her parish church entirely because she cannot tolerate the “self-righteous pity” expressed by certain “busy-bodies who are praying for Tony’s (not his real name) conversion and return to the Church.”
Tony writes a letter of a few pages each month. At the end of three years, he writes a long letter describing how he first met “a courageous and sensitive young man” and how, over the course of time, they gradually became good friends. Then they gradually became lovers and “have pledged their undying love to each other.” So, for the first time in years, Tony acknowledges that he sorely misses his mother and, “if and only if she would agree to accept him as gay and to bless the love he has for his partner,” then both of them would want to explore how they might visit for a few days right after Christmas.
Gloria is ecstatic!
At this point, Gloria is ready to accept her son “just as God created him, no more and no less.” This readiness came from her association with members of her parents support group. As she became more and more at ease with their positive assessment of homosexuality, she at the same time became resentful of how the teachings of the Catholic Church had pitted her against her own son.
“Even before his leaving,” she said, “I should have been blessing him every day and assuring him that I will be there for him in whatever path God calls him—whether as a gay or as a straight.” To this very day, she cannot understand how “bishops and priests teach us that loving our Creator and loving our neighbor are the heart of Jesus’ message and then, turn around, and teach my son that his deepest desires for intimacy are ‘disordered’ and that he must condemn love-making between same-sex partners because it is always[xx] a mortal sin.” In fact, she tells those who hear her whole story that “those parents [in her support group] who seldom went to church taught me more about the depth of God’s love than those Catholics who went to church weekly and firmly believed that God hated gays.”
Pope Francis speaks on homosexuality
Pope Francis has again and again pressed bishops to embrace “open dialogue” as the essential dimension in all moral decision making. This was most evident in the changes that Pope Francis brought to the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family. When opening this Synod Pope Francis made it absolutely clear that, under his watch, no one was going to be rewarded by following the party line or by repeating the words of past or present popes.[xxi] Thus, Pope Francis insisted that “free and open dialogue” must be embraced as the required methodology whereby the bishops provided fresh collegial resolutions for the knotty pastoral problems that were being addressed in ways that denied the compassion of God and tore the Church into factions.
[i] Mike Moroski served at Moeller High School for 10 years as a teacher, service learning coordinator, and House Dean. Concurrently, he ran a nonprofit, Choices Cafe, that bridged the gap between those with means and those without. Mike finished his time in secondary education as the Assistant Principal at Purcell Marian. He was terminated from his post at Purcell Marian by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for his public support of marriage equality. Mike earned his B.A. & M.A. in English from Xavier University, and an M.B.A. in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame (M.N.A.). Currently, in addition to his role as executive director of UpSpring (working to keep children experiencing homelessness connected to their education), Mike is a trustee on the Southwestern Ohio Workforce Investment Board, a member of Cincinnati’s Human Services Advisory Committee, and a member of Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Steering Committee. (https://www.ted.com/tedx/events/16655) For an interview with Mike Moroski, see http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/assistant-principal-fired-over-gay-marriage-blog-18482240.
[ii] The appeal to “conscience” takes priority over all other sources for discerning “what is truly right and just by God’s standards” as opposed to following “a political ideology.” Archbishop Schnurr clarifies this point as follows:
The answer is to consult our conscience, which is a judgment of reason about the good to be done and the evil to be avoided in a concrete situation (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1778). (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 17). A conscience must be well-formed by using reason to discover the natural law and faith to understand Sacred Scripture and official Church teaching. We then submit our judgment to God in prayer, striving to discern His will. By humbly committing ourselves to the life-long journey of developing our consciences, we more clearly distinguish the Truth of God in a complex, sometimes manipulative world, and make choices that promote the life and the dignity of all.
In effect, therefore, both Archbishop Schnurr and Mike Moroski both appeal to “conscience” by way of justifying how they acted. Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he was responsible for insuring that teachers in his Catholic schools both teach and live according to the norms published by the Vatican. Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, the Vatican had arrived at a defective judgment when it came to same-sex unions. When such differences arise, the expectation might be that open dialogue must begin and to continue until they can work out some middle ground between them. Both are Catholic pastors; yet, due to the authoritarian modality preferred by the Archbishop, he decided against any dialogue. He moved directly to have Mike Moroski removed from his office by a police escort.
[iii] “Jury awards Christa Dias $171K in suit against Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” Associated Press 03 June 2013 (http://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/jury-awards-christa-dias-120k-in-suit-against-archdiocese-of-cincinnati).
[iv] The term “morality clause” has been used by newspaper and television reporters and is not the language of the contract itself. The “morality clause” is on page 6 of the contract. A complete contract can be found here: http://votfcincinnati.org/
[v] If interested, see news video here: http://www.wlwt.com/news/archdiocese-of-cincinnati-expands-moral-clause-in-teacher-contracts/24846662
[vi] Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has initiated a course of action that is quite similar to that of Archbishop Schnurr. The teachers and their supporters in San Francisco, however, were much more pro-active in confronting Archbishop Cordileone on his presumed “orthodoxy” in representing Catholicism. Jim McGarry, a retired educator who taught Catholic theology for twenty years at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory, a Jesuit Catholic high school in San Francisco that his children attend, supported student protestors saying:
“[The archbishop] is not in compliance with Catholic teaching,” McGarry said. “He is very selectively choosing a small number of doctrines and putting them forward in a selective way and, I think, distorting the tradition … in a way that first of all endangers the health and well-being of our children.” McGarry argued that Cordileone’s hardline stance on homosexuality, which would permit the firing of teachers who wed same-sex partners, directly contradicts a line in the Catholic Catechism that reads, “Every sign of unjust discrimination [against homosexuals] should be avoided.” He also noted that Catholic teaching is well-known for guaranteeing freedom of conscience, allowing Catholics to disobey their government — or each other — when they feel that their morals have been violated.
For details, see http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/03/10/3631727/san-francisco-catholics-fighting-lgbt-rights-testing-limits-pope-francis-rhetoric/ & https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/teachers-protest-as-san-francisco-archbishop-insists-schools-uphold-catholic-teaching-on-marriage
[vii] Recent polling found that 86 percent of Christians believed the very tenets of their faith compelled them to support protections for LGBT people under the law and 59 percent of lay Catholics support marriage equality.
[viii] Archbishop John Nienstedt refused Communion to about twenty people wearing rainbow buttons and ribbons at a mass at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, in 2010. See Madeleine Baran , “Archdiocese: Communion too sacred to be used as protest,” MPRNews, 06 Oct 2010 (http://www.mprnews.org/story/2010/10/06/denied-communion).
[ix] Paul Kindt, “I’m Signing the Contract — in Sharpie,” The Catholic Beat, 30 April 2014 (http://thecatholicbeat.sacredheartradio.com/2014/04/im-signing-the-contract-in-sharpie/).
[x] The teacher interviewed wished to remain anamous.
[xi] The teacher interviewed wished to remain anamous.
[xii] Notice how this mother is being torn by her love for teaching and her determination to support her son. The 1986 statement to parents in “Always Our Children” makes the point that parents have a primary role in walking with their children as they explore their sexual identity. See Appendix 1 for details.
[xiii] Source for this paragraph is Susan Candiotti and Chris Welch, CNN, “A litany of ‘thou shalt nots’: Catholic teachers challenge morality clause,” 31 May 2014 (http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/30/living/catholic-teachers-morality/).
[xiv] A survey of firings and “morality clauses” can be found here: http://www.hrc.org/press-releases/entry/hrc-delivers-letter-to-vatican-addressing-growing-concern-on-anti-lgbt-stan
[xv] See Appendix 3: Cardinals, Bishops, and Other Catholic Church Leaders Who Made Positive Statements about Civil Unions and Same-Gender Marriages
[xvi] Sandra Schneiders was clearly the person who orientated the theological stance of the Sisters vis-à-vis their Vatican appointed investigators. See “What Jesus taught us about his prophetic ministry,” NCR Online (http://bonsecoursvocations.org/
[xvii] In Grade School, I learned that once you give in to the bullying tactics of would-be schoolyard tyrants, there inevitably follows a never-ending series of subsequent humiliations at their hands. Hence, you have to risk everything by standing your ground at their first threat of hostilities.
The Sisters, I would say, understood this well, and, as a result, they pushed back against the official investigators. In so doing, they understood themselves as acting in harmony with Jesus himself (See the last footnote.) They insisted that, to censure them justly, the bishops would first have to learn how to listen to them and to discover what they were doing and why. They made it clear that a hostile takeover of the LCWR would result in the Sisters leaving that organization to create another one that would be free of the authoritarian meddling of the bishops. Once the bishops realized that the Sisters were not going to cave in to their demands, they adjusted their tactics and a hesitant two-way dialogue began to take place. This strategy, after three years of struggle, eventually won the day.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF STANDING ONE’S GROUND AND FORCING DIALOG (OR SOMETHING TO THAT EFFECT):
I went to public school. And I’m trying to think of my . . . earliest form of religious rebellion. And I would think it was that as a public school kid (and we went to catechism class for Communion after school), we would have to run the gauntlet of Catholic kids who would throw snowballs at us and fight and things like that. And I remember a boy throwing a snowball at me and hitting me in the face because they felt perfectly able to abuse the public school kids because they [public school kids] weren’t as Catholic as them. And it was really something that the institutional church, meaning the priests and nuns, didn’t look at until it really became an issue. And I remember when that boy hit me, I just dropped my books, there was just something that happened, and I said, “I’m not going to put up with this abuse anymore. This is it.” And I remember grabbing him by his lapels and putting his face in the snow bank and all the other public school kids behind me getting in a big fight with the other Catholic school kids because we weren’t going to put up with getting hit with snowballs anymore on the way to catechism class. And I remember we were all stood up in the classroom because anyone who fought or was in any way disobedient was punished. And I remember staring down at my dirty shoes and my ripped knee socks and this puddle that I was standing in, and just feeling miserable. But also feeling good that I just wasn’t going to go along with things as they were anymore. And things changed. Because after that, the nuns put a stop to anymore abuse of public school kids by Catholic school kids. And what was interesting is that after we had that explosion, we started to interact more with the Catholic school kids and we started to break down the barriers between what it meant to be a Catholic in public school and what it meant to be a Catholic in parochial school. So it was interesting, out of that whole snowball fight there was a, I don’t want to say an integration, but bridges were built. (http://www.lgbtran.org/Exhibits/OralHistory/Doherty/
[xviii] Homosexuality is not a contagious disease that gets transmitted like small pox or the flu. Hence, parents who expect that their children will be immune to homosexual inclinations because they are in an atmosphere where such inclinations are officially denigrated are bound to be disappointed. Furthermore, should such inclinations emerge, their children will be hell-bent upon denying them. Finally, after years of suppression, these same children will hate themselves, fall into despair, and be very prone to seek suicide or flight rather than to admit to their parents who they truly are. What advantage their parents might have imagined by virtue of raising their children in their misinformed and homophobic atmosphere will quickly be discovered to render their children as supremely disadvantaged.
[xix] At this point, Gloria completely distanced herself from the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuals. In fact, she deeply resents the fact that her parish priest had set her against her son’s homosexuality and against any same-sex union that he might try to make for himself.
[xx] While some moral theologians sometimes say that sins against the sixth and ninth commandments deal with “serious matter” and, accordingly, infractions result in a mortal sin. Even in classical moral theology, however, the conditions for committing a mortal sin always require, subjectively, that the person “recognizes the seriousness of the matter and then goes ahead and does it anyway.” In the case of homosexual acts, however, even Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledges that those naturally inclined to such sex acts are less culpable than those who are heterosexuals who do the same thing while they are emotionally repulsed by the act.
Furthermore, when two women use sex to express and celebrate their mutual love, they frequently do not see this as sinful at all. In fact, they often engage in sex because they judge what they are doing as “love-making” and experience their mutual sex as a “source of grace.” Cardinal Ratzinger would intervene here saying that, due to the fact that the procreative aspect of sexuality is missing, there must always be a degree of moral guilt. Such a judgment, however, would follow from Ratzinger’s essentialist thinking and his attempt to take a rule used to evaluate heterosexual acts and to apply it indiscriminately to homosexual acts. Furthermore, even in the case of a venial sin, one must judge the action as a minor deviation from what God expects. Something which is regarded as a “virtuous deed” cannot subjectively be “a sin” at all. Here again Ratzinger’s disordered thoughts on homosexuality bring him to conclusions which conflict with classical moral theology.
[xxi] For full details here, see http://datinggod.org/2014/10/06/pope-franciss-opening-remarks-at-synod-full-text/
Welcoming Death without an Afterlife
An unexamined life is not worth living. –Socrates
An unexamined afterlife is not worth striving for. –Milavec
[My initial thoughts at the time when I approach my personal death.]
Most people think that their soul survives after death. How they come to this is very murky indeed. Spiritualism, the practice of contacting the souls of those deceased, gives perhaps the greatest credence to such a belief. Near-death experiences also provide some experiential glimpses of living outside one’s body. Yet, even ordinary Christians find themselves praying for the souls of the faithful departed that the Lord of Creation would pardon their sins and admit them into the heavenly realm. Most Christians, I dare say, believe in some conscious afterlife and if the choice is between heaven and hell (or purgatory); the beatific vision with the saints in heaven seems naturally preferable.
The first thing that 99% of Christians would find strange is the fact that the older layers of the Hebrew Scriptures establish Judaism as a religion of faithful service to God and humanity without any rewards in the afterlife. In a word, they believed that holiness was its own reward and the sight of one’s family and children living a productive life that is a blessing to those close and those far is reward enough for the good life. [See Stanley B. Marrow, S.J., “The Road not Taken”]
Sometime during the Maccabean revolution (2nd cen. BCE), those Jews who had seen the pious punished with terrible torments came to the conclusion that the Lord himself remembers the injustice done to them and, on the last day, when he comes to judge the living and the dead, he would surely resurrect these holy martyrs and given them a place of honor in the earthly kingdom of God. Note here that none of these Jews believed that true bliss was to be found in a world or in a place outside of our present planet-home that God created for us.
Starting with Socrates, the beatific vision of truth, justice, and beauty would be the overwhelming delight of those “philosophers” who spent their lives cultivating these things. This “beatific vision” was possible only for an immortal soul released from the body at death. Augustine and others imported this message into the faith of our fathers; hence, Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century, named the “beatific vision” as the greatest joy that our souls would find in heaven.
Jesus, needless to say, knew nothing of this “beatific vision” in heaven for he always anticipated a future with God coming to earth “to wipe away all our tears” (Rev 21:4). This same Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth. . . .” (Matt 6:9-13). And when Jesus rose bodily into heaven on a cloud, the two men in white [angels?] say, “”Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven will come [return to earth] in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Thus, heaven is not the final resting place for Jesus. Nor is it the place where the “beatific vision” takes place. Heaven is merely the temporary holding tank where God is preparing to send Jesus back to earth where he can be the Messiah on the Last Day (Acts 2:36, 3:20-22, 5:42).
When one considers this future on earth, the notion of living an existence as a bodiless soul in a realm where one praises God night and day (there being no necessity of sleep) would become exceedingly tedious, repetitious, and dull. The so-called joys of heaven, accordingly, might be highly overrated. The loss of a body and life on earth are highly underscored. How could a violinist or a gardener or a wood-carver survive in a heaven where they could only envision (in their imagination) making something beautiful with their hands when, in fact, they would, both night and day, lament the fact that they have no hands? How could imagined gardens or imagined musical performances give joy to those who have no ears or eyes or noses with which to feast on them?
In fact, what joy could one give to another person in heaven? One could not stroke their cheek or play a game of ball or trek in the snow-capped mountains. Maybe one could (supposing that there is such a thing as soul to soul communication that is wordless and earless) communicate about things long gone. Yet, this very communication would generate a great sense of loss and be more apt to evoke a sense of longing and annoyance that one’s entire past has been obliterated by death. Let this continue for a few hundred years (since one speaks of eternal life as the natural quality of the immortal soul) and one would have a society of malcontents who found very little to live for or to communicate about. Even singing praises to God could degrade into a tedious choir practice that, after a few short months, would surely leave bitterness and grumbling in its wake. If one could miraculously hear the heavenly choirs, that would be one thing. But to live in a society of disembodied souls would mean that such music would be produced without vocal cords and without musical instruments. Thus, the music itself would evoke a great sense of longing for a body and for the things of this present world. So, from these brief examples, one can see how soulless an eternity in heaven would be.
I thank God, therefore, that he did not give me an eternal soul and I thank him that none of those that I love have immortal souls either. Socrates willingly embraced death because he wrongly imagined that his eternal soul would escape his body and enter into its eternal bliss. Socrates also wrongly misinterpreted “sleep” as the time when the soul leaves the body in order to explore strange cities and strange places.
The earth is properly our home, and what a home it is! We were formed from the dust of the earth [that originated in the death throes of giant red stars] billions and billions of years ago, and God saw that it was good! Life is good. I enjoyed seeing my daughter play her violin in the beginning strings tonight! I also enjoyed hearing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” being performed by accomplished musicians in a small church in Venice the first night that we arrived. I’ve enjoyed making music of my own (the guitar, the recorder, the spoons) purely as an amateur. So I say: “Dear world, you are so beautiful! Blessed be the Maker of the heavens (the stars above) and the earth (below my feet which attracts me toward its center even when I am upside down).”
For a good ten years (1970-80), I persisted in believing that there would be a resurrection of the dead on the last day (even after I had abandoned any belief in a soul). It might have made good sense for a few Jewish martyrs to be rewarded with a resurrection for offering their lives to God in the face of torturing tyrants; it is positively repellent however to imagine the chaos that would result from a general resurrection. Our fragile planet earth has barely enough resources to support eight billion humans. So how can one imagine the impossible situation of providing clean water, wholesome food, and shelter for fifty billion (the total of all the righteous persons who would be raised on the Last Day).
For the pious, it would seem entirely feasible for Christians to invite six times their number to share their homes. Modern homes in the suburbs could indeed squeak by with six times the number of inhabitants. There would be little privacy left and no one would ever again have their own bedroom; yet, who knows, maybe the advantages of communal living would far outweigh the limitations of space.
Yet, what about those situations where a family of five share a two room apartment in the center of Mexico or where a similar family shares a one-room shack in the slums of Calcutta. It would be a slight bit monstrous to expect these families to welcome thirty people into their living situation.
Hospitality is a blessed virtue, to be sure. It would work in the suburbs but never have a chance in the slums. Just the use of the flush toilet by a world population six times our present size would quickly overtax all our current water purification systems. Meanwhile, in those parts of the earth where untreated sewage is disposed of by dumping it into natural water sources. I am thinking here not only of cruise ships and slums but of the hundreds of municipalities that routinely dump raw sewage into the Ohio River whenever their waste treatment facilities are overtaxed by incoming sewage. You get the picture. Increase the population of our planet by six and you get an entire planet drowning in its own shit.
Well, to save the day, there has been a lot of talk about the resurrected body being in some way “spiritualized” such that it doesn’t need to eat or to drink, ergo, not to pee or to defecate. On the other hand, Jews like Jesus imagined eating and drinking in the Kingdom of Heaven (on earth) since, truth to say, not to have enough to eat and to drink was always considered a hardship. On the other hand, Jesus liked to eat and drink with his friends and I’m sure he’d be a bit disappointed at finding that his resurrected friends had “spiritualized bodies” that no longer took any pleasure in or had any necessity to eat and drink.
So, to back up a bit, it might be important to examine whether resurrection from the dead is indeed what God has in mind for those who love him. First off, it must be conceded that “spiritualized bodies” are not natural bodies and that their existence is just as problematic as that of the existence of immortal souls. The blessing indeed is to be found in the natural condition of the human physical body that we are very familiar with.
What a piece of creation we are! A true miracle. Any cleaver bishop or theologian who tries to convince us (using either the bible or church dogmas) that the human condition can be improved upon and that God (since s/he can supposedly do anything) surely has an improved model ready for us in the resurrection from the dead should be shouted into silence. What an affront to God to imagine that s/he has not already done his/her best in creating man and woman in his/her image and likeness!
Moreover, those who imagine that our spiritualized bodies will walk through walls, transport themselves effortlessly through the skies, and never grow hungry or sick or old are talking fables and nonsense and pious gibberish. It’s one thing to imagine a perfect situation in the future. It’s quite another thing to denigrate some of the best aspects of the present situation in so doing.
Walking through walls, for instance, would mean a world without privacy. People could walk in on you at any time from any direction and have no way of signaling that they were coming. What a problem that would be. And what is so terrible about growing hungry, getting sick, or growing old? Are these not the patterns within the miracle of creation that have been tried and tested and found beneficial?
Just take the last point—that of growing old. I, for one, have found a blessing implicit in the human cycle of birth, infancy, adolescence, adulthood, old age, death. As starters, the US situation is growing increasingly difficult because the old are living longer. A full life, in the nineteenth century, meant living into the 60s or 70s but now, with improvements in medicine, most are anticipating living into their 80s and 90s. Like it or not, those in their productive years are now having to work harder and longer to take care of the aging members of their immediate families. The old now no longer live with their families, but are shunted off into assisted living, then nursing homes, then round-the-clock care. This is not the best scenario for growing old; yet, the modern productive couple doesn’t have time to spend with their own children much less to spend with an aging parent. Moreover, the young don’t want old people meddling in their lives—a thing which many aging parents do because they have the habit of taking liberties and advising their children in almost everything.
But this is getting off the point. What if people never grew old? What if people remained in their prime for an eternity? Well, to begin with, this would lead to a great population problem. In any given society, the number of deaths makes room for a certain number of births. Choke off one of the other prospect and you have either a society mushrooming out of control or moving toward extinction. In a word, the system of being born and dying appears to be a superb design originated by our wise Creator to keep a balance between the new and the old, the coming to be and the passing away.
Once this is realized, it appears as an offense to the Creator to even imagine that giving creatures “eternal life” would be some sort of surpassing gift; rather, it would be a surpassing burden. I recently read a short story that discussed a society in which aging was stopped and all sicknesses were cured. It was a society in stagnation. Very few new ideas were originated because those living had already made up their minds on just about everything that they were willing to accept or able to tolerate. In a world in which not much changed, there was even less incentive to originate anything—new music, new gardens, new wood sculptures. The repetition of human skills and crafts leads to dullness. Hence, in the sci-fi novel that I read, what had to be done was to invent a competitive game that led to the death of the loser. Then and only then did excitement enter into life. And so it was that the very society that had achieved eternal life had to later introduce “death” in order to bring back excitement in life.
PS: Here is the essay by Charles Hartshorne that was most helpful to me in coming to accept death as a gracious act and service to my family and friends. I reproduce it here so that you, the reader, might come to understand how an old philosopher can be of service to the world.
THE ACCEPTANCE OF DEATH
By Charles Hartshorne
Since all of us die, it is clear that the meaning of life must be inseparable from the meaning of death. If we cannot understand death, we cannot understand life, and vice versa. Life and death are two sides of one reality.
In principle life is good while it lasts. The meaning of life is, in part at least, the simple goodness of living. Normally we are glad to be alive. We may imagine circumstances in which we would be much more intensely glad to be alive than we actually are, but still life seems better than just no life. Even when things go badly with us, I think we deceive ourselves if we think that we derive no satisfaction from the activities of the living. The person who proclaims her or his misery derives some value merely from breathing and eating, some value from choosing the words in which the self is expressed, some value from making one’s troubles an object of attention and observing the way other people react to them. I believe that living is essentially voluntary, and that no one can be compelled to exist, unless on a largely unconscious level. If the will to live really dies, then we are already virtually dead. The person who decides to commit suicide gets some satisfaction out of thinking, “now it will soon be over.” This satisfaction is what keeps the person still among the living until performing some physical action which ends life, but then the bullet or poison, not directly the will to die, is what ends the life. Willing to live and finding life better than nothing are, I hold, the same things.
Take the person who stays alive because of fear of hell. Then what sustains the will to live is the thought, “I am better as I am than I might be in hell; I don’t have to be in hell, at least not yet.” Thinking thus gives present life some value. Or, if a mother lives for the sake of her children, the interest in the children and approval of herself as living for them make it possible for her to achieve at least some mild satisfaction in her own activities.
Though living is always more or less voluntary, dying can be either with or without our choice, not only because, on the one hand, external forces in action ourselves, but also because we can will not to live beyond a certain point of time. Or at least, we can be entirely content with the thought of not living forever or much beyond some specified point in our individual careers. We can choose to stop trying particularly to live, accepting death as coming from old age or terminal illness; we can be on the side of the physical forces that tend toward our death.
There are three principal ways of trying to make death as such acceptable. We can believe, or try to believe, in personal immortality in the conventional sense, meaning that after death we are to become conscious again; somewhat as we do in waking from a deep sleep, but this time in some supernatural heaven or hell, or on some other planet or in some other animal body. This may or may not be with memory of our previous earthly career. In either case this is a view which cannot appeal to any definite well-documented or scientific evidence to support it. I think that the appeal of this view is largely a consequence of misconceptions about the nature of life as such, no matter where or when.
Another way of arguing that death is good, or at least not too bad, is that it is like going into a dreamless sleep and never waking up again. Thus, there is no suffering in being dead, though there may be in dying, and so we escape from the evils of life once and for all. Note, however, that only for the others, the spectators, can it be “better” that we are no longer suffering. The suicide who reasons, “I shall be better off dead” will not be better or worse off, not yet just the same: simply he or she will not be in any state whatsoever, good, bad, or neutral. Into no future will the person survive to benefit since the future after death will not be hers or his at all. The suicide must act whether for personal satisfaction in the moments before death, or else for the benefit of those who survive. My conclusion is that the comparison of death to dreamless sleep is not enough to show that death is a good thing for the individual who dies.
The third way of making death acceptable is that of transcending self-interest as our final concern. If, and only if, we can regard our entire lives as contributing to the good of those who will survive us and if we can find part of our present satisfaction in the thought of such contribution to the future of life beyond ourselves, can we find death positively acceptable. I call this doctrine “contributionism.” It includes, but is more than, what is sometimes called “service” to others, for that is too much confined to things we do for others, actions from which others may benefit, like giving lectures. By “contributionism” I mean more than this. I mean that simply by being what we are in ourselves we contribute to the future of life. Our present happiness is a central factor in this contribution.
Miserable people, even if they are useful, contribute less than happy people who are also useful. By giving posterity our misery to look back upon, we do them no special favor. It is joys one wants to recall, more than sufferings. Even admitting the truth in the poet’s phrase, “our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought,” still, in the composing and singing of these songs, there is more than misery; there is satisfaction in the beauty of the expression of grief.
To accept death as ending our personal career is to regard that career as a finite or bounded thing. We are finite in space and time; indeed, we are mere fragments of reality spatially and temporally, but then any work of art or beautiful thing is such a fragment, apart from the entire universe throughout time. Contentment with mortality is contentment with the finitude of our ultimate contribution to the whole of life. Should our careers have a last episode? Should a book have a last chapter? A poem, a last verse? Without beginning and end a work of art has no definite form or meaning. I personally regard a life as, with normal luck and good management, having something of the qualities of a work of art, and I see no reason why it should be endless; rather the contrary, it ought not to be endless.
Part of the interest of life is that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are dramatic contrasts between infancy and youth, youth and maturity, maturity and elderliness, and these contrasts are spanned by certain life purposes, finite in scope, that bind them together. What more does one wish? If going to sleep is nothing dreadful, why is it dreadful to think of a sleep without waking? For the sleeper the fact that he or she does not awaken is as nothing. Only the others experience the not waking up.
What bothers people is perhaps the idea that death is the mere absence of life, but my death is only the absence of my continued living, it is not the absence of all living. New lives make their finite contributions to the future of life as a whole. [My death makes room for others to live life differently–more generously, more boldly and more securely.]
THE ACCEPTANCE OF DEATH
by Charles Hartshorne
The Hazards of Believing that Death is not the End
#1 Ecology Gone Amuck in anticipation of the Apocalypse
When the Lord-God comes, should we actually believe that he will provide everyone with a new suburban home complete with a washer and dryer in every basement and a brand new fuel-efficient automobile in every garage? Should we actually believe that God will miraculously fill thousands of dry oil wells so that these engines can burn gasoline for another hundred years? What? If God has already said a resounding “No” to Western Culture and its notion of development and well-being, will he/she suddenly change his/her mind on the last day. More importantly, however, even supposing that God did (for some crazy reason) decide to play Sugar Daddy, how would the Lord teach ecological responsibility if he/she used miraculous powers to overcome the results of our greed and waste? The same thing, of course, can be said of modern-day parents who lavish so many clothes and toys upon their children that they promote their thoughtless use and the throw-away mentality that goes with it. Will God, in the world to come, then have to continually save us from our garbage? [Didache, pp. 908-909]
#2 Celibacy Now In Exchange for a Sexual Afterlife
One of my early students at St. Leonard’s College, GF, OFM, once told me that he was going to be lavishly generous in accepting God’s calling to the religious life in order that, in the afterlife, God would be lavishly generous is satisfying his sexual intimacy desires with “the perfect wife.” This formula for “delayed gratification” may be very unhealthy and very wrong-headed (esp. if there is no afterlife).
#3 Allow Me to Die: Euthanasia in Belgium
Simone, a Belgium woman in good health has chosen euthanasia because she has no compelling reason to live and she wants to meet her daughter in the hereafter. This comes up four times in her 44-minute video. She says goodbye to others with the expectation that she will see them in heaven. Her vision of the afterlife as promoted by her Catholic Church thus promotes, like it or not, voluntary euthanasia. By law, physician assisted suicides have been accepted in Belgium. source=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTpmQI0VoSI
Kevin Kukla’s Klaptrap — Catholic Teaching on Sexuality Gone Beserk
Two years ago I discovered Kevin Kukla’s claptrap on his website, ProLife365.org. At first, I was just annoyed. Then I realized that Kevin represented an educated, upwardly mobile Catholic Fundamentalist who is intent upon upholding and defending the entire Vatican ideology regarding the sexual issues of our day. Moreover, Kevin imagines himself to be a crusader bent upon bringing to young people the sure and unchanging truths of Catholic sexuality that even most priests are embarrassed to teach. As a Catholic theologian who has trained future priests and lay ministers for 25 years, I have sought to fairly and systematically examine Kevin’s claims. My findings are as follows. . . .
When I finally get a true confession from someone, I will publish it on this page. I urge you, the reader, not to go to this page too quickly without declaring your hunches here: http://www.churchonfire.net/?p=1238
Sorry. I have not yet received a true confession from anyone. But I believe that, in the end, that the truth will come out. . . .
Detective Adam Rose
[My email #15] Dear Glenda,
For the past two months, I have been in communication with a woman that I have come to cherish. She identifies herself as Glenda Sue Smith, a name you used during your first marriage. Her words have melted my heart and brought tears of recognition to my eyes:
for a good relationship to grow we need to trust each other and be honest with each other to achieve what we want to achieve well i am seeking for master which will be the flesh to my flesh and also the bone to my bone, It’s true I have never seen you and we have never met, Never shaken Hands or even truly hugged and yet! I know for sure you care for me by the kindness that you give and our keyboards keep us together doesn’t matter where we live. So I am emailing you to put a smile on your face and to let you know in my heart you have a special place. The sun is always shining just above the cloudy haze, as we share love across an online maze.
I believe that this woman is you and that you are now 58 years old and living at 124 [not 24] Rosewood Drive. If so, I am fully disposed to cherish you in the same way that my words have seemingly moved you. As I have written:
It does not shock me if you are using your earlier name. It does not turn me away if you have been an online thief. Your sins only make you all the more precious in my eyes. When we come together, the truth and the whole truth will finally come out as I cradle you in my arms and kiss you with an everlasting kiss and reveal to you just how precious you are. . . .
How do you suggest that we proceed from here? [I dare not say too much. My silence makes room for the real “Glenda” to speak to me within or without our earlier master-slave arrangement. Who is the real “Glenda” who will arrive at my door in Cincinnati?]
ur admiring LuvDoctor Adam
So what might happen now?
- Glenda might reaffirm that she has been and remains the 29-year-old sex slave pictured and described in her original ad in collarspace.com.
- Glenda might tell me that she is the 33-year-old Holly Nicole Smith, daughter of Glenda Smith, and that she loves me and wants to be with me.
- Or Glenda might tell me that she is the 58-year-old mother who uses a fictitious slave identity to pay the bills. This Glenda may want to know how the hell I was able to discover her true identity. She might also want to play out our master-slave fantasy where we left off.
- Or Glenda might tell me that she is neither Holly nor her mother but a close friend of Glenda who accidently fell in love with me while pressing forward a scam that she designed by way of helping Glenda pay her enormous hospital bills following her recent car accident.
- Or Glenda might tell me. . . .
So, now, I step back and address you, the reader:
What are your hunches? What will Glenda tell me?
What evidence can you bring forward to support your hunches?
Please feel free to post your hunches below.
At first I was just going to give you a random chapter. Now I’m thinking that you would be better served if I gave you a choice:
Choice #1 If you are a history buff, I’d like to send you a blow by blow account of how Pope Paul VI blocked the bishops assembled during Vatican II from considering three key issues: priestly celibacy, the contraceptive pill, and indulgences. After all the bishops went home, Paul VI then betrayed Vatican II by making his own prejudiced decisions based upon his faulty use of Scriptures and upon his abysmal ignorance of church history. He then used his papal authority to obstruct any further open discussion on these issues. Click here to receive this story as a PDF file. Or as an eBook chapter.
Choice #2 If you are upset by the way that the abortion issue has divided the Church into two opposing camps, then I want to send you my personal history within the walls of Planned Parenthood. I also want to show you step by step how and why the US bishops have sought to stop all abortions by relying on arguments that neither St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas could have ever endorsed. Click here to receive this story as a PDF file. Or as an eBook chapter.
Choice #3 Key US Archbishops have undertaken a bloody program to entirely purge from our Catholic schools all teachers who are homosexual or who endorse same-sex marriages. My latest book endeavors to show just how disastrous these purges have become and how our Catholic students have begun to fight these strong-arm tactics with nonviolent tactics that go back to the 1960s. Click here to receive this story as a PDF file. Or as an eBook chapter.
Five reasons the synod is doomed to fail
Pope Francis speaks with a cardinal as he arrives for a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 15. At right is Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops. (CNS/Paul Haring)
The family touches everything and is touched by everything. Anything bad in the world affects families, and any problems in families affect the societies in which they live.
Social and economic factors impact families: unemployment, housing, war, terrorism, climate change, interreligious differences, consumerism, social media, education, and on and on. Every problem in the world has an impact on families, from addictions to political corruption.
Scores of moral issues surround the family, everything from the sexual act itself to fidelity, abortion, contraception, surrogate mothers, homosexuality, divorce, gender equality, child abuse, spousal violence, and so on.
Families are the place where one learns or does not learn the Christian faith, to say nothing of simple moral habits and virtues.
And we have not even gotten to the theological and canonical issues surrounding families: marriage as a sacrament, annulments, liturgical ceremonies, the family in the church, etc.
It is simply too much to deal with in a three-week meeting.
Second, the membership of the synod makes dealing with the topic of the family difficult.
The 270 synodal fathers come from many different cultures and as a result have very different priorities and concerns, not to mention different cultural conceptions about family life.
Bishops in the Middle East and Africa see their families facing the constant threat of violence and death that forces them to become refugees fleeing their homes. How can you have a family under these circumstances?
Many bishops in the developed world are concerned about how to respond to high divorce rates. But outside the wealthy, industrialized nations, the issues may be human trafficking, arranged marriages, interreligious marriages, child brides, polygamy, female genital mutilation, and cultural customs where marriage is seen as taking place over time, not in the instant when the couple says their vows.
Can so many people from such varied backgrounds have any common understanding of the problems facing families and how to deal with them?
The third problem facing the synod is the synodal process itself.
Synods are paper factories. They produce lots of speeches, recommendations and sometimes even a final document, but do they make a difference? In 1980, I covered an earlier synod on the family that faced almost every issue that this synod faces. Did it make any difference? If it did, I don’t see it.
The 1980 synod made many of the same recommendations that this synod will make: better marriage preparation, better formation of clergy so they can help families, better education programs, greater support from governments for families, less violence, more love.
New programs and ideas are not generated at synods. Bishops can only share what they bring. New programs are created by entrepreneurs who have an idea, experiment with it, and improve it through trial and error.
The fourth reason the synod is doomed to failure is that it is seriously divided on the question of what can and cannot change.
This clash is most obvious over the question of readmitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion.
One side sees only the law — the marriage contract is permanent and can be terminated only by death. The other side sees millions of people suffering from broken marriages that cannot be put back together.
One solution to this crisis is the annulment process, whereby the church declares that, even though there is a signed contract, the contract is not valid because of some failure at the time the wedding took place. There was much support at the 2014 synod for making the annulment process easier and faster, and Francis acted on this between synods.
The attitude of the bishops toward annulments is the greatest change since the 1980 synod on the family, when the American bishops were fiercely attacked by curial cardinals for making annulments too easy.
Francis has gone way beyond the American procedures by allowing bishops to declare a marriage annulled through an administrative process rather than a judicial process. Even canon lawyers are scratching their heads wondering how this will work.
But the fundamental problem faced by the synod is the same one faced by the Second Vatican Council: What can and cannot change in the church?
The pope and the bishops are constantly saying that the synod will not change church doctrine, but only pastoral practice. Bishops appear to even be afraid to talk about the development of doctrine, lest they be seen as wishy-washy on doctrine.
The conservatives see the readmission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion as violating a doctrine of the church — the indissolubility of marriage. To them, it would be an admission that the church was somehow wrong in its teaching in the past.
Any student of the Second Vatican Council recognizes that this was the same complaint of Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani and his conservative colleagues who fought changes in church teaching on ecumenism, religious liberty and other matters.
So for the bishops to allow divorced and remarried Catholics — who don’t have an annulment but are civilly married — to receive Communion, they must somehow explain it as only a change in pastoral practice and not a change in doctrine.
The fifth reason the synod is doomed is the absence of theologians at the synod.
One conservative curial cardinal complained of the “schoolboy theology” being presented in episcopal speeches. There is some truth in that complaint. There is little evidence in their talks that bishops consulted theologians in order to understand contemporary thinking in Scripture, ethics or doctrine.
The bishops would have been better off spending the first week listening to theologians do an exegesis of scriptural passages on marriage, explain the concept of the development of doctrine, recount the history of the church’s treatment of marriage, and propose resolutions to controversial questions.
The reason that Vatican II was successful was because an alliance was forged between the theological periti and the council fathers that was capable of defeating the Roman Curia’s intransigence. Tragically, this alliance was broken after Humanae Vitae, when theologians were cast into the outer darkness as dissidents whom the bishops were to avoid at all costs.
The result has been disastrous for the church. It is as if the management of a major corporation is not on speaking terms with its research and development division. Would you invest in such a company?
Is there hope for the synod? Yes. Francis has begun a process; he has opened the windows closed after Vatican II. It will take more than three weeks to move the church forward, but he is moving it in the right direction.
Perhaps the synod is not doomed to fail but simply to be unfinished.
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]
(Photo: AP/Riccardo De Luca)
Only weeks after Pope Francis spent his visit to the United States calling for a culture of dialogue on contentious issues, some American prelates are back to business as usual.
In a memo sent to priests in his archdiocese this week, Archbishop John Myers of Newark issued strict guidelines for denying Communion to Catholics whose marriages are not recognized as valid by the church, and prohibiting the sacrament to those who support same-sex civil marriage. Parishes and other Catholic institutions, the archbishop decreed, should never host individuals or organizations that disagree with church teachings.
This is precisely the kind of fortress Catholicism — a church hunkered down behind imposing walls — that Pope Francis vigorously rejects.
Instead, the pope wants a church that acts like a “field hospital after battle.“ He insists that Communion is not “a prize for the perfect but powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” While the New Jersey archbishop sends a message that he is putting Catholic institutions on lockdown, Pope Francis recently welcomed Democratic U.S. mayors, including Bill de Blasio of New York City, and the pro-choice secular feminist Naomi Klein, to the Vatican for climate change talks. No one was carded at the door.
Before addressing Congress, Pope Francis warmly greeted Secretary of State John Kerry. The pro-choice Catholic became a lightening rod during the 2004 presidential campaign when a handful of conservative bishops publicly argued he should not receive Communion. In the wake of the pope’s visit, Vatican officials squashed efforts from Kim Davis and her lawyers to use the pope as a pawn in the culture wars. And when news broke that Pope Francis had held one private meeting in Washington, D.C., it turned out to be with a longtime friend from Argentina who has been in a same-sex relationship for nearly two decades.
A ‘Francis Effect’ in the U.S.?
Pope Francis left U.S. Catholics with plenty to think about and act on after his first whirlwind visit to this country. This refreshing and complicated papacy presents unique challenges and opportunities for the American church. The pope’s desire to find a “new balance” that recalibrates the Catholic conversation beyond the flash points of a few hot-button issues — along with his muscular focus on the root causes of structural injustice — should shake up the politics of the church and our values debates in American politics.
But any real “Francis effect” will depend on whether religious leaders, elected officials and those of us in the pews wake up to the pope’s bracing call for radical change.
A pope who describes economic inequality as the “root of social evil,” insists on the moral urgency to address climate change and wants a “poor church for the poor” is clear and consistent in his messages. Don’t underestimate this smiling reformer exuding gentleness and joy. The captain of this ancient and sometimes leaky ship known as the Catholic Church is charting a definitive course.
At the White House welcome ceremony on his first full day in town, Pope Francis smiled at the pageantry in his honor but wasted little time before challenging complacency.
“Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution,” he said. “Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our ‘common home,’ we are living at a critical moment of history.” Powerful American politicians, knee deep in oil- industry contributions, were not called out by name, of course, but plenty of conservative Catholics on Capitol Hill and Republican Catholics campaigning for the presidency don’t share the pope’s sense of urgency or even believe that human behavior contributes to the problem. The status quo is comfortable. It rewards the privileged. Francis knows the poor and most vulnerable already suffering from the impact of environmental degradation don’t have the luxury of indifference.
Pope Francis also offered a timely antidote to the resurgent nativism and xenophobia on the American right. Donald Trump rose in the polls by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.” He stokes fear and resentment, the demagogue’s weapons of choice for centuries. In contrast, Francis introduced himself as “the son of immigrants” and reminded us of our American experience. “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” he said during the first papal address to Congress in history. (source)