Faith and reason, same-sex relationships and blessings

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In 1998, Pope John Paul II, a philosopher as well as a theologian, promulgated an encyclical entitled Fides et Ratio (‘Faith and Reason’). It had appeal to me because our very wise Jesuit moral theology professor always drummed into us that any pronouncements on moral theology from Rome must appeal to reason as well as to tradition and authority. Otherwise, they will have no currency with the people of God.

Priest blessing the faithful (Lucas Ninna/Getty Images)

The opening line of John Paul’s encyclical is memorable: ‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.’

The recent pronouncement by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on the blessing of same-sex unions certainly had people assessing its reasonableness as a so-called ‘deposit of faith’.

In our Parliament, we are familiar with ‘questions without notice’. These are raised to challenge a minister, or to give one’s own minister an opportunity to engage in some virtue signalling. So the Roman Congregation often raises a hypothetical question, a dubium, (proposed by anyone or no one) and then answers it with a responsum. In this case the question was: Does the Church have the power to give a blessing to unions of persons of the same sex? And it answered, not unexpectedly, in the negative.

The question, suggested the Congregation, has arisen from the pastoral practice of some priests blessing the civil unions of same-sex couples. This is currently not uncommon.

 

'If I bless a person, it is a prayer that they will share God’s life, God’s grace, and advance the kingdom in all they do.'

 

The Congregation indicated that a blessing is a sacramental  (something less than a sacrament) and when conferred ‘on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord.’ A rather complex definition of a blessing.

Originally, things were blessed when they were marked out to be put to God’s service. In the Jewish tradition, for example, objects for use in Temple worship were so blessed and dedicated for such service. If I am asked to bless a house or a car, I stress that the action is not a superstition or a spiritual insurance policy. It is a prayer that the house or car will be used for the advancement of God’s Kingdom here and now, and that the occupiers or owners will be people of virtue and values. When I bless a crucifix for a boy leaving Aloysius' it is to mark it out as a sign of a life spent totally in the service of others, for the good. It is ‘holy’ because the young man might look upon it and be reminded of such a life to be emulated.

If I bless a person, it is a prayer that they will share God’s life, God’s grace, and advance the kingdom in all they do. Recently, I was invited to bless the squad for the CAS Swimming and Diving Championships. It was a prayer for them to compete with all those human and sporting values we espouse here, and for them to be free and graced to swim their best.

The response to the dubium suggested that blessings are permitted of ‘individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching’. Only for someone whose life is ‘recognised as objectively ordered’. That is, who are gay and chaste.

But this opens a minefield of reasonable considerations.

First of all, and in a broader consideration, there are many priests I know who also bless heterosexual couples who are married civilly. Some priests participate in the ceremony alongside the civil celebrant. These may be relationships that involve a second marriage by the Catholic party. Their first marriage may not have been annulled because the one divorced could not prove a deficiency in the external forum — that is, before the Marriage Tribunal. But they know in the internal forum — in the integrity of their conscience — that they are in good standing before God. Therefore, while their relationship might be labelled as ‘objectively disordered’ the priest takes them at their word, as acting subjectively at rights with God, and offers a blessing accordingly. Are such blessings now similarly precluded?

But, increasingly, people do not see such same-sex relationships as ‘disordered’. Certainly, this is not part of the language of the students at this College. Nearly two-thirds of Australians voted with a similar perspective in the same-sex marriage ballot four years ago.

Now more than 200 German professors of theology have signed a statement criticising the CDF’s responsum, claiming it is lacking ‘theological depth, hermeneutical understanding, and explanatory rigor.’ They went on to say that ‘The text is characterized by a paternalistic gesture of superiority and discriminates against homosexual people and their life plans.’ Austrian Cardinal Schönborn is the latest of more than a dozen German-speaking bishops similarly critical.

The responsum argues that same-sex relationships are not ‘according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord’. This line of argument draws from one school of Natural Law theory, which suggests that you can read from nature the way to act morally. This physicalist model has its limitations. It limits moral argumentation to anatomy. It is about plumbing more than relationships. The physicalist model might also suggest that men are more physical and powerful than women and therefore are naturally superior, so women should therefore be submissive. A model of very narrow perspectives.

But the more contemporary ‘school of reason’ branch of Natural Law theory is based on the understanding that reason reflecting on human experience – that is, on what it is to be human – is a much richer source of moral assessment. It invites one to consider what is humanly relational, rather than simply to consult Gray’s Anatomy.

There are many people who live in a same-sex relationship, who do so monogamously, lovingly and permanently. Indeed, they find God in the relationship. For them there is no disorder. The Congregation might suggest such a couple are ‘not open to the transmission of life’. But they are no less open to such life transmission than a post-menopausal woman who can be legitimately married and blessed in the Church.

And what of a priest celebrating a Sunday Eucharist where, in the congregation, there are known to be second marriages which are ‘irregular unions’, where heterosexual couples are unmarried and cohabiting (and not ‘as brother and sister’), where there are same-sex couples committed to a life together (in civil unions or otherwise)? Is the priest to offer them Communion (a much more significant Sacrament than a sacramental blessing) when they approach the altar. And if he does, does God come to those communicants in their relationship?

The Congregation’s document encouragingly reminds us that God ‘never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children in the world’ and ‘takes us where we are, but never leaves us where we are’. We rejoice in that. But it underscores that God ‘does not and cannot bless sin’. True. But the underlying question takes us beyond a physicalist notion of natural law which narrowly points to an objective sin. 

It invites us to consider the relationship of a couple — same-sex, divorced and remarried, or otherwise — standing before God, joining faith and reason, in the sanctuary of their conscience and finding God in the relationship.

Some Vatican commentators suggested that the Congregation's document was drafted by a much smaller group of members than normal, and then rushed for the Pope to sign before leaving for the critical visit to Iraq. But then, on his return, a week ago, Francis gave a very pastoral address in Rome. Again, commentators suggest it was a softening or even a correction of the style of the responsum. The Pope spoke of witnessing ‘by a life that takes upon itself the style of God: closeness, compassion and tenderness.’

This, he said, ‘means sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples; not with theoretical condemnations but with gestures of love.’

He added ‘then the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution or claims of legalism or clerical moralism.’ Francis concluded by again underscoring the phrase ‘the style of God: closeness, compassion and tenderness.’ The Easter life-giving God.

Considering that, might we be generous enough to allow God to choose whether or not his blessing might be imparted and find a home?

 


Fr Ross Jones SJ is the rector at St Aloysius'. This article was originally published in The Gonzagan. 

Main image: Priest blessing the faithful (Lucas Ninna/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Ross Jones, same-sex relationships, blessings, faith and reason, Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II

 

 

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Creation of an opposition between "a physicalist model" and a "more contemporary school of reason" in the understanding of natural law morality seems confected and insupportable: it encourages a Platonic dualism between body and soul alien to Catholic teaching which holds the relationship between the two to be organic. Further, a foundational tenet of "the order of creation" revealed in sacred scripture and harmonious with reason is the union between a male and a female which Christ and the Church recognise sacramentally as marriage. How, specifically, does the unreferenced "more contemporary school of reason", posited as authoritative, override this teaching and its status? And again, should not matters that properly belong in "the internal forum", by definition, remain just there?
John RD | 06 April 2021


Yes who does the blessing, who give the grace? The Church says nothing when it says it does not have the power to bless or ordain. The Church asks God to bless and invokes Son and Spirit. Who is the Church to decide what God has inscribed in creation or to say when the Lord has fully revealed his message; as far as I know the work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing. Indeed there is much for us to learn as a Church. Surely the abuse of children and its cover-up is not in line with God's design and yet the offending priests were sent back out into parishes to bless congregations and continue to abuse. No, we do not expect God to bless sin but we are called to bless the sinner, particularly when they promised to love in the best way they can. The couples are promising to be faithful, unto each other and asking all those around them to support them in their fidelity. The Church was given a mission to baptize all people, not to exclude, anyone. Are they saying we can't or we don't want to? Are they embarrassed by their own internal behavior. If they are trying to recover their status as our moral compass, they are continuing to fail and all the world is watching.
Martin Nicol | 06 April 2021


'God Love You' for this tender, unfurling and well laid out deconstruction, Ross Jones. I, for one, had hitherto tended to critique Natural Law, almost to the point of its rejection, through use of Jerome Toner's book on the Naturalistic Fallacy. While such a position somewhat jeopardized for me my strong commitment to Catholic Social Teaching, so much of which is reliant upon the Natural Law for its exposition, Fr Toner's status as a learned Dominican (like Aquinas of yore) offered some succour to me in my situation of also being a Gay Catholic. I am now able to identify, subject to the insight of a learned Jesuit, not only a way forward to be blessed in love, but also to unreservedly support and embrace St Thomas's view, which I now appreciate as much more nuanced and less biologistic than certain proponents of the Natural Law prefer to portray.
Michael Furtado | 06 April 2021


Hello Fr Jones: as you may know from your scientific education the two titans of 20th century physics Bohr and Einstein drew swords over the meaning of quantum mechanics. Nine decades later the great debate continues at the forefront of physics research. Bell inequalities violation supports the consensus that Bohr won. Some dissents argue that Bell experiments prove nothing. If Einstein did lose the physics debate the great man won the quotable quote “God does not play dice”. But I prefer Bohr’s answer “Don’t tell God what to do”. I am not a theologian, after brainwashing school at the Christian Brothers in the late 60’s, I joined the exodus, but I did read your article with great interest (as they say). I have been left wondering: should the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith not take Bohr’s advice; maybe?
Fosco | 06 April 2021


How blessed are the students at Aloysius College & their parents to have Fr Ross Jones as the school Rector. I suspect that most of the dubia to which the CDF responds are Dorothy Dixers. They provide a pretext for raising Curial questions that hardliners use to challenge more liberal or progressive views. For them Moral Theology is as constrained by principles as rigid as Theorems in Euclidean Geometry. Father Jones has shown great pastoral concern for his students & their parents. He has put before them more nuanced ideas on what it means to invoke God's blessing on a same-sex union. Should make for lively discussion round the dinner table. After we've asked God to bless us & the gifts we're about to receive through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Uncle Pat | 06 April 2021


Is it really sufficient or accurate to define a blessing simply as a prayer for the good intention of person, or to estimate the value of a blessing simply in terms of one's subjective disposition towards whatever is blessed? Since, as a sacramental, it is an active sign and means of conveying God's favour, does not a priest's blessing confer an objectively graced status on its recipient - not a 'spiritual insurance policy' but a divine efficacy and assurance of God's pleasure and approval? If so, how, if it is to be other than a placebo, can a union that is not recognised by the Church as marriage, be received and dignified at the hands of a priest as favoured and acceptable in God's eyes?
John RD | 07 April 2021


It's reasonable to assume that many militant atheists have been and continue to be good samaritans. Good can be done without God (leaving aside the divine permissive will). But, so what? The intention to do good without God is idolatry of self and contradicts the first commandment. Most of this article seems to advocate that the Church enables idolatry of self.
roy chen yee | 07 April 2021


From Scripture we learn something we already know instinctively -God is love (1 John).This gives us confidence to love God in response and to love others. This article is about blessing people who love others. And about affirming to young people in particular that love is not confined to a particular group in society, a really inspiring message. I hope the swimmers and divers did well.
Pam | 07 April 2021


Thank you Father Ross for your commentary on the "guidance" given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requiring a ban on the practice of Blessings being given by some Priests of same sex relationships. Your explanation of "Blessings' was very informative. Apart from the hurt the proclamation will have caused some same sex couples , to judge interpersonal relationships in purely biological rather than relational perspectives , continues the misunderstanding of early church theologians , such as Augustine, and Aquinas whose knowledge of human reproduction was flawed by ignorance of the biological process and nature of human relationships. They condemned anything other than chaste heterosexual relations as 'offending against nature' and God's design. In the light of advancing medical and psychological knowledge, the Congregation needs to take such knowledge into account when addressing the issue of Blessing of such relationships. In the end who are we to judge a couple's commitment when only God knows.
Gavin O'Brien | 07 April 2021


Bless you Michael !
Ginger Meggs | 07 April 2021


In my memory the Catholic Church consigned unbaptized babies to a nether region of their construction called limbo. I wont comment on the Church's acceptance and blessing of same sex unions, other than to say thank you Martin for your comment.
K.G.T. | 07 April 2021


Same-sex marriage supporters, among them regular contributors to "Eureka Street", despite claims prior to legal recognition of the cause that the achievement of their objective would see no further demands, now press for more: the Church's blessing is sought for a union its participants know does not accord with the Catholic understanding of marriage. With the issue of blessing, momentum for the Church to conform its definition and teaching on marriage to that of the secular State, is evidently, at least in some quarters, well under way. All, as Fr Ross Jones affirms, are entitled to prayer on their behalf. However, a blessing is more than a prayer: it is a sign of God's favour; in this case, seeking to be bestowed upon a union which the Church does not recognise as marriage. With what validity and authority does a priest who consents to bestow it do so? And where does it leave Catholic parents whose responsibility it is to instruct their children on matters of sexuality in a society where, increasingly, the discounting of biology's part in moral and social understanding is almost religiously urged ?
John RD | 08 April 2021


Fr Ross Jones, are you insinuating Peter should raise the Rainbow flag at the Pearly Gates? I see St Aloysius is a boys only school with the motto "Dedicated to forming men for others in the Jesuit tradition" "At St Aloysius’ College your son has the opportunity to follow his interests, develop his strengths, nurture his talents, learn about the world around him and share his privilege with others. " What about learning about girls? These same sex elitist schools breed an unhealthy emotional environment and should become co educational and accept an equal number of girls. Then this tacit quiet endorsement of same sex relationships wont be top of mind all the time. When all the world is rushing In the loud throng - And they decry loudly, who’s right, who’s wrong; Lift up your head and see Your Saviour’s Eyes; You might be able to Discern their lies. Jesus was popular - For a short while; Crowds round him pressed and pled. They liked his style; But when, in His final days, push came to shove Only a very few, could show Him Love.
Francis Armstrong | 08 April 2021


Permit me some responsa to John RD … I am no dualist. But ‘reading from nature’ without any reflection is rather risky. To an unreflective observer, Nature seems “red in tooth and claw” (quoting Tennyson) and might lead one falsely and fatalistically to accept our lot as a brutal survival of the fittest. I am glad (and blessed) to be able to reason otherwise about human nature and choose to live differently. If some find “the order of creation” entirely “harmonious with reason”, then I respect that. But, increasingly, many cannot always do so. Just to be clear, I am not arguing here for a same-sex union to be regarded as a sacrament. That is another issue. Suffice it to say that there can be life-commitments before God which are not sacraments, but are nevertheless blessed – as is the case with religious vows. Blessings can be given outside sacraments. As for “what is revealed in sacred scripture” concerning homosexuality, current biblical scholars of note are rather less absolutist and much more nuanced about this than in the past. The difference between a school of reason approach and a physicalist model is seen clearly in the style of the Church’s teaching documents. The social justice statements are drawn largely from reasoned reflection on scripture, the dignity of the person, and on what it is to be human. And they are embraced by people with enthusiasm. Those to do with sexuality usually start from the other approach. Too often they do not stand up to the test of reason, fall short of the sensus fidelium, and are unheeded. 'Humanae Vitae' on birth control is a case in point. The vitriolic and homophobic language of the CDF’s 'Persona Humana' (‘pathological’, ‘depravity’, ‘intrinsically disordered’) is another. As for the internal forum, I see no reason why a decision reached in conscience should “remain just there”. Vatican II’s document, 'Dignitatis Humanae' makes it clear that “A person must not be forced to act contrary to his/her conscience. Nor must he/she be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.” The repeated liberating word here is “act” – not to crouch in a corner nursing some sort of internalised feeling. A decision properly made in conscience gives one a freedom to act.
Ross Jones | 08 April 2021


Thanks, Ross, for saying so well what needed to be said - we need you in the Roman Curia.
Peter Johnstone | 08 April 2021


Fr Jones, allow me to be physicalist, or perhaps just anti-Manichaean. The marital act, as understood in Catholic moral theology and canon law, consists of the penetration by the male member of the woman’s “vessel” and the deposition of semen into that “vas debitum”. No penetration, no marital act. No deposition, no marital act. Penetration and deposition: voila! Your citing of the case of an infertile woman’s capability of marriage makes me wonder if you are aware that whether the man or woman is sterile in Christian tradition and natural law has nothing to do with the metaphysical status of that act. The act is of itself open to the generation of new life, regardless as to the circumstantial fertility or lack thereof of either or both partners. But being of themselves open to the generation of new life simply cannot be the case with homosexual genital acts, for obvious reasons. So no genital act between same sex couples can be a marital act. If you and two hundred wacky German theologians want to redefine marital acts so that same-sex acts count as such, and so same-sex couples can be truly married, well go ahead and try. That crazy proposition may go down well with an Australian populace that is also happy with unrestricted abortion and so on. But let’s not pretend that this is what God was angling at all through the Old and New Testaments, or that Our Lord would have been guided by a majority sentiment on this, or any other issue.
HH | 08 April 2021


The Vatican rightly dictates that it's forbidden to reinterpret scriptures from a modernist perspective to paint "The Jews" in a bad light. That would of course lead to their persecution..... Western society ignored that teaching, and the holocaust followed. Certain factions interpreted scriptures in a modern light and concluded Jews were evil even though Jesus himself was a Jew. In the same way, section of modern society (the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians) are misinterpreting ancient scriptures on Sodom and Gomorroh and others in the New Testament to conclude that God condemns consensual sexual relationships. The ancient scriptures were referring to sexual slavery and bondage and abuse. There is no comparison.
AURELIUS | 08 April 2021


RoyChenChee, it's not the INTENTION to do good that matters....... but the objective good of the action carried out! Whether God can read our unspoken thoughts or not is irrelevant. What sort of benign God would advocate good intentions but evil outcomes based on some sort of ideological dogma?
MARCUS | 08 April 2021


Our current "Woke” society may not view “same-sex relationships as ‘disordered’” and “200 German professors of theology” may dissent from Church teaching. But through the ages the Church has often rejected Vox Populi, Vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God) So it was interesting to read last month, that the English, gay, provocateur, Milo Yiannipoulos, had announced he was now “ex-gay”, that he had embraced Catholicism and accepted the challenge of living a chaste life, and that he is now leading a daily consecration to St. Joseph. The “Woke” were overjoyed that someone critical of the Left had abandoned the same-sex category, but were furious that anyone could change their mind about a sexual preference, because that risked invalidating a central plank of their cause. One person condemned Milo stating, “he’s an ‘ex-gay’ which is not how it works since it’s not a choice, I would know because I’m gay.” Said Milo: “I wouldn’t dream of demanding that the Church throw away her hard truths just to lie to me in hopes I’ll feel better about myself. I love the truth, not lies, and I know no one’s feelings are the basis of truth.”
Ross Howard | 08 April 2021


So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Romans 9: 16. All depends only and exclusively on God's Mercy towards us.
AO | 09 April 2021


There is much to applaud in Ross Jones' reflection : he has provided a sensitive, succinct and scholarly acute expose. Imbued in his treatment is an awareness that catholic moral theology has its point of departure where grace greets nature – often in circumstances of confusion and ambiguity. He provides a timely reminder that there are priests who take seriously their call and commission to be ministers of Word and Sacraments. In so doing, their efforts of shepherding may be forgiven if they give a priority to Jesus injunctions such as Mt 11:28-30 and Lk 11:11, rather than reach for the latest CDF rescript. Remembering that God is the wellspring of all blessings – his bounty may well offer a generosity the rule book is yet to realise.
Bill Burke | 09 April 2021


A nuanced discussion well focused .Like the question of usury in the Middle Ages and later in relation to money and interest as a sin so the church needs a discussion on sex and pleasure . Top marks to this discussion
Duff Terence Patrick | 09 April 2021


Bless you too, Ginge, as indeed are all blessed who post here. As to JohnRD's question, Fr Jones' authority derives from his membership of Christ's Body, to which we all belong and who gave His Life for all. Secondarily, Ross Jones' sacramental calling to become a priest, and especially one graced by his membership of the Society of Jesus, an order committed to dispelling your view of a vindictive and parsimonious god who rations out his love by the coffee-spoonful, means that his position as Rector of a Boys' College requires him to mediate and explain a Roman Instruction that matters enormously to the youth in his care, all of whom, whether straight or gay, would be negotiating complex questions of human identity and moral behaviour as young men shortly to be unleashed into the world as educated and hopefully more than ordinarily well-informed adult Catholics. Thirdly, his brief as Rector is to lead the formation of those of them fortunate enough to be called to embrace the celibate life as priests and, hopefully, fellow Jesuits ministering to others. And, finally, if there are parents who misread his message, one has to wonder what the dickens are they doing there?
Michael Furtado | 09 April 2021


Thank you for your beautiful words. Practice Mercy, Compassion and Love, we can’t go wrong.
Michael John Spencer | 09 April 2021


Thank goodness for those words by Pope Francis on his return; he has restored my faith in him, at least.
Carla van Raay | 09 April 2021


I'm not aware, Fr Ross, of any serious or official Catholic moral teaching "reading from nature without any reflection" - in fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's the reasoned, systematic development and depth of official Catholic moral teaching that is one of its main characteristics, even offensive to many of its detractors in a culture increasingly preoccupied with the sensate and material that settles for self-definition in these terms. Concerning nature, the well-known Tennysonian description of nature you cite is predominantly "physicalist"; however, it is not the the understanding of "nature" as understood metaphysically in the discourse of moral philosophy and theology that traditionally underpins Catholic teaching. Indeed, I suspect this mode of thinking and the authority with which it is promulgated are the real targets of currently alleged offensiveness and protest. Like you, I've no doubt there can be "life-commitments before God which are not sacraments but are nevertheless blessed." However, the "life-commitment' we're discussing here names and presents itself as "marriage" - a re-definition not accepted by the Church, making it a radical self-contradiction and defection were the Church, in God's name, to approve this union with the blessing of it. Now, it seems to me, "blessing", like marriage, is being re-defined in conformity with and subordination to supposedly popular demand and the authority of the State. Further, regarding the "order of creation", are you aware of Fr James Schall SJ's 2007 work "The Order of Things"? As Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University for many years, his thinking on issues of social teaching and moral philosophy is thoroughly reasoned and representative of the Catholic tradition. Finally, I recognise as do you, Father, that language on the topic of human sexuality and relationships requires due sensitivity - but I don't consider the language of the Catechism or of the 1986 CDF's "Letter on the Pastoral care of Homosexual Persons" vitriolic or homophobic. On the contrary, their style is necessarily dispassionate, since matters of universal moral and social import are being addressed. Pope Francis, whose tolerance for ambiguity does not extend to recognising same-sex unions as marriage, and who, as recently as last month, approved the CDF's ruling on blessings, has spoken sympathetically and compassionately of homosexual persons, reminding us of our familial and pastoral responsibilities towards them - which do not include agreement with or approval of the identification of same-sex unions with the Catholic understanding of marriage.
John RD | 09 April 2021


Ross Howard and HH both make important points about the fallibility and inadequacy of "vox populi" determination of Catholic teaching and practice. Consultation of the laity does not authorise transferral of episcopal and papal roles in adjudicating what constitutes the "sensus fidei fidelium". Some postings on this thread, regrettably, already reveal serious distortion of the Catholic understanding of conscience and the freely undertaken duties of priests. The unacceptability of a crudely 'majority' or 'democratic' approach to articulation of what is consistent with scripture and tradition in the Catholic Church is historically underlined in the Arian controversy of the 4th century A.D. However, the populist principle - whereby it was deemed by the monumental 4th-5th C scripture scholar and historian, St Jerome, that "The whole world had gone Arian" - and the falsehood and ecclesial division about Christ that it gave rise to - were theologically exposed and defeated thanks largely to the personal and saintly dedication of Athanasius to scripture and the faith of the Apostles, and to the knowable truth of these distinctively Catholic sources about the identity of Christ as both human and divine. Confused messages about Church authority, particularly about the respective roles of prelates, priests and laity in the Body of Christ, should, I believe, be factored into investigations of why those who abandon active affiliation with the Church today do so.
John RD | 10 April 2021


The discussion and commentary here makes me wonder how the Creator who is reputedly perfect in all things managed to bugger up Homo sapiens, his alleged greatest creation, by installing the differentiating factor, gender, designed for no other apparent or scientific reason than to indicate a difference between individual human beings that would be his instrument for the automatic ongoing creation of his masterpiece. Inarguably a brilliant concept which allowed him a well earned rest and relieved him of the necessity to turn up repeatedly for innumerable aeons to repeat the clay modelling endeavour. With such brilliance in evidence how did he get gender so wrong ???? Surely some deep thinking theologian must have the answer - no doubt expressed in terms unintelligible to the common man - or is that woman ? - or person? - or straight? - or gay? - or don't know? - or funny? - or queer? - or etc? All so complicated when it should have been so simple.
john frawley | 10 April 2021


John RD, blithering about the past wont fix the present ills that beset this collection of saints and sinners that inhabit the body of Christ, the Church. Anyone can comment on any aspect of the Catholic Church. It is not a preserve of Bishops, priests, academics or pseudo theologians. Invoking 4th century saints is not relevant to the current generation who have computers and I phones and access to a thousand times more knowledge in the push of a button than their predecessors. If Francis says priests are not to bless same sex marriage then so be it. The church has to move with the times. Not hide behind latin catch phrases and arcane nonsense like the pontifical secret and half baked canon law, nor use the confessional seal to evade the legislated law of the land. If the safety of children is to have any relevance post plenary council, then the crucifix wearing wolves in their black habits have to be weeded out by the Bishops. The Bible Defines Marriage as a Covenant: God sketched his original plan for marriage in Genesis 2:24 when one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve) united together to become one flesh: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. ( Genesis 2:24, ESV).
Francis Armstrong | 10 April 2021


John D – I wish to engage with elements of your comments lodged April 10: Perhaps you could expand on why you consider consulting the faithful amounts to a “transferral of episcopal and papal roles...” Secondly, you claim to detect “ serious distortion of the Catholic understanding of conscience and the freely undertaken duties of priests.” - I look forward to reading any supporting detail you lodge in support of this claim. I invite these clarifications – not as a prelude to tit for tat exchange – but as an integral element of the conversation ES makes available. In this vein, I have always found a few sentences from Peter Lombard's introduction to his Sentences worthy of attention for anyone labouring in theological fields. He says, “...we have dared to scale the difficult heights and to undertake a work beyond our strength... the immensity of the work terrifies us, the desire to make progress spurs us on, but the weakness of failure discourages us, and only the zeal for the house of God overcomes it.”
Bill Burke | 10 April 2021


Hello John RD: as the Chairman can be misquoted to have said “religion is the fish which swims in the sea of the people”. And, for Catholicism in our beloved Europa and our much beloved country, stolen from First Nations People, it is a fish rapidly running out of water. The sea has moved; the fish hasn’t. I am proudly a son of the vox populi - centuries of Italian peasantry. My ancestors were illiterate and for scholars like you, may appear to have made no contribution to the much quoted Great Book Learning. Actually, they did. They provided the raw life experiences. The People have moved to a new country. And yes, there is a need for teachers. Anybody claiming to be one should be careful. A Masters in Theology from Tubingen University is not the required qualification. Rather, a journey through the dark night of our inner reality.
Fosco | 10 April 2021


What an appalling, narrow-minded, male-dominating and, dare I say it, obscene, definition of the core essentials of marriage is that which HH gives us. No mention of love, commitment, mutual care and support, the nurturing of each other. No mention of growing-together, and growing, together. Nothing more than wham bam thank you ma'm, but not to worry because it's all 'metaphysical'.
Ginger Meggs | 10 April 2021


So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Romans 9: 16. All depends only and exclusively on God's Mercy towards us. As today, Divine Mercy Sunday tells us. Even if we live perfect Christian lives, John RD, all our efforts are as nil in the comparison to the Love Jesus has for us. We can never know the worthiness of another, as it is written ."He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner. ' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18 :9-14. Straight or gay or whatever. I have had the privilege to meet a most beautiful soul. And I have meet very many people in my life. My friend is a transgender male to female. My friend has a most beautiful loving soul, like no other I have ever meet. And for this reason. I am certain Jesus loves her infinitely. Because He has said: He who loves Me Best, Knows Me Best. And not he who knows Me Best, Loves Me Best.
AO | 11 April 2021


Bill Burke: I've no objection to episcopal consultation of the laity; indeed, I regard it as necessary and valuable in the matter of clerical paedophilia. I accept Newman's distinction of roles within the Catholic faithful, and, with specific reference to your question, particularly the role of what Newman calls the "Ecclesia Docens" which Vatican II and the Catechism recognise as the Pope and bishops in communion with him. In my experience of the first stage of Plenary Council deliberations and acquaintance with a number of reformist group proposals I encountered opinions contrary to Church teaching, and in not a few cases, total dismissiveness of "the hierarchy's" magisterial mandate. I view conscience, as I've said in previous ES contributions, as a window on the natural law implanted in our nature by our God, our Maker - not, in other words, as an originator or inventor of the natural law that licenses us to re-define radically our created nature according to our preferences. To put it another way, I don't view conscience as a simply subjective.
John RD | 11 April 2021


Francis Armstrong. In quoting the Bible reference to marriage, Francis, you have drawn attention to a very interesting and thought provoking word, viz, COVENANT. In English usage "covenant" is sometimes loosely equated with "contract" a supposed synonym that lessens its true meaning and hence its impact for those who engage in the covenant of marriage. The meaning of covenant is, "... a solemn agreement held to be the basis of a relationship with God..." (ref: Concise Oxford English Dictionary) and is indissoluble by man ('What God has put together let no man put asunder"). The covenant thus differs from a contract which is a civil agreement between two people to which God is not a signatory and can be dissolved for any one of a number of predefined reasons. In Christian marriage these two components are partners, although uneasy bedfellows, in that formal marriage embodies both the sacramental covenant with God and the contract between the wedding partners which defines their relationship under the civil law in relation to obligations such as property rights, child custody, etc should the partners elect to dissolve their contract. As a non participant in the latter it is doubtful, I think, that God bestows his blessing on the civil contract, leaving those things that belong to Caesar's to him. But, of course, I don't know for sure!
john frawley | 11 April 2021


Hello Ginger: Yes, I agree with you on HH’s comments, as well as Michael’s sensitive personal sharing, and AO’s mention of a beautiful friend.
Fosco | 11 April 2021


Pope Francis made his position clear when he asked "Who am I to judge?" and, I think, must be wondering how he could be clearer. I wonder why in the 21st century the Church has a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We are on a path to the demise of the human race on this planet as a result of failing to change course on environmental issues, so eloquently addressed in Laudato si'. Our country locks up asylum seekers in offshore detention camps and Pope Francis has condemned the response of rich countries like ours to desperate asylum seekers. While I recognise that the views being expressed here are sincerely held, this discussion seems to me to be a case of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, to use that well worn metaphor. Students at St Aloysius should take note of : "Who am I to judge?" , ignore relics of the past like CDF, and move on to the things that matter.
Joseph Fernandez | 11 April 2021


Fosco: In the context of this ES discussion, the "vox populi" isn't a sociological or historical reference to peasantry - of your ancestors' origin or elsewhere. Here it includes university qualified contributors - some with PHDs in their field of learning - whose almost invariable opposition to magisterial teachings and rulings suggests they consider Rome alien and academic status more authoritative than the Pope and bishops in communion with him in matters of faith and morals.
John RD | 11 April 2021


Marcus: ‘it's not the INTENTION to do good that matters....... but the objective good of the action carried out!.... What sort of benign God would advocate good intentions but evil outcomes based on some sort of ideological dogma?’ An aberrant intention to do good makes the so-called good outcome objectively false. The recipients of Father Jones’ pastoral concern will want to contribute to society by offering it a child or several, and so we’ll have one or more trophy children with three parents each, one of the biological parents probably being a parent in name only. Incidentally, is Father Jones going to insist that love can only occur between two people because a bisexual by definition is capable of falling in love with two people at once. Even heterosexuals can fall in love with more than one spouse or are you going to tell a Muslim that he doesn’t love his four wives, he only thinks he does? At the end of the day, the unlimited expanse of your imagination, uncontrolled by boring things like logical principle, is the expanse of your anarchic imagination.
roy chen yee | 11 April 2021


Well, at least you didn’t call me a racist! G.M., your quarrel is not with me, but with unbroken Catholic teaching. I totally support your esteem of love, etc, as making a marriage flourish … your take there is thoroughly consonant with Catholic values. But those remarks are just beside the point in the determination as to when a marriage has actually come into existence. I’ll repeat my point so you can refute it. According to Catholic theology and canon law, you simply cannot be a candidate for marriage (natural or sacramental) to your intended if you’re absolutely or relatively impotent … i.e., you and your intended are unable for whatever reason carry out the marital act. Sterility is not an impediment: Fr Jones seems to be confusing sterility with impotence. Being potent is a necessary, albeit not sufficient, condition for being able to be married. What is that crucial marital act? Ask the marriage tribunal in any diocese the world over. You’ll find their answer to be the same appalling, narrow-minded, male-dominated, obscene proposition as mine. Same-sex genital acts, and even opposite-sex genital acts which aren’t the marital act as I’ve described above, do not consummate a marriage. Of course there are many other impediments to a Catholic or natural law marriage … one has only to look up Wikipedia to find a good list. I’m astonished that in this age people reach for the vapours when they learn the authentic Catholic teaching on marriage even though they previously considered themselves informed enough to pronounce on the issue. It’s not hard to find out about; sex is a fascinating topic, and so is what we weirdo Catholics are bound to believe on the matter. BTW: I committed to supporting my ageing father for the rest of his natural life. There was no way I would consign him to the hell-hole of a nursing home after all he and my mother had done for me. I believe our eight years together reflected, however imperfectly, the values you so commendably uphold as essential to a good marriage. But we weren’t married … or were we? Please explain.
HH | 12 April 2021


Fosco, I was told about, by an elderly relative, of a man he knew of who was a simple illiterate farmer who lived in a tiny village in Europe. This man was known in his village to write endless pages of what seemed to some very learned men from the Catholic Church, to be very elaborate and detailed recorded descriptions of very elaborate ancient Jewish ceremonies akin to many of the writings found in the Torah and the Midrash. European Peasantry? The true recipients of the Love of God, and of His Wisdom.
AO | 12 April 2021


Ginger Meggs: ‘What an appalling, narrow-minded, male-dominating and, dare I say it, obscene, definition of the core essentials of marriage….’ Marriage is more than the marital act. It includes, for example, the seemingly interminable boredom of accompanying a spouse up and down the aisles of Coles or Woolies. However, while same-sexers and potential polygamous or polyandrous bisexuals can also walk up and down those same aisles, it needs the marital act as defined by HH to ensure that the baby is truly a descendant of the two official spouses.
roy chen yee | 12 April 2021


Speaking of wives and marriage it's interesting how other religions view the covenant of marriage. As Michael Furtado has mentioned in a previous post, Francis has sanctioned same sex civil unions to protect gay property rights. During a prison interview Masaba told The Christian Science Monitor: "If God permits me, I will marry more than 86 wives. A normal human being could not marry 86 – but I can only by the grace of God, I married 86 women and there is peace in the house – if there is peace, how can this be wrong?" Solomon, incorrectly described as the father of all wisdom, had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Joseph Smith, founder of LDS (latter day saints) had over 30 wives. Brigham Young LDS, Utah's first governor had 55 wives. Fat'h Ali Shah Qajar, 158 wives (though some reports say he had over 1000). Mohammed Abybakar 120 wives, divorced 10, 203 kids. Mon Dieu, he alone could have filled 10 classrooms at St Aloysius. Thank you John Frawley for drawing my attention to the distinction between a contract and a covenant. And for the hardliners in Islam, What Does ISIS have to say about same sex intimacy? Of course I realize this post may set the PC team's teeth at ES on edge. "According to ISIS' radical interpretation of Islam, gays should be thrown from a high building then stoned if they are not dead when they hit the ground. The group bases this gruesome punishment on one account in which the Prophet Muhammad reportedly said gays "should be thrown from tremendous height then stoned." Haaretz May 17 2018.
Francis Armstrong | 12 April 2021


Hello John RD: That the last generation of the vox populi, in countries like Australia, has added degrees and PhD’s to their CV is one of the changes resulting in the empty pews. Your popes and bishops have not come to terms with this reality. It may seem ironic that the Church, which has so much valued education, should have become its victim. But that’s not so. What is authentic in the Church will continue, even if in some other form. Should the Vatican end up a tourist museum, so what?
Fosco | 12 April 2021


'It's reasonable to assume that many militant atheists have been and continue to be good samaritans. Good can be done without God (leaving aside the divine permissive will). But, so what? The intention to do good without God is idolatry of self and contradicts the first commandment. Most of this article seems to advocate that the Church enables idolatry of self.' (Roy Chen Yee, April 7). I'm pretty sure, given the propensity for the Scriptures to be quoted in mutually exclusive causes that the Gospels trump the Commandments and what Roy makes of them. The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue, are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship that play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity. The text of the Ten Commandments appears twice in the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21); but so what? Apart from Jesus reducing them to the first two (Matt, 22:37-39) I think it safe to say that the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is intended to clarify and take precedence over them. I'm afraid this means that the so-called militant atheists who fail Roy's overly subtle casuistic reasoning may well practice the Christianity he misses.
Michael Furtado | 12 April 2021


Joseph: Eliminating the CDF would diminish the collegiality of bishops, and possibly encourage a counterproductive papal autocracy that would not reflect the Christ-designated relationship between Peter and the other Apostles which is an intrinsic part of the Catholic Church's structure. Further, Pope Francis' comment in response to journalists' questions doesn't meet the conditions of an ex cathedra pronouncement or even an exercise of the Church's ordinary magisterium - though it's interesting and ironic that many who oppose such exercises of magisterial authority wish to invest his question with this very status.
John RD | 12 April 2021


John RD – thank you for the additional detail provided. I appreciate the approach you bring to the issue of Conscience: I would agree that conscience is poorly served if it is expressed simply as a subjective function of an individual. As to the issue of consulting the laity on matters of faith and morals just a brief additional comment. When Newman refers to the “ecclesia docens” he wasn't introducing the term – it had a provenance, along with its pair “ecclesia discens”, which preceded Newman by centuries. Indeed, Newman was challenging the “teaching church” to listen carefully to the laity when formulating teachings on faith and morals – a listening that had become less commonplace, especially post Reformation. While Newman was not seeking to circumscribe the agency of the bishops and Pope, his mere suggestion of requiring a “listening” to the laity met with a hostile response from a number of the English hierarchy at the time. Recovering the significance of the laity's role in contributing to the sensus fidelium (or what is meant by any of its several closely related terms) is a work in progress.
Bill Burke | 12 April 2021


Roy, it may come as a surprise to you that the basis of most long-lasting successful marriages is not sex. Ideally 2 people make a commitment to marry and be faithful to each other for life even after the initial spark of sexual attraction has faded. Marriage is not about primal sexual attraction but faithfulness. And a certain minority percentage variant in our society is same-sex oriented. They are a normal minority variant, not an intrinsically disordered creation of God doomed to live a life of celibacy and loneliness. Surely we've moved on from the narrow interpretation of natural law from pre-Christian philosophy based on soul-less, purely functional reproduction functions. There is actually a section of the LGBTI community that's indifferent to marriage equality and is more interested in a life of sexual liberty (rebellious hippies from the 60/70s), But society has moved on and the LGBTI community has matured and wants their human experience to be recognised, validated and dignified - and they already know this is the case regardless of whether a celibate priest is allowed to wave a magic hand during a blessing ceremony.
MARCUS | 12 April 2021


HH, I hope you realise that the incidence of anal intercourse in heterosexual marriages is greater than in gay partnerships.
AURELIUS | 12 April 2021


Joseph Fernandez: 'why in the 21st century the Church has a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." Because man does not live by bread alone etc..... The references to the environment and asylum seekers being an attempt to fill out the remainder of the scripture, picking some preferred version of ‘every word that comes from the mouth of God’ instead, in fact, of every word that does come from his mouth, all of Scripture and all of Tradition, is picking between menu items in a cafeteria.
roy chen yee | 12 April 2021


Father Ross Jones SJ: ‘Nor must he/she be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.” The document is about coercion of individuals from sources of oppression outside their group: ‘Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore, it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.’ The test is whether it is moral for a priest to sue his bishop for ordering him, against his conscience, to stop blessing same sex unions. Traditional Catholic doctrine on his moral duty towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ would say no. Does that, then, make the doctrine immoral? If it does, how would the Church (or any religion) protect the structural integrity of its doctrine? The laity are a very long, insecure and porous border against invasive heterodoxy. It’s for good reason that Christ didn’t govern his flock by advice and consent (well, advice maybe) and, as his successors, the Apostles and apostles don’t either.
roy chen yee | 12 April 2021


Following the logic of this article, the Church should bless group marriages and child marriages when these types of marriage start becoming acceptable.
Marita | 13 April 2021


Marcus: ‘ it may come as a surprise to you that the basis of most long-lasting successful marriages is not sex. Ideally 2 people make a commitment to marry and be faithful to each other for life even after the initial spark of sexual attraction has faded. Marriage is not about primal sexual attraction but faithfulness. And a certain minority percentage variant in our society is same-sex oriented. They are a normal minority variant, not an intrinsically disordered creation of God doomed to live a life of celibacy and loneliness. Surely we've moved on from the narrow interpretation of natural law from pre-Christian philosophy based on soul-less, purely functional reproduction functions.’ 111 words which miss the point. Marriage is lifelong and between a man and a woman so the children know to which adults they exclusively belong and which adults belong exclusively to them. That is why marriage is a social institution. Same-sex civil unions misnamed as marriage and the idea that a marriage can be nullified by something called a divorce are co-equally egotistical aberrations.
roy chen yee | 13 April 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘Apart from Jesus reducing them to the first two (Matt. 22:37-39) I think it safe to say that the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is intended to clarify and take precedence over them.’ How does the second of the ‘first two’ take precedence over both, or even just the first, of the ‘first two’? The parable is in response to ‘who is my neighbour’ not ‘how do you love God with, as it were, your whole being?’
roy chen yee | 13 April 2021


Marita's self-styled logic is really a fantastiical non-sequitur. Plural marriages are never legal because the test of their meeting the ethical standards reserved for monogamy can never apply, e.g. in respect of the freedom to migrate or divorce. Thus, some parties to such arrangements are absolutely denied the rights that couples ordinarily have, which basically negates the principle that the law must apply to all or else to nobody because its an ass. The same objection applies to child marriages and, if anything, with greater ethical persuasion because children are unable to consent to a contract requiring lifelong adult commitment. I might add that these kind of tawdry objections to Fr Jones are as embarrassingly risky as a battered fortress under relentless siege from many uniquely different, well-armed and notably unrepetitive quarters, as John RD should concede. His squawks of hapless desperation are not as impressive as his recent recourse to humour, illustrated in his reference elsewhere to blebs. That new mellifluousness in his bugling repertoire is borrowed, one assumes, from El Roy, who cleverly sidetracks towards hilarious hyperbole every time his case collapses upon application of the test of proportionality and he faces the merciful prospect of summary dispatch.
Michael Furtado | 13 April 2021


Thank you, Bill. I'm glad to see we agree on the clarification of my earlier view of conscience you requested. On the "Ecclesia docens" and "Ecclesia discens" (or "docta" as Newman also calls it) and the matter of consultation of the latter by the former, I readily acknowledge, as you point out, that the terms pre-date Newman. However, his understanding of the word " consult" seems highly circumscribed. Responding to Ushaw College's Professor John Gillow's challenge that his insistence on "consulting" the laity seemed to imply that the infallibility of the Church resided in the laity rather than the hierarchy, in order to clarify his use of "consult" Newman employs the analogy of consulting a weather-gauging instrument: "The barometer does not give us its opinion, but ascertains for us a fact . . . I had not a dream of understanding the word . . . in the sense of asking an opinion." (Letters and Diaries, xix. 135). Further, in his famous Rambler article "On Consulting the Faithful on Matters of Doctrine", Newman writes: "Their (i.e., the laity's) belief is sought for as testimony to that apostolic tradition, on which alone any doctrine whatever can be defined." (54-5). "Testimony" here is distinguished from "opinion". He also affirms that sole responsibility for "discerning, discriminating, defining, promulgating and enforcing any portion of that (i.e., the apostolic) tradition" lies with the hierarchy.(63). Moreover, Newman also appears to assume a theologically literate "educated" and faith-practising laity in the scope of his application of "consulting." He opines: " . . . the "Ecclesia docens" is more happy when she has enthusiastic partisans about her" (106), to which end he encourages "the study of her divine doctrines" (loc.cit.) - a counsel by the heeding of which, I believe, all ES readers and contributors can greatly benefit.
John RD | 14 April 2021


Fosco: Those charged with the formal Apostolic teaching responsibility in the Catholic Church (i.e., the Pope and bishops in communion with him) don't "tell God what to do" (6/4). They - often with the assistance of competent lay people in various fields - interpret, develop and define what is consistent with the teaching and apostolic mandate of Christ who has called them to this role in the life of the Church - one for which they are particularly accountable, as the hymn "Now thank we all our God" goes: "in this world and the next." Further, the teaching requirement you describe and propose as "a journey through the dark night of our inner reality", while it may be personally authentic, seems a very subjective basis for a common belief, and a vaguer criterion for theological "qualification" than any official teaching document emanating from Rome I'm familiar with, especially in the modern era.
John RD | 14 April 2021


Bill Burke's scripturally based pastoral counsel of charity and compassion (9/4) are very apposite - these virtues are the outreaching voice and outstretched hands of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, expressing in integrated action the reality of the Word - just as Christ, who calls all into fuller life, did to the Samaritan woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery; and so many others in the Gospels - and still does through his Church. Charity and compassion invite and enable, with the assistance of God's grace, our fulfilment of his call to repentance and responsiveness to his promise of life to the full.
John RD | 14 April 2021


Father Ross Jones SJ: ‘Suffice it to say that there can be life-commitments before God which are not sacraments, but are nevertheless blessed – as is the case with religious vows. Blessings can be given outside sacraments. As for “what is revealed in sacred scripture” concerning homosexuality, current biblical scholars of note are rather less absolutist and much more nuanced about this than in the past. The difference between a school of reason approach and a physicalist model is seen clearly in the style of the Church’s teaching documents. The social justice statements are drawn largely from reasoned reflection on scripture, the dignity of the person, and on what it is to be human. And they are embraced by people with enthusiasm. Those to do with sexuality usually start from the other approach. Too often they do not stand up to the test of reason….’ What is a less absolutist, much more nuanced, less physicalist, more school of reason approach, drawn from reflection on the dignity of the person and what it is to be human, concerning: www.lifesitenews.com/news/man-claiming-to-be-female-wants-to-become-nun-i-will-not-give-up-even-if-i-have-to-go-to-the-vatican ? LGBTIQ* is a camel. It's not just the nose that will be wedging its way under the hem of the tent.
roy chen yee | 14 April 2021


John RD – thank you for your kind observation: I have nothing to add to your synopsis of Newman's position presented at the time of the Rambler article and during its aftermath. Until next time – cheers.
Bill Burke | 14 April 2021


Another breezy bombast from Michael Furtado. ‘Plural marriages are never legal because the test of their meeting the ethical standards reserved for monogamy can never apply, e.g. in respect of the freedom to migrate or divorce.’ With respect to ‘migrate’, if you had children in school with settled friendships, even moving suburbs would require consulting them. Why would the number of spouses matter to the argument? You’d be consulting spouses as well as children. With ‘divorce’, children are ‘consulted’, not consulted, because they have no say. They just put up with the outcome, the undivorced spouse(s) and their children unaffected. ‘The same objection applies to child marriages…because children are unable to consent….’ The age of consent is two years less than the age of marriage and a conditional marriage can be applied for for those under 18 (probably because of a pregnancy). A marriage would make a blessing unnecessary but, of course, the marriage would be more for the sake of the child than anything else. Sans marriage, the blessing of a very young (unmarried) mother would probably be the pastoral thing to do but, as with the marriage, it is forced upon the Church by the child as hostage.
roy chen yee | 14 April 2021


M. Furtado, John RD’s frequent comments in Eureka Street are anything but ‘desperate’. If anything it is the compulsively scornful tone and stereotyping that you submit as argument that is desperate. Why not answer questions and address the points of John RD and others you disagree with in a measured, respectful tone, and treat things that require serious reflection in an appropriate manner?
Mark F | 14 April 2021


Aurelius, I don’t see how your proposition, true or not, defeats mine. My position entails that even if every genuinely married couple in the world were to abandon the marital act, and practice exclusively non-marital genital sex, this would not change the metaphysical status of the marital act. The marital act, rather like the law of gravity, is not subject to redefinition by statistics on behaviour – here, what opposite-sex married couples do - , nor by societal opinion – here, what people think it’s acceptable they do. Incidentally, to show how unprejudiced on this I am, I’ll put it that there is arguably a double wickedness to many non-marital genital acts between authentically married couples since, at least some of the time, many are engaging in such acts in order to close off the possibility of their sexual activity from being in itself open to conception – a perverse project that same-sex couples can’t reasonably adopt.
HH | 14 April 2021


M.F.: children have the a priori right to be raised by their biological parents in their natural family. Biological parents have the corresponding serious obligation vis a vis their children. Same-sex “marriage” parenthood, as with all donor insemination/surrogacy arrangements, denies in principle, and obviously without the child's consent, the constructive “child” of same-sex parents the rights that children in natural marriages ordinarily enjoy, and ultra vires absolves the biological parent or parents involved of the obligations parents of their nature have. So the same ground you legitimately use to argue against legalizing polygamy and child marriage is the ground on which same-sex marriage should never be recognized. As the principle of the lesser of two evils, the situation is arguably much worse in the case of same-sex “marriage” … at least the little girl married off at six gets to spend six years (sometimes many more) having her natural rights honoured by being parented by her biological parents, and children in polygamist marriages have their rights imperfectly honoured by at least being raised by both their biological parents, even if their parents are not in the natural and optimal monogamous opposite sex arrangement. In terms of the rights of children in these various arrangements, you’ve strained at the (albeit intrinsically evil) institutional gnats of polygamy and child marriage, but swallowed the camel (a horse designed by our dictatorial P.C. woke culture hegemonists) of same-sex marriage (no disrespect to camels, horses or gnats intended.) It is your answer to Marita which involves logical inconsistency, not Marita’s speculation.
HH | 14 April 2021


Although I've questioned here aspects of what Fr Ross Jones SJ has said, I'm confident that his, the St Aloysius' College community's and the Jesuits' experience and sense of inclusivity and legitimate diversity in education is wider and profounder than what Michael Furtado - who, not for the first time in ES, resorts to gratuitous exclusionary suggestion (9/4) as a means of quashing opinion and the conversation it promotes - supposes. Wackford Squeers of Dotheboys Hall might be receptive, MF.
John RD | 15 April 2021


M.F.: children have the a priori right to be raised by their biological parents in their natural family. Biological parents have the corresponding serious obligation vis a vis their children. Same-sex parenthood, as with all donor insemination/surrogacy arrangements, denies in principle, and obviously without the child's consent, the rights that children in natural marriages ordinarily enjoy, and purports to absolve the biological parent or parents involved of the obligations parents ordinarily have. So the same ground you legitimately use to argue against legalizing polygamy and child marriage is the ground on which same-sex marriage should, equally, never be recognized. Moreover, the situation is significantly worse in the case of same-sex parenthood. At least the little girl married off at six gets to spend her early years having her natural rights honoured by being raised by both her biological parents, and children in polygamist marriages have their rights imperfectly honoured by at least being raised by both their biological parents, even if their parents are not in the natural and optimal monogamous opposite sex arrangement. In terms of violence to children in these various arrangements, you’ve strained at the gnats of polygamy and child marriage, but then swallowed the camel of same-sex parenthood. It is your response to Marita which involves inconsistency.
HH | 15 April 2021


Apologies for inadvertent double posts. I stand by the content of both, of course.
HH | 15 April 2021


I would normally accept Mark F's rebuke, were he to expand on his position by providing evidence for it, and not by discounting my substantive and infinitely detailed and varied responses over many months in defense of homosexual Catholics like me in terms of the strictures that John and his judgmental cohort consistently and repetitively place upon our access to the sacraments and such like. Similarly, Mark's secluded identity, like John RD's, somewhat compromises both of their positions in terms of the openness and honesty that such a potentially inflammatory issue commands of those who take issue with Fr Jones on this sensitive and highly contested topic. Given the wall behind which he hides, John must therefore expect that his trenchant focus on homosexual guilt and repentance will regrettably result in a certain amount of unparliamentary arm-wrestling that might otherwise not be acceptable in more civil and less emotionally-fraught contexts. While John's alter-ego, Roy, no less sabre-toothed than I am, is adept at quoting Dickens to support their cause, they mustn't forget the lesson of Thackeray's 'Barchester Towers' in which the odious Bishop and Mrs Proudie come to grief at the hands of their weaponiser-in-chief, the sycophantic Rev Obadiah Slope.
Michael Furtado | 15 April 2021


MF you miss the point of the Samaritan parable. "And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ’You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’ But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’ If you think about this, the priest later became a Bishop but the Samaritan represented the laity. Little has changed under the sun. The hierarchy talk about the law but the laity implement it. Now who did Christ admire here?
Francis Armstrong | 15 April 2021


I wasn't intending to invest Pope Francis' question "Who am I to judge" with ex cathedra status, whatever that is - I just think he sets a marvellous example for us. If we are talking about "ex-cathedra", Hans Kung's article in NCR is worth re-reading this month: https://www.ncronline.org/news/theology/infallibility-hans-k-ng-appeals-pope-francis The CDF attempting to ban him suggests to me that anyone disagreeing with the CDF is in very good company. Kung was one of the great theologians of the Catholic Church and a great advocate for ecumenism. The anachronistic CDF seems to be a latter day equivalent of the Scribes and Pharisees and Jesus expressed his opinion of them in Matthew 23:27. Francis is not as radical as Jesus, so he is much more restrained in his language.
Joseph Fernandez | 16 April 2021


Hello John RD: “those charged with the formal apostolic teaching responsibility in the Catholic Church (i.e., the Pope and bishops in communion with him)………….” very poetic. Takes me back over sixty years when I first hear it at primary, brainwashing school. I am sure I believed it back in the magical world of childhood. Pity I had to grow up and come to terms with Cain murdering Abel (or was it the other way?). But, I will leave the last words to an academic and former Church scholar. Actually, I hardly knew him because I never studied the Humanities. He spoke fluent Italian, studied in Rome as a priest, maybe marked out for high office. He still had a residence there. Like so many, he left consecrated orders during the reign of St Pope John Paul II the Great, but remained a committed catholic. During our asymmetrical conversation – we did not have much in common – I asked him about his Vatican experience: “it’s all about careers, nobody believes in anything”.
Fosco | 16 April 2021


Francis Armstrong, in his enthusiasm to champion the lay Synodal cause, which, as a Catholic I cannot but support, has misread my allusion to the Samaritan. As a rank outsider the Samaritan is lifted by Jesus in the context of the parable to a position far more elevated than any that the Judeo-Christian scriptures, including the Commandments, identify. It was splendid Roy who forced the comparison, somehow including the sinful paramountcy of self-idolatry with the Samaritan narrative and which reduces the parable shockingly. My position is that any Samaritan, regardless of background and religious affinity and whether atheist or not, is one whom Jesus exalts above all others. As for relating this somewhat obscure and forcibly co-opted comparison to the Synodal struggle between Bishops and Laity, Francis' contribution to this exchange affords me the opportunity to say that I think he goes too far in his Bishop-bashing. Some tender mercy and compassion are in order here, Francois, simply because the gloved hand offers a more viable chance of pre-Synodal glasnost than your wonderfully irate, no-holds-barred Greco-Roman wrestling. Perhaps this was Roy's clever intention, viz. that he should somehow take Ross Jones' wicket, while having us sent off for ball tampering.
Michael Furtado | 16 April 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘[W]ere he to expand on his position by providing evidence for it, and not by discounting my substantive and infinitely detailed and varied responses over many months’: a burnt pot calling a kettle still on the shop shelf black. ‘Mark's secluded identity, like John RD's, somewhat compromises both of their positions in terms of the openness and honesty that such a potentially inflammatory issue commands of those who take issue with Fr Jones on this sensitive and highly contested topic’: irrelevant, the contest is between ideas, not people; just address the ideas point-by-point. ‘[T]hey mustn't forget the lesson of Thackeray's 'Barchester Towers' in which the odious Bishop and Mrs Proudie come to grief at the hands of their weaponiser-in-chief, the sycophantic Rev Obadiah Slope’ Not according to links to the Trollope Society. In ‘Barchester Towers’, the Proudies fire the double-dealing Slope. Mrs Proudie dies in a later story and the Bishop is freed of her dominance. He continues happily ever after as bishop. (However, Slope does land on his feet to become pastor to a church in London and husband to a rich widow.) Was it a manga Barchester Towers you read? To go with the manga magisterium?
roy chen yee | 16 April 2021


So Fosco, what is your criterion for what is true - novelty?
John RD | 16 April 2021


'Who am I to judge?" is not a typical response of Pope Francis on same-sex marriage or other issues of faith and morals upheld by the Church, Joseph. The fairly impromptu press conference context does much, I suggest, to explain it. It's good you recognise the question as non-binding on Catholics, and, I'd hope, as impossible when we humans exercise our God-given intellect in an evaluative mode - as you do, do you not - - in branding the CDF?
John RD | 16 April 2021


Michael Furtado: The "strictures'" to which you refer are not peculiarly mine, nor are they exclusively applied to what you call matters of "homosexual guilt"; rather, they are the Church's requirements, as I understand and accept them, for objectively recognisable serious sin. - You know, MF, this is about the third time you've raised the "secluded identity" matter, and my reply is the same as before: what is being said should be the focus of debate and discussion. This time, though, if for no other reason than your apparently driven persistence, I'll add that on two occasions my employment has been jeopardised for the public expression of views on topical matters affecting the Catholic Church - views I've consistently expressed in ES, from the injustices done to Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Wilson, to same-sex marriage, to abortion and euthanasia, to secularisation, to postmodernism, and to neo-Marxism - in local and national newspapers and magazines, with my name and address evident and accessible. That I choose, for now, to be circumspect, I regard as my and my family's prerogative - though my identity is known to many whom I trust, including ES staff; and has been known well before my comments in this forum. Unlike the views you espouse, mine do not enjoy the politically correct and widely accepted contemporary popularity yours evidently do - and not just on marriage and sexual morality. So, for the time being, the satisfying of your curiosity will have to remain in suspense - not that this should affect your judgment of me and others who may choose to do the same.
John RD | 16 April 2021


Thank you, John RD, for your last post. Hard though it seems, I would defend to the death your right to express your views and compliment Eureka Street on its readiness to publish you. While I disagree with your theology, I cannot endorse your dismissal from employment, unless, that is, your views came to influence and damage the young and vulnerable in your charge. Even then, a wise leader would somehow manage to allocate responsibilities attuned to your phenomenal analytical skills which, I'd have thought, could have respected the overarching principle of disagreeing with your theology but defending to the death your right to embrace it. Of course, sometimes that's easier said than done, as 'd imagine, having been there and done that, your unalloyed commitments would have brought you into conflict with some of your colleagues. Still, I am deeply saddened for you that this happened and commend this outreach of Jesuit ministry for providing you (and me!) with an outlet for expressing views that would never be published elsewhere in the Catholic cosmos that we both love. Let us therefore honour this forum in more respectful ways than both of us have tended to engage in so far.
Michael Furtado | 17 April 2021


Although of Asian origin and highly culturally hybridised, the low-brow cultural circles in which I meander are such that I couldn't lay claim to an appreciation of the finer aspects of contemporary manga stylistic representation that Roy evidently reads and understands so well. I even encountered an exquisitely beautiful and heart-rending Crucifixion drawing depicting the Japanese martyrs and, in the absence of Roy's allusion, I wouldn't have been any the wiser without his chastising words. Therefore, what may have been intended as another rebuke, if not an insult, had its opposite effect in turning me towards my roots, denied me because of the ultra-orthodoxy of my upbringing, as indeed I sometimes wonder about Roy's. What would Roy's contributions be like, I'm sure some curious ES readers ask, if the Gospel narratives were read through orientalist eyes, instead of the beautiful but morbidly Jansenist theology that Roy embraces. Bowing to his superior knowledge of Thackeray, I ask myself about what Roy's brilliant contributions here might be if he turned his mind to aspects of cultural representation and co-option that provide such a necessary and in many ways successful lens for Jesuit evangelists in the contemporary world of love, justice and liberation.
Michael Furtado | 17 April 2021


I find it difficult to believe that someone with this attitude to the church's teaching on homosexuality is a teacher at a catholic school and must be leading innocent children astray with such misrepresentation of the church's teaching. Please refresh your memory by reading on Page 566 - Subject Index 2357 to 2359 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. No amount of so called "contemporary school of reason" or the more enlightened 200 German professors can change the truth about homosexuality that has been revealed to us by scripture and confirmed down through the ages by the Holy Spirit acting authentically within the Holy Catholic Church.
Peter Quinlan | 17 April 2021


Hello John RD: my criterion is human experience. I do not know where that will take me in the afterlife but my best option is to live one life at a time. Besides, I have a plan for the Day of Judgement. If we all stick together, and forgive one another for the terrible things we have done to one another, we can all go to heaven. You dismiss my offering of “journey” as personal, subjective and not a basis for common belief. But, it’s just the Book of Job.
Fosco | 17 April 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘Jansenist’ Much like the hammer with the problem and the nail, to certain species of Catholic, every other looks like a ‘Jansenist’. Perhaps they should read the clues and do their homework, akin to asking themselves what the Trollope Society has to do with ‘Thackeray’.
roy chen yee | 18 April 2021


Michael Furtado: In the incidences to which I refer (16/4), there was no suggestion of my views "influencing and damaging the young and vulnerable." "Obstructionist thinking" reported to the Administration and the Catholic Education Office for my criticisms of liberation theology, Marxist influence on curriculum, same-sex marriage, abortion and women's ordination were alleged as the main causes of offence. Each of these was unavoidable in the curriculum and teaching of senior courses in Religion, History and English, as were my contributions as a teacher. I consider, too, different ages and educational experience salient, though not decisive, factors in the matter. Finally, union advice, the support of a number of colleagues, and of the Archbishop were relevant in resolving the employment aspect, though the issue of radically differing understandings of and attitudes towards the teachings of the Catholic Church among staff remains in a number of Catholic schools of my acquaintance. The current fraught relationship between contemporary theological opinion and Magisterial pronouncements - and their respective orthodoxy and authority - persists, as it does in most of our exchanges in ES, as a running sore; and, in my opinion, at its worst, a scandal. I will endeavour to continue ES contributions in a spirit and tone of appropriate respect, as I accept you desire in your 17/4 response. Thank you, Michael.
John RD | 18 April 2021


Fosco - I don't "dismiss" your "journey" - if I did, I'd not have replied to any of your posts. Rather it's your repeated rationale of having heard terms I've used like "the pope and bishops in communion with him" advanced as an overriding objection to acceptance of Catholic Church teaching. I don't see that this premise and method of argument - repetition - evidently influenced by your early experience of schooling, objectively negates the value of what is being expressed; on the contrary, formulaic repetitions emphasise the perennial truth and significance of what is being expressed, and provide sure sign posts along our pilgrimage. - I share your hope of meeting in heaven, Fosco; in a greater one than that imagined by John Lennon.
John RD | 18 April 2021


In all things, I feel we are to take the example of those who have found love in what they do, and who they are. Not in what others do or who they are. So, if a catholic priest leaves his order, and then says " It's all about careers, nobody believes," that is his reason he left. That thought and belief is a Path he makes for himself = Disbelief. He is justifying his lack of faith by the lack of faith of other clergy men. However, it is never about what others believe, but what we believe. Were it, how could David had struck down the giant? Look inside, build inside. Others have other paths. Many dictated by the others they follow. It's not about following others by walking their Paths of thought and disbelief. Many are the trials. Even so. He who keeps the faith is the stronger in heart, mind and soul. Faith = no tangible proof. When you have it, no proof is of any value and any proof is an impediment. Faith = more precious than gold by the tone!
AO | 19 April 2021


John RD, I'll record some unredacted findings made by the RC on Pell. And hope that FB's hero worship of him wont cause the ES editors to refuse to print these. 1989 The RC found aux Bishop Pell should have removed Searson though he sidestepped and blamed AB Little. The RC said of Little he showed an appalling failure of leadership. 1973 RC found Pell had considered the prudence of Gerard Ridsdale talikg boys on overnight camps. 1973 RC found Pell was conscious of clergy abuse and avoidance of situations of gossip. Early 1970s RC found Pell told by students and other priests about CB Ted Dowlan and did not tell Mulkearns. Tim Green student told Pell to his face about Dowlan and Pell said "dont be ridiculous! " and walked away. Witness BWF of St Pat's demanded Pell do something about a boy at St Pats who was beaten and molested. Pell response "young man - how dare you knock on this door and make demands!" Then told "Go away". 1980s RC found knew Ridsdale was sexually transgressing and that was the reason Mulkearns removed him from Mortlake. Wilson at first instance was found guilty of covering up sexual abuse for which he got a 2 year sentence. Though overturned on appeal (where he pleaded Alzheimer's), the appeal judge did not have the benefit of observing the witnesses in the box. And for the benefit of MF, who though wonderfully erudite seems exceptionally hard of hearing ; "Once upon a time there was a senior priest in Melbourne who for 20 years refused to open letters from BR detailing accounts and reports of pedophile clergy and he sent them back unopened. So for 20 years like the priest and the Levite, he crossed the road, shook his head and let the victims bleed in the ditch. Now of course He is an ArchBishop. By the by, one of the collective terms applicable to Bishops is "a lechery of Bishops". And how appropriate is that term to the current cohort in this lucky country.
Francis Armstrong | 19 April 2021


Peter Quinlan registers his right to object to Ross Jones about Jones' Letter to Parents, here published. Alas, the reason to which Quinlan appeals exposes the inadequacy of his argument. Simply to say 'No' to Fr Jones, in the manner of Beatrice Webb's to Karl Marx's assertion that Britain was 'ripe for revolution', is an opportunity dashed upon the rocks of a point that has been made ad infinitum by Jones as well as several others. Now if Mr Quinlan had been, as his namesake, the Chief Justice of WA (himself the beneficiary of a Jesuit education) might, he would conceivably have used the space allowed to tender some additional reasons, beyond those already mentioned, for why Fr Jones might be wrong. Instead, our Mr Quinlan overreaches himself in using the Catechism as an excuse; for, as far as I am aware, Ross Jones would be very careful not to offend against the Church's magisterial teaching and instead, as a good Jesuit would (and a Catholic worth his Baptism should) explores contexts in which such a teaching requires the application of due diligence that the Magisterium commands. As for Roy: for Trollope a Thackeray might suffice as 'just as sweet'.
Michael Furtado | 19 April 2021


Michael Furtado 13.4.21: Just a few years ago, same-sex marriage was considered "fantastical". The fundamental issue this article touches on is: Does Truth change? If yes, then it doesn't make sense to talk about human rights, 'ethics', 'equality', etc, as all these lie on shifting ground. If no, then it doesn't make sense to talk about distortions of truth, like same-sex marriage. The Church has outlived many distortions of truth, and will outlive current distortions, because Truth (i.e., Reality) asserts itself.
marita | 19 April 2021


"Who am I to judge?" is , I think, indeed very representative of Francis' gentle style of attempting, with humility, to persuade us. I don't recall the Gospel writers telling us that Jesus drew distinctions between his pronouncements , informing his audience on one day that he was speaking ex cathedra and on another day that he was holding an impromptu press conference. Jesus did not condemn, except for hypocrisy in the institutional religious leaders of his day - the installation of money lenders in the temple and the behaviour of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:27). Francis follows his example and attempts with Evangelli Gaudium, Laudato si', Fratelli tutti and other documents to draw our attention to what is one single overriding moral issue - our duty to care for all of society and all of creation rather than creating a consumer society based on huge and increasing inequality and destruction of the environment. Like John XXIII he does not believe in his infallibility. If he was judgemental in his approach and behaved like the CDF, he would be busy excommunicating climate change deniers - since climate change is going to make the human race extinct and is disproportionately affecting the poorest people - and excommunicating those who demonise desperate asylum seekers. Instead he acts with humility and attempts to persuade us to change our ways.
Joseph Fernandez | 19 April 2021


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