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Best of 2012: Feminists and gay Christians who accept the Church


Gay Christians'Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,' says Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew. Look at what these words say to his followers.

You don't need a crowd, just two or three. 'Gathered in my name', not 'gathered in a church' or 'at a certain time or place', but simply 'in my name': that is, two or three, with Christ as the common centre of their faith, gathered to pray and praise God. 'There am I among them.' This is an affirmative statement. It's a positive statement. It is a statement of assurance. It is a statement made with no other qualifications.

Throughout history, this radical idea, that all you needed to form a Christian community is two or three people gathered in the name of Christ, has kept the Christian faith alive in the hearts of believers.

Think of the early Christian community in the first three centuries, threatened by a lack of religious freedom in the Roman Empire and a ban on public church buildings. Think of the persecution of Christians, and especially Catholics, in countries like Poland under communism.

Look at the growing house church movement in China — a country that is on track to become the biggest Christian nation on earth, and you can see that a community doesn't need a building or clergy or a large number of people to be a Christian community. Just two or three people gathered in Jesus' name.

For 40 years, people have been gathering to celebrate their Catholic faith under the name Acceptance. At first they met in people's homes. Later they met in halls, sometimes provided by other faith congregations: the Uniting Church, the Unitarian Church. They celebrated Mass. They put their faith into action by supporting good works in the community. They supported one another, prayed for one another, and grew in their faith together.

In the 1980s Acceptance moved physically closer to the Catholic Church, celebrating Mass at a hall next to St Canice's, Elizabeth Bay. Finally in 1990 Acceptance members gathered for the first time in a Catholic Church, at St Canice's, to celebrate Mass. Today, they gather at St Joseph's Newtown. They have celebrated a weekly Mass continuously for most of the past 40 years.

The founder of Acceptance, Garry Pye, had a mustard seed of faith. A homosexual Catholic man who grew up when homosexuality was illegal, he knew the harsh reality of accepting himself in a civil society and religious community that rejected, condemned and punished people who were homosexual.

And yet, despite all of that, he had enough faith in Jesus' promise that 'wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among you' that he invited others to join him in Acceptance.

I never knew Pye. He died in 1990, before I moved to Sydney. I wonder what he would have thought about the Australia we live in today. I wonder what he would have thought about a former premier of NSW launching Acceptance's 40th anniversary — make that the female, American-born, Catholic former premier of NSW. I'm not sure which part of that sentence would have surprised him more!

While Pye patterned Acceptance along similar lines to Dignity USA, he wanted to give the group a distinctive Australian identity. Acceptance refers to both the individual's struggle to accept both their faith and their sexuality, and society and the church's struggle to accept people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

A lot has changed since Pye travelled to America and met with Dignity in the early 1970s. Homosexuality is decriminalised, and many rights for same sex people and their families have been won. Not all families are equal yet before the law, but so much has been gained.

Even in the church there are some signs of acceptance: members of the organisation can now worship freely and participate in liturgies in a Catholic church, though some places adopt a kind of 'don't ask, don't tell' approach.

Just two months ago the Bishop Emeritus of Sydney, Geoffrey Robinson, spoke in Baltimore and called for 'a new study of everything to do with sexuality' — a kind of study that he predicted 'would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual'.

He went on to say that churches' emphasis on the profound significance of sex is correct, but that natural law approaches to sexual morality and interpretations of ancient scriptural passages on homosexual and other sexual activity are in need of correction.

I think again of Pye and all the members of Acceptance, of the priests who have supported Acceptance, of the families and friends and members of other churches who responded in faith to Pye's invitation to join him in Jesus' name. Acceptance truly is a mustard seed of faith that is moving mountains.

I have spoken a great deal so far in terms that reflect the perspective of a Christian believer. But I want to speak to another audience, too: those who are not Christians, who struggle to accept why people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persist in a Church that in many ways continues to reject them.

Sometimes I find it harder to speak to non-believers than to the hierarchal church. The responses can range from genuine inquiry through to ridicule and condemnation. For example, if you permit me to draw an analogy with the experience of being a feminist woman in the Catholic Church. Recently the writer Catherine Deveny tweeted that my claim to be a Catholic and a feminist showed I was 'suffering serious cognitive dissonance'.

Twitter is great, but it is hardly an easy place to have a serious or detailed discussion about the complexity of human life and the intertwining issues of faith, liturgy, ritual, identity and ecclesiology. But we should have those discussions. They are opportunities for, as one of my university professors called them, educative moments.

Acceptance's anniversary provides the opportunity to add another rich layer to our understanding of the experience of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people in Australia. Just as importantly, it is also an opportunity to add a rich layer to the history of the Catholic Church in Australia.

It is a chance to invite people who may have strong views in any particular direction to understand better the complex fabric woven from church, faith, identity and culture that Acceptance represents.

A moment ago I purposefully mentioned ecclesiology, the study of the church itself. One of the greatest ecclesiologists of the modern era is Hans Kung, a Swiss Catholic priest and theologian. He asserts that the church is both sinful and sinless, that it is made up of the people here on earth and the kingdom of God in heaven. He takes seriously the claim that we are called to bring about the kingdom of God on earth.

What do I see in that? I see a church that doesn't belong to Rome or the hierarchy exclusively. I see a church that is made up of all its believers. I see a church that is on a mission, striving to perfection, making mistakes and evolving, full of grace and seeking forgiveness.

When people ask me how I reconcile being a Catholic with being a feminist, I try to describe this vision of church. I try to explain what my faith means to me, how the liturgy and sacraments and ritual sustain me, how I find grace and forgiveness and acceptance within the Catholic Church.

Yes, I find things that abhor and disgust me, like the abuse of children, and I condemn them. I also find discrimination and teachings I don't accept and want to change. But none of these takes away from the core tenets of my faith: that Jesus is both human and divine, the son of God, and in him I am saved.

And when they ask: why not convert, I say why? Why give up the sacraments, liturgy, ritual and faith that the Church gives to me? If Kung is right, indeed, if Vatican II is right, then we are all the church. The history of Acceptance, and Robinson's statement, makes clear that the church does change, the attitudes, teachings and understanding can change, the Holy Spirit moves within the church by stirring the hearts of believers.

Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally is CEO of Basketball Australia and a former Labor Premier of NSW. This article is an edited version of her address to launch an exhibition at Surry Hills Library in Sydney to mark the 40th Anniversary of Acceptance.

Topic tags: Kristina Keneally, gay Christians



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Existing comments

I take the view that it is not possible to be a Christian without being a feminist, since this pre-supposes equality of man and women ( as well as Jew and Greek, slave and free) before God. Perhaps Ms Deveny needs to think again.

JR | 07 January 2013  

Thank you Kristina. Such thinking and writing is often not given. Oh that more of our "church" could be so Christian and accepting. Rosemary Keenan WA

Rosemary Keenan | 07 January 2013  

Thanks for that, Kristina. I sadly read through the first several paragraphs, but then found myself nodding in agreement. Your thoughts have helped ME to justify why I'm still hangin' in there . . why I'm still a Catholic and trying to do my bit for the cause.

glen avard | 07 January 2013  

Kristina has given her personal hermeneutic of Jesus's words in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Meanwhile the Roman Catholic Magisterium of 2000 years has expounded its very own but authoritative exegesis, with a Christ given Authority nuance resonating with perennial ecclesiology and Catholic Morality[all of which jettisons a fundamentalist literalist interpretation with politically correct[PC] baggage In this context one notes the present London Soho gay friendly Church, and struggle with magisterium: CDF Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who German Catholic media have said wanted to clarify the apparent contradiction between them[Soho,London gay masses] and Church teaching on homosexuality. The Our Lady of the Assumption church Soho London will now become a parish for disaffected Anglicans who became Catholics in protest against moves in their churches towards allowing female and gay bishops. Catholics in Britain have long complained to the Vatican about the Soho Masses, saying they flouted Church teaching on homosexuality, and small groups sometimes protested outside the church during the services. Thus Christina, Jesus' words need magisterial context vis a vis PC reductionisms re Jesus' words! I of course don't share Christina's enthusiasm for+ Robinson and his rash of reductionisms.

Father John George | 07 January 2013  

It's about being authentic, and, frankly, the author, during her time as a politician, never sounded the least bit authentic, to me at least. That said, she is not alone in this. The fact that there are absolutely no absolutes in the beliefs of Christians, a situation that allows this person to believe it's OK to be gay, while many other so-called Christians believe it is a sin, demonstrates the emptiness of this faith. Any position can be fitted into 'being a Christian', so long as, at the end of your statement of belief, you sound like Ms. Keneally with her line, "Jesus is both human and divine, the son of God, and in him I am saved", which is really just a little like grasping at straws when all rational explanations have been bypassed or dumped. As for the church changing over time, why should it ever change, if what it claims is an abolute and unchanging truth? In fact, a Church that changes should be seen as the Will O'Wisp charcater it really is, and very unauthentic too. JR is clearly not a Roman Catholic, since there is no hint of 'equality' within that moribund bastion of male privilege and power, and absolutely no chance of there ever being any.

janice wallace | 07 January 2013  

JR men and women aren't all equal! Christina is a far better basketball player than I am. being hemiplegic.

Father John George | 07 January 2013  

I live in Adelaide. It appears to me that Acceptance is no longer accepted here. Certainly it does not have a public face, and if it is 'allowed' to have Mass in a church, then it is the best kept secret in SA. I know 'two or more' and cling to that, but how does a young (or old) Catholic gay person find their way through the wall of silence?

Pauline | 07 January 2013  

Garry Pye and Graeme Donkin were a great support for me in 1973. Masses were held in the Acceptance rooms at 253 Oxford St, Darlinghurst and later in the Gay Centre in Holt Street.

Bruce Laidlaw | 07 January 2013  

You clearly articulate the position I've only recently achieved, Kristina. ? Why give up the sacraments, liturgy, ritual and faith that the Church gives to me? If Kung is right, indeed, if Vatican II is right, then we are all the church". And it was Pope Paul VI who said that the Church is 'the People of God'. Just because some of our leaders don't actually believe this is no reason why I shouldn't. Have you noticed, too, that people like Catherine Deveny also believe the Church is the hierarchy? They do have something in common, after all!

Joan Seymour | 07 January 2013  

Oh come on , Father George, you can do better than that. We're not talking physical ability or disability here as you very well know.

JR | 07 January 2013  

Let it be said that, after careful consideration, I believe that the Church hierarchy is paternalistic, patronising and the perfect foil against which Feminism can flourish in antagonism. However, the 'cognitive dissonance' put down, as tweeted by Catherine Deveny, reflects both: the 140 character limitation of Twitter as a serious medium for Discourse; and the unbridled contempt of Catherine Deveny for Institution and Authority. Without supporting discussion, such comments are whitenoise in the vacuous Twittersphere. 'Tis a pity that such malice was directed at an individual, Kristina Keneally.

Bob | 07 January 2013  

Fr JG, has 'the majesterium' never ever been wrong? Has everything it has determined over 2000 years always been absolutely spot on? Has it never revised or qualified an earlier decision?

Ginger Meggs | 07 January 2013  

Father John George worries that we all don't follow the Truth , as he sees it and we should not be tolerant of people who are modest enough and intelligent enough to recognise that knowing the eternal Truths of the universe is an ongoing search which we should pursue with humility and love for one another - eternal verities which we can all embrace

frank hetherton | 07 January 2013  

Joan Seymour your sleight of hand doctrinal contraction re Paul VI on homosexuality and People of God, needs substantial nuancing, thereby paying attention to [vis a vis homosexuality] section VIII ff. of His Holiness' approved declaration "Persona Humana" http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/document/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html Being inclusive sinners in the church does not thereby exempt from the moral teaching and discipline of the church re homosexual sinful acts [even though the gay orientation is not sinful]

Father John George | 07 January 2013  

The correct reference in my post to Joan Seymour is http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html Sorry!!!!

Father John George | 07 January 2013  

"As for the church changing over time, why should it ever change, if what it claims is an absolute and unchanging truth? In fact, a Church that changes should be seen as the Will O'Wisp character it really is, and very unauthentic too." Once again, Janice W. shows up most eloquently the false, conniving nature of liberal Catholicism, as espoused by Kristina Keneally, et al. Either Mother Church is right or wrong. If wrong, then she's everything despicable that Janice asserts her to be. If right, she's nothing that Kristina Keneally hopes for. As Janice correctly point out against Kristina: it's either, or.

HH | 07 January 2013  

Thank you Kristina. JANICE WALLACE does not understand your position because she is clearly not a Catholic. If she were, she would know that the Catholic Church does NOT state that being a homosexual is in itself a “sin”. The church states that homosexual acts are the issue. However, as a Catholic myself, I struggle with the notion that homosexual people are to deny their sexuality in order to “qualify” for a state of Grace. But in any case, being a sinner does not disqualify me or anyone else, whether homosexual or not, from being a Christian or a Catholic, or attending Mass. If it did, there would be no church. The church is a hospital for sinners, not a palace for saints. Yes the church has changed over time. Jesus created Jewish apostles, not priests. The early church had women at least as deacons, and arguably as priests. Later the Roman church created male priests who were not Jewish. Then the church refused these exclusively male priests the right to marry. Such changes were peripheral, not central to the faith. They did not change the truth of the Faith, but that did not make them right. Yet there have been many changes to dogma that the church hierarchy would claim came about through the action of the Holy Spirit. Vatican 2 finally recognised that the Holy Spirit did not inspire exclusively the hierarchy, but the whole People of God (the whole church including the laity). Christ sent us a new Advocate, who is the agent of change. The “Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World” from Vatican 2 states: “In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of (humanity) in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals and from social relationships.” (GS n.16). In his commentary on the documents of Vatican 2, Joseph Ratzinger states: “for Newman, conscience represents the inner complement and limit of the Church principle. Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of the ecclesiastical authority.” (“The dignity of the human person”, in H. Vorgrimler (ed.), “Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II”, Vol. 5 [London: Burns & Oates, 1969] 134-36). JR is merely paraphrasing Scripture. The fact that there is actually no equality within the Catholic Church is a failure of the church; a manifestation of the sinful nature of the church from Kristina’s quote of Hans Kung: that the church is both sinful and sinless; but we as Christians are called to bring about the kingdom of God on earth.

Frank S | 07 January 2013  

Hey! What's the prob with gays attending ordinary parish Masses like everybody else [putting gays into ghetto masses smacks of discrimination against them - best to be a significant part of the Sunday liturgies [and reconciliation rites] Hitler had gays carted off to Dachau; we want them in our communities in appropriate liturgical roles be it in vibrant body of the church and other lay roles in the parish communities not splinter groups

Father John George | 07 January 2013  

The Church does not reject anyone. In fact it is the other way around. When we choose to act immorally, it is we who reject the Church. Some people want their immoral actions to be accepted as moral so that they will feel that what they do is good. A moral action is good, even if it rejected by society An immoral action is bad, even if it is accepted as good by society. When it comes to what is moral or immoral, the Church gives good guidance. We cause ourselves all sorts of problems when we choose to good against this good advice.

Chris Howard | 07 January 2013  

Frank S likes to dance with angels on pin heads, "...the Catholic Church does NOT state that being a homosexual is in itself a “sin”. The church states that homosexual acts are the issue." Yes Frank, indeed, it is thus. But hang on a moment. The law in Australia says it is quite OK to sell radar speed detectors but quite illegal to ever use them to avoid radar speed traps. No doubt you see the beauty and majesty of the Church scribblings on sex and being homosexual - others see the foolish man-made contradiction there, as with the speed trap situation. And you are right to query the lengths some are put to, to achieve acceptance from their 'loving' gods. What sort of god would so wilfully design such an opportunity to be so 'imperfect'? Why, a malicious god, of course (or perhaps his Earthbound acolytes).

janice wallace | 08 January 2013  

I take Chris Howard's view- Frank S, Newman’s view of conscience is very different from what many mean when they speak of "primacy of conscience." Newman believed that moral truth is the key to conscience and that a conscience could never lead a Catholic to believe something different than the Church. Cardinal Newman’s view was that " Conscience is rooted in Moral Law ," which is based outside the individual person, and thus it has both rights and responsibilities. Freedom of thought is ordered to help the person assent to what is true. Newman’s account of conscience laid the foundation for Vatican II’s teaching on religious freedom in it's declaration "Dignitatis humanae."Those who opposed Newman argued that conscience has no relation to moral law, and so freedom of thought has no obligation to seek truth - This "Erroneous Understanding of Conscience," became the basis for "Modern-Day Relativism," the denial that Truth can be known or even exists.We can distinguish between the two notions of toleration that flow from the two understandings of conscience. The legitimate sense of toleration, taught by Vatican II, is a duty owed by those who know the truth to those who do not."Christian tolerance is fundamentally an orientation of love toward those in error … I am called to imitate God’s patience and mercy."The tolerance advocated by relativism is one of indifference, towards both truth and persons.It is indifference to persons which makes relativism unsustainable and bad for communities. If conscience and conviction are private opinion, then they have lost any connection to reality and reason, and cannot be meaningfully shared and debated in the public forum."Authentic communities cannot be built upon an ideology that fosters interpersonal isolation, personal immorality, and intellectual shallowness," Catholic intellectuals, have a duty towards all who are seeking the truth to propose" the Faith to them in a serious, respectful dialogue," and encourage them in their search for the truth. Not a truth. The Truth.

Mark | 08 January 2013  

Church teaching is thoroughly consistent and logical, Janice Wallace, on temptation versus sin - as is our tradition of law, and I would argue commendably so. Thus, some of us are inclined, due to factors beyond our control, to shoplift. That doesn't make shoplifting legitimate for those unfortunates, though it may be material in considering their responsibility diminished. So according to our legal system, having the urge to shoplift is certainly not in itself a criminal offence,(though it's also by the same token a regrettable characteristic, not to be welcomed or fostered). But acting on that urge most certainly is...though how the offender is to be dealt with by the law in (eg) sentencing, will involve an assessment of personal responsibility. By rights, you should be attacking the law for this distinction. I accept these distinctions - often subtle, and sometimes mishandled, one way or another - in the secular realm. Yet the Church is making exactly the same order of distinctions, analogously, with respect to homosexuality. She is no more interested in condemning a practicing homosexual to hell than secular legislators are in making life miserable for kleptomaniacs. Quite the contrary. She is merely pointing out that a homosexual act is grave matter, (just as the secular law rightly promulgates that stealing is a serious criminal offence) and that if carried out with full knowledge and full consent of the will (ie with no diminished responsibility due to, say psychological factors)will, unrepented, incur eternal damnation. And she has yet taught from the beginning that God is a merciful God, understanding us in all our weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the face of temptation etc, better than we do ourselves and will take these into account. So, bottom line, crudely put not in terms I'm happy with, but just for the sake of getting a point across: precisely to the extent that our God "set us up", so to speak, to break His laws, he would certainly not count those infringements against us. Hardly the approach of a "malicious" God.

HH | 08 January 2013  

I am grateful for Kristina's wonderful article as I was grateful for her hosting and speaking at a gathering of the Women's Interfaith Network when she was premier. I could re-iterate her article but replace Catholic with Anglican. We can only hang in there and dream of change.

Rev'd Dr Susan Emeleus | 11 January 2013  

HH, argument from analogy is always a risky strategy. Shoplifting is only shoplifting because property is considered sacrosanct. But property is only a man-made notion, that suits the interest of property 'owners', nothing more. Indeed, it has been said that all property is itself the outcome of theft. Like wise, if a 'homosexual act' is considered a 'grey matter' it is only because of a man-made concept of what form of sexuality best suits the interests of a ruling clique.

Ginger Meggs | 11 January 2013  

Thanks, GM I'm not really seeing how your fundamental rejection of natural law/Catholic concepts of justice and sexuality relates to my response above, which defends the common sense distinction we routinely make between temptations one experiences to perform a wrongful act (blameless in themselves) and the free decision to yield to those temptations (blameworthy). P.S. The proposition that all property is the result of theft is obviously self-contradictory. It's good to see that you didn't go so far as to endorse it when you cited it.

HH | 11 January 2013  

I thought the Catholic Church prided itself on following the natural law. Why then, if it is natural for gay people to be attracted to people of their own sex, is it wrong. I cannot see the logic of the church's position and therefore I reject its "teaching" on gay people. PS. I am not gay but I love my fellow humans.

Michael Holdcroft | 11 January 2013  

It is often my experience to have to rationalise to myself and others why I am a catholic and a feminist. Firstly, there are a plethora of great feminists in the Catholic Church, I was taught by some of them. Secondly, how can we expect change if we are not prepared to work for it? Just like the feminists realised when I was fighting the good fight; you have to make it happen.

Genevieve O'Reilly | 12 January 2013  

The problem is this discussion/debate is that "natural law" is not something written in stone - it's open to discussion/interpretation. A homosexual act may be sinful in the eyes of one person, while the same act could be innocent in the eyes of another.

AURELIUS | 14 January 2013  

Mr. Hetherton must understand, that assent to the Dogmas and Moral doctrine of Christs RCC, doesn't thereby morph one into a Hezbolla type terrorist, bigoted against those bent on agnostic type reductionisms', rather than whole-hearted assent to Christs illustrious, eminent Truths of Salvation.[One doesn't search for what is found]. A pilgrim doesnt empty the mind of 'Christ-given' necessary truths, in transit to Salvation.

Father John George | 15 January 2013  

Michael Holdcroft, thanks. You're confusing two senses of the word "natural". Homosexuals may "naturally" desire sex with a same sex partner, just as kleptomaniacs "naturally" feel the urge to shoplift, bulimics "naturally" desire to gorge and then disgorge food. But, however strong and innate that desire is, it doesn't mean at all that they accord with the natural law, as intuited by the great body of mankind, and understood as an integral logical insight into the human condition by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, etc.

HH | 15 January 2013  

Obviously HH's comment shows that he still believes homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered", likening it to criminal activity or theft, despite psychological evidence to the contrary. It is only when we accept the diversity of human sexualities, that we can truly achieve reconciliation as Christians and as humanity. God did not create anyone to be banished to a life of solitude and celibacy for the term of their earthly lives - whether heterosexual or homosexual - whether by nature or by nurture. It's time we decriminalise "desire" and see it as a force for good, and allow people to use their God-given informed consciences to discern whether their desires are for good or for evil. (There can only be two)

AURELIUS | 17 January 2013  

Aurelius, you and I disagree about many things. Fair enough. But can I ask that you, in a spirit of toleration, at least to restate my position honestly, rather than force it into a convenient pigeonhole?

I do not say, and have never said anywhere, that merely being someone with homosexual desires is the same as being someone who actually commits a sinful act. You may not be a traditional Catholic moralist. But I am, so the distinction between those two situations is critical to me. It may not be to you. But I'm speaking from my perspective, not yours. You have no right to verbal me, just as I have no right to verbal you. Why can't you at least respect that? Or does "tolerance" only go one way?

HH | 20 January 2013  

If Jesus Christ came back to day would he be a Catholic? I seriously doubt it. Abstract orthodox outmoded doctrines,laws and practices are the reason so why many people have left organised religion and in particular the Cathilic Church and have decided to find their own spiritual path to God.

Wayne McMillan | 22 January 2013  

Chris I agree with your statement, but may differ from you and Mark in my definition of “the church”, which I understand to be the “People of God”. The Spirit of right judgement does not just reside with the CDF. Refer to Brian Lewis’ articles:
(1) The Primacy of Conscience in the Roman Catholic Tradition, Pacifica 13 (October 2000) Vol. 1, No. 3, pp 299-309
(2) The Primacy of Conscience Australian EJournal of Theology February 2006 - Issue 6 - ISSN 1448 – 6326 available at: http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/research/theology/ejournal/aejt_6/lewis.htm
Lewis asserts that some followers of Aquinas misinterpreted him, developing an excessively legalistic understanding of “natural law” that stressed an absolute objective moral order inscribed by God in the human mind, and that made conscience consist in conformity to this order. Perhaps Newman falls into that group.
Lewis refers to Aquinas’ definition of conscience and asserts that primacy of conscience properly exercised should not lead to relativism and exaggerated moral autonomy; it does not mean denying objective truth or undermine legitimate authority, but must respect both.
The faith of lay Christians, baptised “priest, prophet, and king” gives us insights that help us to discern moral choices with the guidance of the Holy Spirit; after prayerfully considering the teachings of the Gospel and the Church; and based on our understanding of the will of God; when the formulaic answers from a prescriptive list of solutions within the CCC are inadequate.

No-one else can fully comprehend our spiritual journey; what our conversation is with God. Only each individual, fully formed in conscience, ultimately is in a position to and must make a moral/ethical decision based on the individual circumstances. The questions we face are dictated by our times and culture. For example, Ephesians exhorts slaves to obey their masters.

Frank S | 27 January 2013  

"The questions we face are dictated by our times and culture." I vigorously dispute that all questions are inevitably time or culture bound (unless understood in some trivial sense). If so, i.e., if no one can poke their head above the time/culture turret to ask challenging questions, then no progress in civilization seems possible - which is manifestly false. Be that as it may about the questions, SOME ANSWERS are perennial, as the Church infallibly attests (upholding the natural law, written on man's heart). Thus, direct killing of the innocent is always wrong. No ifs, no buts. Any conscience that denies as much is seriously warped, willfully or no, regardless of culture or century. Even if it is a sincere conscience, great damage is done - not least from the point of view of the innocent victim. Regardless of the all-important relationship between an individual and God, from that individual soul's perspective: for the sake of the conduct of human affairs on earth, the important thing to know about a sincere-but-warped conscience is not whether it is sincere, but whether it is warped. That's why God founded the Church on earth. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

HH | 29 January 2013  

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