Friday, November 19, 2010
I would like to follow up on Rob’s earlier post of today (Worst op-ed of the year) regarding anti-Catholic opinion publishing. It strikes me that one can find a type of anti-Catholicism or anti-Church attitude among some members of the Church, too. How can that be?
For example, Professor Lisa Fullam posted yesterday at dotCommonweal [HERE] a contribution entitled “Marriage Becoming Obsolete” which served as her commentary on the recent Pew Research Center survey report suggesting that 39% of Americans consider that the institution of marriage—be it civil or sacramental or both—is becoming obsolete. I will not offer my thoughts on the Pew conclusions today, but I do address the personal points made by Professor Fullam. She has previously been the subject of discussions by other members of the Mirror of Justice company. [HERE and HERE] For those who do not know her or unfamiliar with her, she is an associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley (JSTSCUB). Amongst the courses she teaches are fundamental moral theology and sexual ethics.
In her commentary on the Pew Research Center report to which I have referred, she makes some startling assertions that, if they were not made by someone who is a ranked faculty member at an institution that prepares candidates for ministry in the Roman Catholic Church, could readily be classified as uniformed, perhaps even anti-Catholic. Although the JSTSCUB states that it “discharges its apostolic commitments by means of its critical fidelity to the Roman Catholic tradition,” it seems that Professor Fullam’s commitments which might be critical of Roman Catholic teachings stray from being faithful to them. Perhaps I am mistaken in this claim, but then I recall what she says in her recent posting.
She begins by relying on a statement by one of the Pew researchers that “there are several ways to have a successful family life, and more people accept them.” Well, the fact that some noticeable group accepts alternatives to norms that are made by intelligent persons taking stock of the intelligible reality does not make these “ways... [which] more people accept” normative or moral or consistent with the Church’s teachings.
Professor Fullam gets on board of a project to rethink “the Church’s pastoral strategy on matters including same-sex marriage and cohabitation.” As she states, the Church’s views on these two topics are, in her estimation, “sub-optimal”, but she does not explain why this is the case. She does acknowledge that the Church teaches that marriage is ordained to two objectives: the loving union of the couple—presumably constituted by one man and one woman—and the procreation of children. She further contends, however, that only the first objective is necessary. Moreover, she believes that the union of the couple is “prioritize[d].” While she believes that children are a great good, she further opines that they are “not necessary to the sacramentality of the bond.”
She attempts to justify these positions by making reference to Pope Pius XI. While she does not specify any particular written source authored by this pope, it is likely that she has in mind his 1930 encyclical letter Casti Connubii. But her reading of Pius XI regarding the priority of the loving union of the couple does not accord with what he actually said in this encyclical. As Pope Pius XI stated,
This sacredness of marriage which is intimately connected with religion and all that is holy, arises from the divine origin we have just mentioned, from its purpose which is the begetting and education of children for God, and the binding of man and wife to God through Christian love and mutual support; and finally it arises from the very nature of wedlock, whose institution is to be sought for in the farseeing Providence of God, whereby it is the means of transmitting life, thus making the parents the ministers, as it were, of the Divine Omnipotence.
In the end, her posting is not really intended as an exercise in “critical fidelity to the Roman Catholic tradition.” Rather, her intention is to provide for the coming of an ecclesiastical embracing of same-sex marriage. As she says, “So where people see same-sex couples loving each other deeply, raising children lovingly, and the USCCB describing even civil recognition of those unions as a ‘multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society,’ what are people to think we believe about marriage?” She contends that such relationships “should be supported and encouraged.” By whom? Well, by the Church! But she believes that the Church’s leadership does not understand how same-sex relationships are the equivalent of heterosexual unions. In her estimation, the bishops replace her understanding of the righteousness of same-sex unions with “gross and untrue insults.”
But she offers a kind and gentle response to these “insults.” Her rejoinder is for “a new, pastorally sensitive theology of marriage, one that recognizes the importance and the beauty of the institution, that takes sexual orientation seriously, and that strives to support fallible and striving human beings in our attempts to become more loving.” Well, that is quite a proposal! But it is not a Catholic one.
Rather, it is tragic, misinformed, and anti-Catholic. It is tragic and misinformed because Professor Fullam assumes that any disagreement with her support of the normativity and righteousness of same-sex relations must necessarily be “gross and untrue insults.” But, they are not. To disagree with someone with different views on any subject—including same-sex marriage—is precisely that, to disagree—a disagreement that is based on intelligence comprehending and intelligible world. The nature of disagreement is to enter a debate with reasoned analysis and objective commentary supported by factual analyses. She fails to take stock of the inexorable, ontological differences between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships; moreover, she passes over the incapacity of same-sex couples to procreate without artificial reproductive technologies being utilized. So, to disagree is not to demean; to debate is not to insult; to contradict with objective reasoning is not to marginalize or unjustly discriminate.
In addition, her proposal is anti-Catholic because she does not explicate why the Church’s teachings about marriage versus same-sex unions are wrong. She only states that they are wrong by labeling the Church’s teachings as “gross and untrue insults” because they do not accord with her view—a view that would substitute sound and intelligible argument with subjectivism, relativism, and exaggerated autonomy.