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Jiminy Cricket Theology

With the big Cathiolic Church vs. Rainbow Sashers. showdown schedule for tomorrow at the Cathedral of St. Paul, people on both side are staking out their positions.

Archbishop Flynn had a front page article in the diocesan newspaper explaining how Sash wears would be denied communion now that is has, "become apparent to me that the wearing of the sash is more and more percieved as a protest against church teaching."

An editorial by editor Joe Towalski in the same paper tries to make peace with both sides, noting that:

First, the church isn’t trying to deny the Eucharist to homosexuals. All Catholics — no matter their sexual orientation — may receive Communion as long as they are in a state of grace and free from mortal sin. Each individual must decide in good conscience if he or she meets those requirements. No priest or bishop can see into a person’s soul and make the determination for them.

Of course the problem with this Jiminy Cricket approach is it can be read two different ways, depending on ones orientation (no pun intended).

Towalski is right in noting that conscience is primary, but as Michael J. Bayly makes clear in today's Star Tribune, the truth of this statement can be totally misconstrued by those who believe that the primacy of conscience has nothing to do with truth and everything to do with personal preference.

The problem with Bayly's approach is that if one understands the primacy of conscience to mean the primacy of one's own preference, it deprives conscience of any meaning whatsoever. If to follow one's conscience means to do whatever one wants to do, conscience becomes meaningless.

This is what enables Bayly to observe:

Being open to having church teaching shaped by new insights -- be they of either science or conscience -- is not succumbing to "relativism," but rather acknowledging the incarnational aspect of our faith, one that recognizes God's ongoing revelation through the conduit of human life. Accordingly, many faithful Catholics contend that the relational lives of GLBT persons who are following their conscience constitute a teaching moment for the church -- one that should not be ignored or discounted, but rather welcomed and celebrated.

Relational lives of GLBT persons a teaching moment for the Church? Jiminy!

Unfortunately, the above also illustartes a reality that I have only recently come to appreciate. While the distinction between orientation and action in matters of sexuality is a critical one in Catholic theology, it is a distinction that no one makes outside our faith community, and we cannot ignore this as we continue public discussion on homosexuality.

We must come to appreciate that sexual activity is an integral part of what it means to be gay for the overwhelming majority of homosexuals. As a result, efforts aimed at fostering greater dignity for and respect toward homosexuals are often read not as being directed toward the person distinct from that act, but toward both the person and the act. Needless to say this is problematic.

This is only compound by the fact that many homosexual activists have figured this out, and often try to distort affirmation of the person to be support of the action. Bayly's piece is a perfect example of this.

There are no easy answers, but Jiminy Cricket theology, where one becomes one's own cricket, is definitely not part of the solution.


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Comments (3)


My Mother taught me to be careful about my conscience. I was never to let it become elastic.

It seems to me a classic application of the effort of "progressives" to shame those who hold to Church teaching. The more one identifies oneself with behavior the Church understands as sinful, the more effective the use of the Shame Card. "It's not sin they're rejecting, it's ME." The Shame Game is not always effective, though, because the people on the receiving end are not always as narcissistic as the people playing the Shame Card.


I'd like to point out that in the last issue of First Things, Neuhaus offers an example of what might constructively be done to improve the laity's understanding of conscience: a bishop instructed all pastors and deacons to preach on the Catholic understanding of conscience (including what it means to have a well-formed one). Further, he required that the relevant portions of the Catetechism were to be photocopied and available in the pews at EACH AND EVERY church in the entire diocese.

Man, that would have been so awesome!

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