Friday, January 9, 2015

Did you see what Bishop Bonny said?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

I heard that a Belgian bishop just wrote a letter to the pope asking him to recognize same sex marriage. Is this true?
Bonnie Ann Tuerp

Dear Bonnie Ann,

Yes and No. It is true that a Belgian Bishop wrote a letter to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, but it is old news that the media is just now noticing, and he deals with a lot more than same sex marriage. Johan Bonny, the Bishop of Antwerp, Belgium wrote the letter but it was dated September first of last year, 2014.  The letter is a twenty-two page reworking of the heady days after the council. It is a sort of a turning over of the manure pile of the “spirit of Vatican II”.  

I have tried to read all 22 complex pages of his letter to the pope and I must be reading it wrong. In it he doesn’t just ask for the recognition of same sex marriage. He asks that we face the reality of the world we live in, or at least of the world he lives in, in which people are making up the rules of marriage and family as they see fit. Allow me to allow him to state his intention in writing: “My aim is to expose the complexity of the evolving context in which relationships, marriage and family life occur today, and the expectations that many still have of the Church as ‘traveling companion’.”  

That evolving context includes the recognition of the reality of concubinage, (that means shacking up) second marriage, same sex relationships, artificial birth control and the whole list of improvements that the modern European/American culture has made to marriage. He goes on to say, “What do I expect from the forthcoming Synod? That it will restore conscience to its rightful place in the teaching of the Church in line with Gaudium et Spes.” 

I think he is urging that we lighten up on the rules by appealing to the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. In it are sections on the dignity of the human person, marriage and family and the proper development of the culture. Gaudium et Spes talks a great deal about conscience and the freedom of choice. For instance:

“For this Gospel announces and proclaims the freedom of the sons of God, and repudiates all the bondage which ultimately results from sin.; it has a sacred reverence for the dignity of conscience and its freedom of choice, constantly advises that all human talents be employed in God's service and men's, and, finally, commends all to the charity of all.” 

There is a problem here when I, an enlightened modern, hear the phrase freedom of choice; I think it means I should be allowed to do what I want. That’s not what the council fathers meant. By freedom of choice, they meant an atmosphere of liberty that promoted the freedom to choose the good, particularly the good of service and charity. 

Here’s another Gaudium et Spes zinger:

“Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.”

Here we find one of my favorite theological categories: “invincible ignorance.”  Invincible ignorance refers to someone so thick headed that no matter how much you explain that it is wrong to arbitrarily kick the cat or to light the dog’s tail on fire, they say, “I don’t get it.” They are invincibly ignorant. There is moral free choice and “blind choice”. “I want what I want and who are you to bid me nay. Buzz off!” This is not freedom of choice. It is narcissism.

Bishop Bonny seems to think that those who hold to an objective standard of behavior are simply outmoded and out of touch with reality. Again I quote:

 “Since the middle of the last century, couples have had access, for the first time in history, to information concerning fertility and methods of birth control. The problem of overpopulation and the spread of HIV have also complicated the issue. The present day legalization of civil partnership and marriage between people of the same gender has led to new situations and insights concerning marriage and family life. Add to this the fact that people are living much longer than before, whereby relationships are expected to survive the test of time far beyond those of their predecessors. For others, extended life expectancy makes it possible to enter into a new relationship in their middle age.”

Perhaps I am grossly misinterpreting this section of his letter, but it seems to say that birth control should be okay because it helps slow the spread of AIDS, and the world is overpopulated already and the government allows gay marriage and who are we to judge. Maybe we should catch up with our good and noble governments as people are living longer, you really can’t expect a fellow to stick with the old bat when he can afford a nice trophy wife for a second or third go around. He couldn’t possibly mean this, could he? If he does, he is the one out of touch with reality.  

Nothing has done as much to spread HIV as the promiscuous bar culture of the gay demi-monde. Does Bishop Bonny think that a couple of fellows just want to snuggle by the fire and grow old together? The bishop seems to believe the compassionate lie, “All they want is to be allowed to love and go to Holy Communion.” 

Perhaps Belgium is different, but here in the US things are not so good. I quote the Atlantic, hardly a conservative rag (“A Same-Sex Domestic Violence Epidemic Is Silent,” Nov. 5, 2013): “In 2013, the CDC released the results of a 2010 study on victimization by sexual orientation, and admitted that ‘little is known about the national prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking among lesbian, gay, and bisexual women and men in the United States.’” 

The report found that bisexual women had an overwhelming prevalence of violent partners in their lives: 75 percent had been with a violent partner, as opposed to 46 percent of lesbian women and 43 percent of straight women. For bisexual men, that number was 47 percent. For gay men, it was 40 percent, and 21 percent for straight men.” I suspect that same sex fidelity is as much a myth as well.  

We in the Church must certainly open our hearts to those who are afflicted with any sexual or emotional dysfunction. The real problem is not the dysfunction. The real problem is the refusal to recognize the dysfunction by insisting that it is just one more delightful option. People like Cardinal Kaspar and Bishop Bonny seem to be saying that we should just get over it and lower the bar. St. Paul writes “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) Cardinal Kasper and Bishop Bonny and their sophisticated set seem to be saying that, “If all have sinned, it can’t be that big a deal.” 

I understand that it isn’t just obeying the rules that gets us to heaven; it is being conformed to Christ that gets us to heaven. Legalism isn’t the point. Learning to love sacrificially as He loved is salvific. I have known gay people who are deeply sacrificial. Part of their sacrifice is recognizing the dysfunction with which they live. The modern sexual movements aren’t doing this. The cohabiting-remarrying-birth controlling- sexual preferencing movement defines a person by his or her sexual activity rather than their reflection of the divine image. Thus it seems more motivated by “blind choice … and car(ing) but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.” (again, Gaudium et Spes

I am terrified that we are about to give in to a culture that is committing suicide and that we in the Church will join the dying culture in their suicide pact. 

Next week: Bishop Bonny and the Magic Kool-Aid

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Father. I share your fear of the last paragraph.