Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Bellarmine Report: The Vatican’s “YouCat” Catechism: Weak on Homosexuality, Contraception, Euthanasia, Evolution, and Scripture. (via Ite ad Thomam)

Despite being a Dominican before, Cardinal Schoenborn's involvement with many dubious enterprises does make one suspicious. Nonetheless, I think the criticism of the YouCat's handling of homosexuality is excessive:

Implied in the words “homosexually oriented” is the idea that homosexuality is a congenital condition, not a learned behavior or a perverse life-style one decides to enter. By implying that homosexuality is “a lack, a loss or a wound” and not a decision by a mature adult to transgress God’s laws (as Scripture and Tradition say it is), YouCat seeks to elicit pity for homosexuals due to the fact that they are simply “born that way,” as it were, and thus denied the opportunity of sexual “union” that other people possess. YouCat further implies that if the homosexually oriented person “accepts and affirms” this congenital condition, he can do so knowing that God can make good of it because He “lead souls to himself along unusual paths.” Instead of telling the homosexual that his sexual tendencies are an outgrowth of his uncontrolled concupiscence and that he should pray to God to have the power to eradicate this state of mind, he is told, more or less, to accept his condition and hold God to blame for making him homosexually oriented. His only consolation is that God will make up for it by using the condition to lead him back to God. In effect, homosexuality is treated no different than if YouCat were talking about a mongoloid baby, since, similar to YouCat’s understanding of the homosexual, the deformed child can also use his condition as a “springboard for throwing one into the arms of God.” In the end, YouCat neither calls homosexuality a sin, nor does it say that homosexual inclinations are perverse and need to be remedied.

What is the definition of homosexuality? The sexual lifestyle? Or the mere attraction to members of the same sex? Nor do I see the YouCat blaming God for the disorder: "A lack, a loss, or a wound—if accepted and affirmed—can become a springboard for throwing oneself into the arms of God." The lack or loss or wound is a consequence of Original Sin, and can be explained as a bodily defect.

Similarly, with respect to the use of "demonizing" in regards to masturbation. Is it a sin? I think so. But what needs to be avoided is repressiveness that stunts the development of healthy sexuality. Now, I don't have a copy of the YouCat, so I don't know if it deals with masturbation at length or offers good pastoral advice. Maybe it's treatment is insufficient, maybe it isn't -- there's nothing within the critique showing that the paragraph is too brief.
Sentimentality or Honesty? On Charles Taylor by Mark Oppenheimer
(via Mirror of Justice)

But Taylor is no Nietzschean, and he does not want to romanticize what we might call Extreme Catholicism. Not only is that premodern Catholicism unrecoverable, Taylor says; it had to expire in order for us to become a more charitable, humane species. Taylor argues that with the Protestant Reformation came an “affirmation of ordinary life” (the term is discussed at length in Sources of the Self) that refocused religious devotion on the daily acts and works of ordinary people while elevating the sufferings of those ordinary people to a matter of divine concern.

Where exactly is his evidence for this? Sounds like self-loathing Catholicism, if anything. Taylor has not been a priority, and I haven't acquired Sources of the Self yet... Another Canadian to bug me?

Proposition four: “That is the task at hand: how to live a life that is personally authentic—a goal the medieval church would not have understood, much less approved of—while giving that life meaning, spirituality, fullness.” In other words, how can we keep our modern humanity without losing what is best from the more enchanted past?

It is on this question that the personal Taylor and the political Taylor converge, in ways that can be quite satisfying. It might seem that the Taylor who writes about the modern personality (Sources of the Self, The Ethics of Authenticity) and the Taylor who writes about the modern state (parts of A Secular Age and Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition”) are working on two different projects. I don’t think that is so. Although I could not find a place where Taylor connects the two urges, it seems to me that “authenticity,” a word he uses only for the personal project, is actually the word he wants for the political project too.

Philosophers like Rousseau tend to see political community as the natural enemy of personal authenticity; the state is what represses our true selves. (I have to thank my friend Matthew Simpson, the philosopher and Rousseau scholar, for clarifying this point.) But as I read Taylor, he seems to say that just as any given woman in Quebec wants to be true to herself, the Québécois want to be true to their culture. It is the same problem on two different levels. It is the Romantic urge personally and politically, and in both cases it seems to appear, historically speaking, just on either side of the year 1800. The political urge makes no sense without the personal one. Taylor recognizes this equivalence implicitly, and his work argues for it, but he never quite formulates the extent to which, for him, the personal is political.

True to their culture? Or true to their roots? What is Romantic about the desire to maintain one's identity in the face of those who would take it away? Such an urge pre-exists modernity.