Archive for the ‘Catholic Theology’ Category

The Church’s Confusion About the “Sinfulness” of Homosexual Desires

by Doughlas Remy

The following comment on a recent Spiritual Friendship article caught my attention:

WSquared:

I’m sorry to hear that some folks can’t accept that a homosexual attraction in itself is not a sin (only the act is). It is, after all, what the Church teaches.

My response:

First, some full disclosure:  I do not regard either homosexual attraction or homosexual acts to be sinful. I am homosexual and recently married my partner of 13 years. We are Unitarians.)

DahliaMy heart aches for men and women who voluntarily renounce all hopes of a physical and sexual embrace with the object of their love and desire. I have seen so many people literally bloom when they fall in love and enter into a committed relationship. Not only is this “blooming” one of life’s greatest joys, but it can and often does have lasting power to foster happiness and emotional stability for the remainder of one’s life.

Why purposely deny oneself an experience that is so richly human and so deeply satisfying?

Gay men embracingI sense a great deal of confusion among gay Catholics about their standing in the Church. On the one hand, the Church teaches that only the homosexual “act” is sinful, but on the other hand, it teaches that impure thoughts are sinful and must be confessed. Jesus’s teaching that “lust in one’s heart” is equivalent to adultery could not be clearer. If the Church did not want homosexuals to feel shame and guilt over their desires, then it would not require that they confess and repent of those desires.

Assuming for a moment that you are a gay man, can you honestly admit to a fellow Catholic (except perhaps intimate friends) that you have lustful thoughts about men? If not, then I think your shame is a testimony to your confusion and the Church’s own confusion about this.

Let the Church unequivocally declare that you are NOT to feel guilty about your desires. But you know as well as I do that the Church will never do this, because your guilt is their tether to you.

Bound man

I shudder when I think of the bargain you’re making with the Church. I hope you can at least understand that you have already entered into a relationship of dangerous dependency. That understanding can be a first step for you, if you are willing to take it.

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Totalitarianism From Church to State

Triumph_des_Willens_poster

by Doughlas Remy

Gil Bailie (The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page) quotes from political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism:”

The first disastrous result of man’s coming of age is that modern man has come to resent everything given, even his own existence — to resent the very fact that he is not the creator of the universe and himself. In this fundamental resentment, he refuses to see rhyme or reason in the given world. In his resentment of all laws merely given to him, he proclaims openly that everything is permitted and believes secretly that everything is possible.

The triumph of the will—to borrow the title of the Leni Riefenstahl’s wretched documentary hymn to Adolph Hitler—the triumph of the will doesn’t mean that the will actually triumphs; reality is too recalcitrant. It means that the will lays waste the world in the effort to force reality to conform to whatever ideological make-believe has caught the fancy of the utopian planners.

Timothy Brock responds: (Note: Mr. Brock was “defriended” shortly after posting this comment, and the comment was removed.)

Totalitarianism is always a project of absolute control of every single aspect of a person’s existence, from cradle to grave and beyond. It is antithetical to privacy, because even a person’s most intimate actions, thoughts and desires must become totally transparent to those in control. If one does not voluntarily submit to these intrusions, then one is shamed and, if necessary, coerced. If one does not voluntarily confess one’s crimes, then one is threatened and sometimes isolated or tortured. Totalitarian systems assume that everyone has something to hide and therefore to confess, and yet these systems are themselves highly secretive. While requiring total transparency from those they control, they demand total opacity for their own conduct.

The individual’s sexual behavior—and even his or her innermost desires—are of particular use to the totalitarian mindset, because shame is one of the most powerful forces in the human psyche and can be leveraged for total control. Once an individual is made to feel ashamed of any sexual desire that lies outside a very narrow spectrum of social utility, he or she can be manipulated to an astonishing degree.

Once the Church lost the power to exert this level of control, is it any surprise that the state stepped into the breach?

Aaron Taylor Sees Need for Gay and Celibate Saints

Early European gay men 2by Doughlas Remy

Today, Gil Bailie has linked approvingly to an article by Aaron Taylor in Spiritual Friendship, “Why the Church and the World Need Celibate Saints.” (8/19/13) Hoping to address gay Catholics reading the article, I responded to it directly. Below is a copy of that response:

First, let me just sum up what I think Aaron Taylor has proposed. He envisions a Catholic response to “the increasing acceptance of homosexual relationships in the West.” In order to show “gay people [not just gay Catholics] that the Church has something to say that is worth listening to,” the Church must encourage celibate gay Christians to “speak openly about their experiences of reconciling sexuality and faith.” What the Church has to offer gay people is the shining example of gays who have, at least momentarily, successfully suppressed their sexual and affectional longings.

I’m sorry. It’ll never work. Fewer and fewer gays, even Catholic ones, are any longer “struggling” with their sexuality. Celibacy isn’t a failed goal. It just isn’t a goal at all. And why should it be?

Well, if you are in the Catholic thought-frame, homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. If all you young gay Catholics believe that, then go ahead and waste the only youth you’ll ever have. Beat yourself up. Twist yourself into a pretzel. Your rewards will be your aura of sanctity and your relief from the guilt that has been crushing you all these years. Tuck yourself into the folds of your big, warm institution and give up thoughts of ever tucking yourself between your sheets to snuggle in your lover’s arms. You will have missed out on one of life’s greatest joys, but at least you be spared all the perils of taking risks, finding the right mate and settling down. Best of all, you’ll have the approval of your church.

Or will you? This is where I’m afraid you may be disappointed, because the Catholic Church will never treat you with the respect you’re longing for (and that is your due). You will always be in the lower echelon of sinners, well below the adulterers. You will be marked as “disordered” because of your very desires, despite every attempt you make to suppress them. But your Church will have the satisfaction of knowing it owns you.

At the rate homosexual relationships are gaining acceptance, the Church is going to have to crank out a huge number of gay saints, and fast.

But will it really do any good? I’m still not sure what the Church thinks it can offer gays that is better than what they are now being offered—a place at the table and a chance to live a full and joyous life.

What Kind of Catholic Was Walker Percy?

Walker Percy

Walker Percy

Today, Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum posted the following “interview” with Walker Percy (all written by Percy himself):

Q: What kind of Catholic are you … a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don’t know what that means. Do you mean do I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
Q: Yes.
A: Yes.
Q: How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?
Q: What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, Muhammadanism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy.
A: That’s what I mean …
Q: I don’t understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: It’s not good enough.
Q: Why not?
A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and to answer “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don’t see why anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed aholt of God and would not let go until God identified himself and blessed him.
A: Grabbed aholt?
A: A Louisiana expression …
A: How do you account for your belief?
A: I can only account for it as a gift from God.
Q: Why would God make you such a gift when there are others who seem more deserving, that is, serve their fellowman?
A: I don’t know. God does strange things …
Q: But shouldn’t one’s faith bear some relation to the truth, the facts?
A: Yes. That’s what attracted me, Christianity’s rather insolent claim to be true, with the implication that other religions are more or less false.
Q: You believe that?
A: Of course.

Timothy Brock comments:

Percy admits he is a dogmatic Catholic and explains why: The alternatives (open-mindedness, other secular and religious ideologies) are simply unsatisfactory because they don’t inspire him. Notably, “scientific humanism,” he believes, robs life of its “delight and mystery.” Walker then defines God as “infinite mystery and infinite delight,” a being therefore deserving of our belief and worthy of our worship.

Assuming for the moment that “scientific humanism” is repellent to mystery and delight (which it is not), what about all the other religious alternatives? Sufism? Judaism? Russian Orthodoxy? Have they neither mystery nor delight? What about all the Protestant offshoots of Roman Catholicism?

But Percy has announced right up front that he is closed-minded, so he will not consider religious alternatives in this interview with himself. Why [is he closed-minded]? Because he is attracted by “Christianity’s rather insolent claim to be true, with the implication that other religions are more or less false.” Note that he has switched the subject from Catholicism to Christianity. Perhaps he could not bring himself to call his own Church’s claims “insolent.”

At the beginning, Percy leads us to expect he will defend his belief in Catholicism, but in the end, he only explains why he is a Christian, not why he is specifically a Catholic. Perhaps Lutheranism is not closed-minded enough for him?

So there are his reasons for belief in the dogma of the Catholic Church. He has worked it all out and decided not to “settle for anything less than” infinite mystery and delight. But wait, if we are talking about a conscious decision-making process here, then how do we account for his answer to the interlocutor’s question:

“How do you account for your belief?”

And he answers,

“I can only account for it as a gift from God” (from which others, as the interviewer explains, have been excluded).

Then he has been chosen by God. No decision was involved. All his “reasons” (mystery and delight, etc.) were ex-post-facto rationalizations.

My feeling is that Percy wrote this imaginary interview to fend off massive doubts and uncertainties. Born into a family scarred by multiple suicides, Percy saw open-mindedness as a dangerous tendency leading to loss of control. The downward spiral had to be aborted at any cost, even the suspension of one’s critical faculties.

What is most peculiar about this interview is its tension between what is essentially an experience of “openness” (to mystery and delight, whose supreme expression is God), and Percy’s own rather weary embrace of closedness and his attraction to “insolent claims” of exclusive truth.

From distinguished antiquity to anthropological nonsense

by Doughlas Remy

(This is a continuation of my previous post, just below, in which I am responding to Gil Bailie’s untitled post of 6/28/13 on The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page. [TCF])

Gil Bailie writes:

Pope Red PradaA few critics seem to think that opinions expressed on this FB Page are so alien to common decency as to be intrinsically odious. These critics are unlikely to be convinced otherwise when shown that these opinions and perspectives are shared, not only by the Church to which I belong and to which I intend to remain loyal, but also by the greatest theological and philosophical minds of recent memory, including Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, Joseph Pieper, Henri de Lubac, John XXIII, Paul IV, John Paul II and Pope Francis, to name but a few. These points of view and principles are rooted, however, in anthropological reality and moral reason, the persuasiveness of which depends on no particular religious belief.

Those who consider the distinguished antiquity of these principles as proof of their contemporary uselessness, and who therefore regard those who adhere to them as mean-spirited Neanderthals and moral dullards, often use the comments section of the Cornerstone Forum FB Page to let fly entirely predictable salvos of contempt. When reminded that our purpose here is not to argue with those who do not share our perspective but to be of use to those who do, howls of protest arise. And when, in exasperation, we refuse to allow this Page to become a bulletin-board for anthropological nonsense, moral muddle, and anti-Catholic discourses, their authors enjoy the satisfaction of believing themselves to be martyrs in the cause of free expression.

They are as welcome to believe that as they are to believe all the rest of what they believe. I bear them no ill-will, but they will have to find other venues for propagating ideas that, though wildly popular among Lady Gaga Liberals, evince rather than seriously address the civilizational crisis that is upon us.

Mr. Bailie says his purpose here is “not to argue,” and yet he presents several arguments to refute criticisms of TCF’s principles and assumptions. He might more accurately have written that his purpose here is “not to tolerate counter-arguments.”

The first of his arguments—the appeal to authority—is in fact Mr. Bailie’s first line of defense, and its logic goes something like this: “Our opinions are highly respectable because they are shared by our church and by certain theologians and philosophers that we happen to hold in very high esteem.” Mr. Bailie apparently sees no need for further discussion of any of these opinions, since their definitive and authoritative expression has already been offered up in distinguished texts that should be considered the modern-day equivalents of sacred scripture. And yet, TCF offers a comments field after each dollop of wisdom from these august sources, apparently in the hope of gathering up offerings of assent and admiration for them.

Mr. Bailie’s second argument is an attempt to shore up the first: “These points of view and principles are rooted, however, in anthropological reality and moral reason, the persuasiveness of which depends on no particular religious belief.”

This is of course circular, since the “anthropological reality and moral reason” of which he speaks have been garnered from the eight theologians and philosophers he cites, all of whom, significantly, are Catholics, and five of whom are popes! And then he adds, as if not having noticed any of this, that “the persuasiveness [of these views and principles] depends on no particular religious belief.” Really?

Mr. Bailie’s third argument is the appeal to the “distinguished antiquity” of these principles. The older the better, right? To this I would say, if you want antiquity, go to ancient Greece, Egypt, India, or China. Antiquity is a guarantee of nothing, least of all truth, justice, and the American way.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

And when all else fails, one can always resort to name-calling. No one has called Mr. Bailie a “Neanderthal” or a “moral dullard,” but he has no scruples about calling his critics “Lady Gaga Liberals” who use TCF as a “bulletin-board for anthropological nonsense, moral muddle, and anti-Catholic discourses.”

One would like to know WHY he has reached these conclusions about his interlocutors. But we are not likely to find out, because in Mr. Bailie’s world there is no intermediate stage between expressing an opinion and attacking those who disagree with it. There is no desire to enter into conversation, no respect for divergent opinions, and no tolerance of vigorous debate. This is the Old Catholicism of centuries gone by, a Catholicism that held sway through ignorance, fear, and deference for authority. It is a far cry from our contemporary lay Catholicism that has sought openness, dialog, and reform.

TCF’s own comment thread for Mr. Bailie’s post follows:

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Critics Take Gil Bailie to Task (Part 2)

Image6/18/13: Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum posts the following:

THE NEW MORAL CAUSE: Freedom from Moral Constraints

What does the average man of today expect when he cries out for freedom and liberation? Approximately what Marx gave as a vision of full freedom: ‘hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon … and criticizing as suits my pleasure after dinner.’ By ‘freedom’ one generally understands today the possibility of doing everything one wants and of doing only what one would like. Thus understood, freedom is arbitrariness. … According to this vision, freedom would be complete if there were no longer any rule or any obligation to other persons or things, but only the unlimited arbitrariness of each individual who has everything he wants at his disposal and who can do everything he likes. In this view, liberation consists in throwing off all obligations. Every obligation appears as a fetter that restricts freedom; every obligation one eliminates means progress in freedom.— Joseph Ratzinger

Alas, however, where does one who has fallen for this trivialized anthropology look for help in freeing his shoulders from unwanted obligations? He looks to the state. If enough of his contemporaries can be coaxed into adopting his liberationist anthropology—for this purpose, the ideological takeover of educational institutions will be necessary—many of the obligations once associated with family, faith, church and community can be transferred to the state, even as the state can be made the arbiter of new lifestyle rights, and the enforcer these rights, when necessary, at the expense of rights traditionally understood—religious freedom, conscience, and so on. Thus the adolescent interpretation of freedom eventually requires the paternalistic, authoritarian state as its enabler and champion. Perpetual childhood in a walled prison.

Timothy Brock responds:

Certainly, “throwing off all obligations” can only lead to toxic levels of “liberation.” At such levels, we find only sociopaths.

People who are considered “healthy” in their outlook and habits usually know how to manage their obligations. This means not taking on too many, or too few, but it also means selecting them carefully. “Liberation,” then, might just mean having the freedom to manage one’s own obligations to an optimal degree under given sets of circumstances.

Why shouldn’t we look to the state for help in doing this? I don’t regard the “state” as something completely alien to myself. Ideally, it empowers me to join with others in deciding what our mutual obligations are, and it is an arena of negotiation. Where else would you want to conduct these negotiations? Sectarian institutions are too narrow, and they lack the power to make and enforce binding laws. Family is sometimes too constrictive, imposing obligations that we may properly deem unreasonable. Faith may deprive us of the autonomy that we need for the work of managing our obligations.

Family, faith, church, and community are important, even essential, in getting our balance right. But anthropologically, they are at the level of the tribe, which has long since been superseded by the nation state, and—now—the community of nations. We don’t abandon the tribe just because the tribe has been folded into the state, but we get strength and meaning from each of them. There’s no going back to life in the little duchy bounded by mountains and lakes, impervious to events outside its borders. We are all connected, and no tribe is ever going to expand to fill the space occupied by the secular state. It’s just not going to happen, at least not here.

Authoritarianism is a separate issue. There’s no reason why the secular state should be authoritarian. It may be democratic and constitutional. On the other hand, church, community, and family may be highly authoritarian. The Catholic hierarchy is not exactly a democracy, you know…

Ben Boyce:

Well said, Timothy! There is an unsettling insurrectionist tone in American conservatives, now that they do not control all the branches of government. The Southern accent that is the tone of the Republican Party tells me that the Civil War never really ended. That, coupled with the worship of the gun in their sub-culture, is cause for concern.

Criticism isThe Cornerstone Forum:

Ben and Timothy, you may want to get into email communication. This page will not long be a posting board for rants against the Church, etc.

Sophie Sommers:

Easy, Gil. This is an interesting discussion. You got it started. Now just listen.

Implicit in the idea of a “transfer” to the state of “obligations once associated with family, faith, church, and community” is the notion that the state is somehow antithetical to family, faith, etc. But is it really? Or must it be? Maybe the state is—or can be—an expression and an extension of community values.

If the state is the “arbiter” of rights, perhaps it is well suited for that role. What other entity can match the impartiality of the state or its accountability to all stakeholders? What other entity can balance competing claims of religious liberty and conscience?

The state’s enforcement of rights should not be confused with authoritarianism. The rights of Americans have been elaborated over the past two centuries through legislation and judicial decision. This is the antithesis of authoritarianism, which establishes rights and obligations through edict.

Jim Daly:

I’m also interested in hearing the discussion, Gil. I think it’s an important topic. And, as far as I can tell, no one is engaging in a rant against the Church. Ben said nothing about the Church and Timothy merely noted that the Church hierarchy is not democratic, which is an indisputable fact. I think you would agree that the Church ought not to be a democratic institution. In this respect, it’s unlike the state, which needs to be democratic in order to ensure that the interests and rights of everyone are protected, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of same. The Church has a different responsibility: to safeguard and promulgate the deposit of faith. To fulfill this obligation, the Church counts on the continued protection of its rights by the liberal state. Viewed in this way, rights and obligations aren’t at odds with each other. They’re mutually supportive.

Ben Boyce:

Just to be clear, I’m not “ranting.” Nor am I taking the Catholic Church to task. What I am reacting to is the conflation of the Catholic Church with right-wing American politics. This is not an academic issue, because I experience it in parish life. I find it alarming that anyone who is associated with progressive politics is openly questioned as a “real Catholic.” This was demonstrated vividly for me when a member of my parish told a friend that he had a hard time “hearing the Word of God from a socialist,” after my turn as a lector, apparently in reference to a monthly column I write for the Sonoma Sun, entitled “Progressive Majority Coalition”, which makes the case for what I believe to be a social justice perspective that seems more compatible with the Gospel concern with lifting up the poor and fashioning a society that asks for mutual responsibility from all classes, including the wealthy and powerful. I never use theological justifications for my positions, because that would seem presumptuous, even though I do believe that my Christian social democratic views are closer to the spirit of Christ than the mean spirited social darwinism that is the core of contemporary American conservatism.

Sophie Sommers:

Jim, a lot of the anti-statism that we’re hearing is from entities that would like to override and supplant the powers of the democratic state. These entities are mostly corporations and religious institutions that want unfettered power for themselves. Anti-statist religious groups have made provisional alliances that would not survive long after the disappearance of the state, if that were ever to happen. Then it would again be Catholics against Protestants, Jews against Christians, Christians against Muslims, Baptists against Methodists, and so on down the line. The state holds all these forces in tension and, far from starving it, as Grover Norquist would like to do, I think we need to cultivate it.

Ben Boyce:

Dead-EndAdditionally, the reason that you are provoking these kinds of responses is that you keep throwing out highly politicized positions that reflect the views of the American Religious Right as if they represented the Magisterium of the Church. I feel as though I have the right to comment on this page based on my having listened to every tape and CD you produced from the beginning of your career until around 2008. I have been dismayed to see how you have thrown in your lot with the intellectually and morally bankrupt enterprise of the right-wing forces, who seem so seized with their own conviction, based on a very narrow bandwidth of moral issues, that they really do believe that God is on their side and any other orientation is not just a political difference but an affront to God and the Church. The lesson for me is to avoid the logic of orthodoxy, which can lead even intelligent and educated people like yourself into an intellectual dead-end which squeezes out mercy and charity for the sake of rigid conformity to a hard-line doctrine. The attempt to impose hard and fast categories on the messy fluidity of the human experience is yet another road to tyranny, as history can attest. We can be grounded in the absolute revealed truth of Christ and still retain a sense of humility about our limits as flawed humans. I don’t object to you expressing your personal views on culture and politics (since I do it all the time myself!) but I do resist your implicit assertion that your views are cloaked in the majesty of the teachings of the Church.

Ben Boyce:

Finally, since this will be my last chance to address this concern in a public forum, I would ask you to rethink how you use your Facebook page as a means of communicating your mission. You can choose to continue along the same trajectory and ruthlessly edit out unflattering comments by banning individual users and quickly removing content that does not reflect well on your message, or you can re-evaluate whether the mission of the Forum is served by taking so many nakedly partisan positions on political issues. I am not interested in having one-to-one e-mail exchanges on your public positions, because that does not accomplish the goal of getting your audience to look at alternative perspectives. I don’t think that I have been a pernicious poster, although I have started to mock some of the more outrageous claims as a way of waking you up to just how it sounds to folks outside of the conservative media bubble. I do hope that you will examine the role that you have adopted in the last few years, because it is distracting from a very deep core message that should be heard by the culture. OK, fini!

Sophie Sommers

The Emperor's New ClothesIn memoriam: Dorothy Jospin, Thomas Hostomsky, Frank Lozera, Ernest Karam, George Dunn, and several others whose names I cannot recall. [Editor’s Note: These are the names of the “fallen,” i.e., those who have been thrown off The Cornerstone Forum Facebook Page for taking issue with Gil Bailie’s positions.]

Jim Daly:

Reading Gil Bailie’s book, Violence Unveiled, was a turning point in my spiritual and intellectual development. Since then, I’ve listened to many of Gil’s recorded lectures (I hope it’s okay for me to use your first name, Gil), which have been a rich resource for me in reflecting on the meaning of the gospel. In short, I hold Gil Bailie in very high esteem. This is why I’m also disappointed and concerned about how Gil has been letting his partisan loyalties get in the way of what is of truly enduring value, his brilliant interpretation of the revelation given to us in Jesus Christ. It seems that these partisan loyalties are even preventing Gil from dealing in a truly ethical and Christian way, that is, both charitably and fairly, with those with whom he disagrees. A particularly troubling case in point is his repost of false information about the election, taken from Bill Reilly’s website, though there are other examples I could give.

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, let me explain that politically, I’m neither a doctrinaire liberal nor a doctrinaire conservative. I hold views that are strongly pro-life, but I’m also concerned about the poor and other social justices issues more traditionally associated with the left. My social justice concerns, however, don’t mean that I necessarily support every initiative put forward by those calling themselves “progressives.” Sadly, many programs intended to help the least well off have backfired or generated new, unanticipated problems. What we need is both wisdom and compassion, a combination rarely encountered these days anywhere on the political spectrum.

I only bring up my own politics so no one will think that my criticisms of Gil stem from a doctrinaire allegiance to the political positions he sometimes excoriates. I’d like to think that my politics are informed by my understanding of the gospel and, as I’ve already said, I owe much of that understanding to the brilliant insights of Gil Bailie. That’s why it saddens me so to see Gil deal with others in ways that seem to me to be so antithetical to the spirit of Christ.

Gil Bailie responds to all:

There are, and will always be, disagreements between and among those who share our basic premises, and we welcome an opportunity to learn from people who share our basic principles, but who may have a different understanding of their implications. But there are visitors to our Page who have fundamental disagreements with us on first principles and on many of the cultural, theological, and moral issues of our time. Our clear and unapologetic intention is to be useful as we can be to those who share our fidelity to the Church and to the moral realism rooted in the Catholic anthropology. There are countless people who disagree with us on these and other matters. We wish them well, but we will not let the comments box of this Page be turned into a soapbox for carping about the Catholic Church or the moral tradition it represents. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the patience required to respond to those with whom an incessant exchange of opinion would accomplish precisely nothing except to turn this Page into both a full-time job and a shouting match.

There are literally millions of venues for the airing of views antithetical to the ones for which we stand, but this Facebook Page isn’t one of them. This Page is not a bulletin board or a blog or campus kiosk for the posting of angry disquisitions at odds with the three simple principles mentioned above. With no ill feeling, we encourage those who want to champion causes incompatible with our own to find other venues for doing so.

Rick Boone:

Your position is elegantly and graciously stated. Anyone who has a problem with it (and I wasn’t aware there might be those about who did) reveals himself morally and intellectually unworthy to participate in the Forum.

Jim Daly:

Gil, I honestly think you’re misinterpreting many of the responses on this page. I haven’t read anything that would constitute carping, angry or otherwise, against the Catholic Church. You also seem to have deliberately chosen words that denigrate the contributions of those who express views with which you may not agree. Impugning Christian brothers and sisters in this way is neither fair nor charitable.

Mind made upFar from “carping” against the Church, several participants in this forum who share your commitment to the Christian faith have expressed concerns about whether you may be letting your partisan political loyalties get in the way of effectively representing and advancing the mission of the Cornerstone Forum. An example of this is your readiness to post scurrilous attacks on poll workers that two minutes of research would have shown to be malicious fabrications. That someone as bright and well-intentioned as you could fall prey to such a sin only underscores how important it is for even the best of us to have friends who will alert us when we go astray and help us to overcome our powerful predilections for self-deception. It is through your writings and those of Girard that I have come to understand how robust and insidious the human capacity for self-deception really is.

Again, to voice these concerns isn’t the same as criticizing the Church or its moral traditions. To the contrary, they are a reminder of how prone we all are to confuse fidelity to the gospel with blind allegiance to some partisan political cause of the moment. We all need to guard against this tendency, lest it lead us inadvertently to betray the gospel in both our words and our deeds.

Jim Swenson:

Mr. Bailie (as I now know you prefer to be called), I just caught up with these discussions, or should I say “shock waves,” starting with the flap over your handling of the Bill O’Reilly slanders and rippling through a couple of other posts. Frankly, I am just aghast, but I also feel privileged to have witnessed what has happened here, because it is so emblematic of the crisis in the Church. This crisis amounts to a schism of historic proportions, one that will probably continue unfolding for many years to come. In intellectual history, or “anthropologically speaking,” as you would be fond of saying, everything that is said or written in these pages holds clues that can lead us to the truth.

Mr. Bailie, you are in some sense the face of modern hard-line conservative Catholicism, which brooks no criticism and makes no apologies for its bad behavior. It is so persuaded of its rightness, its absolute God-given mission, and its unassailable moral rectitude that it has no remaining scruples about silencing critics, trampling inquiry, and expelling anyone who dares, however meekly, to raise an objection.

How can you possibly denounce authoritarianism? You are authoritarian to the core. How can you possibly critique scapegoating when you have so thoroughly mastered and deployed its techniques? And how can you throw around the word “anthropology,” when you haven’t a clue how scientists think?

You are a fraud and a phony who would like nothing better than to attract a loyal following of sycophants who hang on your every word. You don’t want to worship God. You want to BE worshipped, and so you have become the false prophet “par excellence.”

Your shabby behavior when you were confronted with your slanders is key to understanding your character. Instead of admitting your error, you looked for some little infraction of your rules that would justify warning everyone to be silent. To shut up. And then you pretended that Ben Boyce’s exposure of you had nothing to do with your fit of pique.

Just so you know, the Cornerstone Forum has a shadow site, operated by one of those unfortunate individuals who made the mistake of thinking you were some kind of intellectual force, only to be thrown off for actually trying to converse with you without at the same time genuflecting. The shadow site is called “The Cornerstone Forum Samizdat,” and it is at https://thecornerstoneforumsamizdat.wordpress.com/.

Cheers, and farewell.

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

Sophie Sommers:

Uh, oh, time for another purge. This time, I’m putting my bets on Jim Swenson, Ben Boyce, Jim Daly, Tim Brock, and, of course, myself. But I will pass the flame onto someone else.

Editor:

Within a couple of hours of Sophie’s final comment, three of the individuals she listed had “disappeared” from The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page. Only Jim Daly and Tim Brock remained.

Requiescant in pace.

An Inconvenient Truth at the Heart of Catholic Teaching About Abortion

Abstinence-only ed

by Dean Hansen

6/20/13: Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum quotes part of a recent letter to Nancy Pelosi from Father Frank Pavone:

You speak here of Catholic faith as if it is supposed to hide us from reality instead of lead us to face reality, as if it is supposed to confuse basic moral truths instead of clarify them, and as if it is supposed to help us escape the hard moral questions of life rather than help us confront them,” Father Frank Pavone continues in the letter. “Whatever Catholic faith you claim to respect and practice, it is not the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. And I speak for countless Catholics when I say that it’s time for you to stop speaking as if it were.

Mr. Bailie, our seemingly interminable argument about abortion has been so wracked by blame-fixing and moral one-upmanship that it has become nothing but a great waste of time. To properly address the issue, we must cut straight to an obvious and unavoidable question: How can people be forced to stop engaging in sexual activity? This is not a silly question. It lies at the heart of the dilemma for those intent on controlling our sex lives out of a misguided quest for moral “purity”—a quest that is neither dignified, honorable, nor compassionate.

Unless you can prevent premarital, marital, extramarital, and even postmarital sex from happening, people will continue to seek abortions when they fail—through ignorance, distraction, or avoidance—to take the necessary and available precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancies. But the Church tells us, “To avoid pregnancy, don’t have sex.” To which I can only respond that if you expect people to listen to you, much less to trust you, you’ll have learn how to be less clueless and more emotionally available. An entire segment of the population has already proven you wrong. They never get pregnant though they have sex all the time. Needless to say, you’ve discounted them as “intrinsically disordered.”

Since the Church condemns contraception and the vast majority of its members disregard its proscriptions on sex and birth control, abortion will unfortunately continue apace. This sad state of affairs will continue until the Church opens itself to a truly modern discussion about sexuality and contraception and begins fully honoring its congregants’ humanity and sexuality. What has been lacking is mercy, common sense, and genuine compassion for those who face tough decisions about unwanted pregnancies. The Church must stop treating these persons as criminals and murderers. It must stop setting up false thresholds of life and personhood. It must extend love and forgiveness to those who have chosen abortion. Caring about abortion’s effects must begin with caring for those who have survived it.

All the horror stories about evil, sadistic abortion doctors running filthy, medically unsafe clinics and destroying the lives of women who seek their help will not dissuade women in the slightest when it comes to making the decisions for themselves, hopefully minus the inhuman monsters who sometimes prey on them. The more untenable you make safe abortions by driving them underground, the more horror stories you’ll have to back up your flawed arguments, and the more complicit you’ll become to the worst of those vile scenarios. People are sexually active in large numbers. This is an ineluctable fact of life. As a result, many women get pregnant when they don’t want to, and many of them kill babies they don’t want. The surest way to prevent these two unpleasant outcomes is to teach them about responsible birth control and make it fully accessible to them.

The disgrace of abortions is one for which you and the so-called church fathers are largely responsible. All your moral badgering and and mind-gagging ethical anguish will only make people even more determined than they already are not to allow you or the church anywhere near their bodies or their souls. Since people are not going to stop fucking, you have two options: Either promote legal abortion or change the Church’s teaching about contraception. Legal and accessible abortion ensures that people who are too overwhelmed or distracted by desire to guard against pregnancy in the first place will have a reasonable alternative to being bound together in a merely physical relationship against their will. Changing the Church’s policy toward contraception will give those who act as though they care what the church thinks the more reasonable option of avoiding pregnancy, therefore making abortion unnecessary.  Those are and will forever remain, the only options.

But of course, your deep concern and moral anguish is disingenuous rubbish, because you’re not telling the truth. You love the Church so much you’ll let it sink into hell rather than be an agent of real change and reform so that it can better the lives of those you claim to be concerned with. The truth is, you don’t want there to be fewer abortions because you’re creepy enough to believe that disastrous consequences have a way of reforming people and making them despise their own sexuality. But the Church has a sad history of pouring kerosene on the flames, whether it’s discouraging condom use amongst those stricken with AIDS, promoting abstinence, encouraging teenagers to take chastity vows and wear purity rings, or just sticking your noses in people’s crotches as an excuse for introducing them to Jesus. In fact, it’s safe to say, you don’t even know what the problem is.

Hopefully, Catholicism under Pope Francis is beginning to steer the church away from some of its past errors. His acknowledgement (fiercely and immediately contradicted by his underlings who claim deference to him unless they disagree with what he has to say) that God loves and saves atheists as well as everyone else is as good a start on the road to real grace and freedom as anything could be. When Catholicism finally includes homosexuals as something other than  fodder for renewed scapegoating, invites women to participate in the church in real positions of authority, and learns to treat all women with respect and compassion when they are forced into painful choices they shouldn’t be required to make, then you may have to abandon your role as son of the church and embrace the double jeopardy of being an orphan of two fathers. The only way you can countenance this very real possibility is to engage in a thorough re-evaluation of what you hold dear. The Church already recognizes that it’s in crisis. If it is ever to repair the damage wrought by its rejection of science and modernity, it will have to shake off the anachronisms of thought and piety that have eroded its moral force for centuries. What is needed is a détente with the real world through what the current Pope is calling the culture of encounter. You don’t encounter the culture by turning tail and running from it. Will you be among those in his service when he declares that all are redeemed, or just absent without leave?

Catholicism and Secular Liberalism: Who’s off the Reservation?

Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church in Detroit

Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church in Detroit

by Doughlas Remy

In a post from last Thursday (5/23), Gil Bailie opines about the challenges conservative Catholics face as they attempt to move freely about in a society that is “thoroughly suffused with and monitored by secular liberalism’s worldview and presuppositions.” 

This is a telling admission about the dilemma of modern Catholicism. Bailie himself seems pained by the idea that the Catholic worldview has been marginalized to the point that most educated people find it foreign, unintelligible, and at times shocking: “… liberal opinions are expressed breezily, as though those who might dissent from such views live far, far away—maybe in Kansas, wherever that is.” When one voices views informed by Catholic teaching, he writes, “one is immediately thought beyond the pale of decency.”

As if this is almost too much to contemplate, Bailie briefly engages in wishful thinking. It is the secular liberals who are marginalized: “Many secular liberals have lived most or all of their lives on these intellectual and moral reservations,” he writes. But let’s get real. Bailie is not visiting the reservations; he’s visiting from the reservation. 

Émile Durkheim correctly saw that God is the community. Monotheism’s requirement that there be a single community and a single law accounts for its expansionist and universalizing tendencies, as expressed in the Catholic teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church. Retrenchment of the sort we’re seeing in modern Catholicism creates just the kinds of dilemmas that Bailie experiences in his own dealings with the world. Catholic ideology is no longer universal, widely understood, or necessarily considered legitimate. The “default” worldview has long since become unmoored from Catholic teaching. Quel chagrin!

Take up thy crossWhat to do? Retreat? (hard for a schmoozer like Bailie) Play along? (and deny Christ?) Evangelize? (And be thought beyond the pale of decency?) These are difficult choices when one is, after all, unsure whether one really intends to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. 

Below, I’ve included Gil Bailie’s post, followed by Timothy Brock’s response, and then by Dean Hansen’s:

Gil Bailie writes:

Many of us live and move and have our precarious being inside a social network thoroughly suffused with and monitored by secular liberalism’s worldview and presuppositions. Many secular liberals have lived most or all of their lives on these intellectual and moral reservations, whose unexamined presuppositions they share. Among the pre-conscious but widely held assumptions is that everyone who is intelligent and educated is a secular liberal. If an intelligent and educated person happens to have a religious hobby or two that is not particularly held against him or her, as long as this religious interest is attenuated enough and is deferential to secular liberalism’s various sacred cows.

When one meets people in such settings, it is so confidently assumed that intelligence and education correlate positively with the degree of one’s liberal outlook, that liberal opinions are expressed breezily, as though those who might dissent from such views live far, far away —maybe in Kansas, wherever that is.

laughin_henry_gibsonOne is then faced with either playing along, just to be polite, or voicing one’s views, which—in these settings—are so shocking to the locals that friendships may well not survive the shock. One is immediately thought beyond the pale of decency. And the very worst part is that—in the interest of salvaging the moment and possibly a friendship—one feels the need to insert little liberal sentiments into the ensuing conversation in order to reassure one’s interrogators that one is not, in fact, a Nazi or a George Wallace admirer. It’s a strange, self-enclosed world, and self-reinforced world. 

One does one’s best.

Timothy Brock responds:

Gil, what you’ve written offers a truly fascinating perspective into a conservative Catholic’s experience of a society from which he feels increasingly alienated. I gather from what you’ve revealed about yourself that you move about in the world. You give lectures, you go to conferences, and you meet a lot of people. You’re hardly reclusive or introverted, and the cloistered life would not appeal to you. Retreat is not an option. Obviously, however, your outer-directedness and your sense of calling are increasingly at odds with the world in which you move. It is becoming harder for you to get traction in the world of secular liberalism. Certain values are “assumed,” especially on the West Coast where you live, and they are a strong current to swim against. 

A real and urgent civilizational crisis

A real and urgent civilizational crisis

Our modern world is in many ways in “crisis,” as you say, but perhaps not for the reasons that you think. Even more obvious to me, however, is that the Catholic Church is in crisis, and your musings about your difficulties finding traction in secular settings is one of the symptoms of that crisis.

You are aware of the widening gap between secular society and the teachings of the Church. Sometime in the late 19th century, the Church emphatically rejected modernism. Unfortunately, that entailed a rejection of much that is good about modernism, especially the efflorescence of scientific inquiry. Today, the Church is going its own way, drifting ever farther from the mainstream. In fact, “mainstream” has become a dirty word. It is ridiculed as the “fashion du jour” when in fact outcomes sometimes show that it is coursing in the right direction.

I believe the Church’s blanket repudiation of modernism has contributed mightily to the growing alienation that conservative Catholics feel with regard to their ambient culture. 

Where there is alienation, there is little or no engagement. And yet you have committed yourself to engage with the culture and change it. I think you’ve got an uphill struggle in front of you—and a very frustrating one. Your faith will no doubt give you courage for the task.

Dean Hansen responds with his own translation of Gil Bailie’s post:

Translation:

Not-pleasantJesus (who loves everyone) has nevertheless told me to be wary of people that he loves because they are probably “secular liberals,” and we know that Jesus has no truck with sek’lar libruls. Of course, they’re not quite as bad as ni**ers, kikes, faggots and abortion doctors, but Lordy, Lordy, they’re bad enough!  I know this because I know that Jesus is angry at them since they think for themselves and arrive at conclusions based on rational sense about how the world works. In short, they refuse to live in the same hermetically-sealed, biblically-sterilized world that I do. Now, ironically, I’m tempted to agree with them from time to time, because they make a lot of sense, and I really have to fight the impulse to join with them, which is overpowering at times. I became aware of this tendency on those rare occasions when I doubted my own convictions, when I would be confronted with a profound sense of fatigue, and a corresponding feeling of emptiness. But fortunately, I was able to interpret these feelings correctly: Loss of essence.  Of course, secular liberals sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid liberals, dear friends in Jesus, but I do deny them my essence.  Since I don’t want Jesus to hate me, which he would probably do if I were like them, I have spent my entire life resisting the impulse to be human and share myself with those who would otherwise be my friends.  Bastards!

Peter Sellars and Sterling HaydenThe Bible has provided me with a template which has to be spray painted on everything to test it for reliability. If the conclusions reached by others fall outside the lines of that template, they must be rejected along with the people who hold them, because God is a stickler for accuracy and perfection. Since I am obsessed with doing things correctly and never making mistakes which would result if I actually thought for myself, I will allow myself to be completely blinded by my own presuppositions, because otherwise, I would fall under the sway of my own judgment, and then I would explode. I will do my best therefore to make it sound as though others have rejected me, because I enjoy the illusion of difference that identifies me as being distinct from everyone else. How else can God be on my side unless he’s against everyone else? Being a contrarian about everything is hard, because it goes against the better angels of my nature, but I don’t want to be cast out forever, so I’ll make life hell for myself now and will then be better equipped to enjoy the beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly while being permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell as the special reward granted to the conservative libertarians of God.

Arguing with Christians on the Internet About Homosexuality

by Dean Hansen

A: God is Love.

B: Does God love homosexuals?

A: God loves everyone.

B: So God accepts homosexuals?

A: Yes, as long as they don’t have sex.

B: Why can’t they have sex?

A: Because homosexual sex is intrinsically evil.

B: Says who?

A: The Pope.

B: Who told the Pope that homosexual sex is evil?

A: God.

B: Is this the same God that Jesus called father?

A: Of course it is.

B: Then why didn’t Jesus ever say anything about homosexuality?

A: The Old Testament did.

B: Did Jesus write the Old Testament?

A: The Bible was written under the inspiration of God.

B: Didn’t Jesus say “I and my father are one?”

A: Yes.

B: So we should do what the Old Testament says?

A: Not everything.

B: Why?

A: Because we’d have to kill our own children when they were disobedient among other things.

B: You think killing your own children is wrong?

A: Of course it is!

B: Who told you that?

A: The Church! It instructs us in how to live holy lives.

B: What about smashing children’s head heads in with rocks, does the church command that?

A: Don’t be ridiculous!

B: So, some things in the Old Testament are just crazy?

A: It was a different time!

B: But it’s still inspired by God?

A: In most cases.

B: And it’s the Church’s job to sort it out?

A: Yes.

B: Even though the Church is filled with homosexual priests who abuse children?

A: It’s the Church’s job to sort that out too.

B: So you have a group of self-loathing homosexuals whose hatred contaminates everything it touches?

A: To err is human, to forgive divine.

B: Do you think forgiveness means entrusting your children to a church with no moral authority?

A: It’s better than having them go to hell!

B: Wouldn’t it be wiser to worry about the one your church has created for itself?

An Astonishing Message From a Gay Sister in Christ

Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum seems to find the following testimony inspiring:

An Astonishing Message from a Gay Sister in Christ

Posted on March 18, 2013 by Hunter Baker

To the churches concerning homosexuals and lesbians:

Self-loathingMany of you believe that we do not exist within your walls, your schools, your neighborhoods. You believe that we are few and easily recognized. I tell you we are many. We are your teachers, doctors, accountants, high school athletes. We are all colors, shapes, sizes. We are single, married, mothers, fathers. We are your sons, your daughters, your nieces, your nephews, your grandchildren. We are in your Sunday School classes, pews, choirs, and pulpits. You choose not to see us out of ignorance or because it might upset your congregation. We ARE your congregation. We enter your doors weekly seeking guidance and some glimmer of hope that we can change. Like you, we have invited Jesus into our hearts. Like you, we want to be all that Christ wants us to be. Like you, we pray daily for guidance. Like you, we often fail.

When the word “homosexual” is mentioned in the church, we hold our breaths and sit in fear. Most often this word is followed with condemnation, laughter, hatred, or jokes. Rarely do we hear any words of hope. At least we recognize our sin. Does the church as a whole see theirs? Do you see the sin of pride, that you are better than or more acceptable to Jesus than we are? Have you been Christ-like in your relationships with us? Would you meet us at the well, or restaurant, for a cup of water, or coffee? Would you touch us even if we showed signs of leprosy, or aids? Would you call us down from our trees, as Christ did Zacchaeus, and invite yourself to be our guest? Would you allow us to sit at your table and break bread? Can you love us unconditionally and support us as Christ works in our lives, as He works in yours, to help us all to overcome?

Catholic GuiltTo those of you who would change the church to accept the gay community and its lifestyle: you give us no hope at all. To those of us who know God’s word and will not dilute it to fit our desires, we ask you to read John’s letter to the church in Pergamum. “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!” You are willing to compromise the word of God to be politically correct. We are not deceived. If we accept your willingness to compromise, then we must also compromise. We must therefore accept your lying, your adultery, your lust, your idolatry, your addictions, YOUR sins. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

We do not ask for your acceptance of our sins any more than we accept yours. We simply ask for the same support, love, guidance, and most of all hope that is given to the rest of your congregation. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not what we shall be, but thank God, we are not what we were. Let us work together to see that we all arrive safely home.

A Sister in Christ

___________________

Tim Brock responds:

Gil, this woman’s testimony is heartbreaking. Her confusion and unhappiness are palpable. Because I fathered and raised a gay son, my paternal instinct kicks in when I read stories like this, and I just want to take her in my arms and tell her she’s beautiful just as she is. If someone could only rescue her from that blighted environment where she is condemned, ridiculed, and hated, where she has learned to equate her own sexual desires with lying, adultery, lust, idolatry, and addictions. 

You can see that she has completely internalized all this loathing and that it has created a very toxic psychological brew in her life. “Thank God we are not what we were,” she writes, as if she had really sloughed off her sexuality and were no longer gay. But she still IS gay, and she knows the taunts are directed at her.

Newly-wedsWorst of all, she can never again be proud or happy, because she can no longer own her desires. Her desires are now mediated by the Church. She is told to desire what she cannot desire, to despise what she does desire, and to despise herself for desiring it. This is a recipe for madness.

Her story is so obviously tragic to me because I’ve witnessed something utterly beautiful and joyous: the love between my son and his husband-to-be, and the happiness their love has brought into their lives. I wish the same for this young lady, but my fear is that she is now trapped and has no way out. I’ve seen many others like her, and I just want to tell them, “This is NOT necessary! Get out of whatever cult you’re in. Now!”