- Trying to square the circle
The opening days of the Synod on the Family have revealed distinct differences of opinion between the participants. How can their commitment to church teaching be matched with compassion for those who struggle with it?
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Reading the Instrumentum Laboris this week brought memories of question 1b in the questionnaire, where the choice was an either/or answer, either full acceptance of the Church's teaching or difficulty putting it into practice. No sense in the question that perhaps certain propositions in the Church's moral teaching could sometimes not be accepted fully because of a shaky theological/philosophical basis which contravenes people's experiences and/or reasoning.
Regarding natural law, even if we accept natural law as basis for morality - no matter the difficulties with the jump from "what it is" to "what it ought to be - the problem of physicalism", or the absolutizing of the physical, needs to be addressed.
Why, in response to the sanctity of human life, the Church makes a distinction between killing and murder in the just war theory, but maintains the absolute force of the physical when it comes to the sexual act, so that the unitive and procreative aims of the act cannot be separated? Gaudium et Spes states: "man's sexuality and the faculty of reproduction wondrously surpass the endowments of lower forms of life." (51). Why, then, the biological side is absolutized? Why are so many Catholic moral philosophers who deal with the application of natural law ignored?
Dealing with human experience from the position of absolutized human truth, a kind of monolithic Christian ethics, as is the case with Instrumentum Laboris, not only denies the laity the voice in the church to which it is entitled but reduces truth to a mere commodity for maintaining the status quo.
If there is so much certainty about the Church's position in moral matters that have to do with family and relationships, why the fear of listening to the experiences of people in family and relationships without distorting what they say? As Bishop Butler put it: "Ne timeamus quod veritas veritati noceat, Let us not fear that truth can endanger truth."
Marisa Wilson, Kent