In the recent palaver about whether, or not, the Church ought to become involved in the lives of LGBTQI people who are looking for acceptance of their situation in the new environment of understanding the complexity of gender/sexuality identity in the community; what may have been forgotten is the fact that Jesus said there would be a progression of understanding of creation through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit – in the Church and in the World to which it is called to minister. (“When the Spirit comes s/he will lead you into all the truth”).
At the recent Australian Anglican General Synod, there was a movement by the ultra-conservative Diocese of Sydney to close down any movement towards the Blessing of Same-Sex Civil Marriage-partners – a project that had been mooted at a previous meeting of the Anglican Church in Australia. What the Sydney bishops were doing was an attempt to stifle a growing sense of unease that the past behaviour of the Church towards its homosexual minority could no longer be considered to be either Christian or just. Their reasoning was built on the historic mistaken belief that homosexuality was an objective disorder, a distortion of the intention of God in Creation to major on procreation – and, therefore, a sign of human weakness and sin, needing to be stamped out and condemned. (It might be noted, also, that the Sydney Diocese does not ordain women – in the belief that Scripture forbids it!)
The fact that Jesus, himself (though he did mention the problems of unfaithfulness in marriage) never actually addressed the ‘problem’ of homosexuality, a condition that was recognised as existing in the surrounding Greek community and addressed, later, by Saint Paul as part of his opposition to the exploitative commercial aspects of male prostitution; seems to have been forgotten by the purists. However, Jesus’ healing of the slave of a believing Centurion could be interpreted as his outreach to a same-sex couple – with no implied sense of their unworthiness. Jesus did actually talk about ‘eunuchs’ (the first category being possibly homosexuals – ‘from their mother’s womb’).
Society has always been open to new pathways of justice – sometimes before the Church has recognised the call for human emancipation from slavery, misogyny, homophobia, and self-serving elitism. With the enlightenment (the work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would lead the Church ‘into ALL the Truth’) that has helped to bring the world into a more just and loving environment – in line with God’s plan and purpose at Creation’s beginning; has come a new, improved understanding of all that works towards the common good – the Kingdom of God on earth, that Jesus taught us to pray for. That every human being has been created in the Divine Image and Likness is a reality with which the Church has to come to grips – sometimes kicking and screaming and wanting to revert to ‘The Good Old Days’, which, however, when one looks back, were not as good as some people are wont to remember them.
One sign of this desperate need to control people from the viewpoint of past nostalgic empirical certainties, is the current ambition of the Leaders of the Russian State (and, sadly, even the Russian Orthodox Church) to claw back sovereignty over its lost dominions in nearby established democratic countries (Ukraine, Crimea, Belarus) in order to impose their own restrictive spiritual and sectarian government that has held back the progress of common human rights under the guises of a ‘Christian morality’ that has long proved defective as an example of Justice and Freedom promised in the Gospel for the Children of God in Christ.
Whether the Anglican Provinces of Sydney and Tasmania (whose Bishops are now subject to the rule of GAFCON’s new conservative moralistic imperialism around the Anglican world) will succeed in their effort to suborn and take over the soul of Australian Anglicanism – in their threat to secede from the worldwide Anglican Communion loyal to the archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference – is yet to be played out.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis, titular Head of the largest Christian Church (Roman Catholic), continues his eirenic teaching that still manages, in a new age, to bring a bit of Apostolic wisdom into the arena of Christian nurture, with his own unique understanding of the need for human progress and mutual flourishing in a Church aware of its past, but also mindful of past injustice and the need for constant reformation towards the freedom of ALL God’s children into the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
Make the past the source of inspiration, not the destination
Monday, May 16th, 2022
We need to use the past as a source of inspiration while moving forward, instead of wanting to go back to the way things were in the past, says Pope Francis. It’s not Christian.
Wanting to go back in time is different from drawing inspiration from one’s roots in order to move forward with Christ.
Finding inspiration in the past is good because “without roots we cannot progress,” he says.
“But to go in reverse is to go back in order to have a form of defence, a safety measure that saves us from the risk of going forward, the Christian risk of carrying the faith, the Christian risk of journeying with Jesus Christ.”
Wanting to turn back “does so much harm to the Church,” either out of fear or because of a lack of ingenuity or a lack of courage, he says.
Speaking to an international conference exploring Amoris Laetitia, his 2016 exhortation on the family, Francis told participants of his disappointment in backward-focused people.
There are “many” who are part of the church “who crop up like mushrooms, here, there, over there, and they present themselves as a proposal of Christian life,” he said.
To illustrate his point he offered the example of “casuistry” – the practice of setting general laws on the basis of a few exceptional cases or using a form of reasoning that is legalistic and stripped of God’s love and mercy.
Casuistry is “the foodstuff” of his and his generation’s studies in moral theology, Francis said.
It’s outdated, but can still be resurrected and disguised with proposals of what one can or cannot do.
“Amoris Laetitia,” on the other hand, is an example of the living doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas. The saint taught that there are factors, such as ignorance, that might diminish the culpability of an objectively sinful act.
Francis explained that this approach “helps us move forward taking risks, but in obedience. And this is not easy.”
The changes will see families having a significant tole in the Church’s future.
Francis said their role encompasses the “pastoral conversion of our communities and the missionary transformation of the church.
“For this to happen, it is necessary there be, including on an academic level, theological reflection that is truly attentive to the wounds of humanity.”
Priests and theologians need to recognise “the inseparable relationship, despite the ordeals and difficulties of life, between the human conscience and the good.
“Gospel morality is far from being moralism, which becomes a literal observance of norms” in order to secure being just before God, and it is not a kind of idealism “which, in the name of an ideal good, discourages and distances from the possible good.”
The good is “an appeal, a voice that liberates and stimulates the conscience,” in which resides a law written by God — to love good and avoid evil.