Saturday, May 03, 2008

on the radio

Saw the movie "Iron Man" tonight. Really enjoyed it, actually. I was impressed with how it had a kind of emotional depth -- and wasn't afraid to discuss complex ethical issues -- while still being a good action movie that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Anyway, on the way home, I was scanning through radio stations and happened to hear a snippet of a Catholic radio program. This one involved church doctrine on those who disagree with some church teachings (like capital punishment) may still receive communion, while those who disagree with other church teachings (such as on abortion or euthanasia) are prohibited from doing so. The argument (put forward by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict) is that different moral issues carry different moral weights -- and that those with more serious moral weight must be treated more seriously.

Of course, this puts the church into a precarious position, both politically and morally. The assumption here is that the church has some great moral clarity that allows it to speak authoritatively about which moral issues are of greater significance than others -- as if they alone hold some sort of metric, some way of assigning comparable values to moral issues.

Such arrogance. Such condescension. And so deeply misplaced. They create conflict and estrangement at the very time that the church needs to create a positive identity for itself. Sigh.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the church should not sometimes speak with conviction and clarity on matters of moral importance. But turning away from communion those members who hold principled disagreement on serious issues? That seems to me to run contrary to the essential meaning of communion -- of acceptance of our part in the body of Christ, of accepting our differences and seeing past them to a greater unity.

I'm afraid my church will continue to decline in numbers and significance so long as it places more value on speaking from a presumed authority than it does in speaking from compassion. I pray that it (that we, as church) may be awakened to this insight.

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