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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Friday, March 19 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

An outsider's interference

I publish these Jonals every time they come out, by which I mean they become part of the the "permanent" files of the Nanty Glo Home Page. As a writer and an aspiring writer (every writer, I presume, is always also an aspiring writer, somewhat like every lover is always an aspiring lover...aspiring to be able to do it again, and better) I couldn't see doing this just to send to the list of daily email forum members (though that is part of what happens to these thrice-weekly screeds). Journals are always written in the hope that someone will discover them a generation or so later and find them, at least, interesting and possibly amusing.

So when I received a reply last week to a Jonal entry I wrote 22 months ago (May 15 2002), I should have been gratified, and after thinking about it a bit, I was. Reacting to my thesis of that day, that two "Roman Catholic dogmas—banning artificial birth control and divorce—tend to weaken the commitment of the laity as well as clergy because they're unrealistic in their expectations of human nature and because of that they are widely ignored by typical Catholics and can't realistically be 'enforced,'" my correspondents concluded by saying I "have no business telling Catholics what they should believe." I expected that kind of reaction when I wrote the piece, but didn't expect to have to wait so long to receive it. Their whole text (with minor edits of apparent typos) follows:

I just happened on your "outsider's" condemnation of the Catholic Church's opposition to divorce and birth control. Setting aside the issue of birth control (which I happen to consider the worst evil plaguing our society today, the root cause of all the filth in American culture), you would perhaps be surprised to know that the Church's opposition to divorce comes directly from Christ Himself. The fact that the liberal bishops in this country do everything they can to undermine the Magisterium, including rubber-stamping annulments, does not negate the Truth of the teachings.

Also, these are not "dogmas." A "dogma" is a formally defined theological truth. These are moral principles, to which the Church has adhered since her founding by Christ.

In any case, there are two separate occasions in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees come to Jesus and asked Him about divorce. Jesus replies that Moses' allowing divorce was only due to human weakness, and that God, "from the beginning," intended one man and one woman to be united in marriage for life.

Jesus says that "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery."


End of story.

Now, the Church has offered one merciful exception to that rule. The Church interprets Christ's words as meaning that, with God's grace, a marriage can last for life. If there is sufficient reason to judge a marriage to be non-sacramental, then the marriage may be annulled. Annulment does not mean the marriage never happened. It means that it never had the virtue of a sacrament, meaning that God was never part of the marriage, and it was therefore doomed to failure.

In any case, as a self-proclaimed "outsider," you have no business telling Catholics what they should believe. If perverted, amoral Americans want to go around polluting their bodies with kill pills and detroying their children's lives by getting divorced, then they should just be honest and get out of the Church.

Space has already run out, so I'll take up only one point today and revisit some of the others next week. Last point first: I "have no business telling Catholics what they should believe." I wouldn't presume to do that and don't believe I did it in the article under discussion. I was rather pointing out what most Catholics (according to research that has been repeated many times with similar results) do not believe even though their church teaches them they must if they want to be Catholics in good standing. I began by establishing myself as an outsider, and as such I would only examine the effects on the whole society of these wrong applications of the Christian teachings about divorce and a uniquely Catholic doctrine opposing artificial birth control. Furthermore, if the Catholic church is serious about its claims of desiring dialogue and ecumenical relations with the rest of the Christian and even non-Christian religious communities, it should be manifestly appropriate for theologians, both professional and lay like myself, to bring up differences of interpretation and opinion about what are legitimate and what are debatable Christian doctrines. My speaking as an outsider was nothing more, or less, than an effort to dialogue (thank you for making that finally happen).

Most of what remains to be said will be clarifications of misunderstandings or misinterpretations of my positions, which I'll take up next time.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Steven Wrightisms (last of series)

33. Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don't have any film!

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Lenten thought for today

He that has light within his own clear breast
May sit i' the centre, and enjoy bright day:
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun; Himself his own dungeon.

— John Milton, 1608-1674 
Puritan poet (Paradise Lost)

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