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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Monday, March 22 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Answering the mail, second of two parts

Continuing my answer, begun on Friday, to a letter questioning my article of May 15, 2002, in which I said the Roman Catholic positions on divorce and artificial birth control have contributed to great social breakdown. As promised, this time I'm taking up specific items that bear clarification. The letter was unsigned, so I am not using any names, though the email address included two names that I'm guessing are a married couple. The points from their letter are in bold here, with my comments following.

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)... This seems extreme. When I was evangelical and single, I was grateful that my single friends who were not chaste had the option of using birth control, and when I was married I was grateful my wife and I had it to help us time the growth of our family. I imagine a lot of the Baptists I know would say as much social filth can be attributed to Catholic laxity about the use of profanity (e.g., Bono at more than one award shows in recent years, and most anyone you happen to overhear talking in a Dublin bar) than the option to use condoms or the pill. I'm not, of course, referring to the "morning-after pill" as you could have deduced from reading the previous articles on my dogmas series.

You would perhaps be surprised to know that the Church's opposition to divorce comes directly from Christ Himself. No, no one who knows and believes in the reliability of the gospels, as I do, would be surprised to find this. I've quoted the passages you cite from Matthew's Gospel many times. I'm not supporting divorce in principle or in any way contrary to the Lord's teaching, just opposing the imbalanced treatment the Catholic church gives it.

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. Hmmm...it appears you're saying these are even more fundamental than "dogmas." More like the Ten Commandments themselves? I'm not sure what definitions the Catholic church uses for the word dogma, but my seminary instruction was that they are any doctrines of the church that must be believed to be in good standing in the church, and this is how I defined it in my series. I can't believe you're saying that the Catholic church lacks "formal theological definitions" for its teachings on birth control and divorce.

Jesus says that "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery." Period. End of story. Well, both my former evangelical personna and my present Orthodox one can say a hearty "amen" to this, but the point of my 2002 article is that I don't believe it's this simple in Catholicism. It seems that there is "adultery" and then there is "adultery." In one case, say, the community godfather who supports the parish and confesses to his priest he's cheating on his wife and is told to say 10 "Our Fathers" and 15 "Hail Mary's before your next communion." And another case in which the British monarch who is told by the pope, "if you commit adultery by divorcing your wife and taking another, your whole empire will be barred from the sacraments of what you profess to believe is the one true church forever." Admittedly, confessing a "plan" to sin requires a prohibition, and a monarch has a responsibility greater than that of a community godfather to set a good example, but still, the application seems radically disparate. And I would posit that that decision of that pope has a direct cause and effect up to the current Episcopal Church anquish over its first gay bishop. I'm no more anti-pope than Mel Gibson is anti-Semitic, but there is a historical continuum here. And of course King Henry VIII was far more "to blame" for any apostasy in the church he created than anyone else, and I don't doubt that his conduct vis a vis his marriages and his wives constituted adultery some times over, and involved other sins even more heinous.

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.... But to many women who have been the victims of their husbands' unilateral decisions to divorce (and more than a few men on the other side of this equation) who found it astounding to learn the church granting the suing spouse an annullment when s/he could have sworn God was part of the marriage earlier...would you allow that to such people this may ring a bit hollow? (And worse?)

In any case, as a self-proclaimed "outsider," you have no business telling Catholics what they should believe. I addressed this on Friday but will add here, I'm not telling Catholics what they should believe, just giving a little explanation of why I can't see myself becoming one of them.

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. Part of me says amen to this and "bring it on," but my louder voice cautions: "there but for the grace of God..." and "who am I to be looking for logs in my neighbor's eyes?"

And to all my Catholic friends reading, please forgive my candor and be assured that this is not about attacking the Catholic church, the pope, or anyone's religion. It is trying to see if there's any connection between how teachings are applied can explain some of the fallout in society...even the current controversy over priests who have, to put it about as mildly as possible, not kept faith to their celibacy vows.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Zoo parade

What's the difference between a Southern zoo and a Northern zoo? A Southern zoo has a description of the animal on the front of the cage, along with a recipe.

—Sent by Jules Nagy 

Lenten thought for today

Somebody loves us, too—God Himself. We have been created to love and to be loved.

Mother Teresa, 1910-1997

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