March 26, 2007

Sensus fidelium

For a few days now, I've been following the developing firestorm over the published writings of a 75-year-old theologian at Marquette University in defense of same-sex marrige. Daniel C. Maguire, a teacher of religious ethics at the Jesuit-run Milwaukee university, while being denounced by Bishops, has laid out the theological criteria with which progressive Catholics today can and do access the issue of same-sex unions and romantic love between such couples. I have never read anything more theologically correct.
Please take the time to read Maguire's published comments.
    The highlights:
    • The desire to bond lovingly and sexually with persons of the same sex or of the opposite sex, is a fact of life, a fact of God's creation, and we have no right to call it unholy. As the Acts of the Apostles says in the Bible, we have no right to declare unclean anything that God has made (Acts of the Apostles 10:15). To do so, in fact, is a sin.
    Marriage can be defined as the unique and special form of committed friendship between sexually attracted persons. This definition does not say that the persons have to be heterosexually attracted. Persons attracted to a person of their same sex can still be married. Marriage is a supreme human good involving exclusive, committed, enduring, generous, and faithful love, and this kind of love is not something that only heterosexuals can achieve.
    • Friendship and love and commitment are human virtues and gay and lesbian persons are human and fully capable of a healthy human committed love in marriage.
    • The view that homosexual people are condemned to involuntary celibacy for life is as cruel as it is absurd. Jesus said of celibacy: "Let those accept it who can" (Matthew 19:12). Voluntary celibacy for a good cause is something some can do but it is seen as a special talent, a special gift that not all have. The Vatican council called it "a precious gift of divine grace which the Father gives to some persons," but not to all.9 Abstaining from all sexual activity is seen by the Council as something "unique."10 You can not demand from all homosexual people that which is "unique."

Those of us who work for change in the Catholic Church do so with the knowledge that we will not likely see change in our lifetimes. This is how change occurs in the church -- slowly, and as Maguire points out, it is almost always sensus fidelium, the wisdom and experience of the laity, that ushers in truths that the hierarchy would rather not acknowledge. But it will happen, I believe. Because it is theologically sound and true, and I belive it reflects the true will of God.

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