Eschatological compassion?

February 27, 2011

In my ‘In Deepest Charity?’ post, Jules says, in part,

It’s reprehensible to give homosexuals the wrong messages. It would be lying.

I was reminded of this (a theme I’ve often come across on issues like homosexuality) when I read a review by Richard Holloway on Karen Armstrong’s ’12 Steps to a Compassionate Life’.

The first part of the review is interesting enough as it deals with the mythos and the logos, but the bit that brought Jules comment to mind (with my emphasis) was:

The second plank in her platform is that compassion is, as it were, the distilled essence of the world’s great religions. She is an immensely compassionate human being and has recently initiated a charter for compassion in order, as she puts it in the preface to this book, to “restore compassion to the heart of religious and moral life … At a time when religions are widely assumed to be at loggerheads, it would also show that … on this we are all in agreement …”. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life is both a manifesto and a self-help manual. As a manifesto, it promotes her campaign to place compassion at the heart of religion; as a manual modelled on the 12-step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, it offers exercises aimed at increasing our own compassion. It would make a brilliant guide for leaders of retreats and workshops on the compassionate life, and as a repository of digested wisdom from the world’s religions I cannot recommend it too highly.

But is she correct in suggesting that, au fond, the essence of the main religions boils down to compassion? It is probably correct where Buddhism is concerned and it is from Buddhism that her best insights and examples come. I think she is on shakier ground when she applies it to Christianity and Islam. Christianity and Islam are redemption religions, not wisdom religions. They exist to secure life in the world to come for their followers and any guidance they offer on living in this world is always with a view to its impact on the next.

This radically compromises the purity of their compassion agenda. Let me offer one example to prove my point. At a meeting of primates of the Anglican communion, I was accused by one archbishop of filling Hell with homosexuals, because I was giving them permission to commit acts that would guarantee them an eternity of punishment, for no sodomite can enter Heaven. My worldly compassion for gay people, my campaign to furnish them with the same sexual rights as straight people, was actually a kind of cruelty. The price of their fleeting pleasures in this world would be an eternity of punishment in the next.

I can think of other examples from other moral spheres where an attempt to act compassionately towards certain categories of sufferers runs counter to Christianity’s doctrinal certainties. The point at issue here is whether Christianity, as it presently understands itself, is a religion whose central value is compassion. If the answer is yes, it can only be what we might describe as eschatological compassion, because the church’s doctrinal certainties and their corresponding prohibitions do not feel like compassion to those who are on their receiving end down here. They say justice delayed is justice denied. The same must be true of compassion.

This is a pretty good illustration of how two people can profess to belong to the same faith and talk past each other every bit as much as an atheist might talk past a theist. The gulf, at times, seems unbridgeable.

F is for Wryday (43)

February 26, 2011

(Yeh, I know. A little late)

While I have the microphone

Shook erp as, bru

February 23, 2011

In deepest charity?

February 19, 2011

150 comments on one topic and 16000+ visitors since late last year is a pretty impressive set of numbers in a blog that’s Australian and focussed on things Catholic.

I’ve been following and sometimes contributing to David Schütz Sentire Cum Ecclesia for some time now. I find it challenging on many levels.

Depending on your point of view, I think I have developed a reputation for stubbornness and arrogance OR tenacity and forebearance on this and other DBs over the years.

This humble blog is a very personal place of record for me, not much more than a web diary. I haven’t built a strong following and I probably never will.

Sentire is in a different league. In the relatively small Catholic community of Australia it has a big audience especially if you further reduce that community to Catholics who are actively involved on line.

I wonder does David have more of an obligation to administer his blog in a more transparent and fair way thay I? At one level, not really. We both run our blogs and can do what we please.

But when you do have a lot of readers and, I’d suggest, some influence, have you crossed a line in the sand that says, ‘beyond this point, you’re more like the editor (and major contributor) of a publication and, out of respect for the readers who are loyal to you, you need to be fair and be seen to be fair’.

Of course the catalyst for the this navel gazing was the post that attracted the 150 comments. Entitled An Open Letter to Fr Bob Maguire, David was responding to some media stories that alleged that Fr Bob would ‘bless’ a homosexual couple outside a church.

In fairness to David, many of the strings of commentary were pretty light on and tangential and you really couldn’t object to bringing it to a conclusion. But here are the last three exchanges leading up to David ‘putting a cork in it’:

Schütz says:
February 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm
No, I am not “retracting” the letter.

1) The letter was written on the basis of the report in the Herald Sun. It makes this clear. Anyone reading the article would have been led to think, as I was, that Fr Bob was prepared to “perform a civil ceremony for a homosexual couple”.

2) Fr Bob has said “I will not and cannot do gay weddings”. But in fact the substance of the article was that he was prepared to “perform a civil ceremony” for a gay civil union – a point on which the Herald Sun article said Fr Bob “did not have a personal view”.

3) According to the article, Fr Bob said that he would be prepared to perform such a ceremony in “a private event”.

4) The article quotes him as saying the prohibition against such a ceremony being held in a church was “not personal, its institutional”.

As a response to that report, the Letter remains valid. The fact that Fr Bob has issued a short “tweet” along the lines of “I will not and cannot do gay weddings”, although it sounds categorical, does not answer objections to the article nor explain the context of what he actually told the reporter that would lead the reporter to so misunderstand his actual words. If he had told categorically told the reporter that he “will not and cannot do gay weddings”, would the reporter then have gone and written the article that he did? What did he actually say that left the reporter with the impression that he was prepared to “perform a civil ceremony for a homosexual couple” as long as it wasn’t in a Catholic Church? Although I myself do not hold the standard of journalism in our daily papers in high esteem, I cannot believe that a reporter would have completely fabricated an opinion which was diametrically opposite to anything that Fr Bob actually said to him.

So questions remain. What DID Fr Bob actually tell the reporter? Did he tell them that he couldn’t do a “wedding” but was prepared to do a “civil ceremony” (there is a distinction here, and Fr Bob’s “tweet” doesn’t address that distinction). What was all that business about “inside a church” and “private ceremony”? Where did that come from? Did the reporter just make it up? Possibly. But I would like to hear a fuller statement from Fr Bob about his actual position on this matter, and how it was possible that the Herald Sun could have gotten it so wrong. I note that the report of his “tweet” is actually in The Age and not in the Herald Sun. If the reporter really did misrepresent Fr Bob, why isn’t the Herald Sun printing a retraction? Given the serious nature of the claims of the original article, it seems to me that an equally high profile and clear statement to the contrary is still required. “Twitter” doesn’t cut it for this little black duck.

Tony says:
February 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm
So, David, your article stands because the retraction doesn’t ‘cut it’?

And the basis of your letter is newspaper articles in the context of this blog’s long term scepticism about how newspapers treat church related issues?

By your own standards, David, this seems … to put it ‘charitably’ … incongruous.

I know Fr Bob is probably not on your Christmas Card list, but doesn’t he — doesn’t anyone — deserve the benefit of the doubt given your own views on newspapers?

Schütz says:
February 18, 2011 at 7:57 pm
I think I’ve explained well enough Tony. And I also am growing tired of the unseemly ranting in some of the commentary above. So I’m putting the cork in the pot bottle on this discussion. If anyone has some new information on the subject you can email me and I will start a new discussion.

I think most of us who contribute to on-line discussions do so in the context of democratic society and would be very reluctant to censor the views of another and wouldn’t hang around long if an administrator was arbitrary in his or her exercise of ‘power’. To his credit, I have found David much more reluctant to ‘swing the axe’ than my other experiences of self-identified ‘conservative’ — or whatever term best fits — Catholics.

But to do so when you are being challenged is dangerous territory. You run the risk of being seen to putting a stop to discussion because of the challenge rather than because the discussion has got out of hand.

Ultimately I respect David’s right to run his own show — I have to, it’s a right I claim for myself — and I’ll have to leave it to others to judge if he’s got the balance right.

In the meantime, I reiterate my view that such a public ‘telling off’ of a priest in good standing based on newspaper reports that, to put it charitably, are ambiguous, doesn’t pass David’s own benchmarks of caution about media treatment of church stories and ‘deep charity’. Surely natural justice means that David, the accuser, has to prove his case and that Fr Bob, the accused, is under no obligation to disprove it?

And I guess this all goes to one of the original motivators for setting Beyond the Pews up: I’m the only person that can shut me up!

F is for Wryday (42)

February 17, 2011

Be warned, some of these are trully awful, others are oldies and most are just so weak. The first one gives you the flavour of what’s to come so stop there or move on at your peril.

– Two blondes walk into a building ……. you’d think at least one of them would have seen it.
– Phone answering machine message – ‘..If you want to buy marijuana, press the hash key…’
– A guy walks into the psychiatrist wearing only Clingfilm for shorts. The shrink says, ‘Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts.’
– I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn’t find any.
– I went to the butchers the other day and I bet him 50 quid that he couldn’t reach the meat off the top shelf. He said, ‘No, the steaks are too high.’
– My friend drowned in a bowl of muesli. A strong currant pulled him in.
– A man came round in hospital after a serious accident. He shouted, ‘Doctor, doctor, I can’t feel my legs!’ The doctor replied, ‘I know you can’t, I’ve cut your arms off’.
– I went to a seafood disco last week and pulled a muscle.
– Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly. They lit a fire in the craft, it sank, proving once and for all that you can’t have your kayak and heat it.
– Our ice cream man was found lying on the floor of his van covered with hundreds and thousands. Police say that he topped himself.
– Man goes to the doctor, with a strawberry growing out of his head. Doc says ‘I’ll give you some cream to put on it.’
– ‘Doc I can’t stop singing ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home’. ‘That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome.’ ‘Is it common?’ ‘It’s not unusual.’
– A man takes his Rottweiler to the vet. ‘My dog is cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?’ ‘Well,’ said the vet, ‘let’s have a look at him’. So he picks the dog up and examines his eyes, then he checks his teeth. Finally, he says, ‘I’m going to have to put him down.’ ‘What? Because he’s cross-eyed?’ ‘No, because he’s really heavy’.
– What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.
– So I was getting into my car, and this bloke says to me ‘Can you give me a lift?’ I said ‘Sure, you look great, the world’s your oyster, go for it..’
– Apparently, 1 in 5 people in the world are Chinese. There are 5 people in my family, so it must be one of them. It’s either my mum or my Dad, or my older brother Colin, or my younger brother Ho-Cha-Chu. But I think it’s Colin.
– Two fat blokes in a pub, one says to the other ‘Your round.’ The other one says ‘So are you, you fat git!’
– Police arrested two kids yesterday, one was drinking battery acid, and the other was eating fireworks. They charged one and let the other one off.
– ‘You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, ‘Parking Fine.’ So that was nice.’
– A man walked into the doctors, he said, ‘I’ve hurt my arm in several places’. The doctor said, ‘Well don’t go to those places anymore!
– Ireland ‘s worst air disaster occurred early this morning when a small two-seater Cessna plane crashed into a cemetery. Irish search and rescue workers have recovered 2826 bodies so far and expect that number to climb as digging continues into the night.

Well done. You got through the lot. Purgatory will be a doddle!

F is for Wryday (41)

February 10, 2011

The Human Body

It takes 7 seconds for food to pass from mouth to stomach.

A human hair can hold 3kg.

The length of a penis is 3x the length of the thumb.

The femur is as hard as concrete.

A woman’s heart beats faster then a man’s.

Women blink 2x as much as men.

We use 300 muscles just to keep our balance when we stand.

The woman has read this entire text.

The man is still looking at his thumb.

Putting HIM in his place

One night President Obama and his wife Michelle decided to do something out of routine and go for a casual dinner at a restaurant that wasn’t too luxurious.

When they were seated, the owner of the restaurant asked the president’s secret service if he could please speak to the First Lady in private. They obliged and Michelle had a conversation with the owner.

Following this conversation President Obama asked Michelle, why he was so interested in talking to her. She mentioned that in her teenage years, he had been madly in love with her.

President Obama then said, “So if you had married him, you would now be the owner of this lovely restaurant”, to which Michelle responded, “No, if I had married him, he would now be the President”

F is for Wryday (40)

February 4, 2011

OK, I’m a boy brought up in a household of boys. You can’t completely free yourself of the fart joke.

From the ABC today:

Malawi moves to ban farting

Malawi’s government has confirmed reports that it intends to outlaw breaking wind in public.

The African nation’s justice ministry says the proposed legislation is part of a wider campaign to “mould responsible and disciplined citizens”.

Local media is questioning how the proposed law will be enforced when it is so easy to blame the offence on others.

Aside from the strangness of the story, I was taken by the headline which actually had ‘fart’ in it. In the story they talk much more moderately about ‘breaking wind’ wind, but I didn’t know that ‘fart’ was off the ABCs taboo list. What’s Aunty coming too?

In for a penny, in for a pound. This is a bit of a boy-neather-regions classic:

I know, I know … you didn’t even crack a smile.