A SEX CLASS:
Those of you in the Philadelphia area may want to attend - are privileged to have available - a series of lectures by Dr. John Haas, An Introduction to Catholic Teaching on Human Sexuality and Marriage. It starts on September 29th and runs through October 27th. He is a very good teacher and non-Catholics will, I think, find much of interest and much to ponder.
John is a contributing editor of this magazine, and also the director of both the International Institute for Culture and the National Catholic Bioethics Center. (As a result, he has a horrifying schedule, for keeping which he deserves praise.)
A reflection on the future of the Episcopal Church from Dr. Peter Toon, an Evangelical Anglican theologian and a contributing editor of Touchstone:
On Reformation, Renewal & Reaction in late 2003 in the ECUSA
I offer these five statements for serious consideration. They reflect what I see and thus are limited by my creaturelines and weaknesses.
1. If the present Dallas-headed (October 7) movement of 5000 plus has basically the same mindset as pre-August 2003 conservative Episcopalianism together with an added, committed opposition to the innovation of the blessing of "gay" partnerships, then it is NOT likely to see or experience any reform or renewal that are worth the names or is especially blessed by heaven, and this will be so even if a viable, working federation of dioceses separate from the "national church" is formed with the approval of some primates on or after October 7.
2. Genuine Reform & Renewal of the Church have both inward and outwards aspects (two sides of the divine coin, as it were).
(a) The reformers are those who earnestly seek God until they find him, constantly knock at the door of heaven until it is opened, and continually ask/petition until their requests are granted. They open their hearts and lives to the searching light of the Word of the Lord and the Spirit of the Lord. They are penitent, repentant and yet filled with faith, hope and love. They are prepared to give up anything and everything for the Lord Jesus whose love and grace they experience.
(b) The reformers know that the Word of God written must be central to their whole activity and commitment. They realize that they must use English translations that are true to its literal rather than supposed dynamic sense; further, to interpret that Word they need the best help of the long tradition of the Church in reading and meditating upon the Bible - thus the importance of Creeds, Formularies, classic Commentaries, the underlying doctrines of ancient canon law and so on. What they have to avoid at all costs is insulated private judgment, following only modern exegetes and allowing dominant themes of modern life (human rights for example) to guide their interpreting of the Bible. Thus they need in place the classic Creeds (three) and the Anglican Formularies from the 16th Century - the latter as a signpost to where reformed catholic doctrine is to be found & what it is, and the former as a guide to the central verities of the Bible.
3. A time of Crisis (which seems to be the case now for many Anglicans) is a unique opportunity not to fire darts at the enemy (lesbigay movement and supporting bishops) but rather to examine ourselves, our tradition and our position and to seek under God's guidance to plot a way forward that is true to HIM, to HIS WORD and to the best Anglican Forms of Worship, Doctrine & Discipline.
4. This time is most certainly a time (as the Psalms often tell us) not to put our trust in princes or the sons of men - i.e., in Primates or in local bishops or in organizations. It is pre-eminently a time truly and really, fully and clearly, to trust in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If He uses Primates to help the ECUSA or its remnant then that it is His choice.
5. There is much to learn by studying the origins of the Continuing Anglican Church movement from the late 1970s and its history to the present - its aims and hopes, it successes and failures, its attempts to shake off its back and out of its bloodstream the ECUSA it left behind, its internal divisions and the cause of them, and so on.
For Peter's writing, see the website of his parish in England, Christ Church, Biddulph Moor and also the blogsite of the American branch of the Prayer Book Society.
From the Ivy Jungle Network's Campus Ministry Update for September:
Money and Boredom Increase Drug Use: A Columbia University study shows that young Americans who feel bored and have access to money are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. The survey showed that students ages 12-17 who are "frequently bored" are 50% more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs. Those with $25 or more a week in expendable cash are twice as likely as those with less money to get drunk or use drugs. Stress also factored into the likelihood of students using substances - with academics and the pressure to have sex or use drugs as the leading causes of that stress. Students at schools of more than 1200 were also more likely to use drugs and drink. (AP August 19, 2003)
We all knew this, of course, but it is nice to have the statistics. With our eldest now a senior in high school, I have been reading a lot about and from colleges, and going to see various campuses. I have been surprised, and a bit distressed, at how much of the published and personal propaganda treats college as a place to play. Some make a point of telling you that the weekends are open for partying, thugh they're not quite so crass in the way they say it. The guidebooks all include long entries on each college's social life and assume it is a major if not crucial criterion for choosing a college.
I am sure money and stress (opportunity and reason, in other words) encourage college students to drink and drug, but surely an ethos, encouraged from the authorities, that treats the consumption of pleasure as a right and expects the students to "party" encourages them to drink and drug. They accept the official ethos but simply put it into practice differently.
From today's "OpinionJournal", a summary of the day's stories on the web published by the Wall Street Journal:
Meow Mix http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20030912.wonta0912/BNStory/National/
Last week our colleague Eric Gibson http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110004002 bemoaned the sorry state of political invective in America, where President Bush's challengers are leveling such unimaginative insults as "out of control" and "ludicrous and insane." This may be a rare case in which we Americans can learn something from our northern neighbors. The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the Progressive Conservative Party, which controls the provincial government in Ontario, issued a press release last week that described Dalton McGuinty, head of the opposition Liberal Party, as "an evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet."
McGuinty's reply: "I love kittens, and I like puppies too." Waiter, the mixed grill, please!
MODEST PROPOSAL ON CELIBACY:
The sex scandals in the Catholic Church have led to renewed criticism of the requirement of clerical celibacy. I don't think that celibacy drives men to teenage boys, or even that it unduly restricts the number of candidates for the priesthood. Churches with a married clergy have bad problems with pederasty (the Anglicans) and many empty pulpits.
Most Roman Catholics in the United States would accept a married clergy. What is obscured in the debate is that the Catholic Church is officially composed of several churches in communion with the Roman Pontiff, and most of these churches already have married priests. The Irish bishops in the United States persuaded the Vatican to forbid these Eastern Churches from having a married clergy in their parishes in the United States. The Irish bishops thought that married clergy would "confuse" the faithful. In fact, Eastern Catholics are scarcely recognized as Catholics. They were occasionally denied Communion. In Baltimore (in 2003!) an Eastern parish set up a school. The Latin pastors in the area were all told to warn their parishioners that this was not a Catholic school, that is, not under the jurisdiction of the Latin bishop.
This situation is unjust and is scarcely designed to assure the Orthodox that their disciplines will be maintained if the Roman and Orthodox churches ever enter into full communion.
I propose that the Eastern Churches in union with Rome be allowed to maintain their own discipline of married clergy throughout the world, including the United States. Members of the Latin Church who feel called both to marriage and priesthood should be allowed to join the Eastern Churches, as long as they realize they are joining a church with its own hierarchy, theology, canon law, liturgical language and traditions.
If the lack of a married clergy is a severe impediment to the flourishing of Catholicism, the Eastern Catholic Churches should flourish (which is a desirable thing anyway). If celibacy is not the source of the clergy shortage, then the Eastern Churches will have the same problem as the Latin Church, and we can turn examine other possible causes for the decline in the number of clergy.
My suspicion is that a quasi-universalism and an implicit pluralism (see my previous blog on Multiple Saviors) is the source of the problem. If everyone is going to heaven and if one religion is as good as another, why go to the trouble of preaching Christianity, either at home or the missions?
John Allen, the National Catholic Reporter correspondent in Rome, reports on the pluralist conference in Birmingham. Pluralism, the upcoming theological fad, claims that Christ is only one of the many ways to God. Pluralists don't expect to convert the whole church to their view, but want other Christians to regard them as orthodox.
They are not having much luck with church authorities. The Vatican, the Evangelical Church in Germany, and the Presbyterians all have come down hard on pluralism, because even liberal Christians see that pluralism contradicts the central tenets of Christianity.
If Jesus Christ is only one way to God among many, he is not the only begotten son of God, but an avatar and appearance of the deity in particular historical circumstances. The entire New Testament contradicts pluralism.
However the Jesuits are busy teaching pluralism in their seminaries (along with the excellence of homosexuality and the desirability of homosexual marriage), and theologians who themselves do not reject the central tenets of Christianity are generally reluctant to be judgmental about Christian theologians who deny the universal mission of Christ.