Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bishop Grumbleton's Talk: an eyewitness account (part 3)

Here's the last installment. Apologies to my correspondent--when I pasted this in, I lost all his formatting. I'll try to clean it up tomorrow, but now it's time to sleep:

Hopefully, I can wrap up the story this evening. Sorry it's taken so long. Can only work late in the evenings...

So anyways, Bishop Gumbl...er..."Just Tom" then got to the heart of his talk: how the Church can move beyond its current hangups about sodomy and towards a new "pastoral" understanding of, and welcoming of, homosexual persons. As I alluded to in my last email, the answer is "primacy of conscience." Gumbleton (sorry, your Excellency, "Just Tom" is too cumbersome at this point) told his audience that over civil and ecclesiastical law, over the Pope, stands one's conscience, and one's own conscience must be obeyed above all else, even against ecclesiastical authority. One's conscience is the ultimate guide, and nobody has the right right to force one to change one's conscience.

But, Bp. Gumbleton, what about having a "well-formed" conscience? Just Tom says that the formation of conscience involves four steps:

(1) Listening to God's word (which is apparently different than Moses's word, or St. Paul's word),

(2) Listening to the teaching of the Church (which means, I assume, listening to guys like Gumbleton and Fr. McBrien and "theologians", rather than to the accepted and traditional teaching of the Church as might be explained without gloss by someone like Fr. Chad Ripperger FSSP),

(3) Entering into "deep prayer" (which must be some sort of eastern navel-gazing exercise rather than something like meditation on the Sacred Heart) and

(4) Seeking the consultation of a guide or spritual mentor (again, somebody who reads and admires Gumbelton and Sis Joan Chittister and Fr. McBrien--not somebody like, say, Padre Pio or your average Opus Dei priest).

Gumbleton assured the crowd that a homosexual person could go through that process, and at the end be very certain of his course of action and do what is pleasing to God.

Gumbelton then read my mind, and in answer to my unstated objection about the primacy of conscience (isn't that something Luther said before he put his lecherous paws on the nuns?), he pointed out that Catholics exercise, and Catholic hierarchs defer to, "primacy of conscience" in areas other than homosexuality all the time.

For instance, take "total war" (Here he digressed into stressing the importance of Vatican II to the non-Catholics present, who needed to understand that a [per Paul VI, non-infallible, non-dogmatic, pastoral?] council was the most authoritative teaching of the Church, and made a general reference to Gaudium et Spes and its condemnation of "total war" against civilian populations (which wasn't original to that document, BTW). He said that Catholics who flew in the Enola Gay and who serve on Trident submarines and in strategic air forces exercise primacy of conscience when they serve in those capacities, commited to unleash "weapons of mass destruction" against civilian populations, but they aren't criticized by the hierarchy or aren't denied Holy Communion, and in fact, the Church puts Catholic chaplains in such places, when in Gumbleton's, judgment (wait, didn't he say earlier that the sinfulness of any particular act is between the person and God?) the men who serve in such capacities aren't good Catholics. Here then he went into another tangent about the depleted-uranium-tipped antitank rounds used in Iraq. But Gumbleton just may be on to something with the total war analogy here (and here he's playing to my Southern sympathies, because when I think of "total war" I think of that reprehensible-bastard-who's-surely-in-hell-with-all-his-men, William Tecumseh Sherman, marching through the South, but I best not digress). But Gumbelton is going the wrong way. We shouldn't use the example of those standing by to use modern-day Sherman-like tactics to ennoble buggery with clear concience; we should condemn both sodomites and civilian killers, right?

Gumbleton's next example is capital punishment, and he points out that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (a gentleman, a scolar, and a fellow Latin Masser!) gets to exercise primacy of conscience when he rejects "Catholic teaching" about the death penalty, and he encourages other judges who aren't willing to likewise reject it to resign from the bench. Of course, Gumbleton here assumes that everyone believes that the death penalty is condemned in Catholic teaching, completely ignoring the fact that the Church has always recognized the power of the civil authorities to exercise the ultimate punishment, out of justice, and that the fretting of commie-liberal bishops' committees over the last few decades doesn't alter Catholic teaching.

After making his point about primacy of concience (with one example of backwards reasoning and one outright lie), Gumbleton talks about the 1975 Vatican document on sexual ethics, in which it was stated that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. He points out that Jan Visser, a Redemptorist involved in preparing that document, himself made distinctions between fixed moral theology based on abstract principles and a "pastoral theology" which the moral counsellor, rather than teach Truths, urges people to do the best that they can do to live a Christian life in their particular circumstances. From there, Just Tom suggests that the Church can welcome a committed gay couple on the basis that they're doing what's right for them, and "in fact it is right."

No, I'm not making it up. That's what Gumbleton said!

Gumbleton then told the audience that Catholic moral teaching, despite what people say, DOES evolve, and he used the teaching on marital intercourse as an example of a gradual reversal of the teaching on the purpose of marital intercourse, tracing the current permissive attitude set forth in Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Generis, authorizing, in certain contexts, the use of what's now known as NFP, back though Pope St. Gregory the Great, who wrote to St. Augustine of Canterbury that persons who performed the marital act should be excluded from sacred places because they, could not perform the act without pleasure, and such pleasure could not be without sin, and that "passion in general makes one less than human."

Gumbleton then addressed how to reconcile such a pastoral approach with scripture and tradition, arguing that the prohibitions such as noted in Leviticus and St. Paul's epistles are few and far between in scripture, and that Jesus Himself never said anything about homosexuality. He also said that the Catholic interpretation of the story of Sodom in Genesis, must not be fundamentalist, but must be constantly reinterpreted and re-explored, and that modern biblical scholars understand that the sin of Sodom wasn't buggery in general, but inhospitality, gang rape, promiscuity, and the same sex activity between heterosexuals [haven't we heard this one before?]. Likewise, Gumbleton pointed out that there were a number of rules that changed regarding polygamy, the penalty for seeing one's father naked, and the ability of a Bishop to marry (he was, at one time, to the be the husband of "one wife"). After taking a potshot at those who accept that the world is only 6,000 years old, Gumbleton quoted somebody as saying that scripture tells one "how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."

As for tradition, Gumbleton spent a lot of time talking about Thomas Aquinas' misogyny. He said that the Aquinas condemned effeminacy in men because he viewed women as inferior, and homosexuality was degrading because it put men in the place of women [lots of gasps and murming around the room at this point], and he said that women never had any rights in the church, even under the 1917 Code of Canon Law, where they were treated like infants. The implication was clear--Tradition is bad and unfashionable, dismiss it entirely when it comes to the question of pastoral care of sodomites.

At last, we were nearing the end of Gumbleton's remarks, in which he broke off from his criticism of tradition and looked to the future. Gumbleton said that the solution to this issue was that everyone must simply accept one another and deepen their understandings of one another, and that homosexuals in particular needed to trust in the mercy and love of Jesus. Gumbleton said that we all needed one another, and that homosexuals shouldn't walk away, because (quoting Always our Children) "in you, God's love is revealed."

Following a short "stretch" break, Gumbleton took several questions, among them:

1. A "formerly gay" man, who recently returned and rediscovered his heterosexuality, asked about how primacy of conscience worked for young people. Could, for instance, a couple of sixteen-year-olds conscientiously copulate? (my paraphrase of a very long and rambling question by a very nervous fellow) Gumbelton's answer was that the danger didn't lie in the exercise of conscience, but in the affluent, material culture in which they lived which didn't back and support covenant relationships. (no, I don't get it either).

2. An angry looking woman with gray feathered hair asked about the direction of the Church. Are we going into a long conservative slide? When will it "turn around" again? Gumbleton stated that the progressive spirit in the Church always ebbed and flowed, and that at times (like now) it seemed that Jesus was asleep in the boat. But the cycle would repeat at some point, he promised.

3. Another person asked about the notion "foundational issues," which put abortion and marriage questions ahead of things like care for the poor on the political agenda. He wanted to know, "how did this distinction come about?" Gumbleton said he had no idea, and (still living in the 1960s as he was) he said that the most important issue was nuclear war, and went off on a tangent about the Cuban missile crisis.

4. Another man who'd obviously been to the seminary (a former seminarian? a current priest in our diocese?) asked about the Doomsday Document, recalling fondly the days of his formation when sexual identity was no obstacle to the priesthood and seminarians were encouraged to discuss such things with their spiritual directors. Did Gumbleton think that the Doomsday Document would chill the relationship between seminarians and their spiritual directors? And if faith is guided by reason, and the psychology industry doesn't consider homosexuality a disorder any more (which is another story), then how can you accept the Church's teaching on homosexuality in the light of reason? I only jotted down the answer to the second question: Gumbleton said that he really couldn't answer, but that moral judgments should be based on scientific understanding, and this was a failure of the Church.

5. The last question was asked by a lesbian who, choking up, lamented the change in Bishops in both the Kansas and Missouri diocese (paraphrasing the opening paragraph of the National Catholic Reporter hit piece in the process). She said she was disheartened to see the programs she participated in changing, and that her mom and dad still thought she was going to hell (could that really be Bishop Finn's fault, already?). Having left the Church for 25 years, she had come back to a welcoming community, but suddenly, she wondered, "Where's the Church I came back to?" Before Gumbleton could speak, someone shouted out "IT'S HERE!" and there was wild clapping from everyone in the room except me. Gumbleton assured here that "It's still here," and noted that there were people who were distressed and suffered forty years ago when the changes started and when Gumbleton and his buddies were having a great time of it all, and now the tables were turned, for a time. Gumbleton here, more than at any time, sounded a little bit like an officer ordering a retreat. He told the woman to be patient, accept the current suffering in the right spirit, and not to give up hope. Gumbleton got very gracious, then, saying that he was willing to suffer a little of the same sort of pain that others suffered back in the aftermath of Vatican II, when he was having a great time. He ended his answer, and his appearance in Kansas City, with a reference to the next day's Gospel reading (which was the one Jesus in the boat during the storm, I guess, in the newfangled Missal), and with an assurance to this woman, and to everyone, that "Ultimately, everyting will be totally OK when He brings the reign of God among us."

At that point, after a wild standing ovation, I made my way out of the building, and raced home to take a shower.


On my way out, I signed up for the "Topics to Go" email list and picked up the "KCSJ Children of God" flyer which I scanned and emailed to you all yesterday. I'll let you know when I start getting emails from these people!

Note, Tuesday PM, June 27: updated to redo formatting as submitted, and made a couple of edits that I hope my correspondent won't mind.


Jovan-Marya Weismiller, T.O.Carm. said...


THanks for posting this scandalous and horrifying look into the mind of the New Church!

tim r. souder said...

Every time I consider my
conscience, my conscience tells
me to consult the Holy Roman
Catholic Church for direction.

I would be deeply ashamed of
holding a position on ANYTHING --
even a small issue -- that was
contrary to the position of the
Church. This kind of disobediance
would keep me up at nights, and
would shortly (if not instantly)
lead to a heartfelt confession
and/or a meeting with a Priest.
I am not at all an unthinking
Catholic; nor am I mentally- or
educationally-challenged. And
anyway, any time I go to the
effort of researching something
the Catholic Church says, I
either find Her to be scripturally
correct, or over-whelmingly
correct in the sense of maturity
and wisdom.

I find disobediance to be a great
hindrance to holiness. If anyone
doubts this point, then read Saint
Faustina's diary -- Saint Faustina
found tremendous favor with the
Lord every time she was obediant
to her Confessor and to Her Church.

Yours in Christ,