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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why it's more fun to write about Anglicans

You might wonder why I'm blogging about the Anglicans when I could be writting about the Pope and the World Youth Day in Australia. OK - here's something - a post by James Martin SJ at America magazine's blog takes up the topic of the Pope apologizing to Australian abuse victims - Benedict Apologizes Again.

What was especially interesting to me, though, was a comment someone made on the post, and Fr. Martin's reply. The person who made the comment, expressed the view that the Pope had been so on-the-nose in his assessment of what had caused the clergy sex abuse in the first place .... the perils of proportionalism. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about proportionalism ....

1960s Proportionalism is a consequentialist attempt to develop Natural Moral Law, a catholic deontological absolutist theory by Thomas Aquinas. The moral guidelines set down by the Roman Catholic teachings of Natural Moral Law are mostly upheld in that intrinsically evil acts are still classified so. In certain situations where there is a balance of ontic goods and ontic evils (ontic evils are those which are not immoral but merely those which cause pain or suffering, ontic goods are those which alieviate pain or suffering) Proportionalism can be used to determine the right course of action by weighing up the good and the necessary evil caused by the action. As a result, Proportionalism aims to choose the lesser of evils. Pope John Paul II condemned 1960s Proportionalism is his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.

And here is what Benedict said, as quoted in the comment ....

We have to reflect on what was insufficient in our education, in our teaching in recent decades. There was, in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the idea of proportionalism in ethics: it held that nothing is bad in itself, but only in proportion to others. With proportionalism, it was possible to think for some subjects – one could also be paedophilia – that in some proportion they could be a good thing. Now, it must be stated clearly, this was never Catholic doctrine. There are things which are always bad. - ZENIT

What is so weird about all this is Benedict's idea that pedophilia is a condition created in any person when they rationally consider the pros and cons of abusing a child and decides that the pros are proportioanlly larger. Fr. Martin points this out in his reply to the earlier comment .....

Re: proportionalism as the "root" of pedophilia.

First, I can't imagine any Catholic moral theologians, even "proportionalists" approving of pedophilia. Proportionalism, as I understand it, is a school of moral theology that seeks to incorporate the context of the environment into a moral decision. In these cases, quite obviously, the context of the crime of pedophilia would necessarily take into account the lifelong damage done to the minor, and would therefore be rejected pedophilia as, obviously, immoral.

Second, I can't imagine priests reading a proportionalist text and then deciding to abuse a child as a result. (The same argument was made against "liberal" Catholicism during the height of the abuse scandal, as if attending a Voice of the Faithful meeting made one a pedophile.) While the priest's overall environment (loneliness, access to minors, etc.) can contribute to the incidence of pedophilia it is, at heart, a psychological problem deeply rooted in a person's sexual and emotional makeup. (See Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea's book, "Predatory Priests, Silenced Victims.") Also, many of the bishops who reassigned these pedophiles, shuttling them from parish to parish, were orthodox prelates who took a dim view of proportionalism.

Ironically, those who attested that the crisis was primarily about "fidelity" failed to see that many of the bishops who were directly responsible for the crisis were appointed precisely because of their "fidelity" to doctrine. (Was there any bishop more "orthodox" than Cardinal Bernard Law?) If anyone was using "context" to their advantage, it was these bishops, whose "context" was their own security. Moral theologians, as I see it, are not to blame; the bishops who reassigned these men are.

Posted By James Martin, SJ | 2008-07-15 12:13:06.0



Well said, Fr. Martin.


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2 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

It's frightening how Benedict keeps missing the point, and what people are angry about. The laity are well aware that these pedophiles aren't well and can't control their impulses. It's their superiors who should have known better whom they are incensed with.

many of the bishops who reassigned these pedophiles, shuttling them from parish to parish, were orthodox prelates who took a dim view of proportionalism.

Ironically, those who attested that the crisis was primarily about "fidelity" failed to see that many of the bishops who were directly responsible for the crisis were appointed precisely because of their "fidelity" to doctrine. (Was there any bishop more "orthodox" than Cardinal Bernard Law?) If anyone was using "context" to their advantage, it was these bishops, whose "context" was their own security.


Right on the nosey, Fr. Martin.

3:52 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff :)

6:31 PM  

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