SPRING 1998. YOU SHALL NOT STEAL
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We are pleased to welcome three new members to the Board of Editors of the Anglo-American Communio: Erasmo Leiva-Merikakas, Ignatius Institute, University of San Francisco (Literature and theology); William Portier, Mount St. Mary’s College (Chair of Theology); Robin Darling Young, The Catholic University of America (Greek Patristics). These three replace Bishop John Sheets, whose retirement as a Communio board member (and as Auxiliary Bishop of Fort Wayne/South Bend) we noted in an earlier number; and Fathers Brian Daley and Roch Kereszty, whose terms as board members expired at the end of 1997. We are grateful for the thoughtful and conscientious assistance of these men for the past six years, and are happy to report that they will remain as Consulting Editors (in which capacity we plan to continue exploiting their generosity and theological acumen!).
The Spring issue continues Communio’s ongoing reflection on the Ten Commandments and focuses on the seventh commandment, “You shall not steal.” Our point of departure is the specifically Christian meaning of property and God’s original gift of the earth to the whole of humankind. The Catechism states this forcefully and quotes St. John Chrysostom: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”
We have reprinted a selection from St. John Chrysostom’s sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man. Vincent Carraud looks at how the Gospel presents theft and how Christ himself “will come like a thief.” D. Stephen Long shows how charity transforms the natural order and makes sharing with one’s neighbor a sharing in divine life.
In a series of articles that examines the profoundly religious nature of humanity, both the specificity of Christianity and its relationship to other religions become apparent.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, discussing interreligious dialogue and Jewish-Christian relations, sees the search for truth—and not simply pragmatic technique—as the concrete source of unity. In a talk given to university students, Msgr. Luigi Giussani explores the meaning of “authentic religiosity” and shows how secularism (“if God does exist, he doesn’t matter”) ultimately leads to the destruction of authentic humanism. Christianity can only present its case, its originality, against this background. David L. Schindler, in a talk given at the United Nations, presents Giusanni’s The Religious Sense and defends the dramatic nature of reason and freedom: truth can only be discovered when we are passionately engaged. Janine Langan, seeing through the false ideologies and myths of our own time, underlines the importance of revelation as the story of humanity’s encounter with God. The Catholic college has a unique role in introducing its students to their history and the communion to which they belong.
Giorgio Buccellati, in an original manner, reflects on the correlation between Christ’s Incarnation and Ascension. In a witness that led to his martyrdom, St. Stephen claimed that the mortal Jesus shares in God’s glory. An authentic devotion to Christ in his humanity is not just a historical memory but is directed towards a living person. The topic of Prof. Buccellati’s article on the Ascension corresponds to the liturgical season.
In the Spirit and History section, Francis Martin reflects on the way in which the Christian event is mediated through the Gospel narrative. As an example, he offers a spiritual understanding of St. Matthew’s account of the healing of the Centurion’s boy.
Robin Darling Young brings out two of the prominent characteristics of discipleship in the early Church: the first Christians were acutely aware of how they stood apart from the secular world and how their entire lives needed to be ordered and transformed by their faith.
Finally, we offer two articles concerning the sexual-gender difference in human love: Bishop Angelo Scola engages this issue in terms of the theological-anthropological foundations of John Paul II’s teaching on the dignity and mission of women; while Livio Melina treats the problem of the homosexual inclination as an “objective disorder.” The importance of the question of sexual-gender difference has been highlighted in recent months, with the 1997 document by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family, “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.” The purpose of the message is “to reach out to parents who are trying to cope with the discovery of homosexuality in a child who is an adolescent or an adult.” Distinguishing between homosexual orientation and homogenital behavior, the message statement rightly emphasizes both that homosexual persons retain their inherent dignity due to creation in God’s image, and that only homogenital behavior can be considered immoral or sinful in the proper sense, because immorality presupposes freedom of choice.
At the same time, the document does not mention a third element that has been emphasized in recent statements by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and indeed is now included in the Corrigenda in the official Latin edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. par. 2358): namely, that the homosexual inclination (propensio) is ”objectively disordered (obiective inordinata).” “Objectively disordered” does not mean that the homosexual inclination as such is sinful. What it means, consistent with Veritatis Splendor’s argument in response to the charge of “physicalism” and John Paul II’s understanding of the body as “nuptial,” is that the body as body is already a bearer of spiritual-human order, and hence that the body’s basic sexual orientation is never simply “pre-moral,” or morally neutral.
To be sure, the pastoral statement by the NCCB Committee claims no systematic doctrinal completeness in its discussion of the issue of homosexuality; and there is much that needs further argument in terms of the complex interrelation between faith and the findings of science in such matters. But this seems hardly to justify the Committee’s failure even to mention the position of the Vatican documents noted above, regarding the “objective disorder” of the homosexual orientation. Indeed, such a failure risks reinforcing the very ambiguity regarding the (putative) “neutrality” of the homosexual condition which the Vatican documents mean to remove.
The Committee’s omission seems extraordinary—in view of its intention to speak in an “official” capacity (that is, with the authority of a committee established by the Bishops’ Conference, even if without the support of a direct vote by the Bishops themselves).
It should go without saying that we intend here not at all to deny but strongly to endorse the need to draw attention again and again to the inherent dignity of every person, regardless of sexual orientation. But emphasizing this inherent dignity is hardly at odds with accepting the Catechism’s claim that creaturely love has an objective order or structure that is revealed already in the body. The pastoral message itself affirms the characteristic Catholic conviction that “truth and love are not opposed,” indeed that “they are inseparably joined and rooted in one person, Jesus Christ.” There is in any case much at stake in securing the integrity of the love proper to marriage and family, which after all is the basic human community. The purpose of the Scola and Melina articles, then, in their different contexts, is to offer theological-anthropological reflection on the roots of the issue raised here.
WMS and DLS
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