Tag Archives: Sexual Ethics

Dr. Jack Dominian MBE, 25 August 1929-11 August 2014

Martin Pendergast

An overview of Dr. Jack Dominian’s lifetime’s work, showing how experience of people’s real life problems challenged the very foundations of Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage, was published in 1995. Jack Dominian – Lay Prophet? by Jock Dalrymple, traced how Dominian’s radical work on marriage confronted official teaching and illuminated people’s lives. At Jack’s funeral in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, 28 August 2014, it was proposed that any future editions should now have the question-mark removed! Continue reading Dr. Jack Dominian MBE, 25 August 1929-11 August 2014

Catholic Bishops’ “Working Document” on Marriage, Family

In preparation for the October “Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family”, the Vatican has released an “Instrumentum Laboris” (or working document), bringing together the submissions from national bishops’ conferences on their findings from the global consultation on marriage and family that was conducted during 2013. The actual conduct and quality of that consultation varied widely across the world. In the best examples, such as the Swiss, it was conducted by expert practitioners in social research. In the worst, lay people were not in fact consulted at all, with the bishops alone responding on their behalf, in consultation only with their priests. In between, bishops simply asked the people to answer the questions that had been prepared by the Vatican, questions that were not designed for lay people, and that many people in fact found confusing or impossible to answer. Nevertheless, Catholics around the world responded with enthusiasm, and questionnaires were completed in vast numbers.

bishops

When the bishops in some countries began to release their own results, it soon became clear what was already known from prior secular research: in general terms, Catholics as a whole simply do not agree with or comply with Catholic sexual teaching, on a wide range of issues, and particularly not on contraception.

The working document just released, largely corroborates that view – but draws from it the rather simplistic conclusion that the reason is that Catholics don’t understand the teaching, and that the Church must find ways to present its teaching more effectively. There is no recognition at all, that the real problem could be quite different – that perhaps there might be flaws in the teaching itself.

For the full text, see the Vatican website:

For news reports and commentary on the document, see:

Catholid Priest Timothy Radcliffe’s Submission to the Cof E Inquiry into Human Sexuality.

The Pilling Report on the commission of the same name, purports to be an inquiry into “human sexuality”, but in practice, it deals primarily with one part of that rich diversity of what is meant by sexuality – that is, gay and lesbian sexuality.

The inquiry heard extensive submissions from a wide range of groups and individuals, reflecting a full range of opinion. One of these came from a senior Catholic priest, Fr Timothy Radcliffe, who was once the worldwide Master of the Dominican order.  With his permission, we are able to publish here, the text of his submission.

The Anglican Commission on Sexual Ethics

I feel very honoured to have this chance to share some thoughts on sexual ethics from a Catholic perspective. I must confess that I also feel rather unqualified.  I can make no claim to being a moral theologian.

It is frequently asserted that Christians are obsessed with sex, and with what we are or are not forbidden to do. But for most of the last two thousand years, Christianity has neither been especially fixated on sex, nor has it thought about it in terms of rules. Jesus says little about sexual ethics, except on divorce. Nor was it a central concern in the Middle Ages. Think of the two great classics of Medieval Christendom, the Summa Theologica of Aquinas and Dante’s Divina Commedia. Thomas had a positive view of our passions, including sexual desire. They are basically sound and good. They can go a bit astray and need education and the purification of grace. But sexual passion is good, and belongs to our journey towards God, the one whom we most deeply desire. Aquinas hardly ever refers to the commandments. Sexual morality is about becoming virtuous, not about obeying rules.

In Dante’s Inferno the top circles of Hell, where the punishments are lightest, are reserved for people who got carried away by their passions. They desired the good, but desired it wrongly. The really grave sins, for which people get a serious roasting, are telling lies, being violent and, worst of all, the betrayal of friends.

And it is only with the Reformation that we see the Ten Commandments placed at the centre of the moral life. The medieval stress on holiness as sharing the life of God is replaced with a new stress on obedience to rules. We see the rise of what Charles Taylor calls ‘the culture of control.[1]’ There is the emergence of the centralised state, absolute monarchs, standing armies, a police force, and the exponential growth of law. Human behaviour must be regulated and controlled. Sex must be disciplined!

I suspect that it is only with the Enlightenment that one sees the rise of our modern obsession with the regulation of sex. For example, it was at the beginning of the 18th century, according to Thomas Laquer that people began to worry in a big way about masturbation. There is a new hysteria about solitary sex.[2] What are people up to behind closed doors? So my suspicion is that both this obsession with sex and a stress on rules both relatively late and alien to traditional Christianity. Continue reading Catholid Priest Timothy Radcliffe’s Submission to the Cof E Inquiry into Human Sexuality.

Catholic Theologians’ Discussion on Sexual Morality (Video)

From Catholic for Choice, an excellent 45 minute film on Catholics and Sexual Morality.

 

Watch it at http://catholicsforchoice.org/secrethistory.asp

 

“The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics” features interviews with leading experts in the fields of theology, philosophy and ethics who examine Catholic traditions, teachings and beliefs on the following key issues:

Abortion & Contraception
HIV & AIDS
Sex & Sexuality
New Reproductive Health Technologies
Religion in Public Policy

Leading American Catholic theologians take part in this discussion: Mary Hunt, Dan Maguire, Anthony Padovano, Rosemary Radford Reuther, and including British-born Sheila Briggs, now working in the USA.

The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics from Catholics for Choice on Vimeo.

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