Thursday, 7 October 2010

Pearls before swine

Five students at Carleton University were recently arrested for attempting to display graphic anti-abortion posters on the Ottawa campus. Academia suffered a further blow when a Catholic professor at the secular University of Illinois decided to introduce his students to the Catholic position on homosexuality. The students rebelled and the professor was subsequently dismissed. Both events took place at about the same time a gay Rutgers University student committed suicide after being secretly taped, by his room- mates having gay sex in a dorm room. According to US newspapers this is the fifth suicide of a gay person in less than a month. Some people have said that these issues raise serious concerns about how institutions of higher learning need to deal with the highly charged matters. Perhaps so, but I suggest that these issues should raise serious concerns about how religious institutions need to accept responsibility for some of these irresponsible and tragic results!

Pro-life groups have raised the bar, with the support of their religious institutions, to such a level that it has become not only militant but actually anti-Christian. Lawyers representing the students at Carleton University say they will defend their cases under ‘freedom of speech’ act. But what exactly are they defending other than the right to earn a buck? The shock value of the pornographic display of bloodied fetus is hardly going to attract people they are hoping to convince. If such displays were indeed effective; wars would have ended at the first sight of blood.

As for the professor at the University of Illinois, this was simply a case of the student teaching the teacher – Love is greater than hatred! Bigotry, regardless of its support from a religious institution, has no place in this world. It is time to stop ‘scapegoating’ and take responsibilities for our actions and words. As a (former) Catholic I call on Pope Benedict XVI to repent for his misplaced stance on both homosexuality and abortion by accepting responsibility for the untold pain and suffering he continues to bring to bear on its victims.

In recent days I have received a considerable amount of criticism from people who still want to defend their religious institution on all costs. Not surprisingly they all speak with the same rigid and puritanical tone, more defiantly known as absolutism. Absolutist see everything in black and white. Here follows an example based on an the findings of a well known Catholic Professor of Ethics: A young woman is bi-polar, manic depressive and her psychotic condition pregnant in spite of her best efforts. Lithium would devastate the cardiovascular system of the fetus and probably already has. She aborts.

And here as the response to that case from a Catholic absolutist: Caution – graphic description

Abortion is never permitted. If the fetus dies as a result of the chemo, then the principle of double-effect comes into play. It is permissible to give chemo to a pregnant woman as long as she is informed. In the case of uterine cancer, it is also licit to remove the diseased organ (resulting in the undesired but subsequent death of the fetus)

The Catholic professor prefaced his defense for abortion in such difficult cases as follows:

Moral matters are complicated. As Thomas Aquinas said moral matters involve "an infinity of diverse circumstances" (quasi infinitae diversitates). Take abortion, for example. Now there is a complicated issue full of "diverse circumstances" and it is wise as the bishops say not to imagine that bishops are experts on all such matters or "even that it is their mission." Playing at being infallible is not in the bishops' job description.

It is recognized that when issues such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, etc. are presented in an unfiltered fashion on a public forum they are likely to provoke a variety of unpredictable results. In that case presenters must take in consideration Jesus’ warning ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. Matthew 7:6

My understanding of this challenging statement is simply this:

When Jesus spoke to the people of his time and culture he did so using terms that they as landowners, vintners, farmers etc. would have been completely familiar with. Hence, he spoke of vineyards, fruit, seeds, land, pigs, swine etc. The word swine today is often used in derogative terms. However, in the time of Jesus, a largely agricultural society, would have understood swine strictly as animals which will eat anything that is tossed to them. So it is important to understand this passage not in literal terms but rather in an interpretive and historical fashion. When Jesus said “Do not give what is holy to dogs, etc. he is reminding his audience that not everyone is ready to hear the message of forgiveness, etc., without a prior understanding of God’s unconditional love.

Fundamentalist and absolutist have had their day - and the only way,beyond is to replace it with the unconditional love God which rains upon all.

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