Apparently Father James Alison is not alone in his suggestion that Pope Benedict is quietly reshaping Catholic sexual ethics in a direction that will accept same-sex relationships. Over at the Woodchip Gazette, a lengthy piece appears (which includes the quote in my title) that follows roughly the same outlines as Father Alison’s comments, but it is of more recent vintage and takes into account more of Benedict’s pontificate. Also, given that the format is a lengthy exposition and not a Q & A session, it engages the material more fulsomely.
On the face of it, it appears to be entirely independent of Alison’s commentary, which, to me at least, is very interesting. The Chipster, the author’s pen name, is not someone whose work I have read before, but is obviously someone who has read his share of Benedict and has a good sense of the Catholic tradition. That two serious, intelligent Catholics should come to this conclusion independently says something, even if I’m not sure what.
I should like to note that my linking to the post does not constitute an endorsement of such views. I think the author makes some good points and some bad ones. His attack on the natural law, for instance, struck me as less than serious. (In fact, at times it struck me as the kind of caricature I tried to dispel here.) Nevertheless, it poses interesting questions to people on all sides of this debate in the Church. Here is the Chipster’s own description of the thesis he advances:
We here at the chipstack would like to offer a contrary assessment. It appears to us that when the Benedict’s remarks are read — as they must be — within the context of Catholic terminology and tradition, what is astonishing is what the Pope did not say.
Parsed to its essence, the Pope made an effect-based sociological argument which even when indulged was not very convincing. However, he avoided making a sacramental argument which is surprising given that marriage is, after all, considered a sacrament. More surprising still, he refrained from making an argument based either on the so called moral natural law or on Scripture which are precisely the types of “corrective” contributions he has said the Church should make to the discussion of public policy.
When these omissions are read in light of Benedict’s other writings on eros, love and scriptural exegesis, it rather appears that he is fundamentally “rearranging” the Church’s doctrines on sex and, as a correlative consequence, positioning the Church for full acceptance of homosexual unions.
One final thing fascinates me about this piece and leads to my decision to bring it to you. Like Father Alison, whose videos were hardly watched on Youtube, Chipster has not received a single comment.
Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.