Brett Interviews Father James Alison: Part II

Brett Interviews Father James Alison: Part II March 16, 2012

I am pleased to present the second part of my interview with Father James Alison here on Vox Nova.  If inquiring minds are wondering, there will be four parts.  (Part I is available here.)  Part I was a kind of introduction to James Alison as a person and a theologian.  Here, in Part II, we begin our discussion of questions relating to homosexuality and the Catholic Church.  It may be worth noting, for readers who have not seen Part I, where I myself stand on these questions.  I consider myself to be sympathetic to the plight of gay Catholics and interested in hearing their stories and concerns, but am not convinced by arguments that Church teaching on homosexual acts should be changed.  I plan to write a summary piece detailing my own views once this series has run its course.  Again, my questions are in italics.  Father Alison’s responses are in normal text.

1. In reading you, I find you to be a very traditional theologian. You remind me of Joseph Ratzinger because both of you manage to say very traditional things in very fresh ways. But on the question of homosexual acts, you disagree with the teaching of the Church. Can you tell us what you believe about the morality of homosexual acts?

Thanks for the flattering comparison! But, to the area of our difference: I think you are mistaking me for a moral theologian, or someone who is professionally interested in sexual ethics. I’m honestly not sure that I’ve ever tried to talk as a theologian about “homosexual acts” per se. My disagreement with the current teaching of the Roman Congregations is about what I consider to be their fundamentally flawed premise of the objectively disordered nature of the inclination. I don’t think it’s even worth beginning to talk about what acts might be appropriate before there is a recognition that we are talking about people whose way of being cannot properly be deduced negatively from other people’s way of being. To do so would be like discussing different moves within a game of rugby while agreeing to hold the discussion under an enforced misapprehension that those moves are somehow defective forms of soccer playing.

2. As a traditionally-minded theologian, how do you think your views line up with the tradition on this question? Do you see your views as radically different from the tradition or as a slight modification that maintains the basic principles of Catholic sexual ethics?

Again, you will have to ask someone else about the sexual ethics angle. I think that my views on Original Sin, Grace, and the real, but difficult nature of we humans actually being able to learn something true about being human that we didn’t know before, are very traditional. And yet the consequences of this traditional view are really quite radical, in that they oblige us to face up to a question for which we have no precedent in the tradition. Given the most traditional Catholic understanding of the relationship between nature and grace, I wonder whether it is genuinely possible to defend the following thesis: “The comparatively recent human realization that there is no objective psychological or physiological disorder that is intrinsic to people who we now call gay, makes no difference to our understanding of the forms of flourishing to which such people are called by virtue of being what they are”. But that seems to me to be the real question here: is it compatible with Catholic faith to claim that an authentic human discovery of this sort makes no difference to the shape of the flourishing of the people involved?

3. How do questions about homosexuality and homosexual acts relate to other issues in Catholic sexual ethics? In your mind would it be possible, for example, to change Church teaching about homosexual acts while maintaining Church teaching regarding contraception?

The question about acts I’ll leave to those whose field of expertise it is, for reasons already mentioned. But as an interested outsider to straight issues, it would seem to me that the recognition of the non-pathological nature of the minority variant in the human condition which you call homosexuality (I dislike the word myself) does inevitably have knock-on effects on the self-understanding of those of the majority condition, and on how they understand the relationship between the unitive and the procreative dimensions of their loving. It would be very interesting indeed to hear a defence of it making no difference at all.

4. Many Catholics who would be interested to hear more about how the Church could accommodate homosexual persons get nervous because advocates of same-sex relationships and activity tend to have dissenting views on many other questions in sexual ethics. How do you feel about Church teaching on questions like pornography, cohabitation and extra-(including pre-)marital sex, masturbation, contraception and abortion? What are the implications of the fact that many who support a change in Church teaching on homosexual acts would also support change in these other areas?

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to step outside the framing of this question, since it seems to me that to indulge it would be unhealthy. There is an underlying question here, however, which seems to me a very important one, and I’m going to have a shot at saying something about it. This is about the relationship between Catholics, our Teacher, and our teachers. More and more, I sense a need for us, as Catholics, to be able to spell out some of the dimensions of this relationship.

Spending time, as I do, with people on both sides of the Reformation divide, I find strict parallels between the temptations to which either side is prone. Protestantism is tempted to Bibliolatry, and Catholicism is tempted to Ecclesiolatry. Both are forms of idolatry which involve some sort of grasping of security where it is not to be found. This grasping ends up by evacuating the object grasped (whether the Bible, or the Church) of meaning, turning it instead into a projection of the one grasping. The non-idolatrous approach is when we allow ourselves to be reached and held by a living act of communication from One who is not on the same level as either Bible or Church, but of whose self-disclosure those realities can most certainly become signs, of varying degrees of subtlety, and complex normativity. In both the Protestant and the Catholic cases, a sure sign of a pattern of desire locked in grasping is the speed with which we collapse into invidious comparisons such that we acquire our identities over against others in our own group, rather than receiving them together patiently from the one calling us into being.

As a Catholic I am fully committed to the notion that, the Word having become flesh, then the living act of communication is an ecclesial one, made available through bodily signs. In addition, I take it for granted that the Church is prior to me, and that if something is Church teaching, it is true. The presumption is on there being some sort of truthfulness at work in the stated teaching until it becomes clear that this is not the case. The real question for me, as a Catholic trying to think towards the future is this: we know that we have only one Magister, the Incarnate Word of God, and that the authentic teaching office in the Church is not above, but serves, this Living Word. Furthermore, this Living Word has chosen to address us at a level of fraternal equality, making of us his brothers and sisters who have only one Father, God, and are not to call anyone else our father. So as Catholics we are all, at the fraternal level, undergoing the act of communication of the Incarnate word of God, teaching us immediately and in a voice which we know and love. While this teaching is immediate, from the Holy Spirit which has been poured into our hearts, we do have, strictly at the fraternal level, alongside us, not from above us, and as a gift of service to us, prompts from that teaching, and more or less time-sensitive verbal framings of it, mediated to us through those who have been consecrated sacramental signs as Bishops, with a special place in that prompting for Peter’s successor as Bishop of Rome. This is a highly sensitive eco-system of communication, one whose salvific flow can very easily be distorted by idolatry.

And here the shocking reality of the last decades intrudes. How do we hold fast to the long, slow, rich experience of Jesus teaching us in and as Church as we become aware of how often the consecrated sacramental signs seem to be, if anything, even more riven by the spirit of this age than we? Even more liable to allowing the richness of the faith to become secondary to culture war imperatives, institutional self-interest and the search for corporate approval? And please notice that this observation is independent of which side of the culture wars anyone is on! One of the things that is coming upon us, and which I don’t see us being happy to take on board, is the realization that teaching in the Church is a very rare and wonderful gift in which a person who knows him or herself approved by the only One whose approval counts, is able to induct people into living out what is true starting from the teacher’s own path of having been illuminated, converted, and convinced by the One who is True. More often than this, we get instead those whose sense of approval seems limited to the juridical, scrambling to keep at least that juridical approval alive by repeating, and demanding consent to, a priori positions, while constantly looking over their shoulder. The reason that I say that I don’t see us being happy to take this on board is that it leads to the uncomfortable realization that there is no such thing as being taught, and thus being faithful to the Church’s teaching, that does not include our resting for ourselves, quietly, in the presence of the One who loves us and gave himself for us, and from that non-invidious and non-rivalrous space, making the effort to test all things, and to hold fast to what is good. I think that re-imagining the ecclesial shape of Christ teaching in our midst, exploring the sort of act of communication genuine Divine teaching is, and understanding better the relationship between the Teacher, those taught, and those charged to be signs of truthfulness, is going to be one of the real challenges of the next generation.

5. Are there any things that the Catholics who support your view on homosexuality do that drive you crazy? Do you think that some efforts towards change are counterproductive? What do you recommend instead?

Yes. The silence of those in positions of influence in the Church who know, or have a strong suspicion, that being gay is a non-pathological minority variant in the human condition drives me crazy, far crazier than I am driven by any loud-mouthed purveyor of hateful nonsense. Of course I also think that many of the kinds of protests, demonstrations, kiss-ins and so on that we see surrounding Church events in this sphere are counterproductive (though these are only rarely organized and carried out by gay Catholics). Such things feed ecclesiastical delusions of holy victimhood. They effectively give Church leaders an excuse to put off the slow, humble task of beginning to imagine forms of truthfulness of speech. Few people on either side of such rows seem to have enough faith to be able to imagine receiving an identity peacefully, rather than grabbing one through mutually convenient provocation. I don’t really have any recommendations instead, at the tactical level. Only prayer and the Holy Spirit can lead those who are afraid to tell the truth into the awkward path of learning to do so.


Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of three (so far) and husband of one. He is the co-author of How Far Can We Go? A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating and the author of Can Catholics Evangelicals Agree about Purgatory and the Last Judgment?

"If I am only now scaring you, I need to bring my A game. :-)"

Holding Hands During the Our Father: ..."
"I've lived through this in another direction: a pastor who hectored his congregation to join ..."

Holding Hands During the Our Father: ..."
"Given what some of the Father of the Church said (I am thinking it was ..."

Holding Hands During the Our Father: ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Here is my favorite part:

    “Are there any things that the Catholics who support your view on homosexuality do that drive you crazy? Do you think that some efforts towards change are counterproductive? What do you recommend instead?

    Yes. The silence of those in positions of influence in the Church who know, or have a strong suspicion, that being gay is a non-pathological minority variant in the human condition drives me crazy, far crazier than I am driven by any loud-mouthed purveyor of hateful nonsense. ”

    I would like to comment on this back-and-forth on the horizon of the clearly changed legal landscape today with the Dharun Ravi verdict. Let us stipulate first that having a belief about anything is never to be violated by others. But all members of society are responsible for how their belief is deployed in the society. If that belief is metamorphosed into a sort of intimidation then it is clear after today that it is not going to be legally tolerated. This is where the Alison’s sense about those keep silent in the face of overwhelming institutional
    rhetoric comes in. This is a practical question for catholic schools with gay kids. Distinguo, in the future, it will be one thing to teach in a theology class or religious studies class the RC church’s position on the gay issues. Trying to enforce that view against gay kids is clearly going to be seen as a form of intimidation, and rightfully so.

    The more perplexing question will be also, something hinted at in Alison’s comment above. In what sense are those who try portray the RC Church, which has been an unceasing enemy of gay rights, as counterintuitively somehow a champion of gay rights, or of course, alternatively by casuistical framing, “the rights of homosexuals”. This de facto form of “silence” about the obvious political and societal facts of the RC church’s positions could also potentially be construed as a form of intimidation. That is if it is used to suggest, for instance to a young person (in a “pastoral situation”) that their justified rejection of x, y, or z church position is actually a misunderstanding on their part, and thus forming another type of opprobrium against the young person who has already been victimized.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Here is my favorite part:

    “Are there any things that the Catholics who support your view on homosexuality do that drive you crazy? Do you think that some efforts towards change are counterproductive? What do you recommend instead?

    Yes. The silence of those in positions of influence in the Church who know, or have a strong suspicion, that being gay is a non-pathological minority variant in the human condition drives me crazy, far crazier than I am driven by any loud-mouthed purveyor of hateful nonsense. ”

    I would like to comment on this back-and-forth on the horizon of the clearly changed legal landscape today with the Dharun Ravi verdict. Let us stipulate first that having a belief about anything is never to be violated by others. But all members of society are responsible for how their belief is deployed in the society. If that belief is metamorphosed into a sort of intimidation then it is clear after today that it is not going to be legally tolerated. This is where the Alison’s sense about those keep silent in the face of overwhelming institutional
    rhetoric comes in. This is a practical question for catholic schools with gay kids. Distinguo, in the future, it will be one thing to teach in a theology class or religious studies class the RC church’s position on the gay issues. Trying to enforce that view against gay kids is clearly going to be seen as a form of intimidation, and rightfully so.

    The more perplexing question will be also, something hinted at in Alison’s comment above. In what sense are those who try portray the RC Church, which has been an unceasing enemy of gay rights, as counterintuitively somehow a champion of gay rights, or of course, alternatively by casuistical framing, “the rights of homosexuals”. This de facto form of “silence” about the obvious political and societal facts of the RC church’s positions could also potentially be construed as a form of intimidation. That is if it is used to suggest, for instance to a young person (in a “pastoral situation”) that their justified rejection of x, y, or z church position is actually a misunderstanding on their part, and thus forming another type of opprobrium against the young person who has already been victimized.

  • “Protestantism is tempted to Bibliolatry, and Catholicism is tempted to Ecclesiolatry. Both are forms of idolatry which involve some sort of grasping of security where it is not to be found. This grasping ends up by evacuating the object grasped (whether the Bible, or the Church) of meaning, turning it instead into a projection of the one grasping. The non-idolatrous approach is when we allow ourselves to be reached and held by a living act of communication from One who is not on the same level as either Bible or Church, but of whose self-disclosure those realities can most certainly become signs, of varying degrees of subtlety, and complex normativity. In both the Protestant and the Catholic cases, a sure sign of a pattern of desire locked in grasping is the speed with which we collapse into invidious comparisons such that we acquire our identities over against others in our own group, rather than receiving them together patiently from the one calling us into being.”

    Did I just fall into a time warp back into the 1970s?

    • He’s wrong, of course. The true fundamentalism of the Catholic Church is historical. That is why most apologetics these days has to do with proving “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” is the same as what is being taught today, even if it really did change. Plus ça change and all that. It would be an interesting thought experiment to stipulate that some events are more necessary than others. For example, could it not be argued that it is more essential to the Catholic Faith that Peter died in Rome than that Jesus was physically raised from the dead? Indeed, I would venture some modernist theologians could swing incense at that position. For if Jesus did not really rise, or died as a man and rose as a community (which is something more along the lines of what I believe), the Magisterium founded on Peter’s historical and, dare I say, real presence in Rome would fix that problem somehow, constructing all sorts of bridges towards continuity, etc. In the age of magisterial maximalism, when a bunch of Vatican bureaucrats feel comfortable commenting on everything from matters of commerce to the bedroom, the justification as to who has the final word on things is most crucial, and the legitimacy of any claim to power is ultimately historical. In the regime of Magisterium making truth (hey, whatever happened to all of those definitive pronouncements such as the Syllabus of Errors?) at least a few historical facts need to be posited in order for the whole thing to work.

      • Kerberos

        “The true fundamentalism of the Catholic Church is historical. That is why most apologetics these days has to do with proving “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” is the same as what is being taught today, even if it really did change.”

        ## The CC is Fundamentalist in many ways. That kind of apologetics mistakes what Calvinist theology calls historic faith, for Christian faith – it has the effect of treating the Living & active Saviour as a dead guy rotting in a tomb somewhere.

        The Resurrection is a real event, but is not historical, any more than God is historical. Apologetics of this horrible rationalist kind reduces the Supernatural God to the natural order. That has nothing to do with faith.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        El Pelon,

        I understand where you are coming from with your comment on “fundamentalism”. But that is a word so watered down these days as to drown any real insight it seems. Your assessment of the vibe amy be right, but historically the Catholic Church has been almost NEVER capable of a fundamentalist phenomenon. In fact the epiphanies of that phenomenon are limited perhaps even to the papacy of Adrian VI, and that was a total disaster and they got rid of him asap. In fact the whole character the the ancient institution is in the opposite direction. It is more like the old horror movie The Blob that seeks to embrace and swallow everything. Hardly a fundamentalist impulse!

      • It is more like the old horror movie The Blob that seeks to embrace and swallow everything. Hardly a fundamentalist impulse!

        That is both the weirdest and most apt description of the Church at its worst that I think I’ve ever read!

      • If anything, the Church has more temptations towards fundamentalism now than every before, precisely because the practice of the faith is more alien to the common person in the pew now that ever before. And I am not talking about morality, because that never changes, and Americans like to jump to moralistic conclusions because they are all closeted Puritans. I am speaking about the Church governing the rhythms of life with a cycle of feasts and ceremonies that determine the consciousness of the people, even if they treat the words of the hierarchy with an often not so benign neglect. In the absence of such an idea of faith as a collective way of life, the only resort is to impose certain inorganic and alien attitudes and practices on a nearly hostile culture. That is really what happened in many Muslim countries in the face of Western imperialism: they turned a bunch of lukewarm semi-pagans into jihadists. And on another level, that is what EWTN, George Weigel, and many voices on the Catholic Internet are. They have the same recipe for religious purity as the Taliban, and are really no fun at parties.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        El Pelon,

        Ah, now I see where this is going….EWTN. Well, that is super-duper interesting culturally, because you are RIGHT on that one. EWTN is 100% a fundamentalist sound-bite summary of the Catholic Church. But there is the rub. Does that sound-bite summary have anything to do with the Church or with the medium. The medium is the message, hon. (Btw, case on point: I actually saw a sort of documentary the other day on EWTN about the Spanish Reconquista, which was filled with the most disgusting anti-semitic tropes including saying Isabel thought conversos were a Fifth Column. So their fundamentalism reaches to actually buying into ridiculous justifications for genocide a long time ago, instead of just saying it was simple religious prejudice, which itself is a hoary trope of modern fundamentalists: they are always fair and balanced even when they are committing pogroms)

        So I think you have brilliantly closed this circle El Pelon. In fact what is happening is that EWTN has been inordinately influential both on those outside the Church, who assume that is what Catholics are thinking nowadays (a mistake I have made and am likely to make again for polemical purposes). But also influential on even Bishops who very likely feel they will look like wimps if they are less strict that Sister Flora on TV.

        But that only throws in sharper relief the essential impossibility of the massive organization having a fundamentalist impulse. Once again, its tendencies are all-consuming. Even with B16’s prattle about a “smaller church” absolutely nothing has been done to change the all-consuming ethos. In fact a number of dramatic moves have been made towards other churches which show the opposite direction.

        The moral of the story is, as parents used to say, don’t believe what you see on TV.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Turmarion,

        Thanks, and I guess it is better that they resemble The Blob than Mothra!

  • “Protestantism is tempted to Bibliolatry, and Catholicism is tempted to Ecclesiolatry. Both are forms of idolatry which involve some sort of grasping of security where it is not to be found. This grasping ends up by evacuating the object grasped (whether the Bible, or the Church) of meaning, turning it instead into a projection of the one grasping. The non-idolatrous approach is when we allow ourselves to be reached and held by a living act of communication from One who is not on the same level as either Bible or Church, but of whose self-disclosure those realities can most certainly become signs, of varying degrees of subtlety, and complex normativity. In both the Protestant and the Catholic cases, a sure sign of a pattern of desire locked in grasping is the speed with which we collapse into invidious comparisons such that we acquire our identities over against others in our own group, rather than receiving them together patiently from the one calling us into being.”

    Did I just fall into a time warp back into the 1970s?

    • He’s wrong, of course. The true fundamentalism of the Catholic Church is historical. That is why most apologetics these days has to do with proving “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” is the same as what is being taught today, even if it really did change. Plus ça change and all that. It would be an interesting thought experiment to stipulate that some events are more necessary than others. For example, could it not be argued that it is more essential to the Catholic Faith that Peter died in Rome than that Jesus was physically raised from the dead? Indeed, I would venture some modernist theologians could swing incense at that position. For if Jesus did not really rise, or died as a man and rose as a community (which is something more along the lines of what I believe), the Magisterium founded on Peter’s historical and, dare I say, real presence in Rome would fix that problem somehow, constructing all sorts of bridges towards continuity, etc. In the age of magisterial maximalism, when a bunch of Vatican bureaucrats feel comfortable commenting on everything from matters of commerce to the bedroom, the justification as to who has the final word on things is most crucial, and the legitimacy of any claim to power is ultimately historical. In the regime of Magisterium making truth (hey, whatever happened to all of those definitive pronouncements such as the Syllabus of Errors?) at least a few historical facts need to be posited in order for the whole thing to work.

      • Kerberos

        “The true fundamentalism of the Catholic Church is historical. That is why most apologetics these days has to do with proving “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” is the same as what is being taught today, even if it really did change.”

        ## The CC is Fundamentalist in many ways. That kind of apologetics mistakes what Calvinist theology calls historic faith, for Christian faith – it has the effect of treating the Living & active Saviour as a dead guy rotting in a tomb somewhere.

        The Resurrection is a real event, but is not historical, any more than God is historical. Apologetics of this horrible rationalist kind reduces the Supernatural God to the natural order. That has nothing to do with faith.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        El Pelon,

        I understand where you are coming from with your comment on “fundamentalism”. But that is a word so watered down these days as to drown any real insight it seems. Your assessment of the vibe amy be right, but historically the Catholic Church has been almost NEVER capable of a fundamentalist phenomenon. In fact the epiphanies of that phenomenon are limited perhaps even to the papacy of Adrian VI, and that was a total disaster and they got rid of him asap. In fact the whole character the the ancient institution is in the opposite direction. It is more like the old horror movie The Blob that seeks to embrace and swallow everything. Hardly a fundamentalist impulse!

      • It is more like the old horror movie The Blob that seeks to embrace and swallow everything. Hardly a fundamentalist impulse!

        That is both the weirdest and most apt description of the Church at its worst that I think I’ve ever read!

      • If anything, the Church has more temptations towards fundamentalism now than every before, precisely because the practice of the faith is more alien to the common person in the pew now that ever before. And I am not talking about morality, because that never changes, and Americans like to jump to moralistic conclusions because they are all closeted Puritans. I am speaking about the Church governing the rhythms of life with a cycle of feasts and ceremonies that determine the consciousness of the people, even if they treat the words of the hierarchy with an often not so benign neglect. In the absence of such an idea of faith as a collective way of life, the only resort is to impose certain inorganic and alien attitudes and practices on a nearly hostile culture. That is really what happened in many Muslim countries in the face of Western imperialism: they turned a bunch of lukewarm semi-pagans into jihadists. And on another level, that is what EWTN, George Weigel, and many voices on the Catholic Internet are. They have the same recipe for religious purity as the Taliban, and are really no fun at parties.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        El Pelon,

        Ah, now I see where this is going….EWTN. Well, that is super-duper interesting culturally, because you are RIGHT on that one. EWTN is 100% a fundamentalist sound-bite summary of the Catholic Church. But there is the rub. Does that sound-bite summary have anything to do with the Church or with the medium. The medium is the message, hon. (Btw, case on point: I actually saw a sort of documentary the other day on EWTN about the Spanish Reconquista, which was filled with the most disgusting anti-semitic tropes including saying Isabel thought conversos were a Fifth Column. So their fundamentalism reaches to actually buying into ridiculous justifications for genocide a long time ago, instead of just saying it was simple religious prejudice, which itself is a hoary trope of modern fundamentalists: they are always fair and balanced even when they are committing pogroms)

        So I think you have brilliantly closed this circle El Pelon. In fact what is happening is that EWTN has been inordinately influential both on those outside the Church, who assume that is what Catholics are thinking nowadays (a mistake I have made and am likely to make again for polemical purposes). But also influential on even Bishops who very likely feel they will look like wimps if they are less strict that Sister Flora on TV.

        But that only throws in sharper relief the essential impossibility of the massive organization having a fundamentalist impulse. Once again, its tendencies are all-consuming. Even with B16’s prattle about a “smaller church” absolutely nothing has been done to change the all-consuming ethos. In fact a number of dramatic moves have been made towards other churches which show the opposite direction.

        The moral of the story is, as parents used to say, don’t believe what you see on TV.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Turmarion,

        Thanks, and I guess it is better that they resemble The Blob than Mothra!

  • Mark Gordon

    I think Fr. Alison’s position was summed up nicely fifty years ago by Garry Wills (as reported by William F. Buckley, Jr.) in response to John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra: “Mater, si. Magistra, no.”

  • Mark Gordon

    I think Fr. Alison’s position was summed up nicely fifty years ago by Garry Wills (as reported by William F. Buckley, Jr.) in response to John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra: “Mater, si. Magistra, no.”

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Mark,

    Or, on this very point you raise, as Fr. Alberto Cutie said on CBS This Morning after his entire brouhaha, and announcing his intent to leave: “The Church is a wise mother”. I have a lot of sympathy for him and for this priest. But, there seems to be a sort of misapprehension about what the Catholic Church is about. Mark, I doubt you and I would agree ultimately. But we may in fact agree on what it takes for people to be Catholic. There seems some delusion generally about it. For my part, I have no delusion on these things. I simply do not think it, as an institution, is a wise mother or teacher at all. Quite the contrary. . But, it’s a free country, others can disagree.

    • Mark Gordon

      And that’s fine, Peter. As you say, it is a free country. From what I’ve been able to glean about your own journey (piecing it together through the fog of camp that is your public persona), you had the honest decency to leave the seminary upon reaching certain conclusions about the Catholic Church. In fact, as I understand it you left the Church entirely, which I regret but respect. Fr. Cutie did the same (although he waited until his hypocrisy was revealed). Fr. Alison, by contrast, announces a principle about the discovery of truth that is more Quaker than Catholic, and yet he stays. I find that odd, even oddly hostile. Fr. Alison’s disagreement with the Church isn’t over one discrete issue. In these remarks he reveals that it is fundamental … unless I’m missing something here, and I could be wrong.

      • brettsalkeld

        Whether or not Father Alison is revealing a fundamental disagreement or not is an interesting point for discussion. I think it is important to note, however, that Father Alison himself does not view his disagreement in this way. That is an important consideration.

      • Julia Smucker

        Gerald Schlabach argues that loyal dissent – staying with the Church despite disagreement – is a virtue widely practiced yet taken for granted among Catholics, and I am strongly inclined to agree with him.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Mark,

        A point I want to make not so much personal reasons as for understanding the bind that a lot of seminarians are in, is this. Many seminarians are so embroiled in the whole system, that they cannot have the internal wherewithal to leave, or make choices, based on real details of their lives. I consider myself lucky to have had the general gestalt to tweak enough people the wrong way to get myself kicked out. But, as you have guessed, I am not a shrinking violet.

        The far worse fate is what many seem to experience. They are shy enough, or inhibited enough to go along. One of the reasons that Catholicism is so vexed today is because so many of those very unfortunate guys are still in. Ask yourself honestly: Would we be even having 80% of these conversations if the priesthood reflected the rest of society. Namely, that the great majority would be heterosexual??

        Catholics cannot bring themselves to understand that the essential reason for so many conundrums in their faith nowadays has to do NOT with deep factional divisions, but with a very strange character of most priests. The epochally closeted gay man is a phenomenon not to be underestimated.

        • Mark Gordon

          Peter, I agree with you completely. I used to run a prominent Catholic retreat center in Connecticut. We hosted lots of priests year-round and the bishops of New England annually. I do not underestimate either the number of closeted gay men in the priesthood (and episcopacy) or the general weirdness of many if not most priests. I’m also the son of a Protestant minister (now deceased) who was as normal a man as you could hope to know. Just a regular guy. My experience with both kinds of clergy has convinced me that celibacy is the thing that distends and distorts the Catholic priesthood. Not only does it keep a lot of well-adjusted heterosexual men out of the priesthood (at a time when we really need them), but it makes the priesthood a safe place for closeted gay men to run away and hide, which isn’t fair to them or to the Catholic faithful.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Mark,

        It pleases me greatly that we have some common ground on this. It is a total perplexity why there is nothing really in the works to change it. I am scarcely ever at a loss for a theory about my former church. But this one really stumps me.

        I know it will sound flippant, but I mean this seriously. the one thing that makes sense to me is the the sort of “old lady” ethos. With all due respect to senior women, there does seem to be a sort of air of “don’t change my doilies or my tea set”. I have to say I have met a lot of gay men the same way. I think the answer may be as crazy as that: don’t change my celibate doilies. It does seem that so much effort in life is expended not to make people happy or successful or even holy, but in keeping whatever arrangement one has going. It sometimes does not matter if everything else, even relationships are destroyed, Psychologically the keeping-on with the set arrangement is all-consuming and leaves no room for anything else. No explanation too great, and no delusion to far-fetched.

        Once one realizes that the keeping-on with the set-arrangement is more important even than deep convictions, the real nature of the bind appears. It is legible ultimately as mere inertia and need to keep the dysfunctional steady-state going.

      • Julia,

        I agree with the Schlabach, I think. But, with regard to Mark’s claims, is there a difference between say Congar’s loyal dissent and Allison’s situation?

      • Julia Smucker

        Joshua,

        I can’t say for sure, but in any case I would question the conclusion that Alison’s disagreement with certain church teachings means he is dishonest for staying in the church.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Mark,

    Or, on this very point you raise, as Fr. Alberto Cutie said on CBS This Morning after his entire brouhaha, and announcing his intent to leave: “The Church is a wise mother”. I have a lot of sympathy for him and for this priest. But, there seems to be a sort of misapprehension about what the Catholic Church is about. Mark, I doubt you and I would agree ultimately. But we may in fact agree on what it takes for people to be Catholic. There seems some delusion generally about it. For my part, I have no delusion on these things. I simply do not think it, as an institution, is a wise mother or teacher at all. Quite the contrary. . But, it’s a free country, others can disagree.

    • Mark Gordon

      And that’s fine, Peter. As you say, it is a free country. From what I’ve been able to glean about your own journey (piecing it together through the fog of camp that is your public persona), you had the honest decency to leave the seminary upon reaching certain conclusions about the Catholic Church. In fact, as I understand it you left the Church entirely, which I regret but respect. Fr. Cutie did the same (although he waited until his hypocrisy was revealed). Fr. Alison, by contrast, announces a principle about the discovery of truth that is more Quaker than Catholic, and yet he stays. I find that odd, even oddly hostile. Fr. Alison’s disagreement with the Church isn’t over one discrete issue. In these remarks he reveals that it is fundamental … unless I’m missing something here, and I could be wrong.

      • brettsalkeld

        Whether or not Father Alison is revealing a fundamental disagreement or not is an interesting point for discussion. I think it is important to note, however, that Father Alison himself does not view his disagreement in this way. That is an important consideration.

      • Julia Smucker

        Gerald Schlabach argues that loyal dissent – staying with the Church despite disagreement – is a virtue widely practiced yet taken for granted among Catholics, and I am strongly inclined to agree with him.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Mark,

        A point I want to make not so much personal reasons as for understanding the bind that a lot of seminarians are in, is this. Many seminarians are so embroiled in the whole system, that they cannot have the internal wherewithal to leave, or make choices, based on real details of their lives. I consider myself lucky to have had the general gestalt to tweak enough people the wrong way to get myself kicked out. But, as you have guessed, I am not a shrinking violet.

        The far worse fate is what many seem to experience. They are shy enough, or inhibited enough to go along. One of the reasons that Catholicism is so vexed today is because so many of those very unfortunate guys are still in. Ask yourself honestly: Would we be even having 80% of these conversations if the priesthood reflected the rest of society. Namely, that the great majority would be heterosexual??

        Catholics cannot bring themselves to understand that the essential reason for so many conundrums in their faith nowadays has to do NOT with deep factional divisions, but with a very strange character of most priests. The epochally closeted gay man is a phenomenon not to be underestimated.

        • Mark Gordon

          Peter, I agree with you completely. I used to run a prominent Catholic retreat center in Connecticut. We hosted lots of priests year-round and the bishops of New England annually. I do not underestimate either the number of closeted gay men in the priesthood (and episcopacy) or the general weirdness of many if not most priests. I’m also the son of a Protestant minister (now deceased) who was as normal a man as you could hope to know. Just a regular guy. My experience with both kinds of clergy has convinced me that celibacy is the thing that distends and distorts the Catholic priesthood. Not only does it keep a lot of well-adjusted heterosexual men out of the priesthood (at a time when we really need them), but it makes the priesthood a safe place for closeted gay men to run away and hide, which isn’t fair to them or to the Catholic faithful.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Mark,

        It pleases me greatly that we have some common ground on this. It is a total perplexity why there is nothing really in the works to change it. I am scarcely ever at a loss for a theory about my former church. But this one really stumps me.

        I know it will sound flippant, but I mean this seriously. the one thing that makes sense to me is the the sort of “old lady” ethos. With all due respect to senior women, there does seem to be a sort of air of “don’t change my doilies or my tea set”. I have to say I have met a lot of gay men the same way. I think the answer may be as crazy as that: don’t change my celibate doilies. It does seem that so much effort in life is expended not to make people happy or successful or even holy, but in keeping whatever arrangement one has going. It sometimes does not matter if everything else, even relationships are destroyed, Psychologically the keeping-on with the set arrangement is all-consuming and leaves no room for anything else. No explanation too great, and no delusion to far-fetched.

        Once one realizes that the keeping-on with the set-arrangement is more important even than deep convictions, the real nature of the bind appears. It is legible ultimately as mere inertia and need to keep the dysfunctional steady-state going.

      • Julia,

        I agree with the Schlabach, I think. But, with regard to Mark’s claims, is there a difference between say Congar’s loyal dissent and Allison’s situation?

      • Julia Smucker

        Joshua,

        I can’t say for sure, but in any case I would question the conclusion that Alison’s disagreement with certain church teachings means he is dishonest for staying in the church.

      • Julia,

        I agree. I know a few people who disagree with the church on similar issues, but are very honest about both their disagreement with the church and their self-identification as “catholic.” For them leaving the church is not an option; they simply are catholic. Perhaps their logic is, I might not agree with this or that, but “where else shall I go…”

  • I find that odd, even oddly hostile. Fr. Alison’s disagreement with the Church isn’t over one discrete issue. In these remarks he reveals that it is fundamental … unless I’m missing something here, and I could be wrong.

    Mark Gordon,

    You acknowledge that you could be wrong, and yet you are willing to attribute hostility to Fr. Alison. Even if you are right, and even if Fr. Alison has a truly fundamental disagreement with the Catholic Church, is it fair of you to judge his decision to stay in the Church as hostile? Do you think he should have the “honest decency” to leave?

    This morning there is a new post by Father Komonchak over on Commonweal titled The Vatican & the Lefebvrites. It seems to me that if we compare Fr. Alison to the Society of St. Pius X, it is the latter that shows more signs of hostility. And yet Pope Benedict XVI deals with SSPX with extraordinary patience and forbearance.

    Do you think it is possible that you are the one who is hostile?

    • Mark Gordon

      I am not at all hostile to Fr. Alison. In fact, I’ve been reading his Girardian work for years and have learned a lot from him. Moreover, I don’t think leaving the Church over a disagreement is necessarily a hostile act. But remaining as a priest while publicly announcing what amounts to a fundamental disagreement – we’re not talking about homosexuality now, we’re talking about the means by which authoritative teaching is formulated and transmitted – seems to me, yes, “oddly hostile.”

      The comparison to the SSPX is nonsense, and you know it.

      • The comparison to the SSPX is nonsense, and you know it.

        Mark Gordon,

        It seemed a very apt comparison to me. You are apparently unwilling to accept the fact that I am honestly expressing my sincere views. It is one thing to say the comparison to SSPX is nonsense. It is quite another to say, “It is nonsense, and you know it.” You may be in total disagreement with me, which is fine, but to accuse me of knowingly making a nonsensical comparison is to question my integrity and good faith. It seems, to me, hostile. If I said such things, I would say you owe me an apology, but I think demanding an apology in a thread like this would be pompous and silly.

      • Mark Gordon

        You’re right, David. I’m sorry. I should have written, “The comparison to the SSPX is nonsense, and you should know it.”

        It is not an apt comparison because so far as we know the Church has no problem with Fr. Alison whatsoever, which is quite different than the SSPX. Moreover, I am not suggesting in any way that the Church OUGHT to have a problem with Fr. Alison, or deal with him with anything other than extraordinary patience and forbearance. From where I sit, your invocation of the SSPX was an attempt to make it look like I’m advocating some sort of inquisition aimed at Fr. Alison, which I resent. I take that inference to be hostile.

    • Kerberos

      There is far more to being Catholic than having right belief. To say otherwise, is as reductionist as gay people are alleged to be. If being Catholic is to be Christian at all,it has to be a fruit of God’s grace, not of our works: we are Catholics by grace, not by works done by us in righteousness – otherwise we could do without the Cross, since we would then be our own Saviours. But if our believing is dependent on the totally free and unmerited grace of God, then is it not believing that joins us to Christ, but Christ who has done so, before we believed. To cast people out for having less than perfect belief sends a strange message about the implied tolerance of evil behaviour – what evidence in the life of Jesus is there, that cruelty and pride are compatible with life in the Church – while not having all the right beliefs is grounds for expulsion ? Logically, that makes the Church safe for Inquisitors, but no place for Good Samaritans.

      STM a lot of harm has been done by mishandling of a few favourite texts, such as Luke 10.16 & Matthew 16.13-19.

  • I find that odd, even oddly hostile. Fr. Alison’s disagreement with the Church isn’t over one discrete issue. In these remarks he reveals that it is fundamental … unless I’m missing something here, and I could be wrong.

    Mark Gordon,

    You acknowledge that you could be wrong, and yet you are willing to attribute hostility to Fr. Alison. Even if you are right, and even if Fr. Alison has a truly fundamental disagreement with the Catholic Church, is it fair of you to judge his decision to stay in the Church as hostile? Do you think he should have the “honest decency” to leave?

    This morning there is a new post by Father Komonchak over on Commonweal titled The Vatican & the Lefebvrites. It seems to me that if we compare Fr. Alison to the Society of St. Pius X, it is the latter that shows more signs of hostility. And yet Pope Benedict XVI deals with SSPX with extraordinary patience and forbearance.

    Do you think it is possible that you are the one who is hostile?

    • Mark Gordon

      I am not at all hostile to Fr. Alison. In fact, I’ve been reading his Girardian work for years and have learned a lot from him. Moreover, I don’t think leaving the Church over a disagreement is necessarily a hostile act. But remaining as a priest while publicly announcing what amounts to a fundamental disagreement – we’re not talking about homosexuality now, we’re talking about the means by which authoritative teaching is formulated and transmitted – seems to me, yes, “oddly hostile.”

      The comparison to the SSPX is nonsense, and you know it.

      • The comparison to the SSPX is nonsense, and you know it.

        Mark Gordon,

        It seemed a very apt comparison to me. You are apparently unwilling to accept the fact that I am honestly expressing my sincere views. It is one thing to say the comparison to SSPX is nonsense. It is quite another to say, “It is nonsense, and you know it.” You may be in total disagreement with me, which is fine, but to accuse me of knowingly making a nonsensical comparison is to question my integrity and good faith. It seems, to me, hostile. If I said such things, I would say you owe me an apology, but I think demanding an apology in a thread like this would be pompous and silly.

      • Mark Gordon

        You’re right, David. I’m sorry. I should have written, “The comparison to the SSPX is nonsense, and you should know it.”

        It is not an apt comparison because so far as we know the Church has no problem with Fr. Alison whatsoever, which is quite different than the SSPX. Moreover, I am not suggesting in any way that the Church OUGHT to have a problem with Fr. Alison, or deal with him with anything other than extraordinary patience and forbearance. From where I sit, your invocation of the SSPX was an attempt to make it look like I’m advocating some sort of inquisition aimed at Fr. Alison, which I resent. I take that inference to be hostile.

    • Kerberos

      There is far more to being Catholic than having right belief. To say otherwise, is as reductionist as gay people are alleged to be. If being Catholic is to be Christian at all,it has to be a fruit of God’s grace, not of our works: we are Catholics by grace, not by works done by us in righteousness – otherwise we could do without the Cross, since we would then be our own Saviours. But if our believing is dependent on the totally free and unmerited grace of God, then is it not believing that joins us to Christ, but Christ who has done so, before we believed. To cast people out for having less than perfect belief sends a strange message about the implied tolerance of evil behaviour – what evidence in the life of Jesus is there, that cruelty and pride are compatible with life in the Church – while not having all the right beliefs is grounds for expulsion ? Logically, that makes the Church safe for Inquisitors, but no place for Good Samaritans.

      STM a lot of harm has been done by mishandling of a few favourite texts, such as Luke 10.16 & Matthew 16.13-19.

  • brettsalkeld

    Mark,
    Actually, now that I think of it, whether or not Father Alison’s disagreement is fundamental seems the heart of the issue. Maybe you could give us a little more detail on why it strikes you that his disagreement is of a fundamental nature?

    (It seems to me that a conversation based on that will be much more productive than one that could easily devolve into an analysis of one another’s motives which, judging from our current trajectory, seems a danger at this point.)

    • Mark Gordon

      Sure.

      The paragraph in question is the one that reads,

      As a Catholic I am fully committed to the notion that, the Word having become flesh, then the living act of communication is an ecclesial one, made available through bodily signs. In addition, I take it for granted that the Church is prior to me, and that if something is Church teaching, it is true. The presumption is on there being some sort of truthfulness at work in the stated teaching until it becomes clear that this is not the case. The real question for me, as a Catholic trying to think towards the future is this: we know that we have only one Magister, the Incarnate Word of God, and that the authentic teaching office in the Church is not above, but serves, this Living Word. Furthermore, this Living Word has chosen to address us at a level of fraternal equality, making of us his brothers and sisters who have only one Father, God, and are not to call anyone else our father. So as Catholics we are all, at the fraternal level, undergoing the act of communication of the Incarnate word of God, teaching us immediately and in a voice which we know and love. While this teaching is immediate, from the Holy Spirit which has been poured into our hearts, we do have, strictly at the fraternal level, alongside us, not from above us, and as a gift of service to us, prompts from that teaching, and more or less time-sensitive verbal framings of it, mediated to us through those who have been consecrated sacramental signs as Bishops, with a special place in that prompting for Peter’s successor as Bishop of Rome. This is a highly sensitive eco-system of communication, one whose salvific flow can very easily be distorted by idolatry.

      Here’s what I take Fr. Alison to be saying:

      1. The presumption is that the Church is teaching the truth “until it becomes clear” that she is no longer being truthful.
      2. We have only one Teacher, and that is Christ.
      3. The teaching office of the Church is at the service of Christ, the Teacher, and alongside each of us as a fraternal equal.
      4. Christ, through the Holy spirit, is continually communicating his truth to each of us, individually and directly (immediately) “in a voice we know and love.”
      5. The role of the teaching office, as a service, is merely to erect “verbal framings” of the the truth that is being communicated immediately to all of us.
      7. This “eco-system of communication” is very easily disturbed by the idolatry of Ecclesiolatry (see preceding paragraph), the sure sign of which is “some sort of grasping of security.”
      8. When the idolatry of Ecclesiolatry is present, the Church is no longer being truthful and is therefore no longer teaching the truth.

      Before I go any further, you tell me: Is this an accurate summary of Fr. Alison’s position?

      • brettsalkeld

        That may be beyond my pay grade. What is within my reach is to say that that is at least a plausible reading of his position. There aren’t any alarm bells going off for me at this point that would prevent me from hearing what comes next. (Perhaps lets move the indent in on the next response.)

      • Mark Gordon

        Brett, I’m working on tomorrow’s Nova’s Ordo, so my next response on this topic will have to wait. But watch this specific space. I’ll replace what I’ve just written with that response when I can. 🙂

      • Mark Gordon

        Brett,

        If my eight points above are an accurate representation of Fr. Alison’s views – and they may not be – then I would suggest that he has developed a concept of the role and function of the Church’s teaching office that is fundamentally different than the one the Church conceives for itself.

        My problem with what Fr. Alison has outlined is focused on two areas: First, the notion that the role of the teaching office of the Church is merely to provide “verbal framings” of truths being communicated directly by Christ to all the faithful through the Holy Spirit; and second, that when she insists that her teaching is definitive and binding, the Church is engaging in Ecclesiolatry and no longer being truthful.

        In an Ad Limina address on October 15, 1988, John Paul II had something to say that touched on both of these issues. He said, “This magisterium is not above the divine Word but serves it with a specific ‘charisma veritatis certum,’ [the charism of certain truth] which includes the charism of infallibility, present not only in the solemn definitions of the Roman Pontiff and of Ecumenical Councils, but also in the universal ordinary magisterium, which can truly be considered as the usual expression of the Church’s infallibility.”

        This is a very different conception of the teaching office than what Fr. Alison has suggested. He appears to have taken the popular notion of the Sensus Fidelium and conflated it into a substitute for both the universal and ordinary magisterium. Here’s what Lumen Gentium says about the “sense of the faithful:”

        The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name.(Cf. Heb. 13, 15) The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(Cf. Jn. 2, 20, 27) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (Cfr. S. Augustinus, D Praed. Sanct. 14, 27: PL 44, 980.) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of human beings but truly the word of God.(Cf. 1 Thess. 2, 13) Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(Cf. Jud. 3) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.

        What we see here is that the discernment of the faithful in matters of faith is exercised “under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of human beings, but truly the word of God.” Again, the teaching office has a specific charism that is distinct from the general discernment of the faithful, and which extends well beyond being merely a divinely appointed prose stylist. Because of that charism, the faithful owe the teaching office of the Church not just a fraternal fair hearing, but “obedience,” accepting that the teaching of that office is “not just the word of human beings, but truly the word of God.”

        Fr. Alison seems to call this idolatry, a “grasping of security where it is not to be found” that empties the teaching office of meaning and making it a mere projection of our own grasping. Instead of obedience and hearing the teaching of the Church as “truly the word of God,” Fr. Alison recommends that each of us “allow ourselves to be reached and held by a living act of communication from One who is not on the same level as either Bible or Church, but of whose self-disclosure those realities can most certainly become signs …”

        George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, developed a theology of the ‘inner light” in which the fullness of infallible truth was available to every individual for just the asking, without the mediation of Church, sacrament, or sacred text. Fox wrote: “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any.”

        Now, I have enormous respect for the Quakers. I actually have a strong strain of the Friends movement in my own background. And I’ve often said that if I weren’t a Catholic I would have to be a Quaker because it’s the only other thing that makes any sense. I would suggest that Fr. Alison’s approach, as described in the quote above, is far closer to George Fox’s teaching than that of Lumen Gentium. And furthermore it seems that this should be obvious to Fr. Alison. David Nickol suggests that Fr. Alison believes his approach to be as genuinely “Catholic” as any other. But that can’t be because in the last paragraph of his answer Fr. Alison goes even further from Catholicism than Luther, Zwingli or Calvin.

        He says (my italics), “One of the things that is coming upon us … is the realization that teaching in the Church is a very rare and wonderful gift in which a person who knows him or herself approved by the only One whose approval counts, is able to induct people into living out what is true starting from the teacher’s own path of having been illuminated, converted, and convinced by the One who is True.” Imagine? “Starting” from the teacher’s own path. Not starting with Scripture, or Sacred Tradition, but with the direct, personal illumination one has received from Christ. Talk about a house built on sand! Fr. Alison has to know full well – in fact, because he’s a really smart guy I’ll assert he does know full well – that this is not even remotely Catholic, at least not without a wholesale remaking of the Church and a thoroughgoing rupture with Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Sadly, that seems to be exactly what Fr. Alison proposes: “I think that re-imagining the ecclesial shape of Christ teaching in our midst, exploring the sort of act of communication genuine Divine teaching is, and understanding better the relationship between the Teacher, those taught, and those charged to be signs of truthfulness, is going to be one of the real challenges of the next generation.”

  • brettsalkeld

    Mark,
    Actually, now that I think of it, whether or not Father Alison’s disagreement is fundamental seems the heart of the issue. Maybe you could give us a little more detail on why it strikes you that his disagreement is of a fundamental nature?

    (It seems to me that a conversation based on that will be much more productive than one that could easily devolve into an analysis of one another’s motives which, judging from our current trajectory, seems a danger at this point.)

    • Mark Gordon

      Sure.

      The paragraph in question is the one that reads,

      As a Catholic I am fully committed to the notion that, the Word having become flesh, then the living act of communication is an ecclesial one, made available through bodily signs. In addition, I take it for granted that the Church is prior to me, and that if something is Church teaching, it is true. The presumption is on there being some sort of truthfulness at work in the stated teaching until it becomes clear that this is not the case. The real question for me, as a Catholic trying to think towards the future is this: we know that we have only one Magister, the Incarnate Word of God, and that the authentic teaching office in the Church is not above, but serves, this Living Word. Furthermore, this Living Word has chosen to address us at a level of fraternal equality, making of us his brothers and sisters who have only one Father, God, and are not to call anyone else our father. So as Catholics we are all, at the fraternal level, undergoing the act of communication of the Incarnate word of God, teaching us immediately and in a voice which we know and love. While this teaching is immediate, from the Holy Spirit which has been poured into our hearts, we do have, strictly at the fraternal level, alongside us, not from above us, and as a gift of service to us, prompts from that teaching, and more or less time-sensitive verbal framings of it, mediated to us through those who have been consecrated sacramental signs as Bishops, with a special place in that prompting for Peter’s successor as Bishop of Rome. This is a highly sensitive eco-system of communication, one whose salvific flow can very easily be distorted by idolatry.

      Here’s what I take Fr. Alison to be saying:

      1. The presumption is that the Church is teaching the truth “until it becomes clear” that she is no longer being truthful.
      2. We have only one Teacher, and that is Christ.
      3. The teaching office of the Church is at the service of Christ, the Teacher, and alongside each of us as a fraternal equal.
      4. Christ, through the Holy spirit, is continually communicating his truth to each of us, individually and directly (immediately) “in a voice we know and love.”
      5. The role of the teaching office, as a service, is merely to erect “verbal framings” of the the truth that is being communicated immediately to all of us.
      7. This “eco-system of communication” is very easily disturbed by the idolatry of Ecclesiolatry (see preceding paragraph), the sure sign of which is “some sort of grasping of security.”
      8. When the idolatry of Ecclesiolatry is present, the Church is no longer being truthful and is therefore no longer teaching the truth.

      Before I go any further, you tell me: Is this an accurate summary of Fr. Alison’s position?

      • brettsalkeld

        That may be beyond my pay grade. What is within my reach is to say that that is at least a plausible reading of his position. There aren’t any alarm bells going off for me at this point that would prevent me from hearing what comes next. (Perhaps lets move the indent in on the next response.)

      • Mark Gordon

        Brett, I’m working on tomorrow’s Nova’s Ordo, so my next response on this topic will have to wait. But watch this specific space. I’ll replace what I’ve just written with that response when I can. 🙂

      • Mark Gordon

        Brett,

        If my eight points above are an accurate representation of Fr. Alison’s views – and they may not be – then I would suggest that he has developed a concept of the role and function of the Church’s teaching office that is fundamentally different than the one the Church conceives for itself.

        My problem with what Fr. Alison has outlined is focused on two areas: First, the notion that the role of the teaching office of the Church is merely to provide “verbal framings” of truths being communicated directly by Christ to all the faithful through the Holy Spirit; and second, that when she insists that her teaching is definitive and binding, the Church is engaging in Ecclesiolatry and no longer being truthful.

        In an Ad Limina address on October 15, 1988, John Paul II had something to say that touched on both of these issues. He said, “This magisterium is not above the divine Word but serves it with a specific ‘charisma veritatis certum,’ [the charism of certain truth] which includes the charism of infallibility, present not only in the solemn definitions of the Roman Pontiff and of Ecumenical Councils, but also in the universal ordinary magisterium, which can truly be considered as the usual expression of the Church’s infallibility.”

        This is a very different conception of the teaching office than what Fr. Alison has suggested. He appears to have taken the popular notion of the Sensus Fidelium and conflated it into a substitute for both the universal and ordinary magisterium. Here’s what Lumen Gentium says about the “sense of the faithful:”

        The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name.(Cf. Heb. 13, 15) The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(Cf. Jn. 2, 20, 27) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (Cfr. S. Augustinus, D Praed. Sanct. 14, 27: PL 44, 980.) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of human beings but truly the word of God.(Cf. 1 Thess. 2, 13) Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(Cf. Jud. 3) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.

        What we see here is that the discernment of the faithful in matters of faith is exercised “under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of human beings, but truly the word of God.” Again, the teaching office has a specific charism that is distinct from the general discernment of the faithful, and which extends well beyond being merely a divinely appointed prose stylist. Because of that charism, the faithful owe the teaching office of the Church not just a fraternal fair hearing, but “obedience,” accepting that the teaching of that office is “not just the word of human beings, but truly the word of God.”

        Fr. Alison seems to call this idolatry, a “grasping of security where it is not to be found” that empties the teaching office of meaning and making it a mere projection of our own grasping. Instead of obedience and hearing the teaching of the Church as “truly the word of God,” Fr. Alison recommends that each of us “allow ourselves to be reached and held by a living act of communication from One who is not on the same level as either Bible or Church, but of whose self-disclosure those realities can most certainly become signs …”

        George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, developed a theology of the ‘inner light” in which the fullness of infallible truth was available to every individual for just the asking, without the mediation of Church, sacrament, or sacred text. Fox wrote: “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any.”

        Now, I have enormous respect for the Quakers. I actually have a strong strain of the Friends movement in my own background. And I’ve often said that if I weren’t a Catholic I would have to be a Quaker because it’s the only other thing that makes any sense. I would suggest that Fr. Alison’s approach, as described in the quote above, is far closer to George Fox’s teaching than that of Lumen Gentium. And furthermore it seems that this should be obvious to Fr. Alison. David Nickol suggests that Fr. Alison believes his approach to be as genuinely “Catholic” as any other. But that can’t be because in the last paragraph of his answer Fr. Alison goes even further from Catholicism than Luther, Zwingli or Calvin.

        He says (my italics), “One of the things that is coming upon us … is the realization that teaching in the Church is a very rare and wonderful gift in which a person who knows him or herself approved by the only One whose approval counts, is able to induct people into living out what is true starting from the teacher’s own path of having been illuminated, converted, and convinced by the One who is True.” Imagine? “Starting” from the teacher’s own path. Not starting with Scripture, or Sacred Tradition, but with the direct, personal illumination one has received from Christ. Talk about a house built on sand! Fr. Alison has to know full well – in fact, because he’s a really smart guy I’ll assert he does know full well – that this is not even remotely Catholic, at least not without a wholesale remaking of the Church and a thoroughgoing rupture with Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Sadly, that seems to be exactly what Fr. Alison proposes: “I think that re-imagining the ecclesial shape of Christ teaching in our midst, exploring the sort of act of communication genuine Divine teaching is, and understanding better the relationship between the Teacher, those taught, and those charged to be signs of truthfulness, is going to be one of the real challenges of the next generation.”

      • Mark, I had a similar uneasiness about his characterization of the Church’s teaching office, but I was not quite able to put my finger on it. However, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Fr. Allison is quite sincere in not seeing his thought as a “thorough-going rupture.” Cognitive dissonance can be a powerful thing.

  • From where I sit, your invocation of the SSPX was an attempt to make it look like I’m advocating some sort of inquisition aimed at Fr. Alison, which I resent. I take that inference to be hostile.

    Mark Gordon,

    I hope you will correct me if I am wrong, but I took your original message to mean that you personally thought Fr. Alison should leave the Church, not that there should be some sort of inquisition. I was contrasting the slow and deliberate negotiations with SSPX with your judgment of Fr. Alison. You compare PPF to Fr. Alison:

    Fr. Alison, by contrast [to PPF, who had the “honest decency” to leave the seminary and the Church], announces a principle about the discovery of truth that is more Quaker than Catholic, and yet he stays. I find that odd, even oddly hostile.

    Is there any other way to read this than to say that PPF had “honest decency” and that Fr. Alison, in contrast, does not? And that Fr. Alison’s staying in the Church is not a matter of sincere belief but of hostility?

    You’re right, David. I’m sorry. I should have written, “The comparison to the SSPX is nonsense, and you should know it.”

    That is an improvement.

    • Mark Gordon

      Yes, I think if one concludes that the Church is fundamentally wrong about what and who she claims to be then one should be honest enough to leave. By the same token, I think that if one concludes that the Church is in fact what and who she claims to be then one should be honest enough to enter.

      • Admitting that some of this is above my head, nevertheless it seems clear to me that the matter about which you claim Fr. Alison deems the Church to be “fundamentally wrong” is not his view on homosexuality, but his view on how the Church teaches. And it also seems that he does not assert the Church is fundamentally wrong in its own understanding of how the Church teaches. I understand him to be giving a theory that he believes to be authentically Catholic but that you disagree with. So while he may see himself as dissenting about Church teaching regarding homosexuality, he does not see himself dissenting on something fundamental—the teaching authority of the Church.

        So from your viewpoint, he is in fundamental disagreement with the Church and ought to leave. But from his point of view, he is not in fundamental disagreement with the Church. And yet you characterize his staying in the Church as “hostile.”

  • From where I sit, your invocation of the SSPX was an attempt to make it look like I’m advocating some sort of inquisition aimed at Fr. Alison, which I resent. I take that inference to be hostile.

    Mark Gordon,

    I hope you will correct me if I am wrong, but I took your original message to mean that you personally thought Fr. Alison should leave the Church, not that there should be some sort of inquisition. I was contrasting the slow and deliberate negotiations with SSPX with your judgment of Fr. Alison. You compare PPF to Fr. Alison:

    Fr. Alison, by contrast [to PPF, who had the “honest decency” to leave the seminary and the Church], announces a principle about the discovery of truth that is more Quaker than Catholic, and yet he stays. I find that odd, even oddly hostile.

    Is there any other way to read this than to say that PPF had “honest decency” and that Fr. Alison, in contrast, does not? And that Fr. Alison’s staying in the Church is not a matter of sincere belief but of hostility?

    You’re right, David. I’m sorry. I should have written, “The comparison to the SSPX is nonsense, and you should know it.”

    That is an improvement.

    • Mark Gordon

      Yes, I think if one concludes that the Church is fundamentally wrong about what and who she claims to be then one should be honest enough to leave. By the same token, I think that if one concludes that the Church is in fact what and who she claims to be then one should be honest enough to enter.

      • Admitting that some of this is above my head, nevertheless it seems clear to me that the matter about which you claim Fr. Alison deems the Church to be “fundamentally wrong” is not his view on homosexuality, but his view on how the Church teaches. And it also seems that he does not assert the Church is fundamentally wrong in its own understanding of how the Church teaches. I understand him to be giving a theory that he believes to be authentically Catholic but that you disagree with. So while he may see himself as dissenting about Church teaching regarding homosexuality, he does not see himself dissenting on something fundamental—the teaching authority of the Church.

        So from your viewpoint, he is in fundamental disagreement with the Church and ought to leave. But from his point of view, he is not in fundamental disagreement with the Church. And yet you characterize his staying in the Church as “hostile.”

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Brett,

    I have read the text of this interview several times, and I must confess, I am uncertain what to conclude from it. It appears as though Fr. Allison spent the first few questions ducking, and then launches into the long passage that Mark Gordon is questioning (and which I cannot follow). I cannot but help feel that he used a lot of words to say nothing, and in particular, he was extremely deft in not answering any of your questions.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Brett,

    I have read the text of this interview several times, and I must confess, I am uncertain what to conclude from it. It appears as though Fr. Allison spent the first few questions ducking, and then launches into the long passage that Mark Gordon is questioning (and which I cannot follow). I cannot but help feel that he used a lot of words to say nothing, and in particular, he was extremely deft in not answering any of your questions.

    • PDogg

      I agree with David.

  • Brett,

    Thanks for this. This is not an issue I’ve put too much thought into in the past. As such my own thoughts aren’t extraordinarily clear in my head.

    My own response was not going quite as deep to the core issue as say Mark’s, but was focused on trying to determine what his argument is and whether it works. Not always an easy task. After mulling it over with some friends, this is what I think I think:

    Disregarding for the moment his characterization of the teaching office of the church, his arguments seems to essentially be that act follows being, and “recent human realization” shows that homosexual actions and inclinations follow from “people whom we now call gay” “being what they are.” If both premises are true, then his argument works.

    However, as a friend more adept at parsing the moral theology at stake here has made clear to me, “act follows being” is a metaphysical, not a moral principle. Secondly, I’m not ready to concede that this “recent human realization” is a correct one. I don’t think the question is settled. See, for example, this article on same-sex science published in First Things.

    Therefore, I am not ready to follow him to his conclusion.

    A final tangential observation:
    A prof of mine, Chris Ruddy, wrote an article over at Commonweal on Alison’s theology a few years ago. Ruddy observes that Alison’s view fails to adequately account for male-female complementarity. I think this is the case because Alison seems to obfuscate what is proper to nature with what is proper to person. Homosexuality is not a function of some benign minority but normal form of human nature. Rather, sexual identity and inclination is, I think, a function of the person.

  • Brett,

    Thanks for this. This is not an issue I’ve put too much thought into in the past. As such my own thoughts aren’t extraordinarily clear in my head.

    My own response was not going quite as deep to the core issue as say Mark’s, but was focused on trying to determine what his argument is and whether it works. Not always an easy task. After mulling it over with some friends, this is what I think I think:

    Disregarding for the moment his characterization of the teaching office of the church, his arguments seems to essentially be that act follows being, and “recent human realization” shows that homosexual actions and inclinations follow from “people whom we now call gay” “being what they are.” If both premises are true, then his argument works.

    However, as a friend more adept at parsing the moral theology at stake here has made clear to me, “act follows being” is a metaphysical, not a moral principle. Secondly, I’m not ready to concede that this “recent human realization” is a correct one. I don’t think the question is settled. See, for example, this article on same-sex science published in First Things.

    Therefore, I am not ready to follow him to his conclusion.

    A final tangential observation:
    A prof of mine, Chris Ruddy, wrote an article over at Commonweal on Alison’s theology a few years ago. Ruddy observes that Alison’s view fails to adequately account for male-female complementarity. I think this is the case because Alison seems to obfuscate what is proper to nature with what is proper to person. Homosexuality is not a function of some benign minority but normal form of human nature. Rather, sexual identity and inclination is, I think, a function of the person.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Joshua, can you fix the link to the article in First Things? It is incomplete and so does not work.

    • Thales

      David,
      I think this is the article Joshua was thinking about.
      http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/01/same-sex-science

      I found it a thoughtful article, one restrained from making bold claims one way or the other. I’m no expert on this topic, but it sounded reasonable to me.

      • On the one hand, I see the problem of trying to find a representative sample of gay men, gay women, or both. On the other hand, I am not sure what the point is. After all, we can get a relatively good representative sample of women, and one of the things we know is that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. If we had a representative sample of gay men and found they were twice as likely to suffer depression as straight men, I am relatively certain that would be taken to indicate that being homosexuality is associated with pathology. Yet I don’t think anyone would argue that there is something pathological about being a woman because women are more prone to depression than men.

        I hope no one expects gay people to put their lives on hold until various groups of scientists and social scientists come up with their findings.

    • Fixed, thanks for the heads up!

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Joshua, can you fix the link to the article in First Things? It is incomplete and so does not work.

    • Thales

      David,
      I think this is the article Joshua was thinking about.
      http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/01/same-sex-science

      I found it a thoughtful article, one restrained from making bold claims one way or the other. I’m no expert on this topic, but it sounded reasonable to me.

      • On the one hand, I see the problem of trying to find a representative sample of gay men, gay women, or both. On the other hand, I am not sure what the point is. After all, we can get a relatively good representative sample of women, and one of the things we know is that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. If we had a representative sample of gay men and found they were twice as likely to suffer depression as straight men, I am relatively certain that would be taken to indicate that being homosexuality is associated with pathology. Yet I don’t think anyone would argue that there is something pathological about being a woman because women are more prone to depression than men.

        I hope no one expects gay people to put their lives on hold until various groups of scientists and social scientists come up with their findings.

    • Fixed, thanks for the heads up!

  • grega

    “But as an interested outsider to straight issues, it would seem to me that the recognition of the non-pathological nature of the minority variant in the human condition which you call homosexuality (I dislike the word myself) does inevitably have knock-on effects on the self-understanding of those of the majority condition, and on how they understand the relationship between the unitive and the procreative dimensions of their loving. It would be very interesting indeed to hear a defence of it making no difference at all.”

    I do not know – but this passage clearly indidcates to me that the good Father seem to be either emotionally stunted or after a lifetime of beating around the bushes not capable of an honest unguarded thought. Perhaps to PPF’s point – seems to me that even amoung the brightest we have some emotionally very strange fellows at our hands.

    To break this it would indeed require to open the window very wide.
    Married Priests and Female Ordination come to mind.

  • grega

    “But as an interested outsider to straight issues, it would seem to me that the recognition of the non-pathological nature of the minority variant in the human condition which you call homosexuality (I dislike the word myself) does inevitably have knock-on effects on the self-understanding of those of the majority condition, and on how they understand the relationship between the unitive and the procreative dimensions of their loving. It would be very interesting indeed to hear a defence of it making no difference at all.”

    I do not know – but this passage clearly indidcates to me that the good Father seem to be either emotionally stunted or after a lifetime of beating around the bushes not capable of an honest unguarded thought. Perhaps to PPF’s point – seems to me that even amoung the brightest we have some emotionally very strange fellows at our hands.

    To break this it would indeed require to open the window very wide.
    Married Priests and Female Ordination come to mind.

  • Thales

    Some thoughts on Part 2.

    I wish that I could hear more about Fr. Alison’s views about the human person — his views of the nature of the human person, of what is in accord with a person’s fulfillment (or “flourishing” as Father describes), and of how this is related to a person’s sexuality. But he seems reluctant to discuss any of this without first establishing and accepting the premise that “a homosexual inclination is not objectively disordered.” I know some commentators (like Mark in the thread on Part 1) have called for greater discussion about this premise.

    But I think that I’m more intrigued about what happens if we grant that premise: Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the homosexual inclination is not objectively disordered. Fr. Alison seems to hint that a “radically” different understanding of the human person flows from this premise: that it would make a significant difference in our understanding of what constitutes a person’s fulfillment and flourishing (see question #2), a significant difference in our understanding of the nature of the sexual act with its unitive and procreative aspects (see question #3), and even a significant difference in our understanding of the sacrament of marriage (which, based on Brett’s Commonweal article, is probably coming up in Part III).

    As I said, Fr. Alison doesn’t give us his views on these matters; he only hints at them. But if I’m accurately envisioning what Fr. Alison is hinting at, I have two comments:

    (1) Now I’m a fan of Newman and the notion of the development of doctrine, but what I think Fr. Alison is hinting at seems to me, at least at first glance, so different from what the Church has proposed for the last 2000 years about the nature of the human person, the nature of marriage, etc. — so different, that I wonder whether it is not possible with a Newman-ian development of doctrine, but rather requires an actual change of doctrine.

    (2) If we assume the premise that a homosexual inclination is not objectively disordered, does it lead to the radical change in our understanding of the human person? At first glance, I don’t see that necessarily being the case. I suppose that one might make the argument that if a person has a natural, non-disordered inclination to a homosexual act, then it’s necessary for this person’s flourishing that he actualize this inclination and have a homosexual relationship where the homosexual act is consummated. But that’s not the case for heterosexual persons: a particular heterosexual person has a natural inclination to sexual union, but if that person never marries, that person should never commit a sexual act — in fact, that person’s flourishing is attainable without committing a sexual act, and having sex would actually be detrimental to that person’s flourishing. Likewise, even if we assume that a homosexual inclination is “natural,” I don’t see the necessity for jettisoning the Church’s current teaching that sex is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.

  • Heh, it sounds like you’re making an argument for the position that a homosexual inclination is objectively disordered.

    Thales,

    If you mean “not objectively disordered,” you are correct. Or at least I was trying to point out the ramifications of accepting that a homosexual orientation is not objectively disordered.

    namely, the notion that even if a particular person has homosexual inclinations, it is not necessary for his fulfillment as a person to actualize these inclinations (and in fact, it may be detrimental to his flourishing as a person).

    I don’t know how such a thing can be taken down to the level of a particular person. Not every heterosexual man and woman will need a sexual relationship in order to “flourish.” However, if homosexuality is not “disordered”—that is, ordered to something that ought not to be—then what else could it be but properly ordered? If the orientation of homosexual persons is ordered toward something good as the orientation of a heterosexual person is taken to be, how could it be argued that it is good to be ordered toward something but that all persons so ordered should not do that thing toward which they are ordered? That makes no sense at all. If a homosexual orientation is properly ordered in the same way that a heterosexual orientation is, then it follows that homosexual persons should seek same-sex relationships in the way that heterosexual persons seek opposite-sex relationships.

    • Thales

      David,

      1. I think we’re talking past each other. My point is that your references to the fact that the Church “defines people by their sexuality” (as you describe it) when talking about men and women; and your references to the Church’s understanding of the notion of the complementarity of men and women; and your references to the notion that the Church sees differences between men and women — these are all notions that tend to support, from the Church’s perspective, the view that the homosexual inclination is objectively disordered. Said another way: the notion that a homosexual inclination is not objectively disordered might (would?) lead to ramifications in the Church’s current understanding of men, women, and the human person. I think that’s what you’re getting at in your last comment. Am I describing things accurately?

      The argument that you present [If a homosexual orientation is properly ordered in the same way that a heterosexual orientation is, then it follows that homosexual persons should seek same-sex relationships in the way that heterosexual persons seek opposite-sex relationships.] has some merit to it. In fact, after thinking about it some more, I think it’s probably correct. If so, then the discussion would have to fall back onto the premise of whether the homosexual orientation is objectively disordered or not). And if it is not objectively disordered, I think that it would lead to a radically different understanding of the human person (and I think Fr. Alison would agree, and I think you would also) — and as I said above, I wonder whether that would involve a “change” of doctrine rather than a “development” of doctrine. I also think that the Church has a robust understanding of the human person, of the difference between men and women, etc. (see the Theology of the Body, Mulieris Dignitatem, etc.) that would withstand an alternate understanding of the human person.

      2. Regardless of the discussion about whether the homosexual orientation is objectively disordered or not, I’m still intrigued about the question whether it is necessary to accept homosexual acts and relationships as morally positive, if, for purposes of argument, we assume that the homosexual inclination is not “objectively disordered.” What I’m doing is putting an unmarried person with homosexual inclinations alongside an unmarried person with heterosexual inclinations, and seeing their similarities. I think that we unfortunately live in a world where secular society tells people that they’re weird if they’re a virgin, and that everyone has to have sex in order to be a full, healthy human being. I couldn’t disagree with that more, and I want to be able to express to both unmarried persons that their fulfillment and dignity is not found in having sex (and their dignity as human persons is actually damaged).

      One of the reasons why I’m entertaining the thoughts expressed in part 2 of this comment is that I know there is a tendency for people to think that a description of the homosexual orientation as objectively disordered is a criticism of a human person and that person’s dignity. (Liam’s comment touches on this.) Personally, I don’t think this is actually the case — the Church’s description of homosexual orientation as disordered or its condemnation of the immorality of a sexual act is not a condemnation of the person but a technical description of things; and the Church continues to express love and concern for the person and always encourages the person to live in accord with his/her dignity. And we all have objectively disordered inclinations (the perverse pleasure I get from gossiping, or the 4-year-old’s vindictiveness in steal a toy to make a baby cry are disordered inclinations too, I think.) But as I said, I can see how someone might interpret the “homosexual-orientation-is-disordered” notion in a negative way. So maybe my thoughts in part 2 go more to how to approach a person with pastoral care, and are not a strictly philosophical description of things.

  • brettsalkeld

    FYI. My plan was to post Part III when this one died down, but seeing as I will be away from my computer until Friday evening or so, it doesn’t seem wise for me to post anything (and then leave comments unapproved) until then.

  • Pingback: Brett Interviews Father James Alison: Part III « Vox Nova()

  • Pingback: Brett Interviews Father James Alison: Part IV « Vox Nova()