pelvic politics, cont’d

The term “pelvic politics” describes the perception of an unbalanced emphasis on sexual issues by some bishops and conservative Catholics. Church teachings on birth control, abortion, gay marriage, co-habitation, celibacy and a male-only priesthood all become a litmus test for identifying a faithful Catholic. Too often, the test becomes a weapon of righteous judgment and condemnation. Sitting on the wrong side of the orthodoxy fence can deny you a church wedding, election support, or employment in church run institutions. Ecclesial promotions for ordained members are dependent on their public support of these teachings. In extreme cases, excommunications have been meted out to those who have publicly questioned or not supported them; usually by extremely-minded bishops.

Yesterday’s post included this quote from David DeCosse,

the bishops’ emphasis on law as the pre-eminent category of conscience means that they leave little room for practical reasoning to help the conscience figure out what to do in the face of complexity.

For me, of all the issues listed here, the one that is most black and white is that of abortion. It is not a form of contraception. It’s the intentional killing of an unborn child. And yet, there are cases that reflect the “face of complexity”; cases that show the moral dilemma that must be faced in the grey in between. Cases that need a wise mind and compassionate heart to discern what is right and wrong in a specific situation.

What about the woman in Phoenix who was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child and suffered heart failure? What about the nine year old girl in Brazil, raped and impregnated by her stepfather? In both cases, an abortion was performed to save the life of the mother. In both cases, excommunications were declared on all those involved (except for the young girl due to her age). Instead of praising the Church’s moral superiority and conviction, these stories showed to the world a Church lacking in compassion and understanding.

It is easy to raise the accusatory banner of hypocrisy at pharisaic church leaders who place heavy burdens on us while sexually abusing or covering up the abuse of others. It is difficult to listen to sermons on the importance of marriage and fidelity when stories appear of bishops having long term relationships and fathering children. Righteous rants on the “intrinsic evil” of homosexuality ring hollow, when the presence of homosexuality in the ranks of the ordained is ignored or denied.

But anger will get us nowhere. We need to stop and take a breath, together, and revisit the gospel call to life. Where should our focus be?

Up here, in the great white north, the words of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau still resound in the psyche of our modern history. In 1967, as a young Justice Minister, he introduced an Omnibus Bill in the House of Commons that included decriminalizing homosexual acts performed in private, telling reporters “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” His intention was good. But, we still need moral guide-lines and laws to support them. In Canada, we have seen the dangers of human rights and freedoms going amuck when pedophiles demand the right to own child pornography. Or white-supremacists hide behind freedom of speech to spread their hatred and pass it on to their children.

The state and the church do have a place in the bedrooms of the nation when those bedrooms hide sexual abuse and rape. We have the moral obligation to denounce and prosecute those who kidnap or buy and sell humans into sexual slavery. We must insist that the possession, itself, of child pornography is wrong; because behind the pictures are real children being exploited.

In this time of global violence and injustice, it’s time for Catholics to stop being the religion of ‘nay’ and begin truly promoting a culture of life that acknowledges the face of complexity of our modern times. Too many issues are being ignored while we continue to count the number of angels dancing on the proverbial pin head.

It’s interesting that while church leaders are still debating the moral use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa, Women Religious around the world are banding together to stop human trafficking.

The Moral Compass Project

The Moral Compass Project

Back in June, I wrote a blog post titled recalibrating our moral compass.

It’s time to recalibrate the moral compass for our society. Promoting moral values is not the same as imposing religious values. Society never has the right to impose religious belief. But it does have the right and the duty to uphold a certain standard of moral behaviour for its leaders and its citizens.

This week, I received a wonderful comment on the post from Adrian Bishop, the Principal of the Centre for Defined Ethics. The Centre is promoting THE MORAL COMPASS PROJECT. Goals of the project include  formulating a ‘defined Moral Compass as an ethical benchmark.’ It’s a fascinating venture and very needed in a world with little common ground between moral relativism and religious fundamentalism. Here is The Moral Compass. I encourage you to check out the web-site, and share your thoughts!

The Moral Compass

    • Never instigate the use of coercive force.
    • Accept responsibility for personal actions and the consequences of those actions. 
    • Practice a duty of care.
    • Affirm the individual’s right to self-determination. 
    • Put the truth first.
    • Never use a person as merely an unconsenting means to an end, even if the end benefits others. 
    • Be honest.
    • Honour agreements.
    • Treat others as you want to be treated yourself.
    • Leave a positive legacy to future generations.

recalibrating our moral compass

image via Microsoft

It’s time to recalibrate the moral compass for our society. Promoting moral values is not the same as imposing religious values. Society never has the right to impose religious belief. But it does have the right and the duty to uphold a certain standard of moral behaviour for its leaders and its citizens.

Too often, religion has stood in the way of a moral dialogue within society. It is true that moral teachings are foundational to many religious traditions, but you don`t have to be a religious person to be a moral person. My belief in God and the rituals and traditions surrounding that belief may differ from yours. This does not mean that we cannot share a common respect for the dignity and rights of each person. Having different religious traditions, or no religious tradition, does not excuse us from uniting as a moral society.

I can hear the objections already. Can we claim a universal morality or truth in this postmodern time? Haven`t we worked hard to deconstruct past absolutes? Isn`t it better to embrace a universal tolerance that upholds the relativity of truth for each person, place and time?

In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It outlines and acknowledges the basic rights of each human person on this shared globe of ours. It would take a truly hardened skeptic not to recognize the truth reflected in this list.

The Ten Commandments are the basic moral tenants in the Judeo-Christian tradition. They outline the rules needed for a harmonious society, regardless of our religious beliefs. If we live according to these guide-lines, and the golden rule of treating others as we want to be treated, then we will ensure that the basic rights of others will be met…We must not covet or take that which is not ours. We must uphold, support and honour families and relationships. We must be faithful to our commitments.  We must respect life and the dignity of all, ensuring that the goods of the earth are shared equitably. We must be truthful and honest in our dealings. We must not spread callous lies or slander another person.

When these rules are broken, the doors are opened to distrust, antagonism, hatred and retaliation. Relationships are severed, unity and security are destroyed and peace is lost – whether on a personal or societal level.

One of the greatest fallacies of our day is the belief that our private lives and actions have no effect on others. Take a moment to ponder any of the personal scandals making the head-lines today. We don`t have to look hard to see how the effects of one person`s bad behaviour quickly ripple outwards in ever-increasing circles.

It is time for us as a society to recalibrate our moral compass. We have to raise the standard of decency, while acknowledging that we are all a work in progress. None of us is perfect. But we must no longer tolerate immoral behaviour in the name of personal freedom.