[First Things] George Wiegel: The Deeper Issue at the [RC] Synod

Looking back on the controversy that preceded Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, I get the impression that there was an even deeper issue in play than the question of the morally appropriate means to regulate human fertility. Underneath that debate, another issue was being contested: How should Catholics do moral theology?

The forces pushing for a change in the Church’s longstanding rejection of artificial means of contraception were also pressing for the acceptance of a new moral-theological method, “proportionalism,” as the approved Catholic way of thinking through the tangled issues of the moral life. Those defending the Church’s traditional position were, by the same token, defending more classical ways of moral reasoning. The change people denied that there were “intrinsically evil acts,” because, they argued, moral choices should be judged by a “proportional” calculation of intention, act, and consequence. The defenders of the tradition held that some things were always and everywhere wrong, in and of themselves.
A brilliant article by a German Catholic philosopher, Professor Thomas Stark, suggests that the same dynamic””an argument beneath the argument””may be afoot in the controversies that will be aired again at the Synod of Bishops in October.

In a painstaking analysis of the intellectual building-blocks of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s theological project, Professor Stark argues that, for Kasper, the notion of what we might call “sacred givens” in theology has been displaced by the idea that our perceptions of truth are always conditioned by the flux of history””thus there really are no “sacred givens” to which the Church is accountable…

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

One comment on “[First Things] George Wiegel: The Deeper Issue at the [RC] Synod

  1. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    writes Kasper, “history is the ultimate framework for all reality.” For the cardinal, then, there seems to be nothing properly describable as “human nature,” a careful study of which will yield moral truths. There is only humanity in the flow of history. And just as there is no “human nature,” but only historical experience, so there is no Scripture understood as a “sacred given.” There is only the evolving reception of Scripture in a Church that is, so to speak, rafting down the whitewater rapids of history. Thus Kasper can write without blushing that “the truth of the Gospel can only emerge from a consensus.”

    This idea that no individual can know God’s truth, but only the whole of the church discerning could be Rowan Williams speaking. It underlies everything Williams put in place from the listening process to its latest iteration in Welby’s ‘facilited conversations.’ It rejects the idea that the words of Scripture can be either prescriptive or determinative in and of themselves without this process of reception and openness to a new move of the Spirit, and which ultimately may well lead to the conclusion that the Spirit has changed his mind [or led the Church into ‘new truth’, as its advocates put it].

    Well, it may well be a liberal catholic perspective, but it is not particularly Anglican, contradicting as it does the doctrine set out in the CofE’s canons.

    But it is interesting to hear it coming from Cardinal Kasper, as well as from Rowan Williams, whose spirit of theological vapidity and confusion insists upon rising from its grave like a vengeful wraith to perplex and afflict the living.