Disagreements In The Catholic Church

This chapter presents the controversies over sex and sex in the Roman Catholic Church as part of ongoing debates on the nature of the Church, the dynamism of tradition and the authority of the Magisterium. It argues that many of these most controversial differences, including those on reproductive rights, same-sex relationships and gender-based violence, can discern fundamentally different theological conceptions of the nature of the human body, gender relations and the malleability of sexuality. After examining these underlying theological controversies, this chapter examines the contours of contemporary debates on reproductive rights and same-sex relationships. He also notes that these controversies do not falter. On the contrary, positions are becoming more and more polarized and divisions more intractable. The relationship of the universal to the individual is a philosophical question knotted, linked to theological discourse and transcended by theological discourse. To cite a fairly recent example, at the turn of the millennium, the two eminent clergymen Joseph Ratzinger and Walter Kasper discussed the relationship of the universal Church with the local churches. [1] The debate was not limited to the ivory tower, but was concerned about Roman centralization and the freedom of local churches to have different pastoral practices. For Ratzinger, the universal Church has priority over local churches, both ontological and temporal, first because God had in mind the Church “before the foundation of the world,” as Ephesians 1:4 puts it, and secondly because the account of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles places Universal in the realm of the concrete – the Church that first enters history. The apostles, who come out of the centacle at Pentecost, were able to proclaim the Gospel to all men by the strength of the Spirit. Kasper, for his part, believed that this double priority would be given to an overwork of Rome. Local churches should be able to carry out their pastoral activities without Roman consent. There is no realization of the universal Church, with which all churches must communicate, Kasper argued, because universality exists only in local churches.

The kick-off of his position was not theoretical, but practical. In 2001, Kasper wrote: I did not reach my position by abstract reasoning, but by pastoral experience. As bishop of a great diocese, I had observed a gap that was emerging and widening between the norms proclaimed in Rome for the universal Church and the needs and practices of our local Church. A large part of our people, including the priests, could not understand the reason for the ordinances that came from the centre; so they tended to ignore them. This has been done with regard to ethical issues, sacramental discipline and ecumenical practices. The persistent refusal of communion for all divorced and remarried persons and the very restrictive rules of Eucharistic hospitality are good examples. [2] After Peter testified of the divinity of Christ, Jesus first called him among the apostles: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the forces of death will not impose themselves against them.” (Mt 16:17-18) Christ chose Peter to preserve faith on the “rock” of an ecclesial ministry. The interview was the pope`s first with a newspaper from Argentina, his birthplace.

Francis called on the Church to improve its relations with gay and divorced family issues. This ecclesiological debate can serve as an entry point to a discussion on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, because the same fundamental concern plays a leading role in the discussions for and against a universal catechism that took place in the run-up to the Second Vatican Council.

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