By Carolina S. Ruiz Austria

The word "Heresy"

was used by Irenaeus in Contra Haereses to discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. It has no purely objective meaning without an authoritative system of dogma.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Loyal Dissent 101

In this post I will do as I promised a few of my sisters in loyal dissent and post some of the very interesting links I have come across on our favorite study session topics: Catholic Moral Theology on one hand and Church Social Teaching on the other.

Loyal Dissent is of course the title of a book by the renowned Catholic Moral Theologian, Fr. Charles Curran.

Fr.Curran was booted out from the Catholic University in 1986 and now teaches at Southern Methodist University. While traditionalists within the Catholic church continue to criticize and question his critical stance against the Catholic church's positions on sexual ethics, he remains a Catholic and an inspiration to many loyal Catholic dissenters.

Of course Fr. Curran is not alone in having gotten the ire of Catholic hierarchy. Many others, mostly clerics and those who teach in Catholic universities have been eased out of their posts but because it not even possible in Catholic terms to "excommunicate" them (which is for Catholics, often seen as the most serious penalty of exclusion or expulsion), they remain Catholic.

A good place to start reading about honoring the democratic traditions within Catholicism is the Association for the Rights of the Catholics in the Church which was founded in 1980 by lay and clerical Catholics in the wake of Vatican condemnations of such theologians as Edward Schillebeeckx.

Daniel Speed Thompson, PhD wrote about him in "The Language of Dissent Edward Schillebeeckx on the Crisis of Authority in the Catholic Church." Here, the author points out that Schillebeeckx’s theories of religious epistemology, revelation, and salvation support the idea that dissent and critical communities are a necessary element in the church and represent the eschatological dimension of the church’s historical life.(from the University of Chicago Magazine, DECEMBER 2003, Volume 96, Issue 2)

Yet another excellent site for exploring Catholic social thought is Professor Joseph M. Incandela's web portal at St. Mary's College for his course in Religious Studies. A similar scholarly and academic site is the Irish theological Association site here.

Of course there are also a host of sites that are a little more popular like the web archive also accessible from the previously mentioned website, which tackles the issue of Catholic teachings on contraception. The archive contains a variety of materials such as a short of history of Catholic teaching on birth control, natural law resources, a discussion of how the current position came to be in the Humanae Vitae entitled : Why the Pope said Nope.

Now if you are, like many of my friends, working in the women's rights sector or affiliated to groups pushing for the recognition of sexual and reproductive rights, a good way to be inspired is to look at role models and Debra Haffner definitely has got to be one of them. A feminist (Unitarian) minister and a sexologist, she is the director of Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

Rev. Haffner has worked actively in various Inter-faith contexts and was one of those who worked with Daniel Maguire,who teaches Moral Theology and Ethics at Marquette University. Along with other feminist theologians, they comprise The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics which has produced a number of publications ,among them, Sacred Choices," which situates abortion as a moral choice within the major religions of the world as well as other faith systems, which includes Roman Catholicism.

Of course among the best sites for diverse conversations about various issues from different religious and ethical viewpoints is Religion Online where you can have your fill downloading full texts of articles which have been made available to the public with the consent of the authors. Here you can access a wide variety of topics from theology to practical ethics and links to specific congregations. I particularly love the collection of articles by feminist theologians.

I'll end at this point. That is, for now. There are lot more, many of them offering practical advice (on excommunication) and even some of the more interesting ones which aren't even open to engaging Catholicism (READ:traditional and in a very right wing way). I'll save that one for later.


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