Monday, September 20

Procrustean Theology

An acquaintance (and someone I would like to call friend) has a problem. He is a retrenchment catholic who is struggling with lay chastity. Vatican teaching and Tradition is (at least, for the last 700 years or so) been pretty clear on this, yet these teachings don't fit the facts on the ground. I have offered my own advice, which is to study the scripture, examine the traditions and pray for the Spirit to fill his conscience and guide him on the path that is right for him. I have a suspicion that this sort of advice may rankle him, but it made me think about this and bringing the issue into a larger scope.

Keeping with the example above, we look at chastity. The act of chastity is borne out of the virtue of temperance which, as I mentioned earlier, is a measure of self-control and moderation. If a person takes the 'self-control' to the extreme, then one risks becoming enslaved to that denial as strongly as one would be to the carnal indulgence. This is best evidenced in the practice of asceticism and self-mortification, which I talked about here.

Writ in a larger sense, there are a myriad of strictures, doctrines and rules we are told are inviolate (and in principle they may be), but fall short when they are applied in a 'one-size-fits-all' mentality.

Two quick examples. It is a universally accepted tenet that the taking of a human life is a sin (by whatever definition of that word you wish to use).

If a loved one is in wracking, constant pain due to an incurable disease, should we withhold mercy and let them suffer rather than accede to their own wishes to die or end their misery at the cost of their life?

What about the question of sister Mary Margaret? A pregnant woman enters a hospital and will die if the fetus is not aborted and the fetus is far too young to survive without the mother. Kill one to save one or let both die and have the blood of both on your hands?

Is this saying that one should acknowledge or even embrace a form of moral relativism? Not in the least. Whatever your personal morals and morays may be, one should hold most assiduously to them. My point is that whatever 'doxy' you ascribe to, the praxis requires modification to fit the situation. To expect that the real world application will be inflexible and unchanging is highly unrealistic and leads to a Procrustean theology, where the real people in real life are twisted, mutilated and tortured to fit an iron bed created by others who, fundamentally, care not for the maimed who lie upon it.

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