By Fr. Jerry Pokorski ( bio – articles – email ) | August 01, 2022
The caustic and always entertaining British novelist Evelyn Waugh observed:
It is better to have a narrow mind than no mind, to have limited and rigid principles than nothing at all. This is the danger that so many people face today – not having considered opinions on any subject, accepting what is useless and harmful on the pretext that there is “good in everything” – which, in most cases means the inability to distinguish between good and evil.
The resurgent pseudo-sophisticated use of “paradigm shifts” in contemporary moral theology undermines orthodox Catholic teaching on inherently evil acts, blurring the distinction between right and wrong.
The Pontifical Academy of Life has published the results of a 2021 conference suggesting a “paradigm shift” in moral theology. Analysts suggest the report could become the basis for a papal encyclical effectively redefining the intrinsic evil of contraception and other sins. Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy since 2016, describes the “paradigm shift” in moral theology. He says that the change is: “both descriptive and conceptual, because it follows a pattern that is both argumentative and narrative, theoretical and sapiential, phenomenological and interpretative”. The new paradigm promises to use big words.
Here we go again.
Many of us recognize the “new paradigm” as a reworking of the old dissenting and abandoned paradigm of proportionalism. human sexuality– published by Anthony Kosnik in 1977 under the auspices of the Catholic Theological Society of America – represents the same “paradigm shift” that occurred shortly after Vatican II. It reads like the playbook of everything that has happened in the past 50 years. Msgr. George Kelly cited several troubling claims in his old book, Battle for the American Church. (The following bullet points are taken from this book, pages 105-106):
- “Regarding the revelation, we [so the authors say] cannot guarantee the exact words of Jesus” (p. 19) and “Scripture does not even concern itself with sexuality as such” (p. 30).
- “The question of artificial contraception has not yet found a definitive solution in the Church” (p. 126). Therefore, the use of contraception can be a morally sound decision.
- “Sterilization, like that of contraception, is still far from being a universally acceptable and definitive solution in the Church” (p. 134). Therefore, sterilization options are with interested parties.
- Artificial insemination with the sperm of a man other than the husband cannot be prohibited (p. 139).
- While the “exchange of companions” is not ideal from a scriptural perspective, the final word on this has not been said (p. 149).
- Adulterous relationships generally offend the quality of fidelity, “but sometimes there can be exceptions” (p. 151).
- Premarital sex may be justified if it represents “a loving relationship and some measure of natural commitment before sexual commitment” (p. 166).
- Christians “homosexuals have the same rights to love, intimacy and relationships as heterosexuals” (p. 214) “and to receive Holy Communion too” (p. 215).
- Masturbation is not objectively and seriously wrong (p. 228).
- Bestiality is pathological “when heterosexual outlets are available” (p. 230).
- Therapists and patients can enjoy sex, if in fact it “results in making the patient whole” [no citation provided].
Msgr. Kelly writes: “How this study was conceived, organized, evaluated and published during the presidency of five CTSA theologians (John Wright, SJ, of Berkeley; Richard McBrien of Boston College; Luke Salm, FSC, of Manhattan College; Avery Dulles, SJ, of Catholic University; and Agnes Cunningham, SSHM, of Mundelein Seminary) suggest that all but the rigorous canons of scientific scholarship were followed. (p.107)
The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned the book in 1979. Here is an excerpt from the vatican declaration:
Authors almost always find a way to allow for integrative growth by neglecting or destroying some intrinsic element of sexual morality, especially its procreative ordination. And if certain sexual behaviors are frowned upon, it is only because of the supposed lack, usually expressed as doubt, of “human integration” (as in swinging, partner-swapping, bestiality), not because these acts are opposed to the nature of human sexuality. When an action is considered completely immoral, it is never for intrinsic reasons, on the basis of an objective finality, but only because the perpetrators themselves see no way to do so to human integration. This subjection of theological and scientific arguments to evaluation by criteria drawn primarily from current experience of what is human or less than human engenders a relativism in human conduct that recognizes no absolute value. Given these criteria, it is not surprising that this book pays so little attention to the documents of the magisterium of the Church, whose clear teaching and useful standards of morality it often contradicts in the field of human sexuality.
At the same time, the Congregation cannot fail to note its concern that a distinguished society of Catholic theologians has arranged the publication of this report in such a way as to give wide circulation to the erroneous principles and conclusions of this book and in this to provide a source of confusion among the people of God.
I would be grateful if Your Excellency would bring this letter to the attention of the members of the Episcopal Conference.
[signed] Cardinal Franjo Šeper, prefect
In an early work, Evelyn Waugh prophesied:
Every effort has been made to encourage public school children to “think for themselves”. When they should have been whipped and taught the Greek paradigms, they started discussing birth control and nationalization. Their rude little opinions were treated with respect. Week after week, the preachers in the school chapel put the future in their hands. No wonder they were Bolsheviks at 18 and bored at 20.
At a minimum, we need not treat with respect the crude paradigm-shifting opinions of the Pontifical Academy of Life.
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