Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cohabitation and Minding Your Own Business

Ed Peters needs to get his nose out of other people's private lives.

I tried to just ignore him when he tried to get his whole ridiculous "permanent deacons and ex-protestant married priests should be perpetually continent with their wives" movement rolling in the blogosphere, but now he's at it again in a post responding to an article in the NCR that I think actually makes some very good points:

Edward Peters has started a brouhaha by suggesting that Gov. Cuomo should not be given communion because he lives with a woman to whom he is not married. The diocese of Albany has replied, pointing out why it does not interpret the canons as Mr. Peters does and he has replied to the diocese.


Lawyers have their place. But there is not a brief in the world that can explain the role of briefs in the world. In the case of Gov. Cuomo, the canons of the Church are at the disposal of the bishop to use as he wishes, and as the canons are intended, "for the good of souls." Bishop Hubbard seems to grasp what Mr. Peters, with a professional bias, fails to grasp: That when a bishop finds himself appealing to the canons of the Church in his pastoral ministry or in the court of public opinion, he has already failed in his mission to teach and encourage the faithful. Recourse to the canons of the Church are not just a last resort, they are an admission of failure.

Finally, Mr. Peters repeats the word "public" in his reply to the Diocese of Albany several times. But, he does not know what goes on in the Governor's bedroom nor does he know what has gone on in conversation between the governor and the bishop. My questions for Peters are simple ones: Can he imagine, and admit, that the bishop might, for all anyone knows, be discussing the governor's living situation and encouraging him to regularize it? Can he conceive that such a discussion might be moving in the right direction but could be easily sabotaged were the bishop to adopt the posture Peters recommends? Does Peters think that such a public rebuke would help Governor Cuomo to draw closer to the Church? These are not legal questions, but they seem to me to be the important questions.

I think the point is: the law is made for man, not man for the law!!!

I think part of this stems from a confused notion of "cohabitation" that the Church needs to distance itself from. Strictly speaking, "cohabiting," as a sin, presumes sexual activity, is a concubinage wherein conjugal life is carried out, yet without a permanent commitment.

But some conservative Catholics seem to take it to mean that just living together in the same quarters, even chastely, is somehow a sin. Just sharing a domicile isn't in itself a sin (some divorced and remarried couples may live "as brother and sister" after all) unless the people determine that it's a proximate occasion of sin for them. But I don't see why it would be any more an occasion of sin than ever being alone together or over to each other's houses. Would her having a house down the street and sneaking over secretly really be any better??

As for "scandal," if people are jumping to conclusions about two people living together and then using that to justify their own behavior, I think that's their problem. As Catholic Encyclopedia says on "scandal":
Still less can that be considered scandal, which only arouses comment, indignation, horror etc., for instance blasphemy committed in the presence of a priest or of a religious; it is true that the act arouses indignation and in common parlance it is often called scandalous, but this way of speaking is inaccurate, and in strictly theological terminology it is not the sin of scandal. Hence scandal is in itself an evil act, at least in appearance, and as such it exercises on the will of another an influence more or less great which induces to sin.
I don't think two people living together, or even sinning openly, necessarily induces others to sin. All that encourages is a mentality of hiding our sins so as to not be a "bad example." But why should anyone be taking anyone else as a moral example in that sense given that we're all sinners? I think this faulty notion of "scandal" is one of the things the bishops used to justify all the cover-up over the sex abuse.

But morally speaking, scandal is not merely something that arouses comment or indignation or shock or suspicion or innuendo or insinuation. It has to be actively inducing someone else into sin. Whom is Cuomo and this woman inducing to sin? Not me. I'm not looking at them and saying, "Oh, look, they're Catholic and cohabiting, adultery or fornication must be okay!" I just doubt anyone is affected by it that way in our world.

The world has changed. Though it's pretty clear Cuomo and this woman are in a romantic relationship of some sort (and thus, in our culture, the assumption is that it's sexual)...sharing a house is really no longer proof of anything. I knew people in college who lived in houses with, like, 3 girls and 3 guys...but none of them were dating, or maybe one pair were but not the others, they were just friends, etc. Who knows, maybe Cuomo is gay and this woman is just his "Grace"!! And heck, priests live together in rectories without anyone suggesting "scandal," I suppose due to a presumption of heterosexuality. And yet, does mainstream society really give Catholic priests a presumption of heterosexuality?? I'm not so sure...

Ed Peters tries to argue that "the unwedded cohabitation (an act public by its nature) of sexually mature, non-familiarly related adults, gives seriously wrong example (i.e., scandal) to the community. Ecclesiastical authority need not verify that two such people are actually doing 'it' before moving against the grave scandal offered by such behavior."
But I think all this concern and stirring up of innuendo about other people's most intimate living arrangements is something Catholics would do well to stay away from in our freer and more diverse world.

I'm not saying change the moral teachings, just that acting like certain ancillary arrangements necessarily go along with (or imply a breech of) the moral no longer accurate, and that claiming "scandal" when no one is being induced to sin, theologically incorrect.

Admitting that we couldn't enforce exclusion from communion for "private" sinners (like if she did live down the street instead and was just "visiting" every so often), but that merely sharing a domicile suddenly makes the sin "public" is creating distinctions among sinners that only the self-righteous would revel in.

A distinction between hypocrites and sinners (as Our Lord seemed to make) or between public heretics or schismatics and other sinners makes some sense. Even maybe distinguishing (through excommunication, perhaps) people who commit a sin "public" by nature in the sense of involving third-parties as victims (like, say, the victims of abortion) whom the Church needs to try to defend. But these other distinctions which make assumptions about people's private sex lives are a sort of double standard that serves no purpose other than to make the "good Catholics" (who are just as much sinners, merely keeping up appearances) feel righteous.


sortacatholic said...

What about the Presidents and PMs of European countries? Do you think that the cardinals and archbishops of France denied Francois Mitterand Holy Communion? Heck, I'm certain that prelates have administered Holy Communion to Silvio Berlusconi. JP II or BXVI (probably the former) publicly administered Holy Communion to a sometime head of the Italian Communist Party! The Peters, father and son, need to get a grip.

Some of this Catholic neocon posturing is payback for the "sins" of Andy Cuomo's father. 25 or so years ago, Mario Cuomo gave a "I'm personally opposed to abortion but ..." speech at Notre Dame. Ever since then Mario (and now his kid, I guess) have been just another target in the eyes of Catholic neocondom. Speaking as a New Yorker, I'll happily say the Mario Cuomo was a very good governor on every other account. His son's a sharp tack also (and went to Fordham! Go Rams!).

The Peters clan are just Catholic media whores. They're just trying to stay at the top of the LifeSiteNews/NC Register hot links list.

I strongly doubt that the Peters, like me, really give a crap if Andy Cuomo and his girlfriend receive Communion. Their decisions are on their souls, not mine. What are the Peters going to do? Body block Cuomo and his gf at the altar rail? Gimme a break.

Tony said...

This guy is a hoot. Just finished reading some of his blog entries pertaining to "perpetual continence" of priests and deacons. He bends over backwards to defend Canon Law, past and present, and judge everything in light of it. Canon Law is not the measure of rightness. In fact, Canon Law can at times be a bitch; for it errs when it is not suitable to the nuances of truth, or the specific times the Church finds herself in.

If I am ever ordained, I'm going to blog about how great it is to officiate and have loving relations with my wife...on the same day.

What a totally innocent canon lawyer..

A Sinner said...

As long as the loving relations come AFTER celebrating Mass, Tony!


sortacatholic said...

Tony, if you become a Eastern priest you will have to abstain from the babymakin' for about half the year. If the Vatican ever gets a clue and lets Roman parish priests marry, you might get away with more since we Westerners are really lax about fasting.

Supposedly, the pre-Mass examination of conscience for Russian priests begins with (something like) "did you have relations with your wife last night?" Yeah, question #1.

Anonymous said...

Ed Peters is spot on.

In fact, he is too soft on this.

sortacatholic said...

Anonymous: I don't understand why the Peters clan is too "soft".

Would you like the Peters clan to spy on your bedroom activities? What are the limits to their voyeurism?

The Peters are, sadly, the "last gasp of Jansenism": somehow, they're out to prove that they're elect. Well, orthodox Catholicism don't work that way. We all have a chance to make a change and confess the faith. This includes Andy Cuomo and his girlfriend, Barack Obama, the head of Planned Parenthood, and whomever else the Cathcons tell me to hate. Above all, I am the greatest sinner. Maybe the Peters duo should visit my apartment and pheer my leet Linux skillz.

Who Am I said...


"What are the limits to their voyeurism?"

That made me XD. I don't know you, but I heard your voice in my head.

Tony said...

"Tony, if you become a Eastern priest you will have to abstain from the babymakin' for about half the year. If the Vatican ever gets a clue and lets Roman parish priests marry, you might get away with more since we Westerners are really lax about fasting."

Really? Half the year? I doubt that. And I'd probably be bi-ritual.

Who Am I said...

"Really? Half the year? I doubt that. And I'd probably be bi-ritual."

You're not supposed to engage in sexual relations during the various fasts, that's what he means by half the year. Great Lent, Fast of The Nativity, Fast of The Dormition and so on and so forth.

Sexual fluids are tied to life and death, that stems back to The Laws of Ritual Impurity as outlined in The OT.

sortacatholic said...

"And I'd probably be bi-ritual."

In the Archdiocese of Montreal? Are you nuts, Tony? :-0

For those unacquainted with the magical land of the Royal Mountain, be aware: the Quebecois are the most irreligious people next to the Swedes. For good reason!

Option one: every single folk Mass cliche rolled together in a one hour of polyester-vestment horror. Missal and chasuble optional. Somehow every other priest turns praeceptis salutaribus moniti into a three minute monologue about caring and sharing with the Father.

Option two: a not-so-merry band of crypto-Lefebvrist conspiracy theorists huddled around a High Mass that sounds like fingernails scraped across a blackboard.

Montreal is the nuclear winter of post-Christianity.