Monday, April 2, 2012

Guest Post by Tim Ferguson: Is Bishop Geoffrey Robinson really looking for dialogue?


Tim Ferguson made this post on Facebook and I thought it was a shame to let it scroll off into FB oblivion.  It is about retired Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia and his desire for "dialogue".  Robinson was reprimanded in 2008 by the Australian Bishop's Conference for what was in a book he wrote.   When he came to the U.S. that year, Cardinal Mahony barred him from speaking in Los Angeles due to, "doctrinal difficulties". More recently, Bishop Robinson, back on tour in the U.S., came into the cross-hairs of Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit when it was learned he was invited by a religious order to speak here (see March 27 statement here).

Bishop Robinson says he wants dialogue. Really?  What follows below is Tim Ferguson's Facebook post, made earlier today, and shared with his permission.

I will not win friends with this post (not that that’s ever stopped me before).

I was reading an article earlier today which highlighted a call by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, titular of Rusuca, for an “open dialogue on everything having to do with human sexuality” in the Church. +Rusucensis makes a plea that the Church needs to revisit the traditional teaching on every aspect of human sexuality in order to “move forward.” He questions the natural law argument and the supposition that genital expressions of sexuality are only licit within the bonds of heterosexual marriage. He – and his supporters – claim the moral high ground as they call for “openness” and “dialogue,” and castigate the mean old men of the Vatican who resist “dialogue” as reactionary and close-minded

I call “merde de taureau” (pardon my French)!

Dialogue is only truly possible when both parties are willing to admit that the other might be right. I will not enter into dialogue about objective, demonstrable reality. My couch is black. If someone wants to dialogue with me about what color my couch is, it will be fruitless for me to enter into such dialogue. At the end of the day, my couch will remain black.

Similarly, I will not enter into dialogue about subjective opinions – e.g. : whether I should like shoes. I do not like them, I am perfectly comfortable not liking them, and I sincerely doubt that anyone could say anything to me that would make me like them. I would consider entering into a dialogue about the relative value of shoes. You may have something to say. We may end up disagreeing, but we may be enriched by our mutual exchange of ideas. I am open to the possibility that shoes (despite my dislike of them) have some value. Your opinions may influence mine and mine, yours.

Thirdly, if someone were to suggest “dialogue” about something of which I am convinced but he is not, it might make for an interesting conversation, but it would hardly be considered dialogue. If someone wanted to argue that my car’s tires are square, he would be wrong. I could not admit his position to be equal to mine. Therefore, no dialogue is possible.

Robinson and his ilk, despite their claims, do not want to enter into “dialogue.” Their writings and their speeches make it clear that they in no way are open to the possibility that they might be wrong. They do not want to dialogue, they want to push their beliefs and want an open forum in which to do so. They are not being intellectually honest.

The “mean old men of the Vatican” are the ones who are being intellectually honest here: they do not want to enter into dialogue on a topic they consider to be self-evident, objective, demonstrable reality. They cannot and are not willing to admit that the antithesis of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, which excludes the liceity of all genital sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage (and which defines marriage as a covenant by which a man and a woman, by an act of consent, establish a partnership of the whole of life) could possibly be true. It is not a subject open for dialogue.

But, but, but – the naysayers say – at least Robinson et al. are calling for dialogue! See how open and tolerant they are! The Senes Vaticani are close-minded, they won’t tolerate dialogue.

No, my friend, that’s not the reality. Neither party is willing to tolerate dialogue. Robinson is already convinced that the “Vatican party line” is wrong. He does not want dialogue, because he is not willing to admit that there is any equality between the positions. Dialogue, for Robinson, on this issue means talking and talking (preferably louder than the opponent) until the other side is willing to admit that it is wrong. That’s not dialogue. That demagogy.

That’s why those upholding the traditional Christian teaching are more intellectually honest. It’s not merely that they do not wish to dialogue on the topic of human sexuality, it’s that they recognize entering into a dialogue with Robinson, et al. is not dialogue. The Church is not going to change Her teaching. The matter is settled. You’re free to disagree, and to go elsewhere. You’re not free to pretend that an opposing viewpoint is legitimately Catholic and worthy of an equal status in a Catholic context. To admit that would be intellectual dishonesty.

Tim Ferguson is a canonist with an academic background in theology, history and Latin, and a professional background as a waiter, teacher, and parish secretary. In his spare time he serves as a straw subdeacon, and is working to complete his STL thesis.

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