We are sincerely grateful here in Melbourne that The Age has a religion editor who is a believing and practicing Christian. Barney Zwartz’s commentary on religious life in our city is very welcome, as is his blog. Not so welcome, however, is the way he has rather opportunisticly jumped on Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s band wagon and given his own recipe for the reform of the Church. If I may have my say, it is one thing for a retired renegade Bishop to have his thoughts on the radical reformation of the Catholic Church–at least he is (nominally and officially) one of us. It is quite another thing for an outsider (BZ is a protestant, not a Catholic) to weigh in on the debate with their two bobs worth.
And this is just what Barney does, in an op ed piece in today’s edition of The Age entitled: “Reform that is crucial to the church”. “The church” in question is none other than the Catholic Church–for which I guess we should be thankful that those in charge of writing headlines at The Age acknowledge the latest CDF clarification that “the church” properly speaking is “the Catholic Church”.
BUT, Barney’s op ed is little more than a repetition of Robinson’s basic theses:
Until the Catholic Church tackles deep structural and theological flaws about sex and power, until it is prepared to rethink doctrines dating as far back as Augustine (4th century), it will still be merely “managing the problem” rather than confronting it, the bishop says.
Start with sex.
Yes, let’s, shall we? This is what Barney (and presumable the good bishop, whom he is plagerising) says about the Church and sex:
The church holds that sex is designed only for married couples for the twin purposes of expressing love and conceiving children. Therefore, unless conception is possible it is a sin and so are all other sexual acts, as “against nature”…
[But I, Barney Zwartz, believe that] the key to sexual ethics is the good — and harm — done to people and their relationships.
No, no, no, and a thousand times, no, Barney. And if you are just parroting the Most Reverend Bishop Robinson, then I suggest you and he both go and read John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and get it right.
Whether I do “good or harm to people and their relationships” is an inadequate basis for sexual morality–indeed any morality at all. The most fundamental basis for the ethical life is a sure and certain understanding and committment to the essential nature of the human person–in both myself and in my neighbour. Start there, and you will find that the Church’s position on sexual morality may be a little more understandable.
The real reformation required is not in the doctrine or faith or practice of the Church, but where all reformations worth their salt should start: in the heart of every man.