Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ask Tony: What does the Catholic Church teach about sex changes?

Caitlyn Jenner, the face of transgenderism.
A couple of weeks ago, in Outside the Asylum, I addressed Pope Francis’ recent letter on the Holy Year of Mercy. Today, I received a question there from Charles: “I know a man who recently decided to undergo a sex change procedure. What is the Church’s position on this?”

A Not-So-Obvious Answer

This question comes at a sensitive time for my family and me, as one of my cousins is “transitioning” from a male to a female identity. The answer would seem to be obvious to many people; the best course of action, then, is to research the question to make sure the obvious answer isn’t wrong.

Surprisingly, the answer doesn’t lie in one single Vatican-issued document such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church or a papal encyclical like Deus Caritas Est. According to the Catholic News Service, in 2000 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did issue a sub secretum letter to the various papal legates, and again in 2002 to the presidents of bishops’ conferences. Strangely enough for a secret document, this letter has remained secret — unlisted with other CDF letters and ad dubitum documents, unmentioned in the USCCB website, and not readily available through Google or Bing. (Apparently Wikileaks hasn’t gotten around to it yet.)

Nevertheless, various Catholic people and sources have addressed the questions of sexual identity and gender reassignment surgery. In lieu of any formal definitive statement, I can attempt an informed provisional answer. And it turns out the answer isn’t as obvious as you may think.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

An atheist defends the intelligence of believers

Image source: bianymeans.com.
It's been said of Roman gladiators that they were required to kill their opponents but not required to hate them. In the best intellectual tradition, people have fought against each other in the arena of the mind while maintaining warm personal relationships with each other in the shelter of society. One particularly good example of this was the long-standing friendship between the skeptical Socialist George Bernard Shaw and the Catholic liberal G. K. Chesterton. A more recent example would be the amity between the great Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill and Pres. Ronald Reagan, who exchanged sharp words over policy by day and swapped stories over drinks by night.

I can't call Sincere Kirabo a "friend", but I can certainly give him some warm applause for a post he wrote in his Patheos blog Notes from an Apostate, "Why You Sound Ridiculous Claiming Religiosity is a Mental Defect". "Suggesting people are religious because they are dimwitted or suffer from a fabled religiosity-induced mental illness is a lazy, unthinking way to dismiss behavior one cannot identify with," says Kirabo, who urges his fellow atheists to "cease promoting such embarrassingly ignorant ideas."

I recently had a discussion on social media speaking to the unsound nature of ... arguments that use ableist and denigrating language to describe religious people. Because I adamantly opposed these uncharitable assertions that take an unnecessary and harmful route to delegitimize religiosity, I was branded an “enabler” to faith in the spurious and supernatural. But what does research suggest concerning this matter?
I’ve long been an avid reader of material that meticulously investigates mind perception, religion, and the “how” and “why” of religion. For this reason, I confidently stated that any individual belonging to the knowledgeable intelligentsia would laugh such notions out of the building. This caused me to think on two things: One, I doubt those who disagree will diligently explore facts that contradict their worldview (as the Darwinian Golden Rule suggests we do for the sake of intellectual honesty). Two, why not seek out experts to prove (or disprove) my stance? And so I did.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ask Tony: Should I receive Communion only from a priest or deacon?

In the Crux article referenced in the screencap to your left, the author, Rev. Kenneth Doyle, answers the question with a verbal shrug: “It is, of course, the same Eucharist — whether received from a priest or from a lay minister — and ... I am a bit surprised when someone feels compelled to make a choice.” Referring to a deceased parishioner’s aversion to lay Eucharistic ministers, Fr. Doyle said, “In the scope of things, I felt that his preference was a small issue. For me, it came under the heading of the ‘big tent’ that embraces a wide variety of Catholics.”

The person at Saint Gabriel’s Newsroom who wrote the “Share” was, at bare minimum, uncharitable: nothing Fr. Doyle said was in any meaningful sense modernist, nor did he deny or denigrate the right of the consecrated to distribute the Eucharist. Moreover, the boast that s/he only receives on his/her knees and from consecrated ministers is so pompously self-congratulatory it invites ridicule; as we used to say when I was a kid, “Whaddaya want for that, a Bozo button?”

What really is the issue here?

In 1973, with the approval of Ven. Pope Paul VI, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship issued the Instruction Immensae Caritatis, which authorized the appointment of “special ministers” from the ranks of the non-ordained to assist with the distribution of Communion. Eventually, to underline the fact that deacons and priests were the ordinary ministers of the Eucharist, the title of these appointees was changed to “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion” (usually abbreviated EMHC).