God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Changing the teaching?

I guess meanwhile even those far away from the Roman Catholic Church could not avoid to notice that a debate is going on about family and sexuality and how church should see, consider and tackle those problem areas of Christian fabric. There are those in favor of changes and the surveys in Europe show clearly that some of  the teaching is not only not understood but simply ignored even by those going to church every Sunday. Others resent changes and one of the loudest prominent voices is now Cardinal Mueller, heading the department watching over the right faith of the church. He is surely a controversial figure and I have the impression he likes like the late Manto Tshabala Msimang to be in that place of controversy and harsh judgements. But he is also an academic and I fail to understand why he argues in the matter divorced-remarried so non-academic and in my opinion simply wrong. Where ever I read about his comments mainly in the German press, he insists that the church teaching cannot be changed. He insists that dogmas can’t change and therefore divorced – remarried cannot receive communion until – so to speak – Jesus comes back and corrects it.
Maybe I am mistaken but I cannot see that this argument meets the request of changes at all. I see from all the surveys that people yearn for lifelong intimacy, faithfulness and most Christians would agree that this is the aim, even if times have changed since Jesus. But they also acknowledge that failure is an option and that in the light of the unconditional love of God there is the mercy factor the church holds dear in tradition and teaching.

Mueller has only to look to the Orthodox Church – the sister church,the other lung of the church as John-Paul II has put it. They have the same teaching and still, there is a way via “oikonomia” to remedy situations of failure. In excluding such an option Mueller indirectly accuses the Orthodox Church of being unfaithful to the teaching of Jesus, which I find quite amazing. Or he maybe is ignorant and has not understood yet, that the letter of the law kills, but he spirit of the law gives life. The Orthodox Church has given room to the spirit and there is a clear feeling in the Western part of the church, that the spirit should govern the whole church and so overcome the split of the 11th century. I can’t remember which Cardinal from South America it was, but he pointed out in an interview, that  Cardinal Mueller has to learn that the German way of seeing things either “black or white” does not apply to real life, also therefore not to the life of the church. We all live in shadows of grey. And this gives the light of mercy the special attractive sparkle when seen from outside.

So, I don’t think we need to change the teaching, but we should stop declaring an ideal the measurement for our daily life. And we should not use another sacrament to punish people. The grace of God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is in my eyes often a comfort for those going to the trauma of shattered dreams. If the “spiritual communion” has the same effect of God’s closeness as the “real communion” , so John – Paul II, then there is indeed no need to differentiate between them. Let’s keep praying that the Synod of Bishops in October experiencing the spirit which liberates and gives life.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Arrogance, Condoms and Stupidity

As usual I read through all the headlines of news various news agencies and news services send to my email box.  Even though the news are from all around the world and from totally different topics I am interested in, sometimes one can draw lines between the different headlines and it makes sense or bring at least some meaning to these combinations. To give an example:
The new head of the congregation of faith demanded yesterday the resignation of Markus Löning in Germany. He is not only a Facebook user but also the representative of the German government for human rights. On his Facebook page he posted: to stupid to understand science – then try religion. A clear insult, so felt Bishop Müller and stated, that the man is not right for the task he is asked to perform by the German government. The entry is meanwhile deleted by Löning.

Well, right I though first of all watch out, Facebook can be a dangerous place and easy bring someone into trouble, but coming to the core of the matter: faith and science should be compatible – they are both ways of discovering God’s great plan with us and everything living on this planet.

Reading on I discovered an interview of a very Christian radio station with a Bishop in South Africa, debating the difficulties of Christian Faith and African tradition and also the differences between different tribes. Actually very sensitive answers from the Bishop till the question of HIV and AIDS arises. Of course no question about HIV without the “c” question and the good bishop turns on the heat:
I think the international community is always arrogant to us Africans. They come with readymade solutions. They don’t ask. They know what is right for us as Africans and the condoms are part of that arrogance. I think because people, in their minds, they think that condoms prevent the sickness. It helps spread it because every young person even those who are not aware of sexual activity are taught in the school about this condom in sexual education. They try it and that is why you still have a high rate of people being infected with this AIDS epidemic.

Well, besides all the bad feeling of the bishop against the international community: Science tells us clearly that condoms don’t help spread the pandemic and looking into the very area he is talking about earlier. It is exactly this area where condoms brought down teenager pregnancy almost to zero which means that students can complete their school and have a fair chance in life to get a proper education. Of course condoms are only part of the solution and changing the hearts and minds and behaviour of the youngsters has to be added, but unfortunately this is a long-term goal and we need the students alive and in good health and with a good education to be able to achieve behaviour change.

This interview also let me think of the situation in Uganda and other countries, where right-wing evangelical preachers advise government and tell them, what it means to be “African”. And there nobody is complaining that this is done by outsiders, mainly US Americans.

So, drawing lines between all those news what remains as a conclusion to the reader?

First, I realise that Facebook is read in the highest circles of the church or at least summaries are being brought to their attention.
Secondly, and this is much mor serious, the pain and the feeling of being overpowered by the international community – I guess by the white international community  – has to be taken seriously and into account when we talk about the solutions of problems like HIV and AIDS but also many others.
And thirdly there must be much more exchange between science and faith to bring both on the same level so that they can see in each other eye without feeling superior or inferior.
And last but not least there is more to see to the “African identity” and I agree, the world financial and economic system we have is not always listening or even giving time to consider other concepts of living and the experience of reality.

Quite a lot to think of and to consider for one morning’s news intake…

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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