"Likewise, should it indeed turn out that marriage between two baptized persons of the same sex is not sacramental in exactly the same sense as opposite-sex marriage, then whatever form of sacramentality does turn out to be proper to same-sex couples would certainly not be “second best” to the sacrament of marriage. God’s summons to flourishing involves people being called in tailor-made ways, not forced to endure invidious comparisons. There are many mansions in God’s house, and he invites each of us to discover what is his plan for each one of us—we are called by name, not by category."
Now I must cogitate the importance of Alison's words. In both cases, Milbank and Alison, we are a world away from the diatribes and vilifications by those with a liberal Protestant disposition (even if clothed in Anglican robes) when denouncing those of us who carefully seek to articulate the church's teaching on marriage through the ages.
I find Alison quite moving in his account of being gay, seeking to overturn the Catholic official teaching that this is a "disordered" condition, and generally working out a style of theological living (teaching, writing, reflecting) on the edges of church life. I find his arguments for changing his church's teaching unpersuasive, not least because he wilfully races through chunks of Catholic apostolicity, that is, the processes by which Catholic teaching builds on what bishops teach which in turn is teaching what they have been taught, seeking to be ever faithful to their traditional understanding of Scripture, safeguarded as it has been through the ages by ... bishops. In the following paragraph I find his words to be indistinguishable from liberal Protestantism which appeals to a Jesus removed from the reality of knowing him through Scripture (evangelicalism) or through Scripture and tradition (Anglo- or Roman or Eastern catholicism):
"The real question for me, as a Catholic trying to think toward the future, is this: we know that we have only one Magister, the Incarnate Word of God, and that the authentic teaching office in the church is not above, but serves, this Living Word. Furthermore, this Living Word has chosen to address us at a level of fraternal equality, making of us his brothers and sisters who have only one Father, God, and are not to call anyone else our father. So, how do we hold fast to the experience of Jesus teaching us in and as church as we become aware of how often the bishops, those who have been consecrated sacramental signs, seem to allow the richness of the faith to become secondary to culture-war imperatives, institutional self-interest, and the search for corporate approval? I think that reimagining the ecclesial shape of Christ teaching in our midst, exploring the sort of act of communication genuine divine teaching is, and understanding better the relationship between the Teacher, those taught, and those charged to be signs of truthfulness is going to be one of the real challenges of the next generation."Milbank is more persuasive for me (and I shall try to explain how soon). But Alison remains of great interest. Further on in the interview he posits the hope (or fantasy?) that Pope Benedict himself is laying out the ground for change in Catholic teaching:
"Salkeld: You have expressed the belief that Pope Benedict is slowly preparing the way for change in this area. What do you expect such change would look like?Alison is taking a bold punt there. And Ratzinger is a very clever man. Watch this space?
Alison: Let me have a shot at explaining why I take the view you mention. And let me start by saying I have never met Benedict in person and have no privileged information about him. It is as a longtime reader of his books and a distant outsider to the inner counsels of those involved in the governance of our church that I attempt to understand what’s happening, from a mixture of prayer, hope, and gut. I’m moved in these by the conviction that since the church is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and since everything that is true, whatever its apparent source, comes from the Holy Spirit, therefore there must be a way the church can find its way into truthfulness in this area.
There is a personal element to this. Since I first read it, many years ago, something from the CDF’s document Donum veritatis has resonated deeply with me.
It can also happen that at the conclusion of a serious study, undertaken with the desire to heed the Magisterium’s teaching without hesitation, the theologian’s difficulty remains because the arguments to the contrary seem more persuasive to him. Faced with a proposition to which he feels he cannot give his intellectual assent, the theologian nevertheless has the duty to remain open to a deeper examination of the question.I take it that Ratzinger was the author, and, if you will forgive the perhaps delusional subjectivity, I have always felt since then, as I have tried wrestling with the gay issue in the church, that I was somehow in spiritual communion with him by remembering this formulation."
For a loyal spirit, animated by love for the church, such a situation can certainly prove a difficult trial. It can be a call to suffer for the truth, in silence and prayer, but with the certainty, that if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail.
Either way, I like the words cited above about the patience and prayer of a theologian.
Before I get to Milbank there is a very interesting and slightly nasty essay on ++Williams by Adrian Worsfield to consider.
Also I have to get my head around now being the mover of our Diocese's motion on the Covenant at our Synod on 21 April!