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Friday, August 8, 2003

Catholic democracy.

Dan Kennedy — senior writer for the Boston Phoenix, author of the paper's widely read Media Log, and contributor to UU World — offers a blistering critique of the Pope's attack on gay rights. He dives right in:

Overseen by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the right-hand man to Pope John Paul†II (and, for all we know, the acting pope in these final days of John Paulís papacy), the document is an incomparable mix of hate, smug self-righteousness, and finger-wagging by out-of-touch, sex-obsessed old men who have long since lost the right to wag their fingers at anyone.

In addition to the heat you may sense coming off your screen, there's also a lot of light in the piece — especially about the political implications of the church's statement. And you'll want to be sure to read the second page, too, because Kennedy describes why the Catholic statement is also an attack on his religion: Unitarian Universalism.

One small quibble with a strong and important essay: Kennedy attacks the notion of "natural law," which conservative Catholics have been deploying with special vigor lately. But, believe it or not, there are also liberal "natural law" traditions — including the Declaration of Independence, or the phrase "inherent worth and dignity," or several approaches to the notion of human rights. I oppose the way natural law is invoked by conservatives, too — and for most of the reasons Kennedy names — but I won't throw out the whole notion entirely. If there are not moral claims that one can make beyond one's own religious or cultural tradition, or claims one can appeal to when trying to find some ethical consensus with people who have other religious or cultural traditions, then we're in a bit of bind.

James Luther Adams was an advocate of natural law doctrine for liberal ends — and it may be fair to regard Martha Nussbaum's "empirical universalism" (which I first encountered in her book Sex and Social Justice) as a kind of natural law doctrine, too.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 8 August 2003 at 5:49 PM

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