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Bishop questions arguments based on emotion

By Sarah Mac Donald - 10 July, 2015

“It is not for us to judge people, but that doesn't mean that we should not make objective moral judgements,” Bishop Kevin Doran.

Bishop Kevin Doran

Bishop Kevin Doran

Much of the argument in favour of same-sex marriage in the recent referendum was based almost exclusively on feeling, the Bishop of Elphin has said.

In an address to this year’s Percy French Summer School at Castlecoote House, Co Roscommon, Bishop Kevin Doran also warned that some of what is beginning to be heard in support of assisted suicide is also based on feeling.

“The feelings are not the problem and, indeed, I think it is fair to say that, where the Church falls short is in its failure to take on board the power of emotion.”

In his paper, ‘Pope Francis: Sociological Analysis or Evangelical Discernment’, Bishop Doran identified the real problem with the “denial of human nature in its integral totality and the rejection of any purpose other than our own”.

Discussing objective and subjective morality, the Bishop referred to the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, who has pointed out that much of contemporary philosophy has denied the existence of a defined human nature and refuses to engage with the idea of an ultimate end towards which our humanity is directed.

“Yet we still use the language of morality,” Dr Doran noted.

“We see the knock-on effects of this in much of the moral argument that goes on at the present time, especially in relation to healthcare ethics and sexual ethics.”

He suggested that for Pope Francis violence, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, the degradation of the environment and the absence of clean water; the breakdown of family and the loss of a sense of community are only symptoms of a deeper malaise.

Referring to Laudato Si, he quoted the Pope’s statement, “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.” (LS 202)

Pope Francis, Bishop Doran said, explores the essential connection between the ownership of natural resources, the regulation of banks, animal experimentation, unemployment, genetic modification, consumerism, respect for life, poverty, prayer and politics.

Elsewhere in his address on Wednesday, Bishop Doran cited a comment which he said “might almost seem to have been written for Ireland, but which in reality has a much more global significance”.

In it Pope Francis argues that “there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, forgoing a firm commitment  to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery.”(#189)

Recalling the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago’s definition of Christian morality as being like the “seamless garment of Christ”, Bishop Doran said that by this he meant, that one cannot just have part of it. You either have it or you don’t.

He also recalled Pope Francis’ response to the question from journalists on the plane back from World Youth Day in Brazil about his attitude towards gay people.

“The reality, in fact, is that Christians are called both to exercise compassion and to act in accordance with the truth,” the bishop said.

He emphasised that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that people of homosexual orientation “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.

“It is not for us to judge people, but that doesn’t mean that we should not make objective moral judgements,” he stated.

The Bishop also highlighted in his talk how Pope Francis had emphasised how everything is interrelated, and that “concern for the protection of human nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion”.

“How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable or creates difficulties?” he quoted from Laudato Si.

Full text of Bishop Kevin Doran’s address can be read here: http://www.catholicbishops.ie/2015/07/08/pope-francis-sociological-analysis-evangelical-discernment/

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