UCA News
William Grimm, a native of New York City, is a missioner and presbyter who since 1973 has served in Japan, Hong Kong and Cambodia.
Desired norms vs absolute norms
Published: July 13, 2015 02:55 AM
Desired norms vs absolute norms

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan publishes a monthly missalette, Mainichi no Misa (The Daily Mass), containing Mass prayers and readings for the month.

Each issue's cover features a color photograph of the interior of a different church or chapel in the country.

The contents page asks for photos for future editions. It lists such requirements as orientation (landscape), lighting (bright) and content (shot from the rear of the building to show the entire room).

It also says the photo must contain no people.

It is amazing how often Catholic publications, calendars, videos — not only in Japan but around the world — seem to be either supplements to an architectural journal or collections of Renaissance art.

Buildings, artworks, doctrines, philosophies, structures, clergy, ecclesiastical fashions and God only knows what else (if God bothers to keep track) crowd out the only essential element.

The people responsible for these productions would vehemently deny any suggestion that they do not think the Church is the entire People of God journeying through history, citizens of the Kingdom.

But, they are ideological believers, mouthing some sort of party line about the true nature of the Church. The more eloquent and probably more accurate declaration of their real belief is found in what they publish or focus upon. They are known by their fruits.

People get away with that because so much of what Catholics see and hear fails to present the glory and the challenge of the simple declaration, "You are the Church." Or, as St Paul puts it even more startlingly, "You are the body of Christ" (1 Cor. 12:27).

In other words, regardless of what they say, when many people think "Church" their image is unpeopled. Or, if people are included they are like extras in a movie crowd scene or figures sketched into architects’ drawings. The human beings are not the real story, but merely provide some decorative extra color.

The problem is not the publications, videos or other productions themselves. It is a mindset. Unless the first thought that comes to mind when we hear or think "Church" is "people," we are not going to effectively nurture the faith of Christians nor evangelize others.

In the current debate about same-sex marriage, rather than look to real people and their experiences, many who oppose such unions deal with abstractions.

For example, in his response the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that same-gender couples have a right to marry in that country, Bishop Richard Malone, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said, "Marriage is the lifelong exclusive union of one man and one woman." He declares that it has been so since the Creation.

Bishop Malone appears to have forgotten that "our father in faith" Abraham and many others in the Bible were in marriages that were the nonexclusive union of one man and several women yet blessed by God.

Others oppose the formation of families by same-sex couples on the grounds that children have a right to be raised by a father and mother. Once again, real people are not part of the picture.

From the very earliest days of human evolution the situation they describe has not been the absolute norm. The high rate of death in childbirth due in part to the narrowing of the human birth canal as we evolved to an upright posture while bearing large-brained offspring has always meant that many children have been raised without their biological mother's involvement.

Death, desertion, prostitution and rape have meant that many children grow up in homes without a father. And, of course, orphans may end up without any biological, foster or adoptive parents at all to care for them, a situation that some same-gender couples wish to ameliorate. Then, there are the cases where children in fact have multiple fathers or mothers following remarriage.

So, while having two parents of opposite gender has been a biological necessity and the desired norm in most cultures, it is clearly not the absolute norm for children.

This does not mean that we must accept the formation of families based upon same-sex unions.

What is important, however, is that those who argue against condoning or allowing such families must base their arguments upon the evidence of real people, not depersonalized abstractions.

That means looking honestly at people who have been raised by same-gender parents as well as those raised by single parents and those who have grown up without the involvement of any parent at all. And, of course, it means looking at those who have been raised in traditional mother-father families but recognizing that those families may differ greatly from culture to culture.

What would the arguments look like if real people were part of the evidence?

Maryknoll Father William Grimm is publisher of ucanews.com.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
UCA News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia