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Dogma in the age of Pope Francis

Sean Michael Winters writes in yesterday's National Catholic Reporter amplifiying his earlier piece on an article by John Gehring in WaPo. Gehring's comments can be found at MSW's comments of yesterday can be found at His original post is at My original blurb on MSW's piece was as follows: "It is the Holy Spirit that is making all the right moves, through Francis - and She's not done yet."

Here are my comments on the expanded piece (read all links for context): The culture war doctrines predate the culture war by hundreds of years. They go to the Sin Books created by the Irish monks out of whole cloth (indeed, in the Bible, having a nocturnal erection (i.e., masturbating) simply required taking a warm bath the next afternoon. With hot water heaters, one can bathe sooner. Much of the culture war nonsense, including contraception, comes from the teachings on masturbation - it is the uncleanliness of the Victorian era and beyond - since dietary uncleanliness is passe (although hard core conservatives still eat fish on Friday - even outside of Lent). Moving away from these confessional practices (and we largely have) is pretty much what the Holy Father is talking about. We will never change our doctrine on abortion - which is natural law rather than scripturally based - although it would be useful to not be so afraid of inducing labor in a fetus who will not survive anyway due to a genetic defect (note that this does not include Downs children - who survive quite well and should not be aborted).

As to the Credal doctrines - their power is not that we are certain about them. The early history of the Church was awash in alternative theories. The important thing is that we reached agreement on them. Some theologians argue that we should revisit some credal points - but I don't see how this can happen much given the number of Orthodox and Western Churches who share this agreement. The one exception is likely to be honest about the gender of the term Spirit (it is feminine), making it appropriate to refer to the Holy Spirit as She and Her. Of course, that may be the most radical change one could think of and would risk the identification of the Spirit with the feminine Hebrew Goddes Ashura - the Consort of Yahweh. Still, that is worth the risk and presents a teaching opportunity. Of course, that also reopens female ordination - and that is not a bad idea either - especially because female bishops rather than male bishops would be a better voice for the Gospel of Life - both on abortion and on the need to take care of families with children in proporation to their family size. This is the difference between Francis being moderate left and hard left (like me).

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