Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Time for a New Copernican Revolution

Meeting of the Pontifical
Academy of Science 
Easter Sunday morning, I read an extremely disturbing article in the New York Times.
It is the story of Ashley Dimond of Rome Georgia who was born male thirty-six years ago but who in adolescence began living as a woman and who, for 17 years now, has been undergoing hormone therapy designed to support her transition to female.  Ms. Dimond had achieved some small degree of professional success as a song-writer and singer before falling into the trap of drugs and petty crime.  She eventually ended up in the Georgia Penitentiary system where she was placed in a men’s prison—she has male genitalia (a word, by the way, I never thought I would be using in my blog) where she has not only been subjected to humiliation by prison officials but raped more than a half-dozen times by fellow inmates.  She was denied continued access to the hormone therapy she has been on the past 17 years and that has had serious physiological as well as psychological impact on her.  Now I know that this posting is going to get some hostile and even vulgar remarks from various krazies—if they are offended by what I write about the Traditional Liturgy they sure aren’t going to like what I write about a transgendered person—but actually Ms. Dimond is not my primary subject.  This article stopped me in my tracks.  I don’t believe I have ever met, much less have known, a transgendered person.  Consequently, I have never given the issues regarding transgendered people much thought.  When I read a newspaper story or heard something on the news, I think I just shoved it into a pre-fit category in my mind and moved on to something more within my experience.   We had a neighbor, when I was growing up, that liked to wear his wife’s underthings around the house.  We kids weren’t supposed to know what our parents and the other neighbors were laughing about, but kids aren’t stupid and eventually find out the story.  I have certainly met my share of effeminate men and even a few who, while not exactly dressing in women’s clothes didn’t exactly dress like men either.  (I mean people other than certain prelates who like to get all frilled up Cinderella style.) But I must admit that I am totally unfamiliar with this transgender phenomenon and so I think I just lumped a wide spectrum of people into a single category and not a very flattering one.  This article has made me stop and realize that I need to learn more before I rush to judgments or even stereotypes.  I realized reading this article that I had always misidentified transsexual persons as transvestites when in fact it is something very different and that I know very little, and understand even less, about either phenomenon
In the course of writing this blog I have several times suggested that the Church too must rethink certain issues “from the ground up.”  A variety of the sciences –the medical, the sociological, the anthropological, the psychiatric—have made discoveries that fundamentally change the way that we are able to understand a variety of moral quandaries from in vitro fertilization to same-sex attraction to embryonic stem-cell research to gender identity.  I am not saying that this demands that we come to different conclusions, but we do need to take the new knowledge into account as we theologize for a Christian response to people whose lives are locked into these and other complex realities.  In the past it has too often taken us, as Church, far too longer to make the interface between our faith and the contemporary world, especially the sciences.  I am not going to get into the whole Copernicus/Galileo thing, but with the knowledge explosion in contemporary society we cannot afford not to engage in that dialogue now.  The Church’s—and indeed religion’s—credibility has already been all but lost to the under 30 generation.  It will take work for the theologians to absorb the immense motherload of new scientific data and it will take trust for the Magisterium to delegate the research to competent scholars, but our faith should assure us that while the way ahead seems dark and filled with pitfalls, the Holy Spirit ever guides the Church towards the truth.  There is nothing to fear about knowledge; nor is there any reason to block inquiry.  There is but one Truth and we cannot be afraid to search for it.  

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