I tried to just ignore him when he tried to get his whole ridiculous "permanent deacons and ex-protestant married priests should be perpetually continent with their wives" movement rolling in the blogosphere, but now he's at it again in a post responding to an article in the NCR that I think actually makes some very good points:
Edward Peters has started a brouhaha by suggesting that Gov. Cuomo should not be given communion because he lives with a woman to whom he is not married. The diocese of Albany has replied, pointing out why it does not interpret the canons as Mr. Peters does and he has replied to the diocese.
Lawyers have their place. But there is not a brief in the world that can explain the role of briefs in the world. In the case of Gov. Cuomo, the canons of the Church are at the disposal of the bishop to use as he wishes, and as the canons are intended, "for the good of souls." Bishop Hubbard seems to grasp what Mr. Peters, with a professional bias, fails to grasp: That when a bishop finds himself appealing to the canons of the Church in his pastoral ministry or in the court of public opinion, he has already failed in his mission to teach and encourage the faithful. Recourse to the canons of the Church are not just a last resort, they are an admission of failure.
Finally, Mr. Peters repeats the word "public" in his reply to the Diocese of Albany several times. But, he does not know what goes on in the Governor's bedroom nor does he know what has gone on in conversation between the governor and the bishop. My questions for Peters are simple ones: Can he imagine, and admit, that the bishop might, for all anyone knows, be discussing the governor's living situation and encouraging him to regularize it? Can he conceive that such a discussion might be moving in the right direction but could be easily sabotaged were the bishop to adopt the posture Peters recommends? Does Peters think that such a public rebuke would help Governor Cuomo to draw closer to the Church? These are not legal questions, but they seem to me to be the important questions.
I think part of this stems from a confused notion of "cohabitation" that the Church needs to distance itself from. Strictly speaking, "cohabiting," as a sin, presumes sexual activity, is a concubinage wherein conjugal life is carried out, yet without a permanent commitment.
But some conservative Catholics seem to take it to mean that just living together in the same quarters, even chastely, is somehow a sin. Just sharing a domicile isn't in itself a sin (some divorced and remarried couples may live "as brother and sister" after all) unless the people determine that it's a proximate occasion of sin for them. But I don't see why it would be any more an occasion of sin than ever being alone together or over to each other's houses. Would her having a house down the street and sneaking over secretly really be any better??
As for "scandal," if people are jumping to conclusions about two people living together and then using that to justify their own behavior, I think that's their problem. As Catholic Encyclopedia says on "scandal":
Still less can that be considered scandal, which only arouses comment, indignation, horror etc., for instance blasphemy committed in the presence of a priest or of a religious; it is true that the act arouses indignation and in common parlance it is often called scandalous, but this way of speaking is inaccurate, and in strictly theological terminology it is not the sin of scandal. Hence scandal is in itself an evil act, at least in appearance, and as such it exercises on the will of another an influence more or less great which induces to sin.I don't think two people living together, or even sinning openly, necessarily induces others to sin. All that encourages is a mentality of hiding our sins so as to not be a "bad example." But why should anyone be taking anyone else as a moral example in that sense given that we're all sinners? I think this faulty notion of "scandal" is one of the things the bishops used to justify all the cover-up over the sex abuse.
But morally speaking, scandal is not merely something that arouses comment or indignation or shock or suspicion or innuendo or insinuation. It has to be actively inducing someone else into sin. Whom is Cuomo and this woman inducing to sin? Not me. I'm not looking at them and saying, "Oh, look, they're Catholic and cohabiting, adultery or fornication must be okay!" I just doubt anyone is affected by it that way in our world.
The world has changed. Though it's pretty clear Cuomo and this woman are in a romantic relationship of some sort (and thus, in our culture, the assumption is that it's sexual)...sharing a house is really no longer proof of anything. I knew people in college who lived in houses with, like, 3 girls and 3 guys...but none of them were dating, or maybe one pair were but not the others, they were just friends, etc. Who knows, maybe Cuomo is gay and this woman is just his "Grace"!! And heck, priests live together in rectories without anyone suggesting "scandal," I suppose due to a presumption of heterosexuality. And yet, does mainstream society really give Catholic priests a presumption of heterosexuality?? I'm not so sure...
Ed Peters tries to argue that "the unwedded cohabitation (an act public by its nature) of sexually mature, non-familiarly related adults, gives seriously wrong example (i.e., scandal) to the community. Ecclesiastical authority need not verify that two such people are actually doing 'it' before moving against the grave scandal offered by such behavior." But I think all this concern and stirring up of innuendo about other people's most intimate living arrangements is something Catholics would do well to stay away from in our freer and more diverse world.
I'm not saying change the moral teachings, just that acting like certain ancillary arrangements necessarily go along with (or imply a breech of) the moral teachings...is no longer accurate, and that claiming "scandal" when no one is being induced to sin, theologically incorrect.
Admitting that we couldn't enforce exclusion from communion for "private" sinners (like if she did live down the street instead and was just "visiting" every so often), but that merely sharing a domicile suddenly makes the sin "public" is creating distinctions among sinners that only the self-righteous would revel in.
A distinction between hypocrites and sinners (as Our Lord seemed to make) or between public heretics or schismatics and other sinners makes some sense. Even maybe distinguishing (through excommunication, perhaps) people who commit a sin "public" by nature in the sense of involving third-parties as victims (like, say, the victims of abortion) whom the Church needs to try to defend. But these other distinctions which make assumptions about people's private sex lives are a sort of double standard that serves no purpose other than to make the "good Catholics" (who are just as much sinners, merely keeping up appearances) feel righteous.