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Grace on the Margins

Is the Roman Catholic Church downsizing into a sect?


Much has been made in recent months about an ad placed in The New York Times urging liberal and nominal Catholics to "quit the church" because it can never be changed from within, and to participate in it is to cooperate with its oppressive system.

The ad was paid for by an organization called the Freedom from Religion Foundation. But the more I reflect on both the ad and the behavior of our hierarchy lately, there is part of me that wouldn't be surprised if we learned that the Vatican itself had secretly paid for the advertisement.

Sacramental marriage beyond anatomy


As I listen to the fallout from President Obama's announcement that he supports marriage equality, I have been struck particularly by the argument that marriage between a man and a woman is superior to committed relationships between same-sex partners.

Official Roman Catholic teaching bases this belief on the theory of natural law, arguing that all sex acts must take place within the state of marriage and must have the potential to create new life. This is why, according to the doctrine, sexual intercourse must always be involved in any sexual activity between a wife and husband.

Since same-sex couples do not have "complementing genders" and, therefore, cannot procreate, their relationships are by their very nature inferior. Having read Aristotle's and Aquinas's theory of natural law, I believe that the church has taken a very rich idea and reduced it to purely the level of biological function.

Doctor teaches a divinity school about corporal works of mercy


It is an interesting commentary on the state of the church when the most well-attended event in Yale Divinity School's recent history is a lecture not by a minister or theologian, but by a physician.

On April 26, Dr. Paul Farmer, chairman of Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, addressed the Divinity School community on "The Corporal Works of Mercy and the 21st-century Struggle Against Poverty."

The marginalized pay for the church's ideological battles


Earlier this week, The New York Times reported on social service groups who are being denied funding by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development because of supposed alliances with organizations that support equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender persons.

The article focuses on Compañeros, a small, Colorado-based organization that aids Latino immigrants with access to health care and legal advice.

Matthew Fox talks obedience and courage, young adults and the church


This is the second part of Jamie Manson's interview with theologian and writer Matthew Fox. Part I can be found here.

You begin your most recent book, The Pope's War, by taking a look at the childhood of Pope Benedict XVI and his time in Hitler Youth. How do you think that experience might have impacted his view of the church?

Former Dominican sees church's demise as blessing in disguise


It has been 20 years since Matthew Fox was expelled from the Dominican order after a 12-year battle with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the decades since, Fox has continued writing, teaching and ministering to various communities. In 1994, he was welcomed into the Anglican Communion as an Episcopal priest. Fox has authored 28 books, the most recent being The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved. The book has been translated into German, and the Italian version will be released this week.

Filmmaker seeks answers in Simone Weil


"What response does seeing human suffering demand of us?"

This question, which opens the new documentary An Encounter with Simone Weil, couldn't be timelier. From the unfathomable violence in Syria and Afghanistan to the epidemics of disease and famine in the global South, the suffering in our world is so overwhelming it is difficult to conceive of any response, let alone an adequate one.

Denying Eucharist deepens our deprivation of God's presence


As painful as it has been to hear the story of Barbara Johnson, an openly lesbian woman who was denied Communion at her mother's funeral last week, I have been heartened by the national attention the story has received.

Those who read NCR are sadly aware that many Catholics, whether gay, lesbian, transgendered, divorced, cohabitating or pro-choice, have been either denied the Eucharist or threatened with denial of the Eucharist.

Finding the meaning of Ash Wednesday in a darkened movie theater


I didn't set out on Ash Wednesday not wanting to participate in its rituals. To be perfectly honest, it wasn't until I was on a ferryboat ride to Manhattan and saw the foreheads of some of the passengers that I even realized it was Ash Wednesday.

How could I have forgotten? I was at a church event the previous weekend and was reminded of the day and time of the community's service.


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