A reader sent me this story about Bishop David Choby once again guarding his sheep.
Citing conflict with Church teaching, the local Catholic Diocese has for the second time in six months rescinded an invitation—made by one of it own Catholic clergy members—to a local interfaith group to meet in one of its churches.
Father Patrick Kibby invited a group hosting a four-week discussion about the intersection of religion and politics, jointly sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Alliance for Progress, to use facilities at the Cathedral of the Incarnation for this week’s meeting. Instead, the group—whose series is titled “Doing Justly: Integrating Our Deepest Spiritual Beliefs Into Our Professional Lives”—received word late last week that Diocesan Bishop David Choby objected to the positions of the Interfaith Alliance on abortion and same-sex marriage and that, therefore, the group would not be allowed to gather on church grounds. It will meet instead at Belmont United Methodist Church.
The Diocese doesn’t dispute that characterization of the situation and appears more than happy to sit out this citywide discussion among religious people of various backgrounds.
“We encourage people to rely on their faith as they play an active role as citizens in our society,” Diocese communications director Rick Musacchio says in a statement issued to the Scene. “However, serious confusion is likely to arise in the minds of many when political groups hold events on church grounds. We have asked the sponsors…to find another venue for their event after it became clear that one of the primary sponsors is an avowedly political group endorsing many positions that are in conflict with Catholic teaching.” When asked which sponsor the Diocese considers “avowedly political,” Musacchio cites the Interfaith Alliance, a diverse group with members of many faiths and whose local members include several Catholic priests.
Rev. Dan Rosemergy, board chairman of the Interfaith Alliance and an eternal optimist, tells the Scene he’s aware of Choby’s reasons for changing the venue and has scheduled a meeting with him this week to discuss the situation. He feels reasonably hopeful that Choby will come around.
I don’t think congregationalist pastor Dan Rosemergy should hold his breath on this one.
Sadly, the shrinking tent mentality within the Diocese isn’t an isolated occurrence. Back in May, Father James Mallett of Christ the King Church was forced to deliver the news to published theologian Dan Maguire that he would not be welcome after all to speak at his parish about justice and the poor. A group of local Catholics invited the Marquette University instructor here, only to see Bishop Choby weigh in against the plans, putting the priest in an embarrassing situation and forcing the group to find an alternative location.
I love the editorializing here about the "shrinking tent mentality" and casting dissident theologian Dan Maguire as a "published theologian" as if having a book published makes you right. Funny how it is the Bishop that put the priest in an embarrassing position and not the fact that it was the priest’s action that caused the problem. I think it is rather embarrassing to invite anybody to your parish who you say you are totally unfamiliar with, especially with someone like Maguire who has done his best through the media to make everybody familiar with him.
“I am unfamiliar with most of your work, but I did not hesitate to agree to host the event,” Mallett wrote in an email to Maguire at the time. “I am also quite familiar with a number of the group…who invited you. I am at a total loss to explain the tide of vitriol and stupidity that has followed in the wake of our publicity of this event.”
I also have never been much of a fan of the tent analogy in the first place, especially the idea of a big tent only goes so far. Truth has defined edges like a tent does, but often what is imaged is an idea of a tent so big that it essentially has no border. Like the Hotel California you can enter it but never leave. A tent so big that it encompasses everybody stops being a tent and instead becomes a giant cover blocking the sun, and in this case the truth itself by elevating opinion as truth. A real tent has tent pegs to hold it down the same way truth is held down by dogma. Pull up the pegs and the boundaries of the tent do get bigger to the point that it ceases being a tent.
The author of this article also previously covered the first instance that the good bishop took action. She quoted Maguire as saying "They are locked into what I call the pelvic orthodoxy.” I bet Maguire has used this little phrase a lot Of course if there is such a thing as pelvic orthodoxy there would be also pelvic heterodoxy. But sin is of the will and his little turn of phrase does not diminish the fact that outside of marriage that sex is sinful or that lust in all circumstances in sinful. As a theologian Maguire does not explain Jesus’ words, he explains away Jesus’ words.
Update: Carl Olson also weighs in on this article.