Why the Catholic Church must tackle its inequalities

When the Church’s social teaching looks outward, it sees inequality as evil, but fails when it looks inward.

Photo CNS/Remo Casilli, Reuters

The Church’s approach to human rights provides “a vital resource” for contemporary politics and ethics and has the potential to make a unique contribution to the challenges we face today, said said Professor Linda Hogan of Trinity College Dublin.

However, the chair of ecumenism at the Trinity School of Religion warned that the Church must address inequalities in its own practices to be persuasive on the principle of equality.

Referring to the “blind spots” of the Church’s institutional practices on gender and sexuality, she criticized the Church’s failure to bridge the gap between these practices and its adherence to human rights in the world.

Prof Hogan was speaking about a webinar on human rights and challenges for the Church, organized by the secular reform group, the Catholic Association of Ireland.

Discussing the implications of human rights for the internal workings of the Church and its approach to gender and sexuality, she noted that Pope Francis was unequivocal in his accusation of inequality when speaking in the context of social exclusion and poverty.

When the Church’s social teaching looks outward, it sees inequality as evil, “but it does not see it, in terms of its teachings, when it looks inward.”

She pointed out that there are in practice in the Church “fundamental inequalities that are justified and supported by particular approaches to anthropology or sexuality or concepts of complementarity that are false.”

Regarding the Church’s recent handling of theological dissent, Prof Hogan expressed support for the call by censored Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery for the CDF to adopt a more respectful process in its handling of theological differences.

Separately, Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry said that although the era of oppressive patriarchy is over, the relationship between men and women remains a complex area.

“Abusive relationships are disturbing and common. Casual and twin relationships are considered the norm. Commitment and permanence are often portrayed as unreasonable limitations on my freedom in a battle of the sexes,” he criticized in a homily last weekend.

“The family is a central unit of human society. Society is damaged when fundamental relationships are considered less important than my right to do what I want. A self-indulgent culture ultimately does not increase human freedom. It damages the structures that allow healthy and free choices to exist.

He told the congregation that the synodal path of the Irish Church was not just about structural and cosmetic changes. The process asked the faithful how they can be resurrected to a renewed way of being church and making themselves “accessible to the suffering people of our time.”

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