By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let the Magisterium Take Its Course

vaticanImage via Wikipedia
I have noticed more and more how not a few of us Catholics love to play "inside baseball" that, in the end, is unintelligible to many outside the Church. The AIDS/condom controversy arising from the Pope's interview comments is a recent example. Has the Pope changed Catholic teaching on contraception? Of course not--his comments do not touch that issue at all. Has the Pope raised some questions about how we might possibly speak in the future concerning the complex issue of conduct in the age of AIDS? Maybe. Maybe not. It is just not clear at this point. Some things in life are just not instantly and definitively clear, whether we like it or not. Our impatience is irrelevant.

In the end, we must await the magisterium--the official teaching authority of the Church--as it sifts the issues and refines our moral descriptions of conduct in very complex situations. We wait for that magisterial resolution precisely because we are Catholics and are not in the business of do-it-yourself, entrepreneurial moral theology, as is common in some other traditions.

In the meantime, there is no need to try to usurp the role of the magisterium by jumping to premature conclusions. In the meantime, we have plenty of other, urgent things to talk about that are neither murky nor overly complex when it comes to human behavior. The outsiders need to see us talking more about what is already abundantly clear and not prematurely splitting hairs on points that require the ripening effect arising from patient consideration by the magisterium.

Let the magisterium do its work. Let us do ours. Certainly, professional specialists outside the magisterium need to continue the debate and contribute their views as raw material for the slow process of magisterial reflection; but even specialists must recognize that, ultimately, while they must discuss the issue, the issue is not theirs to resolve in the general public arena. That ultimate resolution does not belong to them and may take more time than some are willing to give it.