Discipline and Theology

12 September 2008

As frequent readers of this ‘blog know, I’m falling down on the job.  Beginning school years, family visits, and the impending application process(es) have all conspired against it.

Anyway, as freuent readers of this ‘blog also know, I frequently engage in public analysis of the visible division between Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox positions and those held by the Episcopal Church and others.

Something that has been ruminating in my head lately is the issue of discpline and theology.  It’s been pointed out on this ‘blog and elsewhere, by the Fogey and others, that while Roman Catholic discipline has changed, theology and moral positions have never changed.

I’m still wrestling with this.  An example usually used is that once married men were allowed to become priests, but not so anymore in the Western Catholic world, and that this is a change in discipline, not theology.

Fine, but I feel as if a change of discipline necessitates a change in theology, or at least in the understanding of that theology.  The same goes for “paedocommunion” several Church Fathers (Augustine, Leo I, Cyprian) refer to it, but it became rarer in the West until it was unheard of.  Was this not a shift which represented a change within Catholic theology?

Most might point out that usually what we deal with in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion is not an issue of theology but morality: same-sex unions and gaw clergy.  But morality, or at least our understanding of that morality, has also change.  Usury was once a sin, but now usury is understood as something distinct from what it one was.  Why did this change happen?  Usury still exists, but it has a much narrower definition.

Might “the sin of sodomy” undergo a similar narrowing?  And if so, what might we make of those who adhere to the older, wider sense of the sin?  Will they be sexual Ezra Pounds?


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