Theologians’ conflicts of interest
Gregory Baum, one of the influential theologians who led the charge against Humanae Vitae, has now revealed that he is, and has been since the 1960s, an active homosexual.
Are you surprised? No; it’s a familiar story. A theologian writes that it’s unrealistic to expect people to live in sexual continence, and eventually we learn that the theologian isn’t willing or able to control his own sexual impulses. So he has a vested interest in changing Church teaching; that teaching is an indictment of his behavior.
The editors of medical journals understand the danger involved in conflicts of interest. If a researcher wants to publish an article on the effectiveness of a new drug or device, he is required to certify that he has no financial ties to the manufacturer. The reasons for that policy are obvious.
I propose a similar policy regarding the work of theologians who question the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. When submitting an article for publication, they should send along a signed statement, testifying that they have lived chastely, in accordance with their state in life, for the past ten years. Then at least readers can feel some degree of confidence that the article is not a special pleading, an elaborate excuse for the author’s personal weaknesses.
Let me put my argument a different way:
If a professional golfer tells you that the 9th hole on the local course should be a par 5, not par 4, you hear out his argument. But if the neighborhood duffer, having shanked a dozen straight shots into the water hazard, announces that the hole is too tough, you’re not so inclined to listen. Isn’t it important to know, before hearing the call for change, whether you’re listening to the pro or the duffer?
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