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General News    H4'ed 6/15/21

Pope Francis Maintains His Doctrinally Conservative Approach

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) June 15, 2021: On June 4th, the German Cardinal Reinhard Marx (born in 1952), archbishop of Munich and Freising, published his heartfelt letter of resignation to Pope Francis (born in 1936). His dramatic resignation made the news.

For the record, Cardinal Marx had not been accused of any wrongdoing. Rather his resignation as archbishop was motivated by his heartfelt shame at the Roman Catholic Church's "catastrophic" scandals (his term) involving priest sex abuses and bishop cover ups.

A few days later, Pope Francis officially and firmly rejected Cardinal Marx's resignation. Which also made the news.

Cardinal Marx himself was surprised that Pope Francis rejected his resignation. Which was also reported in the news.

However, as I have argued in my OEN article "Pope Francis on Evil and Satan" (dated March 24, 2019), Pope Francis is deeply conservative doctrinally.

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Consequently, he is not likely to undertake any significant doctrinal corrections to address the longstanding problems in the Roman Catholic Church's teachings about sex-related issues or about the church's law mandating celibacy for diocesan priests.

In short, Pope Francis maintains his doctrinally conservative approach to ruling as pope by sticking his head in the sand, figuratively speaking - instead of using his head to institute deep reforms in the Roam Catholic Church.

Now, in my estimate, the historical root of the priest sex abuse scandal goes back to the remarkable valorization of virginity that the late Michel Foucault (1926-1984) delineates in his posthumous book Confessions of the Flesh: The History of Sexuality: Volume 4, translated by Robert Hurley; edited and with a "Foreword" by Frederic Gros (New York: Pantheon Books, 2021, esp. pages 111-189; orig. French ed., 2018).

For a brief discussion of Foucault's 2021 book, see my OEN article "Michel Foucault on Ancient Western Christianity" (dated June 2, 2021):

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Now, in Foucault's Confessions of the Flesh, what he refers to as technologies of the self (i.e., techniques of the self) in ancient Western philosophy and in ancient Western Christianity involve what the American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J. Ong (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University, 1955) refers to as the inward turn of consciousness - which Ong associates with the historical development of phonetic alphabetic literacy not only in the emergence of Western philosophy as exemplified in Plato and Aristotle, but also in the emergence of the residually oral texts in the anthology of texts known as the Hebrew Bible. Ah, but what about the ancient competing texts that did not make the cut and become accept as part of the canonical texts of the Hebrew Bible? Similarly, what about the later ancient competing texts that did not make the cut and become accepted as the canonical texts of the New Testament? In both historical cases, the processes involved in winnowing out the texts that were not accepted involved the process of discernment of spirits expressed in each candidate text.

Now, Foucault discusses the process of discernment of spirits in detail in connection with the practice of the examination of conscience/consciousness and the parallel practice of spiritual direction in ancient Western monasticism (esp. pages 87-110). But if the process that Ong refers to as the inward turn of consciousness was indeed involved with the development of phonetic alphabetic literacy not only in ancient Greek culture but also in ancient Hebrew culture, what then should we say about the even more pronounced inward turn of consciousness in the West after the Gutenberg printing press emerged in the mid-1450s? Clearly Ong's terminology about the inward turn of consciousness is elastic and protean.

Now, in Chloe Taylor's book The Routledge Guidebook to Foucault's The History of Sexuality (London and New York: Routledge, 2017), Professor Taylor says, "Confessions of the Flesh is mentioned in the introduction to volume 2 as a forthcoming work, but like the volume on sexual ethics in the sixteenth century [a draft of which Foucault claimed was completed] it has never been published [until 2018 in French and in 2021 in English]" (page 209). Volume 2 of The History of Sexuality is titled The Use of Pleasure, translated from the French by Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985); it comes equipped with an "Index" (pages 281-293), as do volumes 1 and 3; but volume 4 does not have an "Index."

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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