There is another fine posting by my brother in the priesthood, Fr Jonathan Munn – Fatally self-defined. At first sight, it may seem to coincide with my own discussions of Asperger Syndrome and the way some use it as an identity label. As I wrote in my posting some days ago, I go further than diversity, because each human person is absolutely unique in spiritual, mental and physical terms. I am sceptical about the concept of normality, because majorities do not always express truth.
“Coming out” with Aspergers can be positive and negative. Profound ignorance leads to fundamental misunderstandings, such as confusing Aspergers with “psychopathy” in the latter word’s accepted meaning of describing a personality disorder that attributes total lack of empathy or care for others to a manipulative and dangerous person. When this happens, one might find oneself losing friends very quickly! On the other hand, if it is something that has been found by a mental health professional, it can help people understand and make allowances for what looks on the surface like selfishness, tactlessness and eccentricity. We have to be careful with labels. They can help to give us some understanding of our lives as we have experienced them, but a philosophical approach is far more meaningful than psychiatric appelations which can leave a considerable amount of ambiguity.
Fr Jonathan begins his article with some aspects of a condition known as dysphoria, the opposite of euphoria. Examples include a young woman believing that she should have been a cat, therefore “species dysphoria” (assuming it is not a joke) and the more frequent occurrence of a person who believes that he or she should be the opposite sex. The latter is known as gender dysphoria, commonly known as transsexualism. Quite frankly, if someone wants to live out something like this, why not? Simply, it should not be possible to have surgery for any reason other than medical, to cure or alleviate an anomaly. Plenty of men are drag queens and nobody in our time worries about it. They either do it for purposes of entertainment or to enjoy themselves. Why not? Just as long as they don’t do it in church! 🙂
The Aristotelian syllogisms are amusing, but the problem is that what someone thinks he is changes nothing of his ontological reality. That said, I am less certain about realist metaphysics in the light of some German idealistic ideas I find interesting, which also concur with some modern scientific theories about consciousness. That is another subject…
Ah! – the poor old Church of England… A diocesan bishop believing that the ordination of women is invalid, and has such female clerics in his diocese. Such a predicament could be compared with that of Major-General Harrison in the words of Samuel Pepys: I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. There is something to be said for the British stiff upper lip!
Fr Jonathan’s point seems to be more about our identity as Christians belonging to an institutional Church or more-or-less the tradition of that institutional Church in an independent body. Thus he gives the distinction between the adjective and the noun. We are Anglican Catholics, because we follow a Catholic tradition in an Anglican culture without being in communion with either Rome or Canterbury. Some might find that idea absurd, but we don’t, any more than Roman Catholic traditionalists or Russian Orthodox old believers. Some have good reasons not to belong to the institutional churches of Rome or Canterbury (other than our own Bishop’s See also based in Best Lane, Canterbury). I think Fr Jonathan and I can be perfectly shameless because we are canonically members of the clergy of the Anglican Catholic Church, which is an institutional Church in its own right.
I smiled about the bogus “cardinal” Fr Jonathan alluded to. I know who it is, and also will not mention names to be sure of staying the right side of the law. I have often had conversations with my Bishop about various episcopal wannabes in England and their false egos. Peter Anson had his ideas about those colourful characters with multiple lines of succession and something to prove. Though he was quite smug about it, Anson was not far wrong, and mentioned the exception of the German intellectual Friedrich Heiler. We are obviously better off and enjoy more credibility if we have actually achieved something in life, done some studies, and earned the confidence of an authority in a Church whom we can trust. I have had experience of this habitually hollow and illusory world. The “mainstream” is shot, but we still need to be ecclesially-minded if we are going to be priests in the Catholic tradition. The dividing line is never as clear as we might wish it to be.
We need to be true to ourselves and discover our real selves. This is the virtue of humility, neither snobbery nor inverted snobbery, just clear realism and lucidity. Self-knowledge is the privilege of those who have suffered, and in the words of Oscar Wilde, Love is a sacrament that should be taken kneeling, and Domine non sum dignus should be on the lips and in the hearts of those who receive it. Surely, such is the very purpose of Lent.