Interview with Theologian James Alison

I have made a few posts on my blog featuring the UK priest and theologian James Alison whose refreshing ideas and non- adversarial approach to the Catholic church's stance on homosexuality are always worth reading. 

An interview between James and Brett Salkeld, a doctoral student in Canada published yesterday can be read here  from Commonweal Magazine 


  H/T to Brother Dan at Dating God for link

This is an edited version of the interview; the full version will soon be published in installments at Vox Nova, and at

These are a few extracts from the interview that I found particularly relevant.
Alison :"As a Catholic I am fully committed to the notion that, the Word having become flesh, the living act of communication is an ecclesial one, made available through bodily signs. In addition, I take it for granted that the church is prior to me, and that if something is church teaching, it is true.

The presumption is on there being some sort of truthfulness at work in the stated teaching until it becomes clear that this is not the case. 

The real question for me, as a Catholic trying to think toward the future, is this: we know that we have only one Magister, the Incarnate Word of God, and that the authentic teaching office in the church is not above, but serves, this Living Word. 

Furthermore, this Living Word has chosen to address us at a level of fraternal equality, making of us his brothers and sisters who have only one Father, God, and are not to call anyone else our father.

 So, how do we hold fast to the experience of Jesus teaching us in and as church as we become aware of how often the bishops, those who have been consecrated sacramental signs, seem to allow the richness of the faith to become secondary to culture-war imperatives, institutional self-interest, and the search for corporate approval?

 I think that reimagining the ecclesial shape of Christ teaching in our midst, exploring the sort of act of communication genuine divine teaching is, and understanding better the relationship between the Teacher, those taught, and those charged to be signs of truthfulness is going to be one of the real challenges of the next generation.

Salkeld: Are there things that Catholics who support your view on homosexuality do that drive you crazy?

Alison: Yes. The silence of those in positions of influence in the church who know, or have a strong suspicion, that being gay is a nonpathological minority variant in the human condition drives me crazy, far crazier than I am driven by any loud-mouthed purveyor of hateful nonsense.

 Of course I also think that many of the kinds of protests, demonstrations, kiss-ins, and so on that we see surrounding church events in this sphere are counterproductive (though these are only rarely organized and carried out by gay Catholics). 

Such things feed ecclesiastical delusions of holy victimhood. They effectively give church leaders an excuse to put off the slow, humble task of beginning to imagine forms of truthfulness of speech.

 Few people on either side of such rows seem to have enough faith to be able to imagine receiving an identity peacefully, rather than grabbing one through mutually convenient provocation.

 Only prayer and the Holy Spirit can lead those who are afraid to tell the truth into the awkward path of learning to do so."

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