Monday, December 10, 2012

Doctrine vs. Free Speech

Father Alfonso Llano - 'heretic'. (Photo: El Tiempo)
A Bogotá institution has ended - for at least the second time.

Was he divine, and why?
Jesuit Priest Alfonso Llano, of the Jesuit-run La Javeriana university, wrote a column called 'A Pause in the Road' in the Sunday El Tiempo newspaper for some 30 years about upholding Catholic faith and values. I read it occasionally, and found Llano's opinions often stultifyingly pious - with only rare strayings from doctrine. One of those came recently, when in a column about the childhood of Jesus, Llano suggested that Maria was not a virgin. After all, the Bible does speak of Christ's siblings. Or, were those boys and girls all conceived immaculately by God, leaving poor Joseph as just a frustrated onlooker?

Naturally, the Catholic hierarchy came down hard on Llano, who is close to age 90, for his 'heresy.' And, even tho he wrote another column this past Sunday entitled 'Mea Culpa' in which he ate his own words and asserted Mary's virginity, his ecclesiastical superiors have ordered him to stop writing and shut up. Llano says he'll quietly submit, according to El Tiempo.

This isn't the first time Llano has strayed from church doctrine. In the 1970s he expressed support for contraception use by married couples and said that priestly celibacy should be optional. In 2003 Llano again contradicted doctrine and the church ordered him to temporarily cease writing.

Mary, mother of Jesus:
Did she or didn't she?
Llano is not the Colombian church's only dissenter. Recently, Father Carlos Novoa, also a Jesuit, expressed opinions in favor of abortion rights, altho he has not repeated them.

I know little about the Bible and less about religious doctrine. Naturally, every religion has the right to its beliefs and principles, however much they may contradict science and common sense. That is the principle of faith and belief.

But it also seems to me that faith should be sincere, or else its worthless. And imposing belief by order and censorship is no way to show sincerity, but does display the church's insecurity.

Father Llano's situation also evokes to me parallels with the liberal Liberation Theology movement of the 1960s, the last vestiges of which the current Pope is doing his best to stamp out. Liberation Theology, in my understanding, called on believers to follow Christ for his example rather than his supposed divine nature. By depending on doctrines like virgin birth, resurrection and walking on water - which seem hard to swallow in these science-based times - the Catholic Church rests its faith on increasingly-shaky ground. 

Finally, a thot for the church hierarchy: Isn't Christmas the time for forgiveness and second chances?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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