Goodbye Father: The Celibate Male Priesthood and the Future of the Catholic Church

By Richard A. Schoenherr; David Yamane | Go to book overview

8
IMMANENCE AND TRANSCENDENCE

This chapter continues the discussion begun in the last, explaining why each trend gaining strength in the Catholic Church consists of a pair of social forces in dialectical conflict and how balancing the tension between them can resolve the conflict. The fourth and fifth trends in the matrix affect the tension between immanence and transcendence: (4) declining transcendentalism and growing personalism in the social construction of human sexuality, reflected in the conflict over celibacy and marriage in the priesthood, and (5) declining male dominance and growing female independence in relations between the sexes, reflected in the conflict over male hegemony and gender equality in Catholic ministry.


The Personalist Movement and Celibate Hegemony

Resolving the apparent contradictions between immanence and transcendence is not an offhand theme in religion or in my analysis of the social forces for change in the Catholic Church. The polar opposition of immanent and transcendent divine forces permeates all religious systems. It is nowhere more apparent than in the social construction of human sexuality, a process that is closely connected with religious evolution. So we need to review the development from primitive to modern religion, this time probing for the paradoxical tension between immanence and transcendence as it affects the social construction of sexuality.

Some religious systems emphasize one side of the paradox over the other. Primitive and archaic religions stress immanence by espousing a world-affirming symbol system. They tend to emphasize the pervasive immanent presence of mana, nature spirits, and other animistic powers. Anthropologists and historians of religion insist, however, that even though primitive myth systems may accentuate divine immanence, imaged as a nearby, nurturing Mother Goddess or Mother Earth, they are not blind to overpowering, distant, transcendent forces, imaged as Sky God, Sun God, or Moon God. 1

The world-rejecting view of historical religions emphasizes the absolute otherness of a transcendent being or universe, imaged as an all-powerful father god or Absolute Being. But this view does not totally deny the immanent presence of divine power, imaged as Incarnate Compassion or Love and ritualized in

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