“And here’s to you, Bishop Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know “ (with apologies, and thanks, to Simon and Garfunkel).
Or He would, if, as you believe, He were still alive rather than dead. Like every man who ever lived, He died. Like every dead man, woman and child who ever died, He remains dead. He is no more. He may live on, as do your parents and mine, in our memories, in our affection. You revere His memory, you feel His presence , you believe He rose from the dead and is now alive and well and seated at the right hand of the Father.
As soon as you say that, you have crossed into Never-Never Land, a world of myth and fantasy and wishful thinking. You have entered the realm of faith – and fiction. You are out of touch with reality.
For all the admirable courage and sincerity you display in your book, “Contemplating Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus” (John Garratt Publishing, Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia, 2007) criticizing many of the Catholic Church’s traditional beliefs, you give yourself away in speaking of the Assumption, page 255 :
” If someone were to ask me whether I believe in the Assumption, I would answer ‘Yes’. If I were asked why, I would answer ‘Because that is what my mother told me as a child and I have always believed it’. If I were asked whether I could prove that she was assumed into Heaven, I would answer ‘Can you prove that she was not ? I have an ancient tradition and the common faith of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches behind my belief. What do you have behind your denial ?’ “.
Your Lordship (my mother taught me as a child how to address Bishops), you seem to have forgotten what you wrote earlier in the book, page 72 :
“The mere fact of a long-standing tradition is not a proof of its truth”.
You, a respected, intelligent theologian, cannot expect us to take you seriously ! The following Reflection, “Harry and the Burden of Proof”, based on another best-seller, will explain what I mean.
HARRY AND THE BURDEN OF PROOF
All seven of the Harry Potter books are superb page-turners. Sometimes, besides the gripping story-line, they contain surprises which have nothing to do with Goblets of Fire, the Order of the Phoenix or Deathly Hallows. The final volume includes the following example where Hermione is talking about something called the Resurrection Stone. The point here is not belief in life after death or the supposed magical power of certain objects unknown to poor, ignorant Muggles, non-magical people, like you and me. The point is whether or not the burden of proving that something is not true is on the person who contests its reality :
“What about the stone, Mr Lovegood ? The thing you call the Resurrection Stone ?”
“What of it ?”
“Well, how can that be real ?”
“Prove that it is not”, said Xenophilius.
Hermione looked outraged.
“But that’s completely ridiculous ! How could I possibly prove it doesn’t exist ? Do you expect me to get hold of – – of all the pebbles in the world and test them ? I mean you could claim that ANYTHING’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s PROVED it doesn’t exist !”
“Yes, you could”, said Xenophilius. “I am glad to see that you are opening your mind a little”.
(J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, Bloomsbury, London, 2007, p. 334)
Out of the mouths of babes – or at least of gifted, if fictional, adolescents like Hermione Granger – or, more accurately, out of the creative minds of authors like J.K. Rowling, comes unexpected support for atheists who feel no need, even if it were possible, to prove that God does not exist, nor that the Assumption, like the Resurrection Stone, is also a myth.