Rather, she writes about violence from the perspective of its victims: How can we point to the eucharistic bread and say “this is my body” as long as women’s bodies are battered, raped, sterilized, mutilated, prostituted, and used to male ends?…As in the past so still today men fight their wars on the battlefields of our bodies, making us the targets of their physical or spiritual violence. Therefore, the ekklsia of women must reclaim women’s bodies as the “image and body of Christ.” It must denounce all violence against women as sacrilege and maintain women’s moral power and accountability to decide our own spiritual welfare, one that encompasses body and soul, heart and womb.286
what are we to say about the Catholic military chaplain who administered mass to the Catholic bomber pilot who dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945? Father George Zabelka, chaplain for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb squadrons, later came to repent of his complicity in the bombing of civilians, but his account of that time is a stunning judgment on the church’s acquiescence in violence. To fail to speak to the utter moral corruption of the mass destruction of civilians was to fail as a Christian and as a priest as 1 see it…. I was there, and I’ll tell you that the operational moral atmosphere in the church in relation to mass bombing of enemy civilians was totally indifferent, silent, and corrupt at best—at worst it was religiously supportive of these activities by blessing those who did them…. Catholics dropped the A-bomb on top of the largest and first Catholic city in Japan. One would have thought that I, as a Catholic priest, would have spoken out against the atomic bombing of nuns. (Three orders of Catholic sisters were destroyed in Nagasaki that day.) One would have thought that I would have suggested that as a minimal standard of Catholic morality, Catholics shouldn’t bomb Catholic children. I didn’t. I, like the Catholic pilot of the Nagasaki plane, “The Great Artiste,” was heir to a Christianity that had for seventeen hundred years engaged in revenge, murder, torture, the pursuit of power, and prerogative violence, all in the name of our Lord. I walked through the ruins of Nagasaki right after the war and visited the place where once stood the Urakami Cathedral. I picked up a piece of censer from the rubble. When I look at it today I pray God forgives us for how we have distorted Christ’s teaching and destroyed his world by the distortion of that teaching. I was the Catholic chaplain who was there when this grotesque process that began with Constantine reached its lowest point—so far.4 It is difficult to read such accounts without recalling the story of Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem, because “the things that make for peace” were hidden from their eyes (Luke 19:41
the New Testament contains no passages that clearly articulate a rule against homosexual practices. The Leviticus texts, of course, bluntly and explicitly prohibit male homosexual acts in a rule form. Paul, as we have seen, presupposes this prohibition—indeed, there may be an allusion in Romans 1:32 to Leviticus 20:13, with its prescription of the death penalty for a man who “lies with a male as with a woman”—but he neither repeats it explicitly nor issues any new rules on the subject. Consequently, if New Testament texts are to function normatively in the mode in which they speak, no direct appeal to Romans 1 as a source for rules about sexual conduct is possible. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 states no rule to govern the conduct of Christians; rather, it declares that they have already been transferred from an old life of sin to a new life of belonging to Jesus Christ. In other words, it presents a descriptive account of the new symbolic world within which discernments about Christian conduct are to be made (see further on this below).
Thus, metaphors reshape perception. For example, when the Gospel of John presents Jesus as saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51a), the message jolts his hearers, who are looking for him to play the role of Moses by providing them with miraculous bread to eat (6:30–31). Jesus’ striking response refuses the identification with Moses and posits instead a metaphorical conjunction between himself and the manna that fed the Israelites in the wilderness. The metaphor quickly takes a gruesome turn when Jesus goes on to say, “[T]he bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” and affirms that “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (6:51b, 54a). At one level, the metaphorical shock induces the reader to confront the scandal of John’s claim that “the Word became flesh.” (Indeed, the statement that the Word became flesh strikingly illustrates the power of metaphor to “mutilate our world of meanings” and create a new framework for perception.)13 On another level, the metaphor leads the reader to make the imaginative connection between the Exodus story and the church’s Eucharist, with the flesh of Jesus as the startling common term. The hearer of such a metaphor is confronted by two options. We can take offense at this jarring conjunction of images, as did those disciples who went away murmuring, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). Or, alternatively, we can “understand” the metaphor. To “understand” it, however, is to stand under its authority, to allow our life and perception of reality to be changed in light of the “ontological flash”14 created by the metaphorical conjunction, so that we confess with Peter, “Lord, to whom [else] can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (6:68).