Sunday, December 04, 2005

My last words on the topic...

Damien's post on Friday angered me beyond my ability to describe, for a while. Don't get me wrong - his writing was great. But reading the blathering and blithering of the representatives of the Catholic Church simply infuriated me.

I'm condensing this down to the simplest points - the quotes from the ZENIT article that Damien referred to are in italics.

The new Vatican document on homosexuality and admission to seminaries and holy orders is not an "attack on homosexuals," says Cardinal Georges Cottier. Rather, the document is an effort "to understand their situation" and sufferings, explained Cardinal Cottier, who until today was the theologian of the Pontifical Household.

You're both absolutely right and absolutely wrong, your Eminence. If I were to I tell you, "Don't go away mad; just go away," it would not be an attack on you. It would be a statement of preference - that I don't want you around. Period. So your statement, while disingenuous, is absolutely true. The Church has not attacked homosexuals; it is simply clarifying their erroneous beliefs and practices surrounding homosexuality and homosexual activity. Nothing personal, of course...

But the second statement is absolutely wrong - because the Church has failed completely to understand the situation of gay men. The Vatican document does nothing more than cauterize the wounds caused by priestly abuse and the failure of the Church administration to deal with that abuse in a proper and timely manner. The Church doesn't understand the situation of gay men; never has, never will. This document just rationalizes the Church's decision to simply excise them, like infected tissue, so that they don't infect the rest of the Church and hurt it any more.

Cardinal Cottier claims that the text is very thought out and says that he would underline its sensitivity.

But, as Damien points out in his post, this document abandons the position of the church which separated "homosexual activity" and the sexual orientation of homosexuality. The Cardinal talks about those who have "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," and those who have slight, "transitory" tendencies, linked to episodes in their lives, of which I would say they can free themselves. Therefore, there are degrees. The "degrees," then, are in whether one can free oneself of homosexual tendencies. If you can't free yourself - if you are homosexual in your being - then it doesn't matter what you do - it only matters what you are. And what the document says, in essence, is if that's how you are, you're out. Period.

All in all, a well-thought out and sensitive position, I'd say...

And I'd sure like to read the studies that support the Church's conclusion that homosexuality impedes, in a certain sense, "emotional maturity". That is so wrong as to be almost immoral.

How the hell have gay priests provided pastoral care, counsel, leadership of congregations and liturgy, and spiritual direction for years on end without "emotional maturity?" How have the overwheming majority of the gay Catholic priesthood lived and served with this so-called immaturity?

The Cardinal's interviewer said, In general, homosexuality is accompanied by this emotional immaturity. It is an affirmation that is going to be criticized, but that is based on experience. Whose experience, I wonder? Just the abusers?

You'd better bet that statements like that are going to be criticized...

Here's another one that just infuriated me: Inasmuch as representative of Christ, bridegroom of the Church, the priest is called to exercise a spiritual paternity among men and women. For this reason, emotional maturity is necessary, which implies a spirit of sacrifice and self-forgetfulness out of love for the other.

Excuse me, Cardinal...There are a whole lot of gay men who are priests. And these men have given up material possessions; taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. And the vast majority of them have lived up to those vows. Are you going to tell me that somehow their spirit of sacrifice and self-forgetfulness is somehow defective?

And you say this is not an attack against gay men in the Catholic orders?

Damien makes an interesting point:

He [the Cardinal] does not distinguish those who are sexually active from those who are not sexually active. One can argue that his silence about that distinction is only silence, not a signal one way or the other. Perhaps. Perhaps. One does wonder, though, why no one from Rome wants to issue a statement saying that chaste gay men are acceptable. It would seem so easy a way to stop the conflicting interpretations, assuming they want to do that.
I believe the only reason no one wants to issue that statement is that the Church has concluded that if they don't have any homosexuals around, then there won't be any homosexual abuse, and the Church can stop hemmhoraging money and members. Just do a "clean sweep," cut out the infected tissue, cauterize the wound, and carry on.

And wait until the heterosexual abuse cases start to show up. So you can start throwing out the hetero priests...

To me, the Church has said that people with a given ontology - my ontology, my essential being and orientation - are to be excluded from ministry. Homosexuality has gone from being a sin of action to a sin of being (or not-being, perhaps). Catholicism has always declared that the primary mission of humanity, apart from worship of God, is to procreate - and that anything that stands in the way of that procreation is "intrinsically disordered."


Just don't wonder why men of great faith, with servant hearts brimming with love and care, flee your churches, your cathedrals, and your seminaries, your Eminence.

And then stop and reflect on how sterile - and how crippled - your Church will be when they are gone.

The Vatican's document has rung the bell - and there is no way to unring it now. The Church's institutional pride has always prevented admission of error. That's why it took 500 years for them to apologize to Galileo...

This is the last time I'm writing on this, by the way. As Damien pointed out in this linked article, the pogrom has already started. The arrows are pointing toward the door, the door has been opened. The Roman Catholic Church has become an unwelcoming, irrelevant institution to the gay world. The only question remaining is how long it will take for gay Catholics to secede and form the "Rainbow Catholic Church," to preserve the beauties of the Catholic tradition for the GLBT community.

May it come quickly. It's a Reformation that is long overdue.


  1. I read all this and I just wonder - Who's surprised?
    We know that the Roman Church is and always has been one of the most ungodly and F'd up institutions in the world.
    Why would we be the least bit astonished by the way it's handling this? Particularly after witnessing how it mishandled the abuse scandles in the first place? And the Galileo thing of course. That was good to point out.
    One should expect a snake to act like a snake. The mistake would be to expect that institution to act any better.

  2. I suspect that a lot of gay and lesbian Catholics will stop practicing. Some will fill the ranks of Dignity. Others will move to other ecclesial communities, such as the Episcopals.

    But it is not in the nature of Catholics to splinter off and start counter-churches.

    The historic Reformation was inspired as much by the rise of national identity as it was by religious concerns, and was a singular event, I suspect, tied to a time and place in Catholic history.

    And that is, I think, a good thing. The Reformation did not, on balance, achieve its aims of reformation. It did, however, start a splintering of Western Christendom that spawned, over the years, thousands of Protestant ecclesial communities, more typically fighting among themselves than seeking unity. I think most Christians recognize how destructive the process has been over the centuries. I hope that it is not repeated by gays and lesbians.

    Steve, I empathize with your anger, and many of us who are Catholic share it, but I don't think that the events of recent weeks will cause an earthquake.

    The events of recent weeks are the latest stages of the work and influence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, over the last twenty years.

    In the pre-Ratzinger era, the Catholic Church was moving to accept modern psychology as the basis for a theology of homosexuality -- read the 1975 CDF "Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics", for example -- well ahead of almost all Christians. The Church was groping along in that direction until the mid-1980's when Cardinal Ratzinger issued a "clarification", the "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons", which laid the structural groundwork for the change in course we've seen since then.

    Ratzinger has undone that trajectory, but Ratzinger is transitory. The "reformation" will come from within, in a decade or two, after he is gone

    The Catholic Church is going to go through wrenching times on this issue. It is not only the clergy who are affected by the recent spate of instructions, explanations and guidelines, but the gay and lesbian laity and families of gays and lesbians -- all are directly affected.

    The tide will turn. Whether it will turn in my lifetime is an open question. But it will turn.

    As you know, I know the history of Catholic teaching and action with respect to Jews and Judaism better than most.

    The Church, on that issue, wandered around between two poles of Christian thought, often acting with great force and with great injustice to repress Jews and Judaism, and at other times acting rationally. In the end, the Church found its way to a resolution, and we can expect to see the Church re-Judaize itself over the next century or so, if the trajectory holds.

    The Church is, I think, bouncing back and forth on the issue of homosexuality, in a somewhat similar way. We are in a time when the dark forces of repression reign in the Catholic Church, as in our country and in many Protestant denominations. I can't speak for or about Protestants, but I am confident that our country and the Catholic Church will eventually right itself.

  3. Steve, thanks for your post. It is all so very sad and stupid. The Church hierarchy is essentially saying we have a "disease."

    It's like trying to differentiate between having a cold and having asthma.

    If a man just has a "cold" and gets over it, he can be a priest. But if he has "asthma," well, too bad.

    As an Episcopalian, I know gays are welcome in many parishes, but we are having our own struggles, too. Hey, I'd be honored to go to church with all of you!

    Peace, Joe

  4. Hello:

    Just a small comment: you say,

    To me, the Church has said that people with a given ontology - my ontology, my essential being and orientation - are to be excluded from ministry.

    I'd like to clarify that ministry and priesthood are not the same. Priesthood is a subset of ministry. There is nothing in the documents that say that gay people are to be excluded from all fornms of ministry.

    Furthermore, there is worth in each member of the Body of Christ, and what each member has to teach us about God cannot be easily learned from the other members of The Body of Christ. To abandon the church because one cannot be a priest would leave The Church full of priests and noone else.

    Thanks for the space to post.