Whenever, as now, I find myself getting worked up about the Vatican, I find it helps to recall the wisdom of some of the wise friends and writers who have helped to shape my thinking.
For me, my Vatican recovery began a very few words from a very human Jesuit in Johannesburg (now in Cape Town, lucky man), who simply asked why was I fussing about “Vatican bureaucrats”, when the church was so much bigger than they.
Mark Jordan’s book is always a tonic. It cautions against trying to debate with the Vatican – showing how their rhetorical style is based not on rational argument, but on simple repetition of old statements, until the opposition is bludgeoned into submission. He also shows up at length the internal contradictions in an institution which is internally irremediably camp and infused with a gay sensibility, yet is nominally vigorously opposed to ‘homosexuality’. After reading Jordan’s thesis, it is hard to take the bureaucrats quite as seriously again.
Richard Cleaver takes a different tack. Starting from the perspective of Liberation Theology, he reminds us that revelation is not something that ended in Biblical times, but continues through to our own age. We can all participate in discerning this revelation by using prayer and reflection to discern the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and experience. The starting point in liberation theology sounds controversial to some, but the basic point is not – I was strongly moved by the same argument in Dick Weston’s Redemptive Intimacy. Benedict XVI himself said something similar in his Christmas address to the Curia – sadly overlooked by much more newsworthy, because controversial, remarks on gender and climate change.
Daniel Helminiak, in “Sex and the Sacred”, concentrates on the importance of developing a spiritual life, and shows how a unique take on spirituality is one of the gifts of being gay. (Among other things, coming out is itself a spiritual experience).
But above all, at present, I turn to the writings of John McNeill. Infused with the Ignatian Spirituality of the Jesuits, McNeill constantly reminds us that “The glory of God is humans fully alive” (St Irenaus), and that bad theology is bad psychology – and vice versa. He too argues for the spiritual life, developed with the Holy Spirit, to confer the wisdom that we are not getting from the Vatican. but he goes further than Helminiak, arguing strongly that the church needs collectively to arm itself with the grace of the Holy Spirit against a sterile, power-hungry Vatican bureaucracy.
Increasingly, I believe he is right.