The Perils of Criticism: Fr Alan Griffiths

What is the most important commandment? For Catholic priests, it often seems to be “Thou shalt not step out of line.”

Fr Alan Griffiths took the bold and unusual step some months ago of criticising the procedures that have been followed in producing the new translation of the Missal. In this he is not alone – there is much to criticise, and many others have done so too. For Fr Griffiths, the difference was that he was speaking with an insider’s knowledge, as one who had participated in the process. For his honesty, he has now been sidelined, and told that his services are no longer required.

From the Tablet:

ICEL sidelines priest who criticised Missal changes

A PRIEST who worked on the new English version of the liturgy but publicly criticised the way last-minute changes were made to the new Missal has been sacked by the body in charge of the new translation, writes Christopher Lamb.

Fr Alan Griffiths has been told by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (Icel), that he will not be asked to do any more work for them. A priest in the Diocese of Portsmouth and a respected translator, Fr Griffiths is a longstanding advocate for a new translation of the Mass to replace the one prepared by Icel in 1973, and has been extensively involved with preparing priests and laity for the new version. However, he became critical of the final text after comparing it with the version approved by the Bishops of England and Wales in 2008.

The final text was then re-edited by the Vatican and appeared earlier this year. In a letter to The Tablet (30 October), he wrote: “The differences are so extensive as to argue that the 2010 text is not that which was approved in the first place.” He added that the new changes “are simply not correct English”, that they contravene agreed Holy See guidelines on how to translate texts and that whoever made the latest changes did not communicate with Icel. Fr Griffiths said he was “neither upset nor surprised” by Icel’s move and “guessed” that it was because of his letter to The Tablet. A spokesman for Icel said he did not wish to comment on the matter.

Pope Benedict, on the Priesthood

Before I elaborate on Pope Benedict’s views on gay men and the priesthood as expressed in “Light of the World”, I want to put this into the broader context of his views on the priesthood generally, and some other observations on sexuality.  Before doing that, I just want to post verbatim the relevant specific questions that Peter Seewald put to him, and his responses. First, I place here his quoted observations on the priesthood. In a companion posting, I do the same with his responses on divorce and contraception. The questions are lightly edited, to remove some of Seewald’s less relevant remarks, or those which are specific to Germany. Benedict’s responses I have quoted in full.  (My own reflection on these responses will follow shortly).

Read the rest of this entry »

Priest “Bart”, on “What is a Gay Priest to do?”

Ever since I first read the important question posed by James Martin SJ at America blog, “What is a gay Catholic to do?”, I have tried to provide some examples of what a selection of gay Catholics have done. The responses I have had from some of my readers who are priests, and also some posts I have read at other sites, have shown that there is another much more difficult question to be answered, too: “What is a gay Catholic priest to do?”  This is way outside my own ability to explore, so I have said before that I would welcome commentary from any priest who would like to offer a personal response. I have had some observations made in comment threads, but a full response needs much more space than that.

I am delighted that one of my readers has taken up the challenge. “Bart” has formally joined “Queering the Church” as a contributor, and describes himself in his profile as

Catholic priest, in the mid-forties, presently serving in a diocese away from home. Self-identifying as gay, and going through the coming-out process. Keenly interested in LGBT issues, not only where they concern the religious sphere, but also in the wider social context. Enjoys outdoor activities and sports, as well as indoor pastimes such as reading, listening to music, and watching films when time permits.

Bart has prepared an introductory post in which he explains his choice of pen name, and introduces the topic, “What is a gay priest to do?”. He will then follow up the introductory post with some further reflections on the same theme.  I loved reading the introductory post, which appears here (at my primary domain).

Bart Simpson

Image via Wikipedia

 

This is Bart’s opening:

I think that one of the first issues a gay priest (or any gay person, I suppose) has to tackle is that of coming out. Now, let me make it clear that there will be as many different coming-out stories as there are persons, but I suspect that a common denominator for each story is: deciding on which side are you. Let me ask a few pointed questions. Are you going to (continue to) live in a state of self-loathing, rejection or denial? Will you continue to agree with the barrage of homophobic messages received from the Church, family, friends, workmates, society…? Pope Benedict has just reiterated (in his book Light of the World )a classic view held by the Church, that of homosexuals looking at their state as being a trial. It seems that the Church hierarchy wants to keep gay persons, in this case its priests, stuck in an ego-dystonic state, loathing themselves because of their homosexual orientation, as if it is some foreign body that must be fought with vigour. I am stating this because I cannot really see any way forward unless one moves from this stage to a stage where one has fully embraced one’s gayness. If I cannot come to a point where I have fully accepted myself as I am, that I am gay, how am I ever to accept others as they are? Can you see the necessity and the logic behind this fundamental step? If I may put it in other words, I can only love others to the degree that I can love myself.

These may seem to be difficult words to digest but, judging from my own experience, rejection and self-loathing are hardly a solid foundation for the priestly ministry. I mean, even all the glib talk on how much God loves me becomes suspect. If God loves me as I am, then this leaves little room for self-loathing. Time and again I have come across the works of various authors who talk of “internalised homophobia”, and this term really hits the nail on the head because what we are doing when we reject ourselves is accept the rejection we perceive to get from others.

Read the full post here.

 

A Reader’s Excellent Questions On Celibacy.

My reader William is not Catholic, and has declared to me in private correspondence that he does not regard himself as a highly educated man. Sometimes though, it takes an outsider’s perspective to see things clearly, and sometimes great learning just gets in the way. I find great wisdom in his question, below, which we supposedly educated Catholics would do well to ponder – and also his conclusion.

I am going to take a stab at this and please understand I am not trying to offend anyone who regards themselves as Catholic. It is my understanding that the Catholic Church regards Peter as the first Pope. Then please tell me why Jesus would make a married man Pope if He was opposed to men, in the service of the Lord, being married? As I recall were not the majority of the priests in the Old Testament married? How is it that the ruling body of this church consist entirely of men who say they are celibate and have remained so their entire “official” life, how can someone without any sexual experience advise anyone on a sexual matter much less make regulations regarding a subject they know nothing of? Of course this could also be asked of anyone who regards themselves as heterosexual and claiming that being homosexual is a choice. The fact that they are heterosexual eliminates them from any discussion on any sexual matter not related to heterosexual matters.

The bottom line as far as I am concerned is that if Jesus did not oppose marriage for His followers including Peter and future Popes and if He also did not have anything to say about same sex matters then we who are His creation should remain silent as well.

Does Benedict Oppose Gay Priests?

Andrew Brown thinks so, based on the relevant passage in Seewald’s book. I hesitate to comment with any conviction until I have read the full passage myself, but the published extracts are disturbing and important. Up to now, there have been some signs of a more rational approach to homosexuality under this papacy, but some of these views strike me as just wackadoodle. Benedict is widely acclaimed as a great and subtle theologian, but he could do with some lessons in basic facts of gender and sexuality.

For example:

We could say, if we wanted to put it like this, that evolution has brought forth sexuality for the purpose of reproducing the species.

Read the rest of this entry »

DIY Catholicism, Europe: Breakaway Parishes in Belgium, Netherlands – Catholic, Not Roman

The Catholic Church in Belgium strikes me in some respects as a microcosm of the state of the Church in the rest of the developed world (Africa excepted).

In this nominally Catholic country, ordinary people have been turning away from formal religious observance in their droves; the clergy have been collectively tarnished by the clerical abuse problems, which culminated earlier this year in the resignation of a senior bishop; the public has been angered by the inaction and excuses of the bishops in response; churches are being closed for lack of clergy; and the main remedy of the Vatican has been to put in charge a grossly insensitive conservative, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels.   At a recent public meeting, one Belgian was so incensed by this man that he threw a pie in his face. More ominously for the Church as a whole, a small but growing band of Belgian Catholics, like their neighbours in the Netherlands, are simply going their own way. They are doing it themselves, practising their faith without depending on the benefits of ordained clergy – “benefits”, which in their eyes are distinctly dubious.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Holy Mother” Church: Time for Frail Care?

Writing about John McNeill earlier this week left me reflecting on his ideas of mature faith as reflecting a mature relationship with our parents. McNeill’s thesis, simply put, is that when we are young children, we assume that our parents are always right. If they reprimand or punish us, we assume, even if the evidence points to the contrary, that they are right and that we must be wrong – because our “perfect” parents have said so. As we mature, we are able to recognise the fallibility of our parents, even as we continue to love them. We recognize that they too are human, and that they too can and do make mistakes, and can be wrong. In the same way, we in the church begin by accepting without question the idea that the “church”, as represented by the Pope and bishops are necessarily right in their teaching, and that if we differ, it must be we who are wrong. By analogy with a mature relationship with our parents, McNeill argues that in a mature relationship with the Church, we should similarly recognise the possibility of fallibility.

My thoughts on this were triggered too, by a recent homily I heard which expounded on the image of “Holy Mother” the Church, an image that I find increasingly irritating, for its implied portrayal of us as children. Then, putting this together with McNeill’s conception of the parental image, I took the idea further. After reaching an adult relationship with our parents, we and they continue to grow and age. Sadly, this inevitably leads to a point where our parents’ health begins to fade, and if death does not first overtake them, they may may become frail, or suffer from some form of dementia, losing their grip on simple understanding or their own past and the world around them.

Is this what is happening to the institutional Church? Is “Holy Mother” Church in need of frail care?

It certainly seems that Alzheimer’s has set in. Gone is any connection to Christ’s ministry as one of unbounding love, compassion and inclusion. Gone is any memory of the important place of women in the early church, whether as the early apostle and disciples Junia, Priscilla and others, or as powerful medieval abbesses; gone is any acknowledgement of the many prominent saints, clergy, bishops and popes with openly homosexual relationships, which did not prevent their ordination or elevation to high office; gone is the memory of liturgical rites for blessing same sex couples in Church, or the burial of some such couples in shared graves in honoured church tombs, exactly as married couples.

Gone, in other words, is any connection to any history which does not conform to the distorted understanding of the modern institutional theologians.

Perhaps it is time for us, as adult and mature lay Catholics, to recognize the weakness of our frail and ageing mother, the Church, and nurse here through her slow demise.

Related articles