Benedict’s Latest Attack on Gay Marriage

Previous reports of Benedict’s “attacks” on gay marriage may conceivably have been exaggerated, misrepresentation, or misinterpretation of his dense theological language. There can be no mistaking this one. My response is based on a verbatim English translation by the Catholic news agency Zenit of the transcript carried on the Vatican website, of remarks made to the new German envoy (not to fellow theologians).

 

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Eucharist, a ...

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The point of departure was a reflection on the Nazi Holocaust. The English speaking Catholic world right now is focused on the imminent beatification of Cardinal Newman, but the Germans are more interested in their own:

Many Christians in Germany are looking forward with great attention to the imminent celebrations of the beatifications of several martyr priests of the time of the Nazi regime. This Sunday, Sept. 19, Gerhard Hirschfelder will be beatified in Munster. During the coming year ceremonies will follow for Georg Hafner in Wurzburg, in addition to those for Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange and Eduard Muller in Lubeck. Commemorated also with the chaplains of Lubeck will be Evangelical pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink. The attested friendship of the four ecclesiastics is an impressive testimony of the ecumenism of prayer and suffering, flowering in several places during the dark period of the Nazi terror. We can see these testimonies as luminous indications for a common ecumenical path.

Contemplating the figures of these martyrs, it seems ever clearer and exemplary how certain men are willing, given their Christian conviction, to give their own life for the faith, for the right to exercise freely their own creed and liberty of speech, for peace and human dignity. Today, fortunately, we live in a free and democratic society.

Zenit

Democratic, that is, except inside the Church itself. Read the rest of this entry »

On Pope Benedict’s “Boyfriend”.

For years there has been some sotte voce speculation about the relationship between Pope Benedict and his secretary, Georg Gänswein – speculation which has ratchetted up several notches since the publication of the book, “The Pope Is Not Gay!“. (For a stunning reflection on this, see the essay by Colm Toibin at the London Review of Books)

Read the rest of this entry »

Pope Benedict, and “Homosexual Orgies in the Lateran Palace”.

A few days ago, there were several breathless reports that Mel Gibson’s father had claimed that Pope Benedict XVI, along with half the Vatican, were “homosexuals”. It turned out though, that these were old claims, made in a January radio interview which were totally unsupported by any evidence.

Allegations of widespread homosexuality among high ranking Vatican officials are not new though, nor are they surprising. Read the rest of this entry »

Un-Catholic at Pride: Protest the Pope, or Ignore Him?

While walking down Oxford Street with other gay/lesbian Catholics, I suddenly found myself faced with a BBC television camera and reporter. “What,” she asked, “do you think of the pope’s UK visit?”

This has become highly topical, and highly emotional here. Even today, there are some permanent tensions which have their background in the historical development of the Anglican church, and the subsequent suppression of the Catholic faith, when Catholicism was seen as a form of treason (and incidentally, lumped  together with heresy and sodomy as the greatest of sins against religion. Today, traces of the legal restrictions remain in the unequal status of the “established” Anglican church and the others, while deep suspicion lingers in some quarters about the Catholic (and other) faith schools, about the regular interventions by Catholic bishops in political debates on abortion legislation,  civil partnerships / gay marriage, gay adoption rights, and most recently about the successful attempts to thwart parts of recent equality legislation intended to prevent discrimination by church employers. The stories of clerical abuse and inadequate church response over the past year have simply added to the hostility of a small anti-Catholic minority, and a wider anti-papal/ anti-Vatican feeling of some others (including many progressive Catholics). What has really added fuel to the fire, is that this is to be treated as a state visit, with substantial cost to the British taxpayer, at a time when the new government is announcing plans to slash expenditure across a wide front. No wonder some people are angry.

This particularly includes the LGBT community, and so there was a strong anti-papal presence at the London Pride parade, with a banner, and leaflet distributors. The reporter in front of me was clearly preparing a program not on Gay Pride specifically, but a broader current affairs program on the papal visit, with gay and gay Catholic reactions just one element. Read the rest of this entry »

A “Secularized” West – Or a Secularized Church?

Pope Benedict has created a new Vatican office to “re-evangelize” the West, aiming to combat it’s “secularization”. My immediate reaction on reading this was to wonder if by “secularization”, he is truly concerned about a loss of faith, or the precipitous decline of the Catholic Church in Europe? At USA Today, Cathy Lynn Grossman asks the same question: “Is it God or the Catholic Church facing ‘eclipse’ in the West?“.

There is no doubt at all that in Europe at least, loyal adherence to the teaching of Catholic Church is in free fall. Belgium is one dramatic example: once universally Catholic, it is now one of the most secularized countries in Europe. Only 7% attend weekly Mass, half of babies are not baptized, and three quarters of couples do not marry in church). In Austria, the number of people formally leaving the church annually, now at over 80 000, has doubled over the past two years – and this is a measure of formal resignation, not just of a gradual drift. A similar process of a steadily increasing rate of formal resignations, is similarly under way in Germany. In Ireland, which was once widely described as “priest-ridden”, many Catholics hold the institutional Church in open contempt. Read the rest of this entry »

Church Sexual Abuse: Train (& Tame) the Rottweiler

Now here’s a nice idea:   Benedict XVI, in his earlier incarnation as head of the CDF, was known as “God’s Rottweiler”, for his diligence in guarding the faith from all threats.  Every dog owner knows that Rottweiler’s for all their skill as watchdogs, need training, lest they themselves become a threat to those they are supposedly protecting.  Ergo – train the Rottweiler.

Rex

Benedict’s career has been woefully short on pastoral or administrative experience. He started out as a celebrated academic theologian, in which capacity he made a renowned contribution to the proceedings of Vatican II.  Later, he served briefly  as Archbishop of Munich. Now, recall that the origin of the post of Bishops” was as an “overseer” for the diocese, implying management and supervision.  We now know that in Munich, Ratzinger’s supervision skills in overseeing his priests and protecting the people were somewhat underdeveloped. EITHER he was remiss in allowing a know paedophile priest to return to active ministry against strong professional advice; OR he was remiss in leaving the required supervision to a junior underling, who has now accepted full responsibility.  However, as has been pointed out elsewhere, one can delegate tasks and decisions to subordinates: one cannot delegate the responsibility.

He was soon recalled to Rome to head the CDF (successor to the old and notorious Inquisition) , where he earned the soubriquet “God’s Rottweiler” for his enthusiasm and vigour in reigning in and silencing dissenting opinion:  opinions in dissent, that is, from the views of John Paul II and his own. Read the rest of this entry »

Hand Wringing & Blame

The pastoral latter is carefully constructed to address several groups of people affected by clerical sexual abuse, or implicated in it as perpetrators, or as complicit in their protection. Benedict speaks directly to the survivors and heir families, and to the rest of the Irish people.  He speaks to the priests who were guilty, and to the bishops who shielded them. He speaks also to the rest of the Irish clergy ,to those priests and bishops who were not implicated, but are now shamed by mere association with the rotten eggs in the clerical basket.  But – where’s Wally? Who’s missing from the line-up?

Vatican Cardinals: Free from blame?

In treating this as an entirely Irish affair, in speaking only to the Irish priests and clergy, are we really to believe that culpability lies solely on those flawed Irish, and none in his own domain, the Cardinals of the Curia? Read the rest of this entry »