Confused English Bishops, and the Catholic “Redefinition” of Marriage.

A firestorm has erupted among some British church people and commentators over government proposals to amend the civil partnership regulations, allowing the ceremonies to be conducted on religious premises, and using religious words, symbols or music. I have avoided commenting up to now, because the precise substance of the proposals has been unclear, and has been badly misrepresented in some press reports, as providing for “gay marriage” in church. This is simply false reporting, arising from the close similarity of British civil marriage in civil partnerships in their legal import – so that many newspapers simply ignore the difference in their reporting, and routinely refer to civil partnerships as “marriage” – which they are not. This has not deterred the howls of protest in some quarters, complaining about the state’s interference to redefine marriage, and more laughably still, to restrict religious freedom.

Particularly incoherent examples of this have come from Austin Ivereigh at “America” magazine (where I really expect better). I ignored his first post last week (which I did not see until a friend emailed me a link late on Sunday), but responded to a follow-up post, in which he reported that the Catholic bishops will strenuously oppose the legislation. This was the response I placed, earlier today:

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US Nuns Are Revolting – at Bishops’ Double Standards.

In yet another demonstration that Catholics today are no longer content to simply sit back and pray, pay and disobey, a group of US nuns have openly criticized the USCCB over its double standards on homosexuality. On the one hand, they repeatedly condemn progress towards legal recognition for same-sex relationships, or protection from legal discrimination, while on the other hand they studiously refrain from comment on the problems of homophobia and bullying directed at gay students, even in Catholic schools.

This kind of open criticism of Church leadership would have been unthinkable just a few years ago – but is very much to be welcomed.

http://www.washingtonblade.com/2010/11/18/nuns-blast-bishops-over-gay-teen-suicide/

National Coalition of American Nuns:

Nuns to Bishops: Condemn Bullying, not Marriage Equality

On behalf of GLBT Catholics, their families and friends, and thoughtful Catholics across the United States, the National Coalition of American Nuns is appalled at the lack of sensitivity of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to lesbian and gay persons.

More than a month has gone by since the media broke the news about a series of gay suicides. During that time, the US Catholic Bishops failed to make a single statement regarding these tragic, preventable deaths. Not one bishop’s voice was raised to condemn a culture where youths are bullied for being who God created them to be and are sometimes pushed by society’s judgments to attempt suicide. Many people have accused certain segments of organized religion, including the Catholic hierarchy, of fueling these attacks and contributing to suicides.

The annual meeting in Baltimore of the US Catholic Bishops this week offered an opportunity to decry these horrendous events. Instead, the bishops have chosen to discuss “the defense of marriage,” their well-funded attack on same-gender couples.

Like blinded Pharisees, they fail to see that the Catholic community is embarrassed by their silence in the face of brutality and incensed by their push of a political agenda against marriage equality—all at a time when their credibility on sexual matters is at a record low.

The bishops have not learned from the Minnesota experience, where Catholics returned the anti-gay DVD’s the hierarchy sent to each household in the state. The anger of Minnesota Catholics is erupting all across our country. Faithful Catholics believe their bishops should be preaching a message of concern and understanding, instead of rejection and hate.

The National Coalition of American Nuns calls on all US Catholics to rise up and say, “Enough, enough! No more discriminatory rhetoric and repressive measures from men who lay heavy burdens on the shoulders of others and do not lift one finger of human kindness and compassion.

(I found this statement at Bridget Mary’s Blog)

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Argentina, Gay Marriage: Priest Barred From Celebrating Mass

In Argentina,the Senate is debating the law to approve full equality for all families. A priest who has openly declared support for the law has now been barred by the bishops from celebrating Mass.

I suppose this is not a surprise. The Catholic bishops have been fierce in their opposition to marriage equality in Argentina, encouraging major protests yesterday to protest the proposal, while Fr José Nicolás Alessio hit the news earlier as spokesman for a group of priests declaring public support for it. What is noteable in the latest twist, is Fr Alessio’s stated reasoning, and his determination to meet his commitments to the community by defying the bishops, and saying Mass regardless.

“I feel I’m in communion with God, my people and the Gospel, regardless of whether a bishop or the Pope decides to excommunicate me,” he told the BAE newspaper.

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Belgium: Does Abuse Cover-Up Continue?

One of the repeated claims made by Church authorities to counter the outcry over abuse, is that while they acknowledge past mistakes, these are indeed all in the past, that procedures have been mended, and that in the church as it is now, all is well. Belgian police are not convinced, and have raided the offices of the Bishops’ headquarters, the Archbishop’s palace, and the home of the Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, confiscating computer files and documents relating to ongoing investigations of abuse.

Monsignor Giacinto Berloco, papal nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg, speaks to police during a raid on the offices of the country’s most senior Catholic prelate. Photograph: Matthew Busch/AP

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True Catholic Belief

Who is a “true” Catholic? What constitutes authentic Catholic belief? I have often met claims in the comments threads on a range of Catholic sites that one cannot claim to be part of the Catholic faithful unless that includes faithfulness to Catechism, that loyalty to the Church necessarily implies, indeed requires, loyalty and automatic obedience to the pope and to Vatican doctrine. How sound is the claim? I know, of course, what the Catechism says, but this is circular reasoning: we must believe the Catechism, because it says so. (This reminds me of Scott Pomfret’s delightful observation: “How do we know the Pope is infallible? Because he said so. In 1879“). I could equally well argue that you must believe me, “because I say so.” It is true  that the argument summarised above is far more complex, with the doctrine developing over many centuries, but at its essence, the argument remains: believe the bishops, because (over many centuries) they have, collectively, said so.

James Alison likes to respond to Vatican teaching by saying “Yes, but is it true?“. I like to respond by checking claims not against theory, but against empirical evidence. So I repeat my questions, and ask ou to pay attention to the precise words: not what should Catholics be or believe, but who are the, what do they really believe?

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Speak the Truth in Love: Write Your Bishop.

The Lord Jesus promised, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (Jn. 8:32). Scripture bids us speak the truth in love (cf. Eph. 4:15). The God who is at once truth and love calls the Church to minister to every man, woman and child with the pastoral solicitude of our compassionate Lord.

-CDF, “Homosexualitatis Problema”

“Speak the truth in love”, advice which the institutional church singularly fails to follow itself. (See “Excluded From God’s People”, for a description of this failure). The advice, however, remains sound. Vatican teaching on sexuality has the remarkable characteristic of being distantly removed from any grounding in the facts of real human lives. This is especially so for gay, lesbian and trans lives, but is hardly surprising, given the ivory tower manner in which Catholic theology is developed and preserved. Yet it should not be so. The Church claims to be a listening church, and pays at least lip service to the place of reason, science, and the continuing revelation by the Holy Spirit, speaking to us through experience, in developing Church teaching. But this of little value unless there are voices speaking from that real experience to which the Church may listen.

 

The Road to Emmaus

The gay Catholic theologian Michael B Kelly has argued convincingly that for many, possibly most, lesbian or gay Catholics it may be necessary to leave the church, literally, or figuratively, for a time. Thereafter, he says, we need to return and speak to the church in prophetic witness to the truth of our lives. We must, he says, take the road to Emmaus, away from the established rulers, but after meeting the risen Christ take the road back again. (One of the ways he is doing this himself by conducting research on gay men’s erotic experience as a path to spirituality, and writing about what this experience can teach the wider church about spirituality.) Read the rest of this entry »