Thoughts on Popular Revolutions: in Egypt, in South Africa – in the Church

Events in Egypt are dominating the headlines all around the world. It is always dangerous for outsiders to comment too definitively on the internal politics of foreign countries, but inevitably many of us will have thoughts of our own, and will consider the implications for their own countries.  Bill Lindsay’s reflections on this theme at Bilgrimage led to an exchange in the comments between myself and another reader, which I would like to share (and expand on) here. After some specific response to Bill’s post, I reflected on the implications for the Catholic Church:

My own reflections lie in analogy and implications for another autocratic and corrupt empire of an entirely different kind – the Holy Roman one, based in the Vatican, but with global reach and influence. Just like the Egyptian (and Tunisian) people this year, and the East Europeans, South Africans, Ukrainians and Filipinos before them, Catholics will not continue indefinitely to blithely accept control from the top, with no possibility of meaningful input from below.

Vatican control and influence in the lives of Catholics takes a fundamentally different form to the political control in Arab states, and the Catholic revolution will look different. But the principle is the same, and the revolution is most certainly coming – if it has not already begun.

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Gay Marriage – in Church: Sweden

It’s been a long time coming, but has been expected ever since same – sex marriage was approved by the Swedish parliament back in May this year – immediately before the news from Iowa.  As I predicted at the time, the Swedish Lutheran Church has now approved church weddings for gay and lesbian couples.   The interesting part of this to me is that although individual pastors are not obliged to perform same sex ceremonies, local churches do not have the same opt-out:  all churches must be available to all couples.  If the resident pastor won’t do it, a substitute must be brought in from elsewhere.

Bridegrooms on Church Steps

Once again, this advance has come after discussion that began much earlier, before the church approved “blessing of homosexual partnerships years ago.”  In so doing, the majority of the church discounted the traditional view that such partnerships were somehow “against Scripture”.  This is another very welcome step in the defanging of that fallacious argument. (See “Countering the Clobber Texts”)

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A Congregation in Exile: St Mary’s, Brisbane

This is the face of the future church, unless the Vatican and the episcopal hegemony between them start to take seriously the need to be a listening Church, and find some way to include all Catholics in pastoral decisions -not just the men at the top in their scarlet robes and comfortable palaces: services with (almost) no congregation.

This report, from Brisbane Times, tells of St Mary’s Brisbane – but it could just as well be about other flourishing congregations around the world (St Stephen’s in Minneapolis, or St Joseph’s, Boston, the congregations with womenpriests, and many others) that are doing perfectly well without the help of professional, celibate male priests, officially approved  by the Vatican. Read the rest of this entry »

The Vatican and “Objective Disorder”: John McNeill

In John McNeill’s “Sex as God Intended”, the epilogue reflects on the “Vatican Instruction” barring openly gay men from seminary training.  This reflection is clearly directed at gay men and lesbians, but in fact covers much more ground, with important observations on the very meaning and understanding of God’s revelation,  and on the source of authority within the Church. As such, it is relevant to a wider audience as well, and just as the “Declaration” that I wrote about earlier in the week, it seems at least as relevant in the light of the current troubles over abuse, as when first published.  These are some edited extracts from that chapter,  with a light commentary to take you through it.

From the Epilogue to “Sex As God Intended”: Objective Disorder

Since his election as Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Ratzinger has carried the persecution of gays and lesbians to almost a hysterical level.  I would like to reflect here on one action in particular:  the implications of the Instruction forbidding the ordination of self-accepting gay men to the priesthood.

In that Instruction the Vatican has given a vicious collective slap in the face not only to gay priests and seminarians, but to every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered person on earth.  The Instruction, issued by  Pope Benedict XVI,  calls homosexual orientation an “objective disorder” and any sexual act that follows from that orientation is contrary to the divine will and profoundly sinful.  Any effort by a gay person to reach out for human sexual love, no matter what the circumstances, it judges as evil.   Scripture says that if anyone loves, they know God because God is love.  The Vatican says that if gay people enter into a human sexual love relation, they know evil and will separate themselves from the love of God.

It is common knowledge that the primary yet unstated reason for the publication of this Instruction is the priest/child abuse scandal that has seriously and probably permanently damaged the Catholic Church’s moral authority. This document has little to do with God or even morality.  This is a political document issued in self-defence by the human and sinful hierarchy of the institutional church. The hierarchy, rather than accept their responsibility, for this crisis, decided to scapegoat gay priests and seminarians

A more probable explanation for the abuse, according to the majority of psychologists is the high number of priests who were immature, insecure about their tendencies and full of doubt and guilt.  Any homosexual who achieves a healthy self-acceptance and has a positive attitude towards his sexual orientation is precisely the one this Instruction excludes, whereas those gay men who are struggling with immaturity and self-rejection acceptable candidates for seminary. Rather than setting up a cure of the child abuse crisis, this Instruction guarantees that the crisis will continue.  What is bad psychology is bad theology.

A consequence of this Instruction will be a further decline of the moral authority of the hierarchy.

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Lesbian Bishop Consecrated *

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Gay Marriage – in Church. *

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Vatican Approves Married Priests (Updated) *

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Sheep Leading Shepherds: Lay Theological Literacy *

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James Alison: Discovery of “Gay” = Good News For the Church *

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“The Holy Spirit Moves Through All: All Must Be Consulted.”

What do you think has happened to the spirit of Vatican II?  Depending on your personal view of the value of the Council, most assessments appear to either lament the rolling back of the reforms by the revisionist JP II and Benedict XVI; or to rejoice in the return to the authentic tradition before that prevailed before the supposed errors of the reformists. Ted Schmidt, editor of the Canadian “New Catholic Times sensus fidelium” has a much more encouraging view.

The Canadian church is still recovering from the shock of Bishop Leahy, who resigned suddenly after being charged with possession of child pornography. It was in the light of this scandal that Schmidt conducted a series of interviews with Canadian bishops, then shared his reflections on what these said about the state of the Canadian Catholic Church. His observations, though, are applicable to the whole church, not just to Canada.  I share here some extracts – the full article is available at   New Catholic Times sensus fidelium

Knowing many of these fine men I say without fear of contradiction that presently they seem to have missed a fundamental truth of modern ecclesiology, the teaching on the sensus fidelium, that the Spirit is given to the entire church and not an ordained rump of clerical celibates. They are so fixated on the idea that they are “the teachers” that they have forgotten that they must first be the listeners and learners.

That sounds familiar, but it is what follows that is important: Read the rest of this entry »