Monday, November 28, 2005

Weeping in heaven...

In my former hometown of Toledo, OH, there was a stretch of Byrne Road whose speed limit dropped to 25 from 35 for three short blocks. For years, people like me blew through there - probably closer to 45 than 25 - because the few times that we got pulled over, we were just given warnings. The first time I got a $50 ticket (which, in 1990 dollars, was a big deal...), I became much more careful about how I drove - both in general, and on that specific stretch of road.

I bring this up after reading this morning's NY Times article carrying reactions from around the country related to the Catholic Church's leaked-enough-to-be-official statement regarding gays in the priesthood. (You can read the article here, or go to the Catholic News Service and read their take on it in more detail. Thanks to Damien for the hat-tip on the CNS link...)

If the Catholic Church was sticking to its standing dogma, then every gay man who has been ordained since 1961 has been irregularly ordained - since a 1961 Vatican document on religious-order priests said homosexuals should be excluded from religious vows and ordination. So "tradition" is not a supporting argument - because the church itself has been the greatest violator of that tradition.

In the NY Times article, there is a telling statement:
Most supporters of the directive said they believed there was a link between homosexuality and the sexual abuse by clergy members that has recently rocked the church, and they said the initiative would make such scandals less likely in the future.
To get back to the Byrne Road analogy, the Catholic position would be like saying that since males between 16 and 30 tend to be hot-rodders, the solution to speeding problems would be to not license any young men under the age of 30. In this case, the Toledo Police Department made the right choice - when people were speeding, they arrested them. The Catholic Church's failure was in not enforcing the existing rules related to clergy sexual abuse, and punishing the offenders forthwith.

Preventing gay ordination will only hurt the church. Placing pressure of scrutiny (or worse) on already-ordained gay priests will only help drive them out of a church that they already believe doesn't want them. After all, if you are called to celibacy, obedience, and poverty - and then proclaimed as "objectively disordered" and placed under ever-increasing scrutiny - how long would it take you to find something else to do with your life?

Here's another sign of how much denial is involved with this issue:
...supporters of the Vatican's stance said that such a step was necessary to root out priests whom they considered dangerous.

"If it is part of church doctrine, we'd be better off with 5 percent less priests, but who conform to church doctrine, rather than a few more," said Travis Corcoran, 34, the owner of an online DVD rental company, as he left an early Mass yesterday at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington, Mass., near Boston. "It's the same way if there's a shortage of school bus drivers. If you drug-test school bus drivers and the result is there are a few less school bus drivers, that's better."
Just five percent, eh, Mr. Corcoran? It'll be interesting what you think when you see just how big your "acceptable losses" really are...

And the other flaw, Mr. Corcoran, is that drug-use is directly related to impaired bus-driving. A homosexual orientation is not a direct cause of sexual abuse.

But unthinking comments like these underscore the massive two-pronged tragedy that exists not only in the Catholic Church but in the greater society: first, the idea that a homosexual orientation is a choice - something that can be un-chosen or somehow reversed; and second, that homosexuals are, by default, by their nature, considered dangerous. Both of those statements are fundamentally flawed - in the same way that saying that "all hunters are potential terrorists, because they all have guns" - and yet it seems these kinds of assumptions are the basis for church doctrine.

The actions (and, more importantly, inactions) of the Catholic Church have served to smear a significant portion of their priesthood with the sins of a few. And now, rather than admit their errors, I'm very much afraid that the Church has chosen the scapegoats for their own sins, and the righteous and the unrighteous will all be consumed in that fire.

You might well ask, "You're not Catholic - what does it matter to you?" And it would be a fair question - after all, I am not under the authority of Rome. But there are a lot of folks, both friends and persons I know or have contact with - all of whom are faithful, caring, committed, celibate servants of God - who may well be left dangling over the fire on this issue. And there are also a lot of people who will point to Rome's position and say, "See? See?" None of these decisions are being made in a vacuum.

I just have to believe that there is weeping in Heaven over this.


Peter said...

The reason why this is important to all of us who have a faith stance is that no faith is an island: we're all in our different ways in the same sea. What happens to one, affects us all.

I agree there is weeping in heaven. And on earth...

Kat said...

i agree that we're all in this together. one decision affects us all. i can't say that i have totally formed my objective thoughts on this particular subject for my own personal feelings become involved...i know what the bible says and i know what my heart says, but i'm struggling to reconcile the two.

Im A Foto Nut said...

It also appears that they have not done their homework. Most Child Molesters are Hetrosexual Males.

AnotherLostAngel said...

Based on what I have heard and read the past few days, the higher-ups in the church really do seem to be talking out of both sides of thier mouths, to the point of looking foolish. One spokesman I heard on the Jim Lehrer show sounded cornered and stubborn and dogmatic in that "Napoleon is always Right" kind of way...

It seems quite paranoid as well as disengenuous to insist that "our priests are celibate, and they take part in no sex whatsoever" on the one hand, which extends the infallibility of the pope way too far down the food chain, but then to say, "BUT IF THEY sex is evil but hetero sex is fine." To both insist there is no sexual life for a priest, and yet say that a celibate straight man is ok but a celibate gay man is evil, when celibacy itself is suposedly the goal, smacks of flagrant hypocricy and outright hate-driven hostility. The reasoning is so weak, the veil of deceit is so thin as to be nearly transparent. Just sounds like another of the racist arguments I've heard over the years, trying to mask a pure, hostile, unchristian hateful outlook in some scientific or logical window dressing. Pure and simple.

Which is one of the main reasons why I diagree so very strongly with the church....and all those foolish little things plucked form the bible to justify the actions of sinners in the here and now. Last time I checked, Jesus said words to the effect of "let all those old rules and commandments be replaced by just this your neighbor as you would yourself." Where is the turning of the other cheek here? Where is the respect for Jesus Christ and what he supposedly stood for?

I even wonder why, if he were never married, had no known children, and spent all his time in the company of a group of men, do we not at least acknowlege the possibility that he may have had at least a little extra sympathy for gay people himself? God, I can hear the sceams of fire and brimstone, and the cries that readers would set upon me, urging our lord to bring upon me the eternal firey damnation that entertaining such a speculation immediately demands!

As far as I can tell, Jesus was a good and rightous man, if what is written in the bible is true. Being in essence a collection of stories transcribed from language to language and generation to generation by flawed, sinning humans who surely may have had thier own adgendas to pursue, I can not take it as pure truth in any scientific way. In fact, knowing what I do of man and history, my common sense tells me that much of it probably is inacurate.

There is such a thing as faith, and I readily agree that one can belive every word of it to be "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." One can belive that on faith, as many, many people do. I do not deny them thier right to do that; nor do I expect them to extend thier faith into a logical argument that what they believe is based on fact, science, history or anything beyond simple faith, that is, a firm belief in the veracity of something absent all provable evidence. The justification that always comes up is a version of "It's true because it's true. It just is, becaause it's the word of god. Period."

Again, I will assert that God loves his children as much as a mother loves her new baby. It is my faith that he made his children as he meant them to be...both gay and straight, and in my case, scientific and skeptical. MY FAITH in God's ability to create the world as he intended it to be is rock solid. He made me observant of the hordes of dishonest men and women, the power- hungy folks who ache to dominate the landscape and force the rest of the world to swear allegiance to thier viewpoint. My clear vision of how time immorial has shown men to be corrupt and self-serving, prone to use any impliment at thier disposal to extend thier sphere of control, is a gift from God. He made me, he made that, and he put that in me for his reasons. He made me sceptical, and questioning. I think the lord intends me to ask these questions....

I often wonder why, if the religion is called "Christianity," and therefore presumably emanates from Christ, or Christ as God doing God's work, does the Old testament in the Bible carry equal weight? I know the audience here is full of theologians, Christians, and deep thinkers and folks of strong faith, so I hope to get some theories that are honest and open-minded and not of the "because it JUST DOES, you heathen" variety.

Is not the whole point of it that Jesus was the son of God, and the religion is based on his teachings and doings? It is not called God-ianity, or Bible-ianity, is it? It stems from Christ. So why do all these things that were said, done, belived and recorded before Jesus was here to tell us the real truth matter, other than historically? If he was the light and the truth, the actual God, son of God, speaking to us humans as God and for God, if he was the savior, sent here by his father to tell us the truth, why isn't the new testament considered "the bible?" Why do all the things that were said, done, thought, believed and recorded before and without the direct intervention of Jesus carry what would seem to be equal weight with what he actually said? In other words, if Jesus was the Christ, if he was God, and here to show and tell us the word of God, does that not by definition "trump" all that came before? I am asking this entirely in earnest, and without smugness, though many I'm sure some already would doubt that. I was raised a Christian and in some very real sense still believe myself to be one...though the more the world re-defines Christian the less I like what they are making it into. But I do hope someone can explain that to me in a way that makes sense.

To me God is all powerful, all knowing. He gave us the ability to know right from wrong, and he told us he wants us to do right. He warned us that there will be a judgement, and those who sin and disgard his will shall be damned, while those who please him with good works shall be saved. I dont see anywhere in there that God says "and I will send a whole legion of bible thumping Christians to intermediate on my behalf. They will tell you what is right and wrong, and they will protect the world so that it stays as I want it to be, because I lack the will or power to do it myself." I think it is very clear God said "you make your choices, you live with the consequences." I do not see where he says he needs anyone on earth here to enforce his will or keep the earth and man doing good as he views it. Those who have taken the mantle on for themselves, to my mind, are the real sinners. But I may be wrong.

Perhaps, too, God gave me common sense, logic and reason without me intending to use them or apply them to what I see in life. I do not believe this, but it may be possible. After all, am I not ultimately speculating no matter what I say, when I presume to know what God's true intent was? Never the less, perhaps he did not want me to be logical and reasonable. Perhaps that is why he wants me to belive, as so many do, that if the bible says in the old testament "a man lying with a man is an abomination..." once or twice (I am not aa bible me out if I missed it here, folks), but Jesus said "love all as yourself, turn the other cheek, be kind to strangers, give your love freely and without hesitation to all of Gods children, ect " time and time and time and time again, the simple math would say that what he says is the course of action to be followed, while the other was "our best guess at the time." just on sheer numbers. I mean, if you saw Mickey Mantle hit a single once or twice, but hit a double, triple or homer dozens of times, would you not be observing very selectively and with prejudice if you concluded he was a "singles hitter?"

Is counting numerically like that setting aside the whole "here it is from the horse's mouth" argument? Or is it just saying that in the old book, before we knew any better, somebody said this once...yet now, in the new book, the up-to date version, the one actually documenting the word of God from Jesus himself, new words appear. The words of the Christ. The words that should cast a whole new light on that which came before, if not render much of it obsolete. And they appear not once or twice, but dozens of times, if not more. Why do some still maintain the two are equal in weight, in truth? Is that not just foolish? Is it God's will that we be fools?

Yet that happens time and time again. A small line or two of text are plucked out and put forth as "proof" of God's will and God's word. Because "it is written in the bible." Yet that very passage is contradicted in great depth and breadth by the newer words of Jesus, which are, as one might assume, (again seeing him as the more final authority than the fallible, sinful weak humans who wrote before him) to be given more weight by Christ followers, i.e. Christians. That is one of the strongest reasons why I do not take "because the bible says so." as the ultimate word of God. The messages that the bible contain, in the new testament, are for me to be heeded.

But the belief that every single sentence can be a stand-alone verification of the almighty's will simply because it falls within the pages of the "good book," when in fact the spirit and motivation of these sentences are often later contradicted by the word of he we believe is actually God himself talking, as expressed by Jesus, is simply absurd.

I can not help but wonder at some of the mechanics as well. I was raised a Catholic. I learned later there were people called Protestants, and they came in many varieties. I belive that the bibles in thier homes were not word by word duplicates of our early 50s Chicago Catholic bibles, complete with the Imprimatur of Samual Cardinal Stritch on the inside cover. Even my very limited theological understanding, amplified perhaps by the scorn I have seen some of "those people" express towards the faith of some of "my people," and vice versa, tells me that there are differences in the texts, though I do not know what they are. But surely a few hours of study would bring them to the fore. My simple question is this: Which of them is "the word of God?"

I believe God intends all man to love his fellow man, gay or straight, and to treat him as he would himself. I think that is consistant with most of Christ's teachings, as I understand them. That is how I try, ever failingly, to live my life.

But clearly, better heads than mine have come to conclude differently. Time will tell, I suppose.

Michael Dodd said...

I have seen bumper stickers that say, "God [or The Bible] says it. I believe it. That settles it." Those in recovery know the AA version"The Big Books says it, etc."

The difficulty is that what that usually means in practice is "I believe the Bible says it because I already believe it and that settles it." One can find justification for all sorts of things in the text, as is often pointed out, including the notion that eating shrimp is an abomination or that people with dandruff should be shunned.

Part of the challenge on this issue is that many people with more brains than most of us have reached opposing conclusions. The discussion is not furthered by simply quoting competing authorities, whether that authority be your personal favorite version of the Bible, the pope, the Dalai Lama or one's own therapist. John of the Cross says that God did give you reason so that you could use it. Failing to do so is to ignore the will of God.

Keep thinking! Keep loving as best you see how! As the Hippocratic oath says, First, do no harm.

AnotherLostAngel said...


Thank you so much for your sind and insightful words. I appreciate them.

And rambler, please accept my apology for using your blog as my own personal soapbox. Not being completely sure of protocols and correct ettiquite for blogs, nevrtheless I feel like it was a bit impolite to shove me play onto your stage....please accept my apology.