I have every confidence in the ability of my colleagues to address this discussion with genuine wisdom and deep insight. For myself I confess the topic makes me nervous. The reason is this: if you had told me just eight or nine years ago that on this date I would be standing before this group, speaking out in favor of marriage and ordination for lesbian and gay Christians, I would have declared you out of your mind.But here I am, and here you are. And all I can say is that because of this experience I have learned never to make confident predictions about any situation in which God is involved.
Sunday, 28 February 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010
In ongoing debates, discussions and raging arguments over compulsory celibacy for priests, we usually overlook the simple, plain fact that there are already many thousands of married Catholic priests. The eastern rite churches within the Catholic church have always accepted a married clergy, and in recent years there has been a steady trickle of married clergy converting from other denominations, who have been ordained in the Catholic Church and are now ministering openly and officially in Catholic parishes, in many parts of the world. Most of us know this, even if we do not think about it consciously.
[caption id="attachment_1050" align="aligncenter" width="468" caption="Eastern Rite Catholic Priests"][/caption]
We completely overlook, however, that by far the greatest number of married priests today are those who started out conventionally enough in the Western Church, but later left formal ministry within the institutional church. Many of these left in order to marry, others left and only later chose to marry. All, however, remain priests. In catholic theology, the principle is clear: “Once a priest, always a priest”.
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Thursday, 18 February 2010
For Ash Wednesday, I reminded readers here that the season of Lent is also a “joyful” season, an aspect that should not be ignored. We should never forget though, that it is also a solemn time, above all a time for repentance and renewal, individually and collectively.
So it was entirely appropriate and welcome ten years ago, that at the start of the season Pope John Paul spoke of the horrors that had been perpetrated by the church in the past, apologised for the evils it had done to . and asked for forgiveness. This was important and welcome: I do not wish to belittle it in any way. However, there is an important category of offence which was omitted from the list, for which he did not apologise, and for which there has never been any apology: the persecution of “sodomites”.
For the first thousand years of its history, the Church was disapproving of homoerotic relationships, as it was of all sexual expression, but showed varying degrees of tolerance, culminating in what John Boswell described as a flowering of a gay sub-culture in the high medieval period. During the 11th century, Burchard, the Bishop of Worms in Germany,
“classified homosexuality as a variety of fornication less serious than heterosexual adultery. He assigned penance for homosexual acts only to married men. In civil legislation regulating family life in the diocese of Worms there is no mention of homosexual behaviour”
In 1059, the Lateran synod accepted all of the reforms for the church proposed by St Peter Damian – except for his proposal for harsher penalties against monks engaged in homosexual affairs.
All that changed within a few decades. In 1120, the Church Council of Nablus specified burning at the stake for homosexual acts. Although this penalty may not immediately have been applied, other harsh condemnations followed rapidly. In 1212, the death penalty for sodomy was specified in in France. Before long the execution of supposed “sodomites”, often by burning at the stake, but also by other harsh means, had become regular practice in many areas.
Saturday, 13 February 2010
Why, indeed? I may disagree (strongly) with the Vatican on certain issues, but the Catholic Church is far more than just a handful of power obsessed clerics in Rome, and far more than the bizarre teachings on sexuality. I will be writing more on this shortly.
Friday, 12 February 2010
At NCR Online, Joan Chittister has a thoughtful reflection on the Irish Bishops’ Vatican visit – from a perspective inside Ireland. After noting that there are fundamental differences between the responses of people in Ireland and America, where the response was that “people picketed churches, signed petitions, demonstrated outside chanceries, and formed protest groups”, in Ireland the response appeared much more low-key – but in fact was deep, and may well be far more significant for the future of the Church, over the longer term.
In Ireland the gulf got wider and deeper by the day. It felt like the massive turning of a silent back against the bell towers and statues and holy water fonts behind it. No major public protests occurred. "Not at all," as they are fond of saying. But the situation moved at the upper echelon of the country relatively quietly but like a glacier. Slowly but inexorably.
A country which, until recently, checked its constitution against "the teachings of the church" and had, therefore, allowed no contraceptives to be sold within its boundaries, unleashed its entire legal and political system against the storm.
They broke a hundred years of silence about the abuse of unwed mothers in the so-called "Magdalene Launderies." They investigated the treatment of orphaned or homeless children in the "industrial schools" of the country where physical abuse had long been common. The government itself took public responsibility for having failed to monitor these state-owned but church-run programs. And they assessed compensatory damages, the results of which are still under review in the national parliament.
Sunday, 7 February 2010
When I attended Haggard's New Life Church after the scandal broke, I was amazed to see all the explicitly homoerotic statues and paintings—sculptures of nude, muscular men all over the place. I also noticed that all the people on stage where Ted would preach were young men—not a female in sight. I was later told that Ted picked out all the art work and the final decision as to who was on stage lay with him.
But more than once I was paid for my services with a handful of crinkled ones and fives. I would think to myself, how could they take from their own church’s collection plate? The answer is simple and sad: addicts will do whatever they need to do to support their habit.