Saturday, 7 January 2012

Catholic Teaching on Same – Sex Relationships: An “Ongoing Discussion”?

Cardinal Francis George has apologized for his comparison of the KKK and "some gay activists".



Statement from Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
January 6, 2012

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year's Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan. I do not believe that; it is obviously not true. Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I. We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are. I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church's liberty. This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

The apology is clear, straightforward, and unreserved. It should be welcomed, and accepted similarly without reservation. As noted by Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, this is huge.

The significance of this action is immense.  For the first time that I can remember, a prelate has acknowledged that words and ideas he has used in regard to the LGBT community were harmful, and he has apologized for the hurt they caused.

Significant, too, is the fact that he acknowledges that he has family members who are gay/lesbian, and that he loves them.  It is rare that a prelate speaks personally, let alone personally and positively about LGBT people.

The apology is welcome, for what it says, and for what it promises. The original remarks were offensive and insensitive, as Cardinal George himself now recognizes, and caused an entirely natural outcry.  Others, as Advocatus Diaboli explained in a post here yesterday, were outraged by what he saw as a disproportionate response to the Cardinal's words.

I am more interested in where this takes us, for the future. I believe that there are three important features to this that we should be grateful for, as we move into 2012.

First, is the apology itself. The mere fact that it has been made, is significant. As DeBernardo observes, this is unusual for a Catholic bishop. It is possible (likely?) that having been led to make it, Cardinal George may have learned something from the debacle, and may exercising greater care in choosing his words in future.

Second, is his acknowledgement that he has gay and lesbian family, himself. That he has them, is unremarkable. What matters, is that he has recognized and acknowledged them, Most people have queer relatives - but often without their knowing. Being open with family forces them to deal with "the gays" as a private reality, not just a public abstract. It is also significant that he has explicitly used the words "gay and lesbian", terminology that the Vatican has previously tried hard to avoid.

Third, is a statement attributed to the Cardinal at the end of a Chicago Tribune report on the story:

George said although church teaching does not judge same-sex relationships as morally acceptable, it does encourage the faithful to "respect everyone."

"The question is, 'Does respect mean that we have to change our teaching?' That's an ongoing discussion, of course. … I still go back to the fact that these are people we know and love and are part of our families. That's the most important point right now."

That the subject of teaching on same - sex relationships is an "ongoing dicussion" will be no surprise to regular readers of QTC, or to anyone who has been paying attention to serious church news. It has been discussed extensively by gay and lesbian theologians, and then by queer theologians, for upwards of thirty years. Mainstream professional theologians recognized that it is in dire need of revision, and in some countries are actively working to achieve that change.  Empirical research shows that 0rdinary Catholics, gay or straight, no longer see the issue as having anything to do with morality, and more and more bishops are begining to speak about at the very least, an impovement in pastoral practice.

What is striking here, is not that the subject is being discussed - but that that even Cardinal George, so often seen as the bane of queer Catholics and an opponent of homosexual inclusion, is not recognizing the apology. Let us give thanks, In the words of   Chris Pett, president of Dignity Chicago,

"This is not about power. This is not about control. This is about a church and its ministry and its shepherd," he said. "We believe in reconciliation. It's not a time to continue to draw battle lines and go back to prior history. It's time to say we're grateful for that gift for someone realizing that he or she misspoke in a way that caused some harm and seek forgiveness."

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