The caption to this post is a question asked by Andrew Sullivan who, unlike myself, has clung to the fantasy - at least in my view - that somehow the Roman Catholic Church will evolve on issues of sex and sexual orientation and slow or stop its death spiral in Europe and America. Like many, Andrew has grasped at various statements of Pope Francis in an effort to convince himself that much needed change is coming. However, despite some of the positive things Francis has said, the reality is that absolutely NOTHING has changed to date in terms of the Church's official dogma in terms of relegating women to second class status, the never ending obsession with controlling women's wombs and keeping gays as forever disordered. Personally, I see the Church as being incapable of changing unless there is a wholesale sacking of bishops and cardinals and even many reactionary priests. Should Francis try to engage such an approach, I truly hope he has a food taster and some trusted body guards so that the Curia doesn't have him conveniently die. What seems to have finally slapped Andrew up on the side of the head is the vicious actions being unleashed against an elderly gay couple in Montana. Andrew reviews the ugliness of the Church's actions which are increasingly driving Catholics to simply walk away from the Church. Here are highlights from Andrew's post which represents an epiphany for him:
I used to believe – and a part of me still does – that the question of homosexuality was not that big an issue for Catholicism. Gays are only a tiny minority of the population at large; the power and beauty of the church’s core understanding of heterosexuality sustains most people’s interest and commitment; and the central teachings of Jesus – of forgiveness of sins, redemption, charity, mercy – are so much more important than issues relating to human sexuality and romantic love.As noted in posts in connection with The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies, the Church suffers from an extreme neurosis when it comes to homosexuality. Thankfully, more and more Americans are coming to recognize the sickness/mental illness that this neurosis constitutes.
When I was asked – with mind-numbing regularity – how I could remain happily gay and a Catholic, I answered honestly that, for those very reasons, I could live with institutional dissonance, as any thinking member of a hierarchical church has to, from time to time. But I think now that I misread a couple of things – and that the whole question may be a much bigger deal than I once believed and hoped. Here’s a story that underlines the problem:
A Catholic church in Montana has told two gay men that they can no longer receive communion simply because of their gay marriage and, in order to do so again, they must file for divorce. The two men, Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73, have been together for over 30 years and were married in Seattle in 2013.The controversy has now led to the bishop intervening and holding a meeting with 300 parishioners to air views. The bishop claims there is polarization in the congregation over this and is now mulling the decision to bar the couple from the sacraments and from participation in their church – unless they get a civil divorce and sign a statement supporting civil marriage as exclusively heterosexual. Yes, the church is now in favor of divorce as a condition for being a Catholic! If that sounds perverse, you’re not wrong.
Here’s the problem: maintaining doctrinal orthodoxy requires penalizing two men, aged 66 and 73, who have been committed to each other for thirty years and are pillars of the local community.
If the church upholds this kind of decision, it is endorsing cruelty, discrimination and exclusion. Pope Francis’ view is that this is exactly the kind of thing that requires the church to exercise mercy not rigidity. But allowing a married gay couple to sing in the choir as an act of “mercy” would merely further expose the fragility of the church’s thirteenth century views of human sexuality.
None of this is compatible with the core moral teachings of the church – about fairness, truth, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and inclusion. And this is clear to large numbers of Catholics – especially the younger generation who will rightly view this kind of decision as barbaric and inhuman. There is only so much inhumanity that a church can be seen to represent before its own members lose faith in it.
What was once a blemish can become a defining wound. It has split one small parish. It may slowly wreck the whole church.