Thursday, December 01, 2005

Vatican Scapegoats Gays

On Tuesday, the Vatican released an Instruction regarding homosexuality and the priesthood. There's a couple of segments of this statement that beg for commentary:

...In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, together with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, deems it necessary to clearly affirm that the Church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture...
The impediment is sexual orientation. This is a new development, and one that will most likely prove to be quite problematic. As William Saletan has put it:

...Notice two things. First, deep-rooted "tendencies" are now independent and automatic grounds for dismissal, regardless of whether you "practice" homosexuality or "support" gay culture (whatever that is). Second, even if these tendencies are merely a "situation" in which you "find yourself," they "gravely obstruct" you from relating properly to men and women. Through no fault of your own, you're doomed. The Catechism's paths to perfection - self-mastery, chastity, prayer, and grace - no longer suffice. The church won't settle for your self-restraint, even with God's help.
The implications of this statement go beyond the discussion of holy orders. Consider this piece of the "Instruction":

...As regards to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are present in a certain number of men and women, these also are objectively disordered and are often a trial for such people.
If you are gay or lesbian, you are "objectively disordered," even if you remain celibate. There is no remedy offered for this situation. Such a person will remain, in the eyes of the Church, at best, a second-class Christian.

Why is this Instruction being issued now? Possibly it is because, as William Saletan suggests, we now have homophobic pope. That may indeed be a contributing factor. But most likely the primary reason for the timing is an attempt by the Vatican to show it is responding to the sex scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church for many years. The solution appears to be to blame it on the queers. From the Human Rights Campaign:

..."This is a scapegoat scheme masquerading as Vatican decree," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "What is being released today is a decree serving as a diversion that neither keeps children safe nor holds criminals responsible."
Some will argue that it is disingenuous to claim that the primary error here is the refusal to untangle homosexuality from pedophilia. I think that such a differentiation is a necessary part of any discussion of this Instruction, but would require an agreed upon definition of terms, which is unlikely due to the huge chasm between those who hold opposing views on this issue. Let us simply agree that those who prey on children (those under the age of consent) are criminals. What this Instruction seems to imply is that those who are "objectively disordered" in this manner are more prone to be criminals.

By playing the blame game, the Vatican has once again chosen to stick its head in the sand regarding the real issues brought to light in this latest round of scandals.

What might the real issues be? How about a discussion of celibacy? How about some honest conversation about gay and lesbian Christians who are faithful members of the Church?

What the Roman Catholic Church has done so far is to insist that a person who recognizes that they have a different sexual orientation from the majority remain deeply in the closet. What is a young person who loves God and desires to serve God's Church, but finds himself to be "objectively disordered", to do? Maybe by taking a vow of celibacy God can redeem this disorder?

The problem is that celibacy is a unique vocation, to which few are called. Most people cannot neatly surgically remove such an integral part of themselves. Coupled with the requirement to remain in the closet, such frustrated individuals may develop a twisted view of appropriate and inappropriate personal relationships. Twisted teaching resulting in criminal acts.

With this statement, the Vatican has created new victims. Those priests who have served faithfully, and celibately, for decades, but happen to be "objectively disordered" must feel abandoned by Mother Church. Those members who are so "disordered" cannot help but see the direction of the future Church spelled out clearly in the Instruction. If sexual orientation can bar one from holy orders, it is only a matter of time before it will also bar one from the participating in the remaining six sacraments.

South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, sums up the situation well:

For me, to make someone suffer penalties because of their sexual orientation is on the same level as making people be penalized for their gender, or race.
This is a sad development for the Roman Catholic Church and for all Christendom, for that matter. But at least it brings to light the real goals of those who continue to persecute gay and lesbian Christians in the name of God. If you have a homosexual orientation, you are damned for all time, and have no place in their Church.

Those of us who find such a stance an outrage had better start speaking up. The world is watching. The validity of the Christian message hangs on how we respond to such reprehensible scapegoating tactics.


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