VATICAN HOMOPHOBIA / PATRIARCHAL ABUSE
This is the first of two essays in response to the recent Decree by GOD stating that it is impossible to bless sin.
In earlier centuries, the Roman Curia denounced certain people as sinners, Jews, heretics, witches, and pagans. Bad stuff resulted such as incarceration, burning, stoning and death. The recent Vatican Decree refused blessing to the loving unions of our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers. The Curia leads the stone throwing with the weapon words of “intrinsic disorder”, “moral evil”, and “sin”. Those Vatican patriarchs must be all without sin at a time when we are increasingly aware of the worldwide domestic abuse, gender violence, poverty and serious difficulties for women arising out of the malignant virus of patriarchy. The Vatican patriarchs have been disastrously wrong about anti-Semitism, slavery, women, and clerical abuse. Is there any way for practising Catholics who disapprove of homophobia, misogyny, and patriarchal abuse of power to avoid collusion with wrongdoing? Without a vote we are powerless and dependent on the condescension or benevolence of the patriarchal monarchs. Is walking away the best option? This option is not readily available to the good pastoral priests and bishops who are taking a stand against the Curia. The Curia and Vatican seem to have no awareness of the total dysfunction of an all-male clique.
In our Catholic conversations, media commentary and future synodal dialogue it is crucial to be accurate in our use of the word “church”. It can mean a building or a patriarchal hierarchy clique or the People of God. Accordingly, when we discuss church teaching, we must specify whether the teaching is merely the limited opinion of a small group of clerics as distinct from the free consensus of wholesome women and men/People of God happily incarnate in the modern world and enlightened by science and family experience. The Vatican Decree not to bless same-sex unions is the opinion of a small group of clerics locked in loyalty to the warped teachings and outdated traditions of the Ancient Fathers. In 2015, the People of God in Ireland looked into their hearts of love, listened to modern science, and discerned the signs of the times. They voted for marriage equality and asserted their Christian belief that all of creation is good and that the Creator God of Love does indeed bless all loving unions and families in all their glorious variety. Similar consensus is emerging throughout the developed world. Tragically, the Roman clerics double down as always and refuse to listen and reform. History has shown that dictators and monarchs are very reluctant to share power.
The Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae about artificial contraception in 1968 is another relevant example. It is only the teaching of a small but powerful group of clerics within the Roman Curia who persuaded Pope Paul VI that Rome must never admit that clerical teachings can develop and change. This small group refused to accept the measured majority consensus of the Birth Control Commission established by Pope John XXIII in 1963. The clerical encyclical has not been accepted or received by the Catholic People of God worldwide. The clerics had doubled down and refused to share power. They did not listen and lost authority. They were locked into the clerical supremacism of being an elite corps with special knowledge and ability to represent God. Catholics worldwide have correctly walked away in their millions from clerical nonsense and intransigence. Those Catholics have not walked away from the Creator God, Lord Jesus Christ or Holy Spirit of Wisdom, Justice and Love.
In all our Catholic conversations about teachings, we need to differentiate between core religion/faith formulations over against more peripheral matters which may vary and change in place and time. Clerics and adult Catholic believers are in full agreement on the core Good News of Jesus Christ. However, in the developed world, clerics and lay people may have quite different viewpoints on issues such as governance, women, contraception, divorce, and homosexuality, etc. People are not in the mood today for any further collusion with cruel clerical denunciation especially in the light of clerical abuse worldwide, official cover-up and complete refusal thus far to deal with the systemic root causes as pinpointed by caring professionals and experts. Unfortunately, many clerics were on a “learning curve” and did not know that paedophilia was a crime as well as a sin. All the sad reports in recent decades have shamed us Catholics about our sheepish submission in the pews and cowed complicity with dictates from the pulpits.
“Who am I to judge”? This was a reply given a few years ago by Pope Francis when he famously sidestepped a query about Vatican homophobia. His Jesuitical response provided a glimmer of hope that the clerical teaching might be repealed in favour of more wholesome counsel. We had hopes that Pope Francis might be a strong pastoral priest rather than a loyal clerical club member helping to lay burdens. Our hopes have been dashed since he assented to the publication of the recent Vatican Decree not to bless same-sex unions. The clerical patriarchs are using outdated biblical interpretation and are trained to be deeply suspicious of modern science including best insights in regard to sexuality. Sadly, the injustice and abuse of enforced celibacy has deprived them of personal adult experience of marriage, family, and erotic love. Accordingly, it is difficult for them to read the signs of the times. Meanwhile, we are extremely concerned that the cruel clerical teaching on LGBTQ+ love and union has damaging and disastrous consequences for them and their families worldwide. The weapon words of “intrinsic disorder”, etc. are available for homophobic assault despite the duplicitous blather and pious talk about respect and welcome for LGBTQ+ persons. When will those weapon words be removed from the clerical Catechism? It is true that the developed world has listened to psychology and science and has advanced from Old Testament times towards decriminalisation, new understanding, respect, and marriage equality. However, even in our developed world, the trolls, bullies, and ignorant homophobes continue to use the clerical words as holy cover to persecute LGBTQ+ persons.
Can we as practising Catholics continue to be complicit in this ongoing abuse and collude in clerical obscurantism? Sadly, the heavily programmed patriarchs have refused to heed our cries for reform and seem unable to respond to our warm invitation to them to walk joyfully with us women and men in the good news, freedom, and equality of the 21st century.
The Lord be with you and bless you.
Please do not fear when the holy men in the Vatican refuse to bless same-sex unions. God is not contained or controlled by any small group of patriarchs, witchdoctors, druids or priests. It is wrong when a small group of high priests denigrate LGBTQ+ persons on dubious grounds. Pray your blessing on all in the Vatican. Then, in the absence of a vote, walk calmly away from the patriarchs who refuse to bless or share power. Walk joyfully with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ in the 21st century. Creation, in all its wonder, variety and abundance is the Original Blessing. Our core faith is that we are all blessed daughters and sons of a loving Creator God whose Presence is everywhere. Jesus invites us to love and bless our neighbour as we esteem and love ourselves. There are many lay people, families, pastoral priests, and bishops bearing love, wisdom, new knowledge, and service. The patriarchs are invited to listen, discern, and journey with us on a new way of being church.
Sadly, warlike men in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar wreak havoc. Misguided males in the Taliban, Isis, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab bring death and destruction. Small, unbalanced groups of well-meaning holy men who claim entitlement to control can lead us down wrong roads. We have had far too much of Crusades, Inquisition, Homophobia and Abuse of women and children. Good people worldwide must find constructive and effective ways to halt, divert, enlighten, and convert patriarchal control groups. There is a better chance of wholesome outcomes when all women and men are involved in democratic mode to determine governance, vision, ethos, narrative and ministry in every country, religion and church.
God’s wonderful Creation is awesome, diverse, complex, and blessed with variations and unique individuals, species, families, and religions. It was an imperial arrogance to claim for too many years that there was no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church and subjection to the Pope. It was wrong to persist with the tradition of anti-Semitism in our clerical teaching and liturgy by praying for the “perfidious Jews” many years after the horrors of the Holocaust. It was primitive and wrong that some Irish children were beaten in schools in the 1950s for the “intrinsic disorder” of being lefthanded just because a majority are righthanded. The human family is majority heterosexual with a glorious rainbow minority of LGBTQ+ persons. God saw that it was good. All of God’s creatures have a place in the choir. All human beings can celebrate, love, marry, form family, and raise children. It is dangerous and wrong for the Vatican clerics to persist with their dogmas of “intrinsic disorder” decades after medical science and enlightened people in many countries have concluded that homosexuality is a non-pathological, minority variant within the broad spectrum of human sexuality.
On June 22nd, 1633, ten Cardinals of the Roman Inquisition convicted the scientist Galileo Galilei for asserting that the Earth is not the centre of the Universe and that it revolves around the Sun. This was contrary to Holy Scripture and clerical tradition. This was almost as “heretical” as the later development of doctrine in Vatican II that the loving union of marriage between two people is about far more than procreation. Under torture threat, Galileo was forced to deny the new findings in astronomy. He was condemned as a heretic and imprisoned until his death in 1642. 359 years later, in 1992, Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the cardinals had erred. The lethal combination of unleavened patriarchal groupthink allied with outdated biblical interpretation plus rejection of modern science leads surely to error with cruel consequences for innocent people. This shows that, despite the false programming that the Roman Church never changes, change can and does happen. Vatican II brought monumental change in liturgy, ecumenical dialogue, and teaching on religious freedom to name only three issues. There has been a complete turnaround on important moral issues to do with usury, slavery, and anti-Semitism. Teachings on Limbo, capital punishment and just war have evolved. The women do not have to be “churched” any longer post childbirth. Misogynistic and homophobic clerical doctrines must change too as a matter of extreme urgency.
Will we have to wait another 359 years for the Vatican clerics to repeal their outdated homophobia and patriarchal denial of equality and justice for women? People will not wait. It is understandable that millions of Catholics over the past many decades have walked and are walking away from elements of Vatican homophobia, misogyny, patriarchal monarchy, medieval narrative, warped teaching on women and sexuality as well as refusal to share power. The above issues and variants thereof are among the major concerns of Irish Catholics if the bishops arranging the forthcoming Irish Catholic Synod genuinely wish to listen, change, and reform.
Can we practising Catholics continue to collude in the persecution of the innocents as the homophobes today use the clerical weapon words of “intrinsic disorder” and “sin” to assault our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers? Thank God that the majority of the Irish People of God in 2015 rejected the Vatican obscurantism and voted firmly for love, respect, inclusion, and marriage equality. It was indeed Good News that we gave our Christian blessing to LGBTQ+ persons.
Dundrum, Co. Dublin