Sep 28, 2012

President of Ireland: Church Isolated on Homosexuality

This just in from The Independent of Ireland

FORMER President Mary McAleese has criticised the Catholic Church for its "isolated" views on homosexuality, saying it has left youngsters in Catholic schools struggling to cope.

She also expressed concern at the growing number of young men who have died by suicide, especially gay men who are most at risk of taking their own lives.

"They are the victims, one, of homophobic bullying; they are also frankly highly conflicted," said Mrs McAleese, who is studying canon law in Rome after her 14-year spell as president, which ended in November.

She said the church's attitude to homosexuality has left the vast majority of Irish children who attended Catholic schools deeply confused.

"They will have heard words like disorder, they may have heard the word evil used in relation to homosexual practice," she told Pat Kenny on RTE yesterday.

"When they make the discovery, and it is a discovery and not a decision, when they make the discovery they are gay when they are 14, 15 and 16, an internal conflict of absolutely appalling proportions opens up.

"They may very well have heard their mothers, their fathers, their uncles, aunts, friends use dreadful language in relation to homosexuality and now they are driven into a space that is dark and bleak," she added.

She met Papal Nuncio Charles Brown, who represents Pope Benedict XVI in Ireland, shortly after Easter to discuss the issue with him.

However, the former president -- who has published a book entitled 'Quo Vadis: Collegiality In The Code Of Canon Law' -- said meaningful progress will not be made until the "omerta" or code of silence is lifted.

She also said the child abuse scandals have left "a massive hallowing out of trust" in the church's leadership and criticised bishops for the manner in which they dealt with the issue.

"The internal damage done to community, to trust, could in many ways have been avoided had there been much better lines of communication up through the system," Mrs McAleese said.


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It's nothing we haven't heard before, though it's heartening to hear it from such a public figure as the former president of Ireland. The real question is what is one to do in the face of such intransigence on the part of a powerful institution such as the RCC. Keep sending the message, I suppose, in whatever way one can. Clearly, progress of a sort is taking place, as evidenced by public criticisms of this nature and other signs of  slow incremental changes, parishes accepting without comment the presence of openly gay and partnered members on parish councils (i.e. Cardinal Schonborn),  or as Eucharistic ministers, etc. etc. But large pockets of hardened intransigence (true believers) are also widespread, causing great suffering and grief to many, especially vulnerable young gay people. This can sometimes give the impression that bigotry and intolerance prevail within the RCC, which is certainly not the case. The ferocious campaign currently being waged by US bishops against same sex marriage appears to be backfiring, but the smoke and steam from this noisy display of arrogant bigotry are still causing great damage to the moral fiber of the church. 


In essence, the sex abuse crisis continues unabated, in a mutated form. From the sexual abuse of children and the appalling coverup to the systematic attack on gay persons and their rights, it's all one seamless whole, with the same destructive energy manifesting itself in these seemingly different forms.  However, the presence of this destructive, negative energy within the leadership structure of the church is a frightening thing to behold and should be a cause for profound humility and trembling fear before the Almighty Divine Mystery. The Grace of the Spirit is a gentle, unobtrusive gift. It is there for the offering to each of us, but it must be chosen consciously through humility and trust, with love, compassion, tolerance and acceptance of the other as the test of it's authenticity. What the horrendous abuse crisis in the Church makes clear, both the grotesque abuse of children and the systematic, carefully programmed abuse of gay persons, is how frighteningly possible it is to make the wrong choices. Leadership misleads and the Spirit does not impose. And it is not only solitary individuals that can make these terribly wrong choices, following the path of idolatry instead of the path of humble surrender to the Divine Mystery that transcends and relativizes all institutions. Entire cultures or collectives of persons, such as religious hierarchies, can create a force field of infectious pathological addiction that sweeps up many if not most of its members into its clouded web. And "God" does not intervene to prevent this from happening (not that 'She' could or should). There is a terrible lesson to be pondered here. Moral choices can be perilous, and remaining true to the life giving Spirit within one's inner being is no easy or assured thing. Human beings assigned by custom and role to guide the flock can themselves rush madly over the cliff, bringing thousands along  with them, if leadership itself is turned into a false idol of the ego. The fact is the Spirit moves gently, unobtrusively, slowly - and does not act in the immediate present to prevent these instances when leadership misleads. 


In other words, the Holy Spirit has not provided us with the security blanket of an infallible religious institution and has not given us a  leadership which will not (most of the time) lead us astray. Mis-leadership (to coin a word) of a most egregious kind is always a real possibility, and should lead us to be both humble and critical in the face of any absolute claims made on behalf of any fallible institution. Idolatry is always a possibility, and cautious, critical discernment always a necessity. We must always remind ourselves that, as Christians, we are more than simply a sociological grouping of individuals who follow the ethical teachings of a long dead prophet. We believe that the community called Church is a dwelling place of the Divine Spirit of Jesus and that her energy infuses our family with grace and healing. Without this life giving spiritual Presence, the institutional forms are meaningless. This is why an abusive hierarchy is such a horrendous scandal and causes such profound damage. It threatens the faith of ordinary believers in the power and presence of the Spirit in our midst. If such abuse can exist within the leadership of the Church, harming even the most innocent and vulnerable amongst us,  then where is this life giving Spirit that heals, sustains, protects, enlightens? She is present among us, but like an elusive lover, She hides Her face that we may seek her with longing and desire, and not confuse her Presence with finite, fallible structures. The Spirit in her wisdom uses these trials of abusive leadership to wean us from our addictions and lead us into the freedom of genuine spiritual independence and maturity. She is calling us to trust in the Presence of the Beloved, even in the face of a dysfunctional institution.  It is time to let go of the institution of Church (without letting go of our efforts to hold leaders accountable for their crimes). We can lament the passing of the Church as we have known it, we can mourn its demise, but the time for lamentation is soon coming to an end. The mystery is greater than its finite forms. The Catholic tradition of Christianity will continue, but only the Spirit knows what surprising gifts await us in the future of its rebirth.

And this just in from Leonardo Boff at Iglesia Dscalza's blog:

It happens that when power predominates, it drives love away. Indeed, the organizational style of the hierarchical church is bureaucratic, formal and sometimes inflexible. In it, there's a charge for everything, nothing is forgotten or ever forgiven. There's virtually no room for mercy and for a true understanding of the divorced and homosexuals. The imposition of celibacy for priests, deep-rooted anti-feminism, distrust of everything that has to do with sexuality and pleasure, the cult of personality of the pope, and its claim to be the only true church and the "sole guardian established by God of eternal, universal and immutable natural law" such that, in the words of Benedict XVI, it "assumes a leadership role on all mankind." In 2000, then Cardinal Ratzinger still repeated in the document Dominus Iesus the medieval doctrine that "outside the Church there is no salvation" and that those outside "are at serious risk of being lost." This kind of Church certainly doesn't have salvation. It's slowly losing sustainability worldwide.

read the full article here


colkoch said...

Bravo Jayden.

Jayden Cameron said...

Thanks, Colleen. I'm not quite sure where all of that came from, pent up emotions I guess.