"Hundreds of Dutch activists, dressed in pink wigs and clothes, recently staged a protest at a Mass over the Roman Catholic policy of denying communion to practising homosexuals. The dispute began earlier this month when a priest in a nearby town refused communion to an openly gay man. Several hundred demonstrators, dressed in pink wigs and clothes, left the church in protest. A man at the centre of the row has said he wants equal treatment - if he is regarded as a sinner, he wants the priest to refuse communion to all other sinners too".
The BBC story was subsequently also reported in the Holy Post section of the National Post. As could be expected it raised a Holy furor by some bloggers.
Note: As author of this blog I do not condone the reported outlandish behaviour by the gay demonstrators on Church property in any way. My primary aim is to draw attention to those who use communion as a means of determining 'who is worthy and who is not'. This is strictly a matter between the individual and God. Any teaching that diminishes the individual or group in the eyes of God and prohibits them from taking part in the sacraments cannot be considered to have been communicated by an unconditionally loving God.
Many Catholics see official church teachings as the final word on many of the issues facing the world today. These same individuals believe that to be a 'good Catholic' means to accept these teachings without question and without any private or personal discernment- and the need to interpret these teachings against the greater Gospel values. Perhaps more importantly Catholics need to understand that official teachings on homosexuality are quite recent. Definitive Vatican teachings on sexuality are very much a mid-twentieth century phenomenon. The 1969 Catholic Catechism describes homosexuality as follows: "It is not the fault of the individual if he or she is not attracted to the other sex. The causes of homosexuality are unknown. In their human isolation, they look for friendship. But even where they find true and loyal responses, the perfect fulfilment of their human longings is not granted them".
Compare this compassionate view with the one expressed by Pope Benedict XVI as Cardinal to the Bishops of the Church, 'On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons'(1986) describing homosexuality as an intrinsic moral evil and that gay services are not to be tolerated and that Church facilities cannot be made available [for them]".
These conflicting statements reveal the struggle in which the Catholic Church finds itself today. Regardless, Catholics are encouraged by Canon Law to seek resolution to these important questions by considering the matter in the light of exercising religious freedom, as well as our responsibility to follow one's informed conscience.
Because some Catholics have adopted a comfort zone based on certain adopted 'belief systems' it may be of value to consider the following reflection:
"We must move from a belief-based religion to a practice-based religion, or little will change. We will merely continue to argue about what we are supposed to believe and who the unbelievers are." - Richard Rohr, The Naked Now
Readers to the blog on the Holy Post were then invited to again reflect on the events that took place in Holland in the following context:
The gay group protesting in Holland apparently wore pink wigs and clothing making them visual targets for easy identification. In this guise they are, according to some, sinners who have no right to receive communion or be given shelter in any official church facilities. The rest of us can easily hide our sins underneath our Sunday fineries while we piously receive communion and then smugly condemn those who wear their sins on their sleeves. (Remember a vast majority of Catholics do not follow church teachings on birth control).
And quoting Fr. Richard Rohr "We Christians, who dare to worship the scapegoat, Jesus, became many times in history the primary scapegoaters ourselves—of Jews, heretics, sinners, witches, homosexuals, the poor, the natives in the New World, slaves, other denominations, and other religions. It's rather hard to believe that we missed such a central message.
The pattern of exporting our evil elsewhere, and righteously hating it there, with impunity, is in the hardwiring of all peoples. After all, our religious task is to separate from evil, isn't it? That is the well-disguised lie! Any exclusionary process of thinking, any exclusively dualistic thinking, will always create violent and hateful people on some level.
This I state as an absolute, and precisely because the cross revealed it to me. The crucifixion scene is our standing icon stating both the problem and the solution for all of history."
Have we forgotten that there was a religious group in the previous century who also wore a specific badge that gave some the right to kill them - all 6 million or so - including gays because they were gay?
To avoid a situation similar to what happened in Holland this week it might help by putting a big sign outside churches stating: 'Homosexuals not welcome!' Or better yet 'Sinners not Welcome'! that would give Jesus the day off from his already hectic Sunday schedule.
For some Holy Post readers any defence in support of homosexuals was seen as pure heresy. One reader stated:
"There are NO conflicting Church teachings on homosexuality. While we all have the responsibility to follow our own conscience, we also have the responsibility to form it well, and to know and understand what these teachings are. Religious freedom does not entail just doing your own thing ... otherwise, the door of the RCC is wide open ... for you to leave, that is".
To which I posted the following:
These issues should never become points of division. Rather they should be seen as opportunities for dialogue and exploration. God's creation is ongoing and so should our understanding of humankind. Based on your insensitive judgment - If I were to differentiate RCC from Christianity the latter as following Christ, then I should gladly accept your invitation to leave – but remember that doesn't solve the problem. It needs healing. Remain open to the Spirit – its A Matter of the Heart!
Which prompted the following retort:
"I have nothing against "remaining open to the spirit". However, one needs wisdom to discern spirits. Do you believe you are holier and wiser than 2000 years of tradition and teaching? Do you believe you can abolish what is written in scripture? Do you believe creation is in some state of "spiritual evolution"? Because if so, you classify as New Age".
Still another individual wrote:
"This isn't about scapegoating it's about not profaning the body of Christ. It was a different thing if the priest had known what the Carnival Prince was up to, but he was aggressively flaunting sin for all to see. This is causing scandal. As for all the exclusionary talk - it was Jesus who said enter through the narrow gate. We can't pick and choose what we want to follow".
Prompting this personal message:
I believe when Jesus spoke of the 'narrow gate' he was metaphorically referring to 'the way of love'. That is without question the most difficult gate for us to enter and path to follow. At times we feel so challenged (offended) that we re-act with instant hatred. At that point Jesus calls us to be pro-active and seek the narrow gate. It means dropping all our pretenses, our biases, our judgments, our ego and letting the love of Christ become our way of seeing, responding, etc.
Which was followed by this unfortunate reply:
"You are entitled to your own opinion but there's something called Objective morality. A Natural Law. Love is not divorced from it. Instead of spending your time reading New Age philosophies, you might want to study Catholicism and its teachings on Realist ethics, etc."
The question of Homosexuality and their participation in the Eucharist is a very sensitive and difficult issue for a lot of people, especially those who feel bound to strict church teaching. But as the institution continues in the direction of more absolutes, rigidity and exclusivity it becomes increasingly difficult for many of us to remain neutral. Some of the advice offered is growing tiresome if not typical - 'if you don't like it leave'. This could hardly be the expected response from Jesus. Still, there are others who would prefer that we do not discuss such issues, since it might lead to confrontation and division. For those people I would suggest that they read about what went on behind the scenes during Vatican II, the argument about circumcision between Peter and Paul, the confrontation between Jesus and some of the Pharisees! It could be said that for the sake of peace perhaps it is better to avoid any controversial issues altogether. But then I find myself asking is that being faithful to what I have come to believe in my heart? (there are times in my life when I find homosexual behaviour, i.e., parades extremely offensive) But ultimately I have to ask myself 'what would Jesus do? Would he truly refuse those who seek him regardless of their background?
In a final attempt to bring this matter to a level of unbiased Christian compassion and understanding I ask readers to consult a recognized expert on sexual behaviour in the Roman Catholic Church. A.W. Richard Sipe is devoted full time to research into the sexual and celibate practises of Roman Catholic bishops and priests. His website can be reached at http://www.richardsipe.com/
which covers such concerns as:
- Celibacy/Sex/Catholic Church
- Gay Bishops - see also section on Natural Law
- Sexual Active Catholic Clergy
- Celibacy, sex and research, etc.
One final question: Is it perhaps time to reflect on the unique gifts homosexuals bring to the church and the rest of humanity?
In the meantime readers are invited to reflect on the following article 'What should a Gay Catholic Do? at
http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&id=81913739-3048-741E-5405178212524077 by Fr. James Martin, S.J.