Skip to comments.Fighting Tendencies (American critics of Pope Benedict XVI are very afraid.)
Posted on 11/30/2005 11:26:56 PM PST by nickcarraway
Andrew Sullivan is apoplectic. "If the guiding mantra of the last Pope was 'Be Not Afraid!', the lodestar of the current one is, arguably, the opposite," Sullivan asserts. Not one to content himself with smirking when lying presents another opportunity for righteous indignation, Sullivan also accuses Benedict XVI of passing malicious sentence on the life and work of heroic priests like New York's Fr. Mychal Judge, who was killed by falling debris while comforting others in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.
What's giving Sullivan the vapors is the November 29 release by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education of an "Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations Regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies." In plain English, the document says that if the question is "Can gay men be good priests?" the answer is, "Sometimes not."
To fathom Sullivan's indignation, you have to understand his role as a self-appointed arbiter of gay culture. It also helps to know that on the heels of the aforementioned Instruction, a French psychologist and Jesuit priest writing in the Vatican's daily newspaper had the temerity to claim that homosexuality "does not represent a social value" or a moral virtue.
Context alone cannot explain Sullivan's spleen, which is also fueled by fear and illogic. To react the way he's doing, you have to reduce personhood in all its glorious complexity to nothing more than sexual orientation. You also have to libel both the dead and the living by suggesting that any number of Catholic priests were and are dedicated solely to homosexual activism. Pretend, if you can, that Fr. Judge was killed at a gay rights rally on the steps of Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Forget his heroism and his much-loved ministry as a fire department chaplain. Forget that Pope John Paul II accepted the posthumous gift of Fr. Judge's fire helmet at a ceremony in the Vatican. And forget that Christian refusal to endorse homosexual activity goes back at least as far as Saint Paul's first-century letters to the young church, which themselves echo parts of Leviticus and Genesis.
You'll need professional help, but if you can swim past the Shrieking Eels and scale the Cliffs of Insanity, you may begin to approach the operatic (inconceivable?) heights from which Sullivan and like-minded columnists heap fire and rain on the head of a well-known German Shepherd. If you then suppose, as Sullivan does, that you're swordsman enough to "do him left-handed," then my advice to you is what Dread Pirate Roberts told Inigo Montoya: Get used to disappointment.
William Saletan of Slate supplements Sullivan's hot indignation with his own cold fury in a clever but seriously flawed essay titled "Gland Inquisitor." Advising homosexual candidates for the Catholic priesthood that "the church won't settle for your self-restraint, even with God's help," Saletan dismisses any defense of Vatican policy based on the idea that sexual abuse and cover-up scandals in the church prove same-sex attraction is "too dangerous to tolerate." Were that the argument actually being made, Saletan would be correct. But it's a straw man.
Of the pope, Saletan writes, "even if you buy the argument that the abuse stemmed from homosexuality rather than pedophilia and sexual segregation -- I don't -- it doesn't explain why [then-Cardinal Ratzinger] targeted gay inclinations in 1986, long before the scandal exploded."
Interesting verb choice, that "targeted." It implies that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been trying to remake human nature since the current pope had his desk there 19 years ago. But part of the 1986 letter that Saletan did not quote reads, "the phenomenon of homosexuality, complex as it is, and with its many consequences for society and ecclesial life, is a proper focus for the Church's pastoral care."
While noting that a homosexual inclination "must be seen as an objective disorder," the letter also takes pains to note that "the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin."
Those critics inclined to dismiss such moral pronouncements as the suspect mutterings of celibate men do not often realize that John Paul II developed an entire theology of the body, and wrote more wisely of orgasm and its significance than technicians like Dr. Ruth and actress/author Kim Catrall ever will.
As well-known Catholic blogger Amy Welborn dryly observes, "The problem is not, in simple terms, the homosexual priest. The problem is priests who don't believe what the Catholic Church teaches on sexuality, who don't preach it, who don't witness to it in the confessional, and who don't live it in their private lives." Moreover, she continues, "What is missing from Saletan's piece, of course, and what makes it a waste of time, is the lack of attention to Catholic teaching on sexuality, and what that means."
Religion reporter Terry Mattingly seconds her point, while adding that as pedophilia continues to grab headlines, "the hard questions are linked to male priests and teen-aged boys."
Evidence for Mattingly's claim was documented in a first-of-its-kind national study commissioned by U.S. Catholic Bishops and released in February of 2004.
To the extent that there is a continuing crisis in the church, then, it's not the one that occupies charter members of that chattering class whom Mark Shea pithily describes as the "Pelvic Left." Moreover, and for the record, the pope is trying to fix the problem.
Benedict XVI always keeps a weather eye on the liturgical calendar. By authorizing the recent Instruction on the memorial of Charles Borromeo, "patron of seminaries," and releasing it early in Advent -- the start of the church year -- Benedict telegraphed both the character of the document and its primary audience. The Instruction is a new year's resolution.
Benedict also appears to have taken a page from the playbook of Ignatius Loyola and other soldier-saints: he is, in effect, sending in the marines.
As the John Paul generation of pious young priests comes to the fore, the pope means to remind them that "always faithful" was a Catholic saying long before it was appropriated by the Leathernecks. Were more priests to remember that, the world would be a better place. That's good advice for Excitable Andy and the Pelvic Left, too, because the longstanding, indeed evergreen, descriptor of choice for any Catholic priest isn't "gay" or "straight," it's "Christian."
Patrick O'Hannigan, a writer in San Diego, hosts The Paragraph Farmer.
Evidently, Admin Moderator agreed with you...got here too late to see what it was, but I auspect it was bad.
Interesting to me is that some people are starting to realize that the Church isn't going to go the way of churchLite, and they are not happy that we have leaders who actually BELIEVE in the teachings. And that the church is not going to validate their desire to live sinful lives. And that things really matter. And that some of us believe that God isn't a toy to validate their desire for spirituality, pat them on the head, and tell them what good little boys and girls they are.
They need to take their problems up with The Boss and tell Him to change things:
Jesus told them...
...from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife),
and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh.
I think He also mentioned those who are unable to marry by nature and that not everyone could understand that.
And that applies to more than just homosexual perversion ... it applies to masturbation, to contraception, and to the heinous evil of abortion.
I decided I would be George W. Bush like and ignore all the raving critics of the Vatican Instruction like Sullivan -- they're not going to address the issue constructively or with a respect for what the Church teaches, they're just going to shrilly cry out the usual gay activist talking points and name calling. I will be able to keep my equanimity and just continue quietly to worship and pray and thank God for the great pastor the Lord has given us in Pope Benedict.
>> New York's Fr. Mychal Judge, who was killed by falling debris while comforting others in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.<<
This whole Fr. Mychal Judge thing really bothers me. Fr. Judge may have been a priest but is anyone saying that if he wasn't that he would not have been right in there attempting to save people?
Perhaps being a chaplin put him in the right place at the wrong time, but he would have been no less a hero if he had been just a dude on the street running in to save a person.
Gay (in doubt) or not, he was a hero. No one should use him as a banner for sexuality.
A wise decision...There is going to be whining going on for awhile, I suspect.
Many bishops (and their fellow travelers) have been operating for years in opposition to long-standing Church discipline, anticipating that the discipline would change. It hasn't -- and what we see now is the flailing of these men as they try to salvage their authority while looking for room to maneuver (the parallel with clergy who anticipated approval of contraception prior to Humanae vitae is obvious).
This is one of the best and most succinct summaries of all the equivocating from the likes of Skylstad, Clark, McCarrick et al., which I have seen.
As a "gay" Catholic, I completely agree with the Church's stance on homosexuality. Though most if not all of you have not had the experience of homosexuality (count your blessings), I have, and it has made me a better person, for it has given me the opportunity to witness the battle between good and evil in most vivid and horrifying way. I beleive that being "gay" has given me a perspective on what it means to suffer for Christ. Though its a constant battle against this temptation, as for any battle a Christian soldier must fight, it is the ultimate victory that matters and is most sweet.
God bless you!