End-of-week news items that I couldn't shoehorn into other postings today, but which strike me as eminently worth paying attention to:
At the Bondings 2.0 blog site, Bob Shine notes that, though Chicago Cardinal Francis George has a long history as an "outspoken LGBT activist" who rarely passes up an opportunity to vilify the gay community, and though the Illinois Catholic bishops have resolutely opposed marriage equality, lay Catholics are among those responsible for the marriage equality bill passing the state senate yesterday.* Shine writes,
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield wrote a message for Valentine’s Day condemning equal marriage rights. Think Progress summarizes the bishop’s message:
"Catholics who support their LGBT friends and family are destroying society, and gay people have a ‘condition’ that can be addressed by living a life of chastity. In other words, Catholics aren’t allowed to love gays and gays aren’t allowed to even experience love. Perhaps it’s not surprising that a man committed to a life of celibacy defines a ‘more authentic understanding’ of love as no love at all."
Catholic laywomen directly challenged the bishop’s comments in a piece at The Huffington Post, arguing their case for Catholic support of marriage equality. Citing the bishops’ support for social justice as an extension of the Catholic call to hospitality, Cristina Traina and Karen Allen write:
"In any of those [anti-LGBT] positions, the bishops’ words sound cold rather than hospitable.
"They are distressing, too, because they imply that same-sex marriage destroys fidelity, commitment and family rather than affirming their value for individuals and society. Gay and lesbian couples who seek the full rights (and responsibilities) of marriage are far from the enemies of the 'common good of society.' In an era of cohabitation and serial monogamy, they and their allies may be marriage’s biggest champions.
"Despite our leaders’ profound ambivalence about us, gay and lesbian–and bisexual and transgender–Catholics and their allies contribute joyfully and faithfully to the life of the Church. We hope that our leaders will think twice before labeling us destructive, disordered, and unnatural. And we hope that they will reconsider their opposition to same-sex civil marriage, which puts them in a position of inhospitality rather than welcome."
In The Tablet, Robert Mickens notes that the timing of Benedict's resignation announcement (he didn't wait for his 86th birthday or the 8th anniversary of his papacy) "underlines forcefully the urgency of his decision."** And so why now?
Mickens summarizes the various rumors now floating around about Benedict's health, the abuse scandals and their weight on his shoulders, hints he himself has dropped about his theological understanding of the papacy, etc. And then there's the state of the church in much of the developed world right now, which is frankly parlous, and which has become more parlous of late:
While that was more than two years ago [i.e., when Benedict told Peter Seewald that a pope should resign only at a peaceful moment or when he or she can no longer go on], the Church today is in no more of a "peaceful time" than it was back then. If anything, the magnitude of the sex-abuse crisis is widening. In Germany, where the Pope served briefly as Archbishop of Munich, the Church is undergoing a deeper examination of conscience and making an honest appraisal of how past cases of abuse were handled.
Beyond, the turbulence extends. In Europe, the British Isles and North America, a growing number of priests are forming associations to demand structural reforms in church governance, ministry and pastoral practice. And while there are meagre signs of growth in some conservative quarters, many more so-called "Vatican II Catholics" in the developed world have begun to walk away from the Church. Additionally, the Pope has certainly been pained that the ultra-traditionalist Society of St Pius X has rebuffed his overly generous attempts to bring it back into the communion with Rome – even at the cost of alienating more mainstream Catholics.
As I said recently, I listen carefully to what Robert Mickens has to say, since he has been willing to speak the truth clearly about the "implosion" of the church under Benedict's leadership, in a period in which too many other Catholic journalists have engaged in magical-mystical spin like Peggy Noonan's fatuous proposal that Benedict will now "bear away" the abuse crisis as he abdicates. Or they've lionized Benedict and completely ignored the pain his papacy (and his years as head of the CDF) have created for LGBT Catholics, women, abuse survivors, and other brother and sister Catholics.
Mickens, by contrast, has been unsparing in his reporting about how the "entire system" of the church is rapidly imploding due to things like "clerical-centrism" and the cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests. And, as a result, his commentary about what's happening now strikes me as far more worthy of consideration than that of many other Catholic journalists.
And (shift to another, but a related, article): count me more than a little surprised by something Vatican spokesperson Fr. Frederico Lombardi told the media yesterday, according to John Allen: Benedict's personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein will be moving with Benedict into the former monastery now being refurbished for Benedict's use following his resignation. A prediction: people will talk about this arrangement.
Finally, Greg Mitchell's article in The Nation about Rachel Maddow's soon-to-air documentary on the lies and hubris that led the American people into a futile and unnecessary war in Iraq has me determined to watch. Maddow's "Hubris: Selling the Iraq War" will air this coming Monday evening at Maddow's regular time slot.
*Thanks to Dennis Coday in his "Morning Briefing" column in National Catholic Reporter today for this link.
**Thanks to Jim McCrea for emailing the link to Mickens's article to me and other friends.
The graphic: a pictorial reminder of a saying often attributed to Karl Barth, but which has never been positively found in quite this set of words in Barth's work: "We must hold the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other." The picture is from Jonathan Davis's Untying the Cerebral Knot blog.