Thursday, October 22, 2009

Commentary on Benedict's Embrace of Anglican Dissidents: More Than a Whiff of Power Politics

Interesting commentary on the heels of the Vatican announcement that the Roman church is pleased as punch to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the flock.

At least one commentator besides yours truly (see my posting yesterday) appears to be wondering about the timing of this announcement, in relation to the impending release of the report on the cover up of clerical abuse in the Dublin diocese. Libby Purves has an op-ed statement about the Vatican move in today's Times (London) (thanks to Jim McCrea for bringing this to my attention).

Purves opens her analysis with the following observation:

The welcoming of Anglican clergy into the Catholic Church highlights the differences, and difficulties, of approach Attack is the best form of defence. On the eve of another damning report on clerical abuse and cover-up in Ireland, that seems to be Pope Benedict’s tactic. His sudden invitation to Anglican defectors will certainly take the spotlight off a continuing child abuse scandal fed, for decades, by the masculine and intimidating structures of authority in the Catholic hierarchy. Words like “poaching” may seem harsh, but there is more than a whiff of power politics in this move.

I also find Jamie L. Manson's posting today at National Catholic Reporter's Young Voices blog compelling. Manson dovetails the story of Fr. Henry Willenborg and Pat Bond (about which I blogged here several days ago) with the Vatican announcement to underscore the misogyny that continues to carry the day in Catholic hierarchical politics.

Manson notes:

As Manson also points out (citing Bishop Gene Robinson), the relationship between homophobia and misogyny in the Christian tradition runs deep. Hatred of gay men reflects a deeper fear and hatred of the feminine.

And for those who haven't yet read Bishop John Shelby Spong's new manifesto re: the debate about gay issues in the church, I highly recommend that document. I first read it a day or so ago on the Reconciling Ministries website, which links to the entire statement. Though Bishop Spong wrote this document prior to the recent Vatican announcement, it's interesting to read it now in light of the Vatican's embrace of homophobic, misogynistic Anglicans.

Bishop Spong has decided no longer to engage the toxic right, when it comes to questions about how the church ought to respond to gay and lesbian human beings. In his view, the battle is now won as decisively as the battles over slavery and women's rights have been won--though significant elements of both the church and culture continue to promote racism and misogyny.

A significant statement:

I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves.


Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a “mobocracy,” which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.