Friday, January 28, 2011

In Catholic News: Come Home Ad Campaigns, Anti-Gay Slurs, Berlusconi Embarrassment, and Playboy Priest

A number of items in the news today with import for those following current Catholic issues or discussions:

Eric Hodgens writes in the Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia) about how Catholic pastoral leaders need to do more than mount glitzy American-style ad campaigns if they expect disaffected Catholics to return to the Catholic church.  Cardinal Pell, the top Catholic primate of Australia, is considering adopting a "come home"  ad campaign developed by Cardinal George in Chicago, the results of which (in actual numbers of returning Catholics) seem murky at best.

As Hodgens notes, it's going to take more than bright and shining images to bring all the Catholics who have walked away, and who continue to walk away in record numbers, back:

Is Pell going to tell remarried divorcees that they are now welcome at Holy Communion? Barring divorcees from going to Communion has repelled thousands of very good Catholics from the church.

Is he going to welcome practising homosexuals to Mass and Communion; give women equal status in church ministry; forget about contraception being wrong; approve couples seeking IVF if that is their choice? Is he going to say that criminalising abortion is bad public policy even if you think it is morally wrong?

Most involved Catholics - priests and laity - are open on these matters. Will the cardinal be open to reasonable debate about the morality of issues - including abortion - in today's world?

There's a reason folks are walking, and walking quickly.  And in record numbers.  And no amount of top-dollar image management that refuses to address the real issues--and to open respectful conversation between the hierarchy and the laity--is going to staunch the flow.  (And I think we all know, unfortunately, precisely what Pell's answer to Hodgens's questions would be--if he ever deigned to address them.  Which he won't.)

Meanwhile, the Catholic church seems hellbent these days on turning itself into a refuge for heterosexual (or heterosexual-posturing) men acting their very worst.  Even as yet another Catholic official in Latin America refers to gay persons as faggots in a public address.  Readers may remember that Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, archbishop of Guadalajara, characterized gays as faggots last August in a public statement about adoption by gay couples.

The latest Latin American Catholic official to use this anti-gay slur is Peruvian bishop Luis Bambaren, who told reporters earlier this week, "Why is there so much talk about gay, gay, gay? ... Faggots – that's how it's said, right?"  And then he apologized.  Which is swell of him.  But it's hard to imagine that this slip of the tongue was not intentional, and that it was not intended to do dirty work in stirring base prejudice, given the current hot campaign of the Peruvian Catholic church to block gay civil unions in Peru.  Catholic officials seem hellbent on going there--to places of the basest prejudice possible--when it comes to their gay brothers and sisters today.  Why, I wonder?

And in Italy, the Vatican's political wheeling and dealing to put Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi into power several years ago--in part, because he is/was a champion of family values and a staunch opponent of gay rights--continues to haunt church leaders.  As Paddy Agnew reports in the Irish Times, the church may now be trying to pull the plug on its cozy relationship with Berlusconi, as one scandal after another dogs his steps--including, lately, his alleged involvement with two minors.

But both young women, of course.  The kind of "natural" relationship that Rome promotes. And the kind of "ordered" sexuality which, presumably, Corsican playboy priest Antoine Videau has exemplified as he embezzled money from parishioners, defrauded nuns, and set himself up in a lavish villa with a mistress, while driving young women around Europe in his red Ferrari and leading the faithful on "cultural pilgrimages" to Las Vegas.

But, as we read this story, we can still give thanks that the current Vatican policies are weeding out the bad 'uns, right?  It was the gays who were causing all the problems in the priesthood, wasn't it?  With their sexually louche ways . . . .  And keeping the gays out will surely bring us back to that glorious priesthood of yore, when manly men ruled the clerical roost and we didn't have all the problems that came along when the gays got into the seminaries.  

Right?  Can I get an amen?

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