Monday, August 5, 2013

Andrew Brown: "The Church Is Now Run by Men Who Have Solemnly and Deliberately Affirmed a Position That Makes It Impossible to Think Honestly or Clearly about Homosexuality"

Andrew Brown
Last week, I highlighted a statement of Andrew Brown, Kate Connolly, and Liz Davies in The Guardian about the "huge task" that Pope Francis now faces, following his remarks to reporters on the plane about those who are gay (and about women and women's ordination)--the huge task of "opening towards honesty" in Catholic discussions of these matters. Here's more from Andrew Brown on the same theme, also from The Guardian

The answer is again that the current tradition in Roman Catholic moral thinking is fixated on acts. Gay sex is wrong, by this reasoning, because it involves acts that can't make babies. This is solely determined by asking which bits go where and do what. The people behind and inside the bits are quite irrelevant. 
When this style of reasoning was applied to artificial contraception in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, it was overwhelmingly rejected – laughed out of court – by the lay people who were supposed to follow it. The pope cannot force his opinion on lay Catholics in most of the world, so the encyclical is a dead letter – except, most tragically, for the one group to whom it should not apply: the supposedly celibate Catholic priesthood. Pope John Paul II had been, as a cardinal, one of the ideologues of Humanae Vitae and as pope he made adherence to it a test of promotion. This meant that for the past 30 or 40 years hardly anyone has become a bishop, still less a cardinal, who has expressed any doubt about this ludicrous way of thinking about sex. 
That means the church is now run by men who have solemnly and deliberately affirmed a position that makes it impossible to think honestly or clearly about homosexuality. If all that matters is where the willy goes, rather than who put it there, and why, then it's impossible to see any homosexual acts as truly loving.

As Brown concludes, for the Catholic church to shift its magisterial teaching about the intrinsic evil of each and every homosexual act would also require the church to admit that its magisterial teaching about the intrinsic evil of artificial contraception is dead wrong. The two discussions run together and are intrinsically related.

And as I intend to point out in a subsequent posting, this is quite a sticking point for many heterosexual Catholics who have no problem at all with the use of artificial contraceptives in their own marriages and by other heterosexually married Catholics, but who still cannot see their way clear to treating their LGBT brothers and sisters as fully human like themselves. The level of honesty required for real and productive discussion with these privileged heterosexual Catholics, who do not want to extend the full range of human rights they themselves enjoy to gay Catholics and who tightly control the identity-making conversation of Catholicism in the U.S. via its leading journals and its academy: it's daunting in the extreme even to think about. There has long been, just as Andrew Brown says, such a total lack of honesty about these issues among many Catholics, and a cheap, shameful suppression of open discourse by those who control the central spaces in which the Catholic conversation takes place . . . .

But honesty is, as Brown, Connolly, and Davies point out, the only way forward--if, indeed, we really want to move forward. Honesty about who counts and who doesn't, who has power and who doesn't, who keeps some people on the margins while keeping herself in the seat of power, who casts himself as normal while casting targeted others as abnormal or subnormal  . . . . 

(Sincere thanks to Mike McShea for drawing my attention and the attention of others to Brown's article at his This Cultural Christian blog site.) 

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