Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pope Francis on Civil Unions--and Why My Ears Aren't Listening (The Catholic Church Has "Done So Much" to Deal with Abuse Crisis)

I did, of course, see what Pope Francis said about civil unions in the interview marking his first-year anniversary as pope about which I blogged yesterday. In writing about that interview yesterday, I deliberately chose not to mention that the pope had said that various nations are regulating the arrangements by which people choose to live together in various ways, and each instance needs to be evaluated on its own terms.

I recognized, as I read these observations, that Francis is implicitly opening the door to acceptance of same-sex civil unions as a way in which the secular state--as distinct from the church, which continues to uphold an understanding of marriage from which same-sex couples are excluded--"regulates" the different kinds of living arrangements its citizens choose. I recognized as I read the pope's remarks that he is expressing, in this interview, essentially the position he eventually took regarding civil unions in Argentina, a pragmatic position which realistically grants that same-sex unions are going to happen, and which blesses the attempt of the state to "regulate" those unions for the good of the entire society and the families formed from such unions.

But as I say, I chose not to discuss any of this yesterday, since how could I? There were those words he spoke at the same time about the abuse crisis in the Catholic church--the Catholic church "has done so much, perhaps most of all."

And with those words looming over anything else he may have said in this interview, I myself find it well-nigh impossible to hear the anything else. Since those words about the abuse crisis are simply so astonishingly untrue, so offensive, so hurtful, that I now have no choice except to ask myself why I should listen to anything this person says.

I'm glad that Lisa Fullam has started a thread at Commonweal discussing Francis's hints about civil unions. I note Andrew Sullivan's positive assessment of Francis's remarks about civil unions. I also note that Sullivan ended the day yesterday reiterating that Francis's handling of the abuse crisis will be the "acid test" of his papacy, and characterizing what Francis said on this topic yesterday as "more of the institutional defensiveness that has proven so devastating to the church’s moral authority and a bad omen for more thoroughgoing accountability and reform."

For my part, though, I find it impossible to show much interest in or take much heart from faint pontifical murmurs about the possibility of civil unions--since they are going to happen anyway, though we continue to cling to the notion that you can't have real marriage without a penis and a vagina--when the person making such murmurs seeks to convince me that my church has done an exemplary job of handling sexual abuse of children by priests. Tries to convince me of this within a week after I've watched a television documentary showing a former pope whom the current pope is rushing to canonization embracing one of the worst figures in recent Catholic history, a serial abuser of minors who raped his own children . . . . 

And a month after the United Nations has released a damning report on my church's egregious failure to deal honestly and effectively with the plague of abuse of children within church institutions . . . . 

My ears aren't eager to listen right now, after what they heard yesterday regarding the Catholic church and the abuse crisis.

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