Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vatican experiences a "pastoral earthquake" on gay issues

The media is widely reporting a new stand on gay people from the Vatican synod, under the influence of the new Pope Francis but not directly written by him.  The new directive says that LGBT people often (as individuals) have unique gifts to offer Christian and Catholic faith.  (It’s pretty obvious that a lot of this is in music – organ and choir, and composition;  some of it is “the Alan Turing effect” in science and can be game-changing.)  The BBC story is here. Another account, in Huffington, is here. The Vatican did not endorse same-sex marriage and says, “don’t make too much of this” today. But others call this a "pastoral earthquake"/  

Vatican theology has always, in the past, suggested that all sexuality should occur only within the context of heterosexual marriage where there is openness to procreation.  The Vatican used to see this point as a social justice issue because it implied that everyone will share the “risks” of child rearing, and simply not opt out because it is expensive, burdensome, or presents unpredictable challenges (a child’s disability).  There is an idea that some “obligations” of societal “citizenship” are more likely to be carried out, or become more fulfilling and meaningful, if one knows that everyone else has to live up to the same expectation.  Previous Vatican theory (as does that of most “conservative” religions) had held that starting and keeping a family was one way a man experiences putting his life and purpose on line for others when he really has to.  (Of course, men did this when they were drafted into the military, often before they were old enough to be likely to have married even in the most optimal circumstances.)  Religious theology has usually made a lot of capping individual sovereignty, which affects those who are “different” (like me), both individually and as a result of policy.

Remember, marriage equality as we see it today is relatively new as a compelling issue (mostly within the past fifteen years).  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the older military gay ban were compelling because they bore on the capacity of gay people to share the deeper responsibilities and hazards of civilization.  So were other kinds of discrimination, like in Scouting or with security clearances, and broader employment.  Back in the 1980s, the issue was privacy (and medical progress), especially in light of AIDS.  And before that, merely being left alone had been a big issue, although throughout the 1970s, after Stonewall, in most larger cities, things had gotten much better, but gays tended to live openly in "urban exile" away from the crimping socializing influence of much of family life. That's how I had experienced most of my adult life. 

Previous Vatican directives had been horrible. An earlier statement had been issued in 2005, as here  (in Italian). 

In 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger and now former Pope had written (in “The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”), in fact, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech and action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs….Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is more or less a tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder…The use of sexual behavior can be morally good [only in a marital relation framed by procreation]. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally.”

Later Tuesday, CNN reported that the Vatican had "backtracked" on its comments, after protests from "conservative Catholics", here.
Picture: Volleyball at Northern VA gay pride, although the photo effect in the autumn sunlight makes the players look a bit like "The Leftovers"/  

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