Thursday, November 13, 2008

Christianity VS Homosexuality??

It would not be much of a stretch to suggest that Homosexuality and aspects of Christianity are at odds with one another. The extent to which they conflict depends largely upon the denomination you are speaking of, and the interpretation that denomination (or individual for that matter) has of Scripture.

I have a number of Catholic blogs that I enjoy reading from various people around the world, written by both clerics and laity. Today, I found an interesting post by Father Longenecker over at Standing on My Head. Father is actually a convert to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism, and I enjoy reading his blog and seeing what he is doing in his own parish and community. Today's post was titled, "Women's Ordination and Homosexuality", which immediately caught my attention. In the post, Father included a link to an article he wrote on this subject previously, showing how ordinations of women and gay rights seemed to be linked within the Church.

I have long since ceased to think that it is my mission in life to make all people comfortable with homosexuality and the idea of loving committed gay couples. I can't even get all gay people I know to go along with this idea. I do however have feelings, and as a gay person who's Catholic faith means a great deal to himself, articles like this stir up many emotions.

Father Longenecker makes a number of points, some I agree with, others I do not. First, Father mentions an article which he quotes Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopal bishop, who's consecration has caused much uproar within the Anglican Communion. In this article, Bishop Robinson is said to have had "secret" seminars with gay Catholic clergy in which he "encouraged their open dissent from the teaching of the Church and their overt disobedience to their vowed celibacy". The article concludes with Bishop Robinson's comment that "It's too dangerous for you to come out as gay to your superiors, but I believe that if you work for the ordination of women in your church, you will go a long way toward opening the door for the acceptance of gay priests."

These sentiments of Bishop Robinson bothered me. I do admire the man and the struggles he has gone through, but I cannot admire his tactic here. While it is wonderful for him to reach out to his Catholic counterparts, I disagree with his urging Catholic Clergy to be outright disobedient, and break the vow of celibacy that each priest took before God and his Church. Would the Bishop advise a gay man who entered into a heterosexual marriage that it is o.k. for him to have sex with men while still remaining married to his wife, and keep the whole thing quiet?

Similarly, I disagree with Bishop Robinson's notion that priests should push the agenda of female ordinations, in the hope that acceptance of homosexuality will soon follow. Here lies my deepest issue with people who bring political agenda into the Church (women's ordination is often more political that social). To allow women to be ordained within the Church would destroy the liturgical tradition and identity of the Church which has already suffered so greatly within the past forty years. While social teachings within the Church may change over time to reflect new ideas and understandings of the world around us, the liturgical practices and customs of the Church do not need to be stylized to suit the environment and times in which they are practiced. The Divine Liturgy of the Church is itself a living tradition and connection with our past brothers and sisters in faith throughout the centuries. It is designed to remind us of where we come from, and where we are going as a people of God. The Liturgy is supposed to lift our minds and hearts to Heaven, not water down its worship to a pop culture phenomena.

As Bishop Robinson and Father Longenecker would suggest, women's ordination and homosexuality are connected. I would argue this is not the case. These are two separate issues, which need to be dealt with accordingly. I personally am pro-gay marriage, but anti-women's ordinations. Gay marriage is a matter of accepting the human person in the state he or she is born in as a child of God. Women's ordination is a matter of liturgical, historical, hierarchical and traditional identity. I do not feel we have to completely alter the liturgy or make up of the Church in order to accept homosexuals as children of God.

Father Longenecker would seem to make the argument that interpretation of Scripture and Catholic tradition cannot, or should not be altered to change its view on homosexuality. Inspired by the author John McNeil in his book "The Church and the Homosexual", I think the Church needs to take a long hard look at where the ideas and teachings towards homosexuality come from, and why they evolved the way that they did. Much has changed in the fields of science, sociology and especially psychology since the time the Bible was written. In light of these changes, new understanding of the workings of the world around us, and even our own psyche, it would be helpful for the Church to re-evaluate its stance on homosexuality. After all, who among us would want to be treated by a doctor when we were seriously ill who knew only as much about medicine as people did in the first century? The Church was gradually able to accept the idea that the world was not the center of the universe and that the body was not divided up into humors which regulated our health. Perhaps one day, it too will realize that gay men and women are born gay, and as such as entitled to full acceptance as children of God, and their love just as valid as any other. (See also John Boswell's Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe)

I have always agreed that what the world comes to understand in years, the Church comes to understand in decades, and rightly so. The Church, like any religion, has the task of guiding its followers to a closer union with God, and to advise them in the best way possible. To change their stances regarding major topics on a whim would be devastating to the faithful. Change can be good, but drastic change can be frightening. I have often told people that if I were Pope, I would not come right out with an encyclical granting full acceptance to gays and lesbians. I would be helping in alienating more than I would be welcoming. Things have to be done in baby steps. Otherwise, we would end up like Bishop Robinson and the rest of the Anglican Communion, feuding with each other, and on the verge of collapse or major schism.

There are certainly no easy answers, and people are passionate on both sides of the issues. I cannot, as Bishop Robinson suggests, condone outright defiance and turning one's back on one's vows, nor can I agree with Father Longenecker that the issue of women's ordination is directly linked with issues concerning homosexuality. All I can do is continue to be myself and offer my petitions and praises before the Lord as I have done, every day, and most especially at Holy Mass. As an exhausted Pope John XXIII prayed one night, "It's your Church Lord, you deal with it!"

The article about Bishop Robinson can be found HERE.

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