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JOHN MCNEILL ON BENEDICT IN PORTUGAL

Once again, John McNeill has posted a very wise, compassionate and insightful response to Pope Benedict’s recent oblique reference to gay marriage as one of ‘the greatest threats to the human race.’ John reminds us that ‘gay marriage’ isn’t just about fairness and justice for gay people, it constitutes an essential gift to the culture at large by helping to heal the imbalance and defects of patriarchy. Therefore, gay people have an ethical responsibility to press for  equality of marriage that goes beyond our own personal needs and rights. We are called to offer a new paradigm of human relationships, one that is more human and fulfilling because both partners remain in touch with the masculine and feminine aspects of their psyches. Against all of the opposition and hatred, intolerance and bigotry, LGBT people must offer a service of love and justice to a wounded, confused and imbalanced world. However, as Terence Weldon reminds us frequently with his numerous stories at Queering the Church, LGBT are making advances each day in the most unlikely of places. The tide is turning and from the point of view of history, the recent intransigence of Church leaders towards gay marriage, however painful to contemplate, is just one small bump on the road.

Below are three paragraphs from John’s inspiring article, the beginning, middle and end. Please go to John’s website to read the whole article: John McNeil: Spiritual Transformation

On his recent pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI used the occasion to announce that he thought the greatest threat to the human race, apart from abortion, was gay marriage! To my knowledge no mention was made of the nuclear arms race; no mention of the destruction of the environment; no mention of disease, poverty and starvation which afflict the vast majority of humanity; no mention of the decrease in respect for the sacred value of the human person which has led to a remarkable increase in genocide, violence, murder, torture and enslavement. Which leads me to wonder what alternate universe the Pope lives in; what alternate reality is he dealing with? ….

Jesus Christ’s message of equality and love has been contaminated by the institutions of patriarchy, male privilege, and the repression of the feminine. The time has come for the Church to cleanse itself and throw off these aberrations. Gay spiritual groups, I believe, are leading the way for the whole Church to bring about this transformation. The primary example of this liberation can be found in gay marriage. ….

Which brings us back to the question : Why is Pope Benedict XVI so consistently over the top with his homophobia and so out of touch with the reality of the LGBT world? He was willing, at least unconsciously, to destroy the celibate gay priesthood by forbidding gay men the right to ordination. The only explanation I can reach to understand the ferociousness of Benedict’s attack on the LGBT community is that unconsciously he is a self-hating gay man who projects out his fear and loathing on the gay community at large!

3 Responses

  1. Nonsense. Fr. McNeil does not address the social function of “patriarchy” or its behavioral roots. He does not address the social function or behavioral roots of “matriarchy” either. How can you disassemble society and remake it if you don’t know you are taking apart or why it works – even if you think society is assembled wrong and works incorrectly.

    Here is a tiny example of what I mean. Jesus says “The Father and I are one.” If we throw out the “patria” then how is this phrase to be understood?

    The answers can be found in Bruce J. Malina’s The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (1981), and in John H. Elliott’s What is Social-Scientific Criticism of the Bible? (1993).

    The social mindset behind the biblical writers was not merely “hetero-normative,” it was grounded in an extended family, with a father, a mother, and specific social roles for each. That model is still in effect in most of the world – especially among the poor. The question of whether that is desirable is separate from why that social structure existed in the human past and why it exists today.

  2. “The view of the ‘heavenly Father’ that Jesus presented is a substantially different one from that of Yahweh in the Torah (although not so different from the more androgynous God of second Isiah). He is no thunder god. What “He” is, in fact, seems more like a “heavenly Mother.” But in a male form himself and referring to God as “Father,” Jesus was legitimating-sanctifying-that idea that it is appropriate, indeed necessary, for men to take up values and practices that might not seem to be properly masculine…It would be difficult to imagine a more radical break with the prevailing male storm god than that outlined in these words (of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount)… Jesus directly challenged one after another of the prevailing masculine virtues.
    The rebirth that Jesus sought to achieve, especially in males, is radically different from that of most traditional male rebirths in initiation rites. Those rites are intended to separate males from the world and ways of women, to emphasize the differences between men and women – to extend gender and make a man very clearly notawoman. In contrast, Jesus’ idea of rebirth involves lessening sexual differences, bringing men closer to the world and ways of women-to tell a man that it is acceptable to be likewoman.”

    Taken from Eve’s Seed: Biology, the Sexes, and the Course of History, by Robert S. McElvaine

    Needless to say, the psychological and cultural roots of patriarchy were too deep and profound for Jesus’ revolution to take hold and the institutional church quickly reestablished a patriarchal mode of governance-which is partly John McNeill’s point. But the original revolutionary spirit of the Master has remained within the Church as a hidden seed, working it’s way quietly. And just for the record, John McNeil has dealt extensively with the cultural and psychological roots of patriarchy in New Testament times in his numerous books, including Taking A Chance on God and Freedom, Glorious Freedom. It is “nonsense” to expect a writer to deal with a complex subject that requires book length treatment in a short, meditative blog reflection. Understanding John McNeill’s reflection requires some ability to understand ‘subtext’ and a cultural awareness which the author is presuming in his educated readers.

  3. I understand subtext and I have cultural awareness – enough to see that Fr. McNeil is engaging in eisegesis, not exegesis.

    I don’t read the Sacred Scriptures so they “think” just like I do.

    I try, poorly, to read the Scriptures and align my thinking to them. Social scientific criticism is a tremendous aide to my reading. Would that McNeil’s work was more informed by it.

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