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    • Interiors January 15, 2022
      See also the previous Wild Reed posts:• Interiors – 12/18/21• Interiors – 8/4/21• Interiors – 6/15/21• Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2021)• Spring . . . Within and Beyond (2021)• Celebrating Black Panther – Then and NowImages: Michael J. Bayly.
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      Lee Grant Remembers Sidney PoitierLegendary actor Sidney Poitier died this past Thursday, January 6, at the age of 94.One of the books I read during my recent COVID quarantine was actress, documentarian, and director Lee Grant’s 2014 autobiography, I Said Yes to Everything. Following is what Grant writes about Poitier and their work together on the groundbre […]
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       A Bilgrimage BiographyRuth Elizabeth Krall, MSN, PhDNote: Since 2015 my friend William D. Lindsey (Bill) has published my work on his blog Bilgrimage. At this time, the blog is inactive, so I have decided to pull together my various posts so that future researchers and academics can find them in one place.  I have arranged this bibliography so that more rec […]
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Cohabitation, and the Church’s Redefinition of Marriage

Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe has written a strongly worded pastoral letter about Catholics who are living together in cohabitation, those who are married, but only by civil law, and those who have remarried after divorce. He writes:

First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Archdiocese of Santa Fe

There two totally extraordinary things hidden in this statement. The first, as Jamie L. Manson has observed at National Catholic Reporter, is that this is emphatically not the message of the Gospels.

In fact, there is only one passage in one of the gospels on marriage, in Matthew 19: 1-12. Sadly, the rest of Jesus’ teachings in the four gospels seem lost on Sheehan.

National Catholic Reporter

That one passage from a single Gospel may be taken as a condemnation of divorce, but there is definitely nothing, anywhere, to suggest a prohibition on any state other than full marriage or total chastity. Our bishops, sadly, are remarkably fond of claiming authority from “the Gospels” for views which are in fact rooted in nothing other than their own tradition.  (In this case, he is not even being true to the full tradition- as I will return to later). Continue reading

The Myth of Clerical Celibacy, Revisited

One of the key points in the recent declaration by German theologians (now joined by others, worldwide), is the urgency of ending the current insistence on compulsory clerical celibacy. This is my cue to revisit, and expand on, some points I have made frequently on previous occasions.

When I wrote a series of posts on the problem of compulsory clerical celibacy nearly two years ago, I listed several problems with the rule:

  • It is not based on Scripture, but in fact contradicts Paul’s clear advice that celibacy is not for everyone.
  • It was not the practice of the early church, and was not compulsory for the first twelve centuries of Christianity -over half of Church history
  • The rule, when it became fixed, was not introduced as a matter of pastoral care, but to preserve church wealth and power
  • Celibacy has never been required for all clergy in the Eastern Orthodox Churches
  • It was swiftly rejected by the Protestant churches after the Reformation
  • It is still not required for all Catholic priests: it does not apply to those in the Eastern rite of the Roman church, nor to those who are already married, and are now converting from other denominations.
  • Many bishops and even national Bishops’ conferences have asked, either privately or formally, for the blanket ban to be relaxed.

I can now add some further observations that I was not then aware of:

  • Research shows that the majority of Catholics want an end to the policy.
  • As a young man, Joseph Ratzinger himself signed a document asking for the ban to end.
  • As pope, Benedict XVI has conceded that celibacy is difficult, but becomes possible when living in a supportive community of fellow priests. He can offer no advice on how it becomes “possible” for one who can not live in such a community, implicitly conceding that for many men, perhaps it is not (agreeing in this, with St Paul).
  • The only objection he raised in the interview to ending the rule was not not one of principle, but of practicality, saying there were questions as to how this could be arranged.

But the most serious difficulty to my mind, is that as a universal practice, even within the Roman rite, it is a myth – and a dangerous one. It is a myth, because it is a rule that is widely broken. Here’s Maureen Fiedler, at Huffington Post, referring to an interview with Fr Cutie, who left the church to marry, and now serves in the Episcopal Church instead:

In the course of the interview, he laid bare an open secret of the Catholic Church: a large percentage of Catholic priests, gay and straight, live as if celibacy were optional. Some have male partners; others have secret women friends and — quite commonly in Africa and Latin America — they have children. He noted that sometimes bishops even pay for the children to have a Catholic education. All this is tolerated if it does not become public and cause scandal.

Most likely, a good majority of Catholic priests keep their vow of celibacy, but there is no way to know for sure.

Note the observation that the bishops are even paying for the education of priests’ children. This flouting of the rule is tacitly accepted, in many parts of the world – at least, until the knowledge becomes just too uncomfortably public (This is not a new claim Vatican II, nearly half a century ago:

Loreto Sr. Luke Tobin often spoke of overhearing two bishops returning from a coffee break at the Second Vatican Council, where she was an observer.

“Why do they want to get married,” one Council father said to the other, “Let them have their women on the side.”

“Let them have their women on the side”, says the bishop – just don’t let it become public knowledge.

This is why the current system, of public rejection but private tolerance of priests’ sexual lives, is so damaging, to them and to the wider church – it forces them into a clerical closet, in a widespread conspiracy of silence (a theme that Bart will be expanding on in his post for Monday).

The closet, as gay men and/ lesbians have learned, is an uncomfortable place, damaging to one’s personal mental, emotional and even spiritual health. Our private closets are also damaging to the wider community – the Jewish lesbian theologian has shown how our closets are damaging to our friends and families.  Similarly, compulsory celibacy and the clerical closet between them are damaging to the wider church.

They deprive us of some excellent potential clergy, by driving away possible candidates who are unwilling to accept the rule, and ordained priests who find they can no longer live with either the continued practice, or the duplicity of the closet.

It introduces to the priesthood a disproportionate number of candidates who have not reached proper levels of psychosexual maturity, or have unresolved issues with their own sexuality

It is thus, intimately associated, albeit indirectly, with the problems of clerical sexual abuse, of children and adults

By leaving us under the pastoral care, including that in sexual and family matters, of men who can have no practical experience, and extremely limited theoretical training, in human sexuality, we all suffer under a form of spiritual and emotional abuse at the hands of the clergy.

This pointless, unjustifiable and dangerous policy has to go. As Maureen Fiedler  says, cocnluding her piece at Huffpost:

And, it’s important to note: priestly celibacy is not dogma. It is simply a disciplinary practice, and could be changed literally with a flick of the papal pen.

So, why wait? I know the powers-that-be in the Vatican are comfortable with current arrangements, but it would seem that the needs of ministry and the availability of the Eucharist [only priests can consecrate the Eucharist in the Catholic tradition] should trump everything else.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s taking them so long.

Related Posts

The Myth of Priestly Celibacy

Clerical Abuse: How We Are All Victims

The Tyranny of the Clerical Closet

Confronting Power and Abuse in the Catholic Church

What About the Women?

The Myth of Clerical Celibacy, Again.

Son of a Priest, Son of a Bishop: Another Cost of Compulsory Celibacy

Celibacy and a Wounded Church: Readers’ Observations

Coming Out as a Religious Obligation: Micah and Justice.

Benedict’s Thoughts on Priesthood: Confused, Contradictory.

 

 


Let’s Talk About The Church’s Dirty Little Secret: Masturbation

The Catechism is clear:

2352 Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.

2396 Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices.

If masturbation, like “homosexual acts”, contraception and cohabitation is indeed “gravely disordered”, why is the Church not talking about it? (It’s not as though nobody does it.)

Masturbation by Klimt, drawing 1913

"Masturbation" by Klimt, drawing 1913 (Image via Wikipedia)

As always, let’s begin by considering some simple facts, the reality behind the theology.

Continue reading

A Catholic Case For Blessing Civil Unions

With gay marriage back in the news, one may well ask (and I have been asked) is there a case for the Catholic Church to provide some form of church recognition for civil unions?

I have several objections, which I have frequently stated,  to the entire foundations of the Vatican doctrines on sexuality – but the question I want to deal with was very specific and moderate, from a person whose undoubted sincerity and respect for tradition I freely accept, and so, for the sake of argument, I want to address David’s question on its own terms – from strictly within orthodox Catholic tradition and teaching. My short answer is yes, undoubtedly; my slightly longer answer is that there should not need to be a case, as liturgical blessing of same sex unions already has an established place in Church history, complete with fixed liturgical rites and ceremonies. However, this traditional practice is no longer familiar to us, and so I need to update it, together with some background information,  for the modern context.

I begin with what is foundational to all questions of marriage – the words of Scripture, in Genesis 2 (which is the earlier of the two creation stories, notwithstanding the familiar numbering):

“It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a companion to help him.”

-(Gen 2:18)

Notice please: not a wife, to make babies, but a companion, to help him. So we have it on the very best authority, God’s authority, that humans need companions, not for sexual pleasure, nor primarily for procreation, but for help, companionship and support.

Continue reading

Gay Marriage: The Fallacy of the “Catholic” Argument Against.

Writing in El Paso Times, Texan priest Fr Michael Rodriguez has launched an impassioned diatribe against all forms of legal recognition for same sex union. His ranting could easily be dismissed as the lunatic fringe, but as so many Catholic catechismophiles share his ridiculous claims and assumptions, I think it is worth responding in full. This is his key assertion:

Remember: Every single Catholic, out of fidelity to charity and truth, has the absolute duty to oppose (1) the murder of unborn babies, and (2) any and all government attempts to legalize homosexual unions.”

Sergius & Bacchus: Lovers, Martyrs, & symbol of Christian Same sex Unions

Not content to invent a supposed moral obligation to oppose all forms of union, he goes even further:

“Any Catholic who supports homosexual acts is, by definition, committing a mortal sin, and placing himself/herself outside of communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”

Furthermore, a Catholic would be guilty of a most grievous sin of omission if he/she neglected to actively oppose the homosexual agenda, which thrives on deception and conceals its wicked horns under the guises of “equal rights,” “tolerance,” “who am I to judge?,” etc.

What has he been smoking? He claims to base his words on a pastoral letter of the US bishops, which says, in part:

“It is not unjust to oppose legal recognition of same-sex unions, because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.”

Now I disagree with the bishops’ stance, but it as least an understandable, coherent position. It’s a big leap, though, to go from “it is not unjust to oppose…”, to saying that there exists an “absolute duty to oppose …“ Continue reading

DIY Catholicism: San Diego Variety

Probably only a few Catholics would recognize the Mary Magdalene Apostle Faith Community as truly “Catholic” (they most certainly are not “Roman” Catholic. Any remaining family likeness to the Roman church will be diminished even further now, after the congregation ordained a female priest Saturday.  Now read that again – the congregation ordained her. Unlike the Roman Catholic womenpriests movement, which has at least credible claims to valid apostolic succession for their bishops, which makes the ordination of their priests “valid, but not licit”, this congregation did not bother with  even a pretence of a bishop.

They are not simply in “dissent” from Vatican teaching, they are in open defiance: a pastor very explicitly reminded the congregation of the Vatican’s recent dire warning on women’s ordination. I liked the response:

Associate Pastor the Rev. Rod Stephens opened the evening with a warning: Any woman attempting to be ordained, or anyone who ordains a woman is automatically excommunicated. “Right on!” one woman cried out.

San Diego News

Picture from "Womenpriets", http://www.womenpriests.org

Continue reading

Procreation as Pro-Creation: Towards a Generativity-Centered Ethic of Sex and Marriage

A reader of Open Tabernacle has challenged me to make a statement about a Catholic ethic of sexuality and marriage that would leave room both for gay and straight marriages, while respecting the procreative norm that is central to the Catholic theology of marriage.  I believe other members of the Open Tabernacle team are also accepting this challenge, and will be posting their own statements.  If I’m right in my expectations, these will be complementary statements that aren’t in any way coordinated—a confluence of interesting reflections about sexuality and marriage from a number of Catholics today who are thinking through both critiques of the current theology of sexuality and marriage, and suggesting new approaches to the issues more adequate to the lived experience of faith of the people of God. Continue reading

The Unfortunate Death of Pope Paul II

I’ve been reading Martin Duberman’s anthology, “Hidden From History“, and in particular James Saslow on Homosexuality in the Renaissance. One of Saslow’s key points is that at this time, men who had sex with men were not exclusive – in modern terms, they w0uld more likely be described as “bisexual”. In a passage about how the rich and powerful freely made sexual use of their subordinates, I came across this throwaway reference:

Similar patterns prevailed among the clergy and educated humanists. Charges against Paul II and Julius II centred around their seduction of much younger men; Cellini’s autobiography records a beautiful and talented youth, Luigi Pulci, who made a career out of service to Roman bishops.

Now, I knew about Julius II  – and for that matter, Julius III – but this was the first sexual gossip I have come across concerning Paul II, so I explored further.  This is what I found: it seems he died while being sodomized by  a page boy.

Paul II died, on July 26, 1471 of a stroke, allegedly whilst being sodomized by a page boy. Continue reading

St Walpurga, Abbess

National Catholic Reporter reminds us today that it is the feast of the early English saint, Walburga, who entered the abbey of Wimbourne aged just eleven, then as a young sister was sent to accompany her uncle St Boniface to Germany, where they founded the “double monastery” of Heidenheim.

Read the full report , “Feb 25th, St Walburga, Missionary, Abbess,” at National Catholic Reporter. As you do so, pay close attention:  the text reminds us of so much that we have forgotten about the real history of women in the Church. Continue reading

John Paul II’s Penitential Practices and Competing Narratives about Sanctity in the Postmodern Church

There was a time, before the Second Vatican Council prompted religious congregations to return to the charisms of their founders, when practices of self-abnegation including self-flagellation were de rigueur in some communities.  Some orders, in fact, practiced self-flagellation in a communitarian setting.  A Redemptorist priest I once knew described to me how his community would gather on designated evenings in a dark hallway, where they’d recite the penitential psalms while whipping their bare backs.  They also wore cilices, little devices for self-torture with sharp points, which are tied tightly around one’s thigh to induce pain when one moves.

These practices—in particular, the enforced, institutionalized, all-together-now mortification of the flesh in a communitarian setting—tended to go by the wayside in religious life with Vatican II.  They did so for a good reason: they ultimately had little to do with what being a nun, priest, or brother was really all about.  They had little to do with the charisms and missions of religious communities, with the calling of a community to tend to the sick, live among the poor, teach, provide shelter for the homeless, assist immigrants, etc. Continue reading