Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Having the wrong discussion...

Before and now during the much heralded Synod on the Family, I have heard and continue to hear a great hullabaloo about whether or not to allow communion for divorcees who remarry without first having their previous marriages annulled.  I find this fixation odd because I think it represents misplaced focus, reeking of hypocrisy.

At the risk of expressing myself in an inefficient manner, allow me to share some recent inter-personal exchanges with you.

Last week I was in Africa for a large diocesan event.  Consequently I found myself in the company of many African priests.  Our conversations often turned to the Synod.  While in the company of four African priests I mentioned that some American media outlets reported that the African bishops were trying to block certain discussions.  One of the four replied that he thought he knew which topics African bishops would try to block and then proceeded to speculate they were LGBT issues and communion for "'separated' and remarried Catholics...because there is no such thing as 'divorce' in the eyes of God."

We had a spirited dialogue following his comment that went something like this:

Me: Why are you focusing on lay Catholics rather than the priests who break the same commandment?

Him: (deer in headlights look....)

Me: I've seen statistics that about 50% of Catholic priests are sexually active.  There are 4 priests here now.  Statistically speaking, that means 2 of you are probably sexually active.  According to moral theology, you two break the same commandment as divorced and remarried people.  However, not only do you get to receive communion, you get to consecrate the hosts!

Him: But such priests do this in secret!!!!

Me: Which is more reprehensible!  Secrecy gave us the abuse scandal, didn't it?  Besides, it's not a secret.  People tend to know.

Him: (a more frightened deer in headlights look...)

Me:  Tell me truthfully, do you know multiple priests who are currently sexually active?

Him: (stunned look)

Me: So, you'd be lying if you told me "no" wouldn't you?  And, thus, it's not a secret is it?

Him: (chuckling in a very sheepish rather than shepherd-ish way) Welllllllll......

Me: Well nothing.  They're sexually active... they break the same commandment as divorcees.  Commandment number 6 covers all sex-related sins.  Same commandment.  Same sin.  But nobody is talking about refusing communion to all these sexually active priests.

Him: But married people take a vow; their marriage is a sacrament - a sacramental promise.  Or don't you consider marriage sacramental?  Do you just want to dismiss it as something trivial?

Me: (With look of disbelief at his seeming disconnect from his own priestly sacramental situation...) And......wasn't your ordination a sacrament?  Didn't your sacramental promises include celibacy with implied chastity?  Or don't you consider your ordination as a sacrament?  Was it just something trivial?  By the way, you know what my bishop calls sexually active priests?  He says they have "celibacy lapses"...  Lapses!  Like it's as insignificant as forgetting to take out the trash.  Maybe that's all divorced and remarried people are having too..."lapses."

Him: But....

Me: But, don't you think we should hold church leaders to a higher standard than the laity?

Him: Ummmmm.....

Me:  Isn't this a special category of hypocrisy where the clerics fuss and sputter about the splinter in others' eyes rather than worrying about the big, huge, honking log in their own eyes?

Him:  Ummmmmmmmmm......

Me:  Yes, "um."  We will be attending a diocesan Mass this weekend and there will be at least 100 clergy present; so likely 50 of them will be sexually active, breaking their sacramental promises, violating the 6th commandment.  But they will all get to receive communion without question and even con-celebrate consecrating the hosts.

Him:  But should the church not have any laws or rules?

Me: Well, I think we should stop using communion as a doggie treat to reward good behavior and instead use it as a balm to heal the wounded.  Did or did not Jesus give communion to Judas?

Him: Um, yeah he did.

Me: I'm o.k. with laws but I think they should hold leaders to higher standards.  So, how about this law?  No communion for sexually active priests. And definitely no consecrating the Eucharist for them.

Him: But....but.....but

Me:  Why not?  Same commandment; same infraction; you guys should be up for at least the same consequences...  If you were credible leaders, you'd want more severe punishments for yourselves than for the laity.

Different priest:  But, I'm a man 24x7 and I have the feelings of a man all day every day.  I have needs and urges.

Me: (Thinking to myself, "Methinks before me is one of those sexually active priests...")  And divorced laypeople do not have these same needs and urges?  And did you or did you not get ordained with full awareness of the celibate state and its....

Same different priest: (finishing my sentence and sounding a bit dejected that the light-bulb in his brain turned on) Its implied chastity...

Me: Bingo!

I continue to be amazed at grown men whose reasoning powers yield logic akin to when my kids were little and they thought I could not see them if they covered their eyes with a blanket.  I tell such priests as I would tell my kids, "I seeeeeee you..."

But I am utterly disgusted that the hierarchy continues to reward people who operate in secrecy, delusionally thinking no one sees their shortcomings...while punishing people who live their lives honestly in the open.  You are not credible guardians of truth if you cannot tell it or live it.

So, my dear church hierarchy, I don't want to hear any more about trying to justify withholding communion from divorced and remarried Catholics until after sexually active clergy are wholesale banned from receiving and consecrating the Eucharist.  Plain and simple: until you are willing to treat sexually active clergy the same as divorced and remarried laypeople, this is a non-issue.  Communion for everyone!  Full stop.

How about you concentrate on substantive issues like including women as voting members of your gathering, empowering women since they are 70% of people in poverty, or re-instating married clergy and the ordination of women as deacons? 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

With whom the pope meets...

The soap opera around, "Did he? Didn't he? Did she? Didn't she" seems to be fading as the Vatican claims Pope Francis' meeting with Kim Davis did not endorse her behavior refusing to issue same sex couples marriage licenses.  And now his meeting with an openly gay man and that man's longtime partner are paraded before us as evidence to refute any political intentions on Francis' part by meeting with Kim.

Whatever....  I think the pope can meet with whomever he wants.  Jesus met with all sorts of people: saints, sinners and social pariahs all the time.  I applaud anyone willing to receive any human being with Christ-like, humble, non-judgmental hospitality.  That we could all have genuine warmth towards all people...

That being said, I do question why, despite requests, he did not meet with Catholic women ordained as priests.  Why didn't he meet with any of the plethora of sanctioned and excommunicated people in this country - enduring marginalization due to their support of women priests?  Just curious....

I also question Francis' dismissive and patronizing statements about women made during his homeward flight press conference.  On one hand he calls for and lauds conscientious objection while in the same press conference he repeats his unwillingness to engage in his signature "dialogue" activities regarding women's ordination...with some of those pesky conscientious objectors to unjust hierarchical edicts.  Irony...or perhaps hypocrisy.

He repeated his call for a "theology of women" and joked about not having done a darn thing about it like actually reviewing the compendium of female theologians' works that already begin to describe such a theology.  He found time to meet Kim but not meet with any one of the many outstanding female theologians living in the U.S. who could help him make his wish about a "theology of women" a reality.  Elizabeth Johnson, Joan Chittister, Mary Hunt, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Elisabeth Scussler Fiorenza are a few who come to mind.  Many live in the very geographic localities Francis visited.

Perhaps he prefers talking to regular folk versus professional theologians.  I did extend multiple invitations to meet and discuss this very topic beginning with a request in my Christmas card last year...which I know arrived because I got a nice impersonal acknowledgment of its arrival.  Yet, his schedule evidently was too packed to spend time with such women though he claims they are more important than men in the church...so important that he could not squeeze in one meeting on the topic...  

There is a saying that people show their true priorities by voting with their time...  Women and their theology are so important that Francis admits to spending zero hours working on it in the two or so years since he said it was so gosh darned important.  Oh....ok, I see very clearly now how important it is.  Thanks.

It makes me wonder if his encounter with Kim went something like this, "Little daughter, be glad you live in America rather than my country.  I expel conscientious objectors and refuse them the bread of life.  Here you only get a few days in prison, some press, and many wealthy right-wing friends...look, you even get a meeting with me, Mr. Papal Popularity!  Trust me, I do not meet with people who conscientiously object to laws of my organization.  Look at my schedule...not a one on the list."

"But, do not worry; in my country you would not be allowed such a position of authority anyway.  We only let men dressed in medieval gowns, many of whom are gay and have longtime homosexual lovers but pretend to renounce sex, living emprisoned by centuries of flawed understanding about human sexuality, make such important decisions.  You would not be troubled by having to make such big decisions in my organization.  Maybe you want to lessen your stress and move to the Vatican where the biggest decision you will have to make is what brush to use to scrub our toilets, or what broom to use to sweep our floors.  One or two ply toilet tissue? Percale or jersey sheets for the beds?  Coffee or tea?  Snacks or no snacks for the meeting?  See how easy it is?"

"Anyway, we in the Catholic hierarchy are masters at professing one thing and doing the opposite.  Here, let me get you the names of some clergymen; they can give you some nice lessons and tips on how to live in duplicity.  But, seriously give it some thought to move to my country."

I look forward to the day Francis engages in meaningful dialogue with conscientious objectors to Canon Law.  I would happily rearrange my calendar for such a discussion.  

As a side note, I work for one of the top companies for women and this week, one of my daughters' employers was also named as one of the top places for women to work.  Maybe Francis could consult with award winning secular business leaders for advice on treating women...

Second side note before the die-hard Francis fans complain, acknowledging his short-comings around women does not negate his good works with the poor.  However, his good works around the poor do not negate his flaws dealing with women either.