Being Honest About Francis

By | September 27, 2013

So much ink has been spilled on the Pope’s interview, and most of it has just been reactive tripe. On my hour and a half commute home today I did a lot of serious thinking on this interview one more time and I have some random thoughts I want to share. I know we have beat this to death and it is not as fun as talking about Bourbon and cigars, but here are my thoughts. My apologies in advance for their length.

prodigal-son-batoniFirst, I think the analysis by Philip Lawler on this is the best, where he likens Pope Francis to the Good Shepherd in search of not one lost sheep, but the 99! But along with the parable of the lost sheep I would like to add one more: the parable of the prodigal son. I was thinking of some of the whining screeds from the Right-wing on this interview and just the general tone I am getting from the bloggers on the Right. Are many of us not acting like the older brother in the parable? I mean some of the stuff I have read fits it perfectly: “I have been toiling all these years in the vineyard and now the damn Father wants to extend mercy to these wayward types? Why I will have none of it! I refuse to join the banquet of mercy and prefer to nurse my feelings of entitlement.” This Pope is articulating a beautiful message of mercy towards sinners, asking us to join him, and all a lot of us can say is “Damn! He is throwing us under the bus! I won’t play! He is giving hope to the Commonweal types and I won’t play!” I think many of us should just be ashamed of ourselves on that score.

Second, about this idea that the Pope is “using the language of Commonweal” and the typical tropes of the Left. I am guilty as charged here of worrying about this too much. In many ways, in claiming that the narrative of mercy and forgiveness and dialogue and collaborative leadership and simplicity of life and compassion to the marginalized , and the empowerment of the laity is a “liberal” Commonweal possession is to cede to them the high ground and makes it seem as if they have been right all along: JPII type Catholics want none of that stuff! So instead of seeing Francis as a closet liberal (which is patent nonsense) it is better to see him, as my friend Chris Altieri has said, as taking that message back from them and giving it to the whole Church where it properly belongs. Such ideas as above should never be viewed as part of a partisan battle for political control in the Church and should never be viewed as code for watering down the faith. To play that game is short sighted and dangerous. So instead of criticizing him for using this language we should be screaming loudly “YES!” and “about time!”

People like me and some bloggers I have read, who suffered through the “silly season” of the post-conciliar Church, must resist with all of our power the temptation to view these Papal words as a dangerous window letting the clown masses back in. We were scarred by that experience in the 70’s. I know I was and it colors deeply my fears over those “Commonweal words”. But this is not 1975 anymore and Francis is not a “wacky,” liberal, 1970’s bishop. The time has come therefore to recognize that the people behind the silly season were not entirely wrong. The pre-conciliar Church was juridical and dogmatic and stuffy and rigid. It collapsed almost immediately after the Council for good reasons: the post-war Church’s apparent outward strength was masking some very serious defects. And despite their lunacy the post-conciliar liberals were on to something deeply true in many ways. Perhaps it is now time for many of us who were formed in those battles to admit that. That is why I fault so many in the Right-wing blogosphere for publicly venting their spleens. I am saying “Listen more guys, and be still—we may have something to learn here.”

Third, I have, as many know, found his words in the interview “who am I to judge?” troubling. I have viewed this as a dangerous nod to the language of “tolerance,” which, in our culture, is part of the Esperanto of undifferentiated and uncritical approval. I have further worried that he has actually said this phrase now twice. And so I have viewed it as calculated and deliberate on his part and faulted him for it. But I am an idiot. Of course it is deliberate! And since the option of viewing Francis as a liberal is not a valid one, and since the further option of viewing him as engaging in a rupture with the past is also nonsense, I have been forced to sit back and say to myself: Chapp, instead of being critical here maybe there is something more to his words than just careless sloppiness or naivete (as Rusty Reno at First Things has said in print). I needed to take the hardest of his words for me to accept as the hermeneutical key to understanding the whole. And, as my colleague Rodney Howsare says in class all the time, the deal is this: the first and last words of Jesus to all sinners was forgiveness. Christ called sin, sin, and knew the horrors of sin better than anyone and would suffer its consequences through to the end. And yet, for all that, his first and last words were “forgiveness.” Why? Because he knew that no sin, or collection of sins, no matter how awful, defines any of us to our core. We are all redeemable and none of us are totally evil. We are bigger than our sins. Indeed, the whole point of Balthasar’s “Dare We Hope” is that we are all more than our sins and are not defined by them.

That is where we need to look at the Pope’s curious statement that he knows one thing dogmatically: God is in everyone. Therefore, his words “who am I to judge?” are words designed to give hope to those on the margins who do define themselves by their sins, and who do feel that they are unredeemable. There are such people. Indeed, their numbers are legion. I teach many of them as do many of you. Over the years I have had many a student in my office, sobbing in tears at what they take to be their completely unlovable identity. And many of these encounters have been with young Gay men. As I said to Howsare today in his office, think of the young Gay male who is trying to follow God and the Church, but who sometimes fails and succumbs to temptation. As we all have experienced after we commit a habitual sin we have been trying to overcome we feel like dung and we feel outside of grace and it often makes us despair and full of despondent resignation. But my sins are garden variety sins of the suburbanite, shared by most suburbanites, and so even though I feel like dung after sinning I do not feel unredeemable. But think of the poor young Gay guy who has heard the conservative tropes about being “objectively disordered” (even though that is technically true he may not get its nuance) and starts to think “I really am sick. I am a disgusting pervert.” What the Pope’s words are challenging us to do then is to help that young man feel, in some way, “normal” and not outside the economy of grace. And what those words say to that young man is “God loves you and you are with Him as soon as you want to be and therefore I too love you.” The Church is the sacrament of those first and last words of Jesus: forgiveness. But that means, existentially, trying to make sure that people feel its force in the depth of their fractured hearts. I am reminded of a line from a Mumford and Sons song: “It isn’t the long walk home that will change my heart, but the welcome I feel at every start.”

And there is a lesson here too for all of us in the “culture wars.” I will be honest here: I really do not like liberal, secular Lefties. But our Lord forbids this to me. In some sense, yes, they are my “enemies” in this cultural battle. But the motivations we bring to that battle are critical. If I just want to “win” so I can “save babies” and so on, I am guilty of creating a spiritual fog in my soul, hiding in its obfuscating mist the deeper truth—nay, the deeper lie—that lurks there: I find these people annoying and I want to grind them into dust. Now I am not trying to put a halo on these types and say we should not engage them critically, but as Howsare said to me today, Francis is saying to us to just chill and be willing, like Christ, to speak the truth, but also to be willing to let the “other” do their worst to us without feeling like I have been wronged—to open ourselves to the martyrdom of truth and to enter into the joy of that—”My burden is easy, my yoke is light”.

Along these lines, I have to say that I have been harboring the guilty hope that this liberal honeymoon with Francis will soon be over and things will get back to normal as soon as they see he is “not one of them.” That will make me feel “vindicated” again and “right.” But why should any of us hope that they stop liking the Pope? Why should we not hope instead that this first acceptance of theirs of his message will bear fruit as their own hearts open to truths that they too will see they should be more willing to accept? So what if they like him for what we think are “the wrong reasons”? How are the Right-wing bloggers so certain that they don’t dislike him for all the wrong reasons? Why should we not hope that a new conversation can be started where, even if we still disagree, our common love for Christ and his Church will forge a new amity? Why should I hope they return to alienated distrust? This Pope is calling all of us out of our selfish and pinched pettiness. And God knows we all need to heed that call. I know I do. I am starting to think this Pope might actually be, indeed, a truly wise and holy man.

Finally, some of us have openly worried that Francis seems more than willing to allow this narrative of “rupture” with Pope emeritus Benedict to proceed without correction. He seems willing to allow the press to vilify Benedict. We are understandably protective of Benedict and defensive over attacks against him. But consider this: what if Francis has discussed this issue with Benedict and asked him for advice and Benedict told him to say nothing? Benedict is one of the most heroically humble Popes I have ever witnessed—a true saint of humility. And so he knows he resigned to make way for a new voice, a new message, a new approach. He cares about the Church, not himself or his “reputation”—vanity of vanities. He resigned under the tug of the Spirit and wants that Spirit to bear fruit. And he further knows that if Francis rushes in to defend Benedict, that the whole narrative will shift from a focus on the new start Francis represents and toward the “issue of Benedict.” I think Benedict would find such a focus horrifying. He may have even told Francis: “it is okay. Let them make me the bad guy. God knows who I am. And if making me the bad guy keeps the focus on your message of mercy then so be it.” Benedict, in other words, is perfectly willing to endure such persecution and to offer it up as part of his current vocation of prayer and penance for the Church and the world. I think such a scenario makes far more sense than the silly idea that Francis just does not give a damn about Benedict or JPII and is deliberately letting them get trashed in order to further his own agenda.

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  • Martin Snigg

    Enjoyed this essay very much. What a fruitful conversation we’re having in the Church. Very helpful to me to follow the Pauline injunction “to be of one mind”. Thank you.

  • http://www.imaginethekingdom.com Bob S.

    Dr. Chapp – I’m more of the Commonweal-type, but have many friends in from different paths in the Church and a real appreciation for their belief and thought. This is an honest contribution about some of those differences and your ‘honeymoon’ thought towards the end resonated greatly for me.

    One refrain I can’t understand is the elation when Pope Francis reportedly excommunicated a priest in Australia. Granted, it seems Fr. Greg Reynolds was supportive of third-rail issues and what not – but more conservative people I’ve spoken with and read are almost celebrating that a priest is lost to the Australian Church. It comes, in my opinion, from that same desire for vindication you mention that Pope Francis will be more of the same – including the detrimental aspects of someone like Benedict XVI.

    These reactions leave me wondering, would Jesus have celebrated Catholics turning anyone away – even if one believes it is a necessity to do so?

  • Alberto Hurtado

    Thank you so much for this article!

    Enthusiastic Applause

  • Michael R.

    What I have noticed since Pope Francis’ election is that there is more and more criticism of Traditional Catholics even by self-described conservatives. I would like to point out, however, that there are 1.21 B Catholics in the world of which Catholic World News reported that “the Vatican” estimated the number” of Traditional Catholics close to only 1 million”. This is .0008 of the total. There are actually about twice as many Amish and Mennonites in the world. For whoever thinks Traditional Catholics are now the problem in the Church, they are not. Just for the record.

  • http://www.humanlife.net Dan Kennedy

    My liberal friends were ecstatic. Yet there is no doubt of the Holy Fathers opposition to the scourge of abortion. The pope views the Church as a field hospital after battle, “it is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol….”
    I see two problems arising from the language he uses. I would not equate abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception with “high cholesterol” as oppose to a “serious injury.” These things are serious injuries.

    Secondly, if the culture repeatedly tells you that you are not seriously injured, you will not seek out the Divine Physician.
    Of course, with the American bishops’ lack of action regarding high profile Catholics who are pro-choice, it adds to the erroneous perception that they are not serious, or that the teaching can be changed. Unless there is more precise language coming from the pope as well as the bishops taking action to match their words, the New Evangelization is going to be even tougher.

  • BobN

    You really don’t grasp what it means to be a young gay man.

    Thanks for not putting the word “gay” in quotation marks like so many conservatives do, but really no need to capitalize it.

  • Dennis

    Bob S.:

    I think the celebration you encounter with the excommunication of the Australian priest can be explained with an analogy. If someone is going around hurting people, I celebrate when they are arrested and imprisoned because they are no longer able to hurt people. But along with the celebration comes a desire they have a conversion and a hope they are able to re-enter society cleansed of the desire to hurt. Likewise with this priest, there is celebration that he is no longer (at least officially) able to hurt his flock, but at the same time a desire he recognizes his errors and hope that he can re-enter the Church without the inclinations that will lead others astray.

    BobN:

    Do you have experiences identical to all young gay men? If not, then you also cannot claim to grasp what it means to be a young gay man in a universal sense. So don’t hold that against this author which you yourself cannot claim.

  • Frank

    It’s fascinating to see this soul-searching going on among the more reflective conservative Catholics. I like where you’re going in this essay, but let me suggest a slightly different take.

    Imagine two people:

    Person A is a bad man. He has no concept of ethics or the meaning of life. He exploits people, commits crimes, lives for no purpose. He ends up in prison, with nothing. No hope, no dreams, no prospects.

    Person B is a conservative Catholic theology professor. He lives in a nice suburb, makes a decent living, has a happy family. He has a highly developed sense of right and wrong, and firm convictions about the meaning of life. If he thinks about Person A at all, it’s with disdain, and perhaps a bit of morally superior sadness, but hopes that the authorities keep him as far away from his family as possible.

    Which of these two is closer to God?

    If we take Jesus seriously, the answer is of course Person A. And Jesus would go further and warn Person B that his way of life and the state of his heart place him in grave spiritual danger.

    I think this is the real point of Pope Francis’ “liberalism”: it doesn’t matter how bad you are, God offers himself to you precisely to the extent of your utter poverty, whether inner or outer or both. To those who are not poor, this surely is meant as a warning that, if the gospel is to mean anything at all, it must begin with the premise that we in our wealth are in serious trouble. Our attempts to define what makes a sin, and a sinner — whether it’s being a liberal, or gay, or whatever — are what keeps us most separated from God’s kingdom. And it does so precisely because of the things we think are bringing us closest to God.

    I’m not limiting this idea to conservative Catholics; liberals who adopt similarly judgmental attitudes (and they do!) are in just as much danger. The consequence, in my view, is that liberal/conservative culture war debates are almost entirely distractions from what’s most important.

    So if your job is to study, or teach, the doctrines of the Church, fine. Do it. But unless it’s done in the light of the gospel of radical grace — the truth that God is present first and last and above all to those despised by the world — it will lead you down the path of destruction.

    Well, that’s the homily I’d deliver, if I delivered homilies. And I hope to God I have the courage to direct its core meaning at myself, not at you or any other person.

  • Ryan

    Except that Benedict has now come out himself to defend his actions in regard to the abuse scandals, so it’s not reasonable to conclude that he is content to be the “bad guy”. Perhaps you missed his recent letter to the prominent Italian atheist?

  • BobN

    Dennis: “So don’t hold that against this author which you yourself cannot claim.”

    Well, first of all, having been a very devout, Catholic, gay, young man, I’m already one up on the author as to the experience.

    Secondly, I’ve met and talked with dozens of (mostly former) Catholic, young, gay men and, really, the problem, the anguish isn’t really about the occasional “slip-up” into sex.

  • John Galt

    I am having a hard time reconciling the notion of “infallibility” and the criticisms that certain Catholics are levying on Pope Francis. The Pope’s interpretation of the role of the Church should be given absolute deference, as it has with other popes. However, it seems like deference is only given when the statements are “agreeable” to a certain section of the faith. Perhaps I’m missing something, or maybe “infallibility,” like many other doctrines of the Church, is untenable and antiquated.

  • Ryan

    John, it seems as if you have a confused notion of what constitutes papal infallibility. What could you possibly mean by “absolute deference”? There are very few times when a Pope speaks infallibly, and certainly never in interviews with journalists. Yet another reason why every Pope should be careful with what he says.

  • Larry Chapp

    Thanks to all for your comments. I won’t respond to every particular raised above since that would require a response even longer than the original essay! I did not write this to be the “last word” on the topic nor in any way am I claiming that this is the only possible way to interpret the Pope’s remarks. The Pope has started a conversation and I have entered it. I hope others do as well. But I will say one specific thing about the above conversation. It is true I do not know what it is like to be a young gay man. But I have come to know, and care deeply for, many gay people and they have shared with me their experiences. In particular, I have gotten to know many young gay Catholics through my former affiliation with DeSales University. My comments above, therefore, were not directed at “all gays”. How could I presume to speak for all gays? Rather, my comments on that topic were prompted by two things. First, the Pope raised the topic within the context of the Church reaching out to gays who are seriously trying to seek God. Therefore, I raised the topic as well. Second, most of the gay students I have known were some kind of Christian, many Catholic. And many of them wanted to live according to a traditional Christian morality on that topic since that was their choice and they viewed it as the healthiest choice for them and their lives. And yet they found the path difficult and they felt abandoned and alone. And by the way, many heterosexual students who also want to live according to a traditional biblical moral vision fail in this regard as well! All I was trying to point out was that for those people, the Church needs to make it clear that they are not outside of grace and forgiveness. That they are loved and loveable. I understand that many young gays simply reject the Church’s teaching and find its statement that homosexual sex acts are immoral, offensive and problematic. My comments were not really directed toward them. In short, my essay was really directed at conservative Catholics, to get them to see the broader context of the Pope’s words. We will never agree on everything. But my hope is that despite our disagreements (on whatever issue) civility and amity will flourish among us nevertheless. Peace to all.

  • George

    Thank you so much. This needed to be said, and needed to besaid loudly.

    Conservative and traditional Catholics (I identify not entirely but mostly with this groups) need to stop with the “I hope the people I don’t start hating the pope, again. It is a seriouscandal against the Church. We should be elated that Pope Francis is so loved and pray that it changes some hearts. Even if only one heart is converted by Francis, his approach would have been infinitely valuable.

  • http://te-deum.blogspot.com Diane Korzeniewski

    Mr. Chapp – everything you said is exactly how I’ve felt about Pope Francis, and the interview, but didn’t know how to say it. You packaged it very well. Thank you!

  • Yae

    What a great piece. This is my first visit to this site and wow…to read your article has been very uplifting and reassuring. I want to thank you for your honesty. You have been wrestling and I bet allowing the Holy Spirit to bring you to where you are and thus the article.
    Thoughtful and fair and positive. I pray we may all learn to appreciate our Holy Father all the more.

    As to Papa Emerito, I have always liked the idea of him and Papa Francis, in conversation, on many things. I would never underestimate either one nor do I want to because in the grand plan that is God’s alone, he knows why they are together, under the same roof or well, maybe a garden or two away from one another. ^^

    The entire Church is and will always benefit from their unity and their prayer and their love of Christ.

  • Frank

    The condescension in the assumption that liberals and gays are the lost sheep is expected. Benedict and his bishops did real harm to homosexuals who were living chaste lives by encouraging discrimination against them in employment, education, military service, etc. Benedict contributed to their separation from Christ and the despair of the young. Physicians heal yourselves.

  • http://afkimel.wordpress.com Fr Aidan Kimel

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post. I am not a Catholic and so, in a sense, do not have a dog in this hunt; but on the other hand, I think we all have a dog in the Catholic hunt, given the importance of the CC’s witness in the world.

    I too have been following the conservative Catholic blogs on the Pope’s interview (I tend not to read progressive Catholic blogs) and can only describe the reaction as hystical. Really. It’s just an interview–and a very interesting one at that. He didn’t issue an encyclical challenging any of the dogmas of the Church. He gave an interview and shared a lot about himself. But hardly anyone seems interested in Pope Francis the man and Christian believer. They are only interested in him as advocate for the issues they deem critical.

    But apparently this Pope doesn’t want to be anybody’s advocate. He wants to focus all of our attention on Jesus Christ and his merciful love for sinners. Where I come from that’s called the gospel. And it is that gospel that is the only hope for this world of ours.

    To all my Catholic friends I have one word of counsel: relax. Your Pope has not abandoned the Christian faith. Quite the contrary. He’s just different from the Popes you’ve been used to for the past 30+ years. You need to laugh a little bit at yourselves for blowing this interview way, way, way out of proportion. Instead of worrying about Pope Francis, who seems to be pretty comfortable in faith, you need to look at the reasons why you have reacted with such visceral emotion. Laugh a little bit. Smile. Pope Francis seems to be a lovely man who genuinely loves the Lord. Really, what more can you ask for from a bishop?

    You may find this article of mine of interest: http://goo.gl/Ux2NLQ

  • A P O’BEACHAIN

    The problem I see is the same as they had with Jesus: presuming He was contradicting Moses when He was interpreting the Law properly and not making the rules the end in themselves to reveal the real Law- love each other and see yourself forgiven and do the same..

  • Nick

    You and I apparently have very different definitions of humble.

  • Anna

    Excellent perspective!
    “Benedict is one of the most heroically humble Popes I have ever witnessed—a true saint of humility.”
    I have also been thinking that Benedict may have asked Francis to avoid being defensive about him. It certainly sounds exactly like something he would do, since he has done it in the past. But I also admit that since I don’t possess B16’s extraordinary humility, seeing him unfairly crucified has been the one obstacle that has truly prevented me from totally embracing Pope Francis.

    Since it is a minority of Catholics who rightly understand that Benedict was all about the “yes!” of Catholicism, and that contrary to media characterizations, on the rare occasions that he felt compelled to address the more controversial aspects of the faith, he always did it with charity, mercy and love. I do hope for the day when Pope Francis and other clerics (who only want to bask in his popularity), set the record straight on Benedict, because it will not only be important for the Pope Emeritus’ reputation (which you rightly say he doesn’t fret about) but it will help people to see that Francis’ beautiful call for mercy is in total continuity with his predecessor. It could work to heal some of the divisions in the Church since people like me will probably will let down our guard and be more open to hear his important message, and it will prevent future Catholics from dismissing the profound spiritual poetry of Benedict’s writings. This is a win for everyone.

  • Victor

    (((He may have even told Francis: “it is okay. Let them make me the bad guy. God knows who I am.)))

    Right and/or wrong, left and/or right, “IT” sounds to me after having read this and spiritually speaking, we God’s Children of today now find ourselves in the old prodigal son story where the father wants to forgive His lost son but U>S (usual sinners) who feel that we are Holy her than thou won’t let our Papa do what He thinks He should do but we now have a chance to deeply think about whether we’re right and/or wrong and make a timely decision for these days?

    Just a thinking out loud again! :)

  • Marietta

    Sorry, but the Parable of the Prodigal Son does not apply. In that parable, the Father very tenderly assures the older brother that “everything I have is yours (so you have no reason to feel bad about your brother).”
    Not so with this Pope. Even before the conservative elder brother knew what was going on, Papa has already started slapping and beating him up, scolding him a “pelagian” for counting rosaries (beads are for counting, right?), “restorationists”, “triumphalists” (like those were dirty words), “small-minded rigorists,” etc.
    All the older son could say at that point was, “Wh…what have I done wrong?” But instead of explaining, Papa continued bashing traditionalists, calling their passions for life and correct marriage as “obsessions,” etc. This Papa, quite unlike the father in the parable, is an abusive Dad.
    Too, Pope Francis may like thinking himself as the Good Shepherd who chases the one lost sheep, but unfortunately, he leaves the gate of the sheepfold open for wolves to enter.
    Also, a good shepherd is one catches the lost sheep and breaks one of its legs before carrying him back to the flock. No way Pope Francis would dare break any atheist nor homosexual leg. Who is he to judge? This Pope never condemns sin.
    I’m sorry, I am so offended by this Pope. I have never been a traditionalist, but now I think I have become one. I am hurt and angry, but still pray for this Pope because it’s our duty as Catholics. I am so sorry, but I just don’t like this Po

  • Tom

    Marietta: I am saddened to hear your sentiments on the Pope. I, for one, was hooked by his message. I would probably be considered a “liberal” Catholic, but for sometime until recently, there wasn’t much Catholic about me except for my upbringing. Pope Francis’s message of forgiveness and welcome flamed dormant embers in my soul. I am now attending Mass regularly and trying to live my life according to our Catholic faith. Part of the reason I have not been practicing is that I did not feel like I belonged. So many of “conservative” issues are — for me at least — more complex than the narrative I have heard from my conservative Catholic friends. The Pope’s statements caught my attention and over the past few months, I have begun a journey of deepening my Catholic faith. In the process, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the Pope is not saying anything new. It is an old message in simply new packaging. Additionally, my heart has been opened to reconsider some of my beliefs which I now realize have been based more on convenience and politics than truth. My heart is now open, and while I struggle with some Church teachings, I am praying about and wrestling with these issues. I am saddened that the other side of the coin, that brought me closer to God, has hurt you. I will pray that, with time, God may use Francis to help you deepen your own faith in some way. Please pray for me — that worldly values do not distance me from God. This is a constant struggle. God…

  • Roald Digaraan

    Pity poor Benedict? You’ve got to be kidding me. That old Prada drag queen who designed his own fabulous outfits, kept a young, hunky German priest nearby, and went off to never-never-land castle with his “companion” when the waters of scandal flowed too high and too hot. The Closet Case Pope.

    The tragedy isn’t his sexuality, it’s how much he was compelled by society and the hierarchy to deny it, how effortfully he has, and the degree to which right-wingers will go to any length to deny the breathtakingly obvious.

    Yes, the denial of conservatives regarding these matters is truly astounding. Condemning (with increasingly tortuous language) homosexuality while allegedly “deeply desiring” to understand and to keep an open dialogue… until the end of time. You have lost the battle… the evidence is that you have to keep begging to “dialogue” about it, when (as with another scandal) you have just hoped, over and over, that it would all go away.

    The great irony – the historic, vitriolic condemnation to adult-to-adult homosexuality (and heterosexuality) in the clergy, but the historic silence and cover-up of child physical and sexual abuse by other members of the clergy.

    You won’t speak frankly, so I will. There is nothing wrong with a priest wanting to have sex or get married (to a man or woman). There IS something wrong with a church hierarchy that tries to keep silence about every possible form of sexual expression until it is simply no longer possible to lie, obfuscate, transfer, duck, cover, and run.

    Stop the denial. Yes, human sexuality is loaded with problems. But it’s the sexuality that we have to face, deal with, and speak openly about. It’s messy, sticky, joyful, dangerous, loving… it’s life. There is a difference between respectful treatment of other human beings sexually (which I support) and the church’s historic silence, denial, and phobia relating to all matters sexual.

    Now these endless conservative backpedaling “contributions to the dialogue” … They amount, after all the scandals, all the cover-ups, all the worst-kept-secrets, to nothing more than mealy-mouthed mental masturbation.