What a week it's been in the Carry On Rome series. In case, you missed it, an interim draft report on the family came out earlier this week from a Synod of over 200 Roman Catholic Bishops.
This document included some "liberal", "inclusive" language on gay people. It was only a working draft report for a fuller synod next year, but it was enough for people to speak of an "earthquake" in Rome. In some respects, an earthquake it was; this move was pretty much unthinkable under John Paul II or the arch-conservative Benedict XVI. The Catholic Bishops' work certainly got some great responses online from the more excitable faithful:
However, if you're not wrapped up in a bubble of Catholic belief, and aren't entirely sure whether Our Lady of Fatima is referring to:
- A) the former Olympic British javelin thrower; or
- B) the ghostly apparition of a 2000 year old dead Jewish woman, who apparently appeared to some Portuguese shepherd children in 1917
By any normal, non-Church standards the language in the interim church shouldn't have got you praying. The most positive thing it said was that homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Wow, we're human beings who have qualities. Groundbreaking. It then posed the question whether the Church was capable of welcoming "these people" into the Church and described us as an "important educative challenge". Having given these crumbs and posed a question, it went on to affirm that "unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman" and spoke about the "moral problems connected to homosexual unions".
So, the above words, which said our unions are second class and mentioned their moral problems, was heralded as a ground-breaking, liberal, welcoming document that threatened schism within the Church. Guys, this isn't actually exactly the Pope coming out on stage wearing a rainbow tutu accompanied by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Srsly.
And the Lord Taketh Away
But then even the crumbs were scraped back. This was because of a vocal backlash amongst conservative bishops. Watered down language was instead proposed that removed the revolutionary statement that we have gifts and qualities to offer. As the new version really didn't "give" gay people anything that wasn't already the case, it's extraordinary that 62 bishops are so deeply homophobic they felt the need to vote against it. It therefore failed the 2/3 majority required and a new, third draft was created. The "welcoming" language was thus entirely removed and we are left instead with a document that states:
There is no basis whatsoever to assimilate or to draw even remote analogies between same-sex unions and the plan of God for marriage and family.So my steady, loving, same-sex relationship may not have any even remote analogies drawn between it and a marriage. It does not constitute a family in the eyes of Rome - nor do those of countless same-sex couples across the world, many of whom are bringing up children, very happily and very successfully.
Amazingly, in the same breath, and without seeing any contradiction at all, the document then goes on to say we must be accepted with respect and sensitivity, and every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided.
I love the insertion of the word "unjust". The Bishops are at least not so blind that they realise that actively encouraging over a billion of their faithful to treat us as less than everyone else does indeed constitute discrimination. It's just they think it's okay, and is what their god wants. It's the kind of statement a die-hard supporter of Apartheid might have said. Shutting out black people from opportunity and civic life by means of racial discrimination was legal, and in their minds entirely justified. As long as it was done with sensitivity, no problem at all.
Let's then throw in U.S. Cardinal Burke's comments during the Synod that a couple should keep their grandchildren away from their gay son or daughter at Christmas. That "moral dilemma" was, he said, "made more delicate by the aggressiveness of the homosexual agenda". Because, as any reasonable person knows, expecting to be welcomed by your own flesh and blood at Christmas is highly aggressive, and just the type of militant thing we homosexuals so unreasonably demand.
|A time of goodwill to all mankind. Unless they're LGBT.|
None of this should of course be unsurprising if you're familiar with the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was put together in the 1990s by the later Pope Benedict XVI. It's remarkably recent. Everything you need to know is there in 2357 and 2358, just below the stuff on incest and rape. It states that homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity, contrary to natural law and intrinsically disordered. It says under no circumstances can they be approved of. We who have "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" have an inclination which is objectively disordered. It apparently constitutes "a trial" for most of us and is a "condition" the psychological genesis of which remains largely unexplained. The only way to deal with this trial is celibacy.
As this Catholic priest and psychotherapist comments, "any effort by a gay person to reach out for human sexual love, no matter what the circumstances, is judged as evil. The Vatican says that "if gay people enter into a human sexual love relation they know evil and will separate themselves from the love of God." If this isn't religious extremism, I'm not sure what is. The priest concerned calls the Catechism the worst document issued from the Church since it declared in 1866 that "slavery itself.. is not all contrary to the divine and natural law."
Not just gay Catholics, but all gay men and women around the world are dealt with in this way, in a few lines, following on from the subject of rape. A nice question mark is vaguely, but entirely deliberately cast over our mental health. Of course pretty much every reputable psychological association around the world has concluded from actual empirical evidence that homosexuality does not imply psychological disorder, but that didn't stop Benedict. Having thrown this slur out there, the text then goes on, just as is the Synod discussion paper, to say we should of course be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity, blah blah.
I should like to remain charitable, but I'm struggling. In both instances there is a massive inherent contradiction: you cannot say we should be treated with respect and sensitivity, when you also systematically state we are worth less than you, that our relationships can in no way be placed on a par with yours, that we have a psychological condition, and that if we have sex with our partners we know evil and cut ourselves off from the love of the god that you're so keen on.
I just can't don't see how you square a belief in the Catechism or that Synod draft and saying these things to my face, with at the same time being sensitive, compassionate and respectful to me. You can't. It's like sensitively inviting a vegetarian along to watch the slaughter of a pig followed by compassionately and respectfully offering them a nice gammon steak.
We, the Disordered
Oh, but try they do. A couple of Catholics have tried to explain to me that I shouldn't be offended in the slightest by any of this. No, no, the words "objectively disordered" is just technical language that carries a special meaning in this context. It simply means that when gay people have sex they are deprived of "god's gift" of creating a child. According to Rome, only sex acts which can result in babies are natural: everything else is by definition disordered in the sense that you don't reproduce as a result.
I must therefore, I am patronisingly told by a heterosexual Catholic on Twitter, feel a personal loss that when I make love to my boyfriend because he can't get pregnant as a result. Except I don't. Not for one moment.
|Not on the top of my shopping list. No, really.|
What is lacking here (apart from any sensitivity, compassion or respect) is any understanding that people's moral beliefs and indeed their desires in life differ. I am not a Catholic. I am not a Christian. I do not believe in a magical being who dictates, 2000 years after his son allegedly rose from the dead, through an elderly celibate German man sitting in Rome, what I should or should not do in bed with the man I love.
As positive as some aspects of Christian faith have undoubtedly been during history, I personally find belief in a god as a superstitious, somewhat ridiculous and unfathomable thing. I don't think sex is about having as many babies as you possibly can. Like me, millions disagree with the idea that sex is purely for reproduction, and it's extraordinarily arrogant to think only you possess the absolute moral truth, because the institution you belong to has spoon-fed you that "truth". But that's the Catholic Church in a nutshell, I guess.
What I do feel is a rising amount of anger at trying to twist the meaning of words which have a very normal, natural definition. You cannot expect to throw terms like "act of grave depravity" and "objectively disordered" at an individual about their life and not expect them to be irritated and offended. The special Catholic meaning of the words is just not the way I or any reasonable bystander will interpret them. Let's look at that term "disordered":
It is a little naïve to suppose that anyone outside the narrow little world of strict Catholic belief will not give the meaning "dysfunctional, disturbed, unsound, sick or diseased" to the term. Looking at the specific context in the Catechism, and the fact this expression follows on from "act of grave depravity" I see absolutely no reason to believe Benedict did not intend the natural, offensive meaning in any case. The other favourite trick is to say "oh YOU are not disordered/depraved"; it's just what you do that is depraved. Because that's far better and far less insulting to me, obviously.
The same Catholic went on to describe my love making with my boyfriend as "using him as a sex-toy" for "masturbatory purposes". He was hardly helping his case of coming across as sensitive and respectful by doing that. Throw in a later comment from him that "a man who contracepts is using his wife as a sex aid" and 95% people are going to think him a sexist pig, as well as a homophobic idiot.
This is all from a man who claims he is fighting the "REAL" homophobes within the Church. He says his god's love is limitless (and presumably extends to me if I torture myself by not being in a loving relationship for the rest of my life). I'm afraid I ended up telling him to fuck off. I further expressed the wish that said fuck resulted up in a nice baby, because that is all that he is reducing the sex act to. Shucks, it takes the patience of a saint to deal with these people online. I failed. I gather from what he's saying to me it's a career choice which is probably ruled out to me now, anyhow.
|Someone else had reserved my name anyway|
Joking aside, the actual disorder here is in fact plain for me to see: it's the brainwashing abilities of the Catholic Church which are capable of convincing someone he is being a reasonable compassionate person, whilst spewing this bile to a non-Catholic, who has repeatedly asked him to stop it. Why should I have to put up with this? It's hate speech and it's absolute poison.
Why Does It Matter?
If you're therefore wondering why it should matter to me what Rome has decided to do this week, I should have thought it actually rather obvious. The Churches collectively still wield a massive amount of influence. Look for example at the way the Tories fell over themselves to give quadruple locks to Christian Churches to allow them to exclude us and discriminate against us legally on equal marriage. That's in this country, which by large, is not a religious one at all. Still the Churches are given enormous special treatment and "belief" is still accorded an official respect in our society which I find baffling.
The attitudes of the Church, particularly on human morality, have determined to a large extent what people thought privately for the last two millennia. I can think of no other institutional driver of homophobia (past and present) than the Christian Churches. This homophobic legacy has a very real effect today. Ours is a country where in 2013 you still can have your life torn to pieces for holding your boyfriend's hand in public. Read that link, please, and consider the effect of these dehumanising, degrading words by such a powerful institution as the Church. It's a country where this week a gay couple was thrown off a London bus after the homophobic driver told them they weren't real men and to fuck off. Sad to say, but without knowing a single thing more about it, my money is instantly on it being more likely than not that "Jesus" was involved in that story in some way.
Many British Christians appear to love screaming that they are being persecuted. They have zero idea of what it is to like to be shouted at, thrown out of a store or to be fearful for their loved one walking down a street. They have no idea what it feels like to hear the language of violence and hate being spoken in school playgrounds from the youngest age. They have no idea of the fear that gay teenagers feel that they may be rejected by their parents for simply being themselves: the most unnatural act of all. They have no idea what it feels like to be bullied. They have no idea what it feels like to have be told on Twitter their relationship is worth less than everyone else's by a person who doesn't even know them.
Inside and outside the UK, the Vatican contributes to making the lives of LGBT people utter misery. The Church, if it cared about the well-being and dignity of all people, should be screaming from the rooftops about the injustices we face. Instead they remain at its vanguard, perpetuating the hatred and poison in 2014 with their words and acts. Millions of ordinary people, thoroughly decent souls who actually make up the Catholic Church, disagree with the stance of the bishops: that's part of the background of why this Synod was called. That's a truly wonderful thing - but look at the result. Despite a Pope who has achieved some remarkable things, Rome has moved one step forward and two steps back.
1 Corinthians 13
I've genuinely no desire to pollute myself with the bitterness I have experienced from some of the so-called Christians I've encountered, on a routine basis, over the years on Twitter. So I shall quote Corinthians and try to wash it right out of my hair.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal... If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. Love.. does not dishonour others.. Love never fails.. And now these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.Your Bible may contain the most absurd logical flaws, and a load of stuff I couldn't believe in a million years, but it's sometimes great for a quote. What truly beautiful words and sentiments. LGBT people will not go away simply because you wished we didn't exist. Show some love and show some real humanity, Rome, rather than the farce this week and the utter poison and hatred you've been spewing forth for hundreds of years. It is, after all, what you're supposedly all about.