Sullivan: “The Hierarchy Versus The Future”

In one of the most concise analyses I’ve read on the issues created and faced by the Roman Catholic Church, Andrew Sullivan offers some articulate insight:

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Here in America, we see a Catholic hierarchy all but joining forces with the Republican party to insist on their right to control what is offered as healthcare to their employees in religiously-affiliated schools and hospitals and public services. In Britain, we see a furious campaign to prevent gay couples from having civil marriage licenses, a reform backed by the Conservative prime minister, and both opposition parties. And for much of the moment, this will be what the Church presents to the world: an attempt to control the medical care for women in its employ and its determination to keep homosexuals out of the word “marriage” and, thereby, “family.”

There is a spiritual and religious cost to this. And I do not mean that the Church should always “keep up with the times.” There are moments when a Church’s role is precisely to abandon the contemporary world in order to uphold what it takes to be eternal truths. But the narrowness of the current crusades – against a pill used by 98 percent of Catholic women, whose consciences are their own, and against people of a different sexual orientation that the Church acknowledges is unchosen – damages Christianity in the culture, and, in my view, misses the forest for the trees.

Christianity is not about the control of others; it is about the liberation Christ brings to each of us, and how we can learn to trust that incarnated love in escaping our daily failures, sins, weakness, cruelties – in order to bring love into being in the world.

Exactly what I’ve been saying (although not as eloquently). The alignment with a particular party is dangerous precisely because politics and religion are partners of convenience, not of allegiance or ideology. Those shift much more often than does dogma.

Andrew further quotes Fr Ceirion Gilbert, a Welsh priest who sums up the situation in The Tablet thus:

As a priest who deals daily with young people, teachers and catechists, I fear that yet again the Catholic Church is aligning herself with the wrong side, portraying herself as the “defender” of a position and an interpretation of society and humanity at odds with that of younger generations and almost incomprehensible to them in its rigidity and – to use an admittedly “loaded” term, bigotry.

Is it possible, also taking into account Bishop Robinson’s public comments last week, that some people are actually getting it?  When will the bishops get it?

The church is going to have a tough row to hoe if it believes it can play offense on sexuality while simultaneously playing defense on clerical sexual misconduct and abuse. That kind of ridiculousness is what is seriously undermining her credibility today.

Read Fr Gilbert’s full essay here. It’s fantastic. 

2 comments on “Sullivan: “The Hierarchy Versus The Future”

  1. Chris Morley says:

    I’m in Britain and Andrew Sullivan is exaggerating the Catholic Church’s opposition to civil gay marriage here. It’s not ‘furious’, except in Scotland (the Catholic Church in these islands is split into three provinces, England and Wales, Scotland, and the whole of Ireland).

    In England and Wales where over 80 per cent of the UK population lives, the two leading Archbishops just went through the motions setting out the official Catholic position, but in a very calm and measured way (how British). They even _support_ our existing civil partnerships law. The views in the pews show a majority for gay civil marriage and many Catholics were annoyed to be lectured in Church by the Archbishops’ letter.

    In Scotland Cardinal O’Brien did go ballistic and called civil gay marriage ‘madness’. But he was so over the top, most Catholics were repelled and angered because it showed none of the ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’ which the Catechism tells him to offer LGBT people. There may be 50,000 Scottish signatures against civil marriage equality but that is a tiny fraction of the Catholic and Church of Scotland population, and the Scottish government will simply press ahead. They know from the opinion polls that most Scottish Catholics want to see gay marriage equality.

    We’re relaxed here about civil marriage equality; we’ve had civil partnerships for over 6 years and everyone can see that the sky hasn’t fallen in and most people seem to get along even better than before.
    I do wish it was the same in the USA and your bishops hadn’t shut their eyes to the social care mission of the Catholic Church and the ‘respect’ towards LGB people message in the Catechism.


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