30 January, 2010

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Church-- It's time to act!

By now most people realize that President Obama briefly mentioned the fact that he will implement actions to reverse the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S. Military against LGBT individuals serving in the active forces, the reserves, the National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard. This is a promise still unfulfilled from the campaign. Now is the time for the President, for the Congress, and for the Church to support this change.

Now is the time for the Catholic bishops to speak out formally and clearly that they support elimination of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The statement and use of this law and policy is inherently discriminatory. The Church accepts, as a fact, that much, if not all homosexuality exists in the very make-up of gays. Yes, it does hold that homosexual behavior is forbidden under all circumstances (as is true of masturbation, and heterosexual fornication). But just as clearly, the Church teaches that homosexual persons must not be discriminated against or be treated with disrespect. The position of the Church is clear, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible... They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives.... (Emphasis added).

When the Vatican, and later the Ugandan bishops, spoke out in opposition to capital punishment for gays, they also said clearly that discrimination against gays is intolerable. In November 2009 when Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan said publicly that, "trans [sexuals] and homosexuals will never get to the kingdom of heaven and it's not me saying it, but St. Paul," Jesuit Fr. Frederico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, simply re-stated  # 2358 from the Catechism (see above).

It seems to me that there are only three possible reasons that might  lead the American bishops to remain  silent on this important moral and human issue.

First, the bishops might claim that "Don't ask, Don't Tell is an example of  "just discrimination." If they believe that is the case, they have a serious responsibility to explain their reasoning because the vast majority of Catholics and others will, first of all, wonder what they mean by "just discrimination." Second, I believe most will be hard to convince that kicking gays out of the military is "just."

A second reason the bishops could give for not supporting elimination of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is the slippery slope argument, that is, that supporting elimination of the policy would /could increase the amount of intimate same-sex behavior among gays or, at the very least, could "send a signal" and seem to "legitimate" that behavior. But remember what we are speaking of here is not sexual behavior, but very real job discrimination with dire consequences for a person's life or, more accurately, a violation of human rights. Even if there is a "slippery slope," (which is impossible to demonstrate), that is not a valid reason to deny this right because of what might happen in the future.

Finally, the bishops might not oppose elimination of  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" out of fear: fear of reactions and negative sanctions from elements in the Vatican or fear of their brother bishops or fear of very conservative elements among some of the Catholic population, such as Opus Dei and Mother Angelica-types, or fear based on their personal inability to see the issue clearly and speak boldly or their own hang-ups over sexuality in general or homosexuality in particular.

All I know is that this is a golden opportunity for the American Bishops to speak publicly to this issue by means of a strong reiteration of the official Church teaching that LGTB people must not be discriminated against and, in deed, must be treated with compassion.

I encourage you, Blog Buddies, to share your thoughts here about this issue, whether pro or con. So the questions:
     Should the Catholic Bishops speak out for the elimination of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?"
     Of what significance or importance might such a statement be?


28 January, 2010

Taking Stock::- Some thoughts

I recently received a comment from a person who came into the Vatican II Church. It seems that anonymous was happy and found a "new family" in the Church until the display of power and authoritarianism came to the fore in the last few years. Listen to anonymous:
I being a convert to Catholicism lost family ties as well as friendship to become a Catholic and I have found myself suddenly abandoned on a sea of rules and regulations....I have only been around Vatican II theology.... and I now feel so betrayed, disappointed, and disgusted that I can no longer fight the systematic reversal of Vatican II.... and despite that I can no longer worship with people I love as much as my own family I cannot continue to call myself a Roman Catholic and still be true to my conscience...

Do you read frustration, anger, and, especially, deep hurt in this person. What touches me the most is the sense of hurt and betrayal; a sense that "the People of God," collegiality, and ecumenism, no longer characterize the community he was, by the grace of God, called into at a great price.

Yes, I too am frustrated and angry at the re-assertion of 19th century neo-scholastic theology as the guiding force for the "reform of the reform:" the results of which we see in recent liturgical changes, and the reorientation of "inter-religious dialogue" toward "inter-cultural dialogue." [Both are important and necessary]. We have seen the widespread use of the Tridentine Latin Mass encouraged and the Latinization of our English Liturgy as well as permitting conservative Anglican married clergy to join the Roman Catholic Church with little attention to many of our good priests who de facto were required to submit to a promise of celibacy. All of these changes were made without any real attempts to get input from the laity or even the "lower" clergy. At the very least, these changes have the odor power more than pastoral care. Sometimes it seems to me that the fear of secularization and modern culture and the rise of  "Evangelical Catholicism" simply result from a loss of Faith and Hope at the Vatican and among many bishops.

Yes, secularization and our modern culture, especially our rank individualism, present challenges to us as Catholic Christians and to the whole People of God. But my trust and Faith in God and my sense of Hope (probably the least preached on virtue), will not allow me to find solace in returning to the rigid, authoritarian institutional structures of the 19th and first half of the 20th Centuries.

Some say that Vatican II has been the cause of a weakened Church, the reason for an increase in "non-practicing Catholics," the lack of converts, and on and on. I would only ask those who feel this way to consider for a moment, "Might it not be the case that the Church and the world would be much, much worse off had it not been for Vatican II?"

I will, and I encourage Anonymous and everyone else who loves the People of God to re-affirm their own commitment to to the Holy Spirit guided words of  Vatican II. At a practical level this will mean finding support through small faith groups who live from Vatican II and more recent progressive theology. Remain close to the Scripture and seek out Vatican II oriented priests for Liturgy. If possible, read good Church history (E.g. McBrien's, The Church) and remember we stand in continuity with a People who go back to Jesus; that our history did not begin with the Council of Trent and the Counter Reformation. Those who value Vatican II will find common ground with of the institutional Church's social justice principles. Hopefully, we can exert influence to apply those principles within the Church (E.g. for women, LGBT persons, ordination of both genders with attention to married as well as single clergy, significant roles for laity within the Church, not "just" in "Catholic Action" in the larger society, etc.).

In the end there must be compassion for ourselves, for those who are so regularly hurt by actions on the part of the powerful in the Church, and even toward those who understand the Church so differently from the authentic understanding of Vatican II. Conservatives often say, with regard to gays, "Hate the sin but love the sinner." [I believe that statement continues to be a put-down of  gay, lesbian and bi-sexual people, just as those who insult women with regard to ordination when they say, "You lack only one thing, a penis."]. But maye we could say, " 'Hate' revisionist theology and practice, but love the revisionists."

Pax vobis et oremus pro invicem!!

19 January, 2010

Reforming the Reform..... Part Two

Emphasis on adoration is the central theme in Mgsr. Guido Marini's entire speech, to which he turns in detail in point 3 of the speech. Then in point 4, he covers "Active Participation" which is explained in terms of adoration, and finally, "Sacred or Liturgical Music."

Background: It all depends on how you view "church."
There is no question that adoration is an essential element in the Eucharistic celebration. The questions are: What do we mean by adoration? How is adoration expressed in words, gestures, postures, and actions during the Eucharistic celebration? Finally, What is the relationship between the Eucharistic action of the Mass and the nature of the Church itself?

When Marini speaks of reforming the reforms made by Vatican II, he speaks of changing peoples' attitudes (especially about the Mass as adoration) and behavior during the Liturgy. Fr. Richard McBrien makes the observation that most of the "two-culture liturgical battles" since Vatican II really spring from two different views of the Church. Although there are many ways to understand the Church (ecclesiologies), McBrien focuses on two with regard to the post-Vatican II "liturgy wars." As he says in his recent book, The Church: the Evolution of Catholicism:
Those who have accepted...the liturgical changes [e.g. vernacular, hand-shake of peace, Communion in the hand standing, audibly responding to the prayers of the priest, and ministry as lectors and Eucharistic ministers, etc.] Those who have opposed... these liturgical reforms have remained attached... to the neo-scholastic ecclesiology of the preconciliar period, which tended to identify the Church with the hierarchy and to regard the laity as essentially passive beneficiaries [clients, customers] of the clergy's sacramental ministrations and teachings. According to this preconciliar ecclesiology, there was a clear line of distinction between the teaching Church... and the learning Church... as well as a clear line of distinction, represented by the Communion rail, separating the laity from the sanctuary and hence the clergy.

Accordingly, the council's insistence to the contrary that the Church consists of the whole People of God has had its most immediate and practical impact on the Church's liturgical and ministerial life, and that is the main reason why the Mass has become the flash point of so much conflict within the Roman Catholic Church. The "liturgy wars" are at root ecclesiology wars." Pages 168-169).

The purpose of the "reform of the reform" and a return to a particular understanding of adoration, is really an attempt to return to the institutional, organizational, clergy-dominated form of the pre-Vatican II church and to downgrade the Vatican II affirmation of the Church as "the People of God," a sacramental reality embracing all of the Baptized.

Adoration, and how we express it.
According to Marini, "Adoration is... the recognition of the infinite might of God... and of His omnipotent and provident Lordship." He continues, "Consequently adoration leads to... the abandonment of the state of separation, of apparent autonomy, to loss of self.... there is nothing left for us but to be left in adoration."

In spite of the softer language he uses in some places, his tone remains hard and he focuses only on the transcendent aspect of the liturgy. There is really no place in his argument for the whole People of God. He explains that, "...everything in the liturgical act, through the nobility, beauty, and harmony of the exterior sign, must be conducive to adoration."  Recent examples of liturgical changes coming from Rome illustrate this: the requirement that gold or other precious metals be used for sacred vessels and that use of glass, pottery,wood, and vessels of other insubstantial materials be discontinued. Another example would be the new requirement to clearly distinguish the sanctuary from the nave so that even Eucharistic Ministers remain outside the "sacred space" until it is time to receive and distribute communion (sacred species). Msgr. Marini supports changes along all of these lines because of,
...the decision of his Holiness, Benedict XVI...who, starting from the feast of Corpus Christi last year, has begun to distribute holy Communion to the kneeling faithful directly on the tongue. By the example of this action, the Holy Father invites us to render the proper attitude of adoration before the greatness of the mystery of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord. (Emphasis added).
The difficulty here is not that we are to adore God in and through Christ in the Eucharistic celebration; it is the manner in which Msgr. Marini and the Vatican suggest (require?) that we adore. As was argued and settled [at least,we thought] at Vatican II, there is much more to the Mass than adoration, especially as expressed in ways so foreign to contemporary Americans and others. Perhaps an instructive observation is that President Obama does not express the respect due heads of state in medieval forms, but is very respectful of them in his words and gestures. The theme of adoration remains the author's central thrust even when he speaks of "Active Participation" in the liturgy. 

Active Participation.
Msgr. Marini rightly says that the Vatican Council linked the call to holiness and active participation in the liturgy. However, the author claims that even when people fulfill their proper roles, increase their understanding of the Word and prayers, and even when they sing, this is not truly participation if it is not accompanied by an attitude of adoration.

He then goes on to say that the real action (actio) of the Mass is not what we do as participants; rather it is the action, (actio) of Christ. He, then quotes Benedict XVI from a book he wrote while he was still Cardinal Ratzinger:
What does this active participation come down to? ... Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action. However, the word 'participation' refers to a principal action in which everyone has a 'part'...By the actio of the liturgy the sources mean the Eucharistic Prayer. The real liturgical action... is the oratio... this oratio -- the Eucharistic Prayer, the 'Canon' -- is really more than speech; it is actio in the highest sense of the word. (The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pp. 171-172, as quoted in Marini's speech).
Certainly in the Eucharistic celebration we are made present to and participate in the Paschal Mystery through the action of Christ as prayed in the entire liturgy, but especially in the Eucharistic Prayer, the Canon. Other than the priest celebrant's recitation of the Canon and our attentiveness in an attitude of adoration, Marini says that all other external actions are secondary, although he admits that they may be important during the Liturgy of the Word.

It seems to me that the good monsignor makes an "either/or" dichotomy out of what should be a "both/and" perspective. Does he (and the pope?) truly believe that most contemporary Catholics do not adore (worship) God at Mass. Does he think that we believe ourselves to be play-acting when we "actively participate?" Remember, that in the old days, the only thing required of the laity was to "hear" Mass, be physically  present for the three principle parts of the Mass and that one "somehow advert" to the action during the consecration. Many, if not most did not go to Communion frequently, and some of those who did snuck out of church immediately after receiving Communion. During Mass in Latin, those who were not well educated, or heroically motivated to "follow along" in a Daily Missal, read from prayer books and/or prayed the Rosary. They were wonderful devout people but they seldom participated in the liturgy the way Msg. Manini suggests we should;  if not all, most Catholics are more  centered and focused on the "sacred action today than before Vatican II.

I do not want to suggest that there have been no "abuses" in the celebration of the liturgy. But what some call abuses may actually be development and growth inspired by the Holy Spirit. What we need is a balance between the views expressed by the Vatican and the actual lived experience of the Catholic faithful (clergy and laity) who walk the streets of the world. And, yes, I believe that the tone of the article could be more pastoral and express confidence in the People of God, so as to foster trust and dialogue.

Sacred or Liturgical Music.
It is interesting, and to me, very positive, that there is no single "official" Catholic hymnal for the Church in the United States. In this way the many musical forms from traditional, folk and other idioms can be inculturated into our liturgy. However this does not mean that the Church has no interest in what music is used during the Mass.

The monsignor demonstrates the Church's interest in music by telling us that the Council of Trent required that liturgical music conform to the sacred text (recently reaffirmed by the Vatican) and limited the type and use of instruments to make a distinction between "sacred" and "profane" music. He continues, saying,
Pope Saint Pius the X, intervened... to remove operatic singing from the liturgy and selecting chant and polyphony from the time of the Catholic Reformation [Counter Reformation in the 16th Century] as the standard for the liturgy.
Again stressing his theme that everything in the Mass must foster "adoration" as he and Pope Benedict XVI understand it, Marini says that the reason the Church places such a strong emphasis on what music is used and how it is rendered, is to foster adoration and this is best done by chant and traditional polyphony because they are holy, good and universal. The implication here is that this special type of music (as distinguished from secular and general religious music) helps us realize, as Benedict says, that "[t]he true liturgy... is cosmic, not made for a group."

The speech concludes with a strong affirmation of  "...a reform of the reform" [of the Vatican II liturgical norms]. In this new reform [i.e, back to 16th-19th  century norms and practices?], "...it is we  priests who are to recover a decisive role.

My Reflections.
I believe that the whole tone of the speech is negative, especially in terms of its view of lay members of the Church; it is as if we are superficial, see the liturgy as some kind of game or show, do not adore God "correctly," and do not appreciate what  the liturgy is.

The speech assumes, although it doesn't mention it directly, that the "Church" is the clergy, especially the Vatican bureaucracy; it recommends a return to liturgical practices that indicate a broad separation between the priest celebrant and the laity (who Vatican II said  also are celebrants. Remember, the priest presides, we all celebrate).

Marini's use of "continuity" refers back only to the period of the 16th to 19th centuries and nothing is mentioned of earlier liturgical disagreements in the Church and how they were settled with attention to the cultures, lives and participation of the people involved (E.g. the Council of Jerusalem); as a result, the type of continuity or "universality" offered is based on the belief that the norms and practices of the Catholic Reformation should hold today. This seems more like external uniformity to some idealized past than an affirmation of unity today.

When Pope John XXIII called for Vatican II, he exuded a sense of confidence and hope for the future of the Catholic Church and the World. Otherwise he would not have opened the windows to let the air in. Today there is afoot the notion that modern culture is only a "culture of death," that liturgy is devoid of a sense of transcendence, and that most of us live a profligate life of rank individualism and materialism; this feeling comes through in Msgr. Marini's speech, as does the belief that the Vatican knows the "right" corrections to make, if only the laity (and some of the lower clergy) would become docile again.

Social psychologists have tried to demonstrate that attitudes cause behavior and that changing attitudes causes a change in behavior. They have been somewhat successful and their theories and explanations are quite complex. Social scientists also know that changing one's behavior can change one's attitudes and future behavior. That is why the changes suggested by Marini, or already implemented by the Vatican and most bishops, are significant.

If the Holy Father's practice of distributing communion only on the tongue to those kneeling becomes the norm, children will grow up and wonder why they needed to show respect and adoration through a Medieval, monarchical form of behavior that seems irrelevant to their lives. Already many wonder about other recent changes such as Eucharistic ministers not entering the sanctuary after the kiss of peace and during the Agnus Dei but  having to wait until the priest celebrant has drunk from the chalice. Or the rule that the priest, or sometimes the deacon, must do (at least) the initial purification of the vessels at Mass. Or the new norm to re-establish a very clear separation between priest and people by making a very visible separation between the sanctuary (where the clergy are) and the nave (where the laity are). In each case the Church claims merely to be reemphasizing the way to adore God by doing the liturgy "correctly," and to make sure that vagueness in the role of the laity be clarified lest they pretend they are clergy.

However, changes like these can just as easily be interpreted as signs, symbols, and a means to re-assert an older theology; one that claims that through ordination the priest not only gets a special charism and role in the Church, but that he also assumes a new, higher level of "ontological" existence. This approach can also be interpreted as reducing the meaning of Baptism. At an even more cynical level, these changes might be taken as a re-exertion of power and dominance of the clergy.

What I am really trying to say is that there are multiple reasons for and interpretations of changes coming out of Rome. It would have been helpful had there been dialogue with the laity over these issues. Or don't the perspectives of the laity count? At least in modern societies where people are well-educated, and some even better educated in theology than the clergy, there will never be a return to the old "pray, pay, and obey" Catholic Laity. The laity do not want to take over the Church or usurp the roles of the clergy. The laity insist on being acknowledged as full members of the People of God and to work collegially with the clergy to hasten the coming of the Reign of God.  That's all.

Additional Indicators of the "Reform of the Reform."
Listed here are just a sample of recent events:
Okla Bishop No Longer Faces People During Mass  (Short version with out pictures)
Okla Bishop No Longer Faces People During Mass  (PDF version with pictures -Somewhat slower to load)
Latin Mass Appeal  (Conservative / Traditionalist perspective)
Papal Liturgist Endorses "Reform" of the "Reform."  (Short summary of the speech from the NCR)

16 January, 2010

UGANDA UPDATE # 3 Good news, sort of...

On 14 January The Guardian (London, UK) reported that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni announced that the Anti-Homosexual Act of 2009, "had become a 'foreign policy' issue and needed further consultation before being voted on in parliament." The Guardian reported in the same article that, "James Nasba Buturo, minister of state for ethics and integrity, who is a strong supporter of the bill, said, before Museveni's speech that it was likely that the death penalty provisions would be dropped because of the international outcry." Who made the outcry?

The Gay community.
Gay, human rights organizations and Amnesty International immediately expressed strong opposition to passage of this bill which would restrict the rights and endanger the lives of the estimated 500,000 gays and lesbians in Uganda.

Western Governments.
The international outcry from governments was not immediate but it came. Many western industrialized nations criticized this legislation, including: Australia, Canada, the UK and France. The European Parliament and Sweden threatened to reduce economic aid if the law passes. Former President Clinton, Secretary of State Clinton and four U.S. congress persons have made individual public statements opposing the law. After a telephone call from Hillary Clinton, "...to express strong concerns about the proposed law, [Museveni, the President] said, 'It's a foreign policy issue, and we must handle it in a way that does not compromise our principles but also takes into account our foreign policy interests'."

Part of the reason that governments (and, as will be mentioned below, international religious leaders) were slower to act, is based on the complexity of the situation and international relations. Anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda were introduced by the British during the colonial period. Also, the general Ugandan (and African) culture is very conservative with regard to family and sexual mores. In more recent years, conservative Evangelical Christian missionaries have reinforced and expanded upon the traditional mores to intensify and provide a new rationale for anti-gay norms and laws, attitudes and values. Finally, the opposition of the West to anti-gay norms, laws and behavior is seen by many African governments as just a new version of colonialism: to shove down the throats of the people of Africa the "decadent" and "immoral" lifestyle of the West, including homosexuality. As a result, Western governments took stock to see if their "interference" would help the situation or merely increase the nationalist feelings in Uganda. It seems to me that the tide turned as gays and straight supporters mounted ever greater pressure on their governments and that Uganda "backed down" once Western nations threatened to withhold financial aid.

What about the international religious community? They too had the same concern as governments about whether their speaking out would help or hinder passage of the bill. For the churches, the decision was doubly difficult: they had only moral suasion and no money to withhold and for two important religious communities, namely the Roman Catholic Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, there were internal issues that had to be considered.

The Anglican Communion.
Uganda is an anglophone nation and the Anglican church there is quite significant. Many, if not most, of the Anglican bishops (E.g. Ugandan bishop Joseph Arbura of the Karamoja Diocese) in Africa hold very conservative positions regarding sex, especially regarding gay marriage, gays and women as priests and, especially active gays as bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury was caught between this group and, for example, the practice of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., most of which accepts and supports gays and a minority of parishes that wish to join African Anglican dioceses or the Roman Catholic Church. After much private communication, On December 12th the Archbishop Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said in an interview with the Telegraph (a London newspaper) [See sixth paragraph in the interview]:
Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can't see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible - it seeks to turn pastors into informers.

Finally, the Archbishop of York (UK), John Sentamu, himself a Ugandan spoke out publicly on December 24th, saying, "I'm opposed to the death sentence. I'm also not happy when you describe people in that kind of language you find in this private member's bill, which seems not only victimizing but also a diminishment of the individuals concerned."

The Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church has its own difficulties with homosexuality but is unalterably opposed to capital punishment and the harassment or oppression of innocent individuals. Although the Church speaks of homosexuality as "objectively disordered" (whatever that really means), it clearly accepts that gay orientation is a "given"  for gays. This means that some people are simply born with a homosexual orientation, period. On the other hand the Catholic Church teaches that the only legitimate sex is between a married male and female. (There are a number of Catholic moral theologians, and a majority of  Catholics in the U.S. who do not not accept this position).

The Vatican felt it had to condemn capital punishment and the harsh punishments in the law and affirm its teaching that gays should be treated with respect and compassion as are any other citizens. The Vatican, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, realized the danger to priests, counselors, social workers, etc. if they were required to report homosexuals to the authorities and, themselves, face prison. As often happens with the Vatican, its position was made indirectly but officially. In a statement to the UN Panel on Anti-Gay Violence, on December 10th, the Rev. Philip J. Bene, the Vatican's Legal attache said,

Thank you for convening this panel.... My comments are more in the form of a statement rather than aquestion.

As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.

As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State...

Finally, after the Anti-Homosexual bill was tabled in the parliament, the Catholic bishops of Uganda made a public statement. Admittedly, it was not as clear, direct and forthright as some hoped for. Dr. Cyrian Kizto Lwanga, Archbishop of Kampala, began the statement with, "We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government's effort to protect the traditional families and its values." [After following this debate and the language used, I wonder if this opening statement is not a code for, "We affirm the idea of keeping the fact of being homosexual illegal]. He continues,

The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of Christian caring approach to this issue. The targeting of the sinner, not the sin, is the core flaw of the proposed Bill. The introduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for homosexual acts targets people rather than seeking to counsel and to reach out in compassion to those who need conversion, repentance, support and hope...

Furthermore, the Proposal to prosecute those who fail to disclose information regarding homosexual acts puts at risk the breach of confidentiality and professional ethics of persons such as Parents, Priests, Counselors, Teachers... at a time when they offer support and advise [sic] for rehabilitation of homosexuals. The Proposed Bill does not contain clauses encouraging homosexuals to be rehabilitated.... [All bold print in the original].

This is a rejection of the bill, at least a rejection  of the death and harsh punishment of homosexuals as well as protection for parents, priests and others who have knowledge about homosexuals. However, the statement clearly proffers an explanation of  homosexuality as something learned or chosen and therefore in need of "rehabilitation." I wonder what kind of support and advice the bishops have in mind: to learn to be "chaste." One can hope it doesn't hearken to "restorative therapy" as recommended to the Ugandan Government by three invited conservative Evangelical preachers. In any event, the Ugandan Bishops' statement seems at the very best to be lukewarm.

Recent examples of Gay marriage and homosexuality in "Catholic" Latin America:
We Do: Mexico City Blazes Trail with Legalisation of Same-Sex Marriage. (22 Dec 2009)
Vatiacn: Gay: deserve respect, compassion.
Argentina men become first same-sex married couple. (29 Dec 2009) (Pic, without DSL may load slowly)

Other Religious influences.
On December 7th, sixty-six U.S Christian Leaders issued a public statement opposing the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 in Uganda. It says in part:

Our Christian faith recognizes violence, harassment and unjust treatment of any human being as a betrayal of Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves. As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before the Parliament in Uganda.

....Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God's children worthy of respect and love.

The first signers of the statement were Thomas P. Melady, Former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican; Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action; and Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners.

This statement is welcome, as are those by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Benedict XVI, and the Catholic bishops of Uganda, for clearly opposing the severe penalties against homosexual persons and those who know and/ or support homosexual persons.

However none of these statements speak to or supports decriminalization of homosexuality or homosexual behavior. This is a challenge that most Christians have not yet faced; nor have they seriously been able to dialogue about other fundamental issues related to the very nature and morality of homosexual behavior.

Conservative Evangelical Protestants in the United States and in Uganda, itself, have spoken out in favor of the bill or have remained silent about it. However some, like Rick Warren have spoken out against the excessive punishments in the bill. Still Warren and many other Evagelicals maintain strong opposition to homosexuality. At best, they espouse the idea of  "love the sinner, hate the sin." Like the Ugandan Catholic bishops?

Four Evangelical clergymen are now trying to distance themselves from the three-day conference they presented in Uganda to thousands of police, national politicians, teachers and others in March, 2009, one month before MP David Bahati first introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The following list of articles discuss this issue further, some including hateful and vicious comments made about homosexuals:
Americans' Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push (NYT 4 Jan 2010)
Hate Begets Hate NYT editorial 5 Jan 2010
R.W. Johnson: The Battle Over Homophobia in Africa  (National Post, Canada. 12 Jan 2010

My Reflections.

1. It appears that the death penalty, and possibly the requirement to report homosexuals, with be removed from the proposed legislation; that is a battle won but not the war. Uganda will still have a host of harsh anti-homosexual laws as do many other African nations, some of which have the death penalty.

2.The leading nations of the "West" (since the fall of the Soviet system and the move toward market-based economics in China, more suitably called the "The North") and two (Anglican and Catholic) of the three (Pentecostals) most important Christian communions in Uganda, spoke in opposition to the harsh penalties in the law. This may have been politically prudent to help lessen an outcry from Africa that this move was merely a new form of colonialism and to assuage the ire of their own more conservative hierarchs and members. In my opinion, none of the groups placed their responses in the larger context of society. 

3. Here the immediate issue related to this extremely inhuman proposal  is, and let us put it plainly, to kill homosexual people. But an underlying issue is how the countries of the South and North will relate on a whole host of issues, only some of which are related to sex (E.g. the AIDS epidemic, the use of condoms, the nature of marriage and the family).

In the area of what Catholics call "social justice" issues there is great potential for disagreement and conflict between North and South. In Uganda more than a few leaders railed against the North for interfering with their culture (the homosexuality issue) and said the North ought to be more concerned with "justice issues" such as economic development, the plight of the poor, and the environment. However, many in Africa, and Latin America even more so, are negative on globalization, the capitalist system, and modern forms of democracy, and especially the supremacy of the United States and its spreading of a degrading materialistic and highly individualistic culture.

4. Somehow real homosexual people seem to have been left out of the equation. Reading all the material I have on this issue, other than a few mentions of "compassion" for "them," no one's head or heart seemed to take into account that homosexuals are people just like every one else. Gays are born, live and die just like everyone else, Homosexual persons have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, Many engage in selfless, altruistic behavior and some do not-- but not any more or less than heterosexuals! Most of all, LGBT individuals have the same goal in life as straights: to be happy and, in the end, to have lived a life well lived. Gays want to love and be loved just like others do; gays are not sex-crazed, selfish people who seek only their own pleasure. Unless one has shared an intimate connection to a homosexual person, it is often difficult to get beyond stereotypes and homophobia. I am sad that the the kind of values, attitudes and behavior that arise out of real intimacy with gays (certainly not always, and perhaps, almost never physical) is not more common. I'm sad too that the public statements by government and religious bodies did not show at least some appreciation for LGBT people as people. Finally, I look forward to, and will continue to work for the day when a distinction between gay and straight will enter conversation no more frequently than whether one is left or right handed. That will be the day when any two people who love each other can express that love and, perhaps, marry each other; that will be the day when no one will be oppressed by harsh and negative laws that say gays are "different."

13 January, 2010

Reforming the Reform: It's out and growing- Part One.

Another clear and "official" indication that the Vatican is disassembling much of Vatican II, appears in a speech given by Msgr. Guido Marini, the pope's Master of Ceremonies, in Rome 6 January 2010. (Click hereand page down for full text. )

General Observations.

For some time now we have seen changes in worship and theology that  indicate a restoration of "pre-Vatican II" forms. Now Msgr. Marini says that we are, in fact, in the midst of a "reform of the reform." [see my post "Retreat from Vatican II", dated 10-18-09 for a few examples].

In tone, the speech is generally harsh in discussing "abuses" and those who engage in them. He says, for example, "...some individuals have managed to upset the liturgy... under the pretext of a wrongly devised creativity, thus appropriating the right to remove from, add to or modify the liturgical rite in pursuit of subjective and emotional ends." [Emphasis added]. Marini, also builds and destroys many "straw men," described, in vague extremist terms. He provides no specific examples.

Marini places emphasis on the past and present; nothing is said about the future. The speaker rationalizes the need for and type of changes he (the Vatican) supports  by appealing to, "...an urgent need to reaffirm the 'authentic' spirit of the liturgy.. in the uninterrupted tradition of the church, and attested, in continuity with the past..." Benedict, has, "made continuity the authoritative criterion whereby one can correctly interpret the life of the Church. Unfortunately, the "past" here seems only to go back to the 16th Century and the "Catholic Reformation."

"Church" here seems to refer to the Vatican; there is no positive mention of bishops or priests who allow or foster inauthentic changes. By the end of the speech, there is one "positive" statement that, "...in this new liturgical renewal...we priests ...are to recover a decisive role."
The substance of Monsignor's speech is divided into five sections. I will make a few comments on each of them and then draw some conclusions.

1. The Sacred Liturgy, God's great gift to the Church.

The emphasis in this section is that the liturgy is God's gift to the Church and this means that only the "Church" can determine what it is and whether and how to change it. Therefore the Church cannot allow changes by the "arbitrary will of man," or allow people, "to treat the liturgy as if it were an object open to manipulation...where liturgical groups stitch together the Sunday liturgy on their own authority."

2. The orientation of Liturgical prayer

Guido Mariani then turns to a discourse of the ancient tradition of facing east to pray. This was part of our early tradition based on the idea that Christ, the Son, would return from the East just as the Sun rises from the East. Admitting that church buildings, in fact, were not always oriented toward the east, "...the Church had recourse to the Crucifix [a Medieval innovation] placed upon the altar, on which everyone could focus." Marini quotes Benedict XVI who reaffirmed his earlier proposal, "...to place the Crucifix on the center of the altar, in order that all, during the celebration of the the Liturgy, may concretely face and look upon the Lord." On the other hand, it seems to me that the Lord is present to "look at" (experience?) all around us during the Liturgy: in the presider and the People, in the proclaimed Word and in his special presence, especially during the Canon of the Mass.  So, what is the need of a crucifix here?

There is another reason for looking at the Crucifix during Mass, as stated by the Holy Father, "The idea that the priest and people should stare at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity [emphasis added]... The priest and people most certainly do not pray to one another, but to the one Lord" [emphasis added]. Personally, I wonder what parish Mass the Holy Father celebrated when he and the People starred at each other or how often Catholics have said that they pray to the priest during Mass.

Perhaps there is  another reason for all the emphasis on facing East or a Crucifix and it might be related to the fact that, "...it is still possible to celebrate the Holy Mass upon the old altars, as the pope does in the, "Sistine Chapel on the feast of the baptism of the Lord" and as many cardinals and bishops do. Perhaps the "Church" wishes to turn the celebrant's back to the People so he can quietly address the prayers to God without distraction.

I wholeheartedly agree that "celebrating facing the people" is a modern innovation (adaptation?) in relationship to the"monastic" celebration of the liturgy as we knew it for over 400 years. But as Louis Bouyer, under whom I studied, has shown, in the earliest churches all present celebrated the Eucharistic Prayer "circumstantes" around the altar having moved there from the place in which the Liturgy of the Word was celebrated. I am also very willing to admit that there is great value and power in the presider and People facing the same direction during orations. However,there must be more creative ways to deal with these "issues" and with more forthrightness, as we attempt to conduct our worship inculturated into the great cultural traditions of the world in our own time. I always try to remember that, "the Sacraments were made for men (sic); men were not made for the Sacraments."

[NOTE: My next post will be an update on the situation in Uganda, followed by part 3, Adoration and union with God" of Masgr. Marini's speech.