Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Doublespeak Reflects Double Standard?

An item from the Catholic News Service recently appeared in my local diocesan newspaper, The B.C. Catholic. The article concerned remarks made by Benedict XVI to the bishops of England and Wales on the Equality Bill currently under debate in Parliament.

...the Pope said some legislation designed to guarantee equal opportunity for all people would impose "unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs."

Catholic bishops have said the bill means churches could be sued by anyone who was turned away as a candidate for the priesthood on grounds of gender or sexual lifestyle.

A recent vote in Britain's House of Lords, however, supported an amendment that protected the existing rights of churches to insist that clergy and  high-profile lay employees live in a manner consistent with Christian moral teaching.

The Lords are saying, in effect, that if a parish administrator or the chief financial officer of a diocese were a gay man or lesbian woman who during the time of his or her tenure openly entered into a same-sex relationship, that employee could be fired for failing to "live in a manner consistent with Christian moral teaching." So the Church insists on, and the Lords validate by their amendment, exemption from the law that protects LGBT people from employment discrimination.

The article goes on to say the following:

Pope Benedict urged the bishops to continue defending Church teaching in the public realm, adding that they have a right "to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society."

By being vocal participants in public discussion, the bishops are maintaining Britain's long-standing tradition of freedom of expression and are giving voice to the similar beliefs held by many people who are unable to express them, he said.

The pope adds the following:

To bring a coherent, convincing message to the people, the Church must ensure the Catholic community speaks with one voice, he added.

In a culture that encourages the expression of a wide variety of opinions, the Pope said, "it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate."


So the Church, represented by its bishops, has the "right to participate in national debate," and by doing so is upholding an admirable tradition of freedom of expression and giving the ordinary person a voice. Participating in a debate in order to express an opinion that is contrary to the legally established status quo, in this case, the full rights of LGBT people, and in order to actually gain exempt status to that law, could reasonably be called "dissent." In a pluralistic society, dissent is allowed; in fact, some might say it is welcomed as it gives everyone, including those who might not otherwise be heard, the chance to gain an understanding of all sides of an issue. Moreover, the dissenting voice of a powerful institution like the Catholic Church (as well as other churches and conservative organizations and individuals, I am sure) can bring tangible results, as we see here.

Yet in practically the same breath, the pope tells the bishops that dissent is not a "mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate." One only has to look at the history of the Church, and in particular the history of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, to know what kind of dissent is being referred to in this statement. It is the kind of faithful dissent within the Church expressed by moral theologian Father Charles Curran, who was banned from teaching in any Catholic university by the very cleric who is claiming the right for his bishops to dissent from the laws guaranteeing equal rights for all.

Reading an article such as this that in all seriousness reports such obvious and laughable doublespeak only reinforces my belief that the Church is not the papal monarchy or the curial bureaucracy; it is not even the bishops that have been chosen and appointed over the past thirty years more for their loyalty to Rome than for their holiness. The Church can only reside in the hearts of the people of God, people who recognize that the Jesus of the Gospels opened his own heart to everyone, that his teaching was love and that love is acceptance.

BTW, what exactly is "sexual lifestyle"?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. I've been wanting for the past fortnight to write on just this theme at Queering the Church, following just your line of reasoning, and simply found that I wasn't getting around to it. Now I can put this theme aside, as you have done it for me.

    This why we need a team of queer Catholic bloggers - so we don't all have to try to do it all.