Monday, September 13, 2010

Five Minutes with the Pope

My Dad sent this article from The Tablet, a British Catholic periodical.  The writer is professor of Church History at Oxford.   Dad writes, "Justin this gent makes excellent, down-to-earth, practical observations about easily observable real-life facts.  He runs all over fussy academics who cannot see anything beyond their books.  You know I fully support academia but have no patience with making theories the end-all and be-all of life, ignoring real life experience.  Stick with it, son.  Love, dad."

‘Churchmen aren’t at all happy to see gay couples happy’
If you had a one-to-one meeting with the Pope, what would you talk to him about? In the third of our series, the church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch tackles His Holiness on homosexuality and Catholicism.
Given my five minutes with Pope Benedict, I would ask him if he’s ever spent any time with a gay couple. I don’t mean the large number of silently gay Catholic clergy under vows of celibacy, who are not unknown even in the corridors of the Vatican; I mean two people who have met socially, spent time getting to know each other, found that it’s a lot of fun being with the other person, had rows, made up, gone to parties, done the shopping, been polite to each other’s dull relatives, had a good laugh with the unexpectedly entertaining eccentric aunt, and at the end of a day of pleasant trivia, have turned off their bedside lights side by side? And have perhaps done that over months, years, decades, initially despite the huge amount of social pressure to split up and fade into the background of other people’s social and moral expectations.
Has His Holiness sat down with them over a coffee or a beer and discovered how intrinsically ordinary they are? Because if he hasn’t, I don’t think he’s got much business calling them intrinsically disordered.
I think what might disconcert him about such an experience would be that such couples don’t have any problems, at least problems no different from those of other couples, or of human beings generally. The Church rather likes claiming a pastoral ministry to lesbian and gay people, because it sees them as having a basic problem that needs pastoral care. And the Church has been very good at setting up problems for gay people which it can then solve. It has demanded that they feel guilty if they ever enact their feelings for another person of the same sex in a physical way – then it can deal with the guilt. Churchmen really aren’t at all happy to see gay couples happy; it breaks all the rules and of course encourages others to do the same things. Who knows where it will all end? Gay teenagers cheerful, contented and fulfilled? Or at least making the same stupid mistakes as any other teenagers?
But perhaps the Pope will surprise us all on his visit. He is, after all, planning to beatify Cardinal Newman, a distinguished theologian who patently found a way within the conventions of his time of having a deep, committed relationship with another man, Ambrose St John. It was the primary relationship in both their lives and that was expressed by their single grave in death. Because they were both priests committed to clerical celibacy, I don’t suppose that they did much that was physical to express their relationship, and I don’t think that I would greatly care even if there were proof that they did. It really isn’t that important. The relationship matters. For those who aren’t nineteenth-century celibates, there are different means of celebrating such a relationship, and I can’t imagine that the God of love is too worried about the details of what they are.
  • Diarmaid MacCulloch is professor of the history of the Church and a fellow of St Cross College, Oxford, and author of A History of Christianity, published by Allen Lane.


Anonymous said...

I'm lucky, it makes no difference to me if I have the 'approval' of the pope, the clergy, or anyone else for that matter.
I live my life for me basically.

I'm happy with me and don't give a crap if someone doesn't agree with who I am and what I do. I'll pick who I mix with I'll pick those that do accept me and spend time with them.
I'll live my life mixing with people that I consider are worth it, people that I like and love and if I meet anyone who doesn't like me or who/what I am then that's no biggie, its their bad luck.
I choose the people I make happy, I choose who I wish to help, I choose to make me happy, I choose because I can.

But then, on the other hand, should I be striving to "make the world a better place"? Should I be working to make life more livable for other people? Should I strive to make life more livable for other gays? Is this important to me? Is this important to the world?

Or, in the bigger scheme of things, should I be striving to do something that is more important to those in this world who are starving, dying of disease and those being killed in conflict in this world.

Should I be doing these things and not spending time helping others in such trivial matters such as being accepted and liked by clergy?

How do we rationalise such a priority?

Nope, can't answer that one. I'll put my head back in the sand and get on with my small corner of the world and make those people happy that are important and close to me.

Guess so.
I'll have to live with it. is one big bowl of choices

Greg in Adelaide

Gary Kelly said...


I was a staunch catholic as a young person and I remember being in church at mass one Sunday morning and saying to myself, "What the hell am I doing here? I'm a sinner, and God knows it."

And that was the end of that.

I wasn't about to change. I couldn't change. I was what I was, and would remain so.

J said...

That's a nice scenario, Justin, but I suspect Ratzinger hasn't had a beer with anyone since his days as a Hitlerjugend. He wouldn't be caught dead having a social visit with a committed gay couple. Greg's simple declaration of independence from all clergy is the only sane alternative.

Gary Kelly said...

Actually, Adelaide Greg raises an interesting point.

I've concluded after being around for a bit that the purpose of existence is not to please oneself but to please others, and to bring a bit of joy into their lives.

By doing that you bring joy into your own life by default.

Think about people like Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde and Einstein and others who have contributed so much to the overall benefit of mankind. We owe them big time.

We can't all be geniuses, of course, but we can do our bit. And I think that's what life is all about.

Coop said...

Unfortunately, Greg, some churches provoke their followers into to make OUR lives miserable.

This is an interesting piece and I don't think it's all sunk into me brain yet.
Is it just me or is the Catholic church confused about what to do with "the Gays"? Instrinsically disordered? Or worthy people just as they are... but they can't have initimate relations??

Is there any straight answer

JustinO'Shea said...

Interesting sharings. . .ideas, comments, observations, judgments.. .
I wish I had more time to make some of my own. . over a cuppa or two.

One comment about COOP's query. . do the churches engage in "making our lives miserable"? Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt --that I want others to extend to me -- I do not think church leadership engages directly in thinking up stuff the afflict us.

Seems to me, in their line of thought, their position on gays seems to them to be logical in that this particularly sensitive area of human sexuality is looked on as being different from the general patterns, or "the natural law" etc etc etc. So anything which seems adifferent from is "out of order". . .ergo wrong, bad, "contrary to nature".

To change on gays and lesbians would mean a complete revamping of the understanding of human nature and human sexuality. . .and wouldn't that be a "monumental effort" !!! LOL Looks like "hold that line". . keep things orderly and together. . .etc.

I realize I am saying many words and saying very little. .so I better stop and read and listen to what you guys will say today, hopefully.

ciao ciao ~

Anonymous said...

Yup, Gary, you got it.

Greg in Adelaide

Jabacue said...

Excellent article, Justin. Nice to see that there is a 'catholic' journal that will print this!
I too was a very devout catholic as a child. As soon as I went to a Jesuit university in Nova Scotia, I began to open my eyes and ask questions. They encouraged it! I couldn't 'go back' to all the 'falsehoods' that I was expected to follow.
But that was a different time, I guess. No, it is still the same!
Stick with your determined approach to all this, Justin. The church will not change unless it has people like you to FORCE it too. No pressure, eh?!

JustinO'Shea said...

Well, Jim, there are many ways to look at this "church business" just as there are many people looking . .
Personally I think the view of church too often expressed is far too narrow. Too often, seems to me, people narrow in on what irks them most personally and that becomes their view of church.

Peoples' reasons to distancing from their church - whatever the flavor or interpretation - are varied and many. Usually, but not always of course, isn't it plausible that the world we live in, our current society, has the same things which irk us which irk us about a particular segment of this society we call "church"?

The world is made up of people. . many people. . of differing cultures, ethnic sources, style, etc. Some I like, some I dislike very much, some I know and some I know not at all; some seem totally insane to my narrower views, and so forth. However I've never once thought about or acted on leaving the world, moving elsewhere, etc. [Even that thought sounds crazy..LOL]

The Christian Church in all its many exressions all over the world IS made up of PEOPLE. . the Church is people.. . basic raw,simple, complicated, all styles and shapes, colors and textures. For me personally the Church I choose to belong to is quite made up of people. . .all kinds, endowed with different gifts, charisms, abilities, limitations, "warts and wrinkles", beauty and elegance. If and when we focus mainly on ONE of the charisms in the church - clergy - we forget that the clergy are only one aspect/expression of service in the church. Each member has his/her place, gifts,etc. Only when ALL the members are doing their part, and to the degree they are serving others. . then the church is fully what it is called to be, supposed to be.

Because it is made up of humans who show a great variety of human strengths and weakness, it is never going to be perfect. . .only to the degree we are "perfect". .

And when these human beings who are church fail in this "perfection" we don't "run" as we could. . .we "limp". (I avoid the word "should" cuz I've learned when we 'shoulda' on others, we 'shit' on them.)

For me human strengths and weaknesses are not going to make me move away, withdraw, quit, leave that which I am part of. . .being christian, catholic, a member of church is my birthright because of my Baptism and commitment made. I stay because I choose to stay. No one is or can kick me out, take that away from me.

" simple declaration of independence from all clergy is the only sane alternative." Well, that is one opinion, but to me it is a limited or narrow one. I trust it doesn't mean to remain in church as I have described here is/might be "insane". Again, clergy are only one part of the whole church. . one. To relegate all that "power" to one part is to deny/ignore/relinquish or surrender one's part/role in church.

There, my contribution to this ongoing discussion. I started it so I want to contribute my share also.

Thanks for all of yours. ;-)
~~~ justin

sources: my Dad and Mom, religious ed classes, theology readings for comparative religions course, and my own reflections and ongoing living experiences.

Jabacue said...

Justin, I hear you and encourage you to stay on this path you have chosen.
And it is good that you will listen to other opinions which are contrary to yours.
My path is very satisfying for me and I use a lot of things I learned from the CC and my parents. The basic precepts of Christianity present a good groundwork for living a full do other religions like Islam and Buddhism.
Good discussion you started.

JustinO'Shea said...

Thanks, JIM, for you encouragement and sharing ideas. I like coming to know and begin to understand others' views and attitudes on these and other issues.

Each of us adapts to and expands on these things in our lives. I think it is so necessary for us to resolve all of these issues which face us as gay men, as best we can, and as works well for us, each in our own ways.

Love, peace and joy to all of us!
~~~~ justin

Coop said...

I feel a lot like Jabacque. I went to a Benedictine college and was able to learn A LOT about the Catholic tradition and our way of reading the bible.

And, Justin, thank you for sharing thoughts about your choice to stay Catholic. I was wondering about that.
I sometimes wonder why I stay Catholic.

A lot of people don't think... they just accept the teachings of the priest or minister which are influenced by prejudice.

My comment on religion making people's lives miserable was not directed at the Catholic church.

Great discussion! :)

J said...

I'm not saying you're insane, Justin. You're just a beautiful masochist. Why you insist on clinging to any person or institution that doesn't accept you on your own terms, and for what you are, is completely beyond me.

Coop said...

The priest at the church my parents go to is always making broad comments about how "immorality is frequently being labeled a lifestyle choice" ya ya ya. He could be talking about abortion, birth control, sexual promiscuity, couples choosing not to marry... or a whole bunch of other things... but I don't know...
This man is very well read and he says a great sermon, otherwise.

I went last week with my dad and the priest dived head on into the parables of the lost son, the lost coin, the lost sheep.
"Yes, it sounds STUPID to leave 99 sheep unguarded and go look for one but this what these stories are trying to teach us."
I thought it was great.

Gary Kelly said...

If you're at a donut shop and you choose strawberry, it's probably because you like strawberry better than chocolate or caramel.

Or maybe it's because you just don't like chocolate or caramel. Did you ever choose not to like chocolate or caramel? No. No one chooses to dislike certain things. It's not a matter of choice. You don't choose to like certain things either. The choice is already made for you because of the way you're wired.

"I choose to like strawberry!" Have you ever heard anyone say that?

"I choose not to like chocolate and caramel!" Have you ever heard anyone say that?


Therefore this thing we call choice is not an option because it doesn't exist. We just think it does.

PhotosbyErich said...


Just wanted to let you know that I got around to reading this after a while and I think it is great. Makes some excellent points that would be hard to refute!

Hope you are enjoying school, but have a chance to see Peter on weekends, etc.