Compiled by Badpuppy's GayToday
From International and Dignity Reports
A wide range of issues once discussed or debated within Roman Catholic environs suddenly, on June 30, became "inappropriate topics for discussion." Among the Vatican's newly forbidden issues are precisely those which touch on the concept of the equality of the sexes and its ramifications.
This latest censorship coup has been orchestrated by Pope John Paul II himself, who, while stalking the halls of the Vatican, made changes of particular note in canon law. Some Catholic observers have already taken to excusing his stifling of independent thought by blaming it on the Pontiff's frailty.
Reconciliation between homosexuals and Roman Catholicism is only one of many casualties caused by the Pope's latest moves. An ecumenical reconciliation with Anglicanism, for example, seems somehow farther off as the Vatican re-embraces the declaration of Pope Leo XIII on the "invalidity of Anglican ordinations."
Though they hardly yet knew of John Paul II's latest censorship ploys, Dignity/USA, the nation's largest organization of Catholic women and men who are gay, therefore expressed some timely concern this week about efforts of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and its Committee on Marriage and Family Life to dilute the message and spirit of Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.
When the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family Life had released Always Our Children in October, 1997, Dignity's response then was to "welcome" the pastoral letter. The organization called it "a positive step" and commended the bishops for their "improved sensitivity to the issues which confront parents and their lesbian and gay children, but all is not perfect."
Today, however, Dignity's hope has been overcome by its fear that the "pastoral sensitivity" that had once informed Always Our Children has now been replaced with a dogmatic, legalistic approach in the Church's ministry to homosexual persons, according to Charles L. Cox, Dignity/USA Executive Director.
Cox also said, "The original version of Always Our Children was not perfect, and the latest revision makes it even more imperfect. Each of the changes represents a capitulation to the conservative voices in the Church."
Echoing Cox's comments, the President of Dignity/USA, Robert F. Miailovich, said, "When Always Our Children was first released, Dignity/USA expressed our disappointment in 'the bishops' continued distinction between homosexual orientation and activity.' Today it seems that the bishops have decided that a pastoral message that encourages sensitivity and open dialogue is too risky for our Church."
What makes these revisions particularly distressing is the fact that Always Our Children, now to be in its third printing, has been well-received by the faithful and viewed positively by many Catholic families with homosexual children.
Last November, the bishops' office said they had over 500 letters in support of the statement and hardly any against. For years families have struggled with the reality of their love for their homosexual children and the teachings of the Catholic Church toward their children.
Commenting on the substance and spirit of the revisions to Always Our Children, Miailovich said, "It seems that the hand that had once been 'outstretched' to the families of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons has become less loving and more threatening."
Miailovich also raised the question as to why a document that in the words of Committee chairman Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien "was well received and saw no need for changes" felt the need to change the document.
Miailovich said, "It is regrettable that the American bishops, who only last October felt free to release Always Our Children on their own, now feel compelled to consult with the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on these matters. The sad part is that the changes reveal the philosophical and pastoral tensions within the hierarchy. The document's new tone of voice has the potential on the one hand for dissuading some persons who are in need of the Church's ministry from approaching their local priest. And yet on the other hand, the document may be still viewed by some as not strict enough to enjoy conservative support. These conservative voices have shown their power by getting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to intervene and pressuring the bishops to make certain changes. Let us see now if they will make good on their revised commitment to ministry."
Dignity/USA says it remains committed to seeing that the original message and pastoral sensitivity of Always Our Children is retained and fully implemented. The organization's hope is that the work started because of Always OurChildren by bishops, priests and pastoral counselors will continue. To that end, Dignity/USA has once again offered the U.S. Catholic Bishops an "outstretched hand" to meet and discuss implementing the bishops' original plan.
It is unlikely that such meetings will take place while a doctrinaire and punitive Pope remains in office. The binding articles of faith must be considered "definitive" by Catholics, says the Vatican, and the Pope has warned that dissenters will be subject to "just punishment."
Reverend Richard McBrien, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame bemoaned the Pope's refusal to countenance free speech. "The last thing the Catholic Church needs is heresy-hunting, or demands-for-oath-taking or any finger-pointing," said McBrien. The plea by Dignity/USA to meet with the U.S. Bishops, however, may fall prey among clerics to fear of the Pope's "just punishment," or, rather, excommunication "from the presence of God."
The Pope's infallible authority is presently being re-asserted to such a degree that conservative Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is warning dissenters that they will be "in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic church."
Roman Catholics, interpreting this threat, generally believe that the person against whom it is carried out will, in fact, spend an eternity in hell.