Sunday, 22 May 2016

Cardinal Sarah and The Ugly Face of Intolerance

Before I start.  This is not a post to attack Jesus.  This is not a post to attack following Jesus.  This is not a post attacking the followers of Jesus.  Many of his followers are pretty wonderful.  I am privileged that some of them are my friends.  This is a post that looks at some others of his followers and says

And a disclaimer:  For many years I would have been one of those Christians who Gandhi would not have liked.  I couldn't see it at the time.  But it's the truth.  My Christianity and Christ were in some important respects divorced from one another.  My views were not far from those of the Cardinal in this post.  Even though that involved an unhealthy dose of self-rejection and self-hatred and despair.  Mea Maxima Culpa.  I sorted that in the last few years and hoped I moved a long way towards being the kind of Christian of the sort Gandhi would have enjoyed drinking tea with.  And then I left the church!

Pink News has reported on a speech by Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C.

Lots of people have been getting annoyed by the things reported.  I'm not sure that he's worth getting too annoyed about even though he is a powerful man in a powerful organisation.  But it's fair to say that he won't be finding too many converts among the people who have learned that it's okay to accept themselves and live more fully in the truth of their own being.

I've read the speech and I try to be fair.  I know that speeches by Catholic Cardinals have to be interpreted and decoded firmly within the context of Catholic thought and that sometimes what they mean will be something very different to that reported.  I've seen articles in which what is reported is pretty much the opposite of what was said.  And in my Catholic years when I was wanting to robustly defend my faith I sometimes saw Protestants totally twist the words of Catholics into something that implied Catholicism was a false version of Christianity.  To balance that, I have to say that I also saw Catholics do exactly the same with the words of Protestants.  Yay, Christianity, it's all one big, unhappy family where rejection can often triumph over love.  Sometimes.

Pink News overstates things.  I have to say that.  Pink News often overstates things and takes words out of context.  Cardinal Sarah didn't quite say what he is said to have said.  However, his speech is not good at all. Not good at all.  Or if you're a traditional Catholic reading this, it's a wonderful speech, you'll love it! I don't want to comment too much on it because there's such a lot to comment on.  I would end up picking apart every paragraph of the speech for the good and the bad points because my brain would obsess about it until the task was complete.

Yes, Pink News didn't quite get it right.  He didn't call transgender people demonic.  Not quite.  But. There's a lot of but. A heck of a lot of but. It's not a speech to bring hope that the Catholic Church is going to officially embrace the equal rights and the equal dignity of all people any time soon.  It may claim to do so but while it still calls some of us intrinsically disordered just for existing - and the official Catechism of the Catholic Church still uses such language - its claims are obviously far from the truth at this time.

I guess that his views on many matters are totally opposed to those of the good, faithful Christians I was with yesterday and to many other Christians including many Catholics.  No, I don't guess it.  I know it.  Without any doubt.
When the Cardinal says that the move for trans people to change their gender identities shows that “God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated” I don't suppose that the faithful transgender Christians I know would agree. They would say almost the opposite. If God is truth (as the Bible says) then the move is an embracing of God.  God is being revealed and increased in their lives through the liberation and freedom they have found in loving themselves as being, as they see it, beautifully and wonderfully made by their God.

And I don't suppose that anyone at church yesterday - many of them in same-sex unions - would agree that same-sex unions are "a deep wound that closes the heart to self-giving love" or that the enthusiastic Christians there would say their marriages are "a crushing burden that can prevent them from opening to the healing power of the Gospel." After all, if God is love (as the Bible says) then embracing same-sex unions is embracing God.

Only if they're prayerful God botherers!

Here's the full speech.

Read it, and then, as is said in MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) frequently, "Dismiss whatever insults your soul." Or as was said to me yesterday by Kate, a minister in MCC who had just learned I had left the church, "Go wherever feeds your soul."

I love MCC!  I may have left it but I still love it and will continue to do so.  I will keep telling people about it and hoping that the people who belong there will find their way there. I'd gladly take someone along if they wanted to go but were nervous of going alone. Because what they would find there is welcome, safety and a place of freedom in which they can be who they are no matter their sexuality or gender.

If you want to read a Catholic commentary on the speech and the event, here's one.  It notes what Cardinal Sarah said about legalising the same-sex unions that already existed in a non-legally binding form:  "It is like putting bandages on the infected wound. It will continue to poison the body until antibiotics are taken."  Yes.  He said that in a speech that saw lots of applause during and afterwards.

Speaker Paul Ryan also spoke at the event. He said "A lot of people think faith is just an odd, colorful mask for the ugly face of intolerance."

Well, no, faith isn't that.  Faith can be a beautiful thing and can lift people towards the heights of what a human being can be, towards the depths of love and the wideness of our creative spirits.

But the faith of Cardinal Sarah and those like him, as displayed in his words, is most definitely an odd, colorful mask for the ugly face of intolerance.

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