Monday, May 21, 2012

Gayest Week Ever*

In case you havn't noticed, everybody is talking about gay marriage.
     Of course, it's something people always do: talk about gay marriage. It's kind of a thing in our society. But this last week- or was it two weeks ago now?- what with the President and North Carolina and Mitt Romney being a bully; people are talking about it like it is going out of style.
       And this all makes the Catholic Church very sad.
     I get a kick out of them phrasing it that way, "It's not that we're angry, Barak. We're just so disappointed." God, could you GET more Catholic???
     For a while I thought maybe The Church's stance was just old men being homophobic and stubborn. And it kind of is, but I read a few articles on the Catholic position, and began reading Pope John Paul's "Theology of the Body" which incidentally is INSANELY dense, and I kind of think I see where they are coming from. It's not that I agree mind you, and my understanding on the Church's stance is still developing, but this is what I've got so far:
     One of the big differences between the Catholic Church and other Christian churches is that Catholics believe that humans can only receive the fullness of God's grace in communion with each other. We have to see God in our experiences with other people, or we cannot really know God. This is actually one of my favorite parts of Catholicism.
      Anyway, because the Church believes that we experience God through communion with others, the Church regards sex as the greatest expression way two people can experience God. Seriously. I know there is this thing that Catholics are afraid of sex, but that is absolutely wrong. Why do you think we have all these babies? Catholics LOVE sex. It is one of the truest ways Catholics get to God. One of the crucial reasons Catholics revere sex as sacred above other expressions of love is because through sex you can create life, just like God. Truthfully, it is harder to think of a way people could be more like God than by creating another life. Actually, for a Catholic, there is not other way for people to be more like God: sex is God's gift to us so we could be more like God. Now that it is possible to remove the creation element from sex, Catholics are "sad". How can you truly experience God if you are not thinking about the creative element? Catholics mourn the loss of that connection in secular society. This is why they have banned birth control; they are trying to keep the connection between creation and sex in the hearts of their faithful.   Now, that doesn't mean you have to conceive a child every time you have sex; it just means that Catholics don't want to totally eliminate the creation aspect from sex, because that is part of sex's awesome power.
     Now Catholics believe that sex should only take place between a devoted pair. I think there are all kinds of arguments medically and socially that support that argument. Hence, sex should only take place within marriage. It's not a particularly FUN perspective, but it is hard to argue that it is not a sound argument. Waiting until you get married to have sex probably avoids a lot of life's potholes. In an interesting twist, Catholics not only believe that sex should be reserved for marriage, but also that marriage should be reserved for sex. As in, if a person cannot have sex because of a physical disability, then the Church doesn't think they should get married. What would the point of getting married be if they can't have sex? (note that people who are infertile can get married because they can have sex, just not children. There is always the possibility that the couple may become fertile. Plus, it is not as though one couple's failure to have children will change the view of sex in the community at large.)
     So, Catholics hold sex sacred because it brings us closer to God, especially the creation part of sex. You see where this is going, right? Homosexuals cannot engage in sex that has creative power. To allow them to marry would change the Catholic view of sex as something that brings us closer to God through the creative force, and changes it into something that is strictly pleasurable for the two individuals. They do not necessarily see gay marriage as an abomination, as much as they see it as sad; they don't want society to lose that creation element within the relationship of marriage.
     I get it, but I don't agree. It seems to me that this doctrine was thought up by people who have not really been in a long term loving relationship. Sex within a committed relationship is amazing and does indeed bring you closer to God, but not because of the babies. Knowing that a couple has the power to create life is awe inspiring, but that creative power does not necessarily lead to the selfless gift of one's self during intercourse. No, the giving of one's self to your partner and to the community has to happen before the sex. Regardless of whether a couple is fertile, impotent or homosexual, when two people have surrendered themselves completely to one another, I believe they experience the closeness to God that Catholics so cherish, regardless of the physical details of the act.

* Title shamelessly stolen from Rachel Maddow. Love you, Rachel!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I would not be just a nothin'...

     This blog post, by John Greenleaf actually makes me want to sing. Sing, I tell you!  It makes me want to stand up like a spirited black woman in church, "Preach, Brother Greenleaf."  It addresses the rights of all Catholics to think for themselves on a variety of levels, along with the appropriate support from the Catechism.
     So fun, right?
     Well, maybe not "fun" in the traditional sense; it's more like "Bam!  Evidence to support what I thought to be true all along."
     Shut up; that is definitely a kind of fun.
     The post has all the Catechism stuff about "primacy of conscience": my absolute favorite part of the Catechism.  Here is a link to the Catechism blabitty blah, but let me give you the Cliff Notes.  In short, it means that a Catholic has the right to discern for themselves within their own heart what is right and what is wrong.  The leadership of The Church can advise and preach and declare all they want, but after carefully listening to wise and respected people, and prayerful consideration, each member of the Church must decide what is right and what is wrong for themselves.  Whats more we are then obligated to follow our own carefully considered consciences, regardless of what the leaders of the Church say.
     Of course!  Of course!
     You can't just have the leadership of the Church do all your thinking for you.  you can't just go along,      "Well, this is what some old man in Italy says, so I better do it".  That is completely cheating.
The leadership can advise, and warn and declare with all solemnity their views, but God gave us a brain so that we could use it; we each must choose our own path dependant on our situation.
     And I love, LOVE how this part of our faith can be used to silence the sanctimony parade.
The sanctimony parade, which I just made up just now, is the people who march through life pointing at all the sinners. Lying?  Sin!  Stealing?  Sin!  Abortion? Drugs?  Jealousy?  Sin-sin-sinny-sin-sin.  All they need are little flags and the whole thing becomes almost festive.
     Can you imagine a God who would behave in such a way.
"Well, little person, I am a all knowing and unknowable deity that for some reason am grievously injured by your well intentioned action.  Yes, you prayed, asking for my guidance, sought counsel, from respected people, read the Bible and did careful reflection.  You did your best to do what you thought was the right thing, but you thought wrong, so off to Hell you go!"
If I could forgive someone who was truly well intentioned, I think that God is probably okay with it as well.
     Now, I am not preaching moral relativism...exactly.  Rather, what I am saying- actually what the Catechism is saying, I am not making this up, is that intention rather than the actual act itself is the cause of moral decay. From the perspective that sin is a mindset, rather than a list of do's and do not's, it becomes impossible for another to judge.
     Is lying a sin?  Is killing a sin?  In most cases, yes, probably, but in individual cases, I don't know.       What was the intention?
     When you look at sin as a mindset of an individual, the meaning of "Only God can judge" becomes clear, and the sanctimony parade really becomes a bunch of pious people afraid to inspect their own hearts.
      Unless, of course, after careful discernment, their hearts are telling them to march around condemning people.  Then they definitely should.  Everybody loves a parade.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Republicans and Catholics Sitting in a Tree

     Did you guys notice the crazy crush the Republicans had on Catholics this year?  In the past they were all very invested in the more fundamental Christians, what with their Moral Majority, and GW Bush, but recently they have been pressing the Catholic agenda.  I am pretty sure that they looked over and realized they had a whole untapped potential voting block that was WAAAYY bigger than the Baptists.
      It all began when Obamacare was mandating that insurance cover birth control.  The Catholic Church kind of freaked out, although in this vague "It's not the birth control, it's the freedom" way that really just seemed like a child screaming, "You can't make me."
And the Obama administration, who was just as confused as the rest of us replied, "Well, we're not really making YOU exactly, just the insurance you buy, so..."
     And the Church was all, "You're not the boss of me..."
     And that's when the Republicans got wind of this.  I am sure that you could see stars in their eyes as they realized all the potential locked inside the Catholic voter demographic.  There was no way they were going to let this golden opportunity pass them by so did not hesitate to jump into the fray, yelling, "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!" all Braveheart style.
     It was huge and loud and confusing, with people insisting this was about the separation of Church and State, and definitely not about birth control, no absolutely not.  It was amazing.  And at the end of it, Republicans and Catholics came out holing hands like they had been together since the beginning of time.
     For a while there, Republicans and the Catholic leadership aglow with their new found friendship.  The Catholic Church began withl, "I hate paying for birth control."
     To which the Republican party responded  "Me too!"
     And the Catholics said, "And hate that gays want to get married!"
     And the Republicans, practically squealing with glee, were like, "Oh my gosh!  Me too!"
     Then Rick Santorum came along and was like, "I love sweater vests!"
And the priests were like, "Hooray!"

     Cue the happy moments montage.  They pass each other happy little notes, go to each other's rallies, gossip together about Planned Parenthood.  Late at night they confide to each other about how embarrassed they got over their own hypocritical leadership.  They are going to be BFFs 4eva.
     Then last week, Republicans were all, "Hey you guys, don't you hate big government and love trickle down economics?"
     Record scratch-
     The Catholic bishops get all serious, "Wait. What?"
     And that's when the juicy stuff started.
     The priests at Georgetown started passing nasty notes about how Ryan is a dummy who loves Ayn Rand.
     Then Paul Ryan was like, "You guys said you liked that stuff."
     And the Bishops were like, "We never said that."
     And Ryan was like, "Plus, I don't care.  You don't speak for all Catholics."
Right...The United States Council of Catholic Bishops does not speak for all Catholics, but it does speak for those that would be voting in the United States, so....
Then it got very noisy, very fast.  Conservative Catholics are standing up for Paul, while liberals are sticking up for the Jesuits.  People from both sides and in-between are shouting that the others are immoral, uneducated liars; that the first should mind their own business, or stop being so hypocritical.  It's very noisy, and childish, and pretty fantastic.

     The truth is, Republicans and Catholics were never going to last.  The two have such conflicting philosophies at their core, that a passing alliance on a few social issues is not going to fix.  Catholics see sacrament in community and believe it is God's will that individuals sacrifice for the benefit of the community.  Republicans cherish the rights of the individual and hate big government.  I don't see how these fundamental dogma  of these groups can be reconciled.
     Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that Republicans can't be Catholic; I am sure that a Republican Catholic is as nuanced in their politics and their religion as I am.  What I am saying is that because of their core values, the Republican leadership and the leaders of the Catholic Church were perhaps not the match the Republicans thought they would be.