Monday, 31 July 2017

Reflecting on Gay Britannia

The BBC is currently in the middle of broadcasting a wide range of programmes, on both television and radio, under the branding "Gay Britannia". The programming marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 "which partially decriminalised gay sex" according to the web page just linked or, as a trailer I heard on Radio 2 yesterday expressed it, "legalised gay sex". The distinction is not trivial, as an observation below will show.

I am struck by the willingness of the BBC's web page to use the terms "gay" and "queer" in their titles/strap lines for programmes. That they have not been more consistent in the use of what, so far as I can tell, is the current more "correct" terminology of LGBT (or LGBTQ+) suggests some recognition of the unusual in the subject matter of their programming.

The strap line for the two Radio 2 programmes Born this Way reads as follows:
Andrew Scott presents the remarkable story of how gay people transformed pop culture.
Which is interesting in its recognition of something implicit in the whole of the Gay Britannia programming: that the movement in favour of LGBTQ+ equality represents a wholesale alteration of our public culture, and not just a movement in favour of equality. This creates a bit of a catch-22 for Catholics who, on the one hand would wish to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ persons precisely as persons (and not because of their LGBTQ+ characteristics) who therefore have the same inalienable human rights as each and every other person, but on the other hand would wish to oppose a transformation of culture that embeds the LGBTQ+ characteristic as normative.

The BBC Gay Britannia programming indicates how much the culture of media and entertainment has been the subject of this cultural transformation. But that transformation now reaches into many other areas of society via an assimilation of a genuine concern for the rights of LGBTQ+ persons to a cultural transformation that, on the part of most people, is quite inadvertent and unrecognised.

It would be naïve to think that this does not have its effect on Catholics, who, in the workplace and elsewhere, will find it difficult to maintain a resistance to a cultural transformation they do not support whilst at the same time acknowledging the rights as persons of those who live according to a lifestyle that is different than their own.

In this context, it is worthwhile for Catholics to recall some considerations of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and to measure our current experience against them. The considerations refer to an earlier letter from the Congregation on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. The considerations are limited to considerations of sexual orientation (they were published as long ago as 1992), though they nevertheless do have some application to the wider LGBTQ+ context.
6. “She (the Church) is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to or as acceptable as the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy” (no. 9).
7. “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.
13. Including “homosexual orientation” among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices. This is all the more deleterious since there is no right to homo-sexuality (cf. no. 10) which therefore should not form the basis for judicial claims. The passage from the recognition of homosexuality as a factor on which basis it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead, if not automatically, to the legislative protection and promotion of homosexuality. A person's homosexuality would be invoked in opposition to alleged discrimination, and thus the exercise of rights would be defended precisely via the affirmation of the homosexual condition instead of in terms of a violation of basic human rights.
14. ...Homosexual persons who assert their homosexuality tend to be precisely those who judge homosexual behavior or lifestyle to be “either completely harmless, if not an entirely good thing” (cf. no. 3), and hence worthy of public approval. It is from this quarter that one is more likely to find those who seek to “manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws” (cf. no. 5), those who use the tactic of protesting that “any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people... are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination” (cf. no. 9). 
[The observation at n.13 is pertinent to the distinction between "partially decriminalising" and "legalising" noted at the top of this post.]

To update these considerations, we should make reference to Pope Francis' repeated condemnations of "gender theory", which he has termed an "ideological colonisation of the family". That we are made as persons who are either male or female in their physiology is a matter of the creative wisdom of God, and to promote the notion that it is we who can decide our own gender and change it if we wish - this Pope Francis identifies as being opposed to God's creative act. It is an ideology because it wishes to alter reality, rather than to recognise and explore reality. The abolition of the word "sex" to refer to male or female persons, and its almost universal replacement by the word "gender", is a sign of just how much, under the label of equality, an ideology of gender has already contributed to an alteration of culture.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Mutual Enrichment

I have been away from home recently, and so missed out on this discussion: Cardinal Sarah's challenge to traditionalists (and also here).

I do think Cardinal Sarah's language of "liturgical reconciliation" is a very useful one. After all, in the original context of Summorum Pontificum, the opening created for those with an attachment to the Extraordinary Form to have a more natural place in the life of the Church was a key strand in Pope Benedict XVI's intention, and I recall Pope Benedict at the time being spoken of as a "Pope of Christian unity". Indeed, it is a language used by Pope Benedict himself.

I also feel that, beginning very shortly after Summorum Pontificum, there has been an intransigence on the part of leadership among the organisations manifesting attachment to the Extraordinary Form towards another key strand in Pope Benedict's intention. Cardinal Sarah has addressed this in his recognition of the need for a genuinely mutual "mutual enrichment", rather than a one-sided movement towards a more traditional liturgy. This is something in which traditionalists have shown little or no interest.

And I think Cardinal Sarah has correctly identified the adoption of a common calendar as an essential step. One cannot speak of "two forms of the same rite" without a common calendar - and traditionalist resistance to this seems to me to represent an opposition to the principle of two forms but the same rite. The process can be genuinely mutual - adoption of the newly canonised saints and the simplification of the liturgical seasons might go alongside a restoration of the Octave of Pentecost and a permission for double collects so that the celebration of a Sunday does not abolish entirely the celebration of a coinciding saint for that year.

It says a lot that, even ten years after Summorum Pontificum, a suggestion by the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship that progress should be made on mutual enrichment causes controversy. It shows just how far we still have to go for an authentic implementation of Summorum Pontificum, an implementation that is for the benefit of the many in the Church and not just for the benefit of a traditionalist few.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The way ahead for gay Catholics

Read here.

This makes interesting reading. The point that I found thought provoking was the observation about the need for a pastoral/theological approach that can be verified in the experience of those who live from an LGBT background. There is something in this thought that reflects the charism of Communion and Liberation which I might try to explore ...

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Wrong rights?

During the last couple of weeks, I have been prompted a number of times to reflect on the image of the slogan among the fruit and vegetables that appears in an early section of Vaclav Havel's (at one time at least, but now perhaps rather forgotten) well known essay "The Power of the Powerless". Follow the link from this page, and go to section III to see the full context.
THE MANAGER of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!" Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment's thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean? 
I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life "in harmony with society," as they say.

Aunty points out that, at the time that Vaclav Havel wrote this essay, we probably would not have thought it possible that the sentiments such as those contained in it could apply to our Western societies, adding: 
Defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman,  openly opposing the deliberate abortion of an unborn baby, affirming that sexual activity outside the marriage bond is contrary to the moral law...all these things are essential to a wholesome and humane society. We can have a debate about these things, we can recognise the need to be open and tolerant of different opinions - but we cannot survive unless we are allowed to affirm the truth of male/female marriage and the protection of pre-born children.
And the cruel attempts to silence, undermine and destroy groups and individuals who seek to uphold the moral law do point the way to martyrdom...
And, likewise, Peter Saunders offers a commentary about transgender issues. I quote one paragraph, but do read the whole:
We are starting to see real pressure being put on people to adopt a new ideology, use new language, affirm the beliefs of transgender people and participate in surgical and hormonal gender reassignment. Some lobby groups want these things to be legally enforced.
If he were to refuse, there could be trouble .....

He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life .....


Postcript: Vaclav Havel's commentary on the role of ideology, from the same section III of his essay, written for his particular situation but with resonances for Western societies today:
Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe