Thursday, 12 February 2009

Malta Today: A defensive church under siege!

Sunday, 08 February 2009 by JOSEPH CHETCUTI; AUSTRALIA

First it was Benedict’s turn. Cast your mind back to 23 December 2008. The venue: the Sala Clementina. The occasion: Benedict’s Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia. A joyous kind of day and a wonderful opportunity to preach not only the good news but also hammer home the “ecology of the human being”! Rainforests, he tells us, deserve our protection but so do human beings. Who would argue with him? Enter a nasty secular media, staffed by socialists, communists, Protestants, Jews and homosexuals. Benedict’s message of deliverance from gender bending is wrongly reported, or so the Vatican would have us believe, as referring to homosexuals and transsexuals. Gay men, lesbians, transsexuals and transvestites are outraged (the Vatican thinks unjustifiably so). That great defender of the faith Fr Anton Gouder is beside himself. How could the Pope have said what he said? He said so on Xarabank. He checks Benedict’s speech and then … a revelation! Benedict never once made reference to homosexuals and transsexuals.
Now turn your eyes to the sleepy island of Gozo and its Ordinary, Monsignor Mario Grech. On 25 January 2009, a newspaper (mis)quotes the Monsignor as saying: “Who does not accept Christ’s teachings should be honest with themselves and excommunicate themselves from the Church.” Contrary to what was alleged, the affable Monsignor never once mentioned “them”, that is homosexuals, transsexuals and transvestites. Eight days later, the bishop’s Curia issues a declaration consisting of 258 words. In the declaration, the Monsignor states that he made no reference whatsoever to any category of persons, homosexual included. Significantly, he says he did not say that homosexuals should leave the Church. But he admits to having said: “the fact that our Church may not remain one of the masses but becomes one of a minority, must not disappoint us. Because a little salt is enough to give flavor….” Salt and homosexuality! I wonder what Freud would have made of that? The Monsignor also says he said: “He who does not accept the teaching of Christ, would be honest with himself if he excommunicates himself from the Church.”
Two simple questions raise their head. Question 1: What exactly did Benedict and the Monsignor mean? Question 2: Can one refer to an individual or a group of people without actually mentioning them?

What Benedict and the Monsignor meant?
Back to Benedict! Benedict’s contentious statement is located in part 2 of paragraph 1 of his homily where he makes reference to (a) the “nature of the human being [as] man and woman”, (b) “the language of creation”, (c) “the self destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God”, (d) “the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator”, and (e) “matrimony, [as being both] the life-long bond between man and woman [and] a sacrament of creation”. Now call me stupid but do not Catholics resort to the Genesis account or accounts of Creation to be more accurate to condemn same-sex relations? And is it not also argued that the practice of homosexuality would spell the end of the world? And have not same-sex registrations, civil unions and marriages ruffled the Church’s feathers in recent years? And is not gender theory inextricably linked with sexual orientation? So, as Fr Anton Gouder so eloquently put it on Xarabank, Benedict’s comments were more general in nature and homosexuals and transsexuals were not intended to take the full brunt of Benedict’s criticism. Charming!

Now return to the Monsignor and his homily which came days or weeks after two gay men and one lesbian excommunicated themselves. I ask: If the Monsignor’s mention of excommunication was not intended to refer to homosexuals, whom was it aimed at? What other inferences can a reasonable person draw?

Referring to homosexuals and transsexuals without mentioning them.
So the argument seems to be that the Church is at liberty to take cheap shots at homosexuals and transsexuals and then hide under the cover of misinterpretation and misquotation. I wonder whatever happened to indirect references and those propositions arrived at by inference? True, inferences may be valid or invalid but given the Church’s record of homophobia, how else, I ask: Could Benedict’s and the Monsignor’s homily have been interpreted? Whatever happed to context? Or are we homosexuals and transsexuals far too sensitive to be taken seriously.

Another venue: the Media Centre website. The occasion: promotion of the book The Catholic Church and Homosexuality. The blurb, amongst other things, refers to the “ugliness of this abnormal practice”. My response: an email in typical Australian diplomatic style with frequent and repetitive use of a word that brought Gordon Ramsay to notoriety. The result: the email is left unanswered (Surprise! Surprise!) but the offending and unchristian comments are removed from the website. And to paraphrase the Cartesian assumption “Je pense donc je suis”, I say: “I am my sexual orientation.”

I simply do not buy into this nonsense. Popes and bishops should weigh carefully what they say. The days when everyone and anyone says “yes” to whatever they utter are long gone.

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