This is what happens when you try to catch up from a long way behind.
The news starts to run away from you. In this case, though, it does seem as though the news – in the shape of a slow stately ride in the popemobile – is rolling along at slow enough pace for the rest of us to keep up. And the news is that all sorts of LGBT goodies will one day most likely be available through the catholic church.
I have never bought into the “catholics hate queers and trannies” mantra. First, because my own personal experience within the church tells me very different: and for every tranny- basher, like Paul McHugh, there are enough good people motivated by a sense of charity to more than make a difference.
I also have issues with the view that the church will never change. What? How can anyone with any awareness at all of the history of the catholic church believe that?
It is forever changing. The trick, though, is to keep on keeping on, shifting from one position to the next, whilst pretending publically that it is the same as it has always been.
But unchanging? In just the last millennium, we have the rise and subsequent decline of various orders, from the Benedictines and Franciscans to all stops beyond. We have the church first creating the inquisition, then politely ditching it. We have had the reformation, liberal catholicism and…well, the list goes on.
“But what…what of papal infallibility?”, I hear from somewhere off stage. Oh. That old chestnut. In theory, what the church states as dogma cannot be capable of admitting error. However, it then neatly finesses that one by stating next to nothing as infallible doctrine. Theologians are sort of agreed that the pope has only twice pronounced infallibly on an issue – both relatively technical issues in respect of the nature of the Virgin Mary. Then there’s a whole class of statements where maybe he has, maybe he hasn’t.
Even if he has declared infallibly on something, that declaration is always open to “clarification”. A bit like Michael Hesseltine declaring he could foresee no circumstances in which he would oppose Margaret Thatcher as leader of the conservative party, shortly before doing that. Well: he just didn’t foresee the circumstances, did he?
So anyway, my own ever-so-slightly heretical (?) view of the catholic church is that in time it will reach a full accommodation with a lot of the sexual issues that currently give it so much grief. Like gay rights and contraception.
I was pondering a piece on the former a fortnight back. I was aware of the existence, with the local bishop’s blessing, of a regular Gay Mass in Soho, London. This is not altogether unlike the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy adopted in the US military. The church is perfectly happy to assemble a bunch of queers and deviants – as the more reactionary evangelical types would see it – in one place and give them their own mass, on two conditions.
First, don’t use it as a platform to advocate gay rights: and second, don’t own up to any fornicating. Hypocrisy? Perhaps. But equal rights hypocrisy, since any man or woman who owns up to sex outside marriage can as easily find themselves in hot water with the church.
Basically, the new doctrine from the church is come along, hold hands, sing hymns: just don’t mention that after mass anything smutty might be going on.
And its not an isolated case, as this outraged reaction from one bunch of Australian catholics (?) suggests. Across the globe, the catholic church is starting to buy into the idea of gay masses. It’s a small step: but a significant one.
And then a week after I planned on writing this piece…along comes the revelation on condoms. A small step. Again, not an outright break with the past: but a recognition that there can be a role for contraception in today’s world in certain specific circumstances.
Except, as anyone will tell you: once a principle is breached, the only remaining question is the size of the breach. The doctrine has shifted. Again.
Even if, publically, the college of cardinals is doing a very good imitation of a nonchalant police officer whispering sotto voce: “move along. Move along. There’s nothing to see here.”