I was talking with a friend in a pub the other day about all things Catholic, as you do, and we discussed the use of the word challenging as a non so subtle way of saying you disagree with the Church on something you really shouldn’t disagree with it on…
But the gospel is challenging, and I get the feeling that Jesus was sometimes rather challenging to be around. For example the time when a pagan woman asks him for healing for her daughter who was possessed and Jesus used the situation to show the faith of pagans to the disciples, hopefully using irony, but definitely using caustic wit, hopefully the joke is on the disciples not the woman. The woman responds with wit, determination and faith and he grants her prayer… Mathew 15 verses 21-28
Is this the fluffy Jesus we were told about in Sunday school? or is this a more determined and abrasive Jesus who wants to expose the truth, even if it hurts to do so and the truth itself is painful.
So then Jesus’ moral teaching has a lot to do with the truth, the truth that sets you free. The parishioner who sits at the front of Church congratulating himself for being pious goes away worse off than when he went in, but the sinner who kneels at the back beating his chest is justified.
So it is about challenging hypocrisy its not necessarily about niceness, the Cake or Death theology of the Church of England offers no clue to this rather more robust and challenging call to conversion.
There is a lot of hypocrisy about and if we are honest a lot of it in the Church. We are all hypocrites to an extent, we each have our personal demons to wrestle, crosses to bear and patterns of sin that keep bringing us back to the confessional. So casting the first stones on the issue is a risky business…
On a different subject, or perhaps not, the vicious association of traditionalist catholic clergy with the child abuse scandal looked like a stunning act of misplacing the context of the crisis. The sexual abuse was predominantly by men and by homosexual men at that. This has led the Church to strongly discourage homosexuals from the priesthood, which I think also slightly misplaces the context of the abuse.
The more correct understanding of the context as far as I can surmise, was sexually repressed homosexual priests. The devil only tempts us in two ways, through our pride or through our despair. Either they were prideful and thought God wouldn’t judge them for crimes, or more likely they were in such a state of despair about their own prospects for salvation that they willfully descended ever further into depravity.
If the Church cracks down on camp clergy, demands priests are all as straight as an arrow then there will be two outcomes, such issues will just be repressed even more and the Catholic Church will lose a good number of very good priests, which is something it can’t afford.
It reminds me of an episode of South Park. Big Gay Al is fired from his role of scout master because he is, well obviously very gay. So they get in a macho ex-military man to instill some heterosexuality into the boys, who turns out to be a viscious paedophile. I wonder how many of those paedophile priests were eccentric, camp as Christmas and obviously as bent as a nine bob note. Probably none. They also don’t walk about with a big sign saying ‘snake in the grass’.
So then I guess I’m saying something I find challenging is the Church’s insistence on eliminating the camp, the eccentric and the characters from its ranks. The result of which is that we end up with the thoroughly uninspiring bishops that we have in England and Wales who are ever more guilty of the liberal clericalism which is just as bad (if not worse) than the traditionalist clericalism it replaced.
Anyway moving on, I couldn’t attend mass over Christmas for the reason of my mum breaking her wrist and being snowed in, two weeks without mass during Christmas leaves me in need of the confessional. Christianity is the pursuit of Christ, you can’t do that sat at home on a Sunday, you need to be in the pews, just attending mass is an important part of the gradual process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ.
The challenge Christianity faces on the issue of homosexuality, is keeping homosexuals in the Church where they can meet with God, something which we all desperately need I might add. How could the Church encourage homosexuals to come back to God? That is a challenge that could save souls.
The Church does have a rather long history of condemning homosexuals, the old incredibly politically incorrect term fag points to the ugly truth that since old testament times Jewdayo-Christian morality has been damning of homosexuality.
And the difference between condemning gay sex, but not gays I think is a rather slim one. The two phrases typically used to explain Christian sexual ethics for homosexuals are ‘its just a cross you’ll have to bear’ which sounds a lot like ‘crucify them’ and ‘you’ll just have to be celibate’ which sounds like ‘castrate them’.
Ironically homosexuality is often characterised as a realisation of personal truth. You can’t determine your own sexuality, its not something someone could change by willpower as far as I know, and I’m sure there are many Christians out there who are gay would say its something they very much didn’t wish for. That in fact it took a long fight with hypocrisy and denial to realise they weren’t as straight as they wished.
A rather deft question is that if God doesn’t want people to be gay why does he keep creating them? Why doesn’t he answer prayers of people asking to be straight? Those are two questions I have no answer for and I’m in rather unfamiliar territory there being a self confessed wannabe know it all.
A friend of mine, when they decided/realised/discovered that they were gay immediately left church… now they are in a relationship with a man and a woman. Once they realised they could not live out their homosexuality within the confines of Christian morality, they decided they didn’t have to stick to monogamy either… bar prayer I’m not sure how to encourage them to come back to Christianity. I find that very challenging…
Anyway pray my mum’s wrist fracture is stable, she’s getting it checked out again today, if it isn’t stable she’ll have to have it pinned which is not a pleasant process…