Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Fr. Tony" and the US Bishops' "Compulsion" re. Marriage Equality

Tony Adams (aka “Father Tony”) has recently posted online the first of a series of videos in which he shares his thoughts on the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ forthcoming “pastoral letter” on marriage.

The first installment of this series can be viewed here at The Bilerico Project.

Following are excerpts from the transcript of this first installment – one that focuses on the introduction to the bishop’s letter. I've added some thoughts of my own in bold.


[The bishops] say [they] “feel compelled to speak out against all attempts to redefine marriage so that it would no longer be exclusively the union of a man and a woman as God established and blessed it.” . . . When they say, “We bishops feel compelled to speak out,” they might as well uncloak it and say, “We bishops have a compulsion about this.” [Note that the bishops are not speaking out with questions - they’re not interested, in other words, in dialogue or the exploration of the complex reality of human sexuality. Rather, they seem only able to speak out in declarations and condemnations. I think there are issues that demand that type of speaking out, but marriage equality isn’t one of them.]

Why do the bishops have this compulsion? What are they so afraid of? [I think I know the answer. And it’s one that has been eloquently articulated by Catholic writer Eugene Kennedy. My thoughts on it and related matters can be viewed here.]

[Of course] this compulsion is not the province of just the American Catholic bishops. All of the people who rail against the possibility of marriage equality feel this compulsion and none of them understand it. . . . Hardly anyone understands what is at the root of this compulsion to be so afraid of same-sex marriage. But it is a compulsion. It is a horror that they feel from the depth of their being and they’re going to follow through on it. So when you argue with a bishop, you have to understand that they are totally overrun and overridden by this compulsion and it clouds their ability to think logically. What will follow will be a string of biblical citations and what-have-yous that they think support their compulsion. [Well, they may support their “compulsions” but they don’t reflect reality or the wider church’s growing awareness and acceptance of God’s loving presence in the lives and relationships of gay people.]

There’s one more section in this introduction, I believe, in line 98: “We intend this pastoral letter to be a theological and doctrinal foundation.” So take note of this, Catholics, this letter is not to be taken lightly. You know, it’s a read-it-and-weep love letter to you Catholics. Lines 102 through 104: say: “Our pastoral letter presents those beliefs and teachings of the Catholic church informed by human reason and enlightened by divine revelation that summarize and express God’s plan for marriage.” Did you get that, folks? The bishops are saying that what their teachings consist of have been informed by human reason. In other words, anybody with a brain would come to these conclusions. [Except, of course, they don’t - basically because they see through and reject the bishops’ circular logic.]

. . . Now I want to talk a little bit about divine revelation in this context because those of you who would like to call yourselves Catholic, you have to know this. This in a nutshell – no pun intended – is the basic deal with [the expression of] Catholicism [being pushed by the hierarchy]: the bishops blatantly claim that God has spoken or revealed these things to them. So, they must be true and we must believe them. If you disagree and claim that God has revealed the opposite to you, the bishops could claim that you are wrong because, after all, they have the pointy hats; they’ve been ordained bishops, they know best, you don’t. God cannot reveal things to you that are [not] revealed through them. They’ve got the franchise on the voice of God. It’s from God’s lips to their ears, not to yours. You can’t declare a revelation. You can’t declare that because you have no control over your sexual identity that you think it is something that God loves and would permit you to act on. They say no. God has not revealed that to you. God has revealed to us the opposite. We are the bishops. We have the revelation.

This harks back to . . . ancient Greece or ancient Rome when the temple priests would come forth from the temple and say God has spoken to us, Zeus has spoken to us, Jupiter has spoken to us, Apollo has spoken to us. . . . Nothing has changed since then. [In] holding the franchise on divine revelation [and in speaking the way the bishops do] they are claiming to understand the mind of God in a way that you cannot. So, you guys, if you want to be Catholic, you have to understand and buy that premise. Okay? If you don’t buy that premise, don’t be Roman Catholic.

And, yes, there are plenty of folks willing to show those of who don’t buy this premise the door!

Yet, once again, I take heart in what Terence Weldon notes in response to a recent national survey on public support for same-gender marriage conducted by the Pew Research Center. Writes Terence:

In the Catholic Church, progress is masked by the implacable opposition of the hierarchy, and the vocal opposition of the Catholic loyalists. The Pew survey shows, however, that the bishops and loyalists do not represent the views of ordinary Catholics, many of whom support either civil unions or full marriage rights, and do not see homosexuality per se as a moral issue.

In light of realities such as these, I for one am encouraged and committed to staying on board the Catholic ship and working to help steer it away from the shoals of reactionary thinking.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Spirit’s Transforming Work Continues Within and Through Us
Rosemary Haughton and the “True Catholic Enterprise”
Time For a Church for Grown-Ups
Johnson and Tushnet Debate as Much About Nature of Revelation as It Is About Homosexuality
James Carroll on Catholic Understands of Truth
“If the People Don’t Believe It, It’s Not True”
Sensus Fidelium Discussion Continues
Will We See Change?
The Catholic Challenge
The Treasure and the Dross
Trading with Frozen Truths
Shirtless Guy Offers Survival Tips for Gay Catholics
Tips for Thinking Catholics
What It Means to Be Catholic


kevin57 said...

I admire Fr. Tony's courage in being so "bold" in critiquing the bishops' statements. I now await the censures, suspensions, and recriminations that are sure to follow.

Terence Weldon said...

I'm quite happy to acknowledge that the bishops' reasoning probably has been grounded in faith and reasoning. But that is the same basis that led early Church fathers, following the Epistle of Barnabas, to condemn homosexuality as "unnatural" because weasels gave birth through their mouths, and rabbits had multiple anuses, and such like nonsense; and later to insist that because the earth was known to be flat, Galileo was clearly heretical

Faith and reason are essential to this debate. However, they are necessary, but not sufficient conditions in proving their conclusions. They also need to produce the evidence and sound premises on which the reasoning is based.

Mark Jordan "The Silence of Sodom" has shown how the Vatican rhetorical style has never been based on reasoning, but on making claims about the result of their reasoning, with no exposition at all.

This is yet another example.

Mareczku said...

That was excellent Father Tony. You make a lot of sense. Here is a quote from another site. I think this site needs some of your wisdom Father Tony. Quote: "Homosexuality is caused byt the devil leading sinner ... deceiving them that their behavior is acceptable, encouraging them to help Satan draw more into sin, blaming God for themselves being homosexual, a lifestyle choice. God does not create evil, only good." Then he went on to ask the Blessed Mother to crush the serpent's head and called on angels to throw the evil ones into the abyss. (I'm not quoting here as it is too long and tiresome. But hopefully you get the general idea.) This site needs some intelligent priests to straighten out some of these people. I told the poster that God does not create evil, only good, and that gay people were good too. So I will see what he says to that. Thanks for letting me vent here, friends.

Michael J. Bayly said...

You can vent here anytime you want, Mark!