Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's Okay to be Catholic and Liberal

I'm no fan of small-mindedness.  It's fine to be "traditional," but when someone is being blindly traditional (i.e. stubbornly and rigidly conservative while ignoring all modern science), it is entirely unacceptable -- whether that someone is a president, a mayor, a judge, or a cleric.

I realize that I've called out the Catholic Church more than a few times in this blog, particularly in their illogical stance on homosexuality and same-sex unions, and I stand by that.  I do not, however, want to give the impression that I dislike Catholics.  That's not the case at all.  I know many, many Catholics and I like them all, and many of them are even pro-marriage equality.  What I dislike are people whose brains are stuck in the middle ages, regardless of which faith they choose to follow.

Simply put, there is absolutely no excuse for stubborn irrationality in the year 2011.  No excuse.  That's why I call out the Catholic Church and many Protestant churches as well, because they're ridiculously stubborn.  They think they're right simply because they say they're right.

Even though you'd never know it today, the Catholic Church has had liberal leadership in the recent past.  Many today, especially in the Philippines, think that to be a faithful Catholic one must be an unquestionable conservative traditionalist on every issue, without compromise.  That is certainly the impression given by Filipino bishops and cardinals.  It also happens to be patently untrue.

My absolute favorite pope of all time was also a pope with one of the shortest pontifical terms.  Albino Luciani (Pope John Paul I) was the most liberal pope the church has ever seen.  Unfortunately his time as pope was short-lived:  just 33 days in the autumn of 1978.

Luciani was a bishop, archbishop, and then cardinal in northern Italy in the 60s and 70s.  Pope John XXIII, who was quite liberal in his own right, called Luciani "the Einstein of the Roman Catholic Church," and Albert Einstein himself said that "Luciani thinks of things today, as the rest of us will think of them a thousand years from now." 

Luciani was a champion of adoption, and his lobbying in the Italian parliament made it legal for single persons to adopt children in Italy.  When an MP argued that the law would allow homosexuals to adopt, Luciani said, "The desire to parent children is a basic human need . . . Until the day comes that we can guarantee basic human rights and dignity to the tiniest minority, we cannot truthfully call ourselves a democracy. "

He continued:
"There are two major forces involved in making for long term loving relationships and regardless of what Rome might believe, sex is not one of them.  As a matter-of- fact, sex is most often a declining force in many relationships.  It often has very little to do with the long term survival of a union. The longevity of a relationship of two people who parent children that is so important to protecting the rights of children until they reach adulthood depends not on sex, but rather on the two major forces that create long term relationships, love and companionshipWhen one considers the latter, the homosexual has a great advantage. Two people of the same sex who fall in love with each other make much better companions of each other because they are more likely to share common interests.  It is for this reason that children parented by homosexual couples are less likely to undergo the trauma of arguments in marriage and of divorce. "
Wow!  Imagine a Catholic leader being brave enough to take such a public stand for love and equality today.

When his comment was objected to on grounds that homosexuals are pedophiles, Luciani said, "Homosexuality has nothing to do with pedophilia; one is sexual orientation and the other is sexual perversion.  Yet, in that most cases of pedophilia involve incest, we must consider the question.  If our objective is to prevent pedophilia in adoption then the only logical action is to permit only homosexuals to adopt children who are only of the opposite sex.  This would reduce incest to zero. If we permit heterosexual couples to adopt children, then children would be at risk. " 

Luciani succeeded in his campaign, and thanks to him, single Italians -- including gays and lesbians -- were allowed to adopt children.

Just three months before his death, Luciani's predecessor, the moderate Pope Paul VI, permitted then-Cardinal Luciani to address the Vatican cardinals on the possibility that the Church might encourage homosexuals to enter into long-term, loving relationships as they represented the only population group that was large enough and willing enough to provide economic and emotional support to millions of children who otherwise would be aborted by women too young or too poor to support them.  Luciani argued that the Church's traditional position exiled homosexuals from society, forcing many of them into lives of loneliness and despair.  He argued the Church's position was one of prejudice, as medical science had proved that sexual orientation cannot be changed and the Bible's condemnation of homosexual acts was scant compared to its vast condemnation of heterosexual acts.

His concluding remarks to the cardinals at the Vatican that day were this:
"The day is not far off when we will have to answer to these people who through the years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose human dignity has been offended, their identity denied and their liberty oppressed.  What is more, we will have to answer to the God who created them."
Pope John Paul I was an amazing man of faith who refused to embrace blind traditionalism or ignore the facts that modern science brought to light.  He was a man of true compassion and humility, who refused to be called "Your Grace" or "Your Holiness," because he believed that he was a servant of the people, not an emperor.  He never required anyone to kiss his hand, and he said he would have no man or woman bow to him.  He refused to be crowned with the gold and jeweled St. Stephen's Crown, for he saw in it the right to a good and healthy life for thousands of children who would otherwise starve -- and that's exactly what he intended to do with it.  He was in favor of liberalizing the Church's stance on contraception, wanted to reduce the Vatican's wealth by giving away millions of dollars to the poor, and immediately began investigating corruption within the hugely wealthy Vatican Bank.

Albino Luciani was an absolute hero.  Unfortunately he didn't sit as pope for very long, and the mysterious aspects surrounding his death in 1978 are still highly debated.  Be that as it may, Pope John Paul I was the last liberal pope the Catholic Church has had.  His successor, John Paul II, was one of the most conservative, and Benedict XVI, the current pope, is every bit as conservative.

My point:  Do not think that being Catholic has to mean being anti-everythingYou can be Catholic and be liberal.

I think it is high time that we begin giving ear to the growing number of Catholic priests, bishops, and officials who are starting to speak out in favor of gay rights and same-sex unions.  Monsignor Montel Monteiro de Castro, the papal ambassador to Spain, comes to mind.  In 2004 he broke rank with the Vatican and publicly supported same-sex unions; and as we all know, Spain is now a marriage equality country.

Also of recent note is Christoph Schonborn, the Archbishop Cardinal of Vienna, Austria, who said that it is time for the church to reconsider its emphasis on “homosexual acts,” and instead consider the quality of the relationships.

A number of priests stood up in support of same-sex marriage in Argentina during that country's debate over the issue, which it legalized in 2010.  Numerous Catholic priests and some bishops in the U.S., Canada, and Australia are also letting their voices be heard in support of same-sex unions.  Not to mention the fact that a majority of lay Catholics throughout the West are supportive of marriage equality.  As a matter of fact, a brand new ABC News poll out of the U.S. (18March-11) found that 53% of Americans overall support same-sex marriage, including 63% of American Catholics (the third consecutive poll to show these figures)!

I hope that a new generation of Catholics will continue to spring forth, especially in the Philippines.  A generation that is not afraid or ashamed to listen to reason, think for themselves, and use their God-given brains.  A generation that will pick up the liberal torch of their great liberal pope, John Paul I.  And a generation that may very well have within its ranks the Church's next progressive pontiff.



Solomon said... Best Blogger Tips

Nice article. I remember JPI very well, and more Catholics today should be reminded of him. I was in college when he became pope. It was a time of great hope and optimism, especially for the younger generation of Catholics around the world.

I remember feeling proud to be Catholic back then, but now I feel almost embarrassed because of the extremely conservative turn it has taken since 1979. I'm still a Catholic and I still attend mass, but I'm certainly not passionate about it any longer. And I no longer give tithes and offerings to the church. There is no way I would ever give my money to an organization that today so actively fights against the rights of gays, lesbians and transgenders.

I really pray we can have a liberal pope again soon.

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