WHAT TIES MCCARRICK TO THE PAPAL PLACET TO HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS.
18 Novembre 2020
Dear friends and enemies of Stilum Curiae, Luca Del Pozzo sent us this reflection on two recent events in the life of the Church. We thank him for his extremely interesting contribution, which is a help to reading and interpreting the reality – which is certainly not uplifting – in which we find ourselves. Enjoy your reading.
The “McCarrick Report” and same-sex civil unions: The real issue is the doctrine on homosexuality
At first glance there does not seem to be anything in common between the so-called “McCarrick Report,” the voluminous dossier that reconstructs the deeds and misdeeds of the serial predator who is also the former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, and the papal endorsement of same-sex civil unions made a few weeks ago.
But on closer look, both of these matters appear to be connected, because they touch closely on a problem that above all in the last few years has taken on a dimension that is by no means marginal. Obviously we are talking about homosexuality, or, better said, the Church’s stance toward it.
What emerges with undeniable evidence, even in the presence of a different (at least for now) approach depending on whether it is homosexuality inside or outside the Church, is that there is an increasingly marked disconnect between doctrine and pastoral practice. Where the former is formally confirmed, to tell the truth in some cases more out of official duty than conviction (or at least this is the perception that is given), the latter has for some time now been characterized – also on the thrust of an unjustified and misleading need to “make amends” – by such an unconditioned (literally – that is: without any conditions) welcome of homosexual people that it has generated in public opinion, not to mention in large sections of the church, the conviction that the Church now considers homosexuality an absolutely normal condition, just like heterosexuality.
And this is precisely the aspect of the “McCarrick Report” that is most disconcerting, for the purposes of our present discussion: the fact that – as Riccardo Cascioli has clearly highlighted – the alarm bells regarding the then-prelate, with all that followed up to his reduction to the lay state, only went off in 2017 when the first accusation of his abuse of a minor surfaced. As if the problem was only the aspect of pedophilia or ephebophilia in his conduct and not also homosexual conduct in itself which, in the case in question, was practiced for decades. (We also would add that clearly the primary problem is that of homosexual conduct, if we consider its causal relationship – 8 out of 10 cases of clergy pedophilia are homosexual in nature. Viewed from another angle, this also represents the best proof that the vocations crisis will not be resolved by abolishing celibacy, since a homosexual would not know what to do if he was permitted to marry a woman).
In other words: as long as McCarrick limited himself to sodomy, surely the practice was morally questionable, but “transeat” [“let’s give him a pass”]; but when McCarrick turned his attention to minors, then no, then “basta” [“that’s enough”]. I anticipate the objection: but from the dawn of time homosexuality has flourished among the men of God, nor are we only just discovering that the Church has always closed an eye and perhaps both eyes towards the, shall we say, “weakness” of the clergy in sexual matters. But in reality, things are not exactly like this. Vittorio Messori explained this during an interview that I had the pleasure (and honor) of doing with him some time ago. When asked if he believed that there was an attempt to give a free pass to homosexuality in the Church, this was his answer:
“Homosexuals have always been attracted to the Church, ships, the armed forces, firefighters and construction sites, and even today these are still realities for a large percentage of men. Every Catholic bishop knew this and was vigilant, ready to dismiss the aspirant to the seminary who was revealed to be “gay,” even perhaps after having passed the first exam to ascertain if he had these tendencies. Then came the Council, and with it there entered also into the Church the authoritarian and grotesque virus of the “politically correct.” Thus, no more discrimination, open doors for everyone, rejecting anyone was called “fascist” behavior. Above all in countries like Germany or England and also the United States, the Catholic hierarchy were ashamed of not adapting to the Protestant majority, where gays were and are welcomed as privileged people and even could become bishops, perhaps “married” to the man they are in love with. Without going to this extreme (at least for now), the homosexual presence greatly expanded among the Catholic clergy.
“Getting to the point of publicly giving it “official clearance,” as is called for, seems difficult to me, since both the Old and New Testament are involved with their indisputable and severe condemnations. However, a trick was resorted to that many Catholics naively did not notice. In fact, an entire world synod on sodomy in the Church was organized, but it succeeded in never – I repeat, never – saying the word “homosexuals” or “homosexuality.” The synod was rigorously restricted to addressing pedophilia, the sexual violation of children. But this is a very rare perversion, just as it is rare that young children are alone in the sacristy or the chapel. According to the sad statistics, more than 80% of those violated or at least molested were and are not young children but rather adolescents, youths, young men. In short, not pedophilia, but “normal” homosexual pederasty. But this was not to be said, in order not to draw homosexual gentlemen, so numerous and powerful, into condemnation.”
I wanted to include Messori’s entire response because it is right on target. The target is: a) it is not true that in the past the Church ignored cases homosexuality between priests or aspirants to the priesthood; b) the change came after the Council, when because of a misunderstood “opening” of the Church to the world (an opening that however, it must be said, is not attributable to the Council as such, whatever its detractors say, but to the “progressive” reading given to the Council at least in Italy principally by the so-called “School of Bologna” and which historically has imposed itself) even the formation of the clergy as well as the whole of Catholic sexual morality allowed itself to be ensnared by the sirens of modernity. The consequences are before everyone’s eyes.
We said at the beginning that in addition to the “McCarrick Report” there is the now-famous papal endorsement of same-sex civil unions, which is important for understanding how the Church views homosexuality today. (This statement, it must be said immediately in order to avoid confusion, was contained in an interview released by Francis in 2019 to the Mexican Vatican journalist Valentina Alazraki, then cut from the version that was broadcast on Televisa, and which then finally reappeared in a way that still today is mysterious in the documentary film Francesco presented at the Rome Film Festival.) After the initial media uproar and the avalanche of reconstructions and analysis that appeared in the days immediately following the “scoop,” often completely opposed to each other, now that the dust has settled it is now possible to have some clarity on at least one point (and this with all due respect to the letter sent by the Secretariat of State to all the nunciatures of the world, which left various unanswered questions on a story that from the beginning had very opaque outlines, to say nothing of the fact that the note was forwarded a full two weeks after the launch of the documentary, without a signature and without being diffused via Vatican media, thus with little or no coverage. Already in the hours immediately following the tsunami unleashed by the Pope’s statement – “What we have to do is make a civil union law. They [homosexuals] have the right to be legally protected. I have defended this.” – most of the commentators took pains to reassure everyone, in the apparent attempt to dampen its impact by making it be passed off as not newsworthy, that no, the doctrine on marriage had not changed, the Magisterium remains the same as ever. (And only out of Christian charity, we will say nothing about those who have defended the pope to point of ridicule, even to the point of saying “the Pope never said that”). In short, these defenders claimed that the family is one thing, as a union between a man and a woman, and anything that cannot be called a family is something else. Thus, they want to say, nothing new under the sun here except a further confirmation that now the accent, so to speak, is placed more on listening to the concrete needs of homosexual people, to “welcoming” them and “dialoguing” with them. But thinking in these terms means missing the forest for the trees. The basic misunderstanding (most likely skillfully encouraged as a means of distracting people) consisted in thinking that the problem was, in fact, only the doctrine on marriage, without considering the other side of the coin, the doctrine on homosexuality. Not by chance, Vito Mancuso, a theologian who would never be accused of doctrinal rigidity, placed what the Pope said in relation to paragraph 2357 of the Catechism in order to emphasize how “In the light of this text I think that the explosive novelty of Francis’s words saying that homosexual persons “have the right to a family” is clear.
One thing is certain: if the doctrine really has not changed and only pastoral sensibility has changed, then there is only one way to hold these two things together: by considering homosexual unions as purely “platonic” – that is, without any sexual relations. If this does not happen – and the impression given is that in the vast majority of cases it does not – then it is hard to believe that the magisterium on homosexuality has not in fact changed if the Church is ready to accept that two homosexual persons may live their union in a physical way, which places them in an objective condition of mortal sin. Or have we missed something? Unless, in fact, homosexual “acts” are no longer considered as the Catechism presently considers them, as things stand. Hence the question – the same question that emerges from the McCarrick affair: does the Church still consider homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered”? Yes or no?
If yes, since everyone says that doctrine has not changed, then perhaps someone should have, for example, pointed out (but we doubt this happened) to Mr. Andrea Rubera –who appears in the documentary film Francesco and is the spokesman for the “Christian LGBT association Cammini di speranza” which among other things organized a meeting last June 18 to discuss the book “Chiesa e omosessualità, un’indagine alla luce del Magistero di papa Francesco [Church and Homosexuality: An Investigation in the Light of Pope Francis’s Magisterium] written by a well-known journalist who writes for the Italian bishops’ newspaper – that the practice of “renting a uterus” is an immoral practice under every aspect; furthermore, that if he and his “partner” truly wish to give “their” children a Catholic education, it will be very difficult to make this happen while living in an objective situation of mortal sin if their union is also a physical one. (Just for the record, we recall that the aforementioned Rubera along with Mr. Dario De Gregorio have had three children by means of a “rented uterus,” and that with regard to the mother of these children, Mr. De Gregorio expressed during a television interview the suggestive thesis, which needs no further comment, that “the mother is not there, she is an anthropological concept, she is not there.”)
If instead the answer is no, then it is necessary to pass from deeds to words and say so openly and formally, announcing clearly that for the Church homosexual acts are no longer sinful. Certainly what disconcerts and embitters many of the faithful is the confusion, seeing the Church with its feet in two stirrups, thanks to the extravagant theological and pastoral acrobatics of teaching “yes, but” that has nothing to do with the evangelical precept: “let your yes mean yes and your no mean no; anything more is from the Evil One” (and, what’s more, to tell the truth there are not just two stirrups, given that you can see from a mile away which side they want the needle to tip between doctrine and “being pastoral”). Along with the aggravating circumstance that they do not even take into account that by doing this, for the sake of a little cheap mercy, not only does the Church not do them any good, but it is she herself who puts homosexual persons in a high-risk situation, deluding them that if anyone physically acts out their homosexuality, this is, after all, a negligible detail even if it’s not exactly licit.
Among other things, the situation is aggravated by the fact that in the Catholic sphere it seems that the thesis seems to be gaining ground that homosexuality is an innate condition, a biological datum inscribed in a person’s genes, even though this is by no means proven and is even strongly contested in the scientific realm and not only there. Which for many is equivalent to a sort of “free for all,” implying that since homosexuality is something natural and thus irreversible, there is nothing to do but be aware of it and live out being what one is as happily as possible. Now whoever reasons in this way seems to miss the non-trivial detail that even admitted and not granted that homosexuals are born that way, this does not make those people less free and therefore less responsible for their actions. Said otherwise: one can still sin either way, whether a heterosexual or a homosexual, regardless of how one is born. How? Simply by living out their sexuality in a way that is not chaste, or rather in a way not conformed to the will of God. The fact that this means in practice that a homosexual person who wants to live in a Christian manner must abstain from any sort of relationship, since homosexual relationships cannot be open to life and fruitful, is a secondary fact that one may like or not, that may be more or less burdensome, but which certainly does not change reality.
Too often we forget that wanting the good for someone does not necessarily mean doing good to them. Not by chance did Saint Alphonsus Maria de’Liguori say that mercy sends more souls to hell than divine justice. This exasperatingly “realistic” approach, this wanting to almost bow down in front of “real life,” true life, the concrete existence of persons [in the name of being “pastoral”], appears not only dramatically short-sighted, but even tainted most of the time by a sentiment that is ultimately reducible to the scandal of the cross more than to a genuine evangelical gaze. And not only this, but as paradoxical as it may seem (but which is really not paradoxical at all), it is not difficult to see a foundation of Pilate-like selfishness behind every approach that is so benevolent, so attentive to the “true reality” of persons, so respectful of their freedom – so respectful that it leaves them free to do evil by refusing to offer and to announce the true good, which is Christ. As if “reality” – probably also by virtue of an approximative theology of the Incarnation – had in itself something sacred and inviolable. It is like a mother who sees her child walking dangerously on the edge of a precipice, and instead of doing everything she can to prevent her child from falling, she limits herself to saying: “Do you want to walk on the edge of the ravine? Be calm, feel free, it’s your life.” Or like a doctor who limited himself to curing the wounds without also (and primarily) being concerned with the most important thing, that the sick person will no longer hurt themselves. Or do we no longer believe that God has the power to change the human heart? But, it is said, “Times change, and society along with it, and the Church ought to be in step with the times.” True. But we are not certain that “being in step with the times” should necessarily translate into simple “acknowledgment,” suspending every judgment of history and reality as if change is in itself a positive thing (and considering how things have gone in the last half-century I would say that there is plenty of evidence to make one doubt it). Just as we are not certain that a simple “welcome” of whoever it may be, simply going to meet someone with a “hug full of mercy” without a contextual call to conversion (from the heart, of course) is synonymous with true charity. It’s a short step between making the “look and feel” of Christianity with a touch of historicism more captivating, and making the Gospel a thing which measures man.
Which brings us straight to the decisive question: whether the Church still believes that its supreme law is the salvation of souls, or something else. “The good God,” as Bernanos said, “did not write that we are the honey of the earth, my boy, but salt. Salt burns when it touches the skin. But it also prevents it from rotting.” The choice that the Church has before it, today just as yesterday, is between Aaron and Moses, between giving the world a little honey and saying what the world wants to hear, even at the cost of saying what is not pleasing to God; or else becoming salt once again, salt that burns the skin, saying to the world what pleases God even if what it says does not please the world.
Luca Del Pozzo
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