Sunday, February 24, 2013

Papal Resignations! VII

Sixtus IV (seated), one of
several gay popes
It has been a few days since I have posted and I am sorry because this is such a fascinating time.  Most recently there have been a spate of articles in the Italian press and then picked up by the American press that Benedict is resigning because an investigation into the leak of papal documents last year has revealed a network of gay prelates in the Roman Curia—the bureaucracy that runs the Church. 
Is there such a network?  Well, I am not sure that there is a “gay network” but the presence of prelates with same-sex attraction in the papal administration is hardly enough to send Paul Revere up into the cupola of Saint Peter’s with his lanterns.  The Italian newspapers regularly carry stories about one monsignor or another arrested on the Pincio or in the Villa Borghese gardens or the back of the Capitoline for performing obscene acts with some fellow or other.  Bishops and cardinals tend to be more discreet, but Roman dinner parties are always abuzz with this sort of gossip.  One exceptionally handsome Canadian priest I know who was doing graduate work in Rome had two Cardinals practically clawing each other’s eyes out at a reception in the Lateran Palace some years back.  And this is nothing new—all since Vatican II—as Michael Voris and some of the neo-cons are saying.  Peter Damian complained about the problem back in the eleventh century.  Good heavens—there have been gay popes:  Benedict IX, Sixtus IV, Leo X, Julius III.  Paul II is reported in some sources to have died having intercourse with a page in his household.  Julius II, while he had fathered several illegitimate children is also said to have had male lovers.  Rumors have abounded about several modern popes as well but nothing that I can substantiate. 
Neither the history nor the present situation would be news to Benedict whose long years in the Curia before his election made him only too familiar with the seamy underbelly of the Church.  I don’t give credence to his resignation being due to the shock that not everyone on his payroll is a saint.  But this papal election is unlike any in recent history because it is clear that the Church needs Reformation and it had better come from within and be thorough or it will come from without in the form of schism.  The papacy has not been held in such low esteem in centuries. 
An essential component of Reformation must be candor and it is time for the ban on discussing certain subjects to be lifted.  Several Cardinals have already spoken about the need to reevaluate the requirement for celibacy in the Church.  We do need to have honest discussion on that matter.  But permitting clergy to marry without an overall honest and frank discussion about human sexuality—and a discussion that involves the laity (whose province practical knowledge about sex and sexuality is)—would be dangerous to the moral climate of the Church.  We need to talk honestly about every aspect of human sexuality—same-sex attraction, contraception, masturbation, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, sexual compulsions, pedophilia and the whole shooting match (pardon any double entendre)—not to give license to immoral behaviors but for an honest understanding and moral reappraisal of human sexuality.  A sexually active clergy—gay or straight—at the heart of the Church’s administration simply exposes the superficiality of current moral teaching.  I am sure that some of the sexually active clergy in Rome—or in your parish or mine—are irresponsible people who have lost their moral compass but I am also sure that there are  men of good character and serious commitment who are in relationships that are not only mature and responsible but are grace-filled. In the same way I know that there are good Catholics who practice contraception or who have employed in vitro methods to become pregnant.  I know couples whose marriages are not recognized by the Church but whose marriages are also obviously a source of great grace.  Our public and private stances are at a variance and a cosmetic resurfacing won’t do.  It is time that the Christian family has some honest heart-to-heart talk about what constitutes a moral life and permit a theology to develop that is consistent with our contemporary experience.  The sex is not nearly as sinful or as dangerous to the Church as is the hypocrisy of professing standards to which we do not in life subscribe.        

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