“Reality check.” A buzz phrase that seems to be getting a lot of notice and traction in the Church this weekend. A bit more than a million people voted to expand rights, and possibly responsibilities, for LGBT people in their small country. The top Catholic prelate there says the Church needs a reality check. What could he mean by that?
According to the NYT, a Church is pondering its future. But does that capture the moment? I’m not sure. A three-to-two referendum win does not appear out of thin air. For lesbians and gays, it might mean a sea change in a relationship on a legal level. But it doesn’t encourage people who are embittered with the Church to let up. It doesn’t steer them into or out of relationships based on love, or even some cloudy, undiscerned experience of connection.
In other words, Irish Catholics didn’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide to buck their bishops.
I think really that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it’s doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, “Look, have we drifted away completely from young people?”
Some Catholics wouldn’t be asking these questions. It’s a matter of entitlement. They are entitled to congruence from their sisters and brothers. Leadership and God are entitled to obedience. I think we see how that works these days. When one thinks in terms of slapping, maybe four-year-olds are intimidated.
More from Archbishop Martin, who in the eyes of some, probably isn’t excommunicating enough people:
That doesn’t mean that we renounce our teaching on fundamental values on marriage and the family. Nor does it mean that we dig into the trenches. We need to find…a new language which is fundamentally ours, that speaks to, is understood and becomes appreciated by others.
My sense about the life of faith, religion, and spirituality is that the hermeneutic of subtraction is a fruitless endeavor. What do I mean by that? You can’t build a Church or a culture by subtracting out the bad. First, the parable reminds us the Lord reserves to himself and to his own time when things get sorted out. It’s not as if we don’t have enough to do in the meantime.
Telling same-sex-attracted people they can’t lobby, seek, and experience a civil privilege? Seems like a lot of energy for straight people to be bothered about when our own marriages and families have so much work ahead of them. Perhaps that new language is not one of intimidation or force, but of loving example.
But all of us live in the grey area. All of us fail. All of us are intolerant. All of us make mistakes. All of us sin and all of us pick ourselves up again with the help of that institution which should be there to do that. The church’s teaching, if it isn’t expressed in terms of love – then it’s got it wrong.
Are we wrong?