It’s not the gauntlet so much as how you throw it

Father Krysztof Charamsa caused quite a stir when he announced he was gay on the eve of the Synod of Bishops, which was scheduled to address Catholic family issues. His announcement came at the tail end of a whirlwind of bad publicity unleashed across the world after American Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò hijacked a papal reception, claiming Pope Francis met personally to support same sex marriage opponent Kim Davis.

If anyone expected Charamsa to survive his announcement unscathed, least of all Charamsa, they doubtless broke into the Vatican wine cellar and polished off most of the reserves.

I’m not saying Charamsa should never have come out, but I do question his timing, and I question the theater behind his announcement. Pope Francis was still recovering from an embarrassing broadside by the right wing of his administration. He didn’t need a bigger broadside from the left. Nor do I think Charamsa really considered the fallout from his announcement.

Charamsa announced three things to the world:

  1. He announced he is gay. This alone would be enough to bring the conference under the same sex radar just after the Pope’s visit to America did the same. Same sex advocates scored a moral victory when Davis and Viganò’s backhanded scheme blew up in their faces. My personal opinion is that waiting a few months to come out might have shown more grace and brought more momentum to the movement, but I certainly think I would have stopped with the outing. For Charamsa that wasn’t enough.
  2. He announced that he was sexually active with one of his parishioners while practicing his priesthood. This admission took the affair (pun intended) to a new dimension. Charamsa’s declaration abandoned any question of identity. Few church scholars would deny it bordered on impropriety if not outright immorality. Not for the sexual activity, but because a priest should not exercise such influence over a parishioner. Even worse, Charamsa shows no signs of penitence. Instead,
  3. He intends to surrender his vows and take up residence with his lover. No doubt, intending to migrate to America and marry (although this is unspoken). If that doesn’t provide the conservative wing of the Pope’s administration with the ammunition they need to dismantle any momentum same-sex advocates might have gained, I can’t imagine what would.

As an American, I welcome them to our country. I wish them all the happiness in the world. But as a Christian I feel that Charamsa crossed several moral boundaries his lack of remorse renders him unsuitable for the priesthood.

American Christians recognize this moral crossroad every day. As citizens we have liberties we don’t enjoy as Christians. The Christian Right believes our repsonsibility is to deny every American the right to make those choices. But that is the opposite of the exercise of faith. Our responsibility is to make choices that we allow others to make differently. In fact, we should rejoice that others can make different choices that we do.

As to the belief that God is against same sex marriage, well God changes is mind all the time. Read your Bibles. How many times does it say in the Bible that God repented of his decisions? You don’t know? Look it up.

It’s easy to say that God stopped writing the Bible so he obvioulsy has nothing new to say, but I find that answer facetious. I think the Bible stopped being written because we stopped listening.

I think Charamsa stopped listening too. I think he listened too much to his heart and too little to God. Not about being Gay. Not about loving this man he loves. But about choosing to orchestrate this particular moment to come into the light in so dramatic a way when God could have been better served in penitence and good faith.

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Pope or Anti-Pope?

How can I top Pope Francis, who this week stunned liberals and the religious right by claiming that the Catholic hierarchy had to sop being “locked up” in “small things, in small-minded rules?” Those small minded rules included abortion, homosexuality and contraception.

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK) I was always taught the pope was the anti-Christ, and I'm sure many Baptists have had their worst fears confirmed.

Mercy isn’t so bad after all.

Mind you, Francis wasn’t saying abortion, homosexuality and contraception have the Jesus seal of approval. Yesterday, he went out of his way to make that clear. But he stressed that these were but a small part of a larger gospel and needed to be tempered with mercy.

As for me, I’m going to shut up and give him a thumbs up. He’s going to come under a lot of heat now, and I’m sure the bishops will be looking for every little clause to repeal the Popehood or maybe rethink the Papacy for life. But for now, we’re stuck with him, so God bless Pope Francis and God bless us all.

 

Strong Drink and Papal Privilege

We have a new pope, and with him a mixed message. The Catholic Church may or may not change direction on significant social issues, especially the use of contraceptives to prevent sexually transmitted disease. Not too mixed, however. The consensus is probably not. Let's face it, if you're at risk of catching STDs, you probably not having sex with your lawfully married reproductive partner, so I can't see the Pope or the moral majority expressing much sympathy for you.

I was thinking how the entire papacy is based on a single verse in the Gospels, Matthew 16:18, “You are Peter (literally rock) and upon this rock I will build my church.” Even though there are no examples of a single human church leader in the entire New Testament (rather elders and deacons), even though Jesus has become our priest in the scripture and even though God warned the Old Testament Jews of the dangers of transferring power from a group of judges (e.g. elders) to one man, this verse has become the cornerstone of the justification for an absolute dictator ruling church policy.

A dictator whose power is so absolute that only a succeeding dictator can amend his policy.

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), the idea of a church dictator was about as far from divinity or democracy as you could get without being a Godless Commie. That idea remained paramount in our assessment of the Catholic Church until Roe v. Wade convinced good evangelicals and fundamentalist that politics trumped theology.

But it still remains a single verse, one of thousands that say nothing of the sort, that has created a situation in which change within the Church is next to impossible because one man dictates the beliefs of Catholics worldwide. Disagree too publicly and you're out of there. Even Vatican II, which many considered a cornerstone for possible reform, was significantly undone by Pope Benedict during his short tenure.

As I mentioned earlier, in the New Testament, decisions regarding belief in the early church were made collectively, by apostles and (locally) elders and even then open dissent did not lead to excommunication. In fact, most of our New Testament theology was written by an Apostle, Paul, who openly challenged the man whom Catholics believe to be the original Pope.

Selective theology, the practice of building an entire doctrine around a snippet, can lead believers to read scripture with blinders, and even ignore the true intent of the authors (or, as my Baptist family would insist, God). Many families were convinced to give away their life savings to charlatans with Prosperity doctrines derived from the verse “out of the words of your mouth you will be condemned,” which, in context, was a reference to judicial proceedings.

Generations of Baptists were told to avoid liquor because “strong drink is not for kings,” neglecting the remainder of the passage which said strong drink is for the dying and wine for those in misery so they can forget their poverty. Poverty and injustice brought about, according to that passage, by those very kings who chose to party rather than administer justice.

I don't see the church getting rid of the Pope anytime in the next millennium, so it may seem like a moot point. But I think we should hold the example of the entrenched doctrines of a single religious ruler to mind before we take a single verse as a guidepost for our lives.