Shame on the Leaders of the Catholic Church

By Stanford, Peter | The Independent (London, England), February 9, 2013 | Go to article overview
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Shame on the Leaders of the Catholic Church

Stanford, Peter, The Independent (London, England)

Same-sex marriage

As an attempt to influence policy, it has been high-profile but ultimately unsuccessful. The Catholic authorities have surpassed themselves with letters read out in churches, archbishops in prime spots on radio and TV, mailshots to MPs and the efficient lobbying of parents and pupils through the Catholic schools' network. In the run-up to this week's House of Commons' vote, no one can have missed the fact that Catholicism regards gay marriage as, at best, the theft of "our" sacrament, and, at worst, as the beginning of the end for our civilisation.

It drives me - and many Catholics I have spoken to lately - to despair. Are these really our Church's priorities? Jesus, in the Gospels, utters not a single word about homosexuality. But as the nation confronts unprecedented austerity, rising inequalities in wealth, and debates over immigration, education and the alarming growth of an underclass there are passages aplenty from the Good Book that are directly relevant to what we collectively are going through. When are our leaders going to start making as big a song and dance about these?

I have listened carefully to the Church's objections to gay marriage - the least I owe it as a mass-going member - but I still can't see what the problem is. The official logic, that allowing gay marriage will somehow diminish every heterosexual marriage, including my own, is utterly lost on me. I'm keen on as many couples getting married as possible. So gay marriage is a cause for celebration. And if the clerics ever find it in their hearts to open the sacrament to same-sex couples, I find it hard to imagine a God who is anything other than delighted at this public affirmation of love and fidelity. Then there has been the procession of prominent Catholics speaking in all our names about consummation, adultery and the need for marriage to "remain open to procreation". You'd think they were discussing a plumbing problem.

Where does this technical talk leave the heterosexual Catholic couple I met this week, both in their fifties, who are about to get married in church? No openness to procreation there. So presumably, in the Church's eyes, theirs isn't a marriage either. And yet it is about to happen in front of the altar in the presence of a priest.

This is the age-old problem of angels dancing on pinheads, celibate clerics spending their (sublimated?) energy on carefully calibrating what the non-celibate laity can do in their bedrooms. I had hoped that, as a Church, we were over all of this. There are positive signs. In the Catholic schools my children attend, those time-honoured messages, passed down to generations, that sex was dangerous if not downright bad, have been discarded in favour of something more nuanced and empowering.

Yet the one message that echoed this week is that to be Catholic is to be anti-gay.

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