Mothers and Fathers Matter
Whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or heterosexual!!!
I am a practising Catholic and a member of We Are Church Ireland (www.wearechurchireland.ie) which is a Vatican II-inspired progressive group working for reform and renewal of our Catholic Church plus reunion of the Christian Church. I was ordained in 1970 and married in 1977. Thankfully, the gift of faith in the fundamental Good News of a loving God – that reality is gracious – that Jesus is Risen and that we must live by love and action for justice has remained in me. However, like many other Catholic people over the past decades on our pilgrim way through a fast-changing world, I have moved away from childish obedience to the teaching of clerics – good homosexual and heterosexual men who have been burdened unfairly with the abuse of enforced celibacy – on various issues such as the role of women, sexuality, homosexuality, contraception and the structure of our Church as a monarchy dominated by a small, male control group. All of us baptised Christians as centred on a personal relationship with the Risen Christ are unique, valued members of the People of God – the Church. The Holy Spirit is active in us all as we joyfully share the Good News of Jesus our Risen Saviour, the primacy of love and our mission to work for justice for all and the building up of God’s Kingdom. If all adults have good self-esteem, share in power and experience love, justice and respect, then the children will also be nurtured, parented and developed to their full potential. Where love is, there God is, and, accordingly, all will be well for children and adults. I have listened to the stories of homosexual friends and the new insights emerging over the past 50 years in regard to sexuality. Like many other Catholic parents, I have experienced some of the broad and complex changes in the new roles and joint venture of parenting over the past 38 years. I have moved away from the unchanging clerical teaching on homosexuality as intrinsically disordered. While the majority of people are heterosexual, God’s creation includes a valuable complementary minority of homosexual persons. I do not accept that they are intrinsically disordered as stated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the clerics and groups locked into absolute loyal obedience to that unchanging dogmatic line. They are different, equal, valuable and good. They are good people, God’s people, good lovers and good parents. I will be voting Yes in the forthcoming referendum.
Bishops Martin, Doran and Leahy have lead out the No campaign with very honeyed concern about children, mothers and marriage. The Catholic bishops are ably backed up by orthodox Catholics from the Iona Institute and a recently-formed group called Mothers and Fathers Matter. These people state the wonderful ideal that every child deserves a mother and father. Most of the above persons are Catholics loyal to the unchanging clerical teaching as enunciated in the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs 2357, 2358 and 2359. Yet, none of those bishops or Catholic groups have highlighted or quoted the words “intrinsically disordered”, “grave depravity” “contrary to natural law” or “homosexual condition as a trial” from that same Catechism in their presentations and posters. Instead, they have tactically chosen to use children as smokescreens and have found new reasons for women to stay in the home – especially since they will not allow them to be ordained or share power. If Bishop Leahy is sincere about banishing homophobic attitudes, I wonder if that means he is calling for the outdated clerical teaching on “intrinsic disorder” within the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be deleted, changed or banished. No, it appears that the bishops and their lay storm troopers hold on to their core position on homosexual acts/intrinsic disorder but conceal it shrewdly beneath fierce concern for children and mothers. The negative subtext in all their posturing about children and mothers is that homosexual love/marriage/family/parenting is intrinsically disordered. The bishops and their allies seem imprisoned in an unchanging static world and literal interpretation of the Bible. They do not appear to have learnt anything from the insights of modern science, honest homosexual experience and modern theology. A huge gap has developed between them and modern Catholics who have come to accept that there is salvation outside of the heterosexual Church and that God’s creation – whether heterosexual or homosexual – is indeed good.
Catholics, who have read history, are aware of the hugely negative role played by our Catholic Church in anti-Semitism over the centuries up until Vatican II. Catholics now know that a literal interpretation of the Bible which seemed to portray the Jewish people as “Jesus-killers” and unchecked/unbalanced clerical decrees which labelled Jews as disordered people with Stars of David into ghettoes was totally wrong. For us Catholics, it remains very dangerous when a small group of male clerics still retain the power to label a minority of God’s creation as intrinsically disordered. Small groups of macho males, imprisoned in dogma and their limited interpretation of Koran, Bible or Truth can sometimes produce wrong theories as is very much in evidence to all by switching on the bad news any day from the Middle East or Africa. The best wisdom, common sense, insight, science and loving goodness of all human beings and all members is needed in every group, church, society and state. All of the Catholic People of God now have a chance in our Irish Republic to take a collegial stand and speak out against the wrongful labelling of homosexuals. We can contribute our best knowledge and insight by voting in the referendum on May 22nd.
Mothers and Fathers matter. Yes, but that is true whether they are heterosexual or homosexual parents. But you don’t have to be a mother, father or parent in order to matter. You don’t have to procreate. Every human being is precious, unique and loved by God, whether they produce children or not. It is very strange that the Mother and Fathers Matter group and the bishops and the Iona Institute are now placing this huge emphasis on children. It appears to be an assertion that marriage is solely or primarily about procreation when official Catholic teaching moved on about 50 years ago from the clerical/medieval teaching that sex is bad and that procreation is the only possible moral excuse for sexual activity to the much more holistic theology of Vatican II that marriage is about love, mutual support, commitment, joy and tenderness for all adult partners plus possible procreation in most cases.
Most real families and marriages today do not exist in an ideal Catholic Catechism/black and white Garden of Eden with perfect heterosexual fathers and mothers. Most people are struggling, growing and surviving in God’s beautiful world/Valley of Tears with many shades of grey and other colours across a complex spectrum. People are struggling for freedom from monarchs, dictators and the evils caused by greed, exploitation and the abuse of power. People are learning to cope with rapid change and changing roles in a harsh capitalist world. We might all wish or assert that we deserve to be born into a land flowing with milk and honey instead of a stable to a single mother and celibate foster father and no blood brothers or sisters. We are all conscious from the horrendous Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland report of 2002 that many women and children are abused and violated by macho, rampant patriarchs in ostensibly perfect heterosexual homes. There is poverty, inequality, injustice, bullying, homophobia and ignorance damaging many children, families and marriages. It is indeed a long journey to the Garden of Paradise. But in the meantime, we must continue to love and serve and work for justice and equality for all. So – all of a sudden it has been decreed for us that Mothers and Fathers matter. It is strange that this Catholic theology was not implemented in the awful Ireland of the Magdalen laundries and Institutional Abuse and Missing Fathers. It is strange then if Mothers and Fathers matter that there will be no Synod Mothers or biological Fathers voting or making decisions at the Roman Synod on the Family in October 2015. It is strange then if Mothers and Fathers matter that there are no priestly Mothers nurturing us with Word and Sacrament and Government in our Catholic parish families. Tragically, Fathers in skirts (are we mixed up or what?!) blame Jesus for their outdated sexism and outrageous discrimination denying priesthood, governance and ministry to women and mothers. Go back home mother and look after the children!
The group Mothers and Fathers Matter assert that every child deserves a mother and father. Surely, it follows that the Children of God – all human beings – have a right to a God the Mother and God the Father if they are to thrive and develop and if the sky is not to fall in as a result of the normal pattern of constant change and evolution in marriage and family. However, the fundamental Trinity Family is all male according to the current official Revelation as filtered (limited?) by patriarchs and sons of men. We believe in a Father/Creator/King and a Son –Lord –Son of Man conceived by the male power of a Holy Spirit – all three in fellowship – consubstantial. Maybe, just maybe – the male magisterium in so many religions have not yet become aware of God the Mother and God the Father, deemed to be the ideal. But we Catholics believe that the all-male Trinity God is Love – Total Love – and that God loves us and parents us perfectly and that love is all you need and that all God’s creatures have a place in the choir! We believe this all-male God creates us/ nurtures us/parents us/inspires us to grow, develop and have life to the full.
Most married people know that all marriages can face difficulties and that many heterosexual marriages are abusive, violent and can break down on a large scale to the detriment of children. Most married people are well aware of the changing roles now being played by men and women in marriages today. Men have moved on a broad spectrum from hunter-gatherer to changing nappies, etc.! Even in the town I loved so well, the men on the dole played a mother’s role!! Women are no longer chattels as defined by patriarchs long ago. They can be presidents or bishops or prime ministers. The roles of men and women may have remained unchanged within the Vatican, but in God’s real world, where most of us are in the flesh, the roles of men and women or parents are evolving and developing and opening up. Men are developing their feminine side and women are developing male abilities. We are all learning to multitask and multi-skill and to experience our powers of love and creativity and nurturing. Each nuclear family is not locked in on itself but is enriched by being part of complex extended family and community.
The bishops state that “marriage is a total communion of life and love with God of the married couple in their family life”. If you have come to an awareness that homosexual persons are not intrinsically disordered but are a different/equal/blessed/complementary part of God’s wonderful creation, then you will respect their love for each other and the presence of God where love is and their equal ability to marry, form a family and parent inspired by the Holy Spirit of Love. I have come to this awareness. I will be voting Yes and encourage you to do the same on May 22nd.
Dundrum, Dublin 16
Ps. if what I have written above has some merit, and is of value to you – you have my permission to copy, publish and use as you wish.