…no papal teaching document has ever caused such an earthquake in the Church as the encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae.’ – Catholic theologian, Fr Bernard Haring
The feature of the 2014 Family Synod that most surprised me, was the near absence of any discussion about contraception – except for repeated confirmation of support for “Humanae Vitae”. As Peter Steinfels puts it at the Washington Post,
At last October’sExtraordinary Synod on the Family, bishops grabbed headlines by debating controversial topics such as admitting remarried Catholics to Communion and acknowledging the upsides of same-sex relationships. But the discussion of contraception was perfunctory. The bishops simply called on the church to do a better job of propagating “the message of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.” In other words, the widespread rejection of the birth-control ban is simply a messaging problem.
That’s not true. The church’s unwillingness to grapple with a deep and highly visible gap between official teaching and actual practice undermines Catholic vigor and unity at every level. It encourages Catholics to disregard all manner of other teachings, including those on marriage and abortion. If the church wants to restore its moral authority, it must address this gnawing question.
Sister Mónica Astorga Cremona, a nun who belongs to the Order of Discalced Carmelites, answers the phone and briefly summarizes the mobilization she generated when her work became known: “I told the Pope that, although he urged young people to make trouble, I’m the one who’s doing it.”
Mónica has come out out in recent weeks in various media in the province of Neuquen, where she lives in a cloistered convent, because of the work she’s doing with a group of trans women. But in addition to this work, for many years she has been helping inmates in prisons across the country.
Mónica’s voice is cool, calm, and strong, and if a person didn’t know her age, they’d bet she wasn’t more than thirty or so. However, behind those vocal chords are 30 years of work in the community and 50 years of age. Hence the need to clarify that although the Pope spoke to the young, she’s the one who’s “making trouble.”
Ever since the 2014 Family Synod, some Catholic bishops (and Pope Francis himself) have expressed criticism of what they refer to as “gender ideology”, by which they seem to mean gender theory. Gender theory, however, is not by any stretch an “ideology”, but a sound academic attempt to understand the complexities of gender as encountered in the real world. The only “ideology” I’m aware of about gender, is that espoused in Vatican doctrine, which reduces everything to a simplistic binary; everyone is either male or female, with distinctive roles appropriate to each; and that our primary social purpose is to find a suitable mate of the opposite gender, marry, and produce offspring. This is simplistic, patent nonsense, which should be obvious to anyone who simply observes the reality outside the lens of what is fondly believed to be the “traditional” family structure. There are many societies around the world in which traditional family structures recognized more than two genders. The hijra of South Asia are one example of a socially recognised third gender, now being recognised in government documents in some countries. Some Native American societies recognized even more than three genders.
I was touched by a letter from a young man, struggling with the issue of masturbation and Catholic teaching. The letter gives no indication of his sexual orientation, and there is no reason to think that he is gay (or that he is not). His concerns however, are applicable to all Catholics, especially when young and vulnerable.
The persecution of gay men and lesbians in much of Africa is a tragic hangover of the colonial period. It is not homosexuality that was introduced by the colonists and missionaries, but homophobia. Historians and social anthropologists have amassed extensive empirical evidence that a wide range of same – sex relationship patterns and gender variant behaviours were common-place in many traditional societies in all regions of the continent. An ILGA guide to LGBT rights worldwide has noted that only eight countries worldwide have never made homosexual activity illegal: ALL are in Africa.
So it is, that when Mozambique undertook a comprehensive review of its statute book to remove all outdated colonial laws, one of those discarded was a colonial law that allowed “security measures” to be taken against those engaging in so-called “social perversion” .
A feature of this year’s parade, was that it was led by flag bearers, one from each of over 200 countries, to remind us that the struggle for LGBT rights is a global one. As one country after another approves same – sex marriage (Ireland, USA), there remain other countries that lag far behind, and even in the most progressive countries, there remain battles still to be won. (Protection from prejudice and discrimination, full inclusion in church).
The parade was led by a contingent of flag bearers, one from each of over 200 countries around the world. Pride of place alongside the British Union flag, were those of the USA, in recognition of the landmark court ruling on gay marriage – and Mozambique – where the decriminalization of homosexuality takes effect this month (on June 29th)