On July 13, prior to the Senate passing Bill C-38, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec, expressed his fear – to a Senate committee hearing arguments both for and against same-sex marriage – that those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds might find themselves open to charges of homophobia and may ultimately face prosecution under Canadian hate crime legislation.
Though many in Canada’s legal academic circles immediately dismissed his concerns as far-fetched and, as The Globe and Mail reported, "rhetorical hysteria," I for one would like to express support for Ouellet’s position. Frankly, I hope his fears, despite falling far short of passing the smell test for genuineness, are well founded. I really do, because I would love nothing more this Pride Week than to see the Archbishop and his buddies brought up on charges relating to the incitement of hate crimes.
We as a species have put up with more than enough hateful, divisive, intolerant and self-serving ideologies parading around cloaked in the holy robes of religion, sanctioned by the inviolability of scriptural, doctrinal teaching, and I’d give my left testicle to see some of these folks called to account for it.
Church teaching, not limited to the Roman Catholic Church (though it certainly goes out of its way to claim its fair share), has a direct role in the perpetuation of discrimination and thus persecution of homosexual individuals. You cannot preach difference and then not accept the consequences of that teaching. Unless, of course, you are the Roman Catholic Church. But it gets even better when the Church hierarchy threatens to extend its bias to those who are, technically, not even members of the Church yet…
"If I take the example of the ceremony of baptism, according to our canon law, we cannot accept the signatures of two fathers or two mothers as parents of an infant," Ouellet also threatened before the Senate committee. Until such time as they get up off their ass and change the law, that is. And that won’t happen any time soon, and realistically not at all. So in the interim we have in its place an expanded interpretation of the concept of original sin, which the Catholic catechism instructs is inherent in all from the point of birth, only this time employed against the offspring of gay and lesbian couples, who would be effectively cut out of the Church through no fault of their own. (A blessing in disguise, I could say.)
Essentially, according to Church teaching, we are all guilty of Adam’s original sin in the Garden of Eden, having been born accessories after the fact. (Yeah, the Church is a real party.) "Thus," says the always succinct wikipedia.org, which I will quote here tempted as I am to pass it off as my own genius, "original sin has been interpreted as essentially an attack on God’s sovereignty: Adam’s prideful attempt to decide for himself what is good and what is evil, something that God reserves for himself alone."
Which should sound very familiar to all those Adams who have bravely, and this time fruitlessly, attempted to confront the Church on its deeply held hypocrisies when it comes to gay tolerance.
So again we are witness to the Catholic Church indulging in the terrorizing of its worshippers. How unusual. Really, nobody should be tempted to give a shit about the largely inconsequential, scaremongering ramblings of the Catholic clergy were it not for the fact that Quebec is home to some six million Catholics comprising 83 per cent of the province’s total population, though slightly smaller at 74 per cent for Montreal residents. Then you begin to appreciate the level of irresponsibility inherent in the remarks of Cardinal Ouellet.
Ouellet’s artlessness has precedent.
In defence of the chronic doctrinal pigheadedness of newly elected pontiff Benedict XVI – a.k.a. Bavaria’s Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. The Lederhosen Pope – our Cardinal Ouellet noted incredibly, but without irony, hyperbole or even crossed fingers, "If there needs to be change, it needs to be in the world, not in the doctrine."
Well, that’s saying something: The Church doesn’t have to change a thing – the whole world does.
Ratzinger, and apologists like Ouellet, attempt to elevate the rhetoric by dismissing societal evolution as mere relativism, the belief that there are no absolute truths. Said Ratzinger immediately before being voted pope, "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires."
In 2004, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Ratzinger told American bishops he felt it was perfectly okay to deny the sacrament of Communion to those who support abortion and euthanasia. In fact, NDP MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) was recently denied communion at St. Patrick’s Church for his stand on same-sex marriage. Bad Catholic! No body and blood of Christ for you! So it’s not such a stretch, in that context, to understand Ouellet’s position on the baptism of the children of homosexual couples.
In a nutshell, until He Himself comes down out of the clouds and offers a few biblical text edits, or mumbles a few long overdue mea culpas, the Church is right and you are wrong, and that’s all there is to it. And while your average eight-year-old has already begun to discover the limits of such a defence, the Roman Catholic Church sees no reason to turn back the clock on 2,000 years of spiritual bullying.
Anyway, though Catholic Church rhetoric is an easy and appropriate whipping post for flaying its deserving higher clergy – hey, they used to do it themselves, albeit in a much less allegorical fashion – the heads of the Church of England should also probably ready themselves for a figurative lashing following some equally deep rendings of Church doctrine this week.
The Church of England (or Anglican Church) this week accepted a proposal that said civil unions among gay clergy were okay – but not marriages – provided they abstained from sex, which went over about as well as you’d think it would among aspiring gay laity, while over on the Lutheran side of things, their governing General Assembly votes August 8-14 on whether to allow gay ordination and same-sex marriage, a vote that is threatening to split the Lutheran Church in two.
Also this week, the Roman Catholic Church will doubtless move, as threatened, to excommunicate nine women who unilaterally had themselves ordained Catholic priests and deacons near Gananoque, July 25, in direct violation of centuries of Church doctrine. Who knows, maybe their kids too.