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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nice Pascal quotation

I read a recent post at James Alison's website. The posted article - The pain and the endgame: reflections on a whimper - is in the form of a letter in which Fr. Alison responds to an inquiry about how he feels after various recent incidents relating to being Catholic and gay. His take on the Vatican's private and public stances on the issue and how these relate to its interaction with the news media is interesting. Best to read the whole thing, of course, as I had to leave a lot out, but here's just a bit of what he wrote .....

*************************

Dear C.

You wrote to me to say how overwhelmed you were with the various incidents in the public domain relating to being Catholic and gay which piled up over the last few weeks of 2008, and wondered if I had anything to say. I asked you for some time, since I too have found it all somewhat overwhelming, and wanted to avoid immediate commentary, which tends to be reactive and not helpful.

However, I’ve been trying to work through it all, and have sort of got a handle on it – one which is odder than I had expected.

So let me list the various incidenti:

* There was the press surrounding the Vatican document on the use of psychology with regards to the preparation of candidates for the priesthood; There was the simultaneous good news of Obama’s election and the bad news of the victory of Proposition 8 in California, made worse by the way in which our Church was associated with the Mormons in helping produce that victory, and made weirder by the odd semi-apologies/semi-justifications made by several Bishops to gay and lesbian catholics;
* There was the row over the Vatican’s initial refusal to go along with a UN proposal concerning depenalisation of homosexuality, justified with some truly bad arguments by Archbishop Migliore, and then rather inelegantly backed-down from by the Vatican spokesman, Fr Lombardi;
* there was the huge kerfuffle surrounding the Holy Father’s pre-Christmas remarks to the Curia surrounding ecology and “gender”;
* and finally, and this has happened since you wrote to me, there has been a minor, but very interesting, flap in the Italian press surrounding a much more sensible than usual article which appeared in the official newspaper run by the Italian Bishops’s Conference.

..... (very big snip) ....

There are two quite objective issues which are going to play in this media’s favour in the foreseeable future. The first is that it is by now abundantly clear that the basic characterisation - the whole “objective disorder” package - which underlies current Church attempts to deal with matters gay, is untenable. And yet no one in a public position of authority in the Church dares to speak reasonably or truthfully about this. What starts as a mistake does eventually turn into a lie when it is held onto deliberately while the evidence grows against it, and it is more and more obvious that those charged with defending it know that it is indefensible. In this sphere, the media know they’ve got the Church in a lie, and they enjoy making the Church squirm.

The second and linked objective issue is that the media knows perfectly well that it is dealing, in a significant number of cases, with closeted gay men. Those who live in the press village in Rome know a great deal concerning who is gay, and who is who’s boyfriend. This is nothing new. What is new is that what in generations gone by was agreed by everyone to be a subject not fit to be talked about, is now increasingly normal and non-scandalous conversational fare. So when Church authority starts to talk about matters gay, it is talking out of a “don’t ask don’t tell” culture which is increasingly not shared by anyone else. In short, the media knows not only that it has the Church in a lie, but it also knows that very frequently in this sphere it is dealing with liars. This is what dwelling in a field of mendacity has done to us all.

And the liars have absolutely no idea how to cope with this. The office holders are entrapped liars, living in a sphere in which they appear to suffer from a moral impossibility of truthtelling, and are constantly vulnerable. The good reasons for silence and discretion (not scandalizing those of little faith, enabling slow and gentle change) and the bad reasons (self-preservation, convenience, job security) are impossibly closely intertwined. So they retreat into implausible, dry and defensive positions which only make the Church more ridiculous. And of course they can never draw attention to the small, sensible shifts which they are longing to bring about, and are actually bringing about, since that would be to reveal themselves. The sensible ones don’t dare to say anything except in the most oblique of codes, while the less bright shoot their mouths off at the slightest provocation.

All of this is far too good news for the media to be able to be resolved easily. Closet cases can be relied upon to be excessively hardline in backing up right-wing causes, knee-jerked by the tacit blackmail of the more conservative press which at least is trying to keep alive the “don’t ask don’t tell” world so vital for the survival of the closet. While the liberal press can constantly titillate, rile, and scandalize with its subtle hints of the hypocrisy of the whole operation.

Now it seems to me quite important, again, for our own mental hygiene, that we be able to stand back sufficiently from all this not to be too quickly and easily drawn into the scandalous world of the scandalised, which is what is promoted by the current link between matters gay, Church authority, media, and cultural shift. The Holy Spirit is not part of the scandal, and is quietly, gently undoing its knots from within so as to set us free.

..... (another big snip) .....

To the relief of both of us, my final point. Because we are talking about a work of the Holy Spirit, leading us into truth, and because we are talking not about a culture clash, nor a political struggle, but the birthing of the new Creation through the sacrament of salvation which is the Church, there is a quite specific dynamic which has been given us to live out creatively in the midst of this time of flailing. The nausea-inducing lies, poor arguments, moral opportunism and cowardice will flourish as sideshows while the Spirit gradually brings its work into being. But the Spirit’s work will not be achieved by clever victories, or putting bad people down .....

I’d like to conclude with a couple of quotations I found in the most recent book of the thinker I follow, René Girard, called Achever Clausewitz. The first is from Pascal, and says incomparably well what I have been trying to flesh out above ....

What a long and strange war it is where violence tries to crush truth! Hard as it may struggle, violence cannot weaken truth, and its efforts only make truth stand out more clearly. Truth, however brightly it may shine, can do nothing to stop violence, and its light only irritates violence even more. When might is ranged against might, the stronger defeats the weaker. When discourse is ranged against discourse, what is true and convincing confounds and dissipates what is based only on vanity and lies. But violence and truth can do nothing, the one against the other. Nevertheless, don’t be fooled by that into thinking that they are at the same level as each other. For there is this extreme difference between them: that violence only has a course marked out for it by God’s command, such that its effects redound to the glory of the truth which it is attacking, while truth subsists eternally, and triumphs in the end over its enemies. Because it is as eternal and powerful as God himself. .......

May we be given to drink deep from this “goût du réel”!

Your brother,
James
São Paulo, February 2009.

**********************

4 Comments:

Blogger victor said...

Dear Crystal,

This post of yours is very deep indeed and I guess that I would probably be considered as one of the less bright who shoot their mouths off at the slightest provocation but “My God” knows that it is not true.

It would be so easy for me to stay out of “IT” but “IT” wouldn’t be right in my eyes. I recall when my best friend Tom changed religion and he shook hands with me saying that he would never do that and if he did, then God could take his life and because he loved his wife so much, he eventually changed over and later died of a brain tumor but I honestly don’t think now that Our God did that because He’s All Loving!

I hear ya! Then what does this Witch Craft have to do with not making gays equal in every aspect with so call woman and man and I wager to bet that if you were gay that you wouldn’t be so quick to judge my friends?

You’re probably right but all I can say is that two wrongs will still never make ONE right even if it is me, myself and or I at the other end of the spectrum.

>The nausea-inducing lies, poor arguments, moral opportunism and cowardice will flourish as sideshows while the Spirit gradually brings its work into being.<

But are we still talking about The Holy Spirit here?

>What a long and strange war it is where violence tries to crush truth! Hard as it may struggle, violence cannot weaken truth, and its efforts only make truth stand out more clearly. Truth, however brightly it may shine, can do nothing to stop violence, and its light only irritates violence even more.<

I agree with those words 100% and after long and thoughtful prayer my God seems to have told me to let your friends be and take their soul and/or spirit and travel “The Twilight Zone” if that's what they want to do cause we've done everything humanly possible without starting a Holy War and Vengeance belongs to me says The Lord.

When and if they ever start to believe in Adam and Eve, their first Parents and want to come back to me, My Angels will see how we can help them.

Again I say Victor that God could no more sanction same-sex in reality than I could sanction Lilith going down on peter and convincing him that there is nothing wrong with “IT” because "IT" feels so good.

>May we be given to drink deep from this “goût du réel”<

I'll close by saying that I, me, and myself would be very happy to drink during any moment of Eternal Reality as long as it is truly water of our Blessed Holy Trinity!

I hope that you can still find enough love in your heart to continue praying for me Crystal!

God Bless,

Peace

5:06 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

Truth, however brightly it may shine, can do nothing to stop violence, and its light only irritates violence even more.

This reminds me of the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Lot of good truth did then.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Crystal,

A most interesting article as you posted, even more interesting in its original, but very long.

I certainly see the conservative Church moving toward force in that it is trying to use power, namely law, to force its beliefs on everyone rather than trying to proclaim a truth. To me that means that they have lost the truth. I also note that they do not care to allow truth to come out of discussion, but want to bar discussion altogether by silencing those that disagree.

Like Fr. Alison, I suspect it will be a long whimper before the truth finally comes out. It has taken 500 years for Galileo to finally be recognized, and I doubt that the Church moves any faster in these modern days.

Thank you for another great article to think about.

Mike L

6:45 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Crystal,

Great article and Mike's comment was one of the best I have seen in 2 years of blogging.

The questions surrounding gay rights, marriage, abortion, contraception, sex are in the final analysis philosophical issues. Not that philosophical issues are not MORE important than factual issues. For example, is there a God is far more important question than what should the speed limit be?

BUT philosophical questions are not "solved" by making a law about the issue.

Should we decide the age old issue of idealism vs. realism by passing a law make one of the other "legal?"

Should we "solve" the argument of theism vs. atheism by making a law about it?

I think the hierarchy of the church (not the laity} favors solving philosophical problems by making laws. I think the tragedy of this is it diverts the Church from the 'miracles' it could perform (with its over 1 billion members) here on earth if it would not waste its possible influence by reducing philosophical beliefs( as important as they are)to legislative scrabbles. Jack

9:05 AM  

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