Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Enough is Enough

Open Letter to the Bishops of Quebec
translation by
Kevin O'Donnell

Members of the André Naud Forum and other priests describe their concern and disagreement with two recent Church documents on individuals with a homosexual orientation

Two recent Church documents concern people with a homosexual orientation: one concerns the civil marriage of partners of the same sex here in Canada and the other is about access to the priesthood and comes from the Vatican. The first of these documents is a memo from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada (CECC) to the legislative committee for the proposed law C-38; the other document comes from the Roman Congregation for Catholic Education. In both documents the overall attitude and reasoning are cause for concern and disagreement on our part – and on the part of many others.

Concerned by the negative attitude. The Second Vatican Council emphasized a fundamental truth: the Church loves the World. She accepts it with all its good points and bad. She is willing to travel with it on its journey. She wants to contribute to the life of those societies that are part of the world and she believes she will benefit by contact with them.

What a very different attitude we find in the memo presented to the legislative committee on gay marriage! You seem to be giving a course on law and anthropology to our political representatives. You denounce the poor state of marriage in our country and you decry its further degradation if C-38 should become a law. Unfortunately you remind us of those “prophets of doom” John XXIII referred to at the beginning of the Council.

How very far we have come from the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World from the Council. There we read, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age (…)are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.”

And is there any trace of the compassion that marked Jesus’ journey on earth? Not one paragraph, not one sentence of your memo takes into consideration the historical discrimination that has faced homosexual individuals nor the exclusion from society and church that has deeply wounded so many homosexuals. The gay movement’s quest for social recognition in so many areas is rooted in this human suffering. Isn’t this something that should cause us concern?

This is the same attitude found in the Roman Congregation’s Instruction on the admission of homosexuals to Holy Orders. Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master General of the Dominicans, is reported as saying about this document (Tablet, November 27, 2005) “I have no doubt that God calls homosexuals to the sacrament of Orders; they are among the most committed and impressive men I have known. And we can assume that God will continue to call both homosexuals and heterosexuals to the priesthood because the Church has need of the qualities of both.”

He concludes, “We should be more concerned with what our seminarians are inclined to hate – rather than what they love. Racism, misogyny, homophobia – these are indications that an individual cannot be a good model of Christ.”

Disagreement with the reasoning. The underlying reasoning of these texts does not convince us. There is talk of “natural law” as if it were an unchangeable and obvious fact. As far as we can tell human beings never cease to seek out and discover their “true” nature. There is nothing “given” about the human condition only the bias of a specific culture – something that does not cease to evolve in time. What was “natural” in another civilization at another time may well be unacceptable now. Certainly this sort of evolution can only take place over a prolonged period of time – centuries not years. For example: slavery seemed something natural, even in the church, for centuries whereas today we would consider it against nature.”

The responsibility of seeking and defining natural law is incumbent on everyone since it is something common to all humankind. The Church can find inspiration in certain sources of enormous value that are her own property. But she is still one with humankind and part of this world. Can one imagine that she alone possesses the keys that will open the doors of authentic human experience? Will she necessarily have the last word on the mysteries of political, social, family and sexual life? …Does she possess the “entire truth” about human beings? History and common sense tell us otherwise. In these matters the official teaching of the church has been wrong more than once.

We can only hope that in this area the whole Church will feel it is an engaged partner in the human experience. May the Church herself with all her resources and limitations face the truth – with neither diffidence nor arrogance. May she show solidarity and confidence. It seems to us that this was the spirit and feelings that prompted John XXIII and Vatican II to call on the people of God to be receptive to the signs of the times.

Everyone is concerned. Why have we chosen this public form of address? First of all because we want to say loud and clear to all the Christians of this country who reject the attitude and language of the ecclesiastical authorities, “You are no less Christian because of that!” In your opinion this discussion does not involve the essence of the Christian Faith. Your disagreement does not make you excommunicated. Please do not excommunicate yourselves (please do not withdraw of your own accord)!

Secondly, we would like to initiate a dialogue in the Church on all the aspects of homosexuality. This sort of dialogue involving opposing, dissenting views is – unfortunately – not going on today in our Churches. This is especially the case since Rome has already spoken on this matter. We would like to see Christians listening to the life-experience of our homosexual brothers and sisters. This should take place in local communities and in even more expanded forums with the bishops. We would want our bishops to discuss this subject amongst themselves and initiate a discussion in their local churches. We would hope that theologians would be invited to contribute to this discussion. Whether these meetings are formal or informal, public or private, open to all or restricted it doesn’t really matter. What is important is that there be a free discussion, that everyone speak freely and sincerely.

For our part, we have met with those who know the homosexual situation in the Church and we have decided to make our reaction public. The André Naud Forum is already expanding and the list of subjects we discuss is growing. We proclaim publicly our desire to carry out the great project of evangelization outlined in the Second Vatican Council. Above all we do not want to return to the XIXth century: the time for ultramontanism (extreme conservatism) is over. Responsible dissent is possible in the Church. We want to avail ourselves of this right because we love the Church of Christ and we hope it will carry out its mission in our times.

The priests who signed this letter and their dioceses:

André Anctil, José V. Arruda, Jean-Pierre Langlois, Claude Lefebvre, Claude Lussier (Montreal)

Eric Généreux, Raymond Gravel, Bernard Houle, Pierre-Gervais Majeau, Guylain Prince, Claude Ritchie (Joliette), Jean-Yves Cédilot, Jocelyn Jobin, Alain Léonard, Lucien Lemieux (St-Jean-Longueuil), Benoît Fortin, Michel Lacroix, Claude St-Laurent (Gatineau)

Jacques Pelletier (Gaspé)


La Presse
Published on Sunday, 26 February 2006


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