Saturday 28 April 2007

Vatican archbishop loses all sense of proportion

Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and a close ally of Pope Benedict, has reportedly equated civil unions for gay couples with suicide bombing, describing both as examples of contemporary 'evil' (via Andrew Sullivan). I'm with Andrew Sullivan on this: 'The comparison is such a ludicrously cruel, absurd and demeaning one it doesn't even rise to the level of rational debate.'

I suppose the archbishop thinks gay marriages are 'evil' because they threaten 'the family', but I find this conservative Christian sanctification of the family a bit suspect. I remember hearing John Gummer, former Tory minister and Anglican-turned-Catholic on the radio some time ago, claiming that Christ had founded two great institutions: the Church and the Family. Never mind that families existed long before Christianity and what we think of as 'the Christian family' only evolved in the Middle Ages, before which marriage wasn't even a sacrament. This familialism is rather like the reification of 'faith' and 'religion' by contemporary religious leaders that I've noted before.

Lest this story should tempt you to dismiss all Catholics as a bunch of reactionary homophobes, tune into Radio 4's Sunday Worship tomorrow, which comes from the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro district of San Francisco and explores 'how gay people can find a place in the Christian narrative and speak of the gift of faith'. The preacher is the gay Catholic Catholic writer and theologian, Fr James Alison, whose book Faith beyond resentment: fragments Catholic and gay offers a refreshing vision of an alternative, more humane Catholicism, though I have to admit I don't quite 'get' why the work of Rene Girard, which Alison is always quoting, is supposed to be so revelatory.

OK, so after this post the other day, it may seem ironic that I'm recommending a BBC religious programme, and it may turn out to be as cringe-making as all the others, but I think the fact that it's happening at all is cause for celebration.

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