While Maggie Gallagher’s NAM (National organisation Against Marriage) continues to insist that the momentum towards marriage equality has been reversed, the evidence contradicts her. The much vaunted New Hampshire town hall meetings to begin a process to undo last year’s legislation turned out to be a damp squib. In Maryland, moves to impeach the AG for his opinion on recognising out of state nuptials were rejected. In Iowa, on the anniversary of the recognition of marriage for all, attempts to ignite a popular repeal are going nowhere. In California, opinion polls now show a clear majority in favour of marriage, and the repeal of prop 8 is now just a matter of timing the ballot. Elsewhere across the globe, advances for marriage are seen in more and more countries, including somewhat unexpectedly, Slovenia, Albania, Cyprus and Nepal. It is not the movement towards marriage equality that has stalled, but the attempts to impose constitutional bans.
The resurrection theme is fundamental to the Christian faith, and is an idea that has often helped me to get through difficult times. It was natural then that during this difficult time for the Catholic Church, heading into the Easter triduum my thoughts should have dwelt often on the significance of the Easter message for the modern Church. However, before I could formulate words of my own, I came across those of two other people who put it more clearly than I could. These I share with you this Easter morning, without additional comment.
First, in response to my yesterday on the possibility of an imminent Vatican III, came this response by my reader Etienne, who has previously identified himself as a priest. In my post, I had put the question, was Vatican III a pipe dream? This was Etienne’s response:
A pipe dream? As I sit and reflect upon the significance of what we are celebrating this week (I am writing this comment on Holy Saturday), I come to a realisation that, if we truly believe in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, then really nothing is too hard for the Lord (Genesis 18:14).
For many in the Church, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are an embarrassment, if not a scandal and disgrace. I have no knowledge of them except some very contradictory second hand reports, and so make no judgements myself. However, I found this report from Religion Dispatches refreshing, for presenting the positive side of their activities:
Queering Easter: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Redefine Sainthood
An order of queer nuns, founded in San Francisco thirty-one years ago, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is now a full-fledged pastoral and charitable organization, having given away more than a million dollars. They’ve also raised pioneers in LGBT and AIDS/HIV rights to sainthood, creating their own holy calendar.
One of my favorite memories of gay and lesbian life was the one time I went to a Gay Pride march in San Francisco, now multiple decades ago. Among the memorable wonders was a small group who called themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. On and off over the decades, I have thought of those drag nuns, roller skating along the Castro, throwing flowers into the crowd (and kisses) and hooting and hollering with the best of them.
It will not surprise anybody that the reputation of the Catholic Church. However, it is worth taking note of this report by the professionals, which tells us what we all know, but quantifies the damage, and analyses it in formal terms:
From PR Week:
Reputation Survey: The Catholic Church – Pope’s Apology Falls Flat
Allegations of child abuse have damaged the reputation of the Catholic Church in the eyes of 82 per cent of the public, PRWeek/OnePoll’s research finds.
The survey of 3,000 respondents – 16 per cent of whom were Catholics – found that a total of 72 per cent felt the Pope’s recent apology to victims of paedophile priests did not go far enough.
Interestingly, 48 per cent of Catholic respondents felt the Pope’s apology was sufficient, but only 24 per cent of non-Catholics felt the same.
The latest batch of stories surrounding allegations of child abuse within the Church has clearly caused reputational damage. Nearly 35 per cent of Catholics questioned said the stories would prevent them from going into a Catholic church.
And 44 per cent of Catholic respondents said the stories would make a difference when it came to allowing their children to attend a Catholic church. For non-Catholics, the figure was 61 per cent.
The news that the Vatican is to set up an investigation team has not made a great deal of difference to the public’s perception of the Church. Only 23 per cent of Catholics said the investigation team had made their opinion of the Church more positive. For non-Catholics this figure was 13 per cent. Overall, 51 per cent of Catholics and 72 per cent of non-Catholics said this made no difference.
No, regrettably that does not (yet) include the Catholic Church. While the Catholics remain convulsed in the problems around child abuse, allegations of cover-ups, accusations against or defences of Pope Benedict as then Cardinal Ratzinger, and the calamitous decline in the Church’s reputation and authority that have accompanied the disaster, there is little chance of progress in any other sphere – unless it be in moves toward a new general council to resolve the crisis. Here at QTC, I too have been caught up in the malaise, and am conscious that I, like other gay Catholic bloggers , have been so caught up in the malaise that I have not been giving as much attention as I would like to the issues that were originally my prime concern: the problems, and progress, of queer Christians in the church – and here I mean the broader church, not just the Catholics.
When one removes the Vatican blinkers, I am glad to say, the signs of progress are multiple. There have been steps toward full inclusion in a number of Protestant denominations, in the US and elsewhere, and pressure for further progress continues to grow. Several reports this past week have illustrated this.
In the US, the Episcopal church has led the way among the major denominations, with two openly gay or lesbian bishops now confirmed. It has now released a report, Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church, by a team of eight leading theologians
At the beginning of the week, the strongest impression of the collective response by the world’s bishops to the universal outcry over abuse, was that there was a co-ordinated, concerted strategy to deflect criticism from Pope Benedict himself, by drawing attention to claims of his efforts to combat the problem on assuming the papacy, and to present the widespread criticism as deriving from malice against the Catholic Church. Yet as we have gone deeper into Holy Week, with its traditional emphasis on confession and repentance, I am sensing something else at work here, quite a different dynamic that may offer some hope for the future direction of the Church.