“ALLEN: Speaking of private law, you recently created a small media frenzy by suggesting that nations could find “private law solutions” to protect the rights of unmarried couples, potentially including gays and lesbians. In some quarters, that was seen as softening the Vatican’s line on gay marriage at a time when bishops in various countries are trying to resist a push for it. Did you learn anything from that episode?
“PAGLIA: Yes, that I have to be more careful in how I talk about these things, and more aware that words can be derailed. You may think they’re going to take you to the station, but in reality they can carry you to the edge of a cliff! But to make clear to you what I actually meant at the time, I proposed what the church has maintained: it is a matter of [protecting] individual rights. Facing the explosion in various forms of living together today, I simply called on states to find solutions which help people and avoid abuses.”
For those who work and hope for a Catholic Church that is more welcoming and inclusive of LGBT people, and more in line with the spirit of Vatican II, there’s a new saint in heaven to intercede.
Cardinal Carlo Maria Montini, former archbishop of Milan and once talked of as a possible successor to John Paul II, has died at the age of 85. In his final interview, published a day after his death on August 31st, he declared that the church is 200 years behind the times.
” ‘The Church has remained 200 years behind the times. Why has it not been shaken up?” Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said in an interview published in Saturday’s Corriere dell Sera newspaper. ‘Are we scared? Fear instead of courage? However, faith is the fundamental to the church.’ “
“ ‘Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up; our rituals and our cassocks are pompous,’ Cardinal Martini said in the interview published in Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
“ ‘The church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops,’ he said in the interview. ‘The pedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation.’ ”
Cardinal Martini made headlines earlier this year when in a separate interview, he called for a change in the church’s opposition to civil unions. In May, Bondings 2.0 reported his statement from a book-length interview with the cardinal, entitled Credere e Cognoscere (Faith and Understanding):
“I do not agree with the positions of those in the Church who takes issue with civil unions.”
QueeringTheChurch.com blog carried English translations of the interview. Though Cardinal Martini defended traditional marriage in the interview, he saw the need for allowing for civil unions:
“. . . if the State grants some benefits to homosexuals, I would not be too concerned. The Catholic Church, for its part, promotes partnerships that are beneficial for the continuation of the human species and its stability, and yet it is not right to express any discrimination for other types of unions.”
In the same interview, he praised the possibility of recognizing same-sex relationships as good:
” . . . I am ready to admit that in some cases good faith, lived experiences, acquired habits, the unconscious and probably even a certain innate inclination can push one to choose for oneself a form of living with a partner of the same sex. In today’s world such behaviour cannot therefore be ostracised or demonized. I am also ready to admit the value of a loyal and lasting friendship between two persons of the same sex. Friendship has always been held in high honour in the ancient world, perhaps more so than today, although it was largely understood as part of that surpassing of the purely physical realm that I mentioned above, to be a union of minds and hearts.”
He also made allowance for the use of condoms as a way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS:
“One must do everything to fight AIDS, as I have argued on many occasions and as we wrote in our previous dialogue in 2006. Certainly the use of condoms can constitute in certain situations a lesser evil. Then there is the particular situation of spouses, one of whom is infected with AIDS. One is obliged to protect the other partner who likewise should be able to protect himself or herself. But the question rather is, should it be the case that religious authorities promote such a means of defence, almost holding that other morally sustainable means, including abstinence, be sidelined, while risking the promotion of an irresponsible attitude? The principle of lesser evil is one thing, applicable in all cases provided for by ethical doctrine, another thing altogether the matter of who is to express such things publicly.
“I believe that prudence and consideration of different situations will permit everyone to contribute effectively to the fight against AIDS without fostering, in this way, irresponsible behaviour.”
Let’s pray that Cardinal Martini intercede for the church, and that Catholics will be renewed to reform the church in the way that Cardinal Martini saw as the only possible alternative: love.
So far I’ve only seen one news report in English about this item, but there are several in German that are floating around the web. It is too good not to report, even though the information is rather sparse.
Berlin’s Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki told a major Catholic conference in Germany that relationships of same-gender couples should be treated equally with heterosexual couples. An article in The Local, an English news source in Germany reports:
“He told a crowd on Thursday that the church should view long-term, faithful homosexual relationships as they do heterosexual ones.
” ‘When two homosexuals take responsibility for one another, if they deal with each other in a faithful and long-term way, then you have to see it in the same way as heterosexual relationships,’ Woelki told an astonished crowd, according to a story in the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
“Woekli acknowledged that the church saw the relationship between a man and a woman as the basis for creation, but added that it was time to think further about the church’s attitude toward same sex relationships.”
Speaking at the 98th Katholikentag (Catholic), a conference of 60,000 Catholics in Mannheim, Woelki joins a growing chorus of episcopal voices who are calling for change in the hierarchy’s traditionally absolutist refusal to acknowledge the moral goodness of lesbian and gay relationships.
March of 2012 saw an explosion of questioning from prelates of the hierarchy’s ban on marriage equality. At New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium,Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia called for a total re-examination of Catholic sexual ethics to allow for, among other things, moral approval of same-sex relationships. The Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, supported a bill that would legalize civil unions (albeit as a stopgap measure to prevent marriage equality). Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, announced that the diocese would not take an active role in opposing the state’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality, as it had in 2009. In Italy, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan stated in his book, Credere e Cognoscere (Faith and Understanding), that “I do not agree with the positions of those in the Church who takes issue with civil unions.” You can read excerpts, in Italian, from the book here. An English translation of a different set of excerpts, thanks to the Queering the Church blog, can be found here.
While opposition to marriage equality from the hierarchy, especially in the United States, is still massive and strong, it is significant that these recent statements are all developing a similar theme of at least some recognition of the intrinsic value of lesbian and gay relationships, as well as the need for civil protection of them. May this trend continue and grow.