The men in dresses and funny hats really don’t know when to quit, do they? Yesterday I read about the Vatican’s latest censure, Sister Margaret Farley for her book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. The Yale theologian touches on the all too human subjects of masturbation, same sex relationships, and divorce/remarriage. The official Vatican statement insists that homosexuality is a “grave depravity” and that the other topics are “contrary to natural law.”
Why do we, in America, in the 21st century give any credence to what these out-of-touch, antediluvian, luddites think about sex and marriage? As an institution, the Catholic church really has no moral standing to have an official opinion on anything related to sex, except, perhaps, to look inward and figure out why their clergy rape little boys. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the absence of women in power might have some bearing on the pedophile problem.
Secondly, masturbation, homosexuality, and marriage/divorce seem to have everything to do with “natural law.” What is unnatural is an institution that so closely regulates the sexual predilections of its members while ignoring the blatant abuse of children at the hands of its priests and works tirelessly to impose its archaic and unnatural beliefs on the rest of the world.
Moreover, the Vatican apparently hates women—the latest crusade against American nuns, its refusal to allow women into the priesthood, and the deplorable way in which the church treats nuns in general (no retirement plans, no health care, the garnishment of nuns’ wages, the enforced poverty—poverty which priests are also supposed to embrace but do not). The church’s ignorant stance on the use of birth control, particularly in poor and disease-ridden parts of the world stands in direct contrast to the work of the nuns to heal and educate in these same places.
I know many intelligent and wise Catholics. For eight mostly enjoyable years, I worked at a Catholic school with some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. People who worked tirelessly for social justice, who instilled solid moral values (do unto others, judge not, help the poor) in young people. People who actually walked their talk. Most of these folks reflected the values of the nuns and not the values of the Vatican. They formed a community of support, not a community of judgment. Unfortunately as part of a Catholic parish, ultimately this community has to support the Vatican, no matter how forward thinking each individual member might be. And this is what so puzzles me.
Why do so many intelligent people continue to give credence and power to the men in funny hats and dresses, with their unfathomable wealth and consistent protection of criminal sexual abusers? Maybe it’s time America divorced the Vatican. It only seems natural.