"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen.1:27)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Living with the Gray

As I was ironing my gray flannel shirt this morning, it occured to me that gray is not a color that some Catholics are very comfortable with. Oh, I know... gray isn't actually a "color" ... it's a shade, which is perhaps a better word to use in making this point. Like so many things in life, the choices we make are rarely between that which is "clearly good" and that which is "clearly evil." More often than not, the choices are between varying shades of gray.

I thought of this as I read some recent letters to the editor of The Pilot in response to the recent resignations of some members of the Boston Catholic Charities' Board of Trustees. These trustees resigned over Catholic Charities' decision to get out of the adoption business altogether, rather than to follow the Commonwealth's anti-discrimination law forbidding the exclusion of gays and same-sex couples as possible adoptive parents on the grounds of sexual orientation. One particular letter to the editor even went so far as to question the faith of these former Board members, calling them "false friends of Jesus Christ."

Taking a cue from the title of Benedict XVI's first encyclical, perhaps we should all recall, especially in this Lenten season ... "In all things, charity."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fundamentalism is Never Good

Abdul Rahman is a 41 year old Afghan who converted from Islam to Christianity. Reportedly turned into Afghan authorities by his parents, he now faces possible execution by beheading for violating Islamic Sharia law which sees such religious conversions as an afront to The Prophet and to God.

Will this be enough to help us understand that religious fundamentalism invariably leads to horrors of the worst kind? This criticism is not about Islam, it is about Islamic fundamentalism; Christian fundamentlism is no better. Were it not for the strong constitutional system of government we have in the United States, would we expect anything different from the Christian fundamentlist leaders on our own soil?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Same-Sex Adoption and Boston's Catholic Charities

The Pilot, weekly newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, recently published a Q&A interview with Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. Haas was asked "to explain the Church's position on Catholic agencies providing foster children to same-sex couples." It's a telling piece, demonstrating both the questionable theology on which the Church's position about same-sex issues is based, as well as the blatant arrogance of inidividuals like Haas and those who share his perspective.

The entire interview is worth reading, but three questions deserve particular attention.

First -- and to The Pilot's credit! -- the interviewer asks whether or not there are any studies supporting the Vatican's statement that, "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such [same-sex] unions would actually mean doing violence to these children." The mere fact that this question is asked is a good sign. All too often Rome makes pronouncements about things about non-faith matters without the slightest evidence to support those contentions. While the Vatican is good at citing itself and Church documents in official pronouncements, it rarely (if ever) cites journal articles from peer-reviewed literature from the relevant fields of study (e.g. sociology, psychology, medicine, social work, etc.) when statements about those fields are being made.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Haas' response is almost dismissive of the question itself. He states that it would not be possible to do adequate study because "it" hasn't gone on long enough. If by "it" he is referring to the adoption of same-sex couples in which it was acknowledged by all parties involved that the child would be parented by two parents of the same gender, he may be right. The real and more significant "it," however, is about children parented by gays and lesbians. And if that's the question, there is plenty of evidence that children parented by gays and lesbians fare just as well as those parented by non-gay parents. According to the American Psycological Association: "...there is no evidence to suggest that lesbians and gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of gay men or lesbians is compromised in any respect relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by gay and lesbian parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children's psychosocial growth."

In light of the fact that at least eight members of Catholic Charities Board of Trustees resigned in protest over this decision, the interviewer also asked whether or not a well-formed Christian conscience could disagree with the Church on this matter. Dr. Haas' reply: "No." He then goes on to say that "these people are confused" and that they fail to understand what conscience is. Apparently Dr. Haas thinks it's aasier to say "you're wrong" than to engage in substantive dialogue with those who disagree with you.

Finally, when asked to give his take on a Boston Globe March 3 editorial which suggested the bishops ask themselves, "What is so wrong with casting the net wide for parents who will gladly take up the burden and joy of caring for a child?," Dr. Haas responded: "The net is widely cast to embrace those who we believe will provide an environment which conforms to God’s plan for the happiness and welfare of these children."

There you have it. Gay and lesbian peoople, who always have been and always will be among the many adults who parent and care for children, are now thought to be outside the net of God's plan and unable to care for children.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gay Adoption: Beyond the Marriage Issue

Several times this week I've been told in one way or another that the issue of gay marriage is last year's news. Unfortunately for now, the marriage question is one that has been (temporarily??) lost, except for those lucky enough to live in Massachusetts! The emerging issue of the day is over gay people adopting children, whether they are the children of strangers or the offspring of a same-sex partner.

While gay men and women in Massachusetts have the right to civil marriage, they are no longer able to adopt children through Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston. Catholic Charities is ending its adoption services -- a ministry it has engaged in for more than a century -- simply because it is unwilling to follow the Commonwealth's anti-discrimination law and accept gay men and women to serve as foster and adoptive parents. The issue is getting lots of coverage in Boston and elsewhere:
  • Statement of the Archdiocese of Boston

  • Statement of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Boston

  • Coverage in National Catholic Reporter

  • Editorial coverage in the Boston Globe
  • Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    When Fraternal Correction Isn't Enough

    Christianity has always recognized the value of fraternal correction in living the Christian life. This responsibility to be our brothers' and sisters' keeper has its roots in the very words of Jesus. In the Gospel we read, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother" (Mt. 18:15). This admonition comes in a long passage after Jesus has been asked by the disciples who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

    The Episcopal bishop of Washington, John Bryson Chane, recently challenged his brother bishop and Anglican Primate of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. Akinola and other Nigerian bishops support new Nigerian legislation that not only bans same-sex marriage, but also provides up to five-years imprisonment for practially anything that demonstrates public support for a "same sex amorous relationship." A clergy person who officiates over a non-civilly recognized same-sex commitment ceremony could end up in jail, as could those who publicly demonstrate or speak out against this totalitarian law.

    Bishop Chane is to be commended for his courage in calling to task not only Archbishop Akinola, but also those many Episcopalians and others here in the U.S. who support him. Because Akinola's sin was quite public, it is thus appropriate that Bishop Chane's correction be public as well. For his support of such blatantly discriminatory law, Archbishop Akinola is no less than (and no more than) a public sinner ... and it is right that he be publicly rebuked.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that Bishop Chane's words will fall on deaf ears, even if they come to Akinola's attention. Episcopalians and Nigerians of good will the world over should join their voices with Bishop Chane's and others who understand that ALL people, including gay men and women, are created in God's image and likeness. Tell Archbishop Akinola that he is wrong and urge him to repent during this holy season of Lent.

    Episcopalians are currently preparing for their triennial General Convention this coming June in Columbus, Ohio. Let us pray that Archbishop Akinola's sin will be named for what it is and that the Convention will loudly and clearly uphold the rights of gay men and women to participate fully in the life of church and civil society.