If I were to die in the next few months, my friend Calvinist Cath would not come to my funeral Mass. Maybe she would take the train north to Haymarket Station, walk to the church and stand outside the door. For some reason, in the image I have in my mind, it is pouring rain. I hope Mr Cath is there, too. So a big old black umbrella for Mr and Mrs Cath, patiently standing outside the door in the pouring rain. Bless them. Out comes my coffin--sniff, sniff--and off we all go to Portobello Cemetery when I am laid down for my very long nap in the kind Scottish earth and everyone else, including the Caths, chucks some dirt in and zips off for a
Nothing would make Mr and Mrs Cath come into the church while Mass was going on because as yet--(I have to put in the as yet, dear Cath, to be consistently Catholic)--Cath has not been convinced the Mass is not a wicked blasphemy.
Now I love the Mass. I am extremely unhappy if, when travelling or when ill, I cannot get to one. And going to the Extraordinary Form has made me fonder than I was of the Ordinary Form, believe it or not. If it is consistent with Cath's conscience, I hope she has a look at an EF over youtube. But I guess she'd have to steel herself against the visual representations of Christ, for her ecclesial community thinks they are idolatrous. Naturally, I don't.
Off I toddle to Mass every Sunday, with an ex-Protestant, mind you, taking the bus, which means I am complicit in someone else's Sunday labour, which Cath doesn't like either. In fact, I guess I do a lot of stuff she doesn't like, and incidentally she condemns Christmas once a year and had some sharp remarks to make about Pope Benedict's visit, which I think was the one time we came close to quarreling.
And I think she is fantastic. I love her to death. She reminds me of my grandmother stubbornly not setting foot in church, not even for any of our baptisms, but otherwise not saying anything about it at all. Cath belongs, and my grandmother belonged, to a Scottish faith tradition that absolutely despised Catholicism and, in an institutional/cultural way, made the lives of the Scottish Catholic minority difficult up until about 1980. But I don't really care about all that (and to be honest it is now much more difficult to be a Free Presbyterian than a Catholic in urban Scotland). I'm much more worried about the situation of Catholics in Iraq and Egypt, let me tell you. I get that the Free Presbyterians have serious doctrinal issues with Catholics, and I get that they have a tradition of automatic anti-Catholic rhetoric ("the Errors of Rome"), and I do not think they should have to go to Catholic Masses for any reason whatsoever, including their own children's weddings or their friends' funerals. Standing outside the door is respect enough. In fact, I know a wonderful Catholic man who stood outside the door during his daughter's wedding in a Protestant church.
Love is kind. Love does not demand that absolutely everyone else should be forced to bend the knee to one's own loves. Love does not throw a tantrum or engage in mockery because someone has a serious reservation. Love covers up the erotic photography when the priest, the granny, the virgin or the child comes to visit. Love is patient. Love does not boast, which is why there will never ever be a male-female "kiss in" to protest laws and regulations demanding that Christians bow the knee to homosexuality.
At my Canadian theology school I discussed the tension between "being inclusive" and "being faithful." At my American theology school, being faithful was chucked out the window the day a certain professor asked my PhD seminar how we could convince the Archbishop of Boston to disobey Rome and bless the adoption of Catholic children by two men or two women living together in an arrangement they called "being a couple", not that he put it in that clunky way. As far as I recall, I think that was the very worst piece of spiritual arm-twisting I ever saw in my short career at BC, and I am ashamed to say that although there were priests and nuns in the room the only person who spoke up against his attitude was me. (That said, we were all in a terribly vulnerable position. NB to all grad students in Catholic theology programs in the USA: keep your mouth shut, trust no-one, do your work, get the degree, get out.)
Being faithful can be HARD, especially when people tell you that by being faithful you are a mean cruel uncaring bigot. And, indeed, when being faithful comes into conflict with being friendly, many of us search our consciences for how we can be inclusive without being unfaithful. We are friendly to people of other religions, including the Religion of Pride, and we see them first of all as human beings, not as cartoons, even if they sometimes present themselves as cartoons, as adherents to the Religion of Pride, by which I do not mean all people with SSA, sometimes do. However, there are some things we cannot do and some things we cannot agree with or tolerate or participate in without being unfaithful. For example, I do not think a faithful Catholic can participate in a public parade involving nudity or lascivious dancing, which means no faithful Catholic, be definition, can participate in the Pride festival.
And I am writing all this today because I am shocked, as many Canadian Catholics are shocked, by the 180 of an influential Catholic journalist on the subject of inclusiveness and fidelity and his vilification of those who disagree with him. As yet it is a mystery as to what exactly he has changed his mind about; it looks more like an unthinking "change of teams" which I would not have believed possible of such an erudite man. It seems that now he is no longer going to say nasty things about people who identify with their SSA (and if that was his habit, it was indeed wrong) but about Catholics--even Catholic friends--who object to homosexual acts. In the journalist's view gays do not often engage in one rather definitive homosexual act, which I think will come as a great surprise to condom manufacturers, and that Catholics are real sickos if we mention it.
To go back to my analogy--and now you can see how flawed it is--it is not loving to vilify people for following their consciences. Indeed, it is loving to love people for following their consciences, even if we think their conscience is to misinformed, when it is quite clear that those consciences are guided by REASON and SCRIPTURE, not by the passions and sensual delights. If I snuff it, and Cath hangs outside the church door, it's because she's faithful to her conscience, and that's great. (And for the record, I don't think it's super-wonderful-aren't-we-great that there was no Catholic objection to me sitting in her wedding service. I would have happily stood outside the door so as to her in her wedding finery because...yeah... bride...dress...) We can love Mass without getting mad that others think its an abomination. We don't need to shout "Bigot! Bigot!" (In fact, this would be extremely wicked.) And why? Because it isn't, and we know it.
Meanwhile, I would be so upset if anyone I knew took part in a Pride Parade, because I really do feel that they are against human dignity. (And incidentally, do see Hilary White's excellent column about the difficulties of getting out of a free love lifestyle.) As I wrote in the Catholic Register, love has never been illegal; interior disposition (e.g. racial hate) has only lately become under legal review. Blessed John Henry Newman deeply loved his best friend Father Ambrose St. John, and insisted on being buried beside him. But Blessed John Henry Newman would never have sinned against Father St. John's dignity or purity, whatever the provocation, not only because he loved him, but because he loved Christ and His Church. Deep male and deep female friendships are one thing--a very good and great thing--perhaps even a rare thing!--but sexual acts and redefining marriage and parenthood and legally bludgeoning those who disagree something else entirely.
Anyway, back to the tension between fidelity and inclusivity, and my funeral. I suppose Mr and Mrs Cath might feel awkward standing out there in the rain. Their feet are likely to get wet, and they don't pray for the dead anyway, so keeping their minds occupied may be a struggle, and people might shoot them weird looks, and some older, crankier Catholics might loudly sniff on their way in, and for all they know (God forbid) Catholics by definition don't go to heaven, so (God forbid) I am soul toast. But I can tell you one thing--my loved ones would love them for being there, in accordance with their consciences, and identify with them risking looking "judgemental" and foolish and old-fashioned in their desire to put God first.
Update: I realize that this is a Canadian, indeed a Toronto, Church squabble, but I thought I would just say that one of the facets of the scandal to which I allude is that it is still unclear as to what exactly the Catholic journalist is apologizing for. He has written at least two bestselling apologetic works, so his writing "I was wrong" and that his views "are evolving", has shocked and saddened many Catholics who looked up to him as a talented, courageous apologist well respected (and well read) outside the Catholic ghetto. So what happens when your apologist apologizes for....what? His apologetics? Explaining what "disordered" means? Unfortunately, he has indeed written that he won't use the word "disordered" anymore, which seems to me a linguistic capitulation to people who don't understand the word or don't want to.
"Disordered" has never meant "freakish"; my overuse of the internet is very likely disordered. Eating chocolate cake until you throw up is disordered; drinking until you pass out is disordered. And really this fight is not about people who define themselves by their SSA at all: it is the journalist vs fellow Catholics over what a Catholic can say about sin and creation and still be considered (A) a Catholic apologist or (B) a decent, loving human being.
And now I'm going to bed, so the combox moderation is going on.