The term “pelvic politics” describes the perception of an unbalanced emphasis on sexual issues by some bishops and conservative Catholics. Church teachings on birth control, abortion, gay marriage, co-habitation, celibacy and a male-only priesthood all become a litmus test for identifying a faithful Catholic. Too often, the test becomes a weapon of righteous judgment and condemnation. Sitting on the wrong side of the orthodoxy fence can deny you a church wedding, election support, or employment in church run institutions. Ecclesial promotions for ordained members are dependent on their public support of these teachings. In extreme cases, excommunications have been meted out to those who have publicly questioned or not supported them; usually by extremely-minded bishops.
the bishops’ emphasis on law as the pre-eminent category of conscience means that they leave little room for practical reasoning to help the conscience figure out what to do in the face of complexity.
For me, of all the issues listed here, the one that is most black and white is that of abortion. It is not a form of contraception. It’s the intentional killing of an unborn child. And yet, there are cases that reflect the “face of complexity”; cases that show the moral dilemma that must be faced in the grey in between. Cases that need a wise mind and compassionate heart to discern what is right and wrong in a specific situation.
What about the woman in Phoenix who was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child and suffered heart failure? What about the nine year old girl in Brazil, raped and impregnated by her stepfather? In both cases, an abortion was performed to save the life of the mother. In both cases, excommunications were declared on all those involved (except for the young girl due to her age). Instead of praising the Church’s moral superiority and conviction, these stories showed to the world a Church lacking in compassion and understanding.
It is easy to raise the accusatory banner of hypocrisy at pharisaic church leaders who place heavy burdens on us while sexually abusing or covering up the abuse of others. It is difficult to listen to sermons on the importance of marriage and fidelity when stories appear of bishops having long term relationships and fathering children. Righteous rants on the “intrinsic evil” of homosexuality ring hollow, when the presence of homosexuality in the ranks of the ordained is ignored or denied.
But anger will get us nowhere. We need to stop and take a breath, together, and revisit the gospel call to life. Where should our focus be?
Up here, in the great white north, the words of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau still resound in the psyche of our modern history. In 1967, as a young Justice Minister, he introduced an Omnibus Bill in the House of Commons that included decriminalizing homosexual acts performed in private, telling reporters “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” His intention was good. But, we still need moral guide-lines and laws to support them. In Canada, we have seen the dangers of human rights and freedoms going amuck when pedophiles demand the right to own child pornography. Or white-supremacists hide behind freedom of speech to spread their hatred and pass it on to their children.
The state and the church do have a place in the bedrooms of the nation when those bedrooms hide sexual abuse and rape. We have the moral obligation to denounce and prosecute those who kidnap or buy and sell humans into sexual slavery. We must insist that the possession, itself, of child pornography is wrong; because behind the pictures are real children being exploited.
In this time of global violence and injustice, it’s time for Catholics to stop being the religion of ‘nay’ and begin truly promoting a culture of life that acknowledges the face of complexity of our modern times. Too many issues are being ignored while we continue to count the number of angels dancing on the proverbial pin head.
It’s interesting that while church leaders are still debating the moral use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa, Women Religious around the world are banding together to stop human trafficking.