the rainbow: God`s covenant of love…for all!

Traditional scripture readings sometimes nudge your mind beyond traditional interpretations. Hubby and I began our Sunday with Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS; a favorite weekly show. Today, there was a report from Africa called Gay Rights in Uganda. Two hours later, I sat in church and listened to a well-known reading from Genesis. God spoke to Noah after the flood,

This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9: 12-13)

Who doesn’t love a rainbow? From Rainbow Brite dolls and Care Bears, to Lucky Charms cereal, rainbows are marketed to children as symbols of happiness and hope. A rainbow after a storm makes every one stop and marvel at its beauty. A double rainbow graced the sky on the way to our honeymoon, and again during our 25th wedding anniversary celebration. We took it as a sign not only of God’s love, but as a blessing on our own covenant.

Today, the rainbow has also become a universal symbol for GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) rights. It’s a perfect symbol for promoting a world where diversity can be accepted; where equality and diversity can walk hand in hand.

Uganda attained international notoriety in 2009 for proposing an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that not only outlawed homosexuality, but allowed for the death sentence in cases of “aggravated homosexuality”. The PBS report shows how this deeply entrenched intolerance is rooted in and rationalized by references to scripture and fiery evangelical sermons.

Uganda might be a poster-child for extreme homophobia, but we are far from innocent here in North America.  For example, to the south of us, Rick Santorum proudly confesses his anti-homosexual beliefs as part and parcel of his Catholic faith. He, and others of his ilk, believes that this makes him a “good Catholic”. He continues to push the culture war agenda, siding with religious and political conservatives in the hopes of garnering their vote. But doesn’t everyone have a right to their beliefs, and a right to share those beliefs?

Tell people often enough, and in harsh enough language, that homosexuality is evil and a sin then the need for understanding and compassion is removed. Couch religious beliefs in battle terminology of good vs. evil, then you can expect judgmental extremism. You can expect hatred. You can expect persecution meted out in the name of religion. You can expect cruel bullying in schools and work places. You can expect suicides from those who feel they can no longer live in a world that doesn’t accept them as they are.

We are blessed with dear friends who are actively part of the GLBT community. They refuse to believe that being a gay Catholic is an oxymoron. As faith-filled women and men, they refuse to live a secretive existence and refuse to be pushed out of the church they love. They work to promote an open, welcoming, inclusive, truly catholic church, for this is a social justice issue; following in the footsteps of Jesus who welcomed all around his table.

Uganda forces us to open our eyes to the evils of intolerance. Being a gay Catholic or supporting gay Catholic rights is not an oxymoron. Being a Catholic or Christian homophobe is.

The unconscionable consequences of conscience exemptions | National Catholic Reporter

The unconscionable consequences of conscience exemptions | National Catholic Report

This Canadian woman spends too much time musing on American politics, especially when they intersect with the Catholic Church. This week’s news story on the Obama administration’s refusal to allow a religious exemption for health insurance coverage for contraception has me intrigued. I take universal health care for granted. What is available to one, is available to all – regardless of religious affiliation. Each person has the right to accept or refuse a procedure or treatment.

It’s not that Canadian’s don’t struggle balancing religious rights and civil rights. We have learned the hard way that tolerance needs guide-lines. With the passing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, a Pandora’s box was opened to outrageous claims hiding behind the right to freedom of religion and expression. The courts have tried to uphold the basic belief that individual freedoms cannot endanger or infringe on the freedoms and rights of others. It’s not always easy or clear cut.

Abortion is still a hotly debated topic in Canada, usually during election times.  Abortion deserves serious attention and ongoing dialogue whether it has been legalized or not.  Access to contraception, on the other hand, is a non-issue in the public forum. And, it is a non-issue for most Catholics. I can’t recall ever hearing a pastor preach on Humane Vitae from the pulpit. That’s why I’m so fascinated with this American news story. Is this really a case of anti-Catholic behaviour on the part of the government? Are Catholics’ rights really being impeded? Are the bishops in tune with the majority of folks sitting in the pews?

Earlier this week, I mentioned a well written editorial by David DeCosse. He explains the model of conscience used by the bishops compared to the traditional model of conscience espoused by moral theologians. The former focuses on obedience and authority; no questions asked. The latter on personal freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. Now, Jamie L. Manson has added another valuable voice to the dialogue. It’s a worthy read!

pelvic politics, cont’d

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.

Yesterday’s post included this quote from David DeCosse,

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.