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At a European conference on the emancipation of homosexuals in The Hague, an Amsterdam alderman has called for all religious leaders in the world to take their responsibility regarding the acceptance of homosexuals and transgendered people.
“As long as the Pope and most Muslim leaders do not accept homosexuality as a sexual orientation, millions of people will consider violence against gays, lesbians and transgendered people to be justified,” Andrée van Es (pictured), who holds the diversity and integration portfolio in the Amsterdam city council, said. This sweeping generalisation, putting religious leaders in all their diversity in the same corner, is not only a gross misrepresentation of reality, but also a worrying example of the imposition of one society’s political philosophy on others.
Writing as a Catholic and as a blogger with some knowledge of Catholic teachings on these matters, I will limit myself to the Church and her faith, leaving Muslim thoughts about homosexuality aside.
To begin with the very first words of the statement quoted above, I must explain that the Church does accept homosexuality as a sexual orientation: she accepts that it exists, that people can experience sexual attraction to people of the same gender. However, she does not accept it as a true expression of the ordered nature of man as created by God. That is why she will always be opposed to same-sex marriage, for example, as it is an impossibility. However, that is far from the same thing as advocating violence against homosexuals. The Church always upholds that ancient teaching of hating the sin, loving the sinner. Whatever a person’s sexual orientation, he or she has an innate dignity and should always be treated in accordance with that dignity that all men have been given. The Church will always defend that dignity, which is most visibly in her pro-life attitude, but also in her pastoral relations between individual faithful, laity and clergy alike.
However, and this is an important distinction that is often misunderstood or overlooked, this loving understanding of people’s equality in their human dignity is far from the same as accepting everything a person does (not is or has, but does). Indeed, when we love someone, we are bound to correct that person if he or she makes mistakes, and we should guide and help them in their lives, whatever the difficulties are that they may face over the course of it. Be it illness, poverty, social issues or a disordered sexuality, we must be there to stand with them, help them in their lives, to achieve the fulfillment of life as God has willed it. We are people with a purpose, created for that purpose, and God has given us the possibility to achieve that purpose, to live in unity with Him for all eternity, despite the obstacles and barriers that we find on our path. He has given us the means to overcome them, and we often find those means through the help of others.
That reality governs the actions of the Church. God has willed to reach out to us through her, that she may be there to lead us to Him. As members of His Church, we are called to make that possible. We do so through the love that Christ has showed us, and that is not a sappy kind of love which sees everything through rose-tinted glasses and accepts everything. No, that love wants the best for its object: us. And therefore it guides, corrects, teaches.
The Church accepts reality, but does not accept that that is all there is. We can and must always strive for something better, for the very best. God is that very best, and He is what we strive for.
All of the above commits us to something which is not easy, certainly not in our modern society. It can come across as discriminatory, hateful even. But just like a parent correcting a child, there can be no hate between God and man. The Church does not hate homosexuals. She loves them like she loves all men, and she teaches them through the faculties given to her by the Lord, in love, like a parent teaches, guides and sometimes has to correct a child.
When suggesting someone to do something, the first step to is to make sure you know what you are talking about. Ms. van Es has clearly failed to do this, as she so clearly links the Pope, and thus the Catholic Church, to violence. A cursory search soon comes up with Paragraph 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
In 2008, while offering some criticism, the Holy See welcomed
“the attempts made in the statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity – presented at the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2008 – to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them” [source].
In 2009, the Permanent Mission to the UN reiterated much the same sentiments:
“The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person. The murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State” [source].
Three quotes found through a short search via Google and Wikipedia. Ms. van Es could and should have known much better.
Photo credit: Gemeente Amsterdam
Yesterday I watched a movie befitting the national day of remembrance we mark every May the 4th in the Netherlands. Sarah’s Key deals with a journalist investigation into the fate of a French Jewish girl whose family used to live in the house she and her husband have just bought. The girl’s entire family was deported to and killed in the Polish death camps, but of the girl and her brother there is no trace in the records. A story, therefore, about a girl who was deemed unwanted, but fought and managed to survive her would-be captors and murderers’ efforts to see her dead.
One storyline deals with the lead character’s unexpected pregnancy. As she and her husband have tried for years to conceive and are now somewhat older than the average first-time parents, there is some conflict about what to do. She wants to keep the child, he pushes for abortion.
In a movie about the Holocaust this is an extremely poignant topic. The one lies in the past, the other is very current, but both are centered around death. Public opinion about the Holocaust is, rightly, one of horror and unanimous rejection, but abortion is extremely well-accepted in modern society: it is a medical procedure and an expression about a person’s control over and right to her own body. Or so many genuinely believe.
But put both side by side and compare them: the Holocaust was the conscious and wilful murder of persons that some decided were unwanted, not worthy of life and without a place in their world order. Abortion is the wilful killing of an unborn person that one or more people have decided is not wanted, should not be allowed to burden other’s lives and has no place in their world.
There may be seemingly mitigating circumstances in many cases of abortion, but those guilty of the Holocaust would have said the very same thing. “We had no choice, we were under orders, what could I do?” Today we hear, “I can’t take care of a child, there is no place for a child in my life at this moment, I have no choice.” And so human lives are daily sacrificed to other people’s rights, choices and (perceived) limitations.
When talking about the Holocaust we do not accept this: the murder of countless people is not suddenly alright because others wanted to exercise their rights or choices, and not even because they were forced to. The murders are not suddenly okay.
The same should be true when we talk about abortion (and, for that matter, euthanasia). Murder is never alright. Mitigating circumstances don’t make it so. It is certainly never a clinical procedure, an industry as the Holocaust was in the past, and abortion is today.
Remembering the dead, as we did yesterday in this country, must never be a safe ritual which only refers to the past. There are organisations which rightly emphasise that many of the atrocities we remember still happen today in other parts of the world. But we are not exempt from that realisation. In our society there is also still a Holocaust taking place every day: a Holocaust against the unborn.
And those unborn are persons, just like the Jews and other unwanted persons during the Holocaust never stopped being persons. Many would wish it so, but there is no magical transition during birth which make a fetus a person. A person is a person is a person from the get go. Killing a person is never alright, never a medical procedure, never an industry.
Time to stop the Holocaust.
Kudos and admiration for 300 employees of the hospital Gelderse Vallei in Ede, the Netherlands. They are standing up for the right of life for unborn children with Down syndrome, after the hospital management decided to allow these children to be killed if the parents don’t want them.
The hospital claims to be based on Christian values, but decided in favour of aborting children with Down syndrome anyway. Because these children are obviously unfit to live, of course… I find it almost unimaginable how hospitals and other institutions call themselves Christian almost always fails to act in accordance with that moniker. Who are they fooling? In the first place themselves, of course.
I hope the employees, the ones who will be tasked with the actual killing, and who are now standing up against this will be an example for many, and that they will succeed.
The town of Ede is part of the Dutch “Bible belt“, characterised by orthodox Protestant communities. Local churches and civilians have joined the protest.
In the middle of the month we had the momentous announcement and we ended up with the actual vacant see of Rome. With 10,148 page views, I am happy to see that my thoughts about this historic period in the Church were read and appreciated by many. Readers from The Spectator in the UK found their way here (nice to see you here!), as did many others via blogs and social media. Fr. Roderick’s sharing my blog post about the Pope’s last general audience also caused a spike in the page views, so thanks very much for that!
Anyway, on to the top 10, which may be a bit different than expected.
1: Cardinal watch: Cardinal Arinze turns 80 251
2: Countdown to papal Twitter launch 145
3: Boodschap voor de Vastentijd 2013 102
4: The pope who resigned – St. Celestine V 98
5: ‘Bel Giorgio’ takes over the household 91
6: One cardinal stays at home – Indonesia’s Darmaatmadja not attending the conclave 89
7: Distancing – how not to disagree & Risky business – German bishops allow abortive drugs, but only when they’re not abortive 83
8: The final farewell 80
9: Obsession, but on whose part? 75
10: The bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer – a first step? 70
Just before the March for Life took off in Washington, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell, of Dallas, spoke about the Culture of Life in his homily at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It is one of those homilies that, I imagine, Americans tend to be pretty good at: uplifting, positive and, most importantly, encouraging.
Although the past forty years have seen positive developments in the fight against abortion in the United States, but setbacks still exist, and in the face of them, Bishop Farrell writes, ”we may feel like the “chosen people” of the Old Testament who wandered through the desert for 40 years. The Lord made a covenant with them that they would inherit the Promised Land, but with all the setbacks, the discouragement, the suffering and pain and the passage of time, they began to lose hope. Without faith, we too can begin to lose hope of ever changing the hearts of those who do not believe in the sanctity of human life. There is a real danger that we too can become complacent.”
But there is a strong reason to not give up: “Dear brothers and sisters, Christ has promised us that His Word will prevail. We cannot lose hope. We must continue the struggle in positive, life-affirming ways. We must pray and we must continue to make our voices heard so that our elected leaders know that there are many who stand for life. We must never give up…”
Good stuff, and an example for Bishop Farrell’s brother bishops – and all Catholics – in Europe. For those who want to read the homily in Dutch, you can do so here.
Photo credit: Nancy Phelan Wiechec/CNS photo
The markedly strong-chinned Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán marks his 80th birthday today and so looses his position as a cardinal elector. There are now 118 electors remaining.
Born in Toluca in Mexico’s heartland, Javier Lozano Barragán attended seminary in Zamora and subsequently studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning a doctorate in theology. In 1955 he was ordained to the priesthood.
Returning to Mexico, Fr. Lonzano Barragán taught dogmatic theology and history of philosophy at the seminary of Zamora. He later headed the Pastoral Institute of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference.
In 1979 he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of México with the titular see of Thinisa in Numidia. In 1984, Bishop Lozano Barragán was transferred to Zacatecas to become ordinary there. After twelve years, he once more returned to Rome as President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance of Health Care Workers. Two months later, at the start of 2007, he was granted the personal title of archbishop.
Pope John Paul II created him a cardinal in his last consistory, in 2003. Cardinal Lozano Barragán received the title church of San Michele Arcangelo. In 2009 the cardinal retired as president of the health care council. He remained a member of the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Congregation for Causes of the Saints, and the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses until today.
Cardinal Lozano Barragán made headlines several times, mostly in defence of life. He is strongly opposed to abortion and euthanasia and received criticism over his stance on homosexuality, although he never advocated discrimination towards homosexuals. The cardinal anticipated Pope Benedict XVI several times, in his advocacy for a quick beatification of Pope John Paul II, and also in his alleged preparation of a report which would state that the use of condoms would be a lesser evil if one of two partners was infected with HIV. That report was never published, and the pope would later state that the use of condoms could signal a moral improvement on the part of the user.
This is a so-called “Window of Life”, or, less prosaic, a baby hatch in Warsaw, Poland. There are about a hundred or so in eleven European countries, and in the past decade they have saved the lives of about 500 babies, CNS reports.
But he UN Committee on the Rights of the Child wants them closed, because they violate the rights of the child to know his or her parents and to preserve his or her identity.
The baby hatches were installed to help mothers who, for some reason, could or would not take care of their newborn children, without endangering those same children. For some mothers, even a hospital is too frightening or seemingly dangerous a place to bring their child, and some would resort to leaving their children somewhere outside. In the ideal situation, this would be in a place where the child would soon be found and taken care off, but it is all to conceivable that this was not always the case. The baby hatches are places where the children can be left without the mother being known.
They do not solve the problem of mothers abandoning their child. They merely look out for the child’s safety, providing a warm shelter for the short time that the child is alone, and people to take care of him or her afterwards.
Are rights being violated? Perhaps, but not by the sisters taking care of the babies. By the mothers then? Perhaps so, but in most cases there will be extenuating circumstances. Simply looking at the facts of these cases – a mother is unable or unwilling to care for her baby and is looking to leave it in the care of someone else, without going through the proper channels of, say, adoption – it is clear that the baby hatches are the best option for the babies. It protects them from weather and other dangers, not to mention the chance of not being found until it is too late.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is simply wrong. Sure, a child has every right to know his or her parents and to be part of a loving family. But when parents or family are lacking, should these rights be preserved over a child’s immediate safety? I would think not.
The baby hatches, and the (often religious) organisations staffing them, are a form of charity in difficult situations, and they should be dismantled the moment they are no longer necessary. But for now, they sadly are necessary.
Photo credit: CNS/Jonathan Luxmoore
Palliative care “does not add days to life, but life to days.”
Just some food for thought courtesy of Cardinal Eijk. He spoke them at last Saturday’s annual day for the deacons of the archdiocese of Utrecht, in an address about care at life’s end.
There’s more in the cardinal’s reflection that is worth some attention and reflection. A medical doctor himself, he rightly implies that society’s thoughts and opinions on life and death are by now so far removed from what they have been for centuries, and from what the Church today still maintains, that many today don’t even know what the Church teaches. They assume they know, but reality is different.
Likewise, many people assume that there are only two choices when faced with an incurable illness: unbearable suffering until the end, or ending a patient’s life. Reality is much more diverse: through palliative care we may remove the pain and suffering and endeavour to bring whatever ray of light we can into a person’s final days; “life to days”. In that way we not only ease a person’s suffering and respect the sanctity of his or her life but we also express the awareness that no person is alone, that no life exists in solitude. A life, even one in its final stages, even one marked by illness, has effects on other lives, and too often that effect is positive beyond our comprehension. We certainly can’t anticipate it.
And that is a far more realistic approach to life in general.
Saturday we marked the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which refers to the conception of Mary, not of Jesus, as many mistakenly think) and in The Hague the annual March for Life (picture at left) braved the freezing cold to make a stand for the right of life of all people. And life is the common denominator between these too. Mary was prepared since before her birth to carry, nurture and protect the perfect life in her womb, and today we are called to extend the same protection to the life of all people, born or yet unborn, healthy or ill, rich or poor.
Being a Catholic, I can’t be anything but pro-life. This is admittedly a moniker laden with political and other connotations, but for me it simply means that I choose life over death. Life is the original and ultimate gift we have been granted by God. And as with all His gifts, He doesn’t simply give and then walk away. No, He is with us forever, there when we reach out to Him when life gets difficult or even seemingly impossible.
But being pro-life is not the exclusive territory of Catholics, or even of Christians. All it requires are open eyes and a compassionate heart. Eyes that are open to the reality of both the difficulties and the beauty of life. A heart that is compassionate towards the person suffering, for whatever reason, and willing to help overcome that suffering.
I live in a society where abortion and euthanasia are generally considered to be human rights. As a result, they are seen as medical procedures aimed at curing a patient from the illness of pregnancy or pain. The very nature of life, as a gift from God and a responsibility for all of us, is thereby completely forgotten. Not even wilfully so, but out of ease or ignorance. Especially among younger people – teenagers, children even - this stance on abortion has lead to an increase in abortions, teenage pregnancies and a liberal attitude to sexuality that was unheard of even ten years ago. Children aged 12 or 13 are engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse, which from their standpoint is understandable if the unwanted consequences are so easily dealt with. Add to that the fact that abortion and euthanasia are both presented as having little to no psychological consequences on the person in question or their families, and these procedures indeed become simple cures for a disease.
But these are lies. Pure and simple.
Life is not a disease. Life is a gift, and a gift that brings with it responsibilities. Life is not subject to opinion, not a subjective value attached to an object. We can’t therefore decide who is worthy of life, or decide on when it starts or ends. Our active contribution to and participation in the life that we have been granted is delineated by these absolutes: it begins and ends at times that are beyond our qualification and competence.
Does that mean an immovable attitude on our part? Although there are boundaries we cannot cross, we can be compassionate and moved within those boundaries. We not only can, we should.
The concerns of people who do not share our standpoints are nonetheless legitimate. Questions about a child conceived in rape, or a lingering illness which will certainly end in death are ones we should confront. While we can’t say that the life of an unborn child of a patient should be terminated, we must work towards easing any suffering, be it physical or psychological. Unwanted pregnancies are a reality. They are not always easy, and they can be painful. Illness by itself is never enjoyable, and nor is pain without a chance of a cure.
Life, as a gift, transcends all this, however. The pain it sometimes brings us is never all it brings. In ways that we can’t conceive, an unborn child may prove a blessing for those around him. The natural death of a person can be a positive formative experience for others. We are not islands, and we are called to live in relation to others. That is not any different when illness, pain and being unwanted is concerned.
Life is immeasurably valuable. This is something we must never forget, because the risks are too great when we do.
I am pro-life. I can’t be anything else.
Photo credit: “A nation born out of prayer”, Mars voor het Leven/Facebook