The Archdiocese of Westminster has hosted a lecture by Catholic and Human Rights lawyer, Prof. Conor Gearty as part of its bi-annual ‘Faith Matters’ series that voiced significant dissent from the teachings and discipline of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality, the ordination of women and married priests.
The Tablet report indicates that Prof. Gearty expanded his criticism of the Church’s position regrading the ordination of women to a broader, frankly bizarre, accusation that the Church wanted women to return to the home:
‘Professor Conor Gearty said the Church was denying women the right to fulfil theirvocation to become priests at huge personal cost. Professor Gearty, who teaches at theLondon School of Economics, said this was stunting their capacity to succeed in theirlives and he wondered whether the Church hoped that recent advances made by women in society was just a “passing fad”. “Do we in the Church secretly hope that women will shortly resume as the backroom mainstays of the lives and careers of men?” he said. “Is this truly the Church’s vision? I hope not.”
Protect the Pope comment: I personally don’t know of any Catholics, clergy or lay, who hopes for a reversal of the emancipation of women. For sacramental, symbolic, reasons only men can receive orders. However, women play an irreplaceable role in the life the Church. Mary Ann Glendon, former US ambassador to the Holy See and president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, rubbishes the accusation that the Church is misogynistic, pointing out, among other things, that the vast Catholic healthcare system in the USA is run by a large number of professional women responsible for multi-billion dollar budgets. Furthermore, women religious orders have had an enormous influence on the life of the Church.
The Tablet goes on to report that Prof. Gearty:
‘… also criticised the Church’s approach to homosexuality, stating that according to her teaching, homosexuals are allowed to “think it, feel it, but not act it”’
Protect the Pope comment: This is a gross simplification of the Church’s teaching about homosexuality. The Church sees homosexual feelings and thoughts as disordered, and homosexual acts, like all sexual acts outside marriage, as immoral. The Church encourages homosexuals to live a life of chastity, which would involve restraining, not allowing, sexual feelings and thoughts. This coping with sexual thoughts and feelings isn’t restricted to homosexuals but all men and women, single and married. All of us are called to restrain inappropriate sexual thoughts and feelings. This goes back to Jesus’ teaching that a man who lusts after a women has already committed adultery in his heart.
Regarding married priests,
‘Professor Gearty also said secular human-rights campaigners were “dumbfounded” by inconsistencies in the Church’s attitude towards celibacy. Referring to married former Anglican priests joining the Catholic priesthood, he said that “a human-rights person would ask what is the rational basis for the distinction given that we acknowledge that certain married men can be priests, and others cannot.”
Protect the Pope comment: For hundreds of years the Church has had a complex attitude about married men as priests. Prof Gearty seems to have forgotten that the Catholic Church is made up of different rites, some who allow married priests and some who do not. The Latin Rite Catholic Church, of which the Church of England and Wales is part, does not, as a matter of course, allow married men as priests. For over 1,000 years the Latin rite Catholic Church has highly valued the tradition of celibate priests. However, in exceptional circumstances it does allow it on a case by case basis, as we have seen regarding Anglican ministers becoming Catholic priests. Prof. Gearty seems to ignore the fact that the Catholic Church is a communion that values unity in diversity.
Six months ago Westminster Cathedral warmly welcomed Pope Benedict during his State visit to the UK. Now during the solemn observance of Lent it has given a platform to a prominent Catholic who dissents from the Catholic faith. They had to invite Pope Benedict, they didn’t have to invite Prof. Gearty. I don’t understand how the Archdiocese can do that, it appears to be hypocrisy of the most blatant kind. Has the Archdiocese of Westminster issued a statement distancing itself from Prof. Gearty’s comments? Not that I can see.
All Catholics are called to be in full communion with the magisterium of the Church, not a bit in communion. The Catholic Church is not like the Church of England, it is not a broad church with a whole range of beliefs and opinions. What is the primatial Archdiocese of England and Wales doing promoting dissent over some of the hot topic issues of our day?
I also wonder if the next series of ‘Faith Matters’ lectures will include guest speakers who strongly uphold the moral teachings of the Church, such as John Smeaton, Daphne Mcleod or Fr Tim Finigan? I doubt it. So, what is going on in the Archdiocese of Westminster?