On Changing Mandatory Celibacy: We Must be Careful What We Wish For

For nearly the past week, the media covering the imminent retirement of Benedict XVI has been awash in tales of a gay scandal inside the Vatican. The stories, we were told, were revealed in a 300-page dossier bound in a red (of course!) cover.

Reports about the dossier cleverly mixed in older stories about gay priests skulking around chat rooms, dirty dancing at parties, and jumping out of their lovers’ beds just in time to preside at Mass.

These sordid tales were actually told years ago in an expose by Italian journalist Carmelo Abbate and had no direct relationship to the dossier. But mixing these older stories with the latest rumor made the contents of the dossier seem even more salacious.


The Officer and the Homeless Man

They were the boots viewed round the world.

Early last week, a tourist took a photo of a New York City police officer helping a homeless man put on a pair of boots. The officer, it turns out, purchased the boots for the man after seeing him barefoot on the street. It was a cold night and the man’s feet were badly blistered.

As he knelt before the homeless man to help him put on the new socks and boots, the officer did not know he was being photographed. The tourist, who also worked in law enforcement in her home state of Arizona, sent the photo to the NYPD, who then posted it to their official Facebook page.

Within a day or two, the photo was viewed by millions, and the kind officer was identified as Larry DePrimo, a handsome, 26-year-old who lives on Long Island with his parents. The press couldn’t get enough of him, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly couldn’t get enough of the good press that this one photo bestowed upon the NYPD.

Having worked closely with members of New York City’s homeless population for several years, the public’s response to stories like this is, for me, a joy and a suffering.


Leaving the Church is a Luxury the World Cannot Afford

It was no surprise when, last week, Bill Keller’s New York Times column declaring that progressive and liberal Catholics should leave the church, received a seemingly endless screed of online comments, as well as Facebook shares, tweets and recurring spins on blog rolls.

It was easy for those feeling demoralized by the hierarchy’s condemnation of nuns, its thinly veiled political campaign for religious freedom and its ongoing, unhealthy preoccupation with matters of the pelvic zone to resonate with Keller’s disappointment and despair.

The hostile takeover of the church by archconservative forces, best summed up in the rants of Bill Donohue, is a fait accompli, Keller concluded, and things are not going to change.

I share Keller’s assessment that church officials seem to want Catholics who dissent from some, if not all, of the church’s teachings related to sexuality — the ordination of women, support for same-sex marriage — to leave the church. How else can one explain the unpleasant, reactionary atmosphere the hierarchy is straining to cultivate within the church’s walls?

But what seems to elude Keller, as it does many of those who comment on this topic, is that the ability to leave the church is a luxury afforded only to Catholics in the West.


LCWR: A Radical Obedience to the Voice of God in our Time

In his Holy Thursday sermon, Pope Benedict XVI made headlines for criticizing those who refuse to obey the church’s position on the ordination of celibate men. He traced his argument back to Christ’s obedience to the will of God.

“His concern was for true obedience,” Benedict said, “as opposed to human caprice.”

Of course, the pontiff fails to point out that Jesus was obeying God while also radically disobeying the religious leaders and laws of his time. Like so many archconservative Roman Catholics, he is confusing God with the institutional church and its doctrine.

I suppose the pope is using some of this same logic in his treatment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. He views the sisters’ unwillingness to condemn gays and lesbians or contraception or women who feel called ordained ministry as an act of “caprice.”


Recognizing the Church that We Already Are

On the evening of Friday, Nov. 4, NCR columnist Jamie L. Manson offered the opening night keynote address at the annual Call to Action national conference. The theme of the conference was “Living the Gospel of Love.” Below is the text of her speech. Read more about the address here.

I want to begin by telling a story because stories, perhaps more than any other element of faith, are vital to sustaining religious communities. Stories pass on insights; they help to give shape to religious traditions; they recall paradigmatic moments or people; they define a community; they are vehicles for revelation; even though they may be ordinary, stories can tell us a lot about the sacred.

This story, I think, does all of those things. It is a true story that happened in a place as ordinary as St. Louis and as recently as 2008. The year that stretched from the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2009 was especially bizarre for the Catholic Church in the United States (and, I know there is a lot of competition for that title).

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