Pope seeks clean air but the LCA keeps breathing blanket bombs.

A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

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Hey Reader. Have you ever broken wind while lying in bed? Of course you have. But… (be honest now) have you put your head under the blankets and sniffed? Perhaps you come from more noble stock than I… or perhaps I’m just more curious than you but… I’m gonna own up. I have sniffed.  And although the aroma was not exactly a sweet perfume,  it wasn’t that bad.

But I’m pretty sure that my wife would beg to differ.

Now, dear reader, I know that sometimes its good to lie in bed and  for the sake of warmth and despite the odours that lie within we keep our blankets wrapped tightly around our necks. But there comes a time to throw back the blankets and face the cold cleansing chill of a whole world of fresh air.

It seems that the Pope has thrown back the blankets. From an article in the US National Catholic Reporter…

The Vatican has asked national bishops’ conferences around the world to conduct a wide-ranging poll of Catholics asking for their opinions on church teachings on contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce…

Among topics bishops’ conferences are asked in the Vatican document to question their Catholic populations about:

  • Whether cohabitation, the problem of divorce and remarriage, and same-sex marriages are a “pastoral reality” in their church. “Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases?” the document asks. “How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?”
  • How persons in same-sex marriages are treated and how children they may adopt are cared for. “What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live these types of union?” it asks. “In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?”

The poll… comes in a questionnaire sent to national bishops’ conferences globally in preparation for a Vatican synod on the family next October.

The article also notes that the US Catholic hierarchy appear to have little intention of conducting  a  wide-ranging poll. They have instructed their bishops to simply provide their own observations. Despite the Pope*s best intentions for the clean air of honest, wide-ranging investigation it seems that some of his bishops are determined that the church should keep on sniffing their own flatulence.

It is a shame really. Any enquiry is only as valuable as the quality of the information it receives and considers. That is true for the church, for federal Royal Commissions  and for grade three projects on dinosaurs.

Speaking of grade three dinosaurs… the Lutheran Church of Australia*s Commission of Theology (CTICR) has also been looking at the question of homosexuality. (See what I did there? – insert cheeky smiley face -).

Their 7 year investigation resulted in a 2 thousand word, unreferenced paper which was nothing more than a superficial defence of the church*s existing discriminatory position.  But no one was surprised. Like the US Catholic Bishops, the CTICR keeps a very tight lid on the information that it allows in its investigation.

Regular readers will remember that I requested that the CTICR release all background, books, papers, documents  and presentations that were used in their enquiry.  My concern was (and is) particularly for the gay employees of the church including teachers, principals and pastors.  The effect of any enquiry into homosexuality on the lives of these people cannot be overstated.  They have a right for as wide-ranging and exhaustive investigation as possible. Yet, they are completely excluded from the conversation. They cant even ask about the process for fear that such an enquiry would threaten their ministries and their livelihoods. It was on their behalf that I made the request.

My request for information also grew out of concern for (suspicion about?) the type of information that had been presented to the Commission. I know from sources that the  work of discredited anti-gay campaigner Paul Cameron featured prominently in their deliberation.

The CTICR*s answer was astonishing.

 The Executive discussed your request at its last meeting and decided against providing the data you are looking for, in keeping with long-standing policy. Behind that policy stands the convention, based on a truism, that those who provide background material that feeds into final documents will not do so openly and honestly if they know that their material is to be used more widely. (email from CTICR Secretary June 2012).

Yup.  *Long  standing (unwritten) policy… convention… truism*. I still smile as I read that sentence.

I can understand that people who have presented  prejudiced and erroneous information into an enquiry that effects the real lives of 100s of gay people in their care may very well wish to remain anonymous.

To be fair, the CTICR does not consist of a mob of anti-gay bigots. I’m sure that those who hold to the traditional view understand themselves to be doing the work of God. And there ARE those on the other side of the question. These people  would, under normal circumstances, put a reasonable, theologically sound and compassionate argument in an attempt to bring justice to the LGBT people in our church. The problem is… even though they are on the Commission, they are not putting the argument.

As one member said to me…

We were told that the discussions must be *necessarily theological*.

This appears to mean that any discussion on science, psychology, sociology or any consideration given to the daily experiences of gay people in the church were discounted.

Another member said…

One only has so much political capital . All of mine has been spent on the women*s ordination question.

It is sad that truth gets measured in terms of political capital and numbers on either side of a boardroom table.  It is sad that truth can be controlled by the amount and type of information allowed into any enquiry. But…  twas ever thus.

In the mean time… good luck to the new Pope and his synod next October. Perhaps the Lutheran Church of Australia*s new *Pope* will seek a similar wide-ranging enquiry. But, for now at least,  we will continue to lay with our heads tucked securely under the blankets.

Breath deep people! You assessment of the odour will depend entirely on its source.