Mike Egan, LGCM RC Caucus: I'm not at all surprised because I hear it quite often.
In fact this tends not to come from "militant LGB humanists" as several of these
are ex Catholic themselves, and so it wouldn't amaze them to think that anyone
can "wish to be Catholic" - it runs far deeper than that.
OutUK: How do you "square the seeming circle" of Catholicism and Papal Dicta and
Mark: Church teaching in this area is relatively recent in terms of official documentation.
It certainly does not enjoy the status of being rendered "infallible" - very few
teachings on dogma and morals do. The Church - qua "family of God on earth" - is
in a painful, soul searching phase of trying to understand and come to terms with
an openness which frightens and challenges it. We are part of that process.
Mike: After much thought and prayer, I cannot in conscience agree with the official
teaching of the Church on homosexuality. Apart from the Creed spoken at every Mass,
very little Church teaching is definitive - think of the changes in the teaching
on slavery or lending money, for example - and a Catholic is expected to follow
his or her conscience in cases of genuine disagreement with teaching.
OutUK: What are the main reasons given by the Vatican & Co for condemning
Mark: Any sexual expression that cannot claim to have the potential to "the openness
of new life" is considered flawed and against nature. The key 1986 Vatican document
also takes a dim view about the sheer abstract business of being attracted to members
of the same sex and describes the orientation itself as "objectively disordered,"
since it has a tendency to lead to acts which are intrinsically wrong.
Mike: These come in two categories, namely Bible stories like Sodom and Gomorrah,
and arguments concerning "natural law" whereby sex is only "supposed" to be between
a man and a woman and anything else is contrary to nature and thus to God's intentions for us.
OutUK: What would be your responses?
Mark: Sex is more than about procreative potential. In fact, the Vatican isn't even
consistent on this - it approves of sex between men and women after menopause and
sexual activity between infertile (married) couples. Love, commitment and fidelity
are appropriate aspects of sexual expression and straight persons don't have a
monopoly on these.
Mike: The Bible stories prove nothing about homosexuality as their writers had no
concept of same sex orientation as an intrinsic aspect of a person's life - if you
read Sodom and Gomorrah with an open mind it's obviously primarily about abuse of
hospitality, not sexuality. And the natural law argument is philosophically weak -
it may be unnatural for many men to have sex with another man, but it's entirely
natural for me!
OutUK: Has the Vatican's intransigence ever made you doubt your faiths?
Mark: No. My commitment to the Catholic faith is unwavering. I would be opting out
if I didn't carry on the discussion as an active member of the Church.
Mike: Never. It has made me take some distance from the hierarchy and the officialdom
of the Church, but that is relatively unimportant.
OutUK: Are you yourselves bemused that the UK mainstream media focus mainly on
the C of E?
Mark: The tensions and arguments are more in evidence in the C of E. Greater openness
is not just healthy but also noisy - and therefore better for the media in terms of
something to report.
Mike: It's probably because the C of E gives a journalist a better chance of a
public disagreement. A Catholic bishop will not disagree with the official teaching
in public, whatever his personal opinion - at least, not at the moment.
OutUK: Do you think Catholic priests should be celibate, regardless of their sexuality?
Mark: Celibacy only finally became compulsory for priests in 1139. Several of the first
Apostles and disciples were married. Celibacy is a great gift - think of Gandhi - but a
gift of grace cannot be imposed by human law.
Mike: Celibacy is a beautiful gift for some people, but there is no reason to suppose
that the gift of celibacy and the vocation to the priesthood always coincide. Indeed
it is very obvious that they do not. There are some wonderful priests - and not just
in the Anglican traditions - who are not celibate.