Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Orville Taylor | And the Pope speaks …

Published:Sunday | October 25, 2020 | 12:16 AM

Given the subject, ‘backlash’ is more than an appropriate term to describe the effect of the utterance of the head of the largest and oldest Christian denomination in the world. Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, dropped a ‘boom’ shell, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said. “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this.” Anyone who has even a faint acquaintance with the teachings of Jesus; not Moses, would agree with him at least 100 per cent.

The second part of his dictum is however more controversial “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.” Cut the panache! This eagle-eyed punner has to tell the Pope that union and family are two separate things. A family must involve at least two generations. Union is simply a pattern of regular sexual interaction between two people. All sex outside of heterosexual marriage is biblically sinful.

Francis, is not a simply a religious leader; he is a political head of state as well. His country, the Holy See or the more common name, Vatican City, is located in Italy, with a population of 825.

Within the United Nations (UN), with Permanent Observer status, his Holy See allows him to address the General Assembly. Indeed, he carries far more weight than any ‘Third-World’ elected Christian prime minister.

My question is; who does the Pope take his ultimate instruction from? Jesus states in Matthew 22:15–22, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”.

Now, according to Roman Catholicism, when the Pope speaks as head of the church, he is speaking ex cathedra. And when he does so, he is infallible. Of course, even as a pubescent teenager at St George’s College, this for me was so much crap that I would have easily taken up farming. In fact, my challenge to the central doctrine of the pontiff being incapable of error contributed mainly to my principal putting one of my feet out the door and I was only saved by his checking my files and realising that, though partially ‘heretic’, I was actually a good Catholic who did not follow my acolyte friend in getting drunk off Father Bygrave’s wine in the vestry. In later life, though, the infallibility made sense, as long as he was following the Canons of the Church as they interpret the Bible, and not his hormones.

There were a number of lesser problems that I had with Catholicism. It was repugnant that a man who vowed to avoid sex could be called ‘Father’. Of course, by that very standard, the term ‘Sister’ for the ladies from Alpha was more acceptable, and being called ‘nun’ was a fitting eponym.

MADE NO SENSE

This vow of celibacy also made no sense. Rabbis married, Anglican priests have families, and the uncomfortable resemblance with the Shao Lin and Buddhist ‘pagan’ sexless traditions seemed to have no basis in Christianity. As a matter of fact, given that Jewish teachers and many leaders in the Bible had myriad wives and concubines, I cannot find even any biblical support that even Jesus maintained a life of celibacy. However, I must emphasise that, despite his having a posse of 12 men following him around, he disavowed homosexuality and, in my opinion, Mary Magdalene might have known him better than all of the ‘tugs’ in his entourage.

In recent times, the Catholic Church has been tarnished by scandals of homosexual paedophile priests, who now make ‘seminary’ and ‘rectory’ dirty-sounding words. It has not fully addressed these red marks, and still discriminates against women accessing the priesthood.

Catholics in Jamaica must be concerned. Unlike St Lucia, where the denomination is more than 60 per cent of the population and is as thick as the French accent there, we only have a diminishing 2.2 per cent. He does his flock on the rock no favours.

In Jamaica, 80 per cent of children are born out of wedlock, and a yet-unreported percentage are produced from gay unions. Correct my ignorance, but I have never ever seen an official doctrine from the Catholic Church or the Pope himself about the need to recognise our normative ‘sinful’, common-law heterosexual unions, which we used to call ‘faithful concubinage’.

Many of us ‘bastards’ who went to Catholic schools understand what it means to be seen as ‘born from sin’. Even today, despite the reality, many children in the Caribbean pick up their fathers’ names later in life because of the shaming which comes with being born out of wedlock.

Sorry, Your Holiness! At a time when male ‘disconnection’ and lack of ‘belonging’ are more perilous to our survival, both as a biological species and a society, than recognition of gay unions; you have your priorities backwards.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.