Diversity? The possibility of the modern era’s first black pope, yet this would be twinned with the more traditionalist evangelical stance of African Catholicism that would rather deliver and exorcise me of my “trendy alternative gender” identity! Gender and Sexuality are as difficult to change as the colour of one’s skin.
Turkson has said,
“We need to find ways of dealing with the challenges coming up from society and culture,” he said, adding that the Church needed to “evangelise”, or convert, those who had embraced “alternative lifestyles, trends or gender issues”. He added: “We cannot fail in our task of providing guidance.”
Cardinal Turkson has caused controversy in the past both by screening a video claiming that Europe faced being overrun by Muslims and by insisting that condoms were not the solution to preventing HIV.
I’ve met trans and intersex Catholics, one was indeed among many that the Roman Catholic church literally hounded out of convents and colleges, under the auspices of the current Pope when he was head of the Inquisition, I mean, Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei – the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Ratzinger was Prefect from 1981 till 2005.
“Under the influence of Paul McHugh, a transphobic Johns Hopkins psychiatrist and conservative Catholic ideologue (and advisor to the Vatican on sexual matters), the Vatican pronounced in 2000 that transsexualism “does not exist” – claiming that it is a form of insanity instead.” http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/CatholicTSDecision.html
The “mental instability” of transsexuals is constantly referred to in the Vatican document, allegedly rendering trans unsuitable for ministry, untrustworthy in marriage, and to be expelled from religious communities – permission for which was given.
Catholics who have undergone “sex-change” procedures are not eligible to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life…”The key point is that the (transsexual) surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female…”
The document’s conclusions close one area of controversial speculation that arose in Italy in the late 1980s when a priest publicly announced he had undergone a “sex-change” operation.
Given church teaching that only males can be validly ordained priests, the question posed in newspapers at the time was whether a priest who undergoes a “sex-change” operation remains a priest — the answer is “yes” — and whether a woman who undergoes the procedure can be ordained — “no.”
So basically the church still has its knickers in a theological twist over gender. A transwoman remains a man in Roman Catholic eyes but is mentally ill and untrustworthy and therefore should not be in ministry and a transman remains a woman and women can not serve as vicars of Christ on earth.
It is time for the Christian orthodoxy to reflect on the statements of Jesus, such as Matthew 19:12:
“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’”
And to look at the then current Jewish teaching on intersex and third gender including eunuchs and androgynous tumtum etc. Even the Hebrew Bible in the book of Isaiah, written centuries before the Church came into being, was more enlightened:
“To the eunuchs … to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:4-5)
Isaiah does not proclaim healing, deliverance or expulsion from religious communities and ministry, but the granting of a name “better” than that of son or daughter, a recognised status as a third gender, whom Jesus and St Philip (Acts 8:26-40) further acknowledged as accepted in their existing state (born or made that way) and able to serve the community of believers.
As the UK passes the 2nd reading of the bill for Same Sex (but not fully equal) Marriage with a strong majority in Parliament but a minority of Tories, the very party introducing it, I’m left pondering what has marriage got to do with church or state, gender or sexuality? LibDem councillor and trans activist Sarah Brown has ably pointed out the areas of inequality that will still persist for trans, intersex and non-binary people, the eunuchs and tumtums of the biblical period. http://www.sarahlizzy.com/blog/?p=139
The new Archbishop minces words by saying that he is against the language of exclusion but also against equal marriage. What an oxymoronic thing to say, can anyone in a modern society contrive a sentence that puts together the two words against and equal? Don’t they realise how that sounds, “I am against…equal”! He says we need to create safe spaces for the gays within the church, safe but not the same space, not marriage. And what about trans marriages? What if a male bishop transitioned to female, would s/he have to resign their post because the church hasn’t yet caught up with gender equality? Have they suddenly lost their ability, their theological knowledge, their anointing because of a gender change?
The references that some MPs made to church, faith, bible, natural order, biological complementarity, purpose of having children etc, made me boil. So childless marriages aren’t as legitimate, so the infertile and childless by choice are now second class marrieds. Modern marriage is still defined by semi-ancient edicts, those of men, bishops, state and society. It has often been revised, changing laws about age in 1763 (12 years and older was legal then, probably not far off the age of the mother of Jesus!) and again in 1949 to protect under 16s. A century ago, married women could not own property independently. An institution in the past designed to control and manage inheritance and family, it was about male ownership, heirs and owning women (not just one) as property, slaves. The vows were “take, obey, yield….”. Biblically they could marry 4 women (just as muslims and mormons maintained) so long as you did not marry a woman AND her mother, you could be married off by your father without choice as the daughter or even as the son to your brother’s widow if childless, you could be forgiven sleeping with a betrothed slave for the price of a ram, could divorce a woman for pretty much anything yet she could not divorce a man at all.
Marriage is not between a man and a wife but between a person and other person(s). Marriage is about state-religious control, a socio-religious construct; relationship, on the other hand, is about love, care, companionship, equality, understanding, romance, respect etc. I am with the eponymous misogynist St Paul in Galatians on this “there is neither male nor female, slave nor free in Christ”, so a Christian marriage is not about gender or owner/headship if it is “in Christ”.
Furthermore, I think God affirmed other forms of marriage in Genesis by choosing as father of faith, Abraham, the husband of two wives; Jacob (who became Israel) as father of 12 tribes including Judah and husband of four wives. Not to mention Adam and Eve being the closest possible blood relations, Cain, Abel and Seth marrying their sisters, Shem, Ham and Japheth’s children marrying each other. Then there was Onan/Levirate obligatory sister-in-law marriage, spoils of war marriages. Don’t forget the fact that if we are quoting the Bible to define marriage than only virginal marriages (of the woman, the man need not be a virgin!) are valid according to Deuteronomy 22.
The fear that ‘gay’ marriage would lead to poly marriage or bestiality is ludicrous scaremongering. 50 countries support polyamorous marriage only 1 of those also supports gay marriage, so there is a greater connection between heterosexual marriage and likelihood to allow polyamory!
Another fear that the quadruple lock to prevent religious institutions being taken to court for not allowing same sex marriage, has not been borne out by evidence in Holland the first country to allow it 12 years ago (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-21321731
), even in Denmark where churches are now obliged to offer it, no minister can be required to perform it, and much like an anti-abortion doctor can pass on the responsibility to another willing minister – if one exists.
The argument from Adam and Eve, as opposed to Steve, as when Jesus commented on divorce, that before the Fall, it was just man and woman, negates the fact that that then legitimises sibling marriage. There is even a Genetic Sexual Attraction Forum for sibling love.
Arguing that marriage without possibility of procreation, is ‘naturally impossible’ and therefore unnatural between same sex couples, forgets that the same is true of infertile couples, many intersex persons etc. Citing the Bible on this is dubious at best, as God is able to intervene in these situations and make it happen or allows a man to sleep with another woman to get a child (surrogacy, often used by gay men).
Jesus was a biological impossibility, sex between a probably 12yo virgin and a unigendered bodyless divinity! Marriage is used throughout scripture as a metaphor for God’s relationship with Israel, divorced and remarried indeed on more than one occasion, yet that was not about natural procreation but just love, the gender identity or sexuality of Israel or God are not necessary to realise it is about love and commitment. Love is normal, that comes even before procreative possibilities or impossibilities. God is love, therefore, S/He would sanction expressions and commitments of that love between two or perhaps more loving persons.
In St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai, there is an icon which shows two robed Christian saints getting married. Their ‘pronubus’ (official witness, or “best man”) is Jesus Christ. The happy couple are 4th Century Christian martyrs, Saint Serge and Saint Bacchus – both men.
Yale historian John Richard Boswell discovered this early Christian history and wrote about it nearly 20 years ago in “Same Sex Unions In Pre-Modern Europe“ (1994). In ancient church liturgical documents, he found the existence of an “Office of Same Sex Union” (10th and 11th century Greek) and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century Slavonic).
So let’s not claim that marriage has always been between a man and a woman, for it sometimes been between a man and more than one woman, or between a man and a man, or between a God and a nation or a virgin, in the eyes of some Marian extremism.
A final word on prejudice and bigotry, name-calling never achieved change. Bigotry comes from a millennium old use of “by God” and a mockery of the Norman French, it later came to mean religious hypocrisy and prejudice. Gordon Allport in his classic book The Nature of Prejudice (1954) treats the subject well and distinguishes between prejudgements and prejudice, those that meet emotional resistance during challenge and those that can be explored rationally, “If a person is capable of rectifying his erroneous judgments in the light of new evidence he is not prejudiced”. I once opposed homosexuality and more as an evangelical Christian, it was both ongoing theological and historical study, matched with meeting sincere spiritual people of alternative sexualities, and coming out as trans and queer myself, that led me to reconsider and lose my prejudice. So activists, give the prejudging religious a chance to lose their prejudices via debate, argument and encounter, without abuse. Just as with the recent Suzanne Moore/trans activists/Julie Burchill spat which escalated out of control through invective rather than engagement, debate and mutual learning needs some degree of respect to get anywhere. Blessed are the peacemakers, which does not have to mean compromise, but just the manner of engagement, it is far more likely to win friends and influence people than all out war.