It should have been a good week for the Catholic Church in this part of the world. Pope Francis made his first visit to the United States at the end of September, touring Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia. The US celebrated as only America can: huge cheering crowds were outnumbered only by the amount of Pope Francis souvenirs available for purchase. Pope cheese, pope beer, pope bobbleheads, even pope emojis were available for purchase.
But despite speeches praising immigrants, advocating for climate change action and decrying inequality, his visit was overshadowed by top recent newsmaker Kim Davis. You might remember Davis as the Kentucky county clerk who recently spent a few nights in jail. Davis crowed to the media that she had a “private audience” with the Pope, and that he had endorsed her multiple divorces—ahem—and her political refusal to issue marriage licences.
The media ate this up before the Vatican began to do some hasty back-tracking. (Although I didn’t really see anyone question why Davis, a Protestant, would give two shits what the Pope thinks anyway.) His Holiness did not have a private audience with Davis, they said. She was among a throng of dozens invited to greet him as he left for New York, they said. Also, they said, the Pope did have a private audience and it was with a gay person. (And the Hellmouth didn’t open, evidently.)
But before the Vatican could really take a breath—and with this meeting-with-a-gay-person still in the news—a glittery gay bomb was dropped in the Vatican’s lap. Namely, Father Krzysztof Olaf Charamsa, a Polish priest who works for the Vatican, held a press conference with his partner Edouard to announce that he was gay. Charamsa wanted to remind everyone that the majority of priests are gay and the Church just needs to get over its homophobia. I’m sure all sorts of conservatives now imagine that the Vatican is host to nightly gay sex orgies.
Closer to home, our own mini-Vatican, in the form of the Edmonton Catholic School Board, continues to make headlines. Specifically, last week an internal set of guidelines for trans* students was leaked. The document begins with this:
“The Catholic Church teaches that the body and soul are so united that one’s gender identity is rooted in one’s biological identity as male and female. In Catholic teaching, one’s sexual identity is considered ‘a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman.’ It is the conviction of the Catholic Church that genetically, anatomically and chromosomally, the body reveals the divine plan, and that humans are ‘obliged to regard [their bodies] as good and to hold [them] in honour since God has created [them].’ Therefore, to attempt ‘gender transitioning’ is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
I’m confused. They say gender transitioning is a no-no, but transubstantiation—the belief that the bread and wine one consumes at communion is literally the body and blood of Jesus—is somehow OK? A body can transition between spirit and flesh and bread, but not between genders?
The rest of the guidelines leave lots of room for individual principals to make local decisions and speaks of responding to requests for accommodation with “sensitivity, respect, mercy and compassion.” Which is fine, I suppose—but honestly this feels like more religious double-speak. Hate the sin and not the sinner, they say of gays. Have compassion for trans* students, but don’t forget they are an insult to God’s plan.
This is bigotry designed as compassion and it helps no one.V