Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Peter stirs it up again

There is, as always, a broader issue here than the bizarre rituals of the Catholic Church in respect of candidates for canonization and whether they trump the personal wishes of a loyal son of the church to have his bones left in peace. It is even a broader issue than whether Peter is, like any decent activist, an opportunist exploiter of momentary tactical advantage. The issue is this - Cardinal Newman and Ambrose St. John were the most important people in each other's lives; they were both men who were celibate priests.

It is almost inconceivable that either of them ever had sex with anyone, including each other. They would quite possibly never have defined their feelings for each other in terms of homosexuality but only because they inhabited a moral universe in which there was a firm gulf fixed between emotional feelings that were admirable and certain sorts of physical expression which they had been taught were deeply sinful. The generations that lived before the Theory of Gravity was propounded did not float up into the air because of their ignorance - to argue that the emotional makeup of Newman and St. John was, in essence, homosexual is not to back-project our own world-view onto Victorians so long as we acknowledge that our world-view is precisely that and not theirs.

It is clear, by the way, that, whatever his practice, other eminent Victorians saw Newman's manner and his religiosity as 'unmanly' subservience to Rome - the likes of Gladstone and Kingsley would never have imputed actual 'unnatural vice' to a philosophical opponent but the buzz words that they use about the Oxford Movement are quite clearly ones which they would also have used in a more sexual context.

Here is the thing though. The Catholic Church's current position on homosexuality is deeply dishonest in that it regards it as a moral and possibly mental disorder - the Archdiocese of Westminster's exorcist regards it as produced by demonic possession. To claim equal rights for LGBT people is not only to condone sin, but to claim sickness as health. The Church will always regard us as second-class citizens and so they cannot afford to have a potential saint thought of as in any way one of us.

At the same time, since they are rational enough to, in most cases, accept that there is no 'cure' for being queer, the Church's line is that we should abstain from actually having sex. Queer people are allowed to love each other, as long as they don't do anything physical about it - in other words, whatever the mental gymnastics that would be going on, people are supposed to act EXACTLY LIKE Newman and St. John.

I think we can see the objective utter dishonesty of this.

When it is coupled with digging people up, moving their bones from where they wanted them to stay for eternity, alongside those of their life partner, and chopping up the skeleton so that bits of it can be experimentally used as inspiration for prayer in the hope of a miracle that will enable canonization, we are entitled to sneer at the sheer idiot superstition of the entire structure. When you hear, as I did on 'Sunday', this morning, the church's apologist saying that , whatever he may have said, in his will, John Henry Newman is sitting in Heaven being delighted at the chance to be recognized as a saint, the whole thing reaches a pitch of absurdity such that one is torn between fury and giggles.

Let's see. Eternal salvation is the ultimate prize. But, in addition, as long as you don't mind having your body dug up and broken up, you get the bonus prize of being recognized as a saint and adding glory to the church militant on Earth, and having churches named after you. This is a mixture of the high-falutin, and the totally bloody infantile; mysticism coupled with a weird career structure that makes the intricate procedures of the British honours system seem positively rational.

What annoys me about most organized religion is not its aspirations to promoting the public good as the religious see it - though their efforts are often weakened by half-baked prejudices of one kind or another - it is their combination of the vicious and the staggeringly comprehensively stupid.
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