July 1, 2012
It is rare for Orthodox Christians to praise the actions of the Roman Catholic Church, and also rare for a gay man to praise the actions of a Roman Catholic priest, but here I go…
The Roman Catholic Church is well known for its anti-gay rhetoric. Officially the Catholic Church views all sexual acts committed by homosexuals as contrary to natural law and the gay people who act upon their desires as “disordered.” From the authorized catechism of the Catholic Church: “Homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, Article Six, Paragraph 2357) Believing as the Catholic Church does, it is very common for that Church to advocate for and fund government laws and measures that are anti-gay.
Recently a Roman Catholic hero has emerged. Father Bob Pierson, a Roman Catholic priest, who identifies himself as gay, issued a fervent plea in support of marriage equality in Minnesota. (See link to article and video below). Father Bob not only criticized the Roman Church for supporting the law banning gay marriage, but he also encouraged his fellow Catholics to vote against the proposed law, which would ban gay marriage, in the upcoming elections. Father Bob defends his call to action by adhering to the official theology of the Catholic Church in particular, man’s divinely inspired conscience. Again, from the catechism of the Catholic Church: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment…For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God… His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, Article Six, Paragraph 1776) By following his conscience, the inner voice inscribed by God, Father Bob will not vote to enshrine bigotry in the Minnesota constitution.
A hero is defined as someone “who exhibits extraordinary bravery, firmness, fortitude, or greatness of soul, a man admired and venerated for his achievements and noble qualities.” (Oxford English Dictionary) How else would one describe a priest willing to stand up and publically voice his opposition to the official stance of his hierarchy? What else would one call a priest who is willing to risk public ridicule and ecclesiastical sanctions for abiding by his conscience? What other word might describe a pastor willing to defend the gay congregants in his parish in the face of massive opposition and verbal abuse from the hierarchy of the church? Father Bob Pierson is indeed a hero!
Is there an Orthodox hero on such matters? There does not seem to be one among the Orthodox bishops and priests who live in Minnesota. However, there is the opposite of a hero, an Orthodox villain, working against equality for gay people. On the other side of the world, an Orthodox prelate, Archbishop Stylianos, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Australia, is working arduously to deny gay people equal rights. On this matter he is a villain. The Archdiocese, at the direction of the Archbishop, has started a campaign with a dedicated website to collect signatures on a petition directed at influencing the Australian government to defeat legislation that would legalize the marriage of same-sex couples. In the words of Archbishop Stylianos, “the proposed alteration to the traditional form of marriage is diametrically against the sacredness of marriage and of the family, as taught by the Christian faith and Greek Orthodox Tradition.” Will the Archbishop be petitioning for a law to be passed in Australia that only baptized Christians may marry each other? That is also part of “Greek Orthodox Tradition” and I might add, part of Church law.
The Orthodox Episcopal Assembly of Oceania has called for the defeat of the proposed legislation. Their main argument is that “marriage is regarded above all as a sacrament that has been instituted by God who created man and woman in His own image and likeness.” I would like to tell the bishops that gay men and women are also created in the image and likeness of God and already receive all of the sacraments and mysteries of the church, accept one – marriage. To deny them the grace that comes from Christ in the mystery of marriage is to deny God, who created gay men and women in His image. The bishops continue with their argument: “There is strong biblical basis for this view and the position of the Orthodox Church worldwide can never depart from the teaching of Holy Scripture.” I guess that the bishops will also have to follow I Timothy 3:2 “the bishop must be the husband of one wife.” If you live in Australia, call your government representative, the bishops are in violation of Holy Scripture.