The Census Form Religion Question and the LGBT Catholic

 

Through GCN Magazine, I asked the LGBT community members who feel that Catholicism is an untrue religion and not from God to tick the No Religion box in the Irish Census 2011 if they feel and think that in honesty they are not Catholic with a view to taking a stance in favour of LGBT rights. A letter writer called Matt has taken issue with that reasonable request. There are always blind zealots who are immune to commonsense. 


LETTER TO GCN, Dublin 1 Feb 2011, Published in April 2011 Issue
 
I feel it is important that members of the LGBT Community who are lapsed and/or unbelieving Catholics ask themselves if they want to tick the 'Roman Catholic' box in the 'Religion' section of the national census on April 10.
 
The consequences of one ticking the Roman Catholic box are as follows.
 
Firstly it assumes that one's baptism into membership of the Catholic Church was valid. Baptism is supposed to give you supernatural power to accept the Catholic faith. So, if you find that you have always been unable to do so fully then you have the right to take that as a sign that your baptism was null and void. If it works, experience will tell you. Nobody has any business assuming you are Catholic just because you were put through a baptism ceremony - its not that simple. By merely being listed as a member or listing oneself as a member, is to tacitly support the Church. To tick the box and support the Church by declaring membership is immoral when you don't believe in it - it is promoting a structure of deceit that damages people.
 
Ticking the 'Roman Catholic' box as a non-believer demeans yourself for you are not being true to you. It implies that Catholicism is a mere label - it is not. Catholicism claims that the Catholic religion is the most important business of all. It says there is no salvation outside the Church. It adds that there is just everlasting torment for those who do not join the religion they believe to be of God. It says the Church is not a human organisation but is set up and revealed by God.
 
It is Catholic teaching that God makes laws we do not understand because he alone has all knowledge and can see the benefits of these laws. It makes no sense for LGBT people to expect the Church to change its teaching against homosexuality for them. Such a move would basically be the Church showing it is a human organisation, not a divine one, it could change doctrine. It can't do that without becoming a new religion and it would not be the Church anymore. To support the Church - actively or passively - is to damage the cause of gay rights. Both religious liberals and fundamentalists believe that God knows best and that thinking is to blame for much of the harm done in the name of God.
 
The Catholic teaching of 'blame the sin, not the sinner' makes no sense as to blame the sin is to blame the sinner. The person is his or her sins for they show his or her character and thus, it is the character that is the problem. So it follows that to wish evil on a sin is to wish evil on a person. The doctrine of 'hate the sin' infers that the Church must do all it can to discourage disobedience to God and often does this by applying social pressure to prevent LGBT from living out their sexuality. No self-respecting gay person should support the Catholic Church in any sense. They should invent their own faith but it will not be Roman Catholic. Most people these days engage in 'DIY Spirituality' and instead of conforming to Church belief adopt 'a la carte' approach to religion, when handily helps them side-step the parts of religion that are quite obviously homophobic or misogynistic. In my opinion, it is best to do your own thing and forget about formal religion.
 
If you consciously abandon your Catholic faith or if it happens naturally, then you are no longer Catholic, as Church law states that apart from being baptised one must consciously embrace the Catholic faith and all its doctrine in order to be a true Catholic. Although the process of formal defection from the Catholic Church has been discontinued, Church law still recognises that one can leave the Church and cease to be Roman Catholic. If a believing Catholic converts to Protestantism, that is obviously not a sincere or genuine conversion, yet that person is no longer recognised as a Catholic. If they are not Catholics then how can the person who does not believe be Catholic even if that person goes to the sacraments and declares themselves to be Catholic? Belief is the basic requirement.
 
Ticking the box tells the state that you support the Church, which crucially means the State may formulate policies and laws that reflect the teachings of said Church. For example, a country could be reluctant to legalise gay marriage if it looks at the census results and sees that most have declared themselves Roman Catholic. The objective behind all the works of the Church is to bring people to believe in Catholic doctrine. To tick the Roman Catholic box is to is sanction public and official Church doctrine. That is why I, for one, will be ticking the 'No Religion' box on April 10.
 
And if the state ignores the Church despite most people saying they support the Church, then should it ignore the Church? If it should not, there is a principle at stake. You have called on the state not to ignore the Church. That is the principle.

REPLY TO THIS ARTICLE, LETTERS PAGE GCN, MAY 2011
 
CATHOLIC AND GAY
 
Dear Editor, I am writing in response to the opinion piece by Patrick Gormley on the back page of GCN's last edition (Issue 256). Although I fully understand the argument he is making, regarding the conflict between the Catholic Church and a homosexual orientation, I think his piece only adds fuel to the fire. Shouldn't we be campaigning for religious tolerance rather than round rejection of religion?
 
Refusing to check the box on the census seems to be to be running away from the problem and not embracing your true self at all. It is only asking people to continue polarising religion and sexual orientation.
 
Gormley's claim that "to support the Catholic Church - actively or passively - is to damage the cause of gay rights", is just as negative as some of the Catholic hierarchy's assertions about the gay community. Gormley maintains that the state will only use information about numbers of Catholics in Ireland to "formulate policies and laws that reflect the teachings of said Church", yet even as most of the population, has statistically, identified as Catholic, Ireland has been able to move on forward in LGBT rights.
 
Didn't we see the first civil partnership happen? Isn't an openly gay politician campaigning for Presidential election? Don't we have two openly gay TDs in the Dail?
 
I acknowledge that there is so much more to be done, but Gormley's proposal seems too pessimistic. No one should have to give up their faith in order to hold on to being gay. I checked the Catholic box on the census because I identify as a Catholic. I also identify as a gay man. The two are not mutually exclusive, no matter how upset I sometimes am over statements by the Pope. My religion belongs to me, please don't ask me to sacrifice it for political reasons.
 
MY REPLY TO MATT:
  
Matt lied that he fully understood the argument I was making. In fact he totally ignored the rational objections I have to LGBT supporters of the Church. Matt has a right to his opinion but that means it has to be really his opinion - his distorting and emotional reasoning come nothing near to a genuine honest opinion. We are about to see an example of how a pretended gay rights supporter can try to get support for a poisonous archaic bigoted institution. GCN had no right to publish such a distorted reply to my arguments in the public sphere. Matt doesn't know that if he has a right to his opinion he must take responsibility for anything that happens as a result of it. He could have misled some LGBT people to tick the Roman Catholic box. This was an abuse of that responsibility and we have the obligation not to let him away with it.
 
If you think you can be a true Catholic while refusing to accept the required teaching of the Church then you are prone to self-deception. Self-deception means at some level you know you are the hypocrite you are. You can only deceive yourself if you know that the beliefs are not the truth.
 
People like Matt pretend they are good Catholics while wilfully rejecting some teachings that go with the Church. Their hypocrisy pays homage to the Church in an indirect and oblique way. Somebody said that hypocrisy is homage to virtue. If you didn't agree with virtue, you would not feel the need to pretend to be virtuous. The real Catholics hold that as the Catholic Church alone is the religion that is right and authorised by God - the others are only right in so far as they agree with Catholicism - it is a virtue to be a believing and obedient Catholic. The hypocrites believe the same thing. They may disbelieve certain things and live in defiance of the Church, so they pretend to be true Catholics. They will not say, "I refuse to be a hypocrite and call myself a Catholic." The hypocrite indirectly supports the Church and pays homage to its required teachings. Matt is violating LGBT rights by being listed as a Church member. He goes into this violation deeper when he goes to Mass and even more so when he gives the Church money and more so again if he preaches that the Church is true and distributes its evangelistic literature.
 
Supporting a structure that does harm is made far more inexcusable when you do not regard that structure as teaching correct doctrine and its worsened again when the systems doctrine is an essential component of its identity. Roman Catholicism claims to be the organ of infallible and irrevocable doctrine. The structure in a sense is far more important than anything else.
 
We must remember that in society, discrimination is seen as objectively wrong. In other words, it wrong no matter who thinks its right. But religion claims it has the right to be exempted from discrimination laws. Even if the Church accepted LGBT people's lifestyle, the fact remains that the Church sees discrimination as a virtue.  When it feels like discriminating, it will discriminate.
 
A person like Matt who misrepresents a religion he says he is a part of is dishonest. The Catholic Church claims to be a voluntary organisation. If he does not agree with the ethos then he should respect religious freedom and quit the Church.

 

MATT: "I am responding to the opinion piece".
 
As we will see, it is not a response to it. Its a response to your distortion of the piece.
 
It is not up to you to decide if the piece was an opinion piece. That depends on how logical it is. I see the piece as communicating facts not opinions. Opinions are what you think is the case but which is open to dispute. To say what somebody knows to be right is just their opinion is a form of undermining them and what they say. Its a tactic used by liberal Christians all the time. Opinions have no binding force. For example, consider this. If it is my opinion that 2 + 2 = 5 and if it is yours that 2 + 2 = 4 then we must agree to disagree. We must permit the disagreement and respect it. How can life function with an outlook like that where one has no firm beliefs and claims to know nothing and worse of all that permits any old rubbish?
 
No true follower of Christianity takes the view, "I've a right to my religious opinions". That is a form of relativism that teaches that we can be sure of nothing are are only left with opinions. The pope continually condemns such relativism. Christianity claims to be a body of revealed truth not a collection of opinions. Those who think its a collection of opinions are saying its just another man-made faith. If they claim to be Christians they are claiming what is false. They are actually agreeing with the atheists and religious sceptics that Christianity is not a monolith of divine truth but of mere human speculation.
 
Relativism is behind the notion that people like Matt have that you can embrace the Catholic faith and reject parts of the faith and still be a true believer. This is ridiculous. It is like, "I trust you but....". If Matt wants to be seen as that sneaky then let him be seen as it.

 

MATT: "I fully understand the argument he is making" 
 
Matt that is an out and out lie. You have not tried to rationally answer the points I made but you ignored them. For example, I exposed the deception of the Church hypocrisy that says hate and blame the sin not the sinner. There is no sneakier form of hatred than that. It makes the hater come across as good and charming. Its the clever way to hate and promote hatred. You passed over that. Hope you take responsibility for the harm you did to impressionable gay youngsters who read your letter. Also, you don't understand Catholic doctrine. Its Jesus taught that valuing God comes before valuing people. That sets Christianity against humanitarianism . It is stupid of LGBT people to think, "The Catholic faith is about justice so if its against LGBT rights its wrong." It is silly to expect a religion that isn't humanitarian to respect LGBT rights. Even if it were to grant them its allowing would lack credibility for its allowing it for humanitarian reasons when it is not a humanitarian religion . Its only paving the way for fundamentalism.
 
You have not said if your attachment to the Church is essentially motivated by a need to belong and get good feelings from it or if you really have true faith and have considered the evidence for Christianity. Is your position about sentiment or truth? Your argument does not involve any real thinking but shows how you just care about what you want, not what is true. That is not about freedom of speech. If a person calls something a view when they feel it and don't think it they are lying to other people. Its not a view but a feeling. Freedom of speech is about freedom to express views not to disguise feelings as views. It is not about lies.
 
While you get your religious pleasures and use the Roman Catholic crutch, millions of LGBT people suffer tremendous damage because they were born into the Church.
 
It is bad enough to stay in a homophobic organisation when you really think that that organisation is God's Church. But to stay in it for sentimental or emotional reasons is disgraceful. It is really using the Church when the Church is not about having people who style themselves as members because of emotional or social reasons. Besides, the Church is not about using doctrine to make people feel good about helping them to believe and remain believing doctrines that are said to be the truth. Your support of the Church is not real support at all. If a person really supports an organisation, that person will not work against or protest against its official teaching and especially when that organisation claims to be an infallible teacher guided by God. All the person that does this is really trying to do is go apply pressure so that it will give up its identity. He or she by claiming to be a member is really misrepresenting the meaning and teaching of that religion.
 
Intuition and instinct tell us that we should not be in an organisation that stands for what is against our highest principles. Matt feels this which is why he needs to resort to exaggeration and distortion to debunk the article.