Outed and unjustly branded ‘hypocrite’ by a certain Scottish newspaper some years ago, the well-loved RC parish priest preached a heartfelt but sombre sermon to the Midnight Mass congregation at my home church. Tragic events this last month, a year and a century ago cast a pall over the usual joy of the weans awaiting their presents and of the old glad to see another Christmas and hoping to see in another new year. Having mostly shot the craw from my cradle Roman Catholicism some years ago, with the arrival of Ratzinger, I have always felt at home in my home parish – although not at ease. Struggles with celibacy are nothing new in the RC community and only became newsworthy when blended cleverly with both homophobia and anti-Catholicism disguised as outrage at RC episcopal ‘whitewash’. The ‘production values’ of the liturgy, and the heating systems, may never rival those of the Episcopalian cathedral where I feel at ease – although not at home – but the parish of my infancy and youth still holds warmth for me. I participated in the music ministry, the Charismatic prayer group, the Justice & Peace group, I sold (awful) Campaign Coffee, met with Focolare and went on parish retreats and on pilgrimage, served at the altar and returned there from my sojourn with the Franciscans. This year, at my mother’s house, I constricted a crib with her handpainted icon of St Francis as backdrop and Sisters from the local FMDM house have promised my mother to pop in to see it.
So all was pretty cosy, if not exactly warm, until the end of Mass when the parish priest approached the subject of the crib – which I had helped build when it first arrived. This year the proceeds, ‘I have been told to announce’, he was careful to say, will go to the St Margaret’s Adoption Society, ‘for a legal battle they are involved in’.
Oh. The one against ‘the gays’. Like plucky little Belgium against the invading Hun, like St Joan against the English, like Christ outfacing Pilate (the former manifestly representing the Scottish RC hierarchy and the latter ‘aggressive secularism’) and not at all like a Hebrew mother entrusting her babe to a reed basket, praying for someone to care for him, even someone unlike her.
The only thing nuclear families do with consistency is explode. If it takes a village to bring up a child, why are ‘pro-life’ Roman Catholics worried about the gender of the couple who have volunteered to provide for a needy child’s primary care? This is one I’ve changed my mind on. I used to think it was about freedom of conscience, like the legal battle of midwives not to supervise abortion, or about democracy, like state-supported faith schools. Now I realise it’s about limitation of options due to prejudice: it’s not about what adoption should always be about – whatever is best for Baby.