The new set of guidelines on who may or may not speak in Catholic institutions in Hawaii is, we are told, intended to deny individuals with dissenting opinions “a platform for error and scandal.” Even non-Catholic speakers must “respect and support the philosophy and teachings of the Catholic Church.”
It made me wonder: would Jesus have been allowed to speak? After all, he bucked the rules big time.
He was a repeat offender when it came to befriending outcasts and foreigners. Tax collectors, lepers, the blind, the crippled, women of ill-repute. Samaritans and Roman officers. He even took Mary’s side when she said, “The hell with the housekeeping. I’d rather sit and chat with you, Jesus!” (Though I did think she could have given Martha a hand—but that’s another issue altogether.)
Have you read the Pope’s Maundy Thursday scolding to all “disobedient” priests? It left little room for what St.Paul called the “testimony of conscience.”
I’d say Jesus would be in BIG TROUBLE if he was looking to get a speaking engagement or two with Catholic institutions. No way he’d be invited to speak. Not even on the things he knew about intimately—like social justice, standing up for the oppressed, challenging the religious hierarchy, uttering inconvenient truths. People in pain trumped the rules about the Sabbath every time for J.C. He lived a life of radical disobedience.
It is deeply troubling to read about “guidelines” to qualify speakers before he or she can stand before others in the community to speak on any subject. See, once again that makes me think of Jesus inviting “he who is without sin” to throw the first stone … and they turned and walked away. Today, we the Church are told by those who presided over the still unfolding sad, sordid spectacle of sexual abuse that they will decide if our souls are clean enough to speak in public on any subject without “error and scandal.” Huh?
The newly “tweaked” guidelines in Hawaii would presumably disqualify parents of LGBT children and LGBT families fighting for equal communion in the Church; those who support the ordination of women; those who worked to help enact the civil unions law; those who believe that women, like men, should make their own healthcare decisions.
The list could get very long. A teacher could presumably be prohibited from teaching mathematics at a Catholic school if his use of contraception, say, was made known to the diocese?
By this kind of reasoning the Christian missionaries would never have had a platform to promote beliefs and practices amongst peoples with very different cultures around the globe. By the same reasoning, the Hawaiians would never have welcomed Christian missionaries who came bearing a message that ran counter to Hawaiian belief and practice. And yet they did.
When fundamentalist, authoritarian regimes in far off places silence their people and listen only to their own, institutional voice, and its echo, we wrinkle our noses in distaste. Sometimes we who believe in free speech even go to war with them.
For years Catholics have been told that “we,” the people in the pews, are the Church. We are the basic Christian community (BCC), living the church where we are, as we are. If we cannot speak of and from our brokenness, our all too imperfect lives, and our intimations of the Divine, from which well do we draw? This Catholic tradition that we—dissidents and bishops alike–hold dear is fed by the waters of all our separate streams of being. As we re-enact Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, we remember one again that we were called to love one another, not to judge one another.
Perhaps as we wait for Easter we might be blessed by the light that will lead us out of this scary tunnel of darkness.