Friday, December 02, 2005

"Interpretive Dance"?

Michael Sean Winters -- who wrote a memorable piece for Slate a while back -- returns to the well with a piece for The New Republic on "How to Ignore the Vatican's Ruling on Gay Priests"....
[S]ome conservatives floated their own willful misrepresentations of the text. Bishop William Lori, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, asserted that the document "is not, as some have concluded, a response to the sexual abuse crisis in the United States," although the text claims its proscriptions are "made more urgent by the current situation." Does the bishop think the "current situation" is a reference to Hurricane Katrina?
Observant readers will remember that Winters is quite the Lori fan.
There is a reason this kind of document is open to such widely divergent interpretations by Church leaders: It was designed that way. Americans raised in a pragmatic political culture like to have things spelled out; we want terms defined and no loose ends. But Vatican documents are designed to achieve a studied ambiguity. Besides, as a priest explained to me, "Rome always wants to be able to say in 50 years, 'Oh, well we never meant that!'"

To take an example from the text, the last sentence of the document asserts that these norms prohibiting homosexuals are needed to guarantee that the Church has "suitable priests." The obvious implication is that a homosexual can't be a suitable priest--which is very offensive to the many fine gay priests and bishops currently serving the Church. But, when I raised this point with a Vatican official, he said that same sentence provided an out: "If a bishop ordains a gay man and someone questions him on it, he can reply that he found him a 'suitable' candidate and that was what the Vatican document was all about."
He's just sayin'....