Tag Archives: children

The “best interests of children” is not best determined by bishops.

Did anyone notice I didn’t post a blog last week? Now I have a sermon (ok a “reflection” because only boys can write “sermons” in my church) to write and I feel on the one hand full of the hope and happiness of what I want to say about the readings this week coming, and on the other point blocked up…theologically constipated as though last week I didn’t manage to get out what I needed to say and I am now sick with it. It will probably lack coherency but I will cry and I will write it.

What I wanted to say, I started writing a few times in a few different ways. I couldn’t come into the part of the liturgy I was “due” to write about because I feel profoundly angry and sad and resentful at the church and sort of not in synch with them. But it’s complicated because I am absolutely in synch with my lovely community who affirm me and challenge me and act like sisters and mothers and such to me.

I am still finding it hard to write about my anger and pain but the whole thing was compounded today by what I view to be a HUGE piece of hypocrisy. This (trigger warning, this has made people depressed and even suicidal so be careful if you want to read it closely).

In a nutshell, this document from the Catholic bishops of Australia paints gay marriage as a threat to family life and to children. Yep! Apparently they don’t see anything tragically ironic about talking about “the wellbeing of children”p6 and “the best interests of children” p8 and the rest of the time wax eloquent about the wonderful and important place of mothers and fathers (which with qualifications I agree with) and generally how much we should all celebrate the huge “difference” between men and women and the lovely celebration of gender binary that marriage is meant to be and sorry gay people you miss out with your “friendships” that are not as awesome as all the “differences” that people can only “enjoy” in their “masculinity” and “femininity”.

Speaking for myself I never have enjoyed the “femininity” which has been imposed on me nor the “masculinity” of men and that view of heterosexuality makes it seem toxic to me even before they use it as an excuse to exclude homosexual people from having their families recognised as “real”. In the view of marriage where men and women are opposites and are forced to take opposite roles I think few women and not all men can be said to “enjoy” their difference which can easily become a divide of misunderstanding and exploitation. I am not saying all marriages between a man and a woman are necessarily unhealthy, but not all are based on an essential and universal “difference” either!

But also if mothers and fathers are so important for a child’s well-being, why does the church have such a poor history of listening to them. Why can’t mothers and fathers in the church get together and produce a document on what is best for children, rather than a bunch of supposedly celibate men who have neither wives nor children themselves. Why in the past when mothers complained about their children being terrorised and abused in various ways by the clergy did the church not recognise their now supposedly God-given role in the centre of their child’s life and dismissed them as “hysterical”.

To me this document is very offensive coming from the same church that STILL refuses to confront the extent of the organised networks of child-abusers, to have any humility or reflexivity about what needs to be changed or even to reach out to LISTEN or give healing to victims of horrendous abuse.

I have prayed a lot about “Cardinal” George Pell this week. I feel very worried for him, he seems intending on appearing a soulless, heartless husk of a man. Can anyone really be so? I pray he will break down and feel pain to his core at what he has done. I don’t feel any sort of love for him whatsoever, only for his victims but I feel that he must be a human being somewhere in there…there must once have been a vulnerable little boy and hopefully even a well-meaning man in there though it is hard to see traces of that now (and I just can’t).

But he is a bishop of the Catholic church. He has long been too cowardly or arrogant to face the charges of child abuse and has made excuses to stay away all while hair-splitting about what Catholics are and aren’t allowed to believe.

The very idea of bishops lacks integrity while the church still tries to pretend the horrendous abuse never happened and then they try to tell us “gay marriage” is a threat to the safety and emotional and sexual health of children and families? They can say all this without shame? They can continue to persecute? I know a lot of lesbian couples who are bringing up children, have met at least one gay man who fosters with a lot of love and know others- lesbians and gays who childlessly live what seems to me to be a very Christlike and beautiful example of “two become one” in a love that flows between the couple and so out to the world in generosity and hope. Yes there are some heterosexual couples too who inspire in this way. My point is that this sort of love has NOTHING to do with the gender binary and everything to do with being radically committed in love and ready to make a long-term project of collaboration that affects every aspect of life (career, friendships, creativity, politics, faith).

But anyway whether gay marriage is “right” and “wrong” a bunch of bishops don’t get to make that decision citing the interests of children, when they can’t even face the widespread abuse of children perpetuated by some of them and ignored by others.

Let us pray. (Ineptly, inelegantly, but with great need)

Holy Spirit, by the fruits of our lives people may see whether or not our words are full of you. Teach us to listen carefully- to children and parents and lovers and friends who respect and nurture each other or who ask for our protection. Teach us to listen to the children and parents and lovers and friends who love and nurture each other and who are vulnerable or call to us for protection and justice. Teach us not to give too much heed to the voices of power that would silence your little ones or hide behind overly neat and structured hierarchies that allow abuse.

Sophia you danced with God “like a little child” from the beginning and were embodied in the baby-toddler-boy-youth Jesus who grew to adulthood in a less than respectable family. Give us grace to dance with all who truly love and to celebrate and protect the young and the hopeful, the old and the hurting.

Creator God you always queer our expectations and upset our ideas of “normal” in the breadth of diversity that is your creation. Help us to recover from our need to limit and control others for the sake of a “church” that we have built to consolidate human power not as a centre of your influence among us.

Make us wholly committed to your dream and your dance of love. Paint rainbows with us. Give healing to those who have been harmed. Give voice to those who cry out to you. Give us ears to hear the call to healing and peace.

Help us get through this time in history. Show me how to carry this stone in my heart and gut.

Loving God hear our tears.

 

 

A lesson in reconciliation

I am one of those people that finds it hard to forgive. I find it hard to let go in general, of things good and bad and especially of control and predictability. To forgive is to allow the unpredictable in your life, to submit to the possibility that you have not foreseen and are not equipped for.

Recently I arrived into a room where I was working with 2 year olds. I was greeted by a little girl in tears. “She’s just been bitten” said one of my colleagues. There was a mark on the child’s hand and she was clearly in a lot of pain. She followed me quietly, showing me the mark again and again with tears flowing down her face. I comforted her of course but I could not make the terrible even not have happened. The child was very clear about wanting me to know that she was bitten, that there was a mark there and that it hurt. It seemed like all I could do was travel those facts with her again and again and allow her to stick close to me.

As the day progressed, a group of us- children and educators went for a walk to a beautiful garden nearby. The bitten child and the child who bit her both were there. In the beautiful garden we were all engrossed in the birds on the grass and in the trees, the flowers, the fish in the fountain, important things like that. We showed each other things, ran, rolled in the freshly grass until some of us were covered in green stains. The inevitable happened, another child fell and hurt her finger. She was comforted by one of the educators, assisted by all the children and suddenly the child who had been bitten ran up to the child who had bitten her and took her hand.

“Please don’t ever bite me again, is that ok?” she said in a half-stern, half-caring voice. I held my breath as it seemed almost rude of her to refer to the event so long after it had happened. The other child looked her in the eye, “Yes” she said calmly.

“Thank you very much” said the first child and it was as if the air sparkled, that was a definite sacramental moment and I caught the eye of another educator. Something amazing had happened. The two children hugged and ran off together in the friendliest possible way. These children were two, how did they know to keep it all so simple and so sacred?

The process of reconciliation in this true event was actually quite complex. The child needed the wisdom to move away and get comfort and acknowledgement, she needed a chance to feel a bit stronger in herself. She needed joy to have happened (play in the garden). Then as she approached the other child to heal the rift between them (notice it was the one who had been injured who began the reconciliation process) she did not make light of what had happened, but nor did she demand any sort of emotional show about it. She didn’t demand an apology, punishment or compensation from the other child she simply made it clear that she did not want to be bitten again. The other child appeared to have understood (at least in that moment) the need to have a better-care for their relationship. Both of them expressed a simple faith in the possibility of a better “from now on” and both were healed by the encounter.

Perhaps this is all too obvious to state, I cannot seem to find words to express how profound it was to witness it. I do not think I forgive so ungrudgingly  or with so much honesty (I probably try to avoid talking about it unless I am laying blame). I do not think I take the hand of the person I want to forgive before they have even given me any sign of possibility. I do not think I (even metaphorically) roll in the grass and get grass-stains with the ones I feel injured by. And do I so simply without guilt or excuses agree to do better when I have hurt someone? Often not.

I did not say a word to those two children about their encounter, they had already used all possible words and few of them at that. But I was challenged to try to believe that life won’t “ever bite me again” that the church “won’t ever bite me again” that we will understand each other and move on.

So mote it be.