Shh, be nice, it’s the Vatican

Randy Cohen points out an oddity:

Last week the Vatican invited Anglicans who are, as The New York Times put it, “uncomfortable with female priests and openly gay bishops” to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church. If a secular institution, Wal-Mart or Microsoft, for example, made a similar offer – Tired of leadership positions being open to women and gay employees? Join us! – it would be slammed for appealing to bigotry.

To say the least – in fact it would also be in trouble with the law, and in this administration I daresay the law is likely to be enforced. But the Vatican, of course, is well known not to allow women to do the jobs that matter and to protect pedophile priests while banning adult males who would be attracted to other adult males. That’s not okay for a secular commercial enterprise but it’s quite all right for the dear old Vatican – not exactly a good thing perhaps, but absolutely not anything to make a fuss about, much less try to change. Why? Well because Jesus…erm…had twelve guys going around with him. That’s why. If women were supposed to be priests there would have been some Mariams and Esthers mixed in with the guys. There weren’t any. Therefore, that’s how things were meant to be forever.

Yet despite the risk of provoking the ire of believers, we should discuss the actions of religious institutions as we would those of all others — courteously and vigorously. This is a mark of respect, an indication that we take such ideas seriously. To slip on the kid gloves is condescending, akin to the way you would treat children or the frail or cats…My political beliefs, my ideas about social justice, are as deeply held as my critics’ religious beliefs, but I don’t ask them to treat me with reverence, only civility. They should not expect me to walk on tiptoe. It is not as if religious institutions occupy a precarious perch in American life. It is not the proclaimed Christian but the nonbeliever who is unelectable to high office in this era when politicians of every party and denomination make a public display of their faith.

Discussion should be free and open. That’s not to say it should be stupid or merely raucous or like sitting at the lunch table with the rowdy section of the third grade class – it’s just to say it should be free and open.

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