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A Shift of Tone
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 by Laramie Boyd
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        In a lawsuit recently brought against a school board, an elementary school pupil wanted to use the bathroom reserved exclusively for a certain gender, a gender of which the pupil was not a member. The pupil was criticized and bullied for that action by other students. The judge in the case ruled that the pupil could use whichever restroom the pupil chose, based on what gender the pupil was comfortable with, the one he wanted to be and felt that he was, emotionally or otherwise, regardless of what the sign on the door said, or whatever physical characteristics the pupil evidenced. And of course all of the trappings necessary for privacy of that one pupil were included in the judgment handed down, at whatever that cost. Naturally, the pupils who regularly used the restrooms according to their natural gender felt uncomfortable and, along with their parents, let that fact be known. The situation calls to mind the mandated changes in restroom facilities when women, who wanted equal treatment, were placed in the mainstream of serving their country in the Armed Forces. I wonder how many bold lettering of MEN and WOMEN on restroom doors in schools throughout the country might have to be altered? Yes, "The times they are a-changing."
       On another front, Pope Francis has come out with some interesting comments on gay priests, a "Shift of Tone" from the usual Pontifical announcements. Some have called the direction the Pope seems to be taking the "Francis Revolution." One New York Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, echoed the Pope's sentiments when he stated that a priest's homosexuality "wouldn't matter to him as long as one is leading a virtuous and chaste life." In other words, it's okay to be a gay priest, as long as you don't partake of the physical behavior that distinguishes the priest as being an active gay person. That is, no sex with another man.
       A Wall Street Journal article by Stacy Meichtry reports that neither the Catholic Church nor The Bible calls being gay sinful. The sin only appears when two priests have sex. Simply being attracted to someone of the same sex does not qualify as a sin, according to the Catholic Church. A poll in the Los Angeles Times reported that 15% of priests described themselves as homosexual or leaning towards it. John L. Allen of the National Catholic Reporter stated that the Pope believes that "if a priest is gay but not actively," that's not a problem.
       Gay-rights groups welcomed the "Shift of Tone" from the Vatican. An organization of gay and transsexual Catholics, Dignity USA, believes "This could be the opening of a door or window," but other groups are skeptical. Could the new Pope's views usher in transsexuals and bisexuals as well into the priesthood? Or even women as priests? There was also a report that there was a secret Vatican lobby of gay clerics in Rome, pulling strings inside the Church. This news was viewed by the Pope as more alarming than the fact that there were gay priests in the clergy.
       I see one potential problem with the "Shift of Tone" philosophy. What will be the reality of the easing of restrictions within the Church if there is "the opening of a door or window" that undeniably seems to occur? The idea that a priest who is gay could forever forego acting out his gay feelings is likened to a Catholic, or Protestant, or a Jew, or any religious person, being told it is okay to have a particular belief about God, but they could not behave in any way that would involve displaying any acts required or incidental to their faith, activities that define their denomination. To be gay but not have an intimate partner? To be a Catholic but not go to Mass? That would be a lot to ask of a gay person and a lot to ask of a devoutly religious person? Pope Francis spoke the words, "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" Is the Church of Rome heading in the direction of loosening more restrictions on the faithful? Is the gay priest defense by Pope Francis an "open door" to other long held beliefs being substituted by more lax rules, more in tune with the "mainstream of modern day society"? Is this the direction Catholics want their Church to take?