Radio Tok Fm’s interest in our reflections continues, and we won’t conceal the fact it flatters us a lot, even though it should be added that Pradusz’s yesterday conversation with Anna Laszuk had a very sad reason. On March 5th, after a long cancer battle, died Daria Chmielewska, the founderess of the website www.lesbijka.net, participant of the action “Nienawiść Boli” (“Hatred Hurts”). The mass for the departed was celebrated on March 11th, at which the priest considered it necessary to make it clear that love between two women is a “sinful one”. Some friends of Daria Chmielewska left the church during the sermon. Below we posted the conversation in Radio Tok Fm and its transcript. We used the transcript the radio published on its website after completing it a bit, while keeping the somewhat “unpolished”, spoken style.
Anna Laszuk: Komentarze Radia Tok Fm, Anna Laszuk, with us now is Jaroslaw Kubacki, theologian, pastor, co-author of the blog Don’t Shoot the Prophet. Good morning.
Jarosław Kubacki: Good Morning.
– I would like to talk with you about how various churches treat the homosexual persons and homosexuality itself, or generally other different sexual orientations. As I was told, you are an Anglican in the Old Catholic Church.
– Yes, perhaps that’s a little bit complicated, but I define myself that way, indeed.
– You are also a minister, or a pastor, and I am very curious about your perspective, because in the Roman Catholic Church in Poland it’s usually treated in the same way… The reason for our conversation is the event from a few days ago, when lesbian activists from Warsaw wanted to pay the last tribute to their departed friend, and at the mass they heard the priest preaching an ex cathedra sermon, which hurt their feelings. I’m curious, what do you think about it?
– Let’s start by saying that I know that story only from Facebook and the links posted on it that I followed. But what I read fills me with utter shame, as a Christian, as a minister. It was a blow I myself was struck by: because a funeral, the moment of saying goodbye, is a moment when it is our obligation, and for believers also an obligation of faith, a religious one, to pay tribute to the departed. This doesn’t mean that we can say only good things about that person, since people are multidimensional. It happened also to me that I had to lead funerals at which I really knew that unless I mention some aspects of the departed in a critical manner, I would be simply unfaithful to myself. Yet there is no human being you can talk about only in a critical manner, and I will say something some listeners may be surprised by. My first thought when I started to read about what happened during Daria Chmielewska’s funeral, was that the Roman Catholic Church very often accuses the contemporary people of being obsessed with sex – that all they think about is sex.
– That’s correct.
– I have to say I’ve never met a person obsessed with sex. I know such a community, though, one completely obsessed with sex, and that is the Roman Catholic Church. If at the funeral of a woman who throughout her whole life had been trying to do something for human dignity, tolerance, understanding, rights, and against discrimination, the only thing that comes to one’s mind is to expose who she had been sleeping with, this clearly means someone has an obsession…
– I wonder were you were brought up, since as a believer you have such an unequivocally strong opinion. I have the impression that most clergymen living in Poland, brought up in this ideological and religious atmosphere, would be surprised by your words…
– I was brought up in Poland. But the fact we are talking over the phone, and that at the moment I am, actually have been for several years, in Holland, has also something to do with those opinions, for in Poland, regardless of the church or religious tradition, the attitude towards the homosexual persons is more or less negative. There are a few Christian communities in Poland which look at that in a different way. As a young, angry theology student I tried to change something (when you’re in your twenties it seems as if you could change a lot). I didn’t succeed. It was one of the reasons I left Poland, so I am aware the situation there is difficult. But it’s not only a Polish specialty, nor a Roman Catholic one. A few weeks ago a gay activist David Kato was murdered in Uganda, which we wrote about on our blog. At his funeral happened exactly the same thing.
– Poland and Uganda side by side…
– That’s a part of the truth. But we have to face this truth. Similarities, naturally only in some respects, do exist. After all, it was a murder there, and in Poland people aren’t usually murdered because of their sexual orientation, fortunately. But the attitude of the clergy, the church, the church institution is very similar.
– How does it look like in Holland?
– Holland is a denominational mosaic. 50 percent of the Dutch don’t belong to any church at all. The rest belong to very diverse groups. I belong to the Old Catholic Church, because if you are an Anglican, you can find your place in the Old Catholic Church, which is in full communion with the Anglican Church. The Old Catholic Church at a certain moment became inclusive for the homosexual, bisexual and transgender persons. That inclusiveness came from the conviction that it’s not the role of the church to make decisive judgments here. Opinions differ, also within the church, and therefore the church doesn’t have the right to speak ex cathedra.
– It’s unbelievable that there are churches which can deny themselves such a right. The Roman Catholic Church isn’t one of them.
– In every church there is a tendency to absolutize itself. A friend of mine, a Roman Catholic Priest and a Dominican friar, used to say: “Jesus came into the earth, preached the coming of the Kingdom of God, but what came then was the church”. And so the church has the tendency to see itself as if it already were the Kingdom of God, as if it already knew everything, as if everything was already fulfilled and generally OK, and the only thing left was to teach the world immersed in sin and promiscuity, always because we know better. But it’s not how it is. The church is on a journey, and must have the courage to admit it is, and so may also change its views on certain issues. Let’s say for example that, with the Bible in their hands, people were justifying slavery, to name one thing. These are facts.
– And there were suitable quotations to affirm it?
– Yes of course! What is more, I used to examine the discussions on that issue going on at the turn of the 18th and 19th century. The very same arguments were used: “Do you want to be wiser than the Bible, the Word of God? God allows for slavery in the Holy Scriptures, so how great is your vanity that you think you can say anything sensible about it, different from what is written in the Word of God?” It’s a story that repeats itself almost completely. That’s why the church must have the courage to admit that it changes its views, that it’s on a journey.
– But all who think that way leave the Polish church or go to other countries.
– You can’t oblige anyone to stay for a longer time in an atmosphere unfriendly to him. You can have a grudge against yourself, and I too have it sometimes, that I, even not being a Catholic (for I was a Protestant in Poland, a member of the Reformed Church, by the way one of the most open churches in the Polish circumstances), in a certain moment made that decision. You can blame me, and I sometimes blame myself. But on the other hand everyone is responsible for what they hold in their hands, for that piece of life. In a certain moment you reach a limit and say to yourself: “No, I won’t continuously beat my head against the same wall”. If one has a strong enough head, that’s great, I really respect it, but being responsible for myself, it happens so that I look for an environment which would be friendlier, and where I could, I think, do many good things.
Nowadays it’s on the internet that the exchange of ideas takes place. You can’t isolate any place any more.
– And may a revolution in the Catholic Church take place because of the internet?
– And do you really think the Catholic Church is different from any other spiritual dictate? I think it’s very similar in this respect. What I mean here in the first place is the institution, because I wouldn’t like to insult the people in the Roman Catholic Church, sometimes truly great, brilliant people, yet the institution is based upon the rule of spiritual dictate. But the history teaches us that when people start to gather, in either the real life and the virtual reality, and really exchange views, the spiritual dictate has to change some time. Perhaps not fall immediately, but change, and I really believe it. Only, you know, there is something strange about the Polish people, because they will complain on those priests, and then…
– … go tamed to the vicar about a wedding, a funeral, kiss his hand, and so on. But I prefer the more optimistic conclusion, which is that change is nonetheless possible. Thank you very much.