Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Continued (Non-) Conversation of Centrist Catholics with Their Gay Brothers and Sisters

In one of the tortured conversations about gay human beings and our lives that has been occurring recently at one of the centrist Catholic blog sites, a contributor has just praised another contributor to the discussion as a "loving, thoughtful, faithful" Catholic.  I don't know the person being praised.  I've been struck by the thoughtfulness and moderation of his contributions to the blog in question, though he's a Catholic of a different stripe than I am.

He's a conservative Catholic, and one connected to the church at an institutional level different than my own connection, since he is, I believe, a deacon.  And so perhaps he's a faithful Catholic, whereas I am not.

Still, reading this exchange recently made me think back to the time this past June when I stopped contributing to discussion at this centrist Catholic site, because I had begun to realize (all over again) that my contributions, as an openly gay Catholic, are not welcome there, whereas the contributions of Catholics of the right, including rabidly and openly homophobic ones, are freely welcomed in the same discussion space.

When I posted a note to the blog site saying I was bowing out of the conversation there, the contributor recently praised as a "loving, thoughtful, faithful" Catholic kindly invited me to email him and continue the conversation with him through email.  I did so.  

On 27 June, I emailed the person in question the following email:

Dear -----,

I'm emailing to thank you for the invitation to contact you and continue discussing the issues we've discussed recently on the ----- blog.  It's generous of you to issue the invitation, and kind to imply that I might have something you'd care to hear.

I have to say that I'm not persuaded, though, that the conversation is at all fruitful.  I don't see how it possibly can be, when you occupy the ownership space in the discussion, and when the owners of the Catholic space have been intent, in recent years, to inform fellow Catholics who are openly gay that we have only grudging space, at best, in the space now defined as authentic Catholicism.

These dialogues, in which someone who had assumed he belongs must suddenly justify his existence and his right to belong: they aren't ever very happy dialogues, are they?  And particularly not when those doing the excluding claim that they are doing so on the basis of warrants about love, inclusion, communion, and catholicity.  In such cases, there are no longer any meaningful moral grounds on which to discuss behavior that is the opposite of those warrants.

And there's a tremendous amount of room to do harm to people already harmed by their exclusion and denigration and the demand that they keep justifying--over and over, ad nauseam and seemingly without any effect at all--their existence and right to count. 

If I'm not mistaken, we were discussing something of this sort in a previous thread when you asked me about the issue of excluding folks from communion, and I replied to your question.  To the best of my knowledge, you then didn't respond to my reply.

Which is to say: when those participating in these conversations provide what appears to them to be concrete, compelling evidence of the dynamics of exclusion they're asked to address all over again in another thread--as if they hadn't ever spoken, or as if their voices haven't counted in the first place, and as if the evidence they've offered is so contemptible as to be beneath notice--then why would one want to keep on subjecting himself or herself to such a self-defeating dialogue?

I have concluded that the ----- [i.e., particular blog in question] club is perfect in ways that I can't quite grasp, and that I don't belong to it.  I can't, because its perfection eludes me, while it dazzles me.  The church in which I live and move seems far removed from that hyper-enclosed clubby perfection, in which Cabots speak only to Lodges.  If functions at a far more mundane and far less perfect level.  My club contains people whom the ----- club, in its perfection, would not dream of admitting or listening to.  They couldn't even begin to understand, for one thing, the dazzling repartee, the layers of dense closely reasoned argument heaped one on another.

Most of them wouldn't understand the inability of Catholics engaged in maintaining such a tight, perfect club and talking with such sweetly reasoned objectivity and rationality even to see the human beings who, my club seems (erroneously) to think of as the reason for the Catholic enterprise itself.  The reason for the club called Catholicism.

I hope this does not sound peevish.  My intent is anything but that.  It's to thank you for your generosity in inviting further discussion, and your humanity in acknowledging that, imperfect as I am, I might have reason to care quite a bit about these issues.  But it's also to say that I don't see a future for a dialogue in which some people own the titles of perfection, and saved, and truth-bearer, while others continue to be asked to justify their right even to approach, with their sordid humanity, perfection, salvation, and truth.

From an humble distance.

Thank you for the blessing you offer in your recent comment to me, which I return to you--and I appreciate you,

Bill L.

I never received an acknowledgment of the email, or a response.  Perhaps the person to whom I sent it didn't receive it.  Perhaps he thought my email was slamming the door on any further conversation with him, though I considered it a response that both sought to be totally honest (as a precondition for meaningful conversation), and to accept his invitation to continue the dialogue.

If the person to whom I sent the email considered it a slap in the face, he might at least have emailed back to say to me he had gotten my email, and that he didn't see any opportunity for meaningful dialogue with me.  I have concluded that he probably did receive my email and simply chose not to respond to it.

And if that's the case, then I can't say his response has in any way dispelled my very strong considered sense, after one encounter following another similar to this, that loving, thoughtful, and faithful Catholics seem to find it rather easy simply to pretend that their openly gay brothers and sisters just don't exist.

Many Catholics, including those at the intellectual center of the church, seem to take it for granted that their bona fide catholicity remains intact even when they treat an entire group of human beings (who happen to experience oppression) as if we're not there.  As if we have nothing to say.  As if our voices matter for nothing.

And, from the position of non-personhood to which these loving, thoughtful, and faithful Catholics relegate me and their other gay brothers and sisters, I have to continue asking: is it really loving to do this to one's brothers and sisters?  To treat us as if we aren't there?  Or as if the price we must pay to be considered a part of the conversation is to avow a defectiveness and sinfulness we do not intend to avow, since the worth of our very humanity is at stake in that avowal?

Is this really faithful catholicity?  I suppose if it is, I don't want much part of it, since I understand faithful catholicity as all about something else--as about inclusion and not exclusion.

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