Saturday, March 10, 2012

Catholic v. Catholic: Marriage Equality Debate (and Battles) Continue

And on the more ignorance, less bliss front (I'm piggybacking here on what I just posted about Krugman's latest): readers will be shocked to learn (not!) that His Holiness has once again attacked same-sex marriage--in this case, yesterday in remarks he made in an address to Catholic bishops from Minnesota and the Dakotas.  He specifically addressed the situation in the U.S., where momentum for the recognition of civil marriage for same-sex couples continues to grow.

Pope Benedict does not approve of said momentum, since "sexual difference cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage."  Because he says so.  And so the Catholic church in the U.S. must carry on with its "reasoned defense of marriage."

I had somehow not realized that that was what we had been hearing from Catholic dioceses and anti-gay Catholic organizations in the U.S.--a "reasoned defense."  As Marc Mutty (who spearheaded the Catholic campaign in Maine that stripped the right of civil marriage from gay citizens of that state several years ago) stated last April, reason was never the goal of the Catholic diocese of Maine in campaigning against gay marriage.

Mutty revealed that he had qualms of conscience about what the diocese of Maine did precisely because it  did not employ reason to convince people of "the" Catholic position, but because it mounted a campaign of lies to elicit fear and prejudice among Maine citizens.  And it did so while expending a huge amount of money to buy slickly produced radio and television and newspaper to foment discrimination, using money sent from dioceses around the nation which ordinary Catholics had donated to their parish churches never dreaming their donations would be used for this anti-gay political purpose. 

Reason has never had much at all to do with the defense of "traditional" marriage mounted by Catholic officials in the U.S. in the past decade.  These campaigns have had everything to do with expending lavish amounts of money from unnamed donors (and therefore dirty money, since its source is never revealed, and those using these donations would not hesitate to reveal their source if the money were clean money) to engage in disinformation campaigns, campaigns deliberately spreading lies about fellow human beings, in order to foster fear and prejudice.

And this is happening not only in the U.S.: look at James Peron's incisive analysis at Huffington Post today of the deceptive tactics the group Catholic Voices has just used in the U.K. to cook up polling data that appears to demonstrate overwhelming opposition to same-sex marriage in Britain.  As Peron notes, Catholic Voices has taken a leaf from its anti-gay sister organizations in the U.S., the National Organization for Marriage and the LDS church (through its Deseret News) to create a polling instrument asking misleading questions and targeting demographic groups more likely than any others to support "traditional" marriage, and is now seeking to peddle its polling results as an accurate poll of U.K. citizens in general.

If "reason" is what it's all about, why this need to resort to deception and lies?  A position that is compellingly and correctly moral does not require lies to bolster it.  (And I still have tremendous difficulty getting my mind around the fact that Catholic Voices is using Austen Ivereigh!, of all folks, to carry the banner for traditional Catholic marital values in this anti-gay campaign.)

Why these stepped-up campaigns against marriage equality in the U.S. and elsewhere right now?  As Father Geoff Farrow points out at his blog site recently, there's behind-the-scenes intraecclesial chatter about the future of the church, when the aging pope receives his heavenly reward.  And the crop of current papabili* want to be absolutely sure they are on the right side of the papal kingmakers in the Curia when the time comes to elect a new pope.

What better way to get on the right side of the Curia than 1) to bring yet more gay and lesbian scalps to Rome and 2) demonstrate that one can make the president of the U.S. bow and scrape to the Catholic hierarchy over the matter of contraception?  And so the race is on, and the papal crown, hidden at the bottom of the . . . well, my mind thinks of a cesspool or a manure pile . . .  is the award for winning said race.

As a result of all of this immoral and unChristian and anti-gospel behavior, more and more Catholics walk away every day, and I think Tom Beaudoin is absolutely correct to argue in a current posting at America for which he's being violently attacked by the Catholic right that we now find ourselves in a "moment" in American Catholicism in which it is imperative that we ask why increasing numbers of American Catholics frame their relationship with the church as an abusive marriage, and are choosing to distance themselves from the abusive spouse.

Beaudoin is responding to an ad that the Freedom from Religion Foundation recently placed in the New York Times, and the Catholic right is now, as usual, up in arms about purported anti-Catholic bias in the American media and the New York Times, in particular.

But not one bit of that misplaced defensive rage is going to alter the fact that people are walking away in droves, and that they are doing so precisely because they have come to the conclusion that the Catholic church is now an abusive spouse and they are the object of the spouse's abuse.  In fact, all the misplaced defensive rage will accomplish is only to alienate more fellow Catholics.

And so it is hard to read this defensive rage as truly catholic in its orientation and concerns, and much easier to read Beaudoin's proposal--let's look at what's happening, ask why it's happening, and see how we might respond to it--as authentically catholic.

P.S. For excellent background articles about the marriage equality conversation and the Catholic church  in the U.K., see Terry Weldon's Queering the Church blog here, here, here, here, and here.

*My spell checker just hilariously rendered that word as "papa bile." 

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