Monday, July 9, 2012

Frank Cocozzelli on Bill Keller's "Shut Up and Go" Invitation to Catholic Dissenters: Stay and Fight

Not to be missed: Frank Cocozzelli's recent assessment of Bill Keller's invitation (à la Bill Donohue) to dissident progressive Catholics to exit the Catholic church.  Keller issued the invitation in an op-ed piece in the New York Times last month, noting as he did so that he was surprised to find himself agreeing with Donohue.  He notes that he agrees with Donohue that the Catholic church "is not about to change direction.  Not in this century."

And so faithfully dissenting Catholics like the women religious now being rebuked by the Vatican should "[s]hut up or go."

To which Frank responds, citing Garry Wills, that people who actually care about the Catholic church recognize that the nuns are interested in the powerless while the bishops are interested in power, and there's strong reason to stay and fight along with women religious.  And then he adds:

Keller epitomizes a failed press corps that too often plays to an audience of Potemkin liberals. These are people who came into the Democratic Party due to social issues such as birth control and choice but who - because their high place in society shields them - don't have to personally face the consequences of war or poverty.  If a George W. Bush or a Mitt Romney is elected president, yes they lose on social issues but they secretly find comfort in their tax cut.  For the likes of these, Keller is the safe "Centrist." Like the bishops, Bill Keller is one of the powerful who writes for those who share his privilege. It is easy for him to tell the nuns to leave because, like most of the rest of us, they are not part of the elite clique. 
Thus Keller is not only kissing up to the bishops, but he of less than no faith is now a concern troll, who suggests that only those who espouse orthodoxy are truly religious.  Interestingly, this overlaps with both the narrow neoconservative and neo-atheistic definitions of faith. Neocons employ the notion to stifle dissent and change, while neo-atheists either ignore a more enlightened cadre of spiritual individuals or lazily write them off as enablers of the Religious Right. 
But it is this faithful remnant of reform -- at once pooh-poohed by Keller and reviled by Donohue --  that is truly the heart and soul of the Church.  (Perhaps that is why we are viewed as such a problem.)

Frank Cocozzelli's voice is very important.  Over and over again, he has reminded us that folks like Bill Donohue want to provoke a schism in the Catholic church, because they want to be rid of the inconvenient voices of people like the American women religious now under attack by the U.S. bishops and Rome.  Donohue et al. want to provoke an exodus of faithfully dissenting Catholics whose witness to the social teachings of the Catholic church (and the gospels) makes the Catholic church a troubling presence in the American political scene.  Troubling for Donohue and Keller, that is . . . .

Donohue and vacuous liberal-centrists like Bill Keller have a vested interest in assuring that the Catholic church stands for right-wing positions and right-wing values.  Though Donohue and Keller ostensibly represent two distinct poles in American political thought, when it comes to keeping religion and its prophetic force tamed, they share a common interest.

Their goal is to "purify" the Catholic witness in the public square, so that it does not in any way threaten to unbalance the status quo, the powers that be.  Who happen to be those with the most money and most power in the social arrangements that now obtain in the U.S.

And for whom people like Sister Simone Campbell and the nuns who recently toured areas of the nation experiencing severe economic depression are embarrassments.  People to be silenced.  People to be excluded from the power-mongering conversations of the public square.

But people who represent an authentic Catholic tradition that the bishops themselves are doing everything in their power to obliterate even as they profess to be the sole guardians of the bona fide Catholic tradition.  And so the voice of American religious women is of utter importance not merely because of the significant things these women have to say to the public square, but because they represent a Catholic tradition that the bishops themselves are betraying.

And this is why their presence and the presence of other faithful dissenters who hold fast to Catholic social teaching (and to what the gospels have to say about Jesus himself) is absolutely necessary in the Catholic church--as Frank rightly points out.

The graphic is a statement of support for American nuns from the Nun Justice Project website.

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