At America's "In All Things" blog and National Catholic Reporter, Fr. James Martin and Michael Sean Winters praise His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for his appeal to us at the recent Al Smith banquet to remember the "uns" of the world--the "unemployed, the uninsured, the unwanted, the unwed mother, the innocent, fragile unborn baby in her womb, the undocumented, the un-housed, the unhealthy, the unfed, the undereducated," to quote Winters.
And as I think about the praise that Martin and Winters heap on Dolan for his noble defense of the "uns," I think about all the "uns" of church and world whom His Eminence didn't mention in his appeal the other evening. Whom he won't mention. Whom he has a history of deliberately excluding from all official Catholic lists of "uns" who deserve our attention and our compassion.
Dolan didn't and wouldn't and will never mention the following "uns" as he appeals to us to expand our hearts and broaden our horizon of justice:
- the gay and lesbian folks denied fundamental human rights (protection from being fired or denied housing solely for being gay, protection from being excluded from medical decisions involving one's partner) by many of our social institutions and by the Catholic church, whom His Eminence and his brother bishops repeatedly attack
- the survivors of clerical sexual abuse whose perpetrators His Eminence helped pay off when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee (and see here)
- that 16-year old girl in the Bronx who was abused by a priest there, and whom His Eminence attacked on his blog
- women seeking contraception as part of standard healthcare coverage in insurance plans of Catholic institutions, to whom His Eminence wants to deny such coverage
- women seeking equal rights with men in the Catholic church, including the right of ordination, to whom His Eminence wants to deny such rights
- religious women asking for a fair hearing and a chance to defend themselves before their works are condemned by the USCCB, of which His Eminence is president
- the vast majority of lay Catholics whose conscience differs from that of His Eminence about the matter of contraceptive use.
And as I read Martin and Winters praising Dolan for his noble defense of all the "uns" of the world, I have to conclude all over again that the scope of the centrist Catholic commentariat is curiously narrow and curiously foreshortened when it comes to enumerating the groups of people who deserve justice and compassion in our world and in our church. I have to conclude, all over again, that Margaret Farley is absolutely right when she notes (and here) the strange tendency of many of us, when we address issues of justice and injustice, to pretend that questions relating to gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation are entirely off the table. That they're simply frivolous questions that divert our attention from real issues of justice and injustice . . . .
That we can safely pretend that all the people represented by those "frivolous" categories simply don't exist and have no claim to our compassion and no claim to justice, as we recite our litanies of the all "uns" in church and world who deserve our attention . . . .
I also wonder if I'm the only benighted little soul in the world who asks how on earth an organization whose leaders egregiously and repeatedly deny justice and compassion to some of their own members expect to be taken seriously when they call on us to muster compassion and seek justice for certain selected groups of "uns." Or how the centrist Catholic commentariat expects to be taken seriously when it appeals to us to love tenderly and do justice, while some brother and sister Catholics and some fellow human beings are treated as if they simply don't exist as we recite our litanies of the "uns."
And I wonder what makes His Eminence and His Eminence's friends and defenders so jolly, when many of their fellow Catholics are anything but jolly due to his pastoral leadership.
The photo of Cardinal Dolan, President Obama, and Mr. Romney at the Al Smith banquet is from Newsday, with credit to Getty Images.