A point I've been making throughout 2012 is that, though many tribalistic Catholics are unhappy at this development, stories once considered intra-Catholic stories by the media are now increasingly appearing in mainstream media reports in both traditional print venues and internet ones as well--often, with rather unflattering implications for the Catholic church and its leaders . . .
A case in point: this year's Catholic hierarchy's Christmas vendetta against the gay community. As I've noted, Pope Benedict had already been using the joyful family-centered Christmas feast, with its central theme of God taking human flesh to embody all-embracing divine love for the world, to bash the gays. What's remarkable this year is the similar use of the Christmas celebration by folks like Archbishop Nichols and Bishop Davies in England.
Hence headlines like Mary Elizabeth Williams's at Salon, to which I linked yesterday: "The Catholic Church's Angry Christmas." And which Dennis Coday features this morning as the lead link in his "Morning Briefing" column at National Catholic Reporter.
The unusual Christmas vendetta this year by members of the Catholic hierarchy against their LGBT brothers and sisters is also making big news throughout the U.K., as the Ekklesia website is noting this morning (again, thanks to Dennis Coday for this link in his "Morning Briefing" column at NCR). As Ekklesia's staff writers note,
The comments [of Archbishop Nichols and Bishop Davies] have been strongly criticised as 'unseasonal', 'unfair' and 'inaccurate' within and beyond the Catholic community.
And then there's John Aravosis at Americablog, who observes,
You’d think a Catholic, let alone a Catholic leader, might find something better to do with his time on Christmas day, than bash gays and gay marriage. Say, I don’t know, maybe talk about love, and joy, and hope.
"Jesus is the reason for the season," the American religious right likes to say. Somehow, this year Pope Benedict and his loyal laddies seem to have gotten the slogan slightly askew, and so they've managed to communicate that dissing the gays (all over again) is the reason for the season.
And, though only Catholics might once have paid much attention to this kind of fanfare, now the secular media blare the message far and wide--with dismal results for the Catholic church and its brand, I'd argue. Under this papacy, the Catholic church is managing to rebrand itself as a conspicuously mean-spirited old boys' club that provides astonishing unmerited privilege to heterosexual (or heterosexual-posturing) males, while according women second-class status and hating on the gays.
It will take a long time for the Catholic church to correct this brand, if, indeed, it ever makes a decision to do so. And by the time it makes that choice, the church may have long since lost the fidelity of many people of goodwill for whom the central message of Christmas (and therefore of the gospel itself