Monday, May 27, 2013

Commentators Keep Asking: When Will Cardinal Dolan Address Anti-Gay Violence in New York City?

In a statement at the Huffington Post site this weekend, Joseph Amodeo points out that, in a city that is home to millions of Catholics, the head of the Catholic church in New York City (and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has been "eerily silent" following the murder of Mark Carson. That murder is one in an ongoing series of assaults on LGBT citizens of the city during this year. As Amodeo notes, "Since Mark Carson's brutal murder last week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has failed to issue even a minor statement regarding Mark's death or the string of attacks that have taken place over the past few months."

In Amodeo's view, Dolan's eerie silence about what's happening on his own doorstep--after he made nice sounds at Easter time about how the Catholic church loves and welcomes gays--is a testament  to "the passive homophobia that defines Catholic Church teaching and comments" about those who are gay. Amodeo thinks that it will be impossible for Dolan to convince anyone that his nice sounds about loving and welcoming gay folks mean anything at all as long as he remains silent about what's taking place in New York now.

David Badash concurs. Writing at the New Civil Rights Movement site, he points out that, while keeping his lips zipped tight about Mark Carson's murder and the spate of gay bashings in his city, Dolan has issued orders to the U.S. bishops to insert an insert attacking marriage equality in their parish bulletins from now through June. And he notes that even Brian Brown, the president of the virulently anti-gay activist group National Organization for Marriage, with its deep Catholic roots, has condemned the homophobic violence in New York. 

And so Badash asks,

When the heads of anti-gay organizations are denouncing anti-LGBT violence, and the head of the Catholic Church in the U.S. cannot, what does that say about his focus — and his attitude toward the LGBT community?

My answer: Dolan's refusal to address the violence being enacted against his LGBT brothers and sisters in New York speaks volumes about where his real heart lies vis-a-vis those brothers and sisters. As the case of Nicholas Coppola in his own archdiocese and as his choice to slam his cathedral doors shut in the face of a group of dirty-handed gay Catholics and their friends say loudly and clearly, Dolan did not mean what he said on Easter Sunday. 

He was engaged in glad-handing image management in that national Sunday morning talk show interview. As I wrote here a year ago,

As a corollary to their decision to squelch the voice of the Spirit within the theological community of the church, the top leaders of the Catholic church are also actively working to rebrand Catholicism as a privileged enclave for heterosexual males--and, in this way, suppressing the witness and invalidating the contributions of women and gay and lesbian persons as much as they have suppressed the witness and invalidated the contributions of theologians.  The leaders of the church have made their decision to rebrand Catholicism as a country club for privileged heterosexual males on the basis of a cynical, non-gospel-based judgment that their strategy of using force rather than persuasion to carry the day is more likely to be upheld by heterosexual males than by any other groups within the church.

I don't see that anything has changed in this regard in a year's time. In fact, if anything, the Catholic church is now branded more decisively in the minds of most American citizens as a privileged club for heterosexual males, which is uniquely hostile to and disdainful of those who are gay--this despite the dismay of many lay Catholics who oppose such a rebranding.

If Dolan and the bishops for whom he speaks really wanted to make a difference in the live of gay citizens of the U.S., they'd spend as much time meeting with dirty-handed gay folks as with rich GOP businessmen. The former don't count in the Catholic episcopal scheme of things. The latter (and their lawyers) increasingly call the shots for the U.S. bishops.

The result is the rebranding of American Catholicism as a Republican political machine, an exclusive boys' club for heterosexual males, whose leaders can be counted on to instruct their flocks with broad insinuations and outright threats to vote Republican in various elections, to ignore Catholic social teaching, and to make same-sex marriage and abortion the only moral issues that demand attention as they cast their votes. This is the image American Catholicism now projects to the American public because Dolan and his brother bishops want to project that image.

That we've arrived at this point has everything to do with Dolan's leadership as president of the USCCB. And it has to do with what the American Catholic bishops want, as a body, and what they've worked hard to build under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepherd carrying his sheep on his back is one of the earliest iconographic traditions of the Christian churches. The one at the head of the posting is from the catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome, and dates from the 3rd century.

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