Yesterday, I noted how, under the leadership of His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the U.S. Catholic bishops have as a body invested much time, money, and energy in defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Supreme Court (with its majority of conservative Catholic justices) has just struck down. In the past decade, the bishops have spent untold millions of dollars (money given by the faithful to pursue works of mercy and keep churches and Catholic schools open) to outlaw same-sex marriage.
Last summer and this summer, the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference has sponsored expensive public demonstrations called the Fortnight for Freedom, which many Catholics and others see as overt partisan political demonstrations against the Obama administration. In recent months, the USCCB has asked that parishes across the nation insert statements supporting DOMA into their parish bulletins, and that churches pray at their liturgies for DOMA to be upheld. When the Supreme Court announced that it would hear cases about DOMA and proposition 8, the USCCB filed an amicus brief asking that both be upheld.
When I posted about these matters yesterday, Cardinal Dolan and the head of the USCCB marriage initiative Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone had not yet spoken about the Supreme Court's DOMA ruling. They've now done so. Dolan and Cordileone state,
Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
On behalf of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Cordileone issued this statement as many American citizens around the nation were celebrating what they regarded as a breakthrough for human rights, and as churches in some cities rang their bells to celebrate the DOMA ruling (see also the video above, of church bells ringing in Minneapolis when the decision was handed down).
Cordileone, who happens to be in Rome right now, also gave an interview to Catholic News Service there, characterizing same-sex marriage as unjust to children, since, he maintained, only opposite-sex unions preserve justice for children.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit also issued a media statement characterizing the SCOTUS decision to strike down DOMA as an attempt to "hurt us all." Other bishops may also have made statements (Rodi in Mobile has done so, for instance), but I'm not attempting to seek them out, since I'm focusing my reading right now about the Supreme Court decision on commentary worth reading.
I do want to ask what bishops imagine they're doing as pastoral leaders, though, when they describe a court ruling that many American citizens (and many Catholics) regard as positive because it lifts burdens off the shoulders of an unfairly stigmatized minority group as a "tragedy" that hurts all of "us" (us who?!) and especially harms children. I'm interested in these claims in light of what Justice Kennedy, himself a Catholic (and a conservative one), said in his majority statement yesterday.
The Constitution's guarantee of equality "must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot" justify disparate treatment of that group.
DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.
DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States Code.
He noted quite specifically that DOMA,
humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.
As Dan Amira of New York Magazine tweeted yesterday, Justice Kennedy's ruling uses the word "dignity" nine times, and it declares,
The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.
And this is what the pastoral leaders of my church want me to regard as a tragedy, as something that hurts all of "us" (us who? gay folks and those who love us aren't human, too?), as an affront to children and their dignity?! A law has callously and cruelly targeted a particular minority group in order to do harm to members of that group; it singles that group out for demeaning attention, seeking to impede its members' attempts to lead whole, fulfilling lives; it writes inequality for members of that group throughout the entire U.S. code; it humiliates children raised by couples who are members of that group; and it tries to rob members of that group (and their children) of dignity:
And I'm--seriously?--expected to view the demise of such an unjust law as a tragedy?
What planet can Messrs. Dolan and Cordileone (and Vigneron and Rodi) live on, that they are capable of thinking this way? And of regarding such thought as pastoral thought designed to heal the wounds of the world and embody the compassion of Christ in the world and the Christian community?
As Andrew Koppelman notes today at Salon, the sole reason DOMA was confected by Republican legislators during the Clinton administrations was to place the president and Democrats in general in a difficult position, by deliberately targeting and deliberately using a vulnerable minority group as despised objects when, the GOP knew very well, it could use these human beings as objects with impunity to score political points:
Congress wasn’t thinking about solving a policy problem at all, and it certainly wasn’t thinking about the actual human beings whom this law was going to injure. It lashed out at gay people in this crazy way for the sake of pure political posturing.
And as someone who happens to be gay, I'm supposed to imagine that it's tragic that such a law has now been struck down at long last? All day yesterday after Brian Roewe posted an article about the DOMA decision at the National Catholic Reporter site, Catholics of various ilks have been peppering the article with commentary.
Some of the comments--those which take the tack of the leaders of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference about the "tragedy" of overturning DOMA--are frankly stomach-churning. As I read them, I think back to a period in my own lifetime in which it was considered perfectly legitimate in the American South to single out African Americans and write filthy statements about them in letters to newspapers, which would then be printed without anyone turning a hair at the filth, at the gross use of a targeted minority group to score political points, at the gross misrepresentation, the lying, about members of that minority group.
These games continue when some Catholics talk about their fellow human beings who are gay, and the Catholics playing these ugly games assume they have the blessing of the bishops as they do so--as they also have the open permission of Catholic blog sites to post their demeaning misrepresentations of their gay brothers and sisters without any censure, while those same sites would never permit this kind of hate speech any longer about people of color, Jews, etc.
One of the ringleaders in the discussion of Brian Roewe's article is a person calling herself Purgatrix Ineptiae. I take what this particular blogger says personally, since she once held forth here at Bilgrimage under the username Felapton (she used the same name at Commonweal until she crossed a line and was banned at that site; she then went to America and posted as Amy Ho-Ohn until she was banned there, too. I have found her using other names at other Catholic blog sites.)
Purgatrix loves to revel in comments about her gay brothers and sisters (gay men, in particular, attract her prurient notice) that depict all gay men as selfish and rich. In yesterday's threads, she states repeatedly that gay men engage in "filthy" sexual practices, and declares that all gay sex is a form of rape. She repeatedly equates being gay and gay sex with disease--with spreading disease and with becoming ill as a punishment for sin. She repeatedly states that gay priests are responsible for the abuse crisis in the Catholic church, and she repeatedly insinuates everywhere she blogs that gay men rape children.
Here at Bilgrimage, as she posted with the name Felapton, she invited me to come to her Catholic parish in Boston if I ever happened to be in the city. And here's what I want to say to her after I've listened to her slurs and hate speech all over again yesterday and today at NCR and many times previously:
Thanks for the invitation, but if I ever make it to Boston, I'll do everything in my power to avoid coming within five miles of any church that you represent as an exemplary, faithful Catholic. Because nothing about the vileness pouring out of your mouth as you talk about me and other human beings like me represents anything I understand as Catholic values. Nothing about what you say regarding me and members of my group has anything to do with Jesus and the gospels.
Those churches that rang their bells yesterday as a burden was lifted from my shoulders? I'll consider them. What I won't consider? Any Catholic church that makes you its exemplary representative, while telling me and my kind that we're not part of the "us" that constitutes the human race and the Catholic community, the "us" that is, we're now being told, harmed by the "tragedy" of invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act.
If you, Tim Dolan, and Sal Cordileone are the Catholic church, thanks, but no thanks for that invitation to come to your parish. I'll take Jesus and the gospels, instead. I'll consider the churches that rang their bells to celebrate the lifting of unjust yokes from my back yesterday.
These matters are, like the gospels themselves, personal, after all, and I take what you say at Catholic blog sites, speaking always as someone who declares yourself the most outstanding and orthodox Catholic of all, very personally.