Yesterday, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops, shared his understanding of Pope Francis's comments Monday about not judging gay human beings. In a word, Cardinal Dolan's response to Pope Francis: Meh.
"What surprises me is that people are surprised," he said.
Because, as Cardinal Dolan added, his and other Catholic pastoral leaders' approach to gay human beings has always been all about mercy, graciousness, and respect . . . .
At Think Progress, Igor Volsky doesn't quite buy His Eminence's claims. As he points out, in the real world in which most of us live, here's what Dolan's mercy, graciousness, and respect have translated into for real-life gay human beings:
After lobbying against New York’s marriage equality law, Dolan prohibited by decree any Church personnel or property from being utilized for same-sex marriage ceremonies under penalty of "canonical sanctions," calling the state’s law "irreconcilable with the nature and the definition of marriage as established by Divine law." He has also compared the "threat" posed to marriage by gays and lesbians to that of polygamy, adultery, forced marriage, communist dictatorships, and incest. Dolan responded to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act by claiming that the spread of marriage equality will threaten "the common good of all."
David Badash responds in kind at The New Civil Rights Movement:
You’ll remember that Cardinal Dolan had his St. Patrick’s Cathedral officials call the NYPD and have them block the entrance to the Church one Sunday a few months ago, in his petty fight over getting gay people to literally wash their hands before entering to worship.
Badash recalls that just last month, His Eminence characterized the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA as "a tragic day for marriage and our nation," and he notes Dolan's response (i.e., his non-response) to the unprecedented wave of gay-bashings that hit his own city of New York in May. As Volsky observes,
Yes, instead of denouncing anti-gay violence, instead of even acknowledging it, instead of calling for tolerance and love, Cardinal Dolan issued a directive to preach anti-LGBT hate in Church.
And it was only after The New Civil Rights Movement and other called him out for his silence that he spent 17 seconds acknowledging the violence, on a local radio show.
And did nothing more.
Andrew Sullivan is equally unimpressed with His Eminence's disclaimers about Pope Francis's statements:
Nothing the Cardinal says above is wrong exactly, but it’s classic spin from the bullshit artist who runs the New York archdiocese. The idea that Pope Benedict used the same tone toward homosexuals as Pope Francis – that there has been continuity on this – is absurd. Benedict’s move – strongly backed by Dolan – was at complete odds with Francis’ new tone.
It appears to be taking the U.S. bishops a bit of time to catch up to what many see as the pope's notion of a new pastoral tone when it comes to dealing with LGBT human beings. As Robert McClory notes at National Catholic Reporter yesterday, a group of lay Catholics who have received honorary awards from the church and several city officials published an ad Monday in the Chicago Tribune, appealing to the previous leader of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Francis George, to stop threatening to use immigrants as pawns in his battle against gay marriage. George has threatened to withdraw Catholic funding from groups assisting immigrants if they support marriage equality.
And as Peter Montgomery says at Religion Dispatches, this very month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops sent senators a letter calling on them to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring and firing. To repeat: the USCCB, which sent this letter, is led by the very same man who went on national news yesterday to say that the Catholic approach to those who are gay is all about mercy, graciousness, and respect.
Those ancient words--mercy, graciousness, respect--so dear to the heart of most religious traditions of the world appear to acquire an entirely new meaning when the U.S. Catholic bishops use them, don't they? And that meaning seems increasingly to many observers to conflict rather sharply with the new pope's understanding of these terms.