Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Encyclicals on Faith and the Struggle of LGBTI Catholics to Believe as Catholic Family Members Attack, Exclude, and Scapegoat

Yesterday, in response to my posting about Juan Jose Tamayo's critique of the new papal encyclical on faith, heimerm wrote,

Just dropping the patriarchal language would mean that I would actually read the encyclical. It seems like such a small gesture, but I know if would infuriate all the uber Catholics.

And I'm absolutely with heimerm. Though I've blogged about the new encyclical twice now, I will freely admit that, for some time now--and throughout the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict--I have simply been unable to read papal encyclicals with any care or attention. I may let the words pass over my eyes.

But I don't read. I don't take these documents very seriously any longer.

How can I do so, when they don't connect in any real way to the world in which I live? That world is to a certain extent actively constructed by my own church leaders to be a world of hurt and exclusion for me and others like me. And I find none of these encyclicals addressing the role of the leaders of my church in creating a world of hurt and exclusion for me and other LGBTI human beings.

So I completely understand Tamayo's criticism, along with that of Leonardo Boff, of Benedict's and Francis's words about faith in Lumen fidei: the encyclical takes for granted a kind of faith in the institution and its proclamation of divine truth that I no longer have, and cannot have, when the church itself problematizes my relationship and that of other LGBTI people with God.

Think about this point for a moment, if you don't mind: the primary reason Steve's family members continue to mount hateful attacks on him and me as an open, committed gay couple is that they feel an intent need to pay him back for daring to introduce me to their family's parish community as his longtime partner on the occasion of his parents' 50th wedding anniversary a number of years ago. They were livid that the parish priest did not take out a whip and whip Steve from the altar when this happened, that his parents did not repudiate him on the spot along with their other gay son, who introduced his boyfriend to the parish at this anniversary event.

They wanted to maintain their own unique right and privilege to stand up in church on the occasion of their parents' wedding anniversary and present their heterosexual spouses to the parish community. But they did not want their two gay brothers to enjoy this same right or privilege. They wanted, instead, Catholic exclusion and Catholic punishment as the lot of their two brothers who happen to be gay. 

They wanted their brothers reduced to silence, to pretending, to lying, in the middle of a family celebration that was ostensibly all about celebrating everyone, and about celebrating the love of an entire family. Sit in dumb, unhappy silence like naughty children, while the normal and good family members celebrated real love . . . .

Their fury is now compounded--it's redoubled--by their experience of defeat in the 2012 elections, when they imagined that they were holy Catholic crusaders as they went to the polls to vote to enshrine anti-gay discrimination into the Minnesota state constitution. Instead of winning the holy victory they expected to win in that election, they suffered humiliating defeat. They were sent a message by the majority of citizens of their state that, insofar as they cling to peculiar formulations of Catholic "truth" which demand that they attack even their own family members who happen to be gay, they have now become an embattled minority. A subculture. A cult.

And the upshot of the holy crusade is that, rather than enshrining anti-gay prejudice in the Minnesota constitution, Minnesota now permits same-sex couples all the rights and privileges of civil marriage other married citizens have always enjoyed. As a direct result, one might argue, of the unholy hubris of right-wing Catholics and other right-wing believers who thought they were on the winning side of a crusade in the last election, as they continued their old, old script of gay-bashing and expected it to yield political benefits for their side, as it had done for so long.

This is not an easy message to hear, when one imagines that one's formulation of Catholic truth is higher and purer than that of everyone else. The battle in which Steve's siblings are now engaged, which demands that they treat him and me as enemies and try to humiliate us in every way possible, is a battle that is all about their right to define themselves and their peculiar understanding of Catholic "truth"as quintessential Catholicism--and to do this by defining Steve and me outside the Catholic circle. By making scapegoats of us to prove their own purity and superiority . . . . 

Even as Catholics like this become an embattled little cultic enclave in a bigger sea of Catholicism that is far more welcoming to mainstream culture and its truths (and to gay people), they continue to be given the bully pulpit by the leaders of the Catholic church. Hence the problematization of faith for many of us who are gay and Catholic: how can we possibly experience a God who is love proclaimed to us by an institution that not merely empowers Catholics like this, but actually places themselves in the drivers' seat in our church whenever authentic Catholic faith is defined in the public square today?

For that matter, how can any of us sustain faith as long as Archbishop John Myers and his fellow Opus Dei bishop and convicted criminal Robert Finn of Kansas City continue to sit untroubled on their episcopal thrones, despite their astonishing betrayal of moral pastoral leadership? And are allowed to do so by the pope who is now speaking to us about faith?

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