Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Professor William J. Dohar on Why No U.S. Bishops Stood by Pope Francis When He Asked, "Who Am I to Judge?

William J. Dohar

And it's not only Professor Charles J. Reid who's speaking out about the Catholic church's treatment of gay folks: at Religion Dispatches, another professor, William J. Dohar of Santa Clara University's religious studies department, notes that, in making his remark following World Youth Day about not judging gays, Pope Francis made trouble for bishops. He made trouble for bishops like His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who felt compelled to head to the media and inform them that there was nothing in the least new about what the pope said: nothing new here, just move on.

And Francis made trouble for bishops like Archbishop Vigneron of Detroit who followed the USCCB president's (Dolan's) lead in declaring that Francis had said nothing in the least remarkable or novel. And for people like His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, former president of the USCCB, who spun the pope's question, "Who am I to judge?," in the following astonishing way: 

Pope Francis, on his way back to Rome from the World Youth Day celebration in Rio, reaffirmed the teaching of the Catholic faith and other religions that homosexual genital relations are morally wrong.

As Dohar also notes, the U.S. bishops quite specifically want to avoid noting the context of Francis's question, "Who am I to judge?" The question was asked about gay priests--the kind of priests Francis's predecessor Benedict, with whom the U.S. bishops loudly insist Francis is absolutely walking in lockstep, told us should be barred from ordination, with the implication that once we'd taken this step, we'd have moved a long way down the road towards resolving the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

Dohar thinks the U.S. Catholic bishops are well aware that many of their priests are gay--as many as half, in the view of Donald Cozzens in his book The Changing Face of the Priesthood (2000). And yet not on bishop in the U.S. has been willing to speak out with the kind of non-judgmental candor Pope Francis applied to gay priests by his remarks following World Youth Day.

As Dohar states,

There are reasons for this, which brings me to the third thing that happened—or didn’t happen—in the wake of Francis' press conference. No bishop or church leader stood by Francis and in so many words said publicly, "You know, the pope’s right.  Who are we to judge?"

Why can't or won't the U.S. Catholic bishops stand with Francis on these issues? They can't or won't, Dohar points out, because the tenor of thinking and acting that has emanated from Rome for a long time now, in the previous two papacies--the papacies that made these men bishops--has been so resolutely anti-gay, they'd have to do a volte face regarding almost everything they've done or said for years now. 

The upshot of the bishops' moral cowardice: 

Until gay priests—and gay people in general—are encouraged to realize their innate goodness and see the prospects of a love-relationship with God as gay people, they will be burdened with a hard judgment from their church.

And that "hard judgment" from the church results in the choice of many us to distance ourselves decisively from an institution that offers us stones when we ask for bread--to walk way, to conclude that the approach of our church to those of us who are gay is absolutely and completely summed up by the kinds of draconian discrimination discussed in my previous posting (see the first link above).

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