Thursday, November 14, 2013

Quote for Day: Institution's Politics "Too Unholy to Abide Much Longer" (with Commentary on USCCB Meeting)

We are at a tipping point. 
The struggle has been too long; the confusion, too deep; and the politics of every institution, too unholy to abide much longer.

I can really relate to this observation, especially as the annual meeting of the Catholic bishops of the U.S. winds down. Not a whit of hope, not a table scrap of new energy for the people of God, from this meeting. More of the same tired politics that have proven so dysfunctional for some years now, as the USCCB allies itself overtly with the religious and political right. 

Cordileone's predictable attack on gay folks: disgusting. The predictable election of Kurtz and DiNardo: no new wine or fresh wineskins there. Those seeking hope, please move on. The same-old, same-old politics designed to undermine the Obama administration by attacking a healthcare mandate designed to expand access to healthcare for millions of people on the margins: sinful in the extreme.

John Gallagher sums up the situation aptly for Queerty, with an eye to the U.S. Catholic bishops' attitude towards those who are gay, in particular: 

[T]here are plenty of reasons to believe that, no matter what the pope says, things won’t be changing all that much among the U.S. bishops for quite some time. 

I especially like his observation that the Catholic media are very much a part of the problem and not part of the solution:

The bishops have their own echo chamber. Even though the majority of Catholics are more liberal than the hierarachy would have you believe, especially on marriage equality, the Catholic media apparatus is overwhelmingly conservative. (After all, no one is about to bite the hand that feeds you, let alone blesses you.) After years of beating the drum about the intrinsic evils of homosexuality, they aren’t about to switch gears. Add to that the fact that the bishops have cast their political lot with the religious liberty lobby, which thrives within the right-wing bubble, and you have a lot of voices drowning out the pope’s (emphasis in original).

Michael Sean Winters proves Gallagher's point in spades with his puerile NCR column yesterday attacking "goofy" groups promoting "various leftie causes" at USCCB. His suggestion that the goofy lefties should simply request meetings with their bishops, who are, most of them, Michael assures us, "very nice men," is beyond silly.

Francis DeBernardo's takedown of Winters regarding this suggestion is brilliant:  

As a leader of New Ways Ministry, a national Catholic educational ministry centered around LGBT issues, for over twenty years I have encouraged people across the nation to try to engage their bishops in conversation in their home settings. Very few of even the most well-intentioned, well-behaved people have had even small success in connecting briefly with their bishops. Canon law says that lay people have a right and a duty to express their opinions to their church's leaders. Yet, with blessed few exceptions, no bishop takes this item of church law seriously. The problem is not that we have protesters at bishops' meetings, but that the bishops' unwillingness to listen or engage in dialogue with the people of their community has forced some people to believe that public protest is their only communication recourse.

After Belmont Abbey College presented me with a one-year terminal contract in 1993, then stonewalled me and lied to me when I requested a reason for my termination, resulting in my decision to resign rather than serve that terminal year, I repeatedly begged the bishop of Charlotte, North Carolina, William J. Curlin, to meet with me. As I told him in numerous letters, I wanted simply to talk to him as the pastoral leader of the diocese, to implore his pastoral counsel as my faith lay in pieces at my feet after I had been treated in an egregiously inhumane way by a Catholic institution.

He did not ever meet with me. He refused ever to see my face. He did provide an intermediary to deal with me, his chancellor, who told me I was deranged to imagine that the church would ever care about the unjust firing of an employee of any of its institutions. That intermediary told me to move on. 

When I wrote Bishop Curlin to ask how he justified meeting with the rich and famous (as I knew he did, because I knew personally one of the powerful, wealthy men with whom he met at a moment's notice), his secretary contacted me in response and told me that I had insulted Bishop Curlin and should apologize. I never obtained a meeting with Bishop Curlin. He never saw the face of a Catholic pleading to have his pastoral counsel in a situation that had shattered that Catholic's faith.

Michael Sean Winters obviously lives in a very different world than the one in which all the rest of us lay Catholics live. Whatever the name of that world happens to be, the title doesn't contain the word "catholic," I've long since concluded. Not with its mean, snide taunts designed to inform outsiders to Winters's world of privilege that they have earned their outsider status by being goofy lefties who aren't sufficiently deferential to the bishops.

Who are "very nice men," after all.

(I'm grateful to Dennis Coday at NCR for the link to John Gallagher's article in Coday's "Morning Briefing" column today.)

The graphic: I find this illustration of a tipping point by Guy Billot at quite a few places online, including this article by Julia Whitty at Mother Jones.

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