Thursday, March 20, 2014

In Catholic News: Austin Ruse's Call for Violence, Censorship of Sister Teresa Forcades (and of Me, Again, by NCR)

As Sister Joan Chittister says in her recent stellar statement now running at the National Catholic Reporter website (to which I pointed yesterday), it behooves none of us to be complacent about legislation (like the recent anti-gay bill in Arizona) targeting a scapegoated minority group, because we ourselves may be the next group to be targeted. Nonetheless, both in response to Sister Joan's article and throughout the Catholic blogosphere, there are, in fact, scads of Catholic voices calling quite precisely for the targeting of this or that segment of the human community--uppity women, gays and lesbians, even university professors.

The language of violence employed by one Catholic after another at various Catholic blog sites--especially against women regarded as uppity and against gay folks--ought to concern all Catholics, because it's simply such a blatant contradiction to the gospel message. Its unchallenged pervasiveness at Catholic blog sites helps to explain the recent finding of the Public Religion Research Institute that Catholics are at the very top of the list of U.S. religious groups, when the public thinks of religious groups hostile to those who are gay.

There's a reason for that perception. Even when it's not overtly violent, much of the rhetoric about gay folks at Catholic blog sites--the thread following Sister Joan's article is a case in point--is violent in hidden (though barely concealed) ways, as one "moderate" Catholic commentator after another argues for the "right" of merchants to single out gay couples for discrimination, in order to avoid participating in the "evil" of a same-sex marriage.

These arguments are thinly veiled arguments for the exclusion of gay people from the human community. While they masquerade as reasonable and faith-based, they arise out of easily detected hostility towards some segments of the human community, rather than out of love for and acceptance of those people The rhetoric they employ is designed to give gay people the message that they are unwelcome within the Catholic community--that the very essence of what it means to be Catholic is defined over against the humanity of those who are gay.

When people twist rationality and religion in such a way, seeking to hide motives that are neither rational nor reconcilable with the fundamental impulse to practical compassion at the heart of world religions, it becomes very difficult to carry on meaningful conversations about what they are doing--if blog sites hosting these conversations do not permit honest, open discourse. Many Catholic blog sites do not, in fact, promote or even permit the kind of honest and open discourse about these issues that is needed to expose the hidden hostility of people arguing for "reasonable" accommodation of what is essentially an act of violence against a targeted minority group. Many Catholic blog sites do not permit contributors to their threads to engage in the kind of honest and open discourse that enables this kind of hidden hostility to be named for what it is--an act of violence against those who are gay.

Catholic blog sites do not permit the kind of open discussion necessary to name the hidden anti-gay violence of "reasonable" Catholics who defend discrimination against those who are gay to be named for what it is because the Catholic community has a long and shameful history of playing hypocritical games around issues of sexuality. This hypocrisy is nowhere more apparent today than in the willingness of the U.S. bishops to go to bat for the "right" of corporations to deny contraception to women in healthcare plans, when a vast majority of married Catholics have long since used contraceptives.

Here's an example of the kind of violent rhetoric in which some Catholics in the U.S. feel free to engage with apparent impunity: as Chris Morley points out in a comment here recently Austin Ruse, president of the well-connected Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, informed the world (and here) last week on American Family Radio that liberal academics should "all be taken out and shot."

As Chris also notes, after Ruse made his unacceptable violence-stirring remarks (for which AFM has now canned him), Faithful America circulated a petition calling for the resignation of Monsignor Anthony Frontiero of St. Joseph's Cathedral in Manchester, New Hampshire, from Ruse's C-FAM board. And, in response, Frontiero has now resigned. Brian Tashman summarizes this story--with links--at Right-Wing Watch.

And so, as Chris underscores, the outcome of the dust-up involving Austin Ruse's call--as a lay Catholic leader--for shooting university professors with whose opinions he disagrees was positive. Score a point for the ability of watchdog groups monitoring the abusive use of religious rhetoric to draw public attention to an egregious misuse of "Catholic" beliefs to foment rhetorical violence in the public square that might conceivably translate into actual violence.

But the struggle goes on: as Rebel Girl notes at the Iglesia Descalza blog site Saturday, Spanish Benedictine sister Teresa Forcades was in Los Angeles this past Saturday to do a book-signing for her  book La teología feminista en la historia. In connection with her trip to Los Angeles, she was also scheduled to speak at the gathering of the archdiocesan Religious Education Conference in Los Angeles.

That gig got canceled. The reason? Well, I just said "archdiocesan," didn't I? Archdiocesan officials intervened to assure that Sister Teresa would not be permitted to speak at the conference. Because too theological

As Rebel Girl observes,

Blacklisting and censorship are ugly. They are even uglier when they are perpetrated by the Church and uglier still when perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church in the United States of America, a country which prides itself on tolerance of diverse views and freedom to express them that is enshrined in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.

And she's right. As a footnote to this discussion, I myself have once again been censored at the National Catholic Reporter discussion threads. As readers of this blog will know, after I found myself censored last year--for reasons I still find absolutely unconvincing--I simply stopped making any comments on these threads, though I read NCR and have recently subscribed to the publication as a way of supporting it (something I feel obliged to do, since I read the publication online).

Readers of Bilgrimage have asked me why I don't make comments at NCR threads, and have encouraged me to reconsider my decision to stop contributing to discussions there. So yesterday, for the first time in many, many months, I decided to make two comments in the thread following Sister Joan's article linked above.

By this morning, I find that one of the two has been erased. 

I won't be contributing again. When this last happened to me, I cancelled my subscription to NCR. This time, I'm not going to be petty. I'm going to continue to offer the journal financial support, though NCR's discussion moderators obviously feel free to give me a strong signal that my contributions to discussion at their site aren't welcome. Some people clearly count more than other people in these discussion threads, and those of us who are openly gay are still often muzzled when we speak truthfully out of our gay experience--out of our lay Catholic gay experience--to challenge the hidden hostility of many of our fellow Catholics contributing to such discussion threads.

I do appreciate the encouragement of many readers of Bilgrimage to contribute to NCR's discussion threads. I'm not going to subject myself to this kind of treatment again, though. I've had enough of it from centrist Catholic publications that don't really want to foster open, honest conversation about some matters--and that don't want to expose the hidden mechanisms of control in our church and society--and in their own journals and discussion threads--that disempower some groups of people and give unwarranted power and privilege to others.

For my part, I have plenty of work to do right here at my own blog site, where I'll keep reminding myself every day of the truth of Stephen King's observation (courtesy of Fred Clark at Slacktivist this morning), "If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway."

The Catholic church belongs quite clearly to the polite society of the Jim Pauwels of Commonweal  and the Purgatrix Ineptiaes and ontheoceans of NCR, who see no inconsistency whatever in professing to be all about love while telling gays to find the back of the bus--not to the likes of sassy gay me. My money is apparently good enough for NCR, and I'm good enough to cite its work extensively on my blog.

I'm just not good enough to be permitted to open my mouth and tell the truth on the NCR site.

The graphic: please see the second paragraph above for a link to the recent PRRI report from which this graphic is taken.

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