This week in his weekly Religion Dispatches column gathering news about LGBT people and religious issues around the world, Peter Montgomery notes that U.S. evangelicals are still feverishly at work to export American-style homophobia to other parts of the world. A case in point: Northern Ireland, where anti-gay activist Liam Gibson of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children wants to take a leaf from the American playbook and encourage opponents of gay rights in Ireland to start talking about gay folks as people promoting a dangerous, risky lifestyle that spreads disease.
Montgomery points to a Lifesite News article quoting Gibson, who also says,
"What we really need to do is bolster the Catholic population, because it's the Catholic politicians who are letting us down. I don’t know how long we can rely on the alliance of believing Protestants and believing Catholics to hold the line if the Catholics are just giving in," he said.
He cited the lack of strong convictions by Catholic clergy as a major stumbling block, up to and including Pope Francis himself. "To be honest," he said, "comments like 'Who am I to judge?' make it practically impossible to make the case."
And isn't that an interesting phrase, "the alliance of believing Protestants and believing Catholics," an alliance from which "the Catholic politicians" and "Catholic clergy" are excluded, since they're not supporting this alliance of Catholics and right-wing evangelicals in Ireland, though the Catholic bishops of the United States have been very happy to create such an alliance?
Gibson more or less bluntly consigns to hell the majority of lay Catholics (and, in Ireland, of Catholic priests) who do not want to make the definition of Catholic faith rise and fall on whether the church attacks and excludes a targeted segment of the human community. They're not believing Catholics, all those Catholics who resist defining Catholic identity by dehumanizing a vulnerable minority group.
I wonder why Gibson doesn't conclude that the majority of Irish Catholics who reject his right-wing evangelical notion of what it means to be Catholic are simply "believing Catholics," when they're clearly acting out of an understanding of Catholicism that is deeply rooted in Catholic tradition at its best — the insistence that we are all joined together in the human community, and what we permit to be done to any discrete group within the human community affects all of us.
The real question to be asked about all of this is when and how some American right-wing evangelicals and the leaders of the U.S. Catholic community became convinced that it's right and proper to define what it means to be a "believing" Christian over against the humanity — over against the human lives — of their fellow human beings who happen to be born gay. The real question to be asked is whether defining Christian identity in this way has anything at all to do with being a "believing" follower of Jesus Christ.