Thursday, June 26, 2014

What Do the LDS Church and Catholic Church Have in Common These Days? Think Facebook, Job Dismissal, and Excommunication

What do the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Catholic church, and the churches of the right wing of American evangelicalism have in common? Well, there's this, it seems:

At Religion Dispatches, Joanna Brooks writes about the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly and the Mormon moment: 

The real Mormon moment is now. 
Now that the New York Times is confirming that at least a dozen Mormons nationwide have faced or are facing discipline for criticizing Church practices or policies or voicing support for same-sex marriage or women’s ordination on-line, on Facebook, on Twitter. Even in anonymous chat rooms.

For CNN, Susan Candiotti and Chris Welch report on the new six-page contract teachers in Catholic schools in the archdiocese of Cincinnati are now expected to sign:

Teachers must sign a promise not to engage in or publicly support several areas of conduct including unmarried cohabitation or sex, using a surrogate mother or in-vitro fertilization, a homosexual lifestyle, and improper use of social media.

Notice something? Joanna Brooks reports that the LDS Church has developed "what must be a substantial enterprise monitoring the on-line communications of its members." The contract for teachers in Cincinnati Catholic schools informs teachers that what they say on social media — especially about sexual issues and "a homosexual lifestyle" — may prove to be grounds for dismissal.

Brooks reports that since the excommunication of Kate Kelly, she has been getting phone calls and Facebook messages from fellow Mormons reporting to her that they, too, have been called in by church officials to answer for statements they have made online about women's ordination and gay marriage. 

Remember Lennon Cihak? The teen who was denied confirmation in Minnesota in 2012 when he posted a photo on Facebook supporting marriage equality? (And then his parents were denied communion for supporting their son.)

Remember Carla Hale, the teacher in a Catholic school in Ohio, who lost her job after someone sent an anonymous letter to the diocese reporting that her partner's name appeared in Hale's mother's obituary? Do you recall Timothy Nelson, who had a job offer at a Catholic school in Wisconsin revoked when "a tipster" notified the school that the name of another man had appeared beside Nelson's in parentheses in the obituary of Nelson's father — though Nelson is not gay? 

How about Carol Parker and Josie Martin? You surely recall them, the lesbian couple denied communion at the funeral of Parker's mother after the mother's obituary noted that Parker and Martin were a couple? 

What do the LDS church and the Catholic church (and, I suspect, right-wing evangelical churches) have in common right now? One thing, it seems, is a penchant for snooping on the social media communications of their members, even for combing obituaries, for God's sake, and a willingness to use information gleaned through this such snooping and obituary-slumming to deny jobs or sacraments to members considered errant or subversive.  Especially to members challenging official teaching about the roles of women and gay folks in the church . . . . You can apparently say any toxic nonsense at all about the poor or racial minorities or bombing innocent civilians in the Middle East back to the Stone Age or denying healthcare to those on the margins of society, and not be in any danger of losing a job in these institutions or being denied sacraments by these churches.

Which is another way of saying, isn't it, that these are churches in very deep reaction to developments in the surrounding culture and within these churches themselves, which threaten to overturn hard-and-fast regulations about the roles to be played by both women and gay folks in these churches. These are churches whose leaders are determined to do almost anything, it seems, to stop the forward movement of human rights advocacy for women and gay folks within their particular church communities — anything, including violating central moral norms about honesty, decency, fair play.

Which is another way of saying, too, isn't it, that these churches must not have strong, compelling moral cases to make regarding their teachings denying ordination to women and relegating gay people to second-class status, if they have to resort to draconian, repressive techniques to stop the forward movement of human rights causes that increasingly compel the support of many members of these churches?

And that's another way of saying that they have substituted for what they claim is the good news they want to preach to the world heterosexual male power and authority and its absolutization, as if that is the good news they're preaching to the world.

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