Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Midweek News Miscellany: Story about Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick, New Pew Forum Survey, Nienstedt Forces Out Gay Music Minister, Gay Jesuit Quits

A midweek miscellany of articles, several of them commenting on topics we've discussed here recently:

1. In today's New York Times, Frank Bruni looks at the excommunication of Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick by their new pastor in a Catholic parish in Lewistown, Montana. Bruni notes that Huff and Wojtowick have long been mainstays of their Catholic parish, where seven generations of Wojtowick's family have worshiped and where he himself was baptized. They flew to Seattle last year to marry, not publicizing the event in any way. They chose to marry, as they have stated, because they are up in years, and after they had been together for more than 30 years, they "didn’t want any confusion or challenge about beneficiaries, health care proxies and hospital visitation rights" as they enter the senior period of their lives.

Their longstanding relationship was well-known to fellow parishioners. And then along comes a new 27-year-old priest who informs the 66-year-old and 73-year-old men that they can continue to receive communion and sing in the church choir only if they divorce, separate, and publicly renounce their marriage. To which Bruni responds sarcastically,

Translation: Renounce a love fortified over 30 years. Unravel your lives. And affirm that you’re a lesser class of people, barred from the rituals in which others blithely participate. 
With those little tweaks, the body of Christ can again be yours. 

2. Yesterday, in a very glancing way, I mentioned the new Pew Forum Survey which appears to indicate that a growing percentage of Americans think the influence of religion is waning in American society, and lament that perceived development. As I noted yesterday, the survey continues to find considerable support for marriage equality among Catholics: 50% among white Catholics and 55% among Hispanic Catholics as opposed to 19% among white evangelicals. Some more commentary in the past few days, as the survey is being parsed:

2a. Aaron Blake at Washington Post points out that lots of Americans report that they face lots of discrimination, including white evangelicals (50%) and Catholics (33%). As Blake concludes, the poll seems to reflect a tendency of each cultural sub-unit to assume it experiences discrimination unique to that sub-unit.

2b. At Commonweal, Grant Gallicho notes that the Pew results portend serious problems for opponents of gay marriage, particularly with an aggregated figure of 52% of U.S. Catholics supporting it, and only 35% opposing it. 

Still, though, there has been an uptick in whether the public sees the Obama administration as "unfriendly" to religion, up 12 points since 2009, to 29%. But again, the negative views are concentrated in certain religious groups: 57% of white evangelicals see Obama as "unfriendly," up 19 points since 2009. Among white Catholics, the percentage jumped from 17% in 2009 to 36% in 2014. But only 16% of Hispanic Catholics see the Obama administration as "unfriendly" to religion. In other words, the discontent is concentrated among white conservative religious voters.

As she also points out, the poll shows the sizable overlap between the Republican party and white evangelicals, with 72% of white evangelicals identifying as Republicans. It should also be noted that the Pew findings show 53% of white Catholics leaning Republican now as opposed to 39% in 2014, while Hispanic Catholics are twice as likely to favor the Democrats as the Republicans.

2d. Vis-a-vis what the survey indicates for gay Americans, David Badash takes a somber look: he notes that the percentage of Americans stating that homosexuality is a sin (50%) is up five points from a year ago, and that support for marriage equality has dropped from 54% to 49%, when all groups are aggregated.

3. In the entirely-to-be-predicted category of news items, anti-gay culture warrior archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis has just forced the resignation of a music director in a Catholic parish, Jamie Moore of St. Victoria parish in Victoria, Minnesota, after Moore married his longtime partner last weekend. As Madeline Baran reports for Minnesota NPR, in a statement to MPR, Nienstedt maintains that he must uphold Catholic teachings and at the same time offer "the pastoral response of working with an employee whose actions are contrary to the Catholic faith."

I'm a bit puzzled as to where the "pastoral response" is found in this story.

4. Finally, there's this article by Nicholas Sciarappa at National Catholic Reporter. As Sciarappa reports, a Jesuit candidate for ordination, Benjamin Brenkert, recently left the Jesuits and wrote a public letter to Pope Francis, explaining that, as an openly gay man, he can no longer choose ordination in a church that is firing openly gay employees right and left in its institutions. For some reason, though Sciarappa refers to Brenkert's open letter and the fact that it had been published "by other religious news outlets online," he doesn't provide any links to those outlets or the letter.

I first read Brenkert's open letter at the end of August in Huffington Post, after that news site picked it up from Bondings 2.0. Brenkert tells Francis,

Yet, while you have focused on physical and material poverty, members of my community -- lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender and queer/questioning men, women and youth -- have been neglected. They remain on the frontiers, the margins, living spiritually poor lives.

And he's correct. But something else also seems to me to deserve attention with the NCR article reporting on Brenkert's open letter. A Bilgrimage reader who sent me a link to it notes the surprising "rapidity with which the NCR censors chose to shut down all comments" responding to Sciarappa's article.

Because I didn't see the article when it first appeared online, I don't know when comments were shut down, but I can see that comments have closed for this article by clicking on the comment button below the article. People who read NCR and my blog have emailed me for some time now to express concern and ask questions about why NCR seems to close comments on some articles — especially ones related to gay issues, they maintain — so quickly now, when it didn't seem to do that in the past. 

Because NCR does not share any information (at least, none that I've seen) about how it handles its moderating and commenting systems with NCR readers or in a public forum, I certainly cannot answer that question. What do you think, folks who read NCR? For my part, I think this is well worth discussing.

If any readers know the original source of the miscellany graphic, I'd be grateful to know that information. I see it used at various blog sites online, but don't see any indicators of where the photo originates.

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