Sunday, October 5, 2014

Frank Bruni on Church's Gay Obsession: "Selective, Bigoted and Very Sad"

Frank Bruni notes that, when he has written about the hounding of gay employees and ministers in Catholic institutions and parishes, people are quick to respond with defenses of these attacks which inform him that all of this is to be expected: you join the club, you play by its rules. Bruni responds:

Oh really? 
The rules of this particular club prohibit divorce, yet the pews of many of the Catholic churches I’ve visited are populous with worshipers on their second and even third marriages. They walk merrily to the altar to receive communion, not a peep of protest from a soul around them. They participate fully in the rituals of the church, their membership in the club uncontested. 
The rules prohibit artificial birth control, and yet most of the Catholic families I know have no more than three children, which is either a miracle of naturally capped fecundity or a sign that someone’s been at the pharmacy. I’m not aware of any church office that monitors such matters, poring over drugstore receipts. And I haven’t heard of any teachers fired or parishioners denied communion on the grounds of insufficiently brimming broods.

As he goes on to point out, though those defending the hounding of gay employees and ministers in Catholic institutions love to cite contractual obligations requiring these folks to abide by rules of Catholic morality, Catholic institutions employ non-Catholic staff members. But no one anywhere is urging that those employees be hounded, citing the play-by-the-rules argument. As moral theologian Lisa Sowle Cahill of Boston College told him, no one seems to be arguing that employees of Catholic institutions who support the death penalty, which is forbidden by Catholic teaching, be hounded as gay folks are now being hounded in Catholic institutions.

And so Bruni concludes,

The blunt truth of the matter is that during a period when the legalization of gay marriage has spread rapidly in this country, from just six states in 2011 to more than three times that number today, Catholic officials here have elected to focus on this one issue and on a given group of people: gays and lesbians. 
Their moralizing is selective, bigoted and very sad. It’s also self-defeating, because it’s souring many American Catholics, a majority of whom approve of same-sex marriage, and because the workers who’ve been exiled were often exemplars of charity, mercy and other virtues as central to Catholicism as any guidelines for sex. But their hearts didn’t matter. It was all about their loins. Will the church ever get away from that? 

Bruni's absolutely right: the attack on gay employees and gay ministers in Catholic institutions in the U.S. is, indeed, selective, bigoted, and very sad. And the church in the U.S. is going to pay a very high price for it, as increasing numbers of Americans (and Catholics themselves) recognize that it undercuts the claims of the Catholic church — in a very gross way — to be all about preaching a gospel centered on love, justice, and mercy.

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