Thursday, March 26, 2015

Francis As a Reform Pope: The View from Where I Stand As a Gay Catholic Nearing My 65th Birthday

I'm now a few days from my 65th birthday, and have been occupied lately trying to figure out the complexities of applying for Medicare — the normal complexity of an intricate process compounded in my case, since my marriage last May is legally recognized by the federal government but not by my state, and the lack of clarity about my marital situation radically affects my Medicare options. Work on a new office for me continues right around my head as I tussle with federal and state government websites and make phone calls to try to obtain clarity about the Medicare situation.

Then, adding an element of the ridiculous to the chaos, my scratched, out-of-date glasses are at the optometrist's right now and my computer is in the shop, too. I write from here, hammering all about me, unable to see clearly with my blurry old reading glasses, working on a clunky old computer apt to shut down without warning at any given moment. I write, in short, from where I am, the only place from which I can write.

As I log onto the old clunker, I go to Facebook and read the headlines of articles friends have recommended for me today:

Then I turn to Catholic news sites that I read daily, and my eyes light on headlines about Pope Francis as a reformer. I read discussions (e.g., in this new National Catholic Reporter editorial) asking precisely what kind of reformer Francis is turning out to be.

And I wonder: what does any of that talk really mean for me right now, where I live and move and have my being? What earthly difference does it make in my life, as I read those headlines and many others like them, and struggle with the complexity of my life choices as I reach my senior years — complexity created for me and others like me quite deliberately by people who claim Jesus as their Lord?

What does any of the talk about Pope Francis as a reformer causing a "Francis effect" in my church mean for me, as I try to figure out how to apply for Medicare when I am legally married, but forbidden to choose my husband's healthcare plan as part of my Medicare package, because the highest court in my state adamantly refuses to do its job and address the question of my marriage and that of other same-sex couples who married here last year, leaving all of us in limbo as we pass through significant hurdles in our lives? I know several couples who married here last year in which one spouse has now died, for instance, leaving the other with a huge folder full of complex legal problems as our state's Supremes refuse to clarify the legal status of our marriages.

More to the point: what do the "Francis effect" and the "reform" Pope Francis is said to be effecting in my church have to do with me or other LGBT human beings in this country, at a point at which a citizen of one of our states can file a ballot initiative that, if it is voted through, would permit other citizens of that state to put bullets in our heads in the name of God?

Where are all those Catholics who are supposed to be kinder and gentler, more compassionate and accepting, as someone is permitted to collect signatures for a ballot initiative that would allow people to put bullets into the heads of LGBT human beings in the name of God? Where are they as the political leaders of one state after another rejoice in slicing cakes to celebrate the denigration of LGBT human beings in the name of God, as political leaders in one state after another jubilate about signing into law legislation that allows people to treat LGBT human beings as human detritus in the name of God?

Where are those kinder, gentler, more compassionate and accepting "reformed" Catholics right now, as people post documents on the bulletin boards of workplaces like Home Depot stating that I and people made by God like me are morally evil and self-destructive? Can you imagine, you who are one of those good "reformed" Catholics inspired by the current pope, what it might feel like for you to open your daily newspaper and daily news browsers, and read such headlines?

Day after day after day? Can you imagine what message this might give you about the worth of your humanity? Can you imagine how you might feel to read such headlines over and over again, and to know that the headlines are being crafted for you by people who claim Jesus as their lord and savior?

Can you imagine receiving such messages on a daily basis, but being unable to turn to your own religious family for welcome, because that religious family is actually participating in the current drive to denigrate you because of who God made you to be — firing you and others like you in the workplaces of its institutions, creating special contracts and handbooks for employees of its institutions that single you out and target people like you? Can you imagine what it might feel like for you to turn to your religious family for welcome and affirmation, and find that the very shepherds of your religious community, its pastors, actually bear tremendous responsibility for having set all this savagery against you into motion, as they pour millions of dollars into political initiatives designed to target you and deprive you of rights?

Can you imagine what it might feel like to be a member of a religious community subject to such targeting — a ballot initiative that would permit fellow citizens to murder you in the name of God — and then turn to the discussion boards of your religious community online, to its "liberal" journals, and to read one article after another, one comment after another, announcing that heterosexual people really should be defining things for homosexual people, because the religious community to which we happen to belong gives heterosexual people special power and privilege? Every child needs a mother and a father, after all. 

In the particular, peculiar religious group to which we belong, our right as heterosexual members of the religious community to reject its ban on use of contraceptives is, it goes without saying, beyond discussion, since that ban is patently absurd. And we're heterosexual, after all. But your right, as a homosexual member of the community, to challenge the community's teaching about homosexuality: that demands further discussion. In your case, the issues are complex. (But don't imagine that we'll invite you to participate in this discussion, because we're the definition of what it means to be religious, and whatever you are as a homosexual is the opposite of religious.)

We are, it goes without saying, a heteronormative institution that welcomes and blesses people made heterosexual by God first and foremost: every child needs a mother and a father . . . . It's only when God makes some people homosexual that problems arise — as our longstanding willingness to permit infertile heterosexual couples to marry, while we reject homosexual marriage claiming that we must do this because such marriages are infertile, abundantly demonstrates.

Can you imagine being an LGBT Catholic today and encountering this kind of toxic nonsense, this kind of brutal, self-aggrandizing stupidity and moral puerility, over and over again in the "liberal" and "welcoming" discussion spaces of your religious community's leading journals? Do you hear any real welcome at all in any of this? Any hospitality? Any good news? Any awareness that there's something morally repulsive about expecting rights and privileges for oneself while problematizing the demand of human beings different from oneself for those same rights and privileges?

Any awareness that it's morally repulsive in the extreme to sit around and permit people around you to talk about putting bullets into the head of a targeted minority group, while you choose to quibble, instead, about whether Pope Francis used the Italian world hulu or hula in that utterance that the gay folks, who are by definition the opposite of Catholic-as-heteronormative, now want to jump on and discuss?

Do you hear any love here?

Pope Francis is reforming the church, and the church is experiencing a Francis effect. Yet 60% of white Catholics in the U.S. just voted for the one of our two political parties whose platform demands the denigration of those who are made gay by God, and as Patricia Miller has reported recently, white Catholics now identify by historic margins as members of that political party. As Miller notes, the bishops of the Catholic church in the U.S. have been very successful at convincing white Catholics that the "push for same-sex marriage" (and the contraceptive mandate of Obamacare) represent threats to Catholic "religious liberty."

And white Catholics are voting accordingly.

In the age of the Franciscan "reform" of the church, when the "Francis effect" is supposedly altering the face of the church, making it a kinder, gentler, more welcoming place, a field hospital for the wounded . . . .

From where I stand, from the only place from which I can see anything at all, which is my own place in which I live and move and have my being, the Francis effect is no effect at all. It has changed nothing at all for me as an LGBT Catholic treated as human refuse by the leaders of my Catholic community and by many of its most "liberal" spokespersons. I would not dream of turning to my Catholic community for refuge now as laws are passed against me and others like me, one after the other, telling me that I should expect to be denied services and goods because of who God made to me, telling me that I might even expect to have someone put a bullet in my skull because of who God made me to be.

I would not dream of turning to my Catholic community for refuge now. It's the very leaders of that community who have, after all, set all of this into motion, and a sizable majority of their followers have chosen to vote accordingly. As all of this happens, the best and brightest among us, the ones who claim intellectual and moral superiority, are nattering on about whether it's hulu or hula, and about how the homosexuals (who are, by definition, the opposite of us as Catholics) deserve further dissection, while we ourselves demand no such dissection — since this is a heteronormative community designed to meet the needs of heterosexual folks first and foremost. And, good God, why can't you understand something so obvious: every child needs a mother and a father?

From where I stand, which is the only place from which I can see anything at all, John Bijarney is absolutely correct:

Francis stirs the surface while the same creatures prowl the depths it seems.

Visit the webpages of any leading "liberal" Catholic journal, the pages on which that very special problematic subset of the human community, those who are LGBT, are being sliced and diced on a daily basis by the the "liberal" Catholics wringing their hands about whether Francis said hulu or hula, the pages where being heterosexual is a ticket to power and privilege while being homosexual is a special challenge stretching to the breaking point the community's commitment to gospel values of welcome and hospitality, and you'll see those creatures prancing and prowling, indeed.

You'll find them doing the very same kind of prowling under the "reform" pope, Francis, that they were doing under his predecessor Benedict. As if nothing has changed at all, other than the rhetoric we use to talk about how wonderful we are while we slice and dice the Catholic meaning of the human lives of fellow human beings we choose to view through a lens of denigrating otherness.

While never, ever turning that lens onto ourselves, as heterosexual Catholics . . . . Whether the name of the current pope happens to be John Paul, Benedict, or Francis . . . .

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