Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why I Told Our Story, and What I Expect As a Result: Stuff Happens in Club Catholic

So what to do with our stories? To be specific, what to do with the story I've shared with you in the past few days — the 1993 and 1994 documents chronicling in great detail how Catholic pastoral officials decisively shattered my theological vocation and that of my partner (now my husband)?

As I've noted previously, I share this document primarily to document what has happened to two lay Catholic theologians who happen to be gay and to have lived in a committed relationship for many years. I've shared this document as the synod in Rome has been occurring because it seems to me to be related in the most direct way possible to the issues the synod is discussing. But to be honest, I don't expect anything at all to change due to my having told this story in a public way — due to my having made this document public. 

It will be there for those in the future who may wish to document how Catholic pastoral leaders have been capable of treating gay Catholics in this period of history. But for Steve and me, telling the story will make little difference at all, nor do I think the telling of the story will make any difference at all to the Catholic community or the institutional church at this point in time.

The shattering took place, and the shards of glass cannot be fused back together. Nor, truth be told, has there been any will at all on the part of the Catholic community or the institutional church to put our shattered careers back together, to apologize for the harm done to us, even to acknowledge the harm. As Mr. Bush (I'm speaking of the Jeb! one) recently said about yet another gun massacre on yet another American campus, "Stuff happens." Mr. Bush is echoing Mr. Rumsfeld,* war minister of the brother of Jeb! who was previously president, as Mr. Rumsfeld spoke of the massive devastation caused in the Middle East by war.

Life goes on — for us, for those who did this to us. There is little price at all to be paid on the part of institutions, including religious ones, who shatter the lives of little people. For the very few people in the world who might wade through the tedious document I've just shared here, the institution that did this to us will pay a moral price, of course, insofar as people are horrified that it could do this to people while proclaiming gospel values, and could get away with what it did.

But, as many of us have noticed as Catholic pastoral leaders have dealt with the abuse crisis, paying a moral price truly doesn't mean much to many Catholic pastoral leaders when all is said and done. Having seen lives shattered, having participated in shattering lives, having themselves shattered human lives, they're very capable of shrugging their shoulders and carrying on, knowing that they will pay little or no price outside the realm of morality (and who cares about that?).

Stuff happens.

Sharing this document will not change anything at all in the Catholic community or institution because, at one level, nothing at all has really changed since the early 1990s in how that community and institution deal with LGBT human beings. If anything, we've seen even more targeting and abuse of LGBT employees of Catholic institutions in the past several years.

The Catholic church, as represented by most of its institutional leaders and many of its lay adherents, is deeply committed to a heterosexist worldview that makes it impossible for the Catholic community or Catholic institutions to make any room at all for those who are LGBT. Think about it: water aplenty has now flowed under the bridge of the culture at large when it comes to discussing LGBT people and LGBT lives, but in the Catholic community, our best and brightest — the liberal vanguard of Catholic "tolerance" and Catholic "inclusion" — continue to speak of us as homosexuals.

Not as gay human beings. As homosexuals, a word we ourselves have long since discarded and asked that others stop using to describe our humanity and our lives, because of the way in which it others us and reduces our humanity to a sexual tag . . . .

The Catholic community and the Catholic institution are stuck in heterosexist mode, and, if anything, the cultural battle to recognize the rights and humanity of LGBT human beings has only made that heterosexism more adamant. The cultural battles around LGBT rights have only succeeded in calling forth within the Catholic community and its institutional leaders a more adamant commitment to heterosexism, and a more adamant determination to send signals to LGBT human beings that the Catholic church is not for them.

It's a club for heterosexuals.

And the heterosexuals who are comfortably ensconced in that heterosexist club do not want to hear the stories of us who are LGBT. It's easier to regard those stories as alien, as manifestations of mental aberrancy or moral sickness, as special pleading that cannot be taken seriously by people of serious moral commitment. It's easier to treat LGBT human beings this way and never subject to critical scrutiny one's own unmerited power and privilege as a heterosexual member of an intensely heterosexist club, because such self-critique is uncomfortable

As I say, from 1993 to now, little has changed within the Catholic community or institution in this regard. What has changed is that the culture at large has undergone a massive shift in many areas of the world. Those of us given the decisive message by the Catholic community and institution that club Catholic is not for us because we are not heterosexual now have options we had never dreamed of a mere two decades ago, when club Catholic shattered Steve's and my theological vocations.

We can live open, self-affirming and self-determined lives as "homosexuals" who do not intend to apologize any longer for our existence and for our love. We can marry. We can enjoy legal protections totally unavailable to us when our careers were shattered by the leaders of the Catholic institution, with leading members of the Catholic community — its best and brightest, our own theology school classmates who were, several of them, officers in the Catholic Theological Society of America in the past two decades — standing by in total complicit silence. 

We don't need any longer to depend on this toxic, inbred, anti-intellectual and values-lite heterosexist club for our validation as human beings, or as followers of Jesus. So as the Catholic club continues its painfully parochial and timid discussions about whether "homosexuals" should even be discussed when the real topic we ought to be discussing is families (and families are ipso facto heterosexual, aren't they?), many of us have found, to our delight, that there's a much larger — a more catholic — world outside the boundaries of this little club.

A more catholic world — by far! — outside the boundaries of club Catholic, no matter how much its institutional leaders and the timid lay adherents who enable such behavior insist that they alone own the catholic copyright and determine its meaning . . . . You'd think, wouldn't you, that as they gather in synod, the leaders of this institution would want to address the glaring discrepancy between their own eminently anti-catholic behavior and the Catholic institution's self-definition and its proclamation of its mission?

If only because that discrepancy so radically undermines that proclamation . . . .

But they don't intend to do this, and they will not do this, nor will stories such as Steve's and mine (and many other similar stories) be heard by the Catholic community and institution. The stuff happens response is simply far easier than the listening with intent to change response, when all is said and done. 

Isn't it?

*Video link.

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