Tuesday, March 29, 2016

As Crux Turns to Knights of Columbus for Funding, A Reflection on Catholic Heterosexism and Lack of Solidarity with LGBTQ People Among Heterosexually Privileged "Liberal" Catholics

Tomorrow's my birthday, but Steve has informed me that the Birthday Rules dictate that one's birthday begins at sundown the day before, so I'm settling into the start of my birthday celebration as I type this posting, and hope that will make me more douce than usual. I doubt it.

I've been thinking all day long about Kaya Oakes's latest posting at Religion Dispatches, in which she explains why she finds the decision of the Catholic journal Crux to partner with the Knights of Columbus problematic. As Kaya notes, Crux has been headed by veteran Catholic journalist John Allen, who has, she thinks, striven to appear neutral as a journalist, and so he was a natural to head this venture when Boston Globe began it several years ago.

And because Allen appears to strive for neutrality as a Catholic journalist, Kaya finds it strange he would now turn to the Knights of Columbus to fund Crux after Boston Globe pulled the plug on it. She notes that Allen has stated that the journal will enjoy independence even with the Knights funding it. 

But she also points out that the Knights of Columbus have established quite a reputation for themselves (a shoddy one, I'd maintain) by sending over a million dollars to California to help snatch the right of marriage from gay citizens of that state with proposition 8. As she adds,

They made similar million-dollar plus contributions to campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. In 2005, they printed 800,000 postcards in Canada "in a campaign that [argued] that the redefinition of marriage to include gay and lesbian couples would promote pedophilia, pornography and unsafe sex."

And so Kaya appears to have her doubts about just how editorially independent Crux can remain, when it's funded by such a homophobic outfit — and, in particular, she appears to have her doubts about how a Knights-funded venture will treat LGBTQ people and their concerns. I appreciate Kaya for opening a discussion of these issues, and for continuing to call the Catholic institution (as opposed to Catholic laypeople, who on the whole move in a much more tolerant and affirming direction) to accountability for its hostile, abusive treatment of LGBTQ people.

And now the douce part of this posting is perhaps over. Longtime readers of this blog will know that I have not ever made any secret about my negative assessment of John Allen's Catholic journalism. Click his name in the labels below, and you'll find any number of postings in which I've set forth that negative assessment.

I have long found John Allen's pretense to be engaging in "objective" Catholic journalism farcical, when, as it seems to me, he bends over backwards to toe the Catholic party line in its most obdurate and right-wing form — including in the area of the church's treatment of LGBTQ people. When Pope Benedict rushed to bar gay candidates from seminaries as a "fix" for the abuse crisis which scapegoated gay priests for that crisis (the move was clearly diversionary, a scapegoating technique designed to absolve the hierarchy of responsibility for the cover-up of abuse cases), John Allen went to bat to defend Benedict.

In brief, I find John Allen homophobic, and I when he worked for National Catholic Reporter, I told some of the movers and shakers of that publication that this is how I see Allen's work — and they did not like to hear this assessment of Allen. I did not endear myself to said movers and shakers by voicing this criticism. 

I voice this assessment not to attack John Allen, but as a continuation of the discussion I began this week on Easter day: the Catholic church simply must find better — more honest, more humane, less contemptuous, less cruel, less homophobic and heteronormative — ways of dealing with LGBTQ human beings at this point in time, if it expects to be taken seriously as a Christian institution proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the world at this point in its history.

Because of how I feel about John Allen's prescriptive right-leaning Catholic journalism disguised as descriptive analysis, I have, for the most part, ignored Crux. I did not want to visit the site or read its discussions of Catholic issues, because I had a fairly clear idea of what I'd encounter there, as a gay person shoved to the margins of my church — who has not been defended by John Allen or, for that matter, by the movers and shakers of the various "liberal" Catholic journals that provide free entrée to heterosexual Catholic voices, including ones that sometimes defend LGBTQ people, but hardly ever make room for the voices, and the firsthand testimony, of LGBTQ Catholics.

Given how I view Allen and his Catholic journalism, I was honestly not surprised by his announcement that he would turn to the Knights of Columbus for funding. I am surprised that this move appears to have taken by surprise so many "liberal" Catholics who seem to have found Crux a promising venture. Repeatedly, online friends of mine who are passionate about defending and including LGBTQ people in Catholic conversations have told me they've found the conversation spaces at Crux a real sewer (the other word they've persistently used: cesspool) for people seeking to combat gay-bashing, homophobic slurs about their friends wrapped up in Catholic language. 

Have I said it previously? I'm not surprised in the least that Crux will now be funded by the Knights of Columbus.

If I had my druthers, this move would be an occasion for heterosexually privileged Catholic journalists and writers and activists who defend LGBTQ people to stop and think more carefully for a change about how little space is really ever accorded to the first-hand testimony of LGBTQ people in Catholic conversations. I'd like to see heterosexually privileged Catholic journalists and writers and activists stop and think more seriously about how heterosexual privilege translates into automatic entrée for them at Commonweal or America or NCR, which is simply not there for many openly LGBTQ Catholics.

I'd like these "liberal" Catholic defenders of LGBTQ people to think about what they imply when they tell us, after having heard our first-hand testimony of exclusion, that they're sorry about how we're treated, but the machine that is the church is complex and has many gears, and . . . well, what precisely does this way of handling our first-hand testimony really imply, except that we're somehow under a cloud of suspicion, or not trustworthy? That we exaggerate our sense of having been excluded from Catholic conversations and treated abusively . . . .

That we somehow merit our exclusion . . . . 

Why are so many people walking away from the church at this point in its history, Robert Mickens asks in an Easter-themed essay at National Catholic Reporter? The essay suggests that many of us no longer find what the church has to offer meaningful, that there's a mismatch between how the church presents its message to us and how we live our lives in a world very different from the world presupposed in the language employed in the ecclesial proclamation to us.

This all seems true to me, but there's more: for many of us, the ability of even "liberal" Catholics to shrug their shoulders and write us off, when we've been judged and found guilty by the church, makes it well-nigh impossible for us to continue any connection with the church. Not because we've stopped believing: but precisely because we do believe.

We believe in a Christian (and Catholic) message that is grossly belied by how the best and brightest in the Catholic community choose to treat us — as if their lives have no connection at all to our lives, and as if their choice to write us off, to justify the cruel mechanisms by which we are excluded while they enjoy automatic entrée in a club that affords such automatic entrée exclusively to heterosexual people like themselves, really has no import for the very definition of catholicity, which is all about  a solidarity and community belied by writing other human beings off in this cavalier way.

For many of us who are LGBTQ and alienated from the Catholic church, I think perhaps it's not the cruel obtrusive gay bashing of overtly homophobic Catholics that's so alienating. It's the refusal of  heterosexually privileged "liberal" Catholics who claim to defend us to acknowledge or think about their heterosexual entrée, their taken-for-granted power and privilege, that's so alienating.

It's what this refusal communicates that is deeply alienating, how it communicates to us that when all is said and done, the Catholic church really is a club for heterosexual people, and heterosexual Catholics can get along quite well, thank you, without those of us who are LGBTQ, since their lives and ours are entirely separate, and they don't need what we have to offer, nor is their catholicity in any way impaired by their refusal to acknowledge connection to us LGBTQ folks.

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