Monday, April 4, 2016

With Knights of Columbus Funding and Strong Connections to Well-Heeled Right-Wing Catholic Elite Groups, Crux Promises No Good New for LGBTQ Catholics

Last week, I commented on a recent statement by Kaya Oakes at Religion Dispatches raising critical questions about the choice of John Allen to fund his Catholic news journal Crux with Knights of Columbus funds, now that Boston Globe has announced it will no longer fund Crux. As I noted, Kaya Oakes points out that the Knights of Columbus have established quite a reputation for themselves by sending over a million dollars to California to help snatch the right of marriage from gay citizens of that state with proposition 8, and by making million-dollar-plus contributions to campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington to combat gay rights. 

The group Dignity has also made a statement criticizing John Allen's decision to turn to the Knights of Columbus for funding. Here's the Dignity Statement, which was published on 16 March:

DignityUSA, the nation's foremost organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, is expressing grave concern over the announcement that the Catholic news service "Crux," currently sponsored by The Boston Globe, will be underwritten by the Knights of Columbus as of April 1, 2016. 
"In the year and a half since its launch, Crux has become one of the go-to centers for information and analysis about news and trends in Catholicism," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA's Executive Director. "When it was sponsored by a major news organization, I think its audience came to expect high quality, independent journalism. In shifting to Knights of Columbus sponsorship, I fear that independence could be compromised. The Knights are deeply invested in advancing a particular brand of Catholicism, and I am concerned that Crux's coverage of the diversity and breadth of our Church will be diminished."
Duddy-Burke noted the Knights' significant funding for campaigns opposing same-sex marriage as an example of its support for conservative Catholic causes. She pointed to a 2012 report by the Equally Blessed coalition, of which DignityUSA is a founding member, which documented that over $6.25 million was directed to anti-marriage equality measures by the Knights of Columbus. 
"How can we trust that the full range of Catholic perspectives on key issues facing our Church will continue to be covered by Crux?" asked Duddy-Burke. "I am deeply concerned that the Knights may try to use the trust Crux has built as an authority on 'all things Catholic' to silence voices that have important perspectives on key issues facing our Church and our world." 
Duddy-Burke said she hoped to be able to speak directly with John Allen and Inés San Martín, who will head the new venture, in the days ahead. "I want to understand what the conversation about editorial independence has been, and how they plan to ensure that Crux continues to be a credible resource for the whole Church," she said.

As I said in my statement last week, I am not in the least surprised to find John Allen turning to the Knights of Columbus to fund Crux. Though many consumers of Catholic news appear to find Allen objective, I have long seen a very strong, and hardly veiled, subtext of prescription inside his purportedly objective journalist description of Catholic issues. That prescription tacks always to the right wing of the church, and frequently includes positions that ignore or demean queer people, and treat queer Catholics as if they are less adequately Catholic than are Allen and his allies.

I see little promise of fair, appreciative treatment of LGBTQ people and their issues at Crux under its new Knights of Columbus funding, especially now that Allen has announced, when the transition to the Knights occurred on 1 April, that he'll be featuring the work of Austen Ivereigh, Thomas Williams, and Kathryn Jean Lopez. Allen's announcement states that he'll also be collaborating directly with Ivereigh's Catholic Voices.

As I noted some time in the past, Ivereigh created the Catholic Voices group in collaboration with Jack Valero of Opus Dei at the time of Pope Benedict's visit to England. The group handled press coverage for that event. 

None of these people — Ivereigh, Williams, or Lopez — has good news to convey to queer Catholics. None of them is a strong supporter or even a friend of LGBTQ human beings. All of them have consistently opposed welcome for LGBTQ people within the Catholic church.

All have strong ties to the hard right wing of Catholicism, and strong connections to the kind of wealthy, conservative elites that want to assure that intra-Catholic discussion of Catholic issues exclude those from the margins of society including queer people. Ivereigh has Opus Dei ties through his connection to Valero. Thomas Williams is a former Legionaries of Christ priest who left the priesthood after fathering a child by Elizabeth Glendon, daughter of right-wing Catholic Mary Ann Glendon, who, as far as I am aware, has not to this day ever admitted that Legionary founder Father Marciel Maciel, whom she has defended, molested seminarians for many years while fathering several children by several women and supporting them secretly with Legionary funds. 

These are people who represent not even the center of American Catholicism, but extremely well-heeled elites with very conservative political and theological leanings, who have long been determined to block theological movements in the Catholic church that place strong emphasis on hearing the voices of the marginalized and dispossessed. Instead of experiencing shunning after his betrayal of his clerical vows,  Thomas Williams has landed a prestigious position as a permanent research fellow at Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture, where he serves alongside the likes of George Weigel and Robert George, right-wing Catholic leaders who have been adamantly determined to put a stranglehold on any Catholic discourse in the U.S. that would stress the need for Catholics to make a preferential option for the poor — and to love their queer neighbor.

Nothing about the "new" Crux portends good news for LGBTQ people inside or outside of the Catholic church. (And nothing about it surprises me in the least. It's entirely consistent with where I've always seen John Allen positioning himself as a Catholic journalist.)

(I'm very grateful to an esteemed reader of Bilgrimage for sending me the link to Allen's 1 April editorial statement and to the webpage of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture. I'm also very grateful to another esteemed reader, Betty Clermont, for reporting about this story in a comment here.)

I find the graphic at numerous websites, but haven't seen any indicator at any of them of its original source.

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