Monday, June 27, 2016

Pope Francis on Apologizing to the Gay Community: "Still Locates the Problem Firmly in the Land of Words" (and How to Move Forward with Bishops Like Wenski Dominating USCCB?)

A quick footnote to my posting earlier today commenting on the papal statement yesterday about the need of the Catholic church to apologize to gay folks for its abuse of them: some of you may have seen, that in my haste to post my previous piece, I started to include a label for the posting —  "Bishop Thomas Wenski." And then I realized I did not have time to write what I wanted to write about Archbiishop Wenski's recent statement taking to task his brother bishop in Florida, Bishop Robert Nugent, for stating after the Orlando massacre that Catholics and other faith communities should examine the way in which they have contributed to hatred of and vioelnce towards LGBTQ people.

And so I left my reflections about Wenski's recent statement out of my previous posting, but without noticing that I had started to write his name in the labels below that posting, and had forgotten to erase the name. (As I mentioned earlier, I'm hosting some house guests, and am strapped for time.)

And now I find that Michael Boyle has said very much what I intended to say about Archbishop Wenski's statement at his Sound of Sheer Silence blog this morning, and I want to point you to Michael's posting as a footnote to what I said earlier today. Michael contrasts Wenski's really dismal statement last week to LGBTQ Catholics with what Pope Francis said yesterday and with what Bishop Lynch had said last week.

Wenski pits the "religious freedom" of Catholics against the rights of LGBTQ human beings, and in doing so, he pits the church itself — the Catholic community itself — against queer human beings, as if Catholic equals the opposite of queer. What I would add to Michael's analysis, speaking as a gay man with a long association with the Catholic church, is that Archbishop Wenski is one of the most repellent exemplars to be found anywhere in the U.S. hierarchy of the repellent macho heterosexism that demeans LGBTQ people (and women) in the name of Catholic values.

Steve and I lived several years in the Orlando diocese when Wenski was bishop there, and saw his pastoral style up close during those years. Though we had already effectively been shoved outside the church by what Belmont Abbey College did to the two of us before we landed in Orlando, we nonetheless made several abortive attempts in those years to find a parish in the Orlando diocese that was in any way welcoming to us as a gay couple, and then gave up. The diocese was, as far as we could discover, more or less overtly hostile to LGBTQ folks, and that hostility was rooted in and exemplified by Wenski and his style of pastoral leadership.

I've written about this before in a number of postings you'll find if you click on Wenski's name in the labels below. The problem, in short, is not merely homophobia: it's male-entitled heterosexism which assumes the superiority of straight males (or men posturing as straight men) over everyone else in the world, but notably, in the Catholic context, over women and gay men. 

This is a deep problem within the Catholic tradition. To engage it will require deep work which goes to the roots (biblical, theological, cultural, ecclesiological) of the assumptions that underlie the sense of entitlement that heterosexual human beings, and especially straight male ones, take for granted within the Catholic institution.

After juxtaposing Wenski's approach to LGBTQ people with Francis's and Robert Lynch's, Michael concludes (and I think he's absolutely right about this) that any rapprochement between LGBTQ people and the Catholic church will not be able to get off the ground in the U.S. Catholic church as long as bishops of the ilk of Thomas Wenski dominate the U.S. Catholic episcopal conference. 

Vis-a-vis what Pope Francis said yesterday, Michael also says the following:

But, as I discussed last week, it still locates the problem firmly in the land of words. It suggests that there is some formula by which you can present the current teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to sexuality that will not be mean and harmful to LGBT folks, without having to revisit the teaching.  We can see this in the way Francis makes pains to point out that the sins against LGBT folks do not come from the Church as such, but from its members.  In doing so, it seems to me his is trying to erect a barrier against challenging the underlying teaching.  But that underlying teaching is the fuel that powers the meanness and discrimination Francis disclaims.  But for the existence of the theological position regarding LGBT folks, there would be no meanness and no discrimination--it's not like the Catholic Church is firing redheads or left-handers or some other similarly sized discrete minority.  Apologizing for the symptoms is empty if you refuse to consider the thing that is causing those symptoms.

I think this analysis is also absolutely correct, and I can see that a number of you have logged in here in response to my previous posting to make similar points.

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