Wednesday, September 7, 2016

As a Week of Travel Ends, Update on My Whereabouts: Pope Francis, Donald Trump, and the Lack of Viable Alternatives to Male-Entitled Heterosexist Misogyny

I have to be honest: I don't see things getting better for gay* Catholics in the Catholic institution as it's currently configured. Not under Pope Francis, despite media spin suggesting that he has opened doors to greater inclusion of gay folks in the Catholic community . . . .

I am frankly weary of the pretense. I'm beyond weary of clicking on sites I read daily for news and commentary and finding yet another story of the firing of a Catholic teacher (Kate Drumgoole is the latest), or yet another story of the suspension of a gay priest from ministry (Father Warren Hall is the latest). Nothing has changed under Pope Francis, except that the pig has a new shade of lipstick that may be slightly more fetching.

And so I'm weary. My weariness extends to maintaining this blog, where discussion of these issues goes nowhere, because it can't go anywhere as long as the Catholic church remains stuck at an institutional level in these patterns of attacking, excluding, punishing, and demeaning gay human beings while courting media attention designed to make it appear that church leaders have adopted a kinder and gentler stance towards gay folks.

The problem is, it goes without saying, cultural. It's a problem that stems from a deeply entrenched, deeply embedded culture of heterosexist male entitlement and misogyny within the governing structures of the Catholic church. And far from representing a viable alternative to that culture, the current pope himself is deeply embedded in that culture and has made one statement and decision after another to reinforce it. He has promoted leaders like Cardinal Turkson, reinforcing the status of those leaders as papabile, who are all about holding the line on the culture of male-entitled heterosexism and misogyny with which the Catholic institution has now decisively branded itself.

Choices like this point the church to a future in which this branding will not merely continue at the global level, but will grow stronger, more determined to resist any critique at all, more adamant about how it represents the only possible reading of the gospel and of Catholic tradition — when it does not in the least do so. When it is a very modern development in response to the global movement of women's rights and not a traditional thing at all . . . .

How do you change a culture? How do you change a culture in profound, determined reaction to changes that many people — including many Christians who cite the gospels and point to Jesus as they do so — regard as necessary changes if the human community is to have a brighter and more humane future for everyone, for the half of the human race that is female?

Cultures are most effectively changed from the inside, by those who live, within the belly of an institution, in resistance to its dominant trends — by those who live from within an institution towards a different future for their institution than the one its dominant culture foretells for it. In the Catholic church, this kind of change has become well-nigh impossible as the leaders of the Catholic community with the active collusion of lay Catholics who remain committed to those leaders have simply purged their community of those seeking to live an alternative vision of Catholicism within the church as it is now configured.

Like Father Warren Hall, those people have been driven out of the church, even as it professes to live catholicity as its core value and self-definition. When an institution behaves this way, it radically diminishes the possibility for the kind of effective cultural change that can correct its mistakes and orient it to a more productive connection to the other cultures with which it must coexist in order to carry out its institutional mission.

So where's effective change going to come from in the Catholic institution? From the new Vatican-imposed curriculum on sex education that continues the complementarian nonsense about how women are made to serve and fulfill men? From the new Vatican-imposed curriculum on sex education that cruelly refuses even to acknowledge the existence of gay people? I don't think so.

It's not going to come from the U.S. Catholic bishops, with their ominous silence about the threat Donald Trump poses to the future of the world — though they certainly have had the ability to speak out in the past about other political leaders, haven't they? For American Catholics seeking some kind of alternative to the toxins of the male-entitled heterosexist, misogynistic culture that now imbue the entire Catholic institution, it's not going to come, either, from the mainline Protestant communities, with their tepid response to the threat Donald Trump poses to the future of the world.

Half of white members of those communities support Trump, after all, as do 80% of white evangelicals — another total dead end for those looking for life-giving alternative expressions of the Christian faith in our culture today. Let's face it: the ultimate reason there are not viable alternatives within many Christian churches to the future Donald Trump represents is that many churches are embedded in the very same culture of heterosexual male entitlement and misogyny that is, in the final analysis, what Trump's movement is all about. 

A culture that has been raised to the status of an idol by the leaders of the Catholic church along with many other Christian leaders throughout the world today . . . . And if the possibility, unthinkable to media gurus and journalistic elites but very thinkable to many of us who live in cultural niches that do not allow us to be so blind, that Donald Trump will be the next president of the U.S. does not convince us how attractive that idol is to a lot of people of faith, then I really don't know what will.

* Gay is a shorthand term for all the categories comprised in the acronym LGBTQI.

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