Thursday, February 2, 2017

Failure of Catholic Progressives to Speak Out for Years Now About LGBTQ Humanity Undercuts Catholic Witness vs. Muslim Ban

From 1986 forward, when Cardinal Ratzinger issued his infamous "Hallowe'en document" defining gay people as intrinsically disordered, there has been a silent, steady purge of LGBTQ people from the Catholic church. Catholic pastoral organizations ministering to LGBTQ people were ruthlessly excluded from Catholic parishes and institutions as a direct result of Ratzinger's orders. In some cases, including in my own city, all members of those organizations then left the Catholic church in a mass exodus and became Episcopalian.

Gay faculty and staff were targeted in Catholic institutions after this. In many cases, we were fired for specious reasons, while our job performances were outstanding. Of the six or seven people with whom I did graduate studies in a Catholic theology program in the 1980s who were gay and who began to be public about that after graduation, only one — who is Episcopalian — has managed to survive and keep a job. All of the rest of us have long since been purged, even when we did outstanding work and received outstanding evaluations.

At the same time, classmates of ours who engaged in extra-marital sexual activity that was heterosexual throughout graduate school — and these included priests and nuns — have kept their jobs, never suffered any consequence for their violations of Catholic ethical norms that have been used ruthlessly to attack LGBTQ people.

As all of this has gone on, Catholic progressives — including many leading Catholic progressives now speaking out against Trump's Muslim ban — kept absolutely silent. They never opened their mouths to defend us as they are (rightly) defending Muslims and refugees today.

This failure to speak out about LGBTQ humanity and LGBTQ rights has seriously undercut the human rights witness of Catholic progressives and other Christian progressives. It makes their statements now, in the face of the Muslim ban, that all human lives matter sound tinny to anyone who knows this history.

Catholic progressives and other Christian progressives have easily been marginalized by the Christian right and right-wing Republican (the two sets of that term are synonymous with each other) political leaders because of the inconsistency, the obvious, blaring silences, in their witness to human rights for several decades now. You cannot credibly defend the human rights of one group of human beings while remaining totally silent about violent assaults on the human rights of other groups of human beings.

The message that Catholic progressives have given to the LGBTQ community through their response to our silent purge from Catholic institutions for decades now is a message that our humanity counts less than that of other human beings — that we are obviously less human than other human beings are.

The upshot of this behavior: fine lay Catholic leaders including fine lay Catholic theologians (I think of my husband Steve and his gifts) have been completely lost to the Catholic institution at a moment in history when their voices were imperatively needed. The reason we who are LGBTQ were scapegoated in Catholic institutions is that we were easy, convenient targets for the hierarchy and the religious orders who own these institutions: there was great fear by the 1980s about the fact that priests no longer controlled the Catholic theological academy, for instance, and that an increasing number of Catholic theologians were lay people (including women) and nuns.

What was really going on with this purge was an iron-fisted reassertion of the "right' of the ordained men who run the Catholic institution to control its voice, its theological academy. LGBTQ people were a nice, juicy group of victims to pick as that "right" was reasserted, because we were to a great extent powerless within the institution to fight back.

(Dear folks: I'm continuing to try to balance keeping this blog current with my increasing interactions, in this period of the nameless one's presidency, with people on Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, I have a book contract for which the deadline is looming, and I'm panicking as I try to finish that book. If I seem silent here at times, please know I do appreciate your comments, but am finding myself too pressed for time to respond quickly to them.)

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