Friday, February 9, 2018

Catholic Herald Calls Catholic News Service (and Crux) to Account for "Misreading" Cardinal Marx Story

To add to the confusion, Catholic News Service has reported that Cardinal Marx explicitly rejected the idea of blessing same-sex unions. This, however, seems to be another misreading.
~ Catholic Herald (London), 8 February 2018, "So is Cardinal Marx for or against the blessing of same-sex unions?"

The Catholic News Service article to which Catholic Herald is pointing is the same one published by the widely-circulated U.S. Catholic journal Crux with the headline "German cardinal urges pastoral care, but not 'blessing' of gay couples," which I discussed two days ago. It's that CNS article, published at both the CNS site and by Crux, where it will reach many U.S. Catholics and frame their understanding of this story, which quite badly (and, I'll say it, quite deliberately, in my view) misinforms readers about what the German-language media have been reporting about what Cardinal Marx said.

The CNS-Crux article states that German Catholic media have indicated that Cardinal Marx's statements represent "a step back" from endorsing the possibility of the church blessing same-sex couples. CNS-Crux go on to say that, by contrast, "some English-language media and blogs portrayed Cardinal Marx's remarks as meaning he 'endorses' such blessing ceremonies." Those English-language media and blogs had gotten the story all wrong, you understand. This is what CNS-Crux are saying, implying that these sources had either entirely misunderstood Cardinal Marx's statements or were deliberately seeking to misinform folks about what Cardinal Marx said. 

CNS-Crux do not name the English-language blogs to which they're referring. The day before CNS-Crux published their smackdown statement about "some English-language media and blogs" — a statement setting folks right in the English-speaking world about what Cardinal Marx was really saying, and comparing that with the misinformation they claimed was being spread by the English-language media and blogs — I had written the following:

The level of news reporting we get in the English-language media about religious matters occurring overseas is often abysmal. What American folks interested in religious news are going to take away from reports such as the RNS report about this story is an account of doubt, ambiguity — an account suggesting as its bottom line, Well, the gays remain very problematic for the Catholic church, and there is no one in the Catholic community who really wants to bless or include them. 
What German-speaking readers are taking away from this story is quite the opposite: asked whether the Catholic church can bless same-sex couples, the president of the German bishops' conference said yes.

One wonders what English-language blogs CNS-Crux thought they needed to slap away at when they reported — entirely incorrectly, as I showed you with a lengthy listing of headelines about this story in the German media both Catholic and secular — that the German Catholic media were denying that Cardinal Marx endorsed the possibility of the church offering a blessing to same-sex couples, while the English-language media and blogs were mistakenly or deceptively saying just the opposite.

I appreciate Catholic Herald for setting the record straight — though this is not an English-language source that will reach the wide audience in the U.S., where the hostile reaction to the suggestion that Cardinal Marx had cautiously opened the door to blessing same-sex couples was especially angry and fierce, who will be reached by CNS-Crux. So that American readers will take away from this story the deduction that it is yet another slapdown of the uppity gays and a reminder that, no, they certainly don't merit blessings or humane treatment of any sort from the Catholic church . . . .

Here's the full statement Catholic Herald makes:

In the English-language media, the story was broken by Catholic News Agency. It reported that Cardinal Marx, asked if he was endorsing blessings for same-sex unions, said: "Yes, there can be no general rules…" Interestingly, that "yes" does not appear in the German bishops' transcript. It may have been a throat-clearing, as in "Yes, well…" 
To add to the confusion, Catholic News Service has reported that Cardinal Marx explicitly rejected the idea of blessing same-sex unions. This, however, seems to be another misreading.
CNS reported Cardinal Marx saying "that would not be right" when asked about blessing same-sex unions. But here is the full exchange: 
"Karin Wendlinger: So you really can imagine that there might be a way to bless homosexual couples in the Catholic Church? 
Cardinal Marx: There are no general solutions and I think that would not be right, because we are talking about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies to other areas as well, which we cannot regulate, where we have no sets of rules."

I appreciate Catholic Herald's candor — and, yes, its integrity, something totally lacking in some of the U.S. journalists and journals that dealt with this story — in stating bluntly that the CNS report is a "misreading" of this story and what Cardinal Marx actually said. Catholic media sites tend to stick together — that is, they stick together when they don't stick together, since one site after another and one Catholic journalist after another have thrown CNA to the wolves when it first broke this story in the English-language world and immediately came under fierce attack from the rabidly homophobic wolves who are to be found all through the U.S. Catholic church. They circle and watch for opportunities to attack, and when they mount their attacks, those attacks are savage and very often quite successful.

And they engage in this behavior with the active complicity of leading U.S. Catholic journalists and U.S. Catholic media outlets that repeatedly demonstrate their hostility to queer human beings and their sympathy for the most savagely homophobic and destructive wing of the U.S. Catholic church. This is a story about lamentable failure among many Catholic journalists (and Catholic academics who remain silent as this story plays out over and over with predictable sadness in the U.S. Catholic church). It's a story about the cravenness of Catholic clerical and hierarchical leaders as they refuse to stand up to the bullying.

In a comment here yesterday, Sarasi asks what it is about Catholic journalists that leads them to behave this way? In my view, part of the answer to Sarasi's question is that the world of Catholic journalism (I'm speaking especially of the American Catholic journalistic world, which I know perhaps better than any) is exceptionally clubby. It's very parochial and inward-looking. It's also quite explicitly heterosexist and has been for a long time also explicitly homophobic. This is hardly the first time CNS has used headlines and misleading news reports to attack the LGBTQ community.

This is a club that gives people unmerited power and privilege solely because they happen to have been born male and heterosexual. It is a club that never calls on those who flaunt their male heterosexist power and privilege as they lord it over others to engage in reflection about how that power and privilege are entirely unmerited. It's a club that allows those flaunting heterosexist power and privilege to walk over and taunt those made "lesser" than themselves, especially those God has made queer. This is to a great extent what this club is all about.

It's a club that has long been dominated by straight white Catholic men. Many of those men are overtly hostile to queer human beings. They have strong allies among some men in the English-speaking Catholic media in the United Kingdom, influential ones who interpret popes for all the rest of us, heterosexual white males who love to demean and take pot-shots at queer people — who are, along with their American journalistic counterparts, intent on putting queer folks into their despised place, especially if these demeaned folks dare to speak out and challenge them, the big boys who determine what can and what will be said in the world of Catholic news-making.

There is almost no opening at all to LGBTQ people within the Catholic journalistic world in the U.S. Hardly any effort has been made to include LGBTQ voices in the news reporting of the Catholic journalistic world in the U.S. When LGBTQ lives and issues are discussed in Catholic journalism in the U.S. — by a small, tightly sealed club of journalists who are defensively and parochially closed to outsiders and outsider perspectives — those lives and issues are talked about by people other than queer people.

In the same way the lives of people of color were routinely dissected and defined by the mainstream media — by white people — when I was growing up in the American South in the period of segregation . . . .

It is — it is still — a huge thing to come out of the closet if one is LGBTQ and working within the journalistic club of American Catholicism. There is — there is still — a high price to be paid for taking that step, within the context of the journalistic club of American Catholicism. Membership in this club requires strict adherence to club rules. And those rules have long been clear about how queer folks within the club are to deal with their queer identities — about the silence and circumspection they're expected to practice as a precondition for club membership.

I made the mistake of opening my queer mouth this past week. I made the mistake of talking back to one of these big boys. And I got resoundingly smacked back into my place almost immediately, and told where I belong and who I am and what kind of treatment I should expect if I speak out like that in the future. With my queer mouth . . . .

This is, you see, a kind of blood sport for these folks. They enjoy — they feed on and gain energy from — letting the queers know that we don't count. And that we can be lied about with impunity, even in headlines of Catholic journals which directly engage what we have just said with our big mouths on our blogs. With headlines and reports that directly engage what we have just said and imply that we have lied, because that's what queers do. 

These Catholic journalists also know that as they engage in their queer-bashing blood sport that makes them feel like bigger men (with cheerleading women who participate in the blood sport in the very same way that over half of white women participated in their husband's choice to place the moral monstrosity in the White House) — as they engage in their bullying — many Catholic intellectual and ecclesiastical leaders who should, one would have hoped, have known better, will remain totally silent.

Something about the clubby, inward-focused institution that American Catholicism as a whole has made of itself is inured to bullying, you see. Some folks have explained this dynamic to me by noting that the entire hierarchichal system is based on overt bullying, in which the man above the man below passes misery down the chain of command, so that each person in the chain except for the one at the  very top can expect to be the recipient of repeated miseries designed to let that person know where he belongs in the chain of command.

And then the cleric passes the misery on down to those beneath him, to the nuns working under his pastoral guidance in Catholic institutions, to the laity in the parish . . . . This is a machine that works effectively only insofar as folks are prepared to receive the passed-down bullying in total silence, since silence would cause the machine to malfunction and would allow us to see what the machine has been constructed to do. . . .

There are, of course, as I've said, closeted gay folks writing for Catholic journals. But they, too, remain silent as the bullying of other queer folks goes on. It's the price they pay for maintaining their membership in the club. Many of the groups that claim to be working to create better, more welcoming conditions for queer people in Catholic communities are also willing to pay a certain price to remain within the club. They are quick to throw to the wolves the mouthy queers who make trouble for themselves by opening their mouths and speaking out. They're quick to accept the peculiarly Catholic bullying that marks the Catholic machine qua Catholic, and quick to remain silent as the bullying plays out in sordid little débacles like the one we've seen playing out this week. They're quick to characterize mouthy queers who don't intend to remain silent in the face of bullying as "uncharitable."

It's the price they pay for being club members. And tightly controlled parochial clubs like the American Catholic club work only when they have sharp, neat, tight boundaries and exclude others.

That none of this has much to do with Jesus and the gospels or with what a catholic institution claims to be about is something mouthy queers who study a bit of theology keep saying, causing endless trouble for themselves as they do so. As those mouthy queers and others who dare to open their mouths also keep predicting, the parochialism and cowardice and the betrayal of Jesus and the gospels — the glee with which some people in the Catholic institution bully and lie about and lie to queer folks, while the rest remain totally silent — is not going to do the church any good at all in the long run, despite the short-term victories for the bullies.

Quite the contrary.

(Thanks to MarkWilliam for providing the link to the Catholic Herald article discussed above.)

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