Thursday, February 5, 2009

More on the Attempted Lesbian Coup at the Vatican: Blaming Fiammetta Venner

Wow. There is some seriously disturbed . . . stuff . . . out there on the heels of the Vatican's attempt to blame its current problems on French journalists Fiammetta Venner and Caroline Fouerst.

Check out blogs like The Catholic Knight ("Putting the Sword to the 'Tyranny of Relativism'"), which picked up the blame-the-lesbians story from Rorate Caeli Tuesday ( Big cry there of an "attempted coup" at the Vatican.

For its female readers, that blog, maintained by a "happily married" Knight of Columbus in Missouri, offers a nifty little poll in which you may choose to let the world know that you are "a Biblically modest woman and I will veil." The winning choices so far? 437 Biblically modest women have reported that they will veil; 437 men have logged in to state that they support veiling (of women, one assumes).

Who knew this little world was out there?

Even the powerful Alliance Defense Fund picked up the story yesterday, adding it to its ADF Alliance Alerts, under the heading, "A Liberal Plot Against the Pope?" ( Two stories down: "Bishop Williams [sic] Apologizes to the Pope . . . ."

How to read what's going on here? Well, first of all, it's clearly payback from the right for those who have pressed Benedict on Richard Williamson. As I noted today, the worldview that dominates patriarchal institutions requires that I define my power, prestige, authority, at your expense. I prove myself on your back.

I have to stand on you in order to stand tall.

So when its own inepititude (or its even more unsavory characteristics) force the male-dominated institution to yield, it looks for someone to whom it can pass on the pain--often, someone with a female face and/or a gay "lifestyle." In this case, the Vatican has found both, in Venner and Fouerst.

There's also a cynical political calculation going on here. It's as if the Vatican is involved in a poker game, and is raising the stakes. With Williamson, the Vatican's hand has been called.

So now it's responding, "I see your anti-Semitism, and I raise you a lesbian." Those playing this cynical blame-the-lesbian game know perfectly well that they will get nowhere with anti-Semitism. That horrific prejudice lives only in the underbelly of developed Western societies nowadays, and rears its ugly head only covertly. That's what has made Benedict's attempt to rehabilitate Williamson so grotesque: we claim to have put anti-Semitism beyond the pale.

But with homophobia, it's entirely different. The same voices that are calling the Vatican, and loudly, on its anti-Semitism won't utter a word about its homophobia. The mainstream media routinely gives religious groups a big pass when it comes to gay-bashing.

This lesbian-coup fable is a diversionary tactic on the part of the Vatican and its religious right allies, and a particularly mean-spirited one. It's both an attempt to divert attention from Benedict's considerable faux pas with Richard Williamson, and to pass on the pain to those who can be bashed with impunity.

To pass on the pain so that the big boys will feel like big boys again.