Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Can't Be Rome If It's the Gays: Vatican Makes Burke a King and Welcomes Anglican Gay-Haters

I don’t know much about Vaticanology. In fact, reports from insiders who wine and dine with Vatican tipsters and off-the-record church dignitaries (always men, always big men, those who make the wheels of power turn) bore me to tears.

So nothing I say here about the recent Vatican decision to make the de facto pope of the Republican Catholic church, Archbishop Raymond Burke, a king-maker of the bishop-making process, reflects any inside knowledge at all. Nada. Zip.

I am so far from any inside anywhere that only another loony looking on in bafflement from the outside would pay any attention at all to my fractured musings.

Nor do I have any insider information about why the Vatican has just chosen to make a media splash with its announcement that it’s as pleased as punch to welcome into the Roman fold Anglicans perturbed by growing acceptance of women and openly gay folks in ministry. I do note that a persistent question some media commentators are asking about this announcement is the question, Why now?

And that question began to nag at me, too, when I first read about this initiative.

Though many of my fellow Catholics want to ask the Holy Spirit question first and foremost when the Vatican is being discussed, I’m inclined to ask political questions, instead—questions about strategy and timing and pre-emptive strikes. My reading of church history and my from-a-faraway-distance observation of how the Vatican (which is a worldly power every bit as much as a religious entity) functions convinces me that one would be foolish not to factor political considerations into one’s musings about Vatican behavior, even when one believes the Spirit is somewhere in the mix pulling strings.

(I’m perplexed by those who claim to discern the Spirit’s action so clearly in the muddled mix of church history, and, in particular, I’m perplexed by those who assure themselves that church politics unfolds entirely under the Spirit’s salubrious and holy guidance. Putting the Spirit in the driver’s seat in the Vatican and episcopal palaces puts the Spirit into rather embarrassing positions, it seems to me: it makes the Spirit responsible for decisions to wage holy wars, to exterminate our Jewish brothers and sisters, to torture and burn heretics, to colonize and enslave the darker-skinned peoples of the world. And today, to slap gay and lesbian human beings very decisively in the face, whenever and wherever possible.)

No, I prefer to think about why Rome is acting as it is now in more mundane sociopolitical terms and less exalted theological ones. With regard to the de facto pope of the Republican Catholic church, I can only think that money talks for Rome. As it has always done.

Burke’s handler$ are powerful men, indeed. They obviously have the ear of key bishops and key Vatican officials. They know how to make their voices heard in the halls of power. Money can buy many privilege$ in Rome.

And I suspect the Vatican is inclined to listen, when money talk$, as it ha$ alway$ done—particularly, when it goes hand in hand with power, as it commonly does. My own loony outsider’s inclination is to read Burke’$ new appointment as an indication that the Vatican continues to listen, as it is wont to do, to some very powerful voices of the American Catholic right, as it crafts its political strategies.

Those voices evidently see things getting out of control, just a little bit. Why bring in the big guns of Rome and go after American women religious—why do that right now—otherwise? Having a bought-and-paid-for kingmaker in the halls of power making bishops to be is a fairly sweet arrangement, for those who care about things like power, control, pulling the strings.

Of course, all these calculations and projections and attempts to place the dead hands of rich and powerful men on the future don’t take into account the interruptive, gloriously disruptive activity of the Spirit. For me, that’s where the Spirit fits in. That’s the hallmark of the Spirit’s prescence. Wind blows through and knocks things over. Water rushes down and cleanses away detritus.

The Spirit doesn’t preside over the supreme gatherings at which national boundaries are parsed and the fate of the wretched of the earth decided by men who move the poor and the weak around like chits on a gaming table. She turns over the tables. She disrupts, whenever possible.

She makes mockery of our pretensions that we have everything in control, and that we can control—of all things—the future.

About the Anglican announcement? I’m inclined to read it as a pre-emptive media strike in the days right before a report is to be issued that will once again rock Catholics—particularly in English-speaking parts of the world—to their foundations.

What better way to divert attention away from those responsible for the crisis caused by sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and, most of all, by the cover-up of this activity from Rome down through one episcopal palace after another, than to change the subject? To get people talking about Canterbury. And about the gays, since we all know that the real reason these disaffected Anglicans are jumping ship is that the Anglican ship has some gays in it. Some unashamed and unapologetic gays who claim their right to be aboard every bit as much as normal folks do.

Above all, it's about the immoral gays who are at the bottom of all corruption in the church. Isn’t it? It can’t be the hierarchy, can it? It can’t be the hierarchy who are responsible for the corruption in the church, when the gays are causing such problems everywhere, forcing some bible-believing African nations to make their very existence a capital crime, causing bible-tatooed enforcers of morality in places like the U.S. to beat their heads in.

It can’t be Rome if it’s the gays. Rome has, for some time now, been making a political calculation, it has been taking a chance, on being the most significant refuge left in the world against the gays. And nothing it hears from Burke’$ handler$ and their ilk is going to cause it to reconsider that political calculation. Quite the contrary.

And so the report on the diocese of Dublin will be released, and it will show all over the place the fingerprints of the highest church officials possible as cases of child molestation by clergy were covered up repeatedly over the years.

But those officials and what they did are not the cause of the filth in the church. It’s the gays.

Can’t be Rome if it’s the gays. And that’s, I propose, at least one of the reasons the Vatican has just chosen to open the door to gay-hating Anglicans with a media splash, in the days before the Irish church report hits the presses.