Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Conversation Centrist Catholics Do Not Intend to Have: What Are the Gays to Do?

The conversation about how we manage to carry on talking about church, love, God, redemption, communion, as we savage and exclude a stigmatized group of brothers and sisters: that remains the conversation liberal Americans, including liberal churchgoers, simply do not intend to have. That remains the conversation topic that centrist Catholics do not intend to entertain.

Even when those centrist Catholics themselves benefit enormously from the willingness of the hierarchy to turn a blind eye to their overwhelming use and support of artificial contraception in marriage. Even when the same norm that grounds the savagery towards and stigmatization and exclusion of their gay brothers and sisters grounds the church’s teaching about the use of artificial contraception as well.

Even when the church targeting its gay children in every way possible claims it is acting to safeguard the sanctity of marriage, while it does nothing to enact laws in the one area in which marriage is most threatened—in the area of divorce.

Even when those centrist Catholic brothers and sisters benefit in every way possible from their ability to conform to gender roles that have nothing at all do with what is most important about being human or being a person. Even when they take their privilege as heterosexual (or heterosexual-appearing) persons for granted, while they turn a blind eye to the atrocious injustices their church does to those who cannot and will not conform to these gender stereotypes.

Even when they go on talking about love, justice, compassion, and inclusion while practicing its opposite.

And so I remain fairly much where Andrew Sullivan tells his readers he finds himself, in the church today—though unlike A. Sullivan, I have long since given up on liturgy, for reasons I’ve described in previous postings. I find myself unable to take part in liturgical celebrations that are all about the bread of life when the church setting the table, and the ministers who preside there, are willing to remove daily bread from the lives of their gay and lesbian employees. While those ministers enjoy astonishing economic security and privilege.

It is clear to me that the Catholic church simply does not want its gay and lesbian members, and would be happier if we moved on. Catholics salve their consciences as they practice savagery towards us by telling themselves that we can go, along with the other rebels, to the Episcopalian church—as if seeking God within a particular religious tradition is akin to shopping for the best flavor of ice cream in a consumer market full of alluring choices. What this says about many Catholics own belief in the claims of their church is in itself fascinating.

There will come a time in history, I believe, when historians and believers will look back on this period of American Catholic history and wonder how a people so certain of their sanctity could maintain that certainty while doing such unholy things to a particular group of their brothers and sisters. And could remain totally silent in the face of those brothers’ and sisters’ cries of pain—could remain, in fact, seemingly satisfied to hear those cries because they reinforce the ugly prejudices on which the need to inflict that pain is premised.