Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In the News: Ratzinger and Cover-Up, Catholic Boys' Club, Politicized vs. Pastoral Bishops, and Non-Procreative Marriages as of No Consequence

And still more snippets from recent online articles that catch my eye:

Here’s Mark Silk commenting yesterday (critically so) at Spiritual Politics on Michael Sean Winters’ parsing of the Kiesle documents:

In short, on taking charge of the CDF Ratzinger became part of the cover-up regime. Indeed, there was no sign that the CDF was delaying the Kiesle case until he took charge. And the delay continued amidst the huge media commotion over the Gauthe case in Louisiana, the first of the big priest pedophile scandals, which broke in the Spring of 1985. At that time, meanwhile, Ratzinger was bringing the hammer down on theologian Charles Curran (for being soft on sexual ethics) and Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen (in part for his ministry to homosexuals), and preparing a document condemning tolerance of homosexuality ("Pastoral Care of Homosexuals"). So in what would become a familiar two-step, it was the hard line on sexual doctrine, the tolerant understanding for abusive priests.

And here’s Maureen Dowd noting the damage that the old boys’ club does to itself (and to all members of the Catholic church) by continuing to be, well, an old boys’ club:

Negating women is at the heart of the church’s hideous — and criminal — indifference to the welfare of boys and girls in its priests’ care. Lisa Miller writes in Newsweek’s cover story about the danger of continuing to marginalize women in a disgraced church that has Mary at the center of its founding story:

“In the Roman Catholic corporation, the senior executives live and work, as they have for a thousand years, eschewing not just marriage, but intimacy with women ... not to mention any chance to familiarize themselves with the earthy, primal messiness of families and children.” No wonder that, having closed themselves off from women and everything maternal, they treated children as collateral damage, a necessary sacrifice to save face for Mother Church.

Here’s Bill Tammeus writing about the kind of authentically pastoral leaders we might hope to have, but don’t, in the Catholic church with its “newly impassioned bishops” of the ilk of Charles Chaput of Denver:

What does it mean to be pastoral? Well, let me disabuse you of the notion that it means having a wishy-washy theology or an inability to exercise a prophetic voice in one-on-one situations. Indeed, the most pastoral religious leaders I’ve known have spent a lot of time understanding theology and the requirement of that theology to speak clearly on moral and ethical issues, both personal and social in nature.

But being pastoral also means being approachable. And it means having an empathetic heart and a willingness to acknowledge the reality that because life is extraordinarily messy, one’s responses to it cannot be prepackaged.

It also requires an ability to embody the sad truth that all — including Catholic bishops and executive presbyters — fall short of the glory of God and need forgiveness.

I wish I believed that being pastoral was at the top of the list for the people Lisa Miller described as “these newly impassioned bishops.” But it sounds as if political skills for them trump pastoral skills.

And, for what it’s worth (old news, but this is an ongoing conversation and will continue to be a tactic used by the religious right, both evangelical and Catholic), here’s New Jersey representative Michael Carroll stating his reason for opposing same-sex marriage:

“I see no purpose in extending a societal imprimatur – and not insubstantial benefits – to folks whose relationships are of essentially no societal consequence,” Carroll said, then added, “Taxpayers should not be in the business of subsidizing friendships, however close.”

“Folks whose relationships are of essentially no societal consequence”: I’ve addressed that argument repeatedly on this blog—for instance here, when Mexican archbishop Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinoza tried this tactic back in January.  Gay couples and gay families contribute to the common good of every community in manifold ways.

It’s evil for communities to accept and use the gifts offered by gay couples and gay families, while refusing to acknowledge those gifts and the bearers of the gifts, and by refusing legal support mechanisms that torture the lives and relationships of gay folks. 

And if Carroll really believes what he says, then I expect him immediately to file legislation to prohibit the marriage of opposite-sex couples in New Jersey who are incapable of procreating, because the partners are too old to conceive or one or both of them have physical impediments to conception. 

Actor Dixie Carter, who died on the weekend and who was a Republican who happened to defend gay people and gay rights, was far more honest than Carroll is being.  As she notes in a 1998 interview in D.C.’s Metroweekly to which Box Turtle Bulletin links, she struggled with the idea of same-sex marriage because she was inclined to think of procreation as the purpose of marriage.

But two facts gave her cause to reconsider as she struggled.  The first was that she could see and recognize the gifts brought to her life and the lives of others through committed gay relationships that were, in her experience, every bit as much marriages as opposite-sex marriages are.

And the second is that she married Hal Holbrook, with every blessing of church and society possible and absolutely no impediments, when both were beyond child-bearing years. 

By Michael Carroll’s criterion, Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook—and countless other validly married heterosexual couples—are “folks whose relationships are of essentially no societal consequence.”  I applaud the inimitable Ms. Julia Sugarbaker, whom the world will sorely miss, for putting the lie—as a conservative Republican—to Mr. Carroll’s slimy attack on countless non-procreative gay and straight couples.

And shame on Carroll, a Catholic and a Knight of Columbus for spreading this lie to further his political career.