Monday, April 12, 2010

Tumbling Wall of the Patriarchal Church and Its Cornerstones--Women in Place, Gays Excluded, Abortion Off-Limits for Discussion

This is an image I’ve shared with TheraP in a thread following a previous Bilgrimage posting.  Because it complements what I just said in the conclusion of my posting about the pope’s gallant lads and their latest (Latinate) defense of Benedict, I want to share it as a full-blown posting now.

As things continue to fall apart in the Catholic church these days, I picture the defensores fidei this way: they’re standing at a wall.  Bricks are hurling down from that wall all over the place.

But the defensores are courageously holding onto several bricks.  They’re keeping them firmly in place.  And in doing so, they imagine they’re holding the whole wall up, even as brick after brick tumbles to the ground around them.

The bricks that the defensores are holding in place are not numerous.  Each has a label.  The labels read “women’s issues,” “homosexuality,” and “abortion.” Keep those bricks intact, keep them firmly ensconced in the tumbling wall, and the wall won’t fall down.

Or so it seems to me: it seems to me that this is the logic underlying the tactics of many of those now rushing to the defense of the Catholic hierarchy amidst one revelation of abuse after another.  Something in which they have invested years of their lives, something that seemed immutable to them, is suddenly in danger of being dismantled, and they must keep the bricks in place.

Or at least those bricks that, they imagine, keep the entire wall intact. 

And as the wall tumbles brick by brick and the men shoring up this handful of labeled bricks deny the tumbling of the wall and imagine that the bricks they’re keeping in their place are somehow keeping the whole structure together, the logic driving their equation of the Catholic faith with keeping women down, bashing gays, and suppressing discussion of abortion becomes ever clearer.

Tragically so.

The same men who have invested several decades in chiding the rest of us because we have not hinged our moral analysis of everything on the claim to personhood of a blastocyte fertilized one moment ago apparently do not see that a little boy tied to a chair and raped by a priest is the most salient feature of all to discuss in a story about a case of clerical abuse. 

Instead, they want us to spend our time parsing Latin form letters and nattering about dicasteries.

How, I wonder, will those who have previously told us to invest every bit of emotional energy we have in the personhood of a just-fertilized blastocyte now convince us that their discourse about abortion is compelling, when we discover that they cannot see—or so it appears from their continued tortured defense of the Vatican’s indefensible behavior in the Kiesle case—the little boy tied up and raped?

And how will they now convince us that their defense of the personhood of a one-day old blastocyte has been all about defending the sacredness of each human life, when they continue talking about dicasteries and Latin while one woman after another tells them that this is not the point of the story? The point is to keep children from being abused.  Whenever and wherever possible.  Immediately.  Not seven years down the road.

As I’ve said over and over again on this blog, the Catholic case about abortion makes sense only when it is set within a consistent ethic of life that clearly, unambiguously celebrates the sacredness of all life.  As that case has been argued by the men now holding the bricks labeled “women’s issues,” “homosexuality,” and “abortion,” it appears to be far more about control of women than about the value of the lives of children abused by clerics.

And that’s to say: it appears to be far more about defending their church, a patriarchal one that has ruthlessly suppressed open discourse about abortion and women’s issues in precisely the same period in which it has covered up the sexual molestation of minors by priests.  It’s about equating the bricks they want to hold in place with the church itself, as if this is what the Catholic church is about in its entirety: women in their place; gays and lesbians labeled immoral and told to vanish; and the complexities of abortion firmly off-limits for discussion.

And how will they continue convincing us, I wonder, that the corruption of gays must be center-stage in everything the church does and thinks at this point of history when they themselves have done everything possible to collude in the cover-up of an abuse scandal that they now want us to believe is all about gay priests abusing adolescent boys?  As if we can’t see that those advancing this argument are the very people who have fought to keep a cover-up in place—to aid and abet church officials who, they now want us to believe, are part of a vast institutional conspiracy of gay pederasts infesting the structures their defenders are trying desperately to keep intact?

It might be better, all things considered, to admit that the wall is tumbling now.  And that the bricks we’ve tried to make the cornerstone aren’t the cornerstone at all. 

And that Humpty won’t be put back together again until many more folks besides the king’s men have a role in reassembling him.