Wednesday, June 30, 2010

For a Little Levity: Tea Party Jesus

For a little levity as a hot summer day ends (levity with a nice pinch of acerbity in it): don't miss this Huffington Post article about a new blog called Tea Party Jesus, which puts the words of some of Jesus's most devoted American neocon followers into his mouth.  Complete with pictures.  

Hint: click on the link to the Tea Party Jesus blog before reading the HuffPo article about it, and try to match the outrageous statement to the "Christian" political leader who made it.  The HuffPo article gives the game away by providing subtitles with the name of the author of the outrageous statement.

Midweek News Round-Up: Dan Rather on Catholic Bankruptcy, Vatican Politics, and Gay Pride Parades

Bits and pieces of the news to catch up on, midweek: 

I noted a few days ago that Dan Rather was going to air a report on June 29 about the bogus bankruptcy claims that some Catholic dioceses have filed to avoid paying damages to survivors of clerical abuse for the abuse they have suffered at the hands of priests.  That piece aired yesterday, and Dan Rather has posted a summary of the segment at Huffington Post, with a link to his televised report.

Journeying to the Future: We Return Home and Learn as We Travel

On our flight back home Monday, Steve and I had the great good fortune to be seated beside a young man who was an interesting conversationalist, and who had incisive things to say about all sorts of topics.  I’m not frequently around 14-year olds, so I don’t know if what our flight companion said is typical of his generation or not.

But because his insights were so sharp and so freshly stated, I decided to write them down as he talked.  I do not want to exploit this young man in reporting his comments on a blog, and so I will avoid recording some things he told us that provide specific information about where he lives, and about his identity. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Federal Mortgage Modification Program: Not Working

An interesting article, as I log onto Huffington Post late in the day, about the fact that perhaps thousands of homeowners with serious mortgage challenges were denied mortgage modifications after the Obama administration put its mortgage program into effect.

Gay Solidarity Throughout the Nation: Will Phillips and the Unfinished Project of American Democracy

Meanwhile, as Catholic parishes in New York City are told not to identify themselves when they march in gay pride parades, in vast areas of the nation outside the elite centers of power and communication, LGBT people like Constance McMillen in Mississippi struggle just to survive.  Here's Ed Kennedy's take on the attitude of some gay citizens living in those elite centers of power and communication, who seem unable to understand or muster solidarity with their brothers and sisters living in the heartland of the nation:

If I read one more article by some exasperated New York City queen talking about how "over" Pride they are when huge swaths of the country don't even have job protections, much less Pride, I'm going to rent a bus and stuff it with armed rednecks from the Bible belt and drop them off in Chelsea. Get over yourselves, and look to young Will Phillips for inspiration.

Kennedy is absolutely correct.   Implicitly, many gays and lesbians who find fulfilling lives in the welcoming spaces provided by our elite cultural centers appear to imagine that the rest of us, who live everywhere else throughout the nation, are somehow responsible for our own oppression, and haven't had the intelligence or imagination to make our way to the big city.  

Though many of us are where we are because we have family ties that count  for us, responsibilities attached to those ties, and roots that bind us to particular places that are our home every bit as much as they're the home of our straight family members and friends . . . . And the struggle for gay rights being lived out in those places around the nation is even more important than the struggle for rights in the big cities that have long since afforded LGBT citizens welcoming spaces.

The link to Kennedy's commentary also contains a link to a clip of young Will Phillips speaking at the Northwest Arkansas Pride parade this past weekend.  Don't miss it.  As Kennedy rightly notes, there's the future of our nation: a mouthy, bright, funny young man from the sticks daring to imagine that his voice counts, and that the project of democracy should involve everyone if it is to be what it claims to be.  

If anyone thinks it doesn't take guts to stand up for what's right, as young Will Phillips has stood up for what's right, in places like Fayetteville, Rogers, or Springdale, Arkansas, I suggest that they book a flight down to that region and spend a few days looking around, listening, and observing what it's like to be gay or lesbian in northwest Arkansas.

We're Here, We're Queer, We're C------c: Archbishop Timothy Dolan Tells Catholic Parish to March in Gay Pride Parade without Identifying Itself

We're here, we're queer, we're Catholic:

I can think of few more poignant symbols to define the agenda of Benedict's restorationist Catholicism, when it comes to LGBT Catholics, than this story.  Parishioners of St. Francis Xavier church in New York are informed by Archbishop Timothy Dolan that they may not march in this year's Gay Pride parade (in which they've marched for some years now) while carrying a sign identifying their parish.  In years past, they've always carried a banner noting that they represent St. Francis Xavier parish.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Peter Popham on Benedict as Reformer: "If This Is Sodom, He Has Been a Citizen in Good Standing for 40 Years"

Peter Popham at The Independent, writing about the impossibility of Benedict's attempt to reform the church from the center, when he stands dead-center in the place where reform is most needed:

Nobody doubts that the Pope would like the church to be a cleaner, leaner, quieter, purer institution, purged of paedophile priests and greedy careerists; he said as much again last week. But this man, who proposes himself as a new broom and wags his finger at those who take a permissive, typically Italian view of venality, has been at the heart of the church for half a lifetime. All these people are his old colleagues. If this is Sodom, he has been a citizen in good standing for 40 years. 

If this is Sodom, he has been a citizen in good standing for 40 years.


Benedict Speaks, Proclaims His Solidarity with Priests of Belgium

Police raid the headquarters of the leaders of Belgium's Catholic church, seeking evidence of cover-up of crimes of clerical sexual abuse of minors, and the pope can speak loudly and clearly.

But when a nation contemplates enacting the death penalty for gay citizens, the pope has not a word to say.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Valerie Saiving on Hypermasculinity of Modernity: The Challenge of Postmodernity

If I have read Valerie Saiving’s ground-breaking essay on feminist theology “The Human Situation: A Feminine View,” I did so years ago and have forgotten it.  Now that I’ve been introduced (or perhaps reintroduced) to her, I intend to read anything I can find by her.

In Susan Henking’s summary of Saiving’s essay to which I have just linked, I’m struck by Saiving’s claim that modernity is a “hypermasculine culture,” and the feminized society that critics of that culture often seek to build in reaction to it runs the risk of accentuating some of the negative effects of hypermasculine culture itself, when it comes to the feminine.  As it reacts to the hypermasculine culture of modernity, critique of this culture risks, Saiving argues, affirming the loss of self that is one of the chief effects of hypermasculine culture on the feminine.

New Study on Gay Couples and Health Coverage: Implications for Catholic Institutions and Gay Employees

A footnote to my recent discussion of the injustice done to gay and lesbian employees by Catholic institutions (that discussion centered on Anne Hendershott’s claim that there are openly gay and lesbian people in leadership positions in Catholic colleges/universities):

A recent study conducted by Lambda Legal and UCLA’s Department of Health Services finds that, in California, “Partnered lesbians and gay men are more than twice as likely to be uninsured as married heterosexuals.”  The study concludes that “[t]he exclusion of gay men and women from civil marriage and the failure of domestic partnership benefits to provide insurance parity contribute to unequal access to health coverage, with the probable result that more health spending is pushed onto these individuals and onto the public.”

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Catholic Church's Summer of Discontent: Stories Keep Pouring Forth

This is turning out to be a summer of discontent for the Catholic church—an unprecedented season of bad news reports, one on the heels of another, about the now worldwide scandal regarding sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, and the institutional cover-up of such abuse.

Yesterday, police raided the headquarters of the Catholic church in Belgium, seeking evidence about cover-ups of cases of clerical sexual abuse.  They raided as well the home of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who retired in January as archbishop of Brussells—the highest ranking position in the Belgian church.

Eve Tushnet and Ann Althouse Discuss Same-Sex Marriage: The Crazy Ultimate Logic of Magisterial Thinking about Homosexuality

For anyone who has still not recognized the plain craziness—and I choose that word deliberately and with care—of the magisterial Catholic position on homosexual ethics taken to its logical conclusion, I highly recommend Eve Tushnet’s recent discussion of sexual ethics with Ann Althouse.  Althouse has linked a video of the discussion to her blog.

Tushnet is a freelance journalist whose father Mark Tushnet teaches law at Harvard, and whose sister Rebecca is a professor at Georgetown’s school of law.  Several weeks ago, Mark Oppenheimer published an article about Eve Tushnet’s position on same-sex marriage in New York Times.  Tushnet is lesbian, Catholic, and celibate, and she defends the magisterial position that all gay and lesbian Catholics should live lives of complete chastity throughout their lives.

In Memory: A Fathers' Day Tribute to My Father

If I’m slow these days to blog, it’s because Steve and I are still traveling, and are now in an area in which our internet access is sporadic.  We’re spending a few days in the Napa Valley area, and though our b and b had advertised wireless online service, we’re finding that the ad overstated the case, and even our cell phones aren’t working most of the time.

A reminder, I take it, to pause awhile and remember that the world revolves around Someone other than ourselves.  And what a beautiful area of the world in which to pause awhile—the green and brown hilltops around the valley, with their mix of hardwoods and pines, the abundant flowers (roses of all varieties, bright blue chicory, fragrant magnolia, mimosa, and Confederate jasmine, oleanders).  It’s paradisal, this part of the country.  And, of course, the well-tended vineyards marching everywhere up to the slopes of the surrounding hills . . . .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gay and Lesbian Leaders in U.S. Catholic Colleges and Universities: Continuing the Discussion

Anne Hendershott has emailed me after my two postings (and here) questioning her recent claim that "[t]here are openly gay men and women in leadership positions at a number of Catholic universities and colleges."  She notes that there are published accounts stating that the dean of arts and sciences at St. Michael's College and the provost at Seattle University are both openly gay men.

I appreciate this information and Professor Hendershott's respose to my postings calling for further information about openly gay or lesbian faculty in leadership positions at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities. Ms. Hendershott indicates that she has other names about which nothing has been published, and she has concerns about outing these gay leaders in Catholic schools.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

USCCB Communications Secretary Challenges Veracity of Catholic News Agency Reporting: Helen Osman on CNA Article about Health Care Debate

This posting is a follow-up--in a way I'll explain in a moment--to what I posted yesterday about Anne Hendershott's recent claim in Wall Street Journal that "[t]here are openly gay men and women in leadership positions at a number of Catholic universities and colleges."

Yesterday, Helen Osman, communications secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, posted a statement at the USCCB media blog which states flatly that a recent article published by the Catholic News Agency of Denver is "just wrong" when it attributes to Cardinal Francis George, president of USCCB, statements he did not make at a recent closed-door meeting of the U.S. bishops in St. Petersburg.

A Report from the Front: Sunday Liturgy at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco

Steve and I went to liturgy this past weekend at Most Holy Redeemer church in the Castro district of San Francisco.  It's the parish of the friend we've been visiting, Richard.  So we met him there for liturgy on Sunday.

I've been thinking about the experience and want to share a few insights on this blog.  Since it's in the Castro, MHR is a largely gay parish--that is, it has a large percentage of gay, lesbian, and trans parishioners, though non-gay Catholics, including heterosexual couples with children, also come to MHR because of its vibrant worship style and its welcoming community.  And quite a few people, we understand--including a cousin of Steve's and the cousin's partner--drive into the city on Sunday from a distance to attend liturgy at MHR.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Maciel's Son Files Suit Against Legionaries of Christ, Alleges Sexual Abuse by His Father Began When He Was 10 Years Old

 In discussing the viciously homophobic essay by Michael Pakaluk that the Boston archdiocesan newspaper The Pilot recently published, defending the right of Catholic schools to turn away children of gay parents, I noted that Pakaluk teaches at a Virginia institute affiliated with the Legionaries of Christ.

As I noted this, I also indicated that among the sordid revelations about the Legion's founder Marcial Maciel in the past year is that he raped some of his own children, children he fathered as a priest and head of the Legionaries of Christ.  This is a piece of information that has appeared in reports about Maciel in recent months, about which I hadn't blogged until I wrote about Pakaluk's essay.

Anne Hendershott Addresses Marquette's Withdrawal of Job Offer to Lesbian Scholar, Claims Catholic Colleges Have Openly Gay Leaders

Wall Street Journal carried an article last Friday by Anne Hendershott of King's College in New York, rebutting the claim that Marquette University's recent decision to withdraw a job offer to out lesbian scholar Jodi O'Brien was based on O'Brien's sexual orientation.

Hendershott's essay makes a number of astonishing claims that directly contradict statements of members of the Marquette faculty, who find strong reason to conclude that O'Brien's sexual orientation (and her publication of articles in the field of queer theory and history) has everything to do with the rescinding of a job offer to her.  Hendershott attempts to make a nifty little step around the issue of sexual orientation by suggesting that it wasn't O'Brien's public identity as a lesbian or what she has written about that topic that led to Marquette officials' blocking her after they had offered her a contract.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For Fathers' Day: Phillip Toledano on His Father

For Fathers' Day, don't miss Phillip Toledano's beautiful meditation on the final years of his father's life, in which he took care of his elderly father: "I decided that my job as his son was to make whatever time he had left as happy as possible."

John Allen on Abuse Crisis: Secular Media, Elite Centers of Opinion, Lawyers, and Barbed Catholic Blogs Put Bishops' Backs Up

From John Allen's latest "All Things Catholic" column at National Catholic Reporter:

For the bishops, the defining trauma of the last decade has been the sexual abuse crisis. It would take a particularly out-of-touch prelate not to grasp the massive hit their reputation and moral authority has taken – and if any bishop were ever tempted to forget, newspaper editorial pages, cable TV talk shows, and the blogosphere stand ready to offer barbed reminders.

The fresh eruption of the [sexual abuse] crisis in recent months, this time engulfing the Vatican and the pope himself, has revived a sense of siege. While most bishops in America are painfully aware of the church’s failures, many also feel that the unrelenting criticism of the church and its leaders has been unfair. There’s a spreading sense that the secular media, elite centers of opinion, tort lawyers, and in-house critics within the Catholic fold have exploited the crisis to sour the public image of the bishops, ignoring the massive efforts they’ve undertaken to foster a safe environment for children, to reach out to victims, and to weed predators out of the priesthood.

For the moment, it doesn’t matter how justified those perceptions may be. They’re a reality, and collectively they’ve generated a sort of gut-level, pre-conscious reaction among a growing swath of bishops. The tendency is to begin thinking about any issue in the life of the church by asking: “Are you with us or against us?” 

I've noted before (and here) that John Allen's journalism often employs a prescriptive-as-descriptive framework in which his own theological and political penchants are embedded as pseudo-objective description of a situation.  Under the guise of describing, Allen prescribes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Streetcar as a School of Life: Notes from San Francisco

In one afternoon, on a beautiful summer day, you can meet 21 kinds of crazy on a San Francisco streetcar.  And every one of them is related to you, is essential to your life.  Every one of them counts, too.

There was the drugged-out man, hair in dreadlocks, who began to dance down the aisle before the car came to a halt at his stop, asking loudly, "Is there a party in here?"  And then danced out of the car to his destination.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jamaica Kincaid's "My Brother": A Meditation on the Price of Connection

What I am writing now is not a journal; a journal is a daily account, an immediate account of what occurs during a certain time.  For a long time after my brother died I could not write about him, I could not think about him in a purposeful way.  It was really a short time between the time that he became sick and the time that he died, but that time became a world.  To make a world takes an eternity, and eternity is the refuge of the lost, the refuge for all things that will never be or things that have been but have lost their course and hope to recede with some grace, and even I believe this to be true, though I also have no real way of measuring it.

Jamaica Kincaid writing of the death of her brother Devon Drew of AIDS in 1996 (My Brother [NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997], pp. 91-2).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Gulf Situation and the Destructive Effects of Oil: More Childhood Memories

We often don't think to write about the things closest to us.  Because they're, of course, familiar to us, and we assume that means they're familiar to others.

It suddenly hit me today why I am so absolutely certain what the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will do to the ecology of the area it affects, and why that grieves me so.  I'm certain of the effects of the oil spill because I grew up seeing the results of mini-oil spills all around me.  And what I saw was invariably horrific.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bonhöffer: “Only the Person Who Cries out for the Jews May Sing Gregorian Chants”

If I have ever read the following statement from Dietrich Bonhöffer, I’ve long since forgotten it:
“Only the person who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.”

I think Bonhöffer captures an extremely important insight here—an insight into the fundamental difference between easy and cheap grace, and the cost of discipleship that flows from one or the other concept.

In the News: Richard McBrien on Quality of Pastoral Leadership and Exodus of U.S. Catholics from Church, Spiegel on Bishops' Use of Church Resources

And now two more recent articles: first, Richard McBrien’s latest essay at National Catholic Reporter, which catches my eye because it connects important dots as we (but not the bishops: more on that below) think through Pew data showing that a third of American Catholics have exited the Catholic church in recent years. 

McBrien links the exodus to the abysmal quality of pastoral leadership in the Catholic church in the U.S. in the restorationist period in which first John Paul II and now his successor Benedict have appointed bishops primarily on the basis of their unquestioning party-line loyalty, and not because of their pastoral (or intellectual or ethical) acumen.

In the News: America Magazine on Gulf Situation, Peter Daou on Obama's Defining Challenge

A smorgasbord of new online articles that have struck me for one reason or another.  And so I’d like to recommend them to readers.  The first two are about the Gulf disaster.

First, I’m struck by the conclusion to America magazine’s latest editorial, which addresses the situation in the Gulf of Mexico.  America’s editorialist parallels my own thinking about the ecological tragedy of the Gulf: as I noted recently, what seems particularly tragic about the destruction happening there is that we cannot ever calculate (and reverse) all the damage now occurring in a short period of time in this part of the globe.  A region whose abundant, precious wildlife Haitian artist John James Audubon catalogued with such loving care at the start of the 19th century is now irretrievably wounded—and we are all the losers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mr. Obama Promises Return to Normal for Gulf: Too Little, Too Late

Mr. Obama has told residents of the Gulf region that things will return to normal for them.

But that's simply not true.  Irreversible damage has now been done and continues to occur on a daily basis.

Diana Butler Bass on Continued Attempt of U.S. Religious Right to Use African Christians in American Culture Wars

Huffington Post recently carried a fine article by Diana Butler Bass, author of A People's History of Christianity (NY: Harper, 2009).  It's about a topic re: which I've blogged repeatedly in the past: the misreading of African versions of Christianity by Western Christians intent on using Africans and the churches of Africa as pawns in lethal culture-war games in the West.

A.J. Jacobs's Year of Living Biblically: On the Future of Religion in a World of Growing Fundamentalism

When I blogged about A.J. Jacobs’s The Year of Living Biblically last week, I noted that I might have some concluding remarks about this book, once I’d finished it.  My remarks last week looked at the fairly common phenomenon of liberal-tolerant secular folks who have little to do with formal religion, but who nonetheless want a strong, viable presence of religion in their societies as a check against moral decline.  A strong, viable presence of religion somewhere, preferably at a remove from themselves . . . .

Today, I’d like to say something more appreciative about Jacobs’s decision to “live biblically” for a year, and what he learned as he undertook that experiment.  As he notes, though he was raised a non-practicing Jew, and though he tends to agnosticism, his year of living biblically revolutionized his understanding of how religion influences many people, at a practical level, on a daily basis.  Jacobs gained a sympathetic understanding of religion by practicing Judaeo-Christian biblical literalism for a year.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Boston Catholic Paper Prints Vicious Homophobic Article, Elicits Widespread Push-Back

A recent column in the newspaper of the Boston Catholic archdiocese, The Pilot, has attracted national attention, due to its vicious attack on the gay community.  As Lisa Wangsness reports in the Boston Globe, Michael Pakaluk, a former visiting scholar at Harvard who now teaches in Virginia, wrote the column to defend the right of Catholic schools to turn away children of gay couples.

Among his arguments?  Gays always come with with pornographic baggage, given that our "same-sex lifestyle" is not "related to procreation."

The Gaying of the Priesthood and Misogyny among the Catholic Hierarchy: A Reader Responds to Eugene Kennedy at NCR

I blogged recently about one of the sotto voce streams of chatter in post-Vatican II American Catholicism, which powerfully affects our analysis of the sexual abuse crisis in the priesthood and of clerical celibacy.  It does so at a subliminal level, because this chatter is never quite made public, put on the table for discussion.

That posting discussed chatter about how the purported gaying of the priesthood has run off the "normal" vocations we'd have if we permitted married clergy.  (I'm in favor of opening the priesthood both to women and to those who are married, by the way, though in my view, there should also be an option for those called to celibacy if the Catholic priesthood is restructured.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Living Biblically: A.J. Jacobs and the Lincoln-Halter Race in Arkansas

A few days back, when blogged about the I-believe-everything-approach to Catholic orthodoxy, a reader of this blog (and friend of mine), Brad Caviness, logged in to recommend that I read A.J. Jacobs’s book The Year of Living Biblically (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2007).  I’ve now obtained a copy (my local library helpfully provided me with a LARGE PRINT EDITION that I had not requested, SO I GET THE POINT OF EACH SENTENCE IMMEDIATELY).  Jacobs’s book is a fascinating read from a number of standpoints, and I may well comment on it further when I’ve finished it (I’m about three-quarters way through the book now).

I’m learning a tremendous amount from this book, particularly about Judaism, but about various streams of Christianity as well, since Jacobs’s quest as he wrote this book was to follow as scrupulously as possible every commandment in the bible—both the Jewish and Christian scriptures—over the course of a year.  And then to write about the experience, if he lived through it.

John McNeill on the Elimination of the All-Male, Celibate Priesthood in the Catholic Church

One of the gifts the internet has given us is the opportunity to read blogs by scholars of the stature of John McNeill.  Previously, those following the work of a significant thinker like John have had to wait for articles and books to be published, to benefit from that thinker’s latest insights.

Now, through his blog, we have the benefit of John’s thinking about particular issues on an ongoing basis, as his ideas take shape, and as he responds to events happening right now.  John’s latest posting at his Spiritual Transformation blog allows us, for instance, to see his response to the current witch-hunt for gay candidates seeking entrance to the Catholic priesthood.  We can read this response in “real time,” as it were, right now, as the new inquisitorial system gets underway in Catholic seminaries in the U.S.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Rise of Religious Fascism and the Cool Pragmatism of Generation Jones: Three Perspectives on the Current Political Scene

Three recent articles catch my eye as as valuable contributions to dialogue about matters religious and political. I’m mentioning them in a single posting because, in key respects, their themes overlap.  The articles complement each other.

The first is Chris Hedges’ recent impassioned argument at Truth Dig that we need to pay close attention to the inroads the Christian right is now making in American politics.  Hedges warns us that we dismiss and ridicule this movement at our peril.  Its goal is a theocratic takeover of American government.  And it could easily effect that takeover soon, Hedges thinks.

William Slavick: Time for Catholic Leaders to Go

I’m happy to see this op-ed statement by William H. Slavick getting wide circulation.  It has just appeared in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, and has been picked up by both National Catholic Reporter and  Bill Slavick is a retired professor and peace activist who formerly headed Pax Christi in Maine. 
Slavick tells it like it is, as he calls for the resignation of key Catholic leaders: he notes the deliberate choice of John Paul II and Benedict to slam shut the window opened by Vatican II, because implementing the ecclesiology of that council would threaten our current clerical system and its patriarchal basis.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Abuse Crisis and the Gaying of the Priesthood: My Take on Liberal Catholic Analysis of the Issue

Last Friday, I blogged about Tom Roberts’ National Catholic Reporter commentary on the new interview process for Catholic seminaries in the U.S.  That process seeks to identify (and in many cases weed out) gay candidates for the priesthood.  As I talked through two areas in which Roberts’ commentary elicits my discomfort, I noted that, in my view, there’s an unacknowledged belief in the thinking of many Catholic liberals that the abuse crisis is really all about gay priests. 

I also noted that I suspect this unacknowledged belief is actually as prevalent, if not more prevalent, among liberal Catholics in the U.S. as among conservative ones.  It’s hard to bring to the surface for productive analysis, since it is usually talked about only sotto voce, among liberal Catholics talking to other liberal Catholics.  It is not brought to the table for honest discussion, even now, as we cope with another round of abuse revelations in Ireland, Germany, and other countries.

Monday, June 7, 2010

More Reflections on Parallels Between Discussion of Slavery and of Homosexuality: The Persistent Obstructionist Tendency of Churches

I’ve been involved in two blog threads this weekend, both of which had strong toxins flowing through them.  And it suddenly hits me: the toxins come from the same sources, though the threads are not similar in other respects.  Since this insight follows from what I posted earlier today about the national debate re: the morality of slavery in the 19th century, I want to develop it a bit.

One of the two discussions was at a local website where the blog proprietor posted some good comments about Charles Blow’s op-ed piece in this weekend’s New York Times.  As Blow notes, a recent Gallup poll shows that, for the first time since polling on this point has been done in the U.S., a majority of Americans approve of the morality of gay “relations.”  And the biggest jump in those shifting from disapproval to approval is among men.

Still Looking for Abraham: Lincoln vs. Stephen Douglas on the Morality of Slavery (with Implications for the Debate about Homosexuality in American Today)

*I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve been reading Daniel Mark Epstein’s Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington (NY: Random House, 2004).  I noted that I might have more to share about that book in a few days.

One of the points sustaining my attention as I read this informative study of the amazing connections between Lincoln and Whitman is the backdrop of national debate about the morality of slavery at the time Lincoln became president.  The book does a super job of sketching that backdrop and showing how it formed the basis for the president and poet’s connection to each other.  It’s impossible to be reminded of what that national moral debate entailed without thinking about our current national debate regarding the morality of gay lives and relationships.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Yay for Traditional Marriage! Mr. Limbaugh Takes a New Wife

Glenn Greenwald comments at Salon today on Mr. Limbaugh's fourth marriage--his fourth traditional marriage.

You know, the kind of marriage many churches, including my Catholic church, holds up as the gold standard for marriage: one man, one woman.  For life.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More News Tidbits: As Americans Reject Discrimination, Catholic Bishops Defend It

And more news snippets:

I just ended my posting about Facebook and the closet by noting (following Joshua Alston) how social networking tools ineluctably throw us together nowadays—gay and straight—in a way that makes the closet walls permeable.

In that context, I’d like to mention Charles Blow’s op-ed piece, “Gay?  Whatever, Dude,” in yesterday’s New York Times.  Blow comments on the results of a recent Gallup poll which shows that, for the first time since polling about this issue has been conducted, a majority of Americans view “gay and lesbian relations” as morally acceptable.

End-of-Week News Selection: Donna Freitas on Abuse Story, Joshua Alston on Facebook and the Closet

A handful of articles as this week ends, which have caught my eye in the past week and I want to recommend to readers.

First, Religion Dispatches recently interviewed Donna Freitas, author of a new novel entitled This Gorgeous Game, which tells the story of an adolescent girl stalked by a Catholic priest.  Freitas formerly taught religion at Boston University, and has just taken a position at Hofstra University.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tom Roberts on the Purge of Gays from Catholic Seminaries: Start of Honest Conversation about Sexuality Issues and Priesthood?

Ever since reading Tom Roberts' National Catholic Reporter reflections on this week's New York Times article about the gay purge of Catholic seminaries (and here), I have felt itchy.  Something in Roberts' response to the purge and the process by which gays are being weeded out of Catholic seminaries has made me itch with questions I couldn't quite put my finger on.

Now that I've thought about precisely what troubles me in Roberts' analysis, I've just posted a response at NCR.  I'll append it below.

The Gulf Disaster and the Search for Ethical Insight: Where Are Answers to Be Found?

I haven’t blogged yet about what’s happening in the Gulf because this story is painfully personal for me.  I still have not returned to New Orleans, following Katrina.  I do not know that I can do so—that I can see the aftereffects of the destruction of that city—and cope with what I see.  Photographs and videos have been enough to show me the horror.  Enough to let me know that I am still not prepared to see it first-hand.

New Orleans is, in key respects, my spiritual home.  I went to college there, found love there, nurtured soul there.  As I finished my graduate work in theology, providence returned me, fatefully, to teach at Xavier University, and the same providence found Steve a job in the same city the following year.  When we had entered graduate school, we had taken for granted that we would not likely find jobs in the same place when we graduated—that finishing our doctorates would mean the end of our life together. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Walt Whitman on the Failure of the Institution of the Father, and the Catholic Abuse Crisis: Are Manly Men Really the Solution?

This links to what I posted yesterday about Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and the search for manly men to lead the Catholic church today—a search premised on bias and myth that has dominated the outlook of many Catholics in recent years, as attempts are made to pin the abuse crisis on gay priests.  A persistent subtext in the hagiography of John Paul the Great has been that, as a manly man, he did not countenance clerical sexual abuse of minors.  (And how wrong that subtext has been proven by the Maciel story!)  And that if we could only begin attracting more manly men like him to the priesthood, the abuse situation would be a thing of the past.

I’m troubled by the fit between that subtext, based on bias and myth, and the rhetoric of the violent right-wing extremists who are well-represented in contemporary American culture.  Justine Sharrock tracks this rhetoric at Alternet today, noting that right-wing extremist groups are increasingly using Facebook and other networking sites to organize and gain adherents. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Richard Sipe on Sex, Obedience, and Disclosure: Getting to the Roots of Catholic Clerical Abuse Crisis

For the sound of a really prophetic voice in American Catholicism today (no vroom, vroom, vroom here), I recommend Richard Sipe's latest article at National Catholic Reporter on sex, obedience, and disclosure in the Catholic church.

Its conclusion:

The Bishop Has a Hog: The New Archbishop of Miami and the Future of American Catholicism

The old boys are loving them some Tom Wenski.

He’s got a hog.  Vroom, vroom, vroom!  And he rides that Harley all over the place.

Vroom, vroom, vroom!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The I-Believe-Everything-Approach to Catholic Orthodoxy: Critical Reflections

Terry Weldon has a very good posting now at the Open Tabernacle site, looking at the place of the Catholic catechism as an answer book for those who need answers—all the answers—to the pop quiz we’re presumably going to be given at the end of our lives.   About our orthodoxy, don’t you know. 

About whether we’ve informed ourselves as to everything there is to know about what the Catholic church teaches.  And whether we’ve accepted everything the church teaches, and implemented all of that teaching in our actions.