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."

Pakaluk now says he regrets this "weak" argument that children of gay couples will corrupt other children because their parents are pornography-fixated, though he stands by his verdict that Catholic schools should think seriously about whether they ought to accept children of same-sex couples.  Since--one assumes--children of heterosexual couples don't have parents who ever look at pornography.  And all the sexual acts of their "opposite-sex lifestyle" are "related to procreation."

As Andrew Sullivan points out, Pakaluk teaches at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia.  Which is affiliated with the Legion of Christ--a religious community founded by the serial rapist of minors Fr. Marcial Maciel.  Who fathered a number of children by various women while heading one of the most influential Catholic religious organizations in the world.  And who apparently raped some of his own children.

But here's what grabs my attention in the Pakaluk story.  As readers will recall, the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley, has been lionized for having affirmed that Catholic schools in his archdiocese are open to children of gay couples, in contrast to the course taken by the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput, who has supported one of his pastors who slammed the door in the face of children of a gay couple.

And now, according to Wangsness, a spokesman for Cardinal O'Malley is seeking to deny that the Cardinal has any control over what gets printed in his diocesan newspaper!  Wangsness reports, "But a spokesman for O’Malley said yesterday that Enrique, not the cardinal, is fully responsible for what The Pilot prints."

As anyone who knows even the tiniest bit about how things function in any Catholic diocese, will recognize, this statement is disingenuous in the extreme.  Catholic newspapers are firmly under the thumb of the bishop of a diocese.

Let The Pilot try printing an article supporting gay marriage, or attacking the ban on artificial contraception, or calling for women's ordination and the abolition of the celibacy requirement in the priesthood, and see how quick Cardinal O'Malley will be to act.

Why does this bother me?  Why not grant that O'Malley at least took a moderate stance vis-a-vis admitting children of gay couples to Catholic schools, and then just shrug my shoulders at the vicious homophobia of an article in his diocesan paper--which he ultimately controls?

I'm perturbed because those now leading the Catholic church want to continue to claim their "right" to bash (to dehumanize and denigrate) gay people, while they simultaneously seek to claim to be compassionate, welcoming, and concerned to heal social wounds.

They can't have it both ways.  They can't continue taking away with one hand what they give with another, when it comes to pastoral approaches to the gay community.  Why do Catholic leaders who want a reputation for pastoral moderation continue to permit the voice of vicious homophobes to be heard in official Catholic publications?

They do so for two reasons.  First, they want to reassure rank and file Catholics (and their ecclesiastical superiors) that their pastoral moderation doesn't represent any concession at all to the gay community, when it comes to the church's right to define gays and lesbians as disordered.

And, second, they want big bucks to continue to flow their way from Catholics of the hard right, who remain adamantly opposed to more humane and welcoming pastoral approaches to the gay community. 

If Cardinal O'Malley wants a reputation for being a pastorally sensitive church leader, he has not done himself any favors in permitting Pakaluk's article, with its ugly, defamatory attack on gay people, to be published in his diocesan newspaper.  You can't act moderate one day and then give column space to a nasty homophobe the next, without revealing the emptiness inside the pastoral kindness you're trying to claim.

You can't claim to stand for healing folks wounded by prejudice when you collude with those fomenting demeaning stereotypes which promote prejudice and violence.  Even at their best, Catholic leaders remain toxic, when it comes to gay lives and gay relationships.  I continue to maintain that the only possible place most of us who are gay, along with our family and friends, can find today, in relation to the Catholic church, is as far away from its structures as possible.  Being connected in any way at all to the Catholic church and its institutions connects us to a constant drip of poison.

P.S. Pakaluk knew full well what he was doing when he got the gays = pornography slur out on the table, knowing it would be questioned and he'd have to retract it.  The name of the game with the religious and political right is to throw as much dirt as possible in articles like this, knowing some of it always sticks in the public mind, even when those making the slanderous charges inevitably retract them.  It's not to Cardinal O'Malley's credit that he'd permit his diocesan paper to be used in this way.