Thursday, December 23, 2010

DADT Ends, and Some Catholics Refuse to Rejoice

With the end to official discrimination against a targeted minority in the American military, I've received several fascinating comments here by someone who works as publicity director for a Catholic anti-abortion group in the U.S.  He's clearly intently unhappy to see legalized discrimination against gay human beings ended in the military.

And that makes me ask questions that fascinate me.  First, what's the link--and it seems obvious to a certain set of Catholics of the political and religious right--between defending the value of human life in opposition to abortion, and defending discrimination against those who are gay and lesbian?  Is there some genetic connection between being anti-abortion and anti-gay?  Must one who defends the value of human life by opposing abortion also support discrimination against those who are gay or lesbian? 

I suppose the answer many Catholics of the right would give to that question is that, in both areas, "Christians" are fighting an intractable battle against a godless secular culture that is eroding Christian values in (and Christian control of) the public realm.  On the face of it, however, it seems to me that seeking to defend the value of human life by attacking the value of some human lives is counterintuitive.  If anyone is eroding the case the religious right wishes to make for the sanctity of human life vis-a-vis abortion, it's members of the religious right themselves, by their callous and seemingly endless attacks on the dignity and worth of the lives of gay human beings.

As I've said before, I have great difficulty believing that many of those who claim to promote the value of human life in the abortion debate even believe seriously in the value of life.  Their behavior, and the inconsistency of their position about the value of particular categories of human beings, lead me to conclude otherwise, and to conclude that the battle against abortion is largely fed by the desire to control women and to keep male control of women alive.

And in this respect, their opposition to anti-gay discrimination reflects their core values of male domination and control of women and men they regard as feminized.  They sense an important symbolic defeat in the end of legalized discrimination against gays in the military, because this will open the door to permitting men they wish to demean to assert their masculinity in an arena that these Christians of the right want to keep barred to anyone except men they imagine as bona fide men--heterosexual men.  It's patriarchy Catholics of this ilk are defending, and male entitlement and male domination of women, not Catholic values.

Another fascinating question my recent exchange with the Catholic anti-abortion activist who has written me about DADT raises is this: how is it possible to claim that one represents Catholic teaching and Catholic values in a more or less exclusive way, while one totally ignores the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church forbidding discrimination against those who are gay or lesbian?  Fr. James Martin is asking that question right now in a blog discussion at America, and some of the responses he's receiving--from readers who routinely log in to attack gay and lesbian human beings, and whom I've mentioned on this blog in the past--are revealing.

These responses show that, for a certain group of Catholics in the U.S., the teaching of the catechism forbidding anti-gay discrimination is null and void.  These Catholics have every intent of discriminating, whenever and wherever they can.  And they intend to claim warrant for their discrimination in Catholic teaching, even as they completely ignore what the catechism says on this point.

And one has to wonder if the total silence of the U.S. Catholic bishops on this important human rights issue, and on the human rights breakthrough represented by the end of legalized discrimination in the American military, is designed to give heart and cover to this powerful minority of anti-gay Catholics who do not represent the consensus of most American Catholics on this human rights issue.

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