Saturday, March 19, 2011

Andrew Sullivan on Growing Catholic Support for Gay Marriage and His Experience as a Gay Catholic

My posting about Ross Douthat's latest op-ed statement re: why monogamy matters mentions that I responded to Douthat's essay in part due to a comment Andrew Sullivan recently made on his Daily Dish blog about his experience as a gay Catholic.  Sullivan notes just-released poll data showing that a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage.  As he also notes, the shift towards support for marriage equality has been particularly pronounced, in the very recent past, among white Catholics.

And then Sullivan adds,

The one thing I can say as a gay Catholic is that my fellow Catholics have never felt hostile to me or my kind. I have experienced not one ugly incident or statement from my peers.

And I'm trying to get my head around that comment.  It's possible that Andrew Sullivan is focusing exclusively here on those he calls his peers.  And as I've noted several times in the past on this blog, I often have the feeling, reading Sullivan, that he lives in a very different social and cultural space than many of us live in, in the American heartland.  And so we certainly have different sets of peers.  From the vantage point of his  beltway location and ivy-league educational background, his experience of the United States, and his rather rosy perception of what happens out in the heartland--particularly in its staunchly conservative enclaves--seem to differ considerably from mine, as I actually live in one of the country's flyover spaces.

And since I don't live among the enlightened, among the Lowells who talk only to Cabots and the Cabots who talk only to God, I don't share Andrew Sullivan's experience of never having encountered hostility  directed towards me by any fellow Catholics because I'm gay.  Indeed, unlike Sullivan, I can't read the work of our fellow Catholic Ross Douthat and conclude that Ross Douthat "is not a homophobe"--not when Douthat keeps working posthaste to develop ever more ingenious arguments to attack a civil right for me and for other gay Americans, as that civil right comes closer to us.  As Ross Douthat works to thwart that right specifically as a Catholic . . . .

(If Sullivan means that Douthat, with whom he has collaborated and whom he knows personally, is not homophobic in a personal sense, in his interaction with others, then I take the point.  But I'd respond to it by noting that I've dealt with many white Southerners who are not personally consumed by animus against African Americans, who boast that they have many black friends, but who, qua writers, judges, teachers--you name it--have fought tooth and nail against civil rights for people of color.  Which tends to diminish the claim that they are not personally racist, in my view.)

As I say, I think that, in the final analysis, Andrew Sullivan and I have different experiences of the world, of American society, and the Catholic church.  And his perceptions may well be right and mine wrong.

But if his are correct, what am I to do--and what are American Catholics in general to do--with the kind of things that keep popping up day after day on American Catholic blog sites?  Things that, in my view, are decidedly "hostile to me and my kind."  Statements that are, in my view, absolutely ugly, coming to me from some of my Catholic peers in the U.S.

I mean things like this, published on the very day or so that Andrew Sullivan wrote the preceding comments: 

1. Our old friend John Last Name Unknown at the America "In All Things" blog site, now signing himself as Juan Still Without A Surname, and continuing his attempt to tag me and my kind as mentally disordered, because we are gay;

2. Or Frank C. Tantillo writing in response to a recent America editorial about the situation in Philadelphia, fuming that people are forgetting that homosexuality is all about NAMBLA and pedophilia and the gays are responsible for the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church;

3. Or Dennis Di Mauro and Jean Raber responding to a posting by Eduardo Peñalver at Commonweal's blog re: an upcoming dialogue sponsored by multiple universities about Catholic stances towards sexual issues, suggesting that the biblical evidence against "homosexuality" is incontrovertible and "the Church" has no choice except to uphold that evidence, no matter how much it wounds those who are gay;

4. Or just about anything that falls from the mouth of Bill Donohue or Maggie Gallagher;

5. Or the countless far uglier and far more explicit homophobic rants that pour forth on a daily basis on the non-centrist Catholic blog sites: the ones I've just highlighted are centrist ones populated by Catholics who purport to have a modicum of education and decency and sense.

As I say, what am I to do with all of this, as I listen to Andrew Sullivan's experience of never having felt hostility from his fellow Catholics to himself as a gay Catholic, or never having heard an ugly statement directed to him by a Catholic peer?  I will certainly grant--and I celebrate this--that a large percentage of American Catholics support the human rights of LGBT persons.

But then there's that group that doesn't.  And to pretend they're not there, and that they don't have influence to make life miserable for everyone in the nation who's gay or lesbian (Maggie Gallagher is crowing about what she and NOM accomplished in Maryland) is either disingenuous or short-sighted, it seems to me.

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