Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bill Donohue's NY Times Ad, Last Fall's Minnesota Bishops' Anti-Gay Video: Gay-Bashing Alive and Well in American Catholicism



When I blogged yesterday about the astonishing way in which Steve's sister chose to repay our recent hospitality with a thank-you note reminding us that "the rules of the Church" command her not to "condone" our "gay lifestyle," I think some readers of that posting may have missed the significance of the graphic I used to illustrate my posting.  The graphic is a snapshot of the video that the Catholic bishops of Minnesota mailed to every Catholic household in the state on the eve of the 2010 elections, in an attempt to use anti-gay sentiment to throw the gubernatorial election in their state to the one candidate that opposed gay marriage, Republican Tom Emmer.


I blogged repeatedly last year about this video, whose funding source has never been released, and the many indicators that its primary purpose was to play the anti-gay card to gain votes for the Republican gubernatorial candidate.  To track that string of postings, you have only to click on the label "Minnesota" beneath this posting, and the series will pop up.  They include one featuring a Catholic woman in Minnesota, Jan Buczek, the mother of a lesbian daughter, who challenged the bishops to stop creating needless pain for families by their gay-bashing activities, while they pretend to speak in the name of Christ.

It occurs to me as I read the welcome responses to what I posted yesterday that some readers may be under the impression that because this particular sister of Steve's attends only the Latin Masses of the schismatic St. Pius X Society, the problem of homophobia and rejecting gay family members is confined to the cultic fringe of American Catholicism.  My point in using the picture of the c.d. the Minnesota Catholic bishops sent all Catholic households last fall is to underscore that the homophobia comes right from the bishops themselves.

It comes right from the center of the church.  And it's embedded in the Catholic church's core institutions.  It is not merely a fringe phenomenon.

In telling Steve that "the rules of the Church" encourage her to inform him that his "gay lifestyle" is sinful, Steve's sister was doing precisely what the Catholic bishops of Minnesota told her to do with that expensive, political video campaign last fall.  Though she and her family will attend only Masses celebrated by the schismatic SSPX Society, what this particular sister tells Steve in her recent thank-you note is what his other sister who does not attend those schismatic Masses, but is a self-proclaimed "orthodox" Catholic, has also put into writing to him.

And it's what his brothers, who are also not part of the Tridentine remnant movement of SSPX, have repeatedly told him and me verbally and through one ugly action after another towards us on any visit we make to his family in recent years.  These brothers and their families are also ├╝ber-orthodox Catholics. I have--and on repeated occasions--had the unpleasant experience of having some of his family members refuse to shake my hand right in their parish church, right after a liturgy at which they have received communion.  I've had the unpleasant experience of watching some of the members of his large extended family sitting in pews after a liturgy has ended in their parish church (and after they've received communion) laughing, pointing, and mocking at us inside their church.

Homophobia is not merely a fringe phenomenon in American Catholicism, something to be found only in the marginal cults like SSPX (which are growing ever more centrist under the current papal regime, in any case).  It is a problem of the Catholic church itself.  It is a problem of many of the most ardent defenders of the Catholic church in the U.S., of its most faithful adherents.

Steve's sister is absolutely correct to inform him that the church--her Minnesota Catholic church--condemns the "gay lifestyle" and urges faithful Catholics to condemn their own children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who happen to be gay.  If that is not the message the Minnesota Catholic bishops deliberately intended to give in the last election cycle, I'd like to know what the message really was?  The diocese in which Steve's family lives, the diocese of Crookston, a relatively poor and very rural diocese, is said to have given more than any other diocese in the nation, per capita, to block the right of civil marriage for gay citizens of the distant state of Maine in 2009.

Homophobia--the message that good Catholic families should deliberately target their gay family members and the gay family members of other families, and should block the rights of those family members and strip rights away from them whenever possible--this message is built right into the official teaching of the Catholic church at this point in history.  It's very precisely the message that the president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, hoped to give in his recent television interview that equates gay marriage with incest.

And it's very precisely the message Dolan's ally Bill Donohue hopes to give in that ugly ad he published in yesterday's New York Times.  The current leaders of the Catholic church remain perfectly willing to use the sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, uncles, and aunts of some families--when these folks happen to be gay--as despised objects in political games over which those gay human beings have little control, but which do radical harm to their lives.  The current pastoral leaders of the Catholic church are still very happy to use gay and lesbian human beings in diversionary political battles that have nothing at all to do with the people they're using to score political points, but everything to do with diverting attention away from the moral corruption of the bishops themselves, and from their politics-playing.

And they will continue to do this as long as faithful Catholics in the U.S. permit them to get away with it.  This is why--and I intend to keep repeating this--that, while I celebrate the growing tendency of U.S. Catholics to reject the gay-bashing, I still maintain there is much work to do.  Donohue's ad makes that point for me all over again.  He wouldn't have published it in a leading newspaper, and somebody with deep pockets wouldn't have paid for it, if they didn't imagine someone is listening.

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