Wednesday, June 22, 2011

America Editor Mischaracterizes Bishops' Recent Involvement in Public Square: My Response

And, as a gloss on what I've just posted about the involvement of Archbishop Timothy Dolan in what's taking place in Albany, New York, right now: someone needs to help educate America magazine editor Karen Sue Smith about how Dolan and other Catholic bishops do their business in the public sphere of American democracy.  For someone who holds such a prestigious position and speaks on behalf of a distinguished American Catholic journal, Smith seems to be woefully ill-informed about how the U.S. Catholic bishops have been doing business in the public square, as they try to block and remove civil rights from a targeted minority.

Smith has posted a piece today lambasting those who "whine" about the bishops' involvement in the democratic process--in particular, those who argue that the bishops do not have a right to seek to limit the rights of other citizens in a civil society.  Smith boils the objection to how the bishops have involved themselves in the marriage equality debate down to an objection "that it is somehow illegal or un-American for a church or church official to express an opinion in a democracy."

Smith insists that the bishops (and, implicitly, groups like NOM), as they weigh into debates like the one now going on in Albany, are merely using the "tools of democracy—voting, public airing of their side, organizing movements to convince others of their opinions" to get their opinions noticed in  the public square.

News blast to Karen Sue Smith: this absurd description of what the bishops have persistently done in the public discussion of marriage equality (and in the current New York debate) in no way accurately represents how the bishops have actually behaved in these debates.  

No one objects to the bishops stating their viewpoints in public.

What many members of the public and many Catholics object to is the bishops' behind-the-scenes bullying and power-mongering, their secret meetings with legislators whom they try to whip into shape, their attempt to stop a public discussion and a vote by a duly elected legislative body about issues like civil marriage for gay and lesbian people.  

Voting?  Public airing?  Expressing an opinion?

That's a ludicrous description of the behavior that the National Organization for Marriage, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio have exhibited in this particular battle for equality and human rights.  When we have no idea where the funding of the bishops' chief ally in this battle, NOM, even comes from, and when that organization persistently refuses to disclose its funding sources even after state laws demand such disclosure, we're hardly talking about the kind of open, civil, public discussion of an issue in which all sides are afforded an equal hearing that Smith describes in this posting.

Someone needs to educate Karen Sue Smith about how the Catholic bishops and NOM have been doing their dirty work in recent years in in state after state to block open public discussion of the rights of LGBT persons, and how they did their dirty work with the federal discussion of health care coverage for all citizens several years ago.  

It would be helpful if America addressed this important debate about the human rights of a targeted minority from Planet Earth and not from Planet Catholic Doublespeak, for a change.  I wonder how quick Ms. Smith would be to defend the bishops' undemocratic behavior as they try desperately to block the rights of a targeted minority if they were doing what they're now doing to gay folks to say, women seeking the right to vote, enter the workplace, and receive pay equal to that of men.

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