Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Really Drives Catholics Making Gays Unwelcome? Keeping American Catholicism Politically Pure

A thought that's been knocking around in my head since I posted about the recent discussion at the In All Things blog of America magazine about the controversy re: an All Are Welcome liturgy at St. Cecilia's parish in Boston:

As my posting notes, many of those opposing the full inclusion of LGBT people in Catholic communities in the U.S. claim that their opposition to full welcome stems from a concern to assure that the church's call to repentance remains intact.  Opponents of full welcome argue that gays want to be fully included in the Catholic church and its structures without doing what everyone else has to do in order to be a practicing Catholic: repent.  And so letting the gays in would undermine the church's call to repentance for everyone else.

As my response to the America discussion and to comments about it at this site several days ago indicates, I don't see this opposition to full inclusion of LGBT persons in Catholic communities in quite the same way as its proponents want me to see their opposition.  For one thing, I don't see anywhere near the same intent concern on their part to inform others that they are sinners in need of repentance.  I don't see that same fierce concern extending to any category of sinners within the Catholic church, including themselves, except gay sinners.

Instead, I see a unique and unilateral focus on the imagined sins of those who are gay and lesbian, while the sins of all other Catholics (including the sins of those--largely heterosexual-identified men--arguing that the welcome mat needs to be put into storage) go generally unnoticed by the unwelcome committees that want to bar the gays from Catholic churches.  As some contributors to the America discussion have noted, while over 90% of married Catholics in the U.S. practice artificial contraception at some point in their lives, and while gays are a minority in comparison with those folks, you never hear the unwelcome arguments pressed by these committees against their gay brothers and sisters extended to contracepting brothers and sisters.

And so what's really going on with those intent on keeping the gays out in order to assure that the church's proclamation of our need to repent remains intact?  In my view, it's not about sin at all--not first and foremost.  What's driving the unwelcome committees is, instead, a focus on the purity of the church and the imagined threat that gay and lesbian persons pose to that purity.  Under the guise of being concerned about assuring that good Catholics know that everyone is a sinner in need of repentance, Catholics driven to bar gay and lesbian people from Catholic communities are really driven by a need to purify the church, to turn it into a properly behaving enclave of right-minded believers, all of whom share the same core values and ideas.

All of whom share the same conservative values and ideas: behind that purity crusade lies another motivation.  The heterosexual-identified men who have mounted this crusade are, to a great extent, largely concerned with a political purity in Catholic teaching that goes far beyond keeping openly gay and lesbian people and gay and lesbian lives out of the church.  It is no accident that their crusade keeps focusing obsessively on maintaining lines of purity at the America blog site, in particular.  It's no accident that the same group of watchdogs for orthodoxy who drove Fr. Thomas Reese away several years ago continue to hound the Jesuits at America and to harp on the charge that the Jesuits have become too gay-affirming.  This is all about keeping the Jesuits in their place.

What these guardians of purity really fear, particularly with the Jesuits, is the Catholic church's social teaching, with its preferential option for the poor.  The ultimate purity they intend to enforce within the Catholic church is not precisely a heterosexist purity that informs gay folks they are unwelcome in the Catholic communion, though gay folks are a useful bargaining chip, a cipher with instrumental value, in the larger crusade to keep the American Catholic church politically pure.

The real goal is a political purity that intends to inform anyone who uses Catholic social teaching to critique neoconservative political and economic ideas that they have strayed from Catholic communion.  There's a much broader political and economic context to the movement to keep informing LGBT human beings that they aren't welcome in the Catholic church.  A much broader political and economic context than we see if we focus exclusively on the sinners-needing-repentance claim . . . .

Behind Timothy Dolan's persistent, grotesque attacks on the human rights of gay and lesbian persons lies this much broader political and economic movement, which is spearheaded by powerful (conservative male) elites to whom Archbishop Dolan and the U.S. bishops in general have sold their souls.  And to which they intend to keep selling the church they lead as pastors.  As long as lay Catholics permit this to go on.

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