Thursday, June 16, 2011

U.S. Catholic Bishops' Leader Blasts Civil Rights of Gay Citizens (Again), Compares Struggle for Civil Rights to Totalitarianism

Though he was surely preparing for the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week--a conference of which he's president--Archbishop Timothy Dolan took time recently to issue yet another blast at his blog site against the rights of gay citizens.  Specifically, Dolan blasted the right of gay citizens to civil marriage as New York's Catholic governor Andrew Cuomo urges the New York legislature to pass a bill affording this right to gay citizens of that state.  Dolan's ongoing fixation on gay folks and their civil rights continues to attract negative attention in many quarters--right now, notably, in two good responses to his recent blog posting by Peter Montgomery at Religion Dispatches and Rob Tisani at Box Turtle Bulletin.

As both Montgomery and Tisani point out, Dolan's defense of the "traditional" definition of marriage which is, the archbishop wishes us to imagine, " as old as human reason" engages in an astonishing bit of sleight-of-hand (Tisani calls it sophistry), as Dolan argues that having religious groups impose their definition of marriage on society at large and thereby curb the freedom of the majority to enact legislation protecting civil rights serves human freedom and prevents totalitarianism.  It's Catholic prelates and other leaders of the religious right, don't you see, who are fighting for human rights and for freedom when they oppose the right of gay citizens to civil marriage and the right of the majority of Americans who endorse this civil right to enact laws permitting marriage equality.

And if that idea and the convoluted (and logic- and truth-defying "reason" on which it depends) make any sense at all to you, then you'll perhaps also be convinced by the archbishop's argument that the real totalitarians in American society today are not those struggling to enshrine in law a threatened civil right currently denied to a minority group.  They're the brave religious leaders fighting for their right to tell everyone else what "true freedom" actually is.  Those fighting to defend the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of the U.S. are, Archbishop Dolan maintains, akin to the totalitarian regime of North Korea.

He and his fellow bishops are the real freedom fighters of our time.  (But never mind that the "freedom" for which they're fighting is their freedom, as a religious minority, to block the freedom of a vulnerable group of citizens to civil rights, and to block the freedom of the majority of Americans that support the civil rights of this stigmatized minority group.)

If you think none of this makes the slightest bit of sense, you're right.  And if you think there's something, well, morally sleazy and downright unsavory about the leader of a bishops' conference that should be concentrating on the considerable problems inside its own house attacking the human rights of an oppressed minority, you'd also be right.   But sleazy and unsavory seem to be where the bishops and their leader are intent to go these days, unfortunately.

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