Sunday, July 10, 2011

Father Corapi's New Video Appearance: American Catholicism Looks in the Mirror

Want to get a feel for where the American Catholic right (and, therefore, a sizable group of American Catholics) really is right now?  In its heart and soul?  Or, to be a bit franker and perhaps crude, in its gut--the place where it reacts and internalizes what matters most for it.

If you'd like to assess the (sick) state of contemporary American Catholicism of the right and see the tremendous extent to which this sickness is driven by ugly male-entitled heterosexist homophobia, go to Father John Corapi's latest video at his new Black Sheep Dog site, which he uploaded two days ago, and google the word "homosexual."  

Then begin working your way through the comments section of the site.  Here are some of the themes you'll find, over and over again: Father Corapi and other manly-man priests are under attack by a lavender mafia of bishops, who actively promote homosexuality; Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel was an evil homosexual (who fathered children by at least two women, but never mind that detail) protected by this lavender mafia; they went after Corapi because he spoke truth about homosexuality and abortion, etc.

Then try working your way through the comments by googling the word "gay."  Though some of the comments recognize that Corapi has turned himself into a clone of a certain kind of gay biker-daddy, the gist of most of this batch of comments is--once again--that the manly-man Corapi is a victim of a gay men's club ruling the priesthood.

American Catholics--a whole lot of us--are absolutely obsessed at this point in history with assuring that men remain on top in any power arrangements conceivable, anywhere in the world, in both church and society.  And obsessed with assuring that the men on top must either be or pretend to be heterosexual.

Because all the order imaginable anywhere in the world, it appears, depends on maintaining this arrangement.  And on maintaining our right to despise gay men and subjugate the feminine to the masculine.  

That a church with such rich, polyvalent, ancient theological traditions as Catholicism should turn itself into such a caricature of an institution with any vital connection to the gospels at this point in history, that it should choose to lend those rich traditions to such an ignoble obsession with promoting unjust male-entitled heterosexism and devaluing the feminine (and hating gay men): this beggars belief.

I've said it before and I have to keep saying it over again, as the Corapi saga unfolds: the Catholic church has, at this point in history, turned itself into a mean, malicious little male-entitled boys' club privileging heterosexual (or heterosexual-posturing) men.  Much that drives the Catholic political and religious agenda these days is all about the shameful determination to keep men on top and push women (and men perceived as feminine) down.

The constant taunts this mean, malicious little boys' club hurls at churches like the Episcopal church, which have dealt far more honestly, fairly, and respectably with matters of gender and sexual orientation: these are all about assuring that the men-on-top brand of contemporary Catholicism remains firmly in place, in a world in which there is increasing and widespread concern to build institutions recognizing gender equity and the human rights of LGBT persons.

In its attempt to brand itself as a heterosexist, male-entitled club, the Catholic church is moving against the most significant social justice and human rights movements of our period of history, and is making anything it says about any issues of social justice and human rights appear simply beside the point to most thinking human beings around the globe.

The church we've created as a result, the church that derives from these fixations, is naturally driving thoughtful, morally sensitive folks away in droves.  Who with half a brain and a concern to see justice and human rights flourish in society would work to promote such a notion of church?  Who with any solid grounding in the gospels or any interest in what Jesus promoted through his life and preaching would spend time defending such a church?

A half century down the road, the tiny remnant left within this heterosexist, male-entitled boys' club of a church are going to look back with tremendous embarrassment at what their parents decided to make of the Catholic church in the late 20th and early 21st century.  Meanwhile, if we want to catch a glimpse of ourselves as we really are, if we want to see precisely what the next generation of Catholics will have strong reason to be ashamed of, we need to take a good look at this video and these comments, and see what the mirror shows us.

And just as I'm deeply ashamed at what we've chosen to make of ourselves at this point in history, I'm also deeply sorry for the pain Father Corapi is obviously walking through.  The video is gut-wrenching to watch.  I plain feel sorry for this man and I wish him all the happiness in the world, on the other side of his current trials.  (Just as I wish a fair hearing for anyone who has a bona fide cause for a hearing in connection to him . . . .)

And may I vent just a little more?  As the Corapi discussion continues to take place among American Catholics, I'm growing more than a little weary of the insistence of some of the intellectual mavens of American Catholicism that they had never heard of Father Corapi prior to the latest controversy.  I'm growing more than a little tired of the insinuation that discussing this story is intellectual slumming, and that the real issues that ought to concern American Catholics right now exist in some more ethereal, intellectually rarefied sphere.

I've seen these claims and insinuations recently at the America "In All Things" blog site, as some centrist Catholics log in to say that they're surprised by the recent controversy, since Corapi hasn't been on their radar screen at all before now.  And yet I am absolutely certain that I read at least one thread at this blog site in the past year discussing Corapi prior to the recent fraying of his ministry and reputation.  I specifically recall contributors to the thread noting how impressed they were by Corapi, how much they admired his manner and speaking voice.

I haven't been able to find that thread again by googling.  If any reader of these postings remembers the thread or is able to locate it, I'd be very interested in reading it again, to see if my memory is correct.

How people--how Catholics of the intellectual center of American Catholicism--imagine they can talk about what it means to be church at this point in history, and about the future of American Catholicism, while disdaining to take any notice of a wildly popular priest with a huge television presence is beyond me.  Would these same brother and sister Catholics have tried to talk about what American Catholicism meant in the 1930s while pretending Charles Coughlin didn't exist?

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