Thursday, August 25, 2011

Continuing Yesterday's Conversation about the Limits of the Centrist Catholic Conversation

If there's a single thing that might make me begin taking the American Catholic center, with its powerful media and intellectual spokespersons, seriously again, it's this: that those spokespersons of the center begin grappling honestly and forthrightly with the heterosexual power and privilege that have contributed tremendously to placing them in the power seats they occupy.

And that they stop the moral posturing and faux moral outrage when they're challenged by brother and sister Catholics they've excluded from the conversation to admit their heterosexual power and privilege honestly and forthrightly.  This would require, of course, that they also begin to grapple with their responsibility for complicity in injustice towards fellow Catholics who happen to be gay or lesbian.  It would require them to notice, for once--really to see, for once--the faces of those they have willingly or through silent collusion in injustice excluded from the conversation that shapes the future of American Catholicism, in the institutions of the center.

It would require, in other words, that they open up the conversation of the center--really open it up--to free, truth-telling dialogue about how our church and its institutions distribute access, power, and privilege in very unequal ways on the basis of sexual orientation. And that they stop trying to seize the moral high road when challenged by brother and sister Catholics on the margins, whom they themselves have placed on the margins.  Since they don't own the moral high road at all, when they participate in structures that exclude fellow Catholics from participation, while preaching about inclusion as a virtue . . . .

To be frank, I don't see any real momentum for such an opening of the conversation, even as some of the journals of the American Catholic center add a few token gay and lesbian voices to their roster of writers--but in a window-dressing way that doesn't in any way call into question the normativity of the powerful, authoritative voices (always heterosexual and quite frequently heterosexist) that the center has anointed as the official voices of American Catholicism.

It's a terrible indictment of American Catholicism--of how we as a national church enshrine the central values of the Catholic tradition--that so many of us don't get this problem at all.  That so many of us don't even seem to see how the deliberate, cruel exclusion of some brother and sister Catholics and the allocation of unmerited power and privilege to other brother and sister Catholics, entirely on grounds of sexual orientation, undermines our claim to catholicity in radically important ways.

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