Friday, November 18, 2011

Update on Catholic Voices Discussion of Gay Marriage: Gays Not Welcome

And speaking of the common good (piggybacking here on what I just posted about Michael Sean Winters's USCCB report for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good): I said yesterday that the story of blogger Terry Weldon's exclusion from an upcoming meeting of the British group Catholic Voices bears watching.  Catholic Voices was formed to coordinate media coverage of the papal visit to Britain in September 2010.  Its organizing members include Jack Valero, press officer for Opus Dei in the U.K., and Austen Ivereigh and Kathleen Griffin, Catholic journalists.

Here's an update on the Catholic Voices-Terry Weldon story: next week, Catholic Voices is sponsoring a meeting billed as a discussion of gay marriage and the common good.  Catholic Voices indicates that it wants to discuss how to communicate Catholic understandings of these matters to the general public.  As Terry Weldon reports at his Queering the Church blog, when he received an email notice of the upcoming meeting asking those interested to RSVP with an indication of their interest in attending, Mr. Ivereigh (whom he's never met) promptly emailed him  to inform him he's not welcome at the discussion.  Terry has since learned that two other openly gay Catholics who have expressed an interest in attending this meeting have received similar responses.

The English Catholic publication The Tablet has picked up the story in its latest news section, noting that Ivereigh has confirmed that the three openly gay Catholics have been barred from the meeting.  Ivereigh indicates that it would be "inappropriate for people who hold strong views contrary to the Church's settled positions" to attend the discussion of gay marriage and the common good.  One gathers that, for Catholic gatherings at which gay lives and the common good are being discussed, it's important to exclude from the discussion the very human beings under scrutiny in the discussion.  These Catholic meetings devoted to the common good evidently pursue the common good by talking about, but not with or to, those human beings whose lives and nature are being scrutinized in their common good-building discussions.

The Guardian is also covering the story.  As Riaza Butts notes in an article published yesterday (and as Terry Weldon's posting to which I link above also notes), one of the openly gay Catholics who asked to attend the meeting and was told he may not do so, Martin Prendergast, does not even support same-sex marriage and informed Ivereigh of this, only to be told that he's still not welcome at the upcoming discussion.

Interesting, isn't it?  We serve the common good by talking about a group of fellow human beings as if they don't even exist, as if they aren't in the room--because they aren't, in fact, in the room.  We've told them they're unwelcome.

We discuss human lives and human fates and human futures in the absence of the very human beings whose lives, fates, and futures are being subjected to critical analysis.  We've made those brother and sister human beings non-existent.  We've turned them into objects.  We don't intend to give them the time of day, to recognize their shared humanity, or even to solicit their contribution to discussions of their own lives, fates, and futures.

And we want to claim that this behavior, which even the most morally obtuse instinctively recognize as ethically atrocious, is all about building the common good, addressing social oppression, and making justice flourish in the world!

As we make these claims, what we also never wish to admit is that our exclusion of our gay brothers and sisters from the conversations that shape their lives is also all about asserting our unmerited heterosexual power and privilege, our ontological superiority to those who are gay.  We also never want to admit that what we call "settled" Catholic teaching is our own pretension to heterosexual ontological superiority masquerading as Catholic teaching at its most authentic.

We certainly don't intend to admit that what we're really all about, as we "defend" marriage and promote the "common good," is turning Catholicism into a heterosexual boys' club for which the price of membership, if one happens to be female or gay, is to accept one's second-class ontological status gratefully and silently, and to endure in humble submission gross messages of unwelcome from people who simultaneously proclaim that they're all about love, inclusion, healing social wounds, and building the common good.  Even as they turn people away from their club doors and announce that only club members are welcome.

Just as Jesus did.  (Not.)

(And isn't it remarkable that this meeting to assert the "settled" Catholic understanding of gay people and same-sex marriage is happening right on the heels of the U.S. Catholic bishops' meeting, which featured a high-profile campaign to disseminate "the" Catholic teaching about these matters to the American public?  Almost as if the two events are coordinated and part of one master plan, funded by the same deep pockets that have taken an extraordinary interest in assuring that gay folks remain as closeted as possible, at this point in history . . . . )

P.S. I suggest that this posting be read as a companion piece to the one following it.

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