Saturday, December 31, 2011

In the News on the Cusp of the Year: More Cardinal George, Benedict's Rudderless Church, Gay Rights and Moral Center of Discourse

In the news as the old year ends (a highly selective slice of news, needless to say):

1. Andrew Sullivan thinks that the kerfuffle over His Eminence Francis Cardinal George's hateful comparison of gay folks to the Klan will result in the pope's decision to keep George on after he submits his mandatory retirement when he reaches age 75 on 16 January.

I agree.  Because nothing seems to say Catholic these days quite like anti-gay hatefulness.

2. But speaking of Pope Benedict, as Paddy Agnew reports in Irish Times, Marco Politi's new book Ratzinger: A Pontificate in Crisis (which isn't yet available in English) finds the church in severe "crisis" under Benedict, the Curia "disoriented," the Vatican ship of state "drifting around without a compass, a helm or even a determined helmsman."  Politi sees Benedict as increasingly "disconnected" if not necessarily "dysfunctional."

And how have we come to such a sorry pass?: 

Politi suggests that during the summer of 2004, an inner Holy See cabal of ultra-conservative, Hispanic Curia cardinals had decided that “God’s Rottweiller” Ratzinger was the cardinal who could best defend their hardline conservative views. The cardinals in question included the Colombians, Darío Castrillón Hoyos and Alfonso López Trujillo, the Spaniard Julián Herranz and the Chilean Jorge Medina Estévez.

Benedict was placed on Peter's throne by a cabal of ultraconservative cardinals, most of them with close ties to the remnants of fascism in their nations and to the secretive, rich, and powerful Opus Dei group, a large percentage of them determined to do everything in their power to destroy the liberation theology movement with its stress on the preferential option for the poor, several of them active advocates for returning the liturgy to Latin, several of them sources of great embarrassment for the church because of their brutally insensitive comments about the abuse crisis.  The result of their coup for the whole church has been beyond disastrous.

3. And speaking of the embarrassment created for the church by the brutal insensitivity of many of its current top leaders: at her Perspective blog, Crystal Watson links to a Washington Post blog posting by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite of the United Church of Christ, telling Cardinal George that he's wrong about the gay community, and inviting him to march with her in the upcoming gay pride parade about which he's so exercised.  Thistlethwaite marches with the Chicago Theological Seminary group in the parade.  She's a past president of the seminary.  Anyone willing to take bets on whether George will do the right metanoic thing in the new year and accept this invitation?

4. And at his Wild Reed blog, Michael Bayly links to Doug Mataconis's deconstruction of the new religious freedom meme of the U.S. Catholic bishops, at the Outside the Beltway site.  Mataconis's conclusion: if you want the government's dollars, then you need to play by the government's rules when it comes to laws prohibiting discrimination against minority groups.  Period.

5. And, finally, from Linda Hirshman at Salon, a reflection about why the gay rights movement has made such strides in 2011.  As she notes, it's all about morality.  Slowly, painfully, at great cost, gay and lesbian citizens and those who stand in solidarity with us have managed to convince growing numbers of people that the movement to afford gay folks the full range of human rights enjoyed by everyone else is moral.

And the inverse of this argument: standing in the doorway of human rights and trying to keep it fast shut against the gays like George Wallace at the University of Alabama is immoral.  The hard right in the U.S., including the U.S. Catholic bishops and those who keep carrying water for them, have lost this battle on moral grounds.  And viciously slamming their gay brothers and sisters as crypto-Klansmen is hardly going to recover the moral center of public discourse for them.

It's only going to assure that, in the minds of more and more people, nothing will seem to say Catholic in 2012 quite like anti-gay hatefulness.

The newsroom reading sketch is from Darrell Koh's Urban Sketches blog.

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