Saturday, April 7, 2012

Good Friday Message of USCCB: Attacking Gays More Important Than Helping Poor Immigrants

And on that tragic erosion of the significance of core Christian affirmations by a parochial, defensive, tribalistic Catholicism that is losing sight of what is key and central in the Christian message (I just wrote about this a moment ago): what to do with this hot mess, on the Easter weekend?: 

As Dan Frosch reports in a lead article in yesterday's New York Times, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is considering slashing its funding to CompaƱeros, a small non-profit in Colorado assisting poor Hispanic immigrants to meet their basic needs. The reason CompaƱeros is under fire from the USCCB?  It's part of an umbrella coalition of groups working to defend human rights and serve human needs, and that umbrella group of human rights organizations includes groups defending rights for gays.

As with their decision to shut down Catholic Charities services in some dioceses in recent years, the current pastoral leaders of the Catholic church are willing to forgo the works of mercy--feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick--to satisfy their rapacious hunger to dehumanize gay and lesbian human beings at this point in history.  What this says about their understanding of what Christianity is all about, and about the implicit cruelty of American lay Catholics who continue to defend and collude with the bishops, is stomach-turning in the extreme. 

As Peter Montgomery notes at Religion Dispatches, while the U.S. Catholic bishops have been absolutely silent about the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, which would gut social services for the poor while putting more money into the pockets of the already filthy rich, they want to double down on their attack on gay and lesbian human beings and their attempt to force magisterial understandings of contraception on women.  Montgomery thinks the bishops have adopted a playbook recommended to them by Robert George, the emeritus chair of the National Organization for Marriage and the mastermind behind the Manhattan Declaration.

George told the bishops in December 2009 that they need to step back from talking about issues of wealth distribution, of poverty, of social justice, and begin talking about the real moral issues--what George calls "the moral social" issues (as if those other fringe issues of economic and social justice have nothing to do with morality)--like abortion, stem-cell research, and same-sex marriage.

The upshot for many American Catholics and for increasing numbers of Americans in general: it becomes impossible to see the face of Jesus in any shape, form, or fashion in who the U.S. Catholic bishops are and in what they say.  The bishops have, as Montgomery argues, become "cafeteria Catholics" who are discarding some of the most significant Christian affirmations of all (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick) for the fringe issues on which they now intend to focus with laserlike intensity, as if the gospel imperative is entirely summed up by a command to attack gay human beings.  And as a result, many of us who are Catholic and who are spending this weekend reflecting on the narratives of Jesus's passion and resurrection have to look someplace other than our own Catholic community, if we want to find and preserve what's really significant in those narratives.

Peter Montgomery is far from the only commentator suggesting right now that the current leaders of the Catholic church have seriously lost touch with what the gospels are all about.  As Jamie Manson notes in a recent interview with theologian Matthew Fox at National Catholic Reporter, Fox continues boldly to argue that the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict have been schismatic papacies, because they have deliberately moved against the consensus of the entire church gathered at the last ecumenical council of Vatican II, and have sought to impose the papal will unilaterally on the whole church in areas in which the sensus fidelium differs significantly from what the papacy intends.  In a subsequent interview, Manson talks with Matthew Fox about what this conflict between Vatican II and the will of the current leaders of the church portends for younger Catholics who still try to find some salvific meaning in their Catholic faith.

And as all this discussion continues on the eve of Easter, the Opus Dei bishop now facing trial in Kansas City for hiding a priest found with child pornography on his computer, Bishop Robert Finn, has just lost his appeal to have his case dismissed on the ground that he was not responsible to report Father Shawn Ratigan to the authorities when he learned that Ratigan had nude photos of children on his computer.  

It becomes ever harder for many of us with Catholic roots and Catholic affiliations to find anything at all in the behavior and teaching of our current set of pastoral leaders that seems to have much to do with the real message of Good Friday and of Easter.  What choice do we have, when our bishops have become, as ethicist Daniel Maguire rightly argues, moral heretics?

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