Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Still Playing to Peoria: His Eminence Cardinal Dolan Slams Irish Seminary as "Gay Friendly"

As Fr. Joe O'Leary noted here in a recent comment about Christiane Amanpour's interview with Sr. Joan Chittister, the report by His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan to the Vatican re: the Irish College in Rome has been leaked to the media, and it's causing quite a furor.  As David Gibson reminds us in an article about this furor at National Catholic Reporter, Pope Benedict commissioned His Eminence in 2010 to lead a delegation of church officials that would investigate Irish seminaries after the Ferns Report, the Murphy Report, and the Ryan Report had uncovered the extent of abuse of minors in Catholic institutions in Ireland.

Given his charge to look at Irish seminaries to find out what about seminary formation and seminary life might be contributing to the widespread culture of abuse of minors in Catholic institutions in Ireland, it's interesting to note the single feature of the Irish College on which His Eminence chooses to zero in: as Patsy McGarry reports at the Irish Times, that feature is the seminary's reputation for being "gay friendly."  ". . . [H]owever unjust that reputation might be," His Eminence adds.

Nothing in His Eminence's report deals with the roots of the abuse crisis in a culture of clericalism that eminent authorities including Fr. Tom Doyle and Richard Sipe have analyzed again and again as the key causative explanation for the culture of abuse, most recently in their presentations to the Santa Clara conference on abuse last month (and see Jerry Slevin on these points, as well).

It's all about homosexuality.  Still.  It's all with the gays.  Still.  For His Eminence, that is.

Who seems fixated on that subject, and on sustaining a meme that, even if the John Jay Report commissioned by the U.S. Catholic bishops themselves finds that homosexuality is a red-herring issue in understanding the roots of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church, it's got to be about homosexuality.

Because that issue still plays so very well in Peoria.  And it's those voters in Peoria who are in the forefront of our consciousness--those swing voters in swing states with large Catholic populations that we want to use to determine the outcome of the 2012 elections in the U.S.--when we talk about anything Catholic these days.  If we're His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, that is.

But what plays in Peoria may well not play equally smoothly in Dublin.  Or Tipperary.  Or Cork.  Or Kilkenny.  Overt, mean-spirited homophobia doesn't play as well in the Irish context as the American one because Ireland is, after all, a deeply Catholic nation with a Catholic soul--and, therefore, a commitment to human rights, to justice, to communitarian values that are about including and not excluding or marginalizing targeted minorities.

And so the Irish Association of Catholic Priests, to which a quarter of the country's priests belong, has issued a scathing response to His Eminence's assessment of the Irish College.  As Patsy McGarry notes in another Irish Times article, the ACP report focuses on the following:

Though His Eminence's report to the Vatican states that he found no substantiation of allegations of homosexual activity at the Irish College, nothing in particular on which to ground his preconceived notion that the seminary is "gay friendly," the report still chose to name names.  It chose to repeat the unsubstantiated allegations it received, providing the names of those about whom unsubstantiated allegations were made!

And as the ACP indicates, 

It [i.e., His Eminence's report to the Vatican] begged “the question as to why such detail is included in the report”.

Interesting, isn't it, this scenario?  Catholic religious authorities, dioceses, and religious communities customarily fight tooth and nail not to name names when the subject is which priest abused which minor when.  Those names are normally available even to unsuspecting parishes to which abusive priests have been sent only when legal action forces the disclosure of names.

But let rumors float around that a seminary is "gay friendly," and even if you decide you have found no evidence to corroborate those rumors and that a seminary's reputation for being gay friendly may, per your own conclusion and your own words, be "unjust,"you still choose to name names.  If you're His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, that is.

You choose to smear reputations.  To sling mud.  To put black marks beside names of people who are not given a chance to know the allegations made against them and to defend themselves against those allegations.  And you send your report full of slime off to the Vatican to be processed, assuming it will remain under lock and key and be used for . . . chopping off heads and ruining reputations whatever purpose . . . by those with ultimate authority over the men whose names you've just blackened.

And so as David Gibson notes (see the link above), the four Irish archbishops have now responded to His Eminence's report by observing that it appears to have been motivated by "a deep prejudice" that led to a "hostile tone and content."  

Dublin, meet Peoria: Irish archbishops, please meet His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan.  Non-homophobic Irish Catholicism, meet pernicious, sleazy, values-vacuous American Catholic homophobia at its very lowest.

Meet American Catholic homophobia of the sort still actively promoted by His Eminence's BFF Dr. Bill Donohue, about whom His Eminence stated around the same time Pope Benedict commissioned His Eminence to investigate Irish seminaries, "Keep at it, Bill!  We need you!" Meet Dr. Donohue, who still wishes to interject into the abuse crisis discussion the red-herring argument that the gays are the problem, long after the John Jay study for which the USCCB bought and paid knocked down that convenient scapegoating argument.

Irish Catholics, meet Dr. Donohue and His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who persist in offering the public this false meme because, gosh darned, it just continues to play so well in Peoria.

And Jesus be damned if we're going to give up a politically utilitarian argument, no matter who gets hurt in the process.  Or what the gospels say.

(P.S. Still not buying that argument that the big Catholic centrist gurus love to shop around that His Eminence is just one of the nicest guys you could ever think of meeting over a brat and a brew, the "most flat-out likeable" guy around in the USCCB.)

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