Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reaction of Catholic Officials and "Orthodox" Catholics to Marriage Equality: Pathology Walking, Pathology Talking

And it's not just race that's energizing the haters and dividers following the re-election of the nation's first African-American president last week (I'm alluding in this opening sentence to what I just posted about the non-post-racial America in which we Americans still live).  For Catholics of a certain stripe, the issue eliciting hate and the desire to divide the church continues to be homosexuality.  The victory of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, and the choice of the voters of Minnesota to reject an ugly, divisive, hate-oriented amendment to their state constitution targeting a vulnerable minority group, have a certain group of Catholics up in arms right now.

These Catholics full of passionate intensity to keep prejudice and discrimination against their gay brothers and sisters alive even as it wanes in the world at large include, as Mary Elizabeth Williams reminds us in a recent Salon piece, the Vatican itself.  They also include, as Michael O'Loughlin suggests at America, the U.S. Catholic bishops, who are now gathered for their annual meeting, and who have been making noises there about how they absolutely do not intend to relinquish their war against their gay brothers and sisters following the unprecedented victories for marriage equality in four states last week.

And those energized by the need to keep hate and division alive now, vis-a-vis their gay brothers and sisters, include a distinct group of American Catholics, many of whom are younger Catholics, who regard themselves as more orthodox than the common lot.  And who think of themselves as standard-bearers for the magisterium at a point in history at which a majority of their fellow Catholics reject magisterial teaching about the morality of homosexuality (and about contraception).  

In a posting last week about the hate now bubbling up out of some Catholic sewers in response to last week's elections, I noted that I'd been following post-election threads at Catholic blog sites in which one man who says he's a younger Catholic had been peppering National Catholic Reporter discussions with observations about how gays are pedophiles, and how what he imagines gay men do in their bedrooms is "disgusting" and "revolting" and incurs God's wrath for the whole world.  I also noted that at the same site another young Catholic who is a regular contributor to many Catholic blog sites including NCR had posted comments about how gay men practice anal sex, and this shoves excrement into their brains.

Following the elections, another young married American Catholic man who maintains a blog called Sententiae Deo suddenly appeared at Bilgrimage threads to spread his orthodox Catholic gospel of sodomy: he wants, that is, to retrieve the prejudice-laden, hate-oriented term "sodomite" to refer to his brothers and sisters who are gay.  I'm not disclosing something about his identity that his own comments here don't already disclose, since he's commenting under a username that's the title of his blog (and he has a Twitter account under the same name that further discloses his identity).

I've been involved in discussions with all three of these young Catholics at various sites, and as I reflect about what's going on in these discussions, here's what strikes me: the intensity of their focus on, of their explicit and fully avowed disgust for, those who are gay is quite simply pathological.  It is pathological to isolate a group of one's fellow human beings and focus on that group of human beings with a monomaniacal intensity designed to prove that particular group of human beings incomparable threats to the health of the rest of society or to the church--when there's no evidence at all for the pathology that seems self-evident to you but to no one else!

While an increasing number of American Catholics (and Catholics throughout the developed sectors of the world) have begun to recognize that something is seriously unhealthy about the unrelenting determination of the Catholic magisterium to prove gays sick and dangerous, a small group of American Catholics remain adamantly concerned to keep alive toxic memes of disease and danger about their brothers and sisters who are gay.  And the concern is burgeoning rather than diminishing precisely as a majority of American Catholics reject this discourse itself as pathological--as a pathology not of the gays whom this small group of Catholics intend to tag as "sick," but as a pathology of those determined to stick pathological tags on their gay brothers and sisters.

There's something seriously sick about the need of some people to invent "evidence" that a selected minority group whom they've decided for no good reason at all to single out as the object of their singular negative preoccupations is diseased and dangerous to the body politic.  There's something downright pathological about the determination of a certain subset of American Catholics to react to the growing inclusion of LGBT citizens in American society by trying to revive long-since discarded memes about gays as sodomites, pedophiles, and diseased practitioners of anal sex--memes discarded with good reason by people who have a concern about truth, facts, and data.

What drives such pathological intensity, and the desire to classify it as orthodox Catholicism, I'm not entirely sure.  I simply know it's there, and that it's on full display these days in American Catholic public discourse, as a direct reaction to the growing acceptance and inclusion of gays and lesbians in American society and among most American Catholics.  

I can say this, though: of the three younger Catholics I mention above, I "know" one of the three to a certain degree, simply because I've followed her comments at Catholic blog sites now, and have interacted with her at several sites including Bilgrimage for a number of years now.  The beginning of the end of my desire to participate in discussions at the Commonweal blog site was triggered when she logged in there under a username she has since discarded to suggest that gay men be understood through the optic of HIV and promiscuous sex in bathhouses.  

When I objected to this gross characterization of a whole class of people, which is designed to foment prejudice, none of the other bloggers at the site backed me up, and, in fact, a gay man who often posts at the site said that he did not find the characterization objectionable.  Even when the homophobic blogger self-destructed some days after that, posting statements so hateful that the moderators of the site told her she was no longer welcome there, no one then admitted that I had been right all along about my objections to her hate rhetoric, and invited me back to participate in the discussions at that blog site.

I say that this blogger is a she and not a he, because, at the many Catholic blog sites to which she contributes under a wide range of usernames, she persistently makes autobiographical statements about how she's a computer tech person at a major university in the Northeast and a staunch Catholic--a learned Catholic, one of her usernames proclaims (and she loves to post comments in mysterious church Latin)--who served in the military in the Middle East.  

She's left clues at various sites about quite a bit of her autobiographical history, and it's actually not too difficult to determine, on the basis of those clues, the university at which she works, and even the office in which she works.  Whether the person leaving these clues is a woman and not a man, or even a single person and not a composite of several bloggers, I've never been certain.  Her autobiographical statements are, however, consistent over the six usernames I've found her using in the past several years at various sites.

Of this I'm also certain: whoever this person is, she has quite a bee in her bonnet about her brothers and sisters who happen to be gay.  No, I should qualify that: her animus is quite specifically directed towards gay men and not gay women.  In fact, one of her favorite games at various Catholic blog sites is to play the two against each other, to try to depict Catholic lesbians as reasonable, non-emotional, obedient daughters of the church who don't fly off into the irrational emotion-driven snits that characterize gay Catholic men, who are always at war with the church.  She is downright hateful towards Andrew Sullivan, to whom she persistently refers on a variety of Catholic blog sites by using scatological terms about him.

And so her fixation on anal sex and the need to link anal sex and excrement in the brain to gay men, quite specifically . . . . This fixation about linking gay men to anal sex and dirt and disease has been pronounced in her contributions to various National Catholic Reporter threads following the marriage equality victories last week.  Or, as she wants to maintain in the discussion of Michael O'Loughlin's America posting to which I link above, for gay men, sex is not about love, intimacy, and relationship, but about using each other as playthings, as casual sex toys.

She links this behavior to the behavior of the decadent ancient Romans who persecuted orthodox Catholics like herself--Catholics who understood that the church must always and everywhere proclaim two cardinal rules: don't ever use human beings as pawns, tools, food, or sacrifices; and don't pervert human love into an instrument of degradation as gay men, following the example of pagan Rome, do in making each other into sex toys.

We: Christians facing the lions because of our commitment to Catholic orthodoxy.  You (including fellow Catholics who love and accept those who are gay): neo-pagans reviving the decadence of ancient Rome, which gay men represent in a unique and crystal-clear way to those of us who are orthodox.

This historically inaccurate and downright silly rhetoric about orthodox Catholics as targets of the new Nero who is Barack Obama has been growing by leaps and bounds among American Catholics of late.  Google the terms Nero + Obama and you immediately light upon one hit after another pointing you back to the astonishing sermon-rant given by Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria this past summer, in which he compared the president to a dictator attacking the Catholic church and suppressing the religious freedom of its bishops--though, to my knowledge, no government official appeared on the scene to cart Jenky off to prison after he delivered his rant.

The former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George, has fatuously predicted that the next generations of U.S. bishops will be martyred, as a dictatorial government reviving the persecution of the Catholic church that occurred in previous eras curbs the religious freedom of bishops preaching against such unprecedented threats to Christian values as two men or two women living together in a loving, committed, publicly recognized marital union.

This is pathological language.  It is language reflecting a ludicrously self-aggrandizing pathological self-concept that has taken all leave of reality.  It is language that cruelly seeks to pathologize a targeted group of fellow human beings and fellow Catholics whose lives and behavior in no way deserve the stigma those using such language wish to attach to that group.

Along with its attendant charges that gay men are dangerous purveyors of disease incapable of forming loving and committed relationships, the pathological self-description of anti-gay bishops as martyrs points to a very deep pathology within the soul of the Catholic institution itself.  The homophobic rhetoric of many members of the current Catholic hierarchy, echoed and promoted by young, "orthodox" Catholic bloggers such as those I discuss above--rhetoric that is all about keeping hateful social stigmas and taboos against LGBT folks alive--succeeds only in revealing that the real pathology which ought to be of pre-eminent concern to sane and healthy Catholics is in the bosom of the church itself.

It's not among those who are gay.

(For a post-script to this posting, see the following posting.)

The graphic is from the Twitter feed of American performer Miley Cyrus.

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