Friday, December 14, 2012

In Religion News: Scalia Father, Scalia Son, Uganda and Stone-Cold Silence of U.S. Catholic Bishops

On Wednesday, I noted that Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's son Father Paul Scalia has served as a chaplain for the Catholic group Courage.  Yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, Michael McGough notes the younger Scalia's connection to Courage, and points out that Father Scalia has gone on record suggesting that gay people don't really exist--there are only homosexual acts:

In a 2005 article in the magazine First Things, Paul Scalia warned against the labeling of high school students as “gay” and even took the Vatican to task  for using the term “homosexual person,” which, the younger Scalia said, “suggests that homosexual inclinations somehow determine, which is to say confine, a person’s identity.”  Of course, this is a straw man; psychologists and other who speak of a gay identity don't argue that “gay” is an exhaustive description of an individual’s personality traits, only that there is more to being gay or lesbian than participation in sexual acts.

As John Aravosis notes at Americablog Gay, Courage espouses the widely debunked (and psychologically destructive) notion of "ex-gay" conversion therapy.  At Religion Dispatches, Lynne Gerber reported this past summer, in fact, that Courage, which has increasingly allied itself with right-wing American evangelical groups in its approach to LGBT persons and LGBT issues, "is gearing up to spread the gospel of change [i.e., "conversion" therapy for gays] to Catholic parishes around the country."  

Courage's prescription for gay and lesbian Catholics: lifelong chastity and avoidance of all intimate relationships as occasions of sin.  Courage and the Catholic magisterium profess that this approach is a manifestation of "love" for LGBT Catholics, and that they are simply enforcing the Catholic ban on all sexual activity outside (heterosexual) marriage.  What this approach refuses to discuss, however, is that the option of intimate relationship and marriage is open for straight Catholics, while no such option exists in the mind of the Catholic magisterium for gay Catholics.  

And so it hardly seems loving in the least to consign one group of Catholics to lifelong chastity that is not imposed on any other group of Catholics--just as it hardly seems loving to focus obsessively on the perceived shortcomings of LGBT Catholics in the area of chastity when the vast majority of young heterosexual Catholics in the developed sector of the world now cohabit prior to marriage.

And more on Antonin Scalia and his recent exchange with Princeton student Duncan Hosie, who asked  Scalia about his equation of laws against sodomy with laws against murder: at his Daily Dish site, Andrew Sullivan contrasts Scalia's "emotionalism and bravado"--his "unreason"--with Hosie's "calm civility and sharp logic."  Sullivan wonders about the logic of legislating morality that appears to underlie Scalia's unreasonable approach to LGBT issues, as he asks:

If the [Supreme] court has already determined that mass murderers have an inviolable right to marry, how is allowing gay people to marry somehow a sign of moral decline? If the court has already made non-procreative sex constitutionally protected for straight people, how is it that the very same thing, condemned for the very same reasons by Scalia's and my own hierarchy, is obviously immoral when it comes to homosexuals?

As I read this analysis, I can't help thinking of John Becker's post-election commentary at Huffington Post, noting how vociferously loud the U.S. Catholic bishops have been about the ostensible threat of same-sex marriage to the marriages of straight citizens,* but how stone-cold silent the bishops and Vatican remain about the threat posed to the very lives of LGBT Ugandans by that nation's draconian kill-the-gays bill.  A silence that, as Becker rightly notes, can only be construed as consent--especially when Benedict gives Uganda's parliamentary speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who has promised passage of the bill as a "Christmas gift" to the Ugandan people, his blessing and a big photo-op scoop showing Kadaga kneeling at his feet.

John Becker's word "putrid" to describe the silence of Catholic leaders about what Uganda is contemplating seems apt to me.

Meanwhile, I'm clinging to the hope offered by Fred Clark's observation that, no matter how hard the little men who run most churches continue to compile little folders full of information they want to lock away from the rest of us, the people they hope to keep in the dark are escaping from those folders of control.

Because the internet makes it impossible to withhold information from large numbers of people as easily as was the case in the past.  And because some of us--gays and lesbians, certainly, but also women, people of color, and members of other marginalized minority groups--are determined not to let ourselves be locked any longer into the folders the little men compile.

We're more interested these days in living out loud.

*P.S. We gays took out yet another "traditional" one-man-one-woman-for-life marriage this week, as Sarah Palin's son Track Palin and his wife Britta filed for divorce.  The couple married in May 2011, three months before daughter Kayla Grace was born.  The divorce settlement apparently allows Track to keep his gun collection.

The graphic is Hungarian artist Istv├ín Nagy's "Woman Reading the Newspaper" (1918), from Wikimedia Commons.

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