Sunday, April 7, 2013

Please Don't Call It Love: Gay Catholics Respond to Cardinal Dolan

Okay, one of those scourge times again, albeit that it's Eastertide and we're supposed to be basking in the love of the risen Christ. The past few days, I've chosen to make comments in response to Jaime Manson's outstanding article at National Catholic Reporter asking Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Cordileone to call what they intend and practice towards their gay brothers and sisters something else than love.

"Call it politeness, or civility or an attempt at tolerance, but please don’t call it love," Jaime says. Especially when you won't even step outside your cathedral doors and talk to real-life gay Catholics standing on the cathedral steps and asking for dialogue. Or when you compare gay marriage to incest, and refuse invitations to visit homeless shelters for LGBT youth put out of their homes by parents who claim their religion requires them to behave this way.

Or when you tell people as you crow about snatching the right of civil marriage from the gay community that gays are in league with the devil. Or when you spend millions trying to block and remove rights of LGBT human beings, and when you collude with an organization (the National Organization for Marriage) that announces it wants to sow seeds of enmity between the gay community and the African-American community. Or when you sit by in stony complicit silence as gay or gender-questioning young folks commit suicide in epidemic numbers due to bullying. 

Please call this behavior anything other than love. And please call your overtures to your gay brothers and sisters anything other than love, until you're willing to renounce the preceding ugly, dehumanizing behavior that singles out and targets the very people you're claiming to "love." 

I knew, of course, when I chose to make comments agreeing with Jaime's powerful analysis that I'd be making myself a target for my fellow Catholics who like to throw excrement at those of us who are gay or who defend gay folks--who throw such excrement at their gay brothers and sisters in the name of the loving Christ, it goes without saying. And I knew in advance what the arguments would be:

1. Gays love? Give me a break. What gays are about is dirty sex. 
2. Love means renouncing yourself, not fulfilling your sinful desires. 
3. Love is tough and judgmental, just like Jesus.  
4. Good parents withhold approval and affection in the name of love. 
5. The fact that Jesus was silent about homosexuality means he was actually really, really concerned about it, just as with abortion. 
6. Jesus's absolute silence on the topic of homosexuality actually means he agreed with all those passages* in the Old Testament which show us that God detests homosexuality. 
7. The most loving thing we can do is tell people what's wrong with them and demand that they change. 
8. Love doesn't mean welcoming people to the Christian community--not until they clean up their act and stop the sinning. 
9. You gays keep bringing up the issue of love because you're engaging in propaganda and polemics, writing hostile, demeaning, inhumane, manipulative, and oppressive screeds like the one Jaime Manson has just written. 
10. I love you and you're welcome in my church. Now shut up and stop talking because I'm sick of the propaganda.

Yes, really. All this and more excrement like it has been pouring forth in a steady Easter stream following Jaime Manson's appeal that we talk about love, and what love really means, and what it might look like for Catholics to love real-life gay human beings. She herself has been the target of much of the excrement. Any of us who logged in to agree with her have been targets, too.

In my case, every single one of the fellow Catholics who piled on one after the other, often stating the same things as their preceding fellows had done (so that it was clear that they were, indeed, piling on and intended to bully), was a man who claims to be heterosexual. Well, there was one Anonymous whose gender wasn't declared, but whom I have every reason to think to be another Catholic man, given several things he said in his non-conversation with me.

One of the interlocutors, a person who calls himself "Ontheocean," is, according to what he's shared at the NCR site, a married Catholic man who was formerly a seminarian, and who has taught theology at a seminary, worked as a consultant for seminaries, and sat on the board of several Catholic schools in the region in which he lives on the east coast. Ontheocean has also declared himself an admirer of Benedict XVI and of Cardinal Dolan, and he's hot under the collar because Jaime Manson dared to criticize his hero Dolan.

Ontheocean informs me that I'm badly mistaken about gays being unwelcome in his church, or in any way discriminated against--though he's the person who chose to call Jaime Manson's article hostile, demeaning, inhumane, manipulative, and oppressive, even as he wrote, "I welcome them to worship beside me and others, irrespective of what their conscientious decisions are. but I view the above screed as inhumane, manipulative and very oppressive."

I welcome them. But. I love you. But.

In my case, after he engaged me by responding critically to something I had posted on the site, he chose to issue a peremptory order to me to stop talking to him: "I choose not to engage you." "Whatever." "Propaganda." "You're harassing me." "Polemic."

But I love you and welcome you, don't forget! We'll see each other in heaven, I feel sure. Though I don't need to know you or have anything to do with you as I make my way there.

And you know what? I'm tired of the excrement. More than a little bit tired, in fact.

I'm tired of having Catholics (again, it doesn't escape my notice that these are often heterosexual Catholic men) appropriate to themselves the term love and claim a unilateral right to define what love means, while they problematize love for people like me.

While they twist my love around and pretend it's the opposite of love, refusing to listen to me, encounter me as a human being, treat me as if I am as human as they themselves are.

While they twist the plain teaching of Jesus about the centrality of love in the moral and spiritual life, and maintain that Jesus's teaching is about scorn, oppression, judgment, and about putting them as heterosexual males in the place of God. A god made in their own image . . . . 

Many of these same Catholics are the people most intent to smoke out heresies of all kind in the Catholic church today--the heresy of secularism, of feminism, of liberationism. 

I can't think of a more noxious, destructive heresy than taking the term "love," which plays an absolutely critical and central role in the teaching of Jesus--of a Jesus who was utterly silent about the issue of homosexuality and of sexual morality in general--and making that term mean the very opposite of what it means in the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. The very opposite of God's self-emptying embrace of the entire cosmos through Christ . . . . 

Can you?


P.S. I also recommend the response of Marianne Duddy-Burke of Dignity and Mary Ellen Lopata of Fortunate Families to Cardinal Dolan--especially their conclusion:

Perhaps most important, the bishops should stop hiding from us. There is no reason the bishops, priests and deacons of every diocese in the United States cannot hold regular meetings with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families to allow them to speak honestly about their experiences within the church. The result might not always be agreement, but at least it could be a spirit of respect and openness.

I'm tired, tired, tired above all of the Ontheoceans of the Catholic church who assure me that there's not a problem in the world when it comes to how the Catholic church treats gays, that we're as welcome as the flowers of springtime, but that we must please shut our mouths and stop talking about our lives and experiences because all that propaganda is not helpful as these loving and welcoming fellows sit beside us at Mass and say their prayers to the God of love.

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