Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Anti-Gospel, Meet Gospel: Fred Clark Responds to Cardinal Dolan's Dirty Freddie Story

Here's Fred Clark at Slacktivist, with his usual theological acumen and clever insight, tackling His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan's Dirty Freddie "welcome" message to gay folks, followed by His Eminence's choice to have New York's finest bar the cathedral doors when a group of dirty-handed gay folks tried to come to Mass several weeks ago:

Yes, Dolan — a bishop and cardinal in his church — decided that an analogy about cleanliness and purity rules was a good description of Jesus’ message. Dolan seems to think that the Gospels’ repetitive, relentless theme of Jesus’ unconditional embrace of the unclean somehow means that we should do the opposite. (Dolan actually cites the story of the woman Jesus saves from execution, but the bishop reads it backwards — invoking the “go and sin no more” at the end of the story as though it were a condition on which the beginning of the story depended. He makes it seem as though Jesus said, “If you go and sin no more, then I will not condemn you.”) 
I suppose Dolan was shooting for a folksy object-lesson kind of thing: “Here are a few very natural expectations this family has. Like, wash your hands!” But his clumsy attempt at a just-plain-folks homily gets so very much so very wrong. He titled his message “All Are Welcome,” then went on to explain that he didn’t mean any one of those three words in the usual sense. The idea of “cleanness” as a precondition for acceptance doesn’t just invert everything we ever see or hear from Jesus in the Gospels, it also revives all the old questions from the Reformation about grace and works, making Dolan seem a bit too much like the caricature of a Catholic as drawn by unfriendly Protestants. And it perverts the Eucharist, twisting it from a sacrament that conveys divine grace into some kind of reward given only to those who do not need such grace in the first place. 
For LGBT Catholics, Dolan’s message may as well have been “Go f–k yourself.” It conveys the same idea: extreme hostility expressed as the suggestion/instruction to do something humanly impossible. The eff-you hostility is evident from Dolan’s analogy, which says that LGBT people are dirty, dirty, dirty. And Dolan’s suggestion to them — “wash your hands!” — only makes sense if the bishop thinks that somehow these folks can just scrub away their gayness with soap and water. The latter idea is ignorant. The former idea is contemptuous and contemptible.

Cardinal Dolan, with your bad-news anti-gospel for gay folks, meet Fred Clark, who preaches the real gospel. It's about good news. 

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