Sunday, June 16, 2013

Frank Bruni on Pope Francis's Gay Panic and the "No-Fly Zone of the Heart" Reserved by Catholic Leaders for the Gays

Frank Bruni at New York Times on Pope Francis's gay panic:

I HAVE many questions for and about the “gay lobby” in the Vatican, but I’ll start with this: How can you be so spectacularly ineffective? 
You wouldn’t last a minute on K Street; the Karl Roves of the capital would have you for lunch. Despite your presence in, and presumed influence on, the upper reaches of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, church teaching still holds that homosexuality is disordered, and many church leaders still send the preposterously mixed message that while gay and lesbian people shouldn’t be admonished for, or ashamed about, their same-sex attractions, they should nonetheless elect cold showers over warm embraces. Look but don’t touch. Dream but don’t diddle. 
"It’s like saying, 'You’re a bird, but you can’t fly,' " cracked Sister Jeannine Gramick, an American nun who has long challenged the church on this issue, when we chatted recently.

And more from Bruni:  

Let’s focus on something else. There’s no way for a gay or lesbian person not to hear Dolan’s appraisal as something of a condemnation, no matter how lavishly it’s dressed in loving language. It assigns homosexuals a status separate from, and unequal to, the one accorded heterosexuals: you’re O.K., but you’re really not O.K. Upon you there is a special restriction, and for you there is a fundamental dimension of the human experience that is off-limits, a no-fly zone of the heart. 
It’s two-tiered thinking, which is present as well in American political life, where many people who say that they have no problem with gays and lesbians and no intent to discriminate against us also say that we shouldn’t be allowed to marry, because, well, that’s the tradition, and marriage is an accommodation too far.

"Dolan's appraisal" refers to Cardinal Dolan's Easter message of very conditional love for LGBT people: we Catholics welcome you, but don't forget to wash your hands before you come to our table, which is the table of the clean (whereas you gay folks are dirty).

As I think about what Bruni says here, I'm struck by the fact that, in my own lifetime, we've come to the point at which an openly gay journalist can write the kinds of things Bruni says here in a major mainstream newspaper in the U.S. The cat's decisively out of the bag: people in the cultural mainstream have no way now not to hear the testimony of LGBT people about how we experience the world. And that places the leaders of the Christian churches, who have for so long counted on being able to talk about us, but never to us, and to control public impressions of us while ignoring our own real-life gay flesh and blood, in a very difficult position.

It means that they can longer objectify us in the cruel and very particular way they've been wont to use in dealing with us. When the mute object attains the ability to speak and tells the world about how it feels regarding its objectification, the game of objectification is pretty much over.

It also means that the leaders of Christian churches can no longer pretend that all the rules they preach about love, justice, and mercy don't really apply in the special case of LGBT human beings. It means that, at long last, the leaders of Christian churches must begin to expect that the LGBT people they've objectified for so long, used as mute objects in cynical political games, are now going to speak out loudly and clearly about how no church can credibly promote an ethic of love while it singles out a discrete part of the human community as outside that ethic of love.

Here's the kind of questions that people like Cardinal Dolan can now expect more and more people to put to them as Christian pastoral leaders, when journalists like Frank Bruni become a taken-for-granted part of the mainstream: what kind of good news do you think you can convincingly proclaim to anyone at all when you single out a targeted group of human beings to receive the message, "You're O.K., but you're not really O.K."? And when you consign the members of that group, in all Christian charity, to a special "no-fly zone of the heart" to which you don't send anyone else in the world?

The graphic: how LGBT Americans currently rank religious groups according to whether they appear friendly or unfriendly to gays, from the recently published Pew Research report about which I blogged earlier in the week.

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