Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Reader Responds: "Church's Homophobia Is So Obsessive That They've Lowered the Bar . . to Basically, 'Don't Be Gay'"

Brian Gallagher responds (brilliantly) to my report last evening about the discussion thread now underway at Commonweal which exhibits--in spades--the glaring double standard that many Commonweal Catholics apply to their gay brothers and sisters, as they condemn them for violating church teaching about sexual morality while they excuse the very same violations if they're done by straight Catholics: 

Father Helmut Schuller, now touring the US, mentions that there have been far more victims of obedience than of disobedience in human history and I'd wager that includes the history of the Church.  
I've long thought that the Catholic Church was trying to become the the intellectual leader of the American Rightist/Conservative movement by promoting natural law as a kind of alternative natural science - and promoting it BEFORE promoting any other doctrines, biblical literature, traditions, etc (not to mention 'encounters' with Christ). Perfect case is Cardinal George of Chicago presenting himself to a gathering of Mormons a couple years ago as an illustrious Roman prince of natural law looking for allies. 
But I wonder if the authoritarians will have to settle for Natural Law Lite or Diet Natural Law since they're certainly not holding onto power-over-others by demanding that people stop using contraception or stop getting remarried after a divorce. They'll have to grant acceptance to those who commit sinful actions "against nature" by reducing agency in their anthropology for straight people but not for gays. Lowering the bar, moving the goalposts, etc. 
And the result is gutting Catholicism. I'm not doctrinaire in any sense of the word but I want to work through this strategy logically: Presumably, Cardinal George believes that Mormons can be saved because he didn't go to them like St. Paul and try to convert them. However, a lot of conservative Christians who champion Cardinal George do believe that the souls of gay people are imperiled. 
So open up the cafeteria because you can order anything you like as long as you fill your cup with Diet Natural Law at the soda fountain. 
The Church's homophobia is so obsessive that they've lowered the bar of a Christian life to basically, "Don't be gay." The effect on every aspect of the faith has been terribly damaging.

Among several scintillating observations here that catch my eye, the phrase "lowered the bar of a Christian life to basically, 'Don't be gay,'" leaps out. I think Brian's absolutely correct: the leaders of the Catholic church have, in recent decades, succeeded in dumbing down the Catholic community to such an astonishing extent that many Catholics have somehow concluded that the moral stipulations about permissible sexual behavior apply only and uniquely to those who are gay.

I begin to think that many U.S. Catholics aren't even aware that the Catholic church condemns any genital act that is not oriented to procreation within a heterosexual marriage. It condemns every act of masturbation, of heterosexual intercourse outside wedlock, of heterosexual genital activity within marriage that is not open to procreation, or, for that matter, every act of entertaining an impure thought. The easy, slopy, culturally comfortable fixation on gays as the only possible sinners in the world results, just as Brian says, in a Natural Law Lite approach to sexual morality that sees heterosexual infractions as picayune lapses deserving compassion--lapses that almost never warrant violation of the basic human rights of heterosexuals--because these infractions at least have the potential to result in procreation.

(But they frequently don't--and that's the point about masturbation, artificial contraception, and all sexual acts within marriage that don't have the direct potential to yield a child.)

Dumb: Brian's absolutely right to speak of what the pastoral leaders of the church have effected as a lowering of the Catholic bar. It's a dumbing down of the whole church that leaves many Catholics, including even the thinking sector of the church which once prided itself on making critical distinctions and understanding the application of Catholic teaching to culture, sitting ducks for lazy thinking about complex issues. 

And one of my big beefs with Commonweal for some time now has been that, in the way it approaches conversation about LGBT people and issues, it doesn't in any way challenge that dumbing-down process, but actively colludes in it. The U.S. Catholic church deserves better from its intellectual luminaries.

To illustrate my point: take a look at Deacon Jim Pauwels's latest contribution to the Commonweal thread about which I blogged last night. As I noted last night, he and other contributors to the thread had, up to the point of my posting, entirely ignored Eduardo Moisés Peñalver's question about whether there are reports of Catholic schools firing divorced and remarried teachers to parallel the one about the firing of an unmarried pregnant teacher and the many ones about firing openly gay teachers.

At some point last evening, Vincent Couling, bless his heart, tried directly to engage Deacon Jim on this point, and Pauwels has now responded to Couling--without having the courtesy to address him by name or even to admit that Couling has been in the room and talking to him. But notice what Deacon Jim says: Catholic institutions should work with a divorced and remarried person in their employee, showing those people mercy.

But gay folks who are booted out by Catholic institutions? Not so much. They can always find jobs elsewhere, Deacon Jim insists.

Out of sight, out of mind. Buh-bye. Good riddance. We can do our Catholic thing (Here comes everybody!) without the likes of you, thank you very much. 
Leave us to ourselves. We love people like ourselves, even if our refusal to include and respect you results in stupidity for our little club. As Deacon Jim concludes after he has told Mr. Bencomo to take a hike (You'll land on your feet, you'll find a job in some nice non-Catholic school), "I do find it pretty outrageous that a pregnant, unmarried teacher would be fired." 
It bothers me when the church tramples on the rights of people like me. But people like you? Meh. 
We don't even need to talk to you or the likes of you.

And this is catholic how? And this engages the question Peñalver asks how: are there reports of divorced and remarried couples being booted by Catholic institutions that had employed them?

No, there are not such reports. This is the point that Deacon Jim wants to elide with his tortured response about the necessity of pastoral outreach to divorced and remarried Catholics--while he continues to defend the booting of openly gay Catholic employees of Catholic institutions, particularly if they marry their spouses in civil ceremonies.

About which there are reports everywhere.

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