Monday, January 27, 2014

Polish Catholic Bishops Suddenly Discover Threat of "Gender Ideology": Slawomir Sierakowski Explains Why

Slawomir Sierakowski wonders why, when the Catholic church in Poland hasn't been preoccupied with questions about "gender ideology," it has suddenly discovered "gender ideology" as an apocalyptic threat. His conclusion:

For two decades, the church hierarchy exhibited no interest in the "ideology of gender" until suddenly one day it began to speak of little else. The reasons behind such an orchestrated action might be found in the church’s recent problems. Poles have been outraged by the large-scale financial fraud carried out by the commission tasked with the reprivatization of church property that had been seized by the Communist government. Poles also continue to be disturbed by increasingly common disclosures of pedophilia within the church. 
In Poland, politics is the one area in which the church does not need any lessons. And in today’s politics, when a party finds itself in trouble, its best bet is to change the subject with a media campaign. Necessity is the mother of invention, and thus arose the church’s new invention, the "ideology of gender." This seems to be working wonderfully, since "gender" has become the word of the year, handily beating not just "wiretapping" and "Euromaidan," but also "pedophilia" and "property commission."

And, of course, throughout Eastern Europe today, the threat of the gays is working wondrously well for political leaders (e.g., Putin in Russia) who want to divert citizens'  attention from other, real pressing problems. So why should the leaders of the Polish Catholic church not jump on this bandwagon that is moving along so merrily in nations all around Poland? 

Nor is this kind of apocalyptic bugbearism in which those who are gay become convenient ciphers for all that's threatening and evil in postmodernity confined to Eastern Europe. The bishops of the presumably more enlightened and tolerant Catholic church in France, after all, used a similar scare tactic--the claim that "gender ideology" will obliterate gender itself, if we accept its premises--last year as they predicted cataclysmic consequences if France enacted marriage equality.

(Fact check: my sources in France tell me children are still being born male and female in that country after same-sex couples began to marry civilly there. And that socially constructed gender roles appear to be as robust in French culture as they ever have been . . . . )

The most important fact that deserves attention in these stories is that reactionary political and religious groups will continue to use those who are gay as convenient despised objects in cultural battles that ultimately have little to do with those being used in this ugly utilitarian way, as long as the tactic works for them. And as Sierakowski points out, what better utilitarian tactic to divert attention from the moral failure of the Catholic hierarchy, as our awareness of how widespread the abuse problem and its cover-up is--what better utilitarian tactic to use, in particular, in countries in which prejudice and discrimination against those who are gay is deeply rooted in culture, and in which the international movement to recognize the human rights of gay people is being framed as a threat to the core values of various cultures?

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