Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chris Kluwe on Michael Sam's Coming Out, Amanda Terkel on Woody Allen: Implications for Club Catholic

Two observations that stand out for me in recent news reports: at Huffington Post, Amanda Terkel quotes Chris Kluwe's response to the anonymous claims of NFL managerial types that Michael Sam's coming out as gay will prove a "distraction" that will "chemically imbalance" locker rooms and disturb what's, after all, a "man's-man game." Kluwe responds:

You can look at all those quotes that were said in that article. They could very easily have been lifted from a paper right around the time Jackie Robinson was entering Major League Baseball. They're almost word for word. It's like, wait a minute, we've had this struggle before. We already know how it turns out, why are we doing this again?

At Think Progress, Alyssa Rosenberg discusses Woody Allen's inability to understand why people are listening respectfully to Dylan Farrow. She notes that when Farrow first made public her claims that Allen sexually molested her as a child, we lived in a world in which "so-called scorned women" reporting child sexual abuse simply weren't heard. Especially not when they were making allegations about a powerful man.

"But the world is a different place" now, Rosenberg maintains, and Allen hasn't caught up to that recognition yet. He's handling Dylan Farrow's claims as if we're still living in 1993.

I read these two observations side by side with Francis X. Clooney's recent posting at America's "In All Things" blog defending Catholic theologian Mary Hunt against Michael Sean Winters's personal attack on her last month--an attack to which I strongly objected. As Father Clooney notes, he has known Hunt for many years--longer than almost anyone outside his immediate family--and he finds her writing to be "intelligent, thoughtful, challenging, and pushing the hardest questions."

Clooney concludes:

As you know, I am by disposition and profession supposed to be something of an expert on interreligious dialogue. I know that it is hard to listen and learn. I do not rule out robust apologetics, and arguments are absolutely necessary. But polemics, in my experience, do not work, are most often unfair and, if unapologized for, merely lead to further misunderstanding and even hostility. Dr. Hunt wrote, I have said, a bracing, challenging piece, from the edge of the Church, one might say. I learned from it. I would be happy to hear that Pope Francis read it too, and if he has, I suspect he appreciates its points, even if not agreeing with all of it. He likes intellectuals, after all. I do think that Mr. Winters, often so insightful, went overboard this time, and I hope that his piece will not dissuade you from reading Dr. Hunt’s own words. Read for yourselves and decide the matter after your own reflection.

As I listen to Clooney here, I think, too, of Michael Sean Winters's recent piece in National Catholic Reporter entitled "To Hell with the Vatican U.N,"* in which he notes his strong agreement with his friends Austen Ivereigh and Mark Silk about the U.N. report on the Vatican. I think quite specifically of Catholic clubs and of the absurdity of those who claim to be defending Catholicity in imagining that one can credibly defend a community whose description of itself is "catholic," while one madly patrols the boundary lines of the Club Catholic hunting for intruders who need to be reminded that they don't belong.

A friend recently emailed me to ask me if I don't make comments any longer at the Commonweal blog site because I've been banned from commenting there. I replied, telling him that I haven't been blocked from commenting at Commonweal or anywhere else, to my knowledge.

As I explained, though, I just don't have a great deal of interest in commenting at a Catholic blog site that's constructed as a kind of insiders' club, which expends a preponderant amount of interest in policing its boundaries and informing intruders, in one way or another, that they're unwelcome. That they don't belong, don't pass muster, have nothing of importance to say because they speak in the wrong accents and have disreputable lineages.**

Clubs like this bore me, and always have done so, perhaps because my magpie mind delights in picking up shiny bits and pieces of information wherever they shine forth in the world, and regardless of whether they have stamps of approval showing that they meet the standards of Club Catholic or any other club. My understanding of being Catholic positively requires that I listen carefully to people outside the boundaries of Catholic clubs--or American ones or English-speaking ones or male ones or religious ones, or whatever kind of club can be imagined. . . .

I'm more interested in the kind of Catholicism Mary Hunt makes me try to imagine--or the kind of Catholicism Nathan Schneider pushes me to think about. Or Ivone Gebara . . . . Or members of SNAP and other groups working tirelessly to call Catholic leaders to accountability for their abandonment of pastoral principles in their dealing with abuse survivors . . . .

And I tend to think that members of Catholic clubs that are so intent on controlling the conversation about Catholic identity are rather spectacularly missing the point both as to what catholicity is all about in its most fundamental sense at all, and as to what's happening in the culture at large. Where, as Chris Kluwe and Alyssa Rosenberg remind us, things have long since gotten out of hand, out of the hands of the managerial, conversation-controlling types . . . .

Who simply don't exhibit much understanding at all of the culture in which they're living, even when, as members of Club Catholic keep maintaining about themselves, their primary concern is to relate the values and ethos of their club to the culture outside the club . . . .

* Thanks to tinywriting for pointing out my mistake here. And apologies to Michael Sean Winters for getting his title wrong.

** There's also, of course, this (and here).

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