Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Canonization of Pope John Paul II: My Continued Dissent (and the Loud, Clear Message to Me as a Gay Catholic)

As the canonization of Pope John Paul II (and of Pope John XXIII) nears, I thought it might be helpful if I pointed Bilgrimage readers to several postings in which I state my case for dissenting from the decision of the Vatican to canonize John Paul II. I made that case here, with a footnote added here, and I surveyed a number of other statements of dissent to the proposal to canonize John Paul II here.

The heart of my argument:

In doing so, both the last pope [i.e., JPII] and the current pope [i.e., BXVI] have significantly undermined the effectiveness of the church as a voice for justice and mercy in the developed sectors of the world. Both popes have made a Faustian bargain to write off Catholics in the developed parts of the globe, in order to maintain the allegiance of Catholics in the developing sectors of the world, where Catholicism is growing demographically. 
The price of this Faustian bargain is, in my view, that increasing numbers of both Catholics and of people of good will in much of the developed world write off the Catholic church as irrelevant to the process by which a postmodern global culture is coming into being. And even worse, increasing numbers of Catholics and people of good will see the Catholic church in its institutional life today as a countersign to the gospel, to the core values the church itself seeks to proclaim in the face of its own unjust behavior towards women, survivors of childhood sexual abuse by priests, and gay and lesbian human beings.


After Ratzinger issued his 1986 pastoral letter calling gay people intrinsically disordered—during John Paul II’s papacy, with his blessing—the ministerial group Dignity was dismantled, its meetings were shut out of Catholic institutions, and its leaders were silenced.There is a direct genetic line between these draconian decisions of church leaders to turn their back on their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and the current stepped-up campaign of church leaders to stigmatize gays and lesbians around the world. There is a direct line between Ratzinger’s 1986 pastoral letter and the current legislation facing the Ugandan legislature, which will make being gay or lesbian a capital crime.
The canonization of John Paul II will drive the knife deeper, for many Catholics who stand in solidarity with women, with LGBT persons, and with survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic authority figures.This canonization will continue to communicate to these groups that the pastoral leaders of the church have set their face against these members of the body of Christ. The canonization of John Paul II will not heal, but will deepen, wounds that a truly redemptive church ought to be all about healing.

I am frankly sickened by the prospect of the show in Rome at which the two previous popes will be canonized in a few days. Whatever that show is designed to do, what it ultimately communicates to me is how little I'm wanted, valued, respected by my church.

It seems, in fact, designed to drive that point home to me as an openly gay Catholic theologian living in a longterm committed relationship with another openly gay Catholic theologian, both of whom lost our jobs and found our careers as theologians definitely shattered during John Paul II's papacy. The message that the canonization of John Paul II gives me, which is reinforced when leading centrist Catholic publications like National Catholic Reporter support the choice to canonize the former pope, is a loud and clear message that my Catholic church does not want me and does not care about the fact that I — and many, many other LGBT Catholics — have been actively driven from the church due to decisions made by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Or, to put the point another way, the message that my church's pastors, reinforced by their media cheerleaders in publications like NCR, have succeeded in giving me is that any words they speak to me and other LGBT Catholics about the church's compassion for us and desire to include us are so much fluff, are so much sound and fury, signifying nothing. Since those words do not ever issue in concrete actions of pastoral outreach to make us feel wanted and and to include us, while the papal architect of a crusade to inform us in no uncertain terms that we don't belong among the intrinsically ordered people of God is elevated to sainthood with the cheers of the Catholic commentariat . . . .

The term "Catholic" continues to be defined over and against me as a gay human being both by my church's pastors and by those who defend these pastors in the Catholic academy and the Catholic media. And so Sunday will be a day of mourning for me — as I suspect it will be for many Catholic women, many survivors of childhood clerical abuse, and the many Catholic theologians whose vocations were ruthlessly blocked by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

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