Monday, November 3, 2014

Rusty Reno on Benefits for Spouses of Same-Sex Couples in Catholic Institutions as Concordat with Hitler: On Catholic Centrist Lionization of Douthat and Reno

A few days back, I noted my bemusement that the movers and shakers of the American Catholic public conversation (in the media and the academy) can't do enough to praise Ross Douthat and Rusty Reno, while they continue to find it impossible to admit openly gay Catholics into the conversation they control, or to listen respectfully to us.

Here's Rusty Reno's latest (today) in First Things:

I'm sure Pius XII would have denied that signing a Concordat with Hitler’s Germany meant he approved of Nazism. But it conferred legitimacy and dramatically undercut any basis within the Church for resistance. The same goes for the concordat many Catholic institutions are signing with gay marriage. It confers legitimacy on the sexual revolution and undercuts resistance. 
I can understand why Pius XII sought the Concordat with Hitler. He hoped to secure a stable basis for the Church’s ministry in Germany. I can also understand why many Catholics (including, perhaps, Pope Francis) want to make their peace with the sexual revolution, putting "divisive" culture-war issues behind them so that they can go on with the work of the Gospel and so forth. Moreover, Hitler in 1933 didn’t look so bad—and respectable gay couples don’t seem a threat to marriage or anything else. 
But Pius misjudged, as the horrors that followed made painfully evident. Our age is different. But I fear that when the full implications of the sexual revolution are manifest—calls for marriage equality will lead directly to calls for reproductive equality and a fundamental redefinition of the family—we’ll rue our concordat.

What has Reno's knickers atwist is that Creighton University, a Jesuit school, has announced it will start providing benefits for the spouses of legally married same-sex couples it employs. And so enter Hitler: the Catholic church is now, à la Reno, signing a Concordat with Hitler that represents the church's capitulation to the sexual revolution.

I have a news flash for Mr. Reno: almost all U.S. Catholic universities have for a long time now provided contraceptive coverage for heterosexually married employees and their spouses. If the Catholic church is capitulating to the sexual revolution by recognizing that not all married couples employed by Catholic institutions toe the official Catholic party line about sexual activity and procreation, then that capitulation has already taken place.

It took place a long time ago.

And so why are we only now shouting about Hitler and about the church caving in to the sexual revolution, when the gays begin to be treated with human dignity and accorded rights we've long since taken for granted for ourselves

As I noted a number of days ago, in his 2003 book A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America, Peter Steinfels maintains that our culture's "anxieties surrounding homosexuality are really only a projection of issues surrounding heterosexuality" (p. 273). As he notes, what we've been arguing about as we argue about gay rights is the severing of the link between procreation and sexual activity — a severing that heterosexual couples had already effected, long before the notion of gay marriage came on the scene, by using contraceptives. 

In Steinfels's view, "Homosexuality becomes the obvious battleground for addressing questions about nonprocreative heterosexuality." And gay people, a small minority group, end up bearing "the brunt of unresolved moral and cultural questions facing the more than 90 percent that is heterosexual"(ibid.).

If Steinfels is correct (and I think he is), then why are folks like Reno only now carrying on about the church's capitulation to the sexual revolution and its devil's bargain with Hitler? And why are the movers and shakers of the American Catholic public conversation, highly educated folks most of them, lionizing people like Rusty Reno?

(My apologies that I mistakenly gave Rusty Reno the name Ross in my original title for this posting. I've corrected my mistake.)

The headscratcher illustration is from The Evening Ledger (Philadelphia, May 4, 1916), and was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Johnny Automatic of Open Clip Art Library.

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