Tuesday, April 7, 2015

U.S. Catholic Leaders Successfully Rebrand Their Church as Preëminent Church of Anti-Gay Bigotry: Testimony from Easter Talk Shows

Still in any doubt that the leaders of the U.S. Catholic church have now very successfully branded their church in the public eye as the preëminent church of anti-gay bigotry standing against the human rights of people made gay by God? If you remain in doubt, have a look at the photo with which Jon Stewart kicks off his scintillating commentary about the recent "religious freedom" débacle in Indiana (hint: the photo features grinning nuns and friars). Stewart sums up the argument now being offered to the American public square by Catholic leaders, including the U.S. Catholic bishops and the powerful media and academic folks who carry water for their "religious freedom" attack on LGBT human beings, 

So when gays want equality, it's militancy. And when Christians want to deny service, it's freedom.

More proof? Here's Chris Weigant commenting yesterday at Huffington Post about what he saw when he turned on the television this Easter Sunday: 

Because this Sunday was Easter, the political chat shows invited a number of Catholic bishops on, as they normally do. This time, however, the interviews couldn't remain focused on the Christian holiday but instead all were forced to venture into the political question of religious freedom versus civil rights -- a question that Indiana and Arkansas had just finished struggling over. The bishops all stood strongly for their right to their beliefs, of course, and many of them tried to thread the needle of: "We don't want to support discrimination, but we actually do think bakers should be able to discriminate when it comes to wedding cakes," to one degree or another. What it really all boiled down to was supporting the right of a business to discriminate against gay weddings, while simultaneously being horrified of the word "discrimination." They wanted the right to discriminate, but didn't want it to be called that, in essence.

They wanted the right to discriminate, but didn't want it to be called that, in essence. Because calling their exclusionary agenda, which treats gay "sinners" quite differently than it treats all other sinners, discriminatory, would blow their cover. It would expose them for the bigots they've chosen to be.

It would have them marching proudly right alongside the right-wing evangelical Christian organizers of this year's "Jesus Easter Parade" in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Who turned away a contingent of marchers from the town's First United Methodist Church because they were carrying a banner that proclaimed, "Jesus loves all."

Good gracious. Can't have that Jesus-loves-all nonsense in a Jesus Easter Parade, can we? Especially when the church in question recently declared itself a Reconciling congregation that explicitly welcomes gay folks alongside straight ones.

Chris Weigant continues his commentary on the message that he heard Catholic bishops giving the American public this past Easter Sunday, when he turned on his television:

What I wanted to see was one of the Sunday interviewers asking one of the bishops whether a Catholic baker should have to agree to serve a wedding cake at the wedding of a woman or man who has been divorced. After all, divorce is not sanctioned by the Catholic Church, therefore any wedding performed for a divorced person would be sinful -- in exactly the same manner that a same-sex marriage would be, for them. Their religion teaches it is wrong and against God's wishes, therefore participating in the event might cause a crisis of conscience for the baker. This begs the question of why has there been no such outcry -- where are the court cases and civil rights fines for Catholic bakers refusing to serve "second wedding" cakes? What does the Catholic Church have to say about a baker who would bake a cake for such a wedding? Why would they not be participating in just as much sin as they would if they baked a cake for a gay wedding? Would the Catholic Church stand firm against any legal effort to punish a baker who refused to serve a second wedding? How is this different than the proverbial gay wedding cake?

Gay "sinners" are different from all other sinners. The human rights of gay human beings are in a category apart from the human rights of all other human beings. This is a damning indictment of the religious leaders of a major religious tradition whose social teaching claims to place exceptionally strong emphasis on human rights — for all human beings. Because they are human beings. 

It's a damning indictment not merely because it places the leaders of American Catholicism at this critical juncture in American history against the human rights of a struggling minority community. But it's also a damning indictment for another significant reason: it exposes the deep, cynical mendacity at the heart of the bishops' rhetoric about "religious freedom" and LGBT human beings. It exposes the deep, cynical mendacity at the heart of their claim that the right to religious freedom should trump the right of people within a targeted minority group to goods, services, and freedom from discrimination. Religious freedom as freedom for me but not for thee . . . .  

They wanted the right to discriminate, but didn't want it to be called that, in essence. 

This can only inevitably lead many people who look at what the leaders of the American Catholic church are allowed by Rome to do and say with impunity, and then to look at Pope Francis, as he says, "Who am I to judge?," to ask whether Francis himself is practicing the very same mendacious duplicity which says one thing — which presents a public image of kindness and welcome — and does another — which stands against love, welcome, and inclusion of gay people in the Catholic community.

This mixed signal, this dishonest double message, this I-love-you-but-I-despise-you approach to a portion of the human community now emerging on the stage of human history in an entirely new way through an historic struggle for human rights: it is a shocking abdication of pastoral responsibility, on the part of the leaders of the Catholic community. For which they will be judged very harshly, indeed, when the dust of this culture-war battle has finally settled . . . .

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