Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cordileone Opens His Mouth Again, Nonsense Falls Out Again: "The Clear Biological Fact Is That a Human Being Is Born Either Male or Female"

It seems to me sadly predictable that San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the "father of proposition 8," who took credit for snatching the right of civil marriage from gay couples in California in 2008, would want to weigh in with a loud, media-grabbing statement about the Caitlyn Jenner story. After all, the hard evangelical right, the Catholic bishops' allies in the culture war against the LGBT community, had already been weighing in before Cordileone opened his mouth. The never disappointing (if one is looking for clownish religious-right soundbytes, that is) Rev. Mike Huckabee, for instance, had made ill-informed, pretend-jocular, but base-revving remarks about women's locker rooms and men who pretend to be women in order to lurk in said rooms.

How could Cordileone, who also loves the limelight (so many LGBT folks to bash in it, after all, so little time) have possibly refrained from opening his mouth, then, and stating — quite erroneously, as anyone with an eight-grade biology education recognizes — the following: "The clear biological fact is that a human being is born either male or female"? And then His Grace went on to add to his erroneous observation that all human beings are born either male or female the predictable foundational argument of right-wing Christian complementarianism:

When the culture can no longer apprehend those natural truths, then the very foundation of our teaching evaporates and nothing we have to offer will make sense.

All this at a conference on the Latin Mass.

You see his point, right? The Creator has designed things so that there are men over here and women over there, and if either men or women are allowed to move toward the boundary lines that separate human beings into those two discrete categories, chaos will ensue. The very foundation of our teaching evaporates: the gospel and everything in it, the good news of Jesus Christ, as proclaimed by the Christian churches, is turned upside down by Caitlyn Jenner.

It all rests, the good news of Jesus Christ for all of creation, on maintaining biological distinctions about gender as prisons in which human beings must be happy to be imprisoned, because this is how God has designed things to be, and questioning that design threatens the very foundations of . . . well, everything.

The obvious first question that needs to be asked about His Grace's formulation is how the foundations can be secure when the foundational statement on which they rest is itself erroneous: it is most certainly not a "clear biological fact" that "a human being is born either male or female." Some human beings are, in fact, born neither male nor female but intersex: they are born biologically both male and female.

There is also, of course, another biological fact to be taken into account as we assess Cordileone's erroneous scientific pronouncement: this is that there's growing, incontrovertible scientific evidence that some people are assigned, from birth or early in their lives, a gender identity that does not match the gender identity they themselves experience. So that speaking of biological gender tags as a kind of prison from which one cannot possibly escape without rebelling against the Creator of the biological prison makes about as much sense in light of this scientific finding as it does to say that God can't possibly design an ambiguous, complex system of gender identity — when some people are born neither male nor female, but with biological characteristics of both genders.

The second question that demands to be asked regarding His Grace's erroneous dogmatic statement about gender: how and when did Christians of this ilk become so convinced that biology is destiny, and that keeping people in biological gender prisons is the key task of people of faith at this point in history? How and when did some Christians begin to imagine — as erroneously as the archbishop of San Francisco imagines that it's a "clear biological fact" that "a human being is born either male or female" — that this message of biological imprisonment is the linchpin of revelation in the Jewish and Christian scriptures? 

It's decidedly nothing of the sort. Imprisonnment is almost never good news in either the Jewish or Christian scriptures. It's what one is to be liberated from in order to fulfill her destiny or pursue his divine calling.

What's going on when even "liberal" Catholic contributors to the discussion of Cordileone's remarks at the National Catholic Reporter website, heterosexually married Catholics who laugh at the notion that magisterial teaching about contraception should be binding on them but who never miss any opportunity to put their LGBT brothers and sisters back into natural-law prisons, offer support for Cordileone and his complementarian position by stating that everything is "built on the male-female dynamic," and to change that equation is to unsettle the very foundations of society?

How, why, and when did not just Catholics of the hard right, but many "liberal" Catholics who take for granted and celebrate their privilege as heterosexual human beings for whom gender issues are uncomplicated, begin to think this way, begin to identify their unquestioned heterosexual privilege in such a brazen, shameless, theologically shallow way as the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, for everyone?

When did what is so clearly a theological enshrinement of dominant cultural values begin to imagine it represents a countercultural proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ for everyone? And when did such an eminently uncatholic and morally repulsive way of formulating Catholic identity — one that enshrines some human beings, on the basis of biology alone, as "normal" and "good" while it denigrates everyone made different from those human beings as abornmal and unwholesome — seize center stage as the definition of Catholicity in the 21st century?

Just asking. Though I surely expect no answers, or even a hearing, from the oh-so-certain Catholics of the hard right who would follow His Grace of San Francisco into the sea if he proclained sea-walking a Catholic value, or, for that matter, from those smug "liberal" Catholics for whom the Catholic church is a kind of heterosexual boys' and girls' club that allows them to lord it over others because they happen to have been fashioned right, while proclaiming their preëminent understanding of what it means to be Catholic.

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