Thursday, July 2, 2015

Clouds of Witnesses: More Testimony About How Obergefell Affects Real Human Beings and Real Human Lives — The Challenge for Catholics

Some more testimony for you today: two days ago, I offered you some testimony from my own spot about what Obergefell and its extension of rights to LGBT citizens meant to me as an openly gay, married Catholic theologian who has been shut out of employment, my vocation, health insurance coverage, and the manifold benefits that come from being part of a community. Shut out, quite specifically, by Catholic institutions and by the men running the Catholic show, who love to talk endlessly about human rights and love as they continue doing this to LGBT folks . . . .

On the same day, I offered you more testimony from gay folks directly affected by Obergefell, who were responding to Justice Roberts's dismissive question in his dissenting statement, "Just who do we think we are?" Some more testimony today: put the disparate pieces that follow together, and I submit to you that they form a picture of sorts, though the picture may not be apparent until you have assembled it from the various discrete pieces of testimony:

1. Here's Ryan writing here yesterday about how not a few Catholics are choosing to deal with Obergefell, and how not a few Catholics have long approached their fellow human beings who are LGBT:

Way too many Catholics give passes to anyone who makes statements that are technically correct yet completely lacking of any love, empathy, or even desire to persuade anyone. Paul would call that nonsense a clanging gong, worthless noise that exists only to elevate the speaker in their own estimation. 
ETA - It's also sad that when someone does write with love and empathy, they need to include a disclaimer to assure the amateur inquisition that they only love the gays, not love love the gays.

2. Here's Catholic theologian Holly Taylor Coolman of Providence College at her Accidental Beatitude blog, suggesting what might be a better Catholic response to Obergefell than running in circles screaming and shouting:

We should stop describing "the Church" and "LGBT people" as if they were two discrete groups. LGBT people are not only, as the US bishops put it in 1997, “our children,” they are, in fact, us. . . . We should begin, and continue, to attend to the testimonies of LGBT people, including, and perhaps especially, testimonies of those in the Church.  

Novel suggestions that I really like: LGBT people are church, too! They're, in fact, us. And the Catholic pastoral approach to LGBT people should begin with listening to them, to their testimonies. 

Even though, of course, there is absolutely no official listening process of this sort anywhere in the U.S. Catholic church, and no official attempt has ever been made to welcome in, include, or listen to LGBT Catholics. Though numerous LGBT Catholics and the groups supporting them have long asked for such a dialogue with the official leaders and official structures of the church . . . .

Of course, how can the leaders of the Catholic church possible attempt to listen to LGBT Catholics with a straight face, in a respectful dialogue, when those same leaders reserve the right to snatch away jobs, healthcare benefits, vocations, from employees of Catholic institutions, because they happen to be gay?

3. Here's a Catholic group, Catholic Vote, that is, after Obergefell, pushing the ludicrous claim that it's Catholics, for God's sake, who are being oppressed and denied rights. As Kristina Monllos observes,

The ad, with a straight face, position Catholics as a persecuted group for not having their message of intolerance (here blatantly recast as its opposite) widely accepted these days. It even plays like a coming-out video for Catholics who are afraid to take the "brave" step of voicing their objection to equality. That's a pretty audacious tactic—disingenuous and disrespectful, to say the least.

Don't miss the hilarious send-up video that Monllos posts alongside the Catholic Vote video, in which a character states, "Noboody's views should be suppressed, especially if they oppress marginalized groups of people. Those are my favorite people."

4. Here's Kaya Oakes responding to Rod Dreher's "Benedict option" and other blusterers who propose that the only option now left to real Christians (like them) is to withdraw from the social mainstream and/or flee the country — like Confederates who lost the battle over slavery and headed to Brazil and other places that continued to permit slavery, it always seems to me when I read these proposals:

Christians who self-isolate will miss out on the opportunity to know, learn from, and perhaps even to love some of the Americans who have thought the hardest and longest about religion and its role in their lives. Jesus, after all, did not lead his disciples away from the people and their questions, and their messy, real lives, and doubts. He walked toward the people, not away from them.

5. Here's Tim Wise on subtle racism and how it simply erases the lived experiences of racial others, pretending that those experiences (and the others themselves) just are not in the room, are incapable of speech, do not count:

Sometimes, racism is manifested in the subtle way a person can dismiss the lived experiences of those racial others as if they were nothing, utterly erasing those experiences, consigning them to the ashbin of history like so much irrelevant refuse. . . .Those who defend the [Confederate] flag consider the black experience irrelevant, a trifle, hardly worthy of their concern. 

6. Here's Catholic theologian Mary Hunt sending a memo to Catholic theologians and educators about changes we need to make in how we teach Catholic sacramental theology, "in light of various global changes":

First, official Catholic teachings on "The Sacrament of Matrimony" require a change in title (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part II, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 7). Given that marriage is now increasingly available to all, I respectfully suggest that the term "heterosexual" be added for clarity. Thus, the Catholic "Sacrament of Heterosexual Matrimony" will properly represent a narrow, limited, parochial understanding, and not be confused with the wider expression of marriage as we now know it in many cultures, including in the United States.


Second, the same principles apply to the question of the "Sacrament of Holy Orders" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part II, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 6). As long as we are revising, let’s fix this error as well. Since ordination in the Roman Catholic Church is for men only, excluding all women, the new designation is properly "Sacrament of Men's Holy Orders" or "Sacrament of Holy Orders for Men." This nomenclature will clarify that the sacrament is available to half of the membership of the community, not to the whole community as are the Sacraments of Baptism, Penance and Reconciliation, and the rest.

7. Finally, here's the Catholic bishop of Arkansas, Anthony Taylor, responding in the Arkansas Catholic newspaper yesterday to one of the "worst Supreme Court decisions of our lifetime": 

To those who are dismayed over this court ruling and our nation's future, I would remind you that the early Church not only survived, it thrived in the midst of a pagan and hostile world. We as American Catholics may be ridiculed for our stance on marriage, labeled as bigots or hate-mongers.

You hear the point, right? We American Catholics are so dismayed that rights long denied to a minority group have just been extended to them, that our only choice is to turn our backs on the "pagan and hostile" culture in which we now live. We'll be ridiculed, of course, and labeled hate-mongers. But them's the breaks if you're a Catholic . . . . We have the truth. You don't.

It appears the good bishop of Arkansas has not read the many polls demonstrating that somewhere around 65% of "us" Catholics support marriage equality, and are rejoicing at the extension of rights long denied to a minority group. It appears, in fact, that Bishop Taylor imagines that only his voice counts as the Catholic voice, and no other voice — especially not the voice of a real living and breathing LGBT human being (Catholic ≠  LGBT, LGBT ≠  Catholic) — should have a hearing as he makes his breathtaking (and completely incorrect) claims about what "we Catholics" believe and think. 

As Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times, commenting on Taylor's statement, notes, it maintains, astonishingly,

Redefining the natural institution of marriage will not serve to improve their lives [i.e., the lives of those LGBT human beings who ≠ us Catholics].

Bishop Taylor wrote this mind-boggling statement on the very day on which I received healthcare coverage after years of struggling for such coverage, due to the Obergefell ruling.

Bishop Taylor wrote this mind-boggling statement the day after I posted here my testimony about what a significant and wonderful effect the Obergefell ruling had had on my life and that of my husband, as I gained access to healthcare benefits from which I had previously been excluded.

But then I don't count, really, nor do people like me, do we, as the men runnning the Catholic institution talk about love and human rights and the need of the church to listen and welcome?

Talk about a church of no grace at all. Maybe, all things considered, it's better when churches like that turn their backs on the rest of us in a snit when they lose their ugly culture-war battles, or go into exile. That, at least, leaves the rest of us the opportunity to build a better world without their "truth" impeding us as we work at that task.

Thanks to Jim McCrea for sending me the link to Holly Taylor Coolman's fine statement.

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