Sunday, September 13, 2015

Michael Arceneaux on Why He Won't Return to Church, Even with Francis: "If You’re Not a Straight, White, Cisgender Man, Catholic Culture and Theology Isn’t Speaking to You"

In The Guardian today, Michael Arceneaux, a black, gay man who has left the Catholic church, explains why Pope Francis hasn't convinced him to return:

A recent Pew Research Center study shows that among all American adults who were raised Catholic, 52% have left the church at some point in their lives. The study goes on to say that of these, about a fifth find their way back. But most, like me, never return to the faith. That's because if, unlike [Stephen] Colbert and [Joe] Biden, you're not a straight, white, cisgender man, Catholic culture and theology isn't speaking to you.

To which I can only say, Amen. As an alienated Catholic who is gay like Michael Arceneaux, I agree: at this point in history, the Catholic church has succeeded in branding itself (from the top down) as a privileged boys' club for heterosexual (or pretend-heterosexual) men. It speaks first and foremost to heterosexual men. It claims to speak at an official level in the voice of heterosexual men. 

Pope Francis's encyclical on the ecological crisis calls for global, inclusive dialogue about this crisis — but the encyclical itself completely excludes the voice of half of humanity, the voices of women. It does not itself model the inclusive dialogue for which it calls, and, as I noted when Laudato Si' first appeared, its hostile remarks about gender theory continue alienating non-heterosexual Catholics and suggesting that those Catholics have nothing of importance to say to the church.

I find it disappointing in the extreme that Father Thomas Reese's article last week in National Catholic Reporter summing up what Laudato Si' has to say about the theme of dialogue — namely, that we need global dialogue involving the entire human community, if we want to address our environmental crisis effectively — does not even advert to the glaring lack of gender inclusivity within the encyclical itself. The lack of gender inclusivity is not merely a tiny flaw in the encyclical's argument for inclusive, global dialogue: it's a major obstacle to treating the encyclical with respect as it calls for such dialogue.

I find it equally dismaying and painful to read Catholic theologian Charles Camosy telling NCR's Michael Sean Winters the following about this year's Catholic Conversation Project meeting, as Winters reports

This year's topic was highly charged, with a certain kind of Catholic simply disengaging from any discussion of inclusion of LGBT and divorced and remarried, with another kind of Catholic simply assuming that anyone holding the church's teaching on these matters is a kind of bigot who ought to be marginalized.

Camosy's comments appear to me to say quite plainly that Catholics who choose to "disengage" from inclusion of LGBT and divorced and remarried Catholics are nonetheless "holding the church's teaching" on these matters, and ought therefore not to be marginalized. To which I'd like to ask in response: what is more fundamental in Catholic teaching than the catholic imperative to include? Since when can "holding the church's teaching" on LGBT issues and the issue of divorce and remarriage justifiably coexist with "disengaging from any discussion of inclusion"?

Since when has it come to pass that magisterial teaching on issues of sexual morality, which is not set in stone and is always open to further discussion, trumps something so basic in Catholic teaching as the obligation to include, to welcome, to embrace — everyone, even sinners? Since when did those resisting the inclusion of their LGBT brothers and sisters or their divorced brothers and sisters gain ownership of the Catholic tradition, so that they are "holding the church's teaching on these matters"?

People are walking away in droves with good reason. It's a pity, isn't it, that so many Catholic leaders, within both the academy and the journalistic elite of the church, refuse to try to find out why this is happening — and to become a part of the solution to the problem, rather than agents of further alienation?

The photo of Michael Arceneaux is from his blog The Cynical Ones.

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