Thursday, October 1, 2015

Why the Pope's Meeting with Kim Davis Is the Last Straw for Me: With Commentary on Father James Martin's "Points to Keep in Mind" About the Meeting

Several days back, I received an email from America Magazine asking me to contribute financial support to America as a member of the America community. Something to that effect: I don't have the email any longer, and so can't quote it word for word.

I actually kept the email in my inbox for a while, toying with the notion of sending a reply to explain to the folks running the America show why I can't find it in my heart to contribute to them, and am more than a little surprised to find I belong to the America community. And then I decided that I'd simply be throwing good words — the fruit of my mind, heart, and soul, since those are the kinds of words I try to speak — to the wind, if I wrote the folks running the America show. 

They haven't been willing to give me a hearing in the past. Why would they choose to behave differently now — because of Pope Francis?

I stopped several years ago leaving any comments at the America site, and then I stopped reading America at all, dropped it from my bookmark list for daily reading. Why did I do this?

First, I was very deeply disappointed when, on at least one occasion (more than one, if I recall correctly), I left comments at articles written by Father James Martin, responding in the best way I knew how to people who were, to my way of thinking, attacking me and other LGBT people while claiming a Catholic warrant for such attacks — and my comments were deleted.

I took this deletion of my comments personally, and I did, I confess, connect the deletion of my comments to Father Martin himself. I assumed — perhaps wrongly — that the author of an article at the America site has some kind of authorial privilege to weed comments in threads responding to his or her article. (I think America now no longer permits any comments to be made in response to its articles.)

And second, when America chose to bring Helen Alvaré aboard as one of its regular commenters and billed her as someone contributing to one of those broad, civil, all-sides-included conversations that build healthy societies and blah-blah-blah, I had had it with America

Helen Alvaré, who is decidedly no friend of mine or of other gay folks, has a voice at America. I don't. When I considered myself to be writing respectful, thoughtful responses to what seemed to me to be open vitriol directed against LGBT human beings in the comboxes at America, my comments were erased. 

The comments that struck me, as a gay Catholic, as hateful, were allowed to stand. My comments speaking out of my experience as a gay Catholic were erased.

But Helen Alvaré, who is no friend of gay folks, has a voice at America.

As I have thought about all of this after I dropped America from my reading list, I have come to see that this is how the game continues — and will continue, if "the America community" has anything to do with it — in the Catholic world, vis-a-vis LGBT human beings. We are and will remain voiceless. 

We are not and will not be invited to speak in our own voices, out of our graced experience as LGBT Catholics, when LGBT issues and LGBT people are discussed in the Catholic community or the America community.

Helen Alvaré, who is no friend of the gays, will continue to have a voice.

Kim Davis, who is no friend of the gays, will be drawn into the conversation.

But people like me will continue to be shut out of conversations that claim to be about inclusivity, tolerance, respect, listening to the stigmatized other. And why would I contribute financially to an enterprise that dehumanizes me in this very ugly way, with the ugliness hidden beneath noble words designed to inspire me (to give money and support what does active harm to me as a human being)?

What I've just described to you is my lens for reading Father James Martin's "points to keep in mind" article at America about the pope's choice to meet with Kim Davis. This article is circulating in my circles of friends online — in circles of friends, mostly young, gay, and Catholic — who want desperately to keep believing. They want desperately to keep hoping, to keep thinking of Pope Francis as their friend.

I appreciate very much Father Martin's willingness to go on record again and again about the need for Catholics to respect the statement in the Catechism which requires Catholics to respect the humanity of LGBT people and avoid "unjust" discrimination against them. I appreciated his willingness to go on record critiquing ugly Catholic responses to the Obergefell decision. I know that his willingness to publish a statement about this on his Facebook page led to his being attacked by a slew of his fellow Catholics. I circulated his statement about the Catholic response to the Obergefell decision, and I valued it.

But note what's happening here: Father Martin is doing the talking, and the rest of us are doing the listening.  Those of us who are LGBT and Catholic: we have no voice. We are expected to be the passive objects of discourse that defines us and is about us. But in which we are never invited to speak in our own voices . . . .

And nothing Pope Francis has done or said has changed any of this. To the contrary: his choice to meet with Kim Davis only reinforces that this is the way in which the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church and those who defend them have chosen to treat LGBT human beings, while claiming to uphold human rights around the world.

If I understand correctly the gist of Father Martin's explanation of what may have happened as the pope chose to meet with Kim Davis, what I hear him saying is that, well, many kinds of folks meet with popes all the time, and this hardly signals that a pope is on board with all that the person meeting with him believes or represents. Francis is large-hearted and wants to meet with many kinds of people, and . . . .

If I understand correctly, the reality is that Pope Francis chose to meet with Ms. Davis. He came to the U.S. already prepared to meet with Kim and Joe Davis and Mat Staver. Arrangements for this meeting had been made in advance — or so many media accounts have given me to believe.

This is quite different from the usual papal audience in which people are processed through a room as a pope offers a peremptory papal blessing to those being processed through.

As a leading member of the community of Catholic abuse survivors in the U.S. has emailed to say to me, think about the fact that the pope is said to have met Kim and Joe Davis and Mat Staver for a quarter of an hour, when he met with survivors for all of five minutes.

He did not meet with a single openly LGBT Catholic on this trip, did not choose to seek out LGBT people and hear our voices.

He chose, instead, to meet with and listen to Kim and Joe Davis and Mat Staver.

As to the claim that popes meet with many kinds of folks: I seriously doubt that as one of the very little people who also happen to be an openly gay and married Catholic theologian, I could ever manage to snag a meeting with the pope of the sort that the Davises and Mr. Staver were able easily (or so it seems) to obtain on this papal meeting.

So I'm not quite buying what Father Martin is saying about the papal meeting with Kim Davis. I can't buy it because it only replicates for me the same dynamics, the same message that the America community has already given me: we love you and respect your human rights.

But we don't intend for you to have any voice at all in our conversations.

And by the way, please send us some money.

I had a talk with a good friend yesterday, a telephone conversation with a friend I respect from here to the moon, due to his integrity, goodness, intelligence, and commitment to defending the human rights of those on the margins of society. I'm speaking of my friend Frank Cocozzelli, whose work I've often recommended here. Frank has given me permission to summarize what he told me here, and I hope that in doing so, I'm representing him accurately.

In Frank's view, the pope may have been set up in his meeting with Kim Davis, and may not even have fully understood who she is and what she stands for. Frank notes (and I agree) that the left has an unattractive penchant for eating its own, and as he asked me to note, look who benefits now from all the attacks — they're everywhere — by progressives who had previously given the pope a pass, but who have now turned against him after he chose to meet with Kim Davis. It's as if this whole scenario was engineered by the pope's right-wing enemies inside the church, to undermine his effectiveness as a moral leader.

I can see all of this, and I'd like to buy into the idea that the pope met with Kim and Joe Davis and Mat Staver not really knowing who they are and what he was stepping into. I'd like to buy into this idea most of all because of the respect I have for Frank Cocozzelli. 

But I have to admit very honestly, I'm just not there.

I'm not there, quite specifically, as a gay person who has been kicked around, treated like human garbage, denied rights, fired and removed from healthcare coverage, by Catholic institutions. I have finally had it.

I've had it with the game-playing, with the pretty words spoken in the light of day while the ugly backroom meetings that make mincemeat of the pretty words occur under cover of darkness.

While people like me are never invited to the table, never given a voice in the conversations, but told to listen respectfully to the pretty words and believe in them despite the evidence of our own eyes, which tells us games are being played with our humanity and our lives.

Oh, and please send us some money.

(Isn't it interesting, by the way, that when the meaning of the pope's choice to meet with Kim and Joe Davis and Mat Staver is not being mediated to us by clerics like Father Martin -- clerics who are all men in the Roman Catholic tradition -- it's being mediated to us by heterosexual white males like John Allen and Austen Ivereigh, who have never shown the slightest interest in defending the rights of LGBT people? To the contrary, they've quite frequently bent over backwards to attack those rights.)

The graphic is a screenshot from an ADictionary YouTube video.

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