Saturday, June 24, 2017

More on Father James Martin's Bridge-Building Project: If Derision Is a Societal Necessity, Is Mocking the Sartorial Excesses of the Hierarchy Really Disrespectful?

As the current discussion of the staging of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in Central Park in New York reminds us, mockery can be a powerful artistic and political tool to lampoon the pretensions of worthies demanding respectful obeisance. From Father James Martin's Bridge Building presentation to New Ways Ministry last year up to the present in interviews he has given about his book, a recurring theme as he chides the LGBTQ community for not doing its bit to build a bridge to the Catholic hierarchy is that LGBTQ people (and others) have mocked the sartorial excesses of highly placed Catholic hierarchical figures.

This is not respectful, Father Martin insists. It's not a foundation for forming a respectful dialogue between the LGBTQ community and the Catholic hierarchy. I discussed some of this in my posting two days ago about Father Martin's bridge-building proposal.

Here's writer Howard Jacobson in today's New York Times on the brouhaha about Julius Caesar: 

The more monocratic the regime, the less it can bear criticism. And of all criticism, satire — with its single ambition of ridiculing vanity and delusion — is the most potent. 
This can be only because the boastful are thin-skinned and the intolerant are forever looking over their shoulders. Mr. Trump himself is visibly easy to wound. Should this be a reason to hold back? "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?" the great satirist Alexander Pope asked. The question was rhetorical. Wounding the vainglorious is a pleasing pastime in itself and contributes to their demoralization. Fire enough salvos of comedy and their solemn edifices start to crumble. It might be a slow process, but it is at least the beginning. 
Derision is a societal necessity. In an age of conformity and populist hysteria, it creates a climate of skepticism and distrust of authority. If mercy droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, derision spurts up as though from a pantomime geyser, drenching the braggart and the fool in the foulest ordures.

Derision is a societal necessity: if we care about the future of social institutions, churches included, mock we must, lampoon we should — the vastly inflated pretensions to a moral authority that is entirely absent underneath the sartorial concealments, under the rich enswathing lace and silk, under the higher and higher hats worn by those convinced that they can project their phallocratic authority more effectively to the world by ever bigger, ever more imposing hats.

When authority figures are devoid of moral authority, but when they conceal the emptiness of their moral arguments under higher and higher hats, ever-burgeoning scads of lace, wads and wads of colorful silk, we have a positive moral obligation to use mockery and satire to expose the vain strutting and fretting we see before us on the stage, with all its empty sound and fury. 

The more monocratic the regime, the less it can bear such exposure, such criticism, such mockery. In which case, perhaps the problem is not with those doing the mockery, but with the monocratic regime itself. Perhaps the problem is with monocracy itself.

The compounding problem monocracy creates for itself — always — is that it will talk to none but itself. It will talk only to others like itself. When they're not talking to God, Cabots talk only to Lowells.

As my previous posting (it's linked above) about these matters suggests (all over again), American Catholicism in its highest ruling circles and highest academic circles is simply not predisposed to dialogue that lets many different types of marginalized others into its conversations. What Father Martin very badly misunderstands as disrepect is an attempt of LGBTQ Catholics and others to force a door open when the door is fast shut and will not be opened from the side of the church's clerical ruling elite or the community of Catholic theologians, scholars, and journalists defending that elite.

When you don't intend to talk to a group of people you've long excluded from your conversation (while you pretend that the conversation is inclusive and respectful), what better way to justify your adamant determination to keep ignoring them — to keep pretending they are not even there and do not exist — than to accuse them of disrespect as they employ the best tools at their disposal to knock down the door of your pretenses about wanting open, inclusive, respectful dialogue?

P.S. I'm still waiting for the phone call or email from any bishop, from Pope Francis, from Father Martin, from New Ways Ministry, from all the theologians secure in their jobs in Catholic academies who talk only among themselves and with these worthies, telling me they want to hear my story and talk to me. The years keep passing. The phone never rings.

P.P.S. Is it really disrespectful to suggest that Donald Trump and Cardinal Burke share common ground and are alike? Or is such a "disrespectful" observation simply the precondition of any meaningful dialogue about the matters discussed above?

No comments: