Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pell Paints Himself as Victim: But "George Thought Men Had to Be Men and That Pansies Belonged in the Garden" — Homophobic Backdrop to Pell Story

It's always about them, for these fellows, isn't it? It's never about those who come forward courageously with painful reports about their abuse.

It's always the leaders of the Catholic church who are the victims. It's always the white Christians who run things in many cultures who are being persecuted, oppressed, marginalized.

The defensive I-am-the-victim response is encoded in their DNA, as is the ravenous need to cast some hapless victims as the enemies of the church and of Christianity, enemies to be stigmatized, squelched, eradicated so that the church can demonstrate its muscle and feel better about itself.

Such muscle-flexing has been part and parcel of Pell's entire career as an ecclesiastic, it seems. 

"George thought men had to be men and that pansies belonged in the garden." 
"This was Archbishop Pell on boys at Catholic schools driven to suicide by homophobia: 'It is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction. Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.'"

In January 2004, Cardinal Pell's cousin Monica Hingston wrote him asking why the church chose to define her and her partner of nineteen years as depraved. Her letter to her cousin ends by saying she looked forward to hearing from him. It tells her cousin,

What I am really wanting from you, George, is a response that is personal, that comes from the heart, that is based on your knowledge of who I am, simply a response of one human being to another striving to live life as it should be lived.

Pell's response? Absolute silence. He totally ignored his cousin's request that he speak to her as one human being speaking to another. 

This is a response that one victim of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic clerics after another has reported after they mustered the courage to speak out about their abuse and asked bishops and religious superiors to listen to them, to meet them face to face.

It's a response many of us who are LGBTQ and who have asked for a hearing from bishops and abbots when the Catholic institution has brutalized us have received:

Total silence.

You do not exist for me.

You are not there in the room.

You do not have a voice.

It's my right to define you, not vice versa.

Some of us who are Catholic and LGBTQ (or have been Catholic and were shoved from the church) have reported being invited in a splashy public dialogue online, at a Catholic journal site, to email a member of that Catholic dialogue community and explain why we think many LGBTQ people feel unwelcome in Catholic communities. And then, our reports say, the email we sent, which was solicited by a Catholic church official in a public way in that Catholic dialogue space, was received in total silence. It was not even acknowledged. 

We were not there.

We did not exist for this Catholic dialogue community.

We had no voice, even in conversations defining us and our humanity.

The church official who did this to us, who has long been a member in good standing of this particular Catholic online dialogue group, remains a member in good standing, treated with great deference and respect by others in this dialogue community.

The person he treated as a non-person? Gone. No longer participating. What's the point? 

Some of us who are Catholic and LGBTQ and have been shoved from the church are necessarily extremely dubious about "bridge-building" proposals touted by advocacy groups within the Catholic church that do not lay a foundation for meaningful dialogue by recognizing that no open, official dialogue between the Catholic hierarchy and LGBTQ folks is taking place — because (and this is critically important to note) Catholic hierarchical officials have made no overtures to create such dialogue.

And so "bridge-building" becomes a metaphor for . . .  nothing at all . . . a kind of cloudy, mystical cover for the non-action of the Catholic hierarchy, for its refusal to entertain any dialogue at all with the LGBTQ community, to see members of the LGBTQ community as human beings worthy of being recognized, listened to respectfully, met face to face. 

And when this nothing at all is actively supported and promoted by Catholic LGBTQ advocacy groups whose members themselves make no effort to reach out and build inclusive conversations with the large numbers of LGBTQ Catholics and former Catholics who live outside their narrow circles of prestige and influence, what are those fellow Catholics and former Catholics to do, or to think of "bridge-building" projects?

How, in fact, is any of this to the slightest degree different from how Cardinal Pell chose to treat his lesbian cousin in 2004?

And what kind of church worth anyone's allegiance keeps on behaving this way, over and over and over again?

No comments: