Sunday, October 22, 2017

Associate Director of New Ways Ministry Responds to My Essay about Mary Hunt, Marianne Duddy Burke, and Jamie Manson's Recent Proposal as "Uncharitable Garbage": My Reflections

A number of days back, I recommended to you an essay by Mary Hunt, Marianne Duddy-Burke, and Jamie Manson calling for kick-starting a new Catholic conversation about same-sex love. My posting notes some criticisms of this essay made by Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry.

My response to Francis DeBernardo's critique states the following:

As I've noted a number of times in postings here, though I applaud the work the group does and I stand in solidarity with it, I find New Ways Ministry excessively narrow and parochial in its understanding of Catholic identity, and excessively deferential to the clerical voice (and clericalist definition of Catholicism) represented by people like Father  [James] Martin. 

Mary Hunt, Marianne Daddy-Burke, and Jamie Manson call for opening a Catholic dialogue about same-sex love that privileges first and foremost the voices of those who actually experience and live loving same-sex relationships in a Catholic context — not clerical voices. As I read Francis DeBernardo's critique, he objects to what he sees as an exclusionary proposal that would limit the Catholic conversation about these matters by excluding (even if only for a period of time as this conversation is kick-started) some voices, notably clerical voices. 

In response to Francis DeBernardo's critique, I state,

As I've also noted, the concrete effect of this approach to defining Catholic identity is that it tacitly colludes in the decision of church leaders and many "centrist" Catholics simply to read out of the Catholic conversation many voices that have a great deal of wisdom to offer the Catholic church, but which have been unjustly excluded from the Catholic conversation for disciplinary dogmatic reasons. Those voices include a large percentage of queer Catholics who can find no place in the church because weaponized dogma has been used to drive them out of communion, to rob them of jobs, of ministry positions, of places in which their voices might have counted in Catholic discussions, and to make them unwelcome in parishes and Catholic institutions. 
New Ways tacitly accepts — so it seems to me watching from the sidelines — that many of those driven from Catholic communion deserved to be driven away. It does so because the weight of its theology is freighted very strongly in an institutional, clericalist direction — not in the direction proposed by Hunt, Duddy-Burke, and Manson. Perhaps I don't know what's really going on with News Way Ministry, and I may be misjudging a good group, but if this organization is making any concrete effort to reach out to driven-away Catholics, to let those Catholics know they count and are loved, to solicit their testimonies and hear their voices, I'm unaware of such a move on the part of New Ways Ministry.

My response to Francis DeBernardo goes on to say, specifically addressing Father Martin's bridge-buidling proposal,

It is a serious problem because the voices that most desperately need to be heard in this conversation cannot be heard when it is framed as a conversation privileging he-said, he-said clericalist voices. And when it understands Catholic identity in a narrow, parochial way in which no effort is made to reach out to the many Catholics driven from Catholic communion and Catholic conversations by those using weaponized dogma as their tool to hound these Catholics from Catholic communion . . . .  
The persistence with which New Ways Ministry does not get this problem tells me that this valuable Catholic group does not intend to get the problem . . . . 

Today on Facebook, a friend of mind kindly recommended my essay. In response, an associate director of New Ways Ministry has responded to her recommendation of the essay with the following observation: 

Uncharitable garbage. I can't see why you'd claim this piece adds much to the conversation . . . .

I don't go to the Facebook feed of friends of mine and quarrel with their friends. That strikes me as tacky and eminently uncharitable behavior. So I won't respond to this comment from an associate director of New Ways Minstry on the Facebook page of a friend of mine, and I'm not naming that friend because I don't intend to drag a friend into a quarrel the friend did not invite.

I do want to observe here, in my own online space, though, that this response from an associate director of New Ways Ministry proves my critique — in spades, it seems to me. "Uncharitable garbage" is a low ad hominem personal attack on an essay intended to promote thoughtful and meaningful dialogue. It doesn't in any way demonstrate what about my essay (or myself) is uncharitable garbage.

Ad hominem attacks that refuse to advance evidence to support their rhetorical attacks do, in fact, point to a person; they mount an attack on a person who is being characterized as contemptuous or uncharitable or whatever — as the source of the "uncharity" of his/her arguments that are reduced to the dismissive label "uncharitable garbage." This kind of ad hominem attack reduces a fellow human being to the level of "uncharitable garbage." This reductionist argument passes verdict, in the name of an institution represented by the slur-monger, as unworthy of respect, because he or she is nothing but "uncharitable garbage."

To do this to fellow human beings is eminently cruel. To do this to fellow Catholics is eminently cruel, and a very profound vitiation of everything the Catholic community claims to be about. To engage in such stigmatizing and hurtful ad homimem attacks on someone seeking to contribute to a catholic dialogue that claims to be all about welcoming everyone: well, how more overtly unwelcoming can someone be?

When someone calling for an all-are-welcome approach to dialogue dismisses someone else's sincere and thougtfully intended attempt to contribute to such a dialogue as "uncharitable garbage," he's demonstrating that the kind of dialogue he calls for is not really all-are-welcome at all, isn't he?

Since the slam, "uncharitable garbage," is an ad hominem attack that effectively tells the person it's hurled against to get lost, doesn't it?

I personally find it hard to think of a more uncharitable message to give someone else than that one. But it's one many Catholics, claiming a universalist and inclusive ethic — including many so-called "liberal" and "progressive" ones — are perfectly comfortable giving to voices they want to read out of their "all-are-welcome" conversations, I've found over the course of many years.

P.S. Please see this footnote to the posting above: "On the Characterization of Some Catholic LGBTQ Voices as Uncharitable Garbage: Continuing the Necessary Conversation"

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