Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Some People Get Uninvited from Talks. Some People Never, Ever Get Even an Invitation to the Table at All": Mary Hunt, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Jamie Manson NCR Podcast Conversation

I've previously recommended to you Mary Hunt, Marianne Duddy-Burke, and Jamie Manson's essay at National Catholic Reporter entitled "Kick-Starting a New Catholic Conversation." I'd like now to recommend a podcast conversation between the three that NCR published several days ago. I've embedded it above for your convenience in listening. 

In this discussion, Mary, Marianne, and Jamie talk with NCR's Brittany Wilmes about their essay and what they intended in co-authoring it. Some key points that stand out for me as I listen:

1. There's an urgent need to reframe the Catholic conversation about same-sex love because people of faith have "other urgencies on our plates" at this point in history, and the intellectually impoverished, intellectually embarrasing discussion of sexual ethics as it now exists at an institutional level in the Catholic church impedes our ability to pay attention to those other urgencies.

2. This is a major part of what the three authors hope to accomplish in calling for a "kick-starting" of the Catholic conversation about sexual ethics that reframes it as part of a larger conversation about global justice.

3. As the conversation about sexual ethics now exists institutionally in the Catholic church, it starts with and keeps repeating "tired dogma" that almost no Catholics accept — Catholics have been living beyond that tired dogma for decades — rather than by paying attention to the real needs of real people, including in areas like healthcare or immigration. 

4. Brittany Wilmes points the three authors to a line in their essay in which they state, "It is time to listen to the experiences and expertise of people who speak with integrity rather than authority." In response, Mary Hunt states that, in her view, loving out loud is a key characteristic of people living authentic religious faith (from a variety of religious perspectives). She goes on to say, 

Loving out loud in an age of injustice is something that in my view is both a subversive activity and a necessary, as it were, commandment — to square up our personal lives with our commitments to end war, to make a cleaner enviromnment, to make economic justice, and to do anti-racism and anti-white supremacy work. But to square up our personal lives with that I think is really important.

5. The Catholic conversation about queer lives, in its institutional embodiment, has become tiresome to many people. It is dominated by clerical men talking to other clerical men, without reference to the real lives that queer Catholics are living all around them. It ignores important realities such as the reality that young folks are killing themselves as the institition's representatives natterr on about sexual ethical issues. The conversation desperately needs to be placed in the bigger framework of global justice, if it's to make sense to people today.

6. Women, in particular, do not get a voice in the conversation. Queer people are asked to sit in silence and listen as our lives are defined by clerical men talking to each other about us — without reference to us, without ever inviting us into the conversation that defines our lives. 

7. As Jamie Manson notes, women have had no voice at all in the process by which doctrine has been developed in the Catholic church, nor have queer people comfortable with and open about their identities. Lay Catholics need to move beyond the assumption that it's not a real Catholic conversation if clergy are not involved. It is up to lay people to declericalize themselves.

8. Marianne Duddy-Burke: "Some people get uninvited from talks. Some people never, ever get even an invitation to the table at all."

Needless to say, and as I said when I recommended these authors' essay to you a few days ago, these points certainly resonate with me as one queer marginalized Catholic whose experience has been that of never having been invited to the table at all — including by LGBTQ-affirming groups within the Catholic church that still priivilege the clerical male voice (and the voices of people far more comfortable with and connected to the Catholic institution — as distinct from Catholic spirituality — than people like me can ever be).

And there's the sticking point, as I see it. In order for the Catholic conversation about same-sex love to be kick-started, we — including Catholics already working for full inclusion of queer people in the Catholic church — need to recognize that many of our so-called "liberal" or "inclusive" activist groups do not, in fact, invite truly inclusive conversation that consults the experiences and expertise of as many Catholics as possible.

Instead, they act as watchdog groups that protect what they see as a fragile and embattled center — a center in which the status quo must be maintained at all cost as the voices of "both sides" are respected and treated as of equal importance. To quote Charles Pierce (who is writing about an entirely different matter than the one we're discussing here), "both siderism" is a major obstacle to developing the kind of inclusive conversations we envisage as a solution to our current deadlock, conversations that consult the experience of everyone — and, in particular, of those who have historically been most marginalized and most excluded from the conversations that define things for all of us.

The both siderism of our liberal Catholic institutions — of the Catholic media, of Catholic activist groups, of the Catholic academy — is a major part of the problem. It is a major part of the problem of deadlock, since "both-sides-have-a-point" conversations in which no provision is made to foster and protect the voices of the least among us only replicate the power dynamics of our cultures and churches, which have silenced those vulnerable voices.

In short, to create a truly inclusive conversation about these issues in the Catholic context will require us to take sides — with the least among us. It will also require us to be honest about some of our own friends and allies, to stand against these friends and allies when they bully and defame the least among us as defective or uncharitable or morally dubious insofar as those folks seek to claim a voice in conversations we have tightly safeguarded from them.

It will require us to challenge some of our own friends and allies, other "liberal" Catholics, when they act as gatekeepers to keep some voices away from the table of conversation, even as they profess to be all about hearing all voices and including everyone. It will require us to begin challenging these friends and allies, other "liberal" Catholics, to put their money where their mouths are, when they talk about wanting to create truly inclusive conversations that invite everyone to the table.

It will require us to start asking those friends and allies, other "liberal" Catholics, what they are doing concretely to create truly inclusive conversations that invite to the table people who do not live in the right places, have not gone to the right schools, do not know the right folks — but may well have something of great importance to say to the rest of us. It will require us to start challenging our friends and allies, other "liberal" Catholics, to stop stigmatizing the voices of these marginalized, long-excluded voices as uncharitable when they say things we do not want to hear.

This kind of bridge-building is, in short, about doing and not just saying. Though my persistence in noting that point appears to rub some "liberal" Catholics and some "liberal" Catholic groups the wrong way, such that they see me as uncharitable for refusing to applaud rhetorical bridge-building when real bridge-building is not actually taking place, I feel obliged to persist in stating what I see. Out of charity — out of a concern that these conversations be real and not rhetorical. Out of a concern to see real and not fictive bridge-building taking place within the Catholic community and as it deals with LGBTQ people. 

I keep making these points because it's very clear to me that many people who regard themselves as the shapers of a new Catholicism — one more inclusive and attuned to those who have been marginalized — simply don't get these points. They have constructed their "inclusive" conversations in such a way that they never hear viewpoints that seek to provide them with uncomfortable information inaccessible to them while they talk only among themselves, in closed parochial circles, including ones that profess to be all about inviting the marginalized inside and hearing their voices.

But those are the voices and viewpoints that these "liberal" Catholic reformist groups most need to hear if the goals they claim they want to pursue are to be realized in the real world, in real people's lives.

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