Tuesday, August 28, 2018

On Francis, "the Left," and "the Right": Where I Stand — I Don't Have Luxury of Pretending That Hitler's Plans for the Jews Are Just a Minor Facet of His Agenda

Viganò's letter employs American culture-war terms, as it speaks of "the left" and "the right" within the Catholic church. People who might assume that, because I speak of the urgency of unmasking and pushing back against the vicious anti-LGBTQ agenda of that letter and its attack on Pope Francis, I stand on one or the other side of that cultural divide and with Francis don't know me very well. And haven't listened very closely to what I've long said about myself and how I fit into these schemata.

People like me don't have a place on either side. People like me have not been accorded a place. This is what defines us, in fact, vis-à-vis the Catholic church.

I stand with survivors of clerical sexual abuse who are noting that their lives, their suffering, their pain are being used as playing pieces in a ruthless left-right battle within the Catholic hierarchy — that they have long been treated as not counting, as subhuman, as having no place within the church. As I have said repeatedly on this blog, when the abuse stories began to break in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I immediately knew that what survivors were reporting about how they had been treated by the leaders of the Catholic church was true — because the same thing had been done to me as a gay, partnered Catholic theologian.

Not having a place defines people like us. I don't buy into the agenda of either "the" left or "the" right — not unambiguously so. I don't have the luxury to do so. "The" left, as it's represented by people who have clout in the U.S. Catholic church, journalists and academics, has never lifted a finger to include me. "The" right excludes and attacks me out of hand.

Left and right are also relative terms. To many LGBTQ former Catholics, to many Catholics who claim to have liberal agendas but who loathe Francis, I am a sell-out even by reporting on intra-Catholic issues, thinking about them. This makes me a right-winger in their eyes, someone still enmeshed in the coils of religion and of the Catholic cult. 

I think about and report on these matters, though I have no place within the church and its "left" or "right," because the Catholic church has enormous power to affect the lives of people like me — and I don't intend to sit by idle as that power is amassed and used against people like me. 

Do I stand with Francis? If this means that I think he is not capable of covering up clerical abuse or of protecting bishops who cover up clerical abuse: absolutely not. And I'd be surprised if anyone concluded that this is where I stand, given what I've long written here.

Do I think Francis' handling of the abuse crimes within the church has been admirable? Absolutely not. But I'd say exactly the same about his two predecessors. In fact, I'm inclined to hold them more accountable, though as Rita Ferrone recently noted, Saint John Paul the Great will always be shielded by very powerful protectors — as will Benedict. The people shielding those two right-wing papal figures have deep pockets and wield much power, and they will do everything they can for as long as possible to shield those two popes and pin the abuse horror show on Francis.

Do I stand with Francis insofar as he has become a symbol — whether rightly or wrongly — of a new opening in the Catholic church to LGBTQ people? Yes, of course. I do so because I am a member of that oppressed minority community. It would be nonsensical for me to do anything except stand with other members of my community and, when any glimmer of an opening to a more humane future for any of us occurs in the cracks of history, to try to widen that opening and step through it.

I frankly do not have the luxury that many "liberal" Catholics who are furious at Francis have, to pretend that Hitler's plans for the Jews were just a minor facet of his entire agenda, a little fly in the ointment, as I buy Viganò's toxic stew and attack Francis. I don't have the luxury to buy the toxic agenda while ignoring the inconvenient plans for the Jews.

Those plans were what the whole Nazi agenda was about, just as the plans of Viganò and his cronies are what the whole attack on Francis is about, too.

No comments: