Thursday, August 23, 2018

Refusal of Catholic Hierarchy to Get Abuse Situation Parallels Refusal to Get LGBTQ People: World Meeting of Families Reminds Us, It's Not Going to Get Better

Put together the quite shameful way in which LGBTQ people are being treated by the World Meeting of Families with the obstinate, blame-passing game that the same Catholic hierarchs excluding LGBTQ families from this gathering continue playing with clerical sexual crimes, and I wonder why any Catholics still hold hope that the Catholic church will provide them a welcome table.

It's clear to me that there is no intent at all to provide such a table, and the exclusion, the denigration, the scapegoating become only more pointed and cruel as the Catholic hierarchy twist and turn and try to find anyone but themselves to blame for the cover-up of clerical crimes of rape of minors. I read Francis DeBernardo's report at Bondings 2.0 this morning about what leading prelates have told him at the World Meeting of Families, and I ask myself all over again: why do any LGBTQ Catholics still hold hope that these men will change?

They have adamantly refused to change in the face of brutal publicity about their cover-up of clerical crimes of rape of minors. Why would they change their adamant, dismissive, cruel refusal to acknowledge LGBTQ families? 

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin presents a homily for the opening of the World Meeting of Families stating that some people want to push an ideological model of a family that "probably does not exist." 

There's no such thing as a gay person. There are "same-sex attracted" individuals, who are afflicted with an intrinsic disorder that, ipso facto, prevents their finding or creating family in any meaningful sense.

How can the church recognize or minister to what does not exist? This is the logic — cruel to the core — employed by the Catholic hierarchy as it it refuses to acknowledge LGBTQ families at a World Meeting of Families.

(Later: Sarasi has challenged my reading of Archbishop Martin's remarks above, and I think she is quite right in reading the remarks to say something quite different from what I initially heard in them. As she notes, the statement about ideological interpretations of a family that "probably does not exist" is likely a critique of people who want to exclude and attack LGBTQ families.

My apologies to all of you and Archbishop Martin — I think I simply misheard/misread these comments initially, and want to make note of my error, with a nod of gratitude to Sarasi.)

Equally slippery, Cardinal Farrell informs a press conference at the World Meeting of Families that, heavens, the world's a very big place, and how on earth can the church recognize all families, all kinds of families? It would take something catholic, after all, to welcome the kind of diversity the LGBTQ ideologues are talking about — but "the" family is what we need to be promoting now. The kind God set up from the beginning. The kind that has existed from the outset of biblical revelation — the one man, one woman, for life model akin to the Holy Family. 

And then in his keynote address, Archbishop Eamon Martin goes on directly to attack LGBTQ families without naming them — because they do not exist.

The cruelty the Catholic hierarchy have shown and continues to show children raped by priests and adult survivors of clerical rape is grossly, shockingly apparent in the face it shows to LGBTQ human beings, too. If the hierarchy have refused to budge an inch in the case of the cover-up of clerical sexual crimes, why would it consider budging an inch in providing a place at the table for LGBTQ Catholics and their families?

As Ruth Krall writes in her new monograph Risking the Collective, it's not as if there hasn't been outstanding analysis of what's wrong within the leadership structures of the Catholic church — the problem has been the refusal to accept this analysis, follow through on it, and correct what's wrong. She states: 

Doyle, Sipe and Wall, in their 2006 book, Sex, Priests and Secret Codes* trace a very long history of sexual abuse of children and teenagers by Roman Catholic priests and members of religious orders. It is clear when we read recent history that these deeply-embedded social customs of sexual abuse remain active inside the working structures and ongoing sociological culture of Roman Catholicism. The historical world view and theology promulgated by the Roman Catholic hierarchy somehow or other contains the seeds of abuse by today’s priests and other religious figures.** There has been, therefore, no metaphor change; no ideological change; no worldview change: thus, the practices of child and teen abuse by clergy and members of religious orders still thrive inside the Catholic world of parishes and religious institutions. Inside the socio-religious culture of Catholicism, these forms of abuse are, therefore, manifestations of an underlying theological or religious or sociological world view in which the sexual abuse of children remains both acceptable and ideologically defensible (p. 39)

Meanwhile, in society at large — outside the inbred, closed structures that govern the Catholic church — there has been monumental change regarding attitudes about sexual abuse of vulnerable people. Just as there has been monumental change in society at large — but not in the impervious, hard-to-the-core governing structures of the Catholic church — regarding how people view the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ loving relationships. About the former shift, Ruth writes, 

To date, in the United States, Pennsylvania has, therefore, conducted the most intensive and far-reaching governmental inquiry into sexual misconduct inside the clergy of the United States Roman Catholic Church. 
It is clear: There has been a growing cultural shift in American awareness of and tolerance for sexual misconduct in many different forms. America's law enforcement protocols and criminal prosecution protocols are slowly beginning to self-correct. This shift is also seen inside employment situations as employers seek to avoid bad publicity and expensive law suits. It is seen in college and university environments as schools seek to avoid Title Nine financial penalties. it is also evidenced in an increasing number of criminal trials and prosecutions.

This shift, it appears, is slowly becoming visible inside the news rooms, social media, and the courtrooms of America. Whether or not this kind of awareness is functionally visible inside America’s financial institutions and corporate boardrooms: that remains to be seen. Whether it will actually create lasting social change is impossible to know at this moment in history (pp. 126-7).

What makes the Catholic hierarchy so adamant, so impervious, so resistant to change? Ruth offers some valuable analysis that applies both to the Catholic hierarchy and to Catholic groups pressing for change regarding clerical sexual abuse of minors and others. In my view, this analysis also applies to Catholic groups pressing for an opening to the LGBTQ community.

As she notes, the Catholic hierarchy and Catholic reform movements are deeply hampered — they're crippled — by their refusal to entertain a wide variety of viewpoints. The parochialism of the Catholic world, its certain that it and it alone has the answers it needs, assures that Catholic structures are exceedingly resistant to much needed change. Ruth argues, 

What is needed now, I believe, is for individuals with multiple skills and a variety of educational backgrounds and life experiences, to come together and to engage in the slow process of changing a patriarchal and sexually violent culture. This action is needed so that the weakest and the most vulnerable are both believed and protected. This means that together we must develop a clear and unambiguous set of goals and establish measurable ways to assess our progress in meeting these goals. (p. 83)

And then:

What is remarkable to me, as an outsider to organized Roman Catholic social justice movements such as SNAP, Bishop Accountability, Catholic Whistle- blowers, Road to Recovery and others is not only their a- historicity; their practiced separatism from other social justice movements; and a certain in-bred cultural isolationism: it has surprised me that these movements failed, and continue to fail, to recognize the need for authentic spiritual resourcing for survivors and for survivor In a religious context – where abusers are spiritual teachers, preachers, and advisors – the victims' central traumatic wound must, by definition, include the spiritual and religious realms of human life. 
By their apparently unconscious refusal to co-partner with other social justice movements, the clergy sexual abuse survival advocacy movements have failed to gain savvy political allies in their efforts to mobilize action on behalf of sexual abuse survivors and their families. By their a-historicity, they fail to learn from the failures and the successes of other social justice movements. By their tendencies to internal secrecy and external isolationism, they fail to generate needed alliances. 
This cultural isolationism, in my opinion, does not serve the needs of clergy sexual abuse survivors. It also does not serve the needs of clergy sexual abuse survivor advocates and professional helpers. 
In general, organizations such as SNAP and Road to Recovery have relied on an alliance within the legal arena of socio-cultural life – civil attorneys, canon lawyers, and those activist movements associated with the Catholic Church in some manner or other – as, for example, Bishop Accountability and Voice of the Faithful. Consequently, there are very few innovative and future-seeking cross-denominational or inter-faith models to be consulted as sources of lessons already learned.***
A side consequence is that while the spiritual and religious damages of clergy abuse and institutional clericalism have been recognized and named,ccii very few – if any – realistic and useful models exist for helping survivors deal directly with these life-an-spirit-damaging sequellae. Suffering individuals are left, therefore, with a deeply personalized struggle to find inner spiritual resources to help them heal the wounds of their traumatized past (p. 130).

Simply put, people who do not want to hear, who do not intend to learn, who do not intend to rub shoulders with those who are different — Heavens, how do you expect us to deal with all that diversity when there's "the" model of the family to promote?! — will not change. They have no incentive to do so. Their closed-door approach to the world around them assures that they are insulated from change.

The Catholic hierarchy do not intend to get it — about clerical rape of minors, about cruelty to LGBTQ people. Anyone who expects significant change within these stolidly resistant structures is beating her/his head against a wall. LGBTQ people are, if anything, in for a new round of hostility from the Catholic community. 

It's going to get worse now, my bones tell me.

* Doyle, T. P, Sipe, A.W.R. and Wall, P. (2006). Sex, Priests and Secret Codes. United States: Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing

** Boston Globe Investigative Staff. (2002). Betrayal: The crisis in the Catholic Church. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co.

*** Cornwall, J. (2014). The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession. New York, NY; Basic Books; Doyle, T. P., Sipe, A. W. R., and Wall, P.J. (2006). Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The church’s 2000 year paper trail of sexual abuse. Taylor Trade Publishing; Sipe, A. W. R. (1995). Sex, Priests, and Power: The anatomy of a crisis. New York, NY: Routledge; Sipe, A. W. (2003). Celibacy in Crisis: A Secret World Re-visited. New York, NY: Routledge; Will, G. (2000). Papal Sins: Structures of deceit. New York, NY: Doubleday; Wills, G. (2013). Why Priests: A failed tradition. New York, NY: Viking; Wills, G. (March 24, 2002). The Scourge of Celibacy: Retrieve from:

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