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Conservative Catholic and Evangelical Preoccupation with Gender, and Ironic Subversion of Gender-Based Orthodoxies

His Eminence Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Jim McCrea has forwarded a group of his e-friends an interesting essay by a blogger who calls herself Pentimento, and who writes at the Vox Nova site about the sola skirtura controversy now swirling around in certain Catholic circles.  (And who knew?  Who knew that a half century after Vatican II called us to creative dialectic engagement with secular culture, the portentous issue on some American Catholic plates AD 2011 would be to assure that Catholic women wear the kind of skirts Our Blessed Mother used to wear?

Well, my partner Steve and I have come to know about all of this, obliquely, since, as I’ve noted in previous postings, some of his über-orthodox siblings are intent on assuring that the women and girls in their families are perpetually skirted, that they remain sola skirtura, because God made men to be men and women to be women.  And Our Blessed Mother has shown us that being a real woman requires having one’s head covered in church and one’s nether regions well-swathed at all times by a skirt that modestly disguises the female form.

If you’re interested in the sola skirtura controversy, Pentimento’s posting provides links to several blogs on which this discussion is now being carried out.  And they’re fascinating, indeed.)

I say that Pentimento writes about the sola skirtura controversy, but her essay is about much more than that.  It’s about the perils of dating (heterosexual, bien entendu) in the orthodox-traditionalist Catholic subcultures of New York City.  It’s about the way in which cultural definitions of masculinity have wounded the “essential masculinity” of orthodox and traditionalist Catholic men, thus deforming their search for mates and frustrating orthodox/traditional Catholic women seeking a sound mate.

And it’s about the utopianism of the theology of the body, which meets the woundedness of orthodox or traditionalist Catholic men with fantasies of a return to Eden that ironically compound rather than fix male wounds.  Pentimento writes,

But I wonder sometimes if TOB, like male obsession with female modesty, presents a sort of utopianism to orthodox Catholic men — an antidote to the dystopias of pornography, to be sure, but no more realistic.  We are all essentially wounded, and sex, whether contracted within a sacramental marriage or not, is not the cure.  The only hope we have for healing is in our capacity to love the unlovable, and to be able to love each other as who and where we are.   And who and where we are is, at bottom, broken and disabled by sin.  The ontological substance of masculinity is not the ability to oppose and negate, but the willingness to serve and protect, while the ontological substance of femininity is not the willingness to shun pants, but the ability to nurture goodness and to reveal beauty.

In her search for a Catholic man grounded in essential masculinity (in the essential masculinity of serving and protecting his woman and children), Pentimento has met a bevy of men, she tells us prior to this passage, who have cobbled together countercultural Catholic definitions of what it means to be a man in a culture that wounds manhood–countercultural Catholic definitions that are deliberately backwards-looking.  And so she has encountered orthodox and traditionalist Catholic men in New York City who sport images of the male from “Mitteleuropa before World War I, or fin-de-siècle Paris, or New York in the Gilded Age.”

But not from today.  Not from our own time and place, the time and place where, according to Vatican II, we’re called to relate to the surrounding culture in the church’s perennial task of transforming culture through positive engagement with the cultural forces shaping life in the present.

There is, Pentimento argues, an Edenic cast to the thinking of orthodox-traditionalist Catholics in the U.S. at present, one which seeks for some idyllic moment in the past on which to fix our models of maleness and femaleness–a moment to freeze in time, one to which to return as we seek to be faithful Catholic men and women in the 21st century.  The moment in time when men were real men, essential men, and women were real women, essential women.

The moment, in other words, when women wore skirts just like the modest, all-draping ones Our Blessed Lady wore, and when men were manly protectors of their families just like, well, I’m not entirely sure Jesus fits in here.  Like the knights and warriors of the Middle Ages, perhaps?

This discussion of essential masculinity and femininity, and the imperative need for Catholics to return to these in a culture that has, we’re told, wounded both men and women, comes at a fascinating moment when a very similar discussion is taking place in the right-trending branches of American evangelicalism with which right-trending American Catholicism is now irretrievably interwoven.  In the past week, the self-consciously manly-man pastor of the influential Mars Hill megachurch in Seattle, Mark Driscoll, raised some evangelical hackles by asking for feedback on his Facebook page from readers who have encountered “effeminate anatomically male worship leader[s].”

Driscoll has a history of raising hackles through similar hyper-macho attacks on gay men and on the feminine, insofar as the feminine is outside male control.  He is also part of a cadre of evangelical pastors for whom retrieving the ostensibly marginalized manly within American Christianity is a solution to the church’s growing obsolescence in American culture.  He’s part of a group of evangelical pastors who would go so far as to argue that American churches need to offer men the opportunity for manly sports (for manly sporting events that would exclude women participants and viewers) in order to prove that men belong in church.  And that, by God, men rule!

Since God made men to be men and women to be women–God made us to be essentially male and essentially female–and what has gone wrong with the church in the last half century has everything to do with the abandonment of essential masculinity and essential femininity.  It has to do with the abandonment of skirts by women, and their pretension to take their pants-wearing uppity selves right up to the altar and claim the right to preside there.  And it has to do with the abandonment of male control by those women, since men are made to control and protect (and to claim that they’re “serving” precisely by controlling and protecting!).

As the Religion Dispatches article by Elizabeth Drescher to which I’ve just linked notes, one of the most interesting responses to Driscoll’s latest attempt to stir the always simmering pot of homophobia in some American evangelical circles has come from Tony Jones at his Theoblogy site.  Jones used to be a friend of Driscoll’s, and while he continues to share some of the essential man-essential woman analysis that fuels Driscoll’s homophobia, it doesn’t escape Jones’ attention that there’s a distinct, well, homoerotic subtext to the manly-man sports now being promoted by homophobic evangelical church leaders, in an attempt to remasculinize American Christianity.

And I find it fascinating that Jones and Pentimento end up in a similar place with their analysis–in a place that sees the strong, pronounced irony of the way in which the quest for essential manliness and femininity often subverts the very values it proclaims to enshrine.  Manly-men sports can be vehicles for the very homoeroticism they’re designed to diss and drive out of our culture.

And the theology of the body can end up being a kind of soft-core porn version of the very pornography that, in the thinking of adherents of TOB, is right at the heart of the rot in essential masculinity today.  Scroll through blogsites maintained by younger orthodox-traditionalist Catholic men touting the virtues of TOB today, if you doubt me, and tell me, if you have the courage to do so after looking at the images on those sites, that they don’t flirt with soft-core porn. All in the name of Jesus, of course, and of the essential manliness and essential femaleness that God His Father created and imposed on the world, ad saecula saeculorum.

The mind-boggling quest for fixes for essential masculinity and essential femininity that strongly drives some sectors of American Christianity today has pushed those sectors of the churches into strange places, indeed.  It has pushed some evangelical churches dominated by homophobic hyper-macho pastors who attack gay men to sponsor sporting events that are embarrassingly homoerotic for anyone with eyes to see. It has pushed religious groups underwriting “ex-gay” therapy clinics to make bold claims of having cleansed the gay out of gay men, even when those making the bold claims ping the gaydar of everyone listening to their claims about curing the gays.

And it has pushed some Catholic men who imagine their manhood is wounded by our culture’s preoccupation with pornography, and who want to retrieve their essential manhood through orthodox theology and practice, to adopt a quasi-pornographic theology that views women as, essentially, child-bearing machines designed to pleasure men.  And designed to keep their mouths shut except when spoken to by the men who own serve and protect them.

For my money, it might be better to dispense altogether with the silly quest for essentialist, time-and-culture-transcending definitions of masculinity and femininity, and to admit that gender is in key respects a social construct, one that changes according to time and place and social definition.  It might be better, all things considered, to admit that biological maleness and biological femaleness aren’t meant to be determinants of what men persons and women persons can become, essentially, in their personal lives that build on and transcend the biological determinants from which their personal lives stem.

But, then, who am I to to challenge such powerful currents in the thinking of many American Christians today?  I’m pretty much a nobody in the larger scheme of things that determines what counts and what doesn’t count.  And I belong to a church whose leaders attack the very idea of gender as a social construct.  I belong to a church ruled by men who order women to put skirts back on while the men issuing these diktats are clad in gorgeous scarlet silk gowns trimmed with fabulous lace.

And so what do I know, really, when all is said and done, from Adam and Eve?  Or about the ironic subversion of symbols of orthodoxy by those symbols themselves?

Cross-posted from Bilgrimage, 15 July 2011.

65 Responses

  1. Excuse me, that’s not Cardinal Burke, that’s my Aunt Martha after her sex change. She used to be called ‘Uncle George.’

    Fascinating posting, Bill, taking us into the wilderness of weirdness that is post Vat II uber orthodox Catholic cultist culture. Can it get any weirder? Yes, I’m all too afraid it can, it’s going to continue getting a lot stranger.

    • Jayden, thank you. I’m glad you liked this. One advantage you have, living outside the U.S. and in a very different cultural setting, is that you can see with a clearer eye than we often do, living in the midst of it all, just how strange our culture has now become in some respects.

      I fully expect it to get even stranger as the new liturgical “reforms of the reform” come down the pike. One effect I think we’ll see in many places is the tacit re-imposition of head coverings for women at Mass. The folks pushing for that would gladly also have women wearing 1950s Catholic-modest outfits, too, if they could manage that.

      Who knows, in a few years, American Catholic parishes may become like sets for “Leave It to Beaver” where the rest of the culture can come to look at what life was like in the never-never land of television families of the 1950s!

  2. The Catholic Church would have it so much easier if they could put sex and gender in a nice little box the way they think they do with God.

    • Great comment, Colleen–zingy and just right on every level possible.

    • Colleen,

      I don’t understand your references. Who is “they”? And, how have “they” put God in a box?

      • “They” are the exclusively male leadership Catholicism has had for some two thousand years. They have, on one level, put God in a box because God is always male, rarely given feminine attributes, and restricted in His anthropomorphic characteristics to male characteristics.

        David can you imagine growing up in a church in which God was always female, ceremonial roles and leadership always female, doctrines and dogmas written and proclaimed exclusively by females? It’s hard for me to do this, and having been raised Catholic, I’ve lived it’s opposite.

        Gender roles are most certainly influenced by culture. Just with in my own lifetime, the opportunities for girls have exploded. Gosh girls even have equal access to high school sports and that was a definite non starter back in the days of Ozzie and Harriet.

        • Colleen, thanks for affirming the screamingly obvious fact that gender roles are culture-dependent. It’s a measure of how stupid some of us have made ourselves in our culture at present, that anyone (notably and most constantly, white, heterosexual, affluent men) would try to deny this. And would try to root analysis of gender roles in biology alone.

          Interesting, isn’t it, that Bob Ney, a Catholic Republican politician in Ohio, has lambasted Rachel Maddow for being “a cross-dressing liberal lesbian”? Does it strike you that Maddow is a “cross-dresser”?

          If so, then a large number of women in this country are also cross-dressers, since, like Maddow, they wear “men’s” clothes–slacks, jeans, pants. How bizarre that Ney and other Catholic men would want to try to put the whole culture back in time to a point when women were forbidden to wear “men’s” clothes, because gender roles are set in stone and biologically determined.

          And how obviously important these discussions of whether “real” women dress in “real women’s” clothes remain for us today.

      • Colleen,

        It seems to me that attitudes are changing and will continue to change on sex, gender, and God as many of the pre-Vatican II elders leave the Church.

        My wife works for our local parish. She has quite a bit of autonomy, control, and freedom. We joke that the only job she can’t have is the one that almost no one wants – a priest. For day-to-day activities, the women run the Church.

        But, to answer your question, no, I cannot imagine growing up in an atmosphere which is entirely controlled by women, just as I can’t imagine growing up black or gay. On the other hand, I have never felt privileged to be white, heterosexual, and male. I do feel privileged to have grown up Catholic. In spite of the faults of those who run the Catholic Church, I feel blessed to belong to a denomination that has such a rich history, and such a deep theology and philosophy.

        I agree that gender based roles are changing, should change, and will change as culture develops and evolves. The same holds true for sexuality. We just need to make sure that we don’t blow up the bridges behind ourselves as we set out to explore previously unchartered territories.

  3. Bill,

    How does one (especially a scholar) arrive at the conclusion that “gender is a social construct”? Are you suggesting that a person’s gender is determined by how a society views gender, and not by how biology views gender?

  4. @David,”How does one (especially a scholar) arrive at the conclusion that ‘gender is a social construct’?”

    I’m glad you asked that question, because it gives me an opportunity yet again (I can’t shake the old teacher inside me) to invite you to educate yourself even a tiny bit in yet another area.

    I was disappointed that you didn’t seem to want to avail yourself of the abundant evidence that is easily found in libraries, books, journals, and online about the list of theologians’ and Catholic pastoral figures’ names I offered you when you asked your fatuous question about whether the Vatican ever harms people.

    Since you didn’t care to educate yourself in that area, perhaps you won’t in this area. If you do care to do so, I invite you to do some research and reading into the area of the social construction of gender.

    I can assure you that it won’t be difficult to find resources galore. And I refuse to insult you by pointing them out to you or giving you a lecture on these matters. As I’ve said before, in my years of teaching adults, I have always assumed that adults have the capacity to learn on their own, and that their desire to learn needs to be respected by the teacher of adult learners.

    This assumes, of course, that the desire to learn is there in the adult.

    • Some teacher. No wonder they canned your fat ass.

      • Beatrice, thanks for your helpful feedback.

        So your approach to teaching adults is to spoon-feed adults with information that they can easily find for themselves? And not to challenge them to investigate and learn for themselves?

        Isn’t there something rather demeaning in that approach, something that diminishes adult autonomy and places teachers in a position they shouldn’t every occupy–the position of all-knowing gurus?

        I’d be interested in hearing more about that approach to adult education and why you defend it.

        • First rule of teaching is: treat the student with respect. Don’t sneer at him. Don’t make fun of him. Don’t tell him his questions are “fatuous.” Don’t tell him to educate himself “a tiny bit.”

          Inappropriate and unprofessional. Candidate lacks professorial temperament. Fire him. Don’t wait for the end of the semester.

          • Thanks, Beatrice. Your reply came through as I was writing a reply to both David and Jayden, so I am only now seeing it.

            Though your own academic field isn’t precisely philosophy, I have understood that you pride yourself on your knowledge of Greek philosophy. And so I’m surprised at your formulation of the “first rule of teaching.”

            I have always understood Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to think that the first rule of teaching is to challenge students to look for the answers inside themselves and on their own. To respect students enough to refuse to provide easy answers for students.

            And, when a student seems not sincere in his/her profession to be interested in learning, to use any process possible to try to help that student recognize what opportunities he/she is throwing away, when his/her primary goal is to play games, engage in linguistic battles, avoid the hard work of self-examination and learning.

            I’m surprised that, as someone with a strong connection to a very significant university, you think otherwise.

            I’m also very surprised to hear you giving such a high profile to the concept of respect in your response. To employ the Socratic method, I’ll ask you if you might have an inkling why I’d be surprised to see your emphasis on respect?

      • This is a truly eloquent response, showing great intellectual acumen and Christian sensitivity and kindness. Beatrice you are an Angel!

        • Well, we mustn’t blame Beatrice R. Rather, we should fault her poor teachers.

          • Jayden, thank you. You may not realize how apt your comment is. I would be disappointed if Beatrice doesn’t respond to my questions about her educational outlook because I have strong reason to think she is associated with one of the premier educational institutions in the U.S., in fact, with one of its flagship departments that prides itself on its intellectual acumen and educational achievement.

            And so all the more reason that I’d dearly love to hear her talk further about her philosophy of sound adult education that respects the autonomy and intelligence of adult learners.

    • Bill,

      Well, let me see I understand based upon my research.

      The term “gender” is a factually based construct deriving its definition from biology. It refers to which sex organs a person has – male or female. In a small minority of people, gender is ambiguous, or perhaps non-existent because of the lack of sex organs.

      “Gender as a social construct” refers to a theory that society, not biology invented “gender” by labeling people as either male or female. In reality, “male” and “female” are just terms invented to describe people having certain societal characteristics.

      Is that close to being scholarly accurate?

      • David, I am happy to supply you with a list of sources that, in my view, might help you learn more about these topics.

        And because I believe in adult learning as a mutual process in which everyone involved in the process should learn along with everyone else, I would also welcome your sources that seek to disprove that, in key respects, gender is a social construct.

        We can then learn together, and share the insights we learn as we challenge ourselves to expand our horizons. And since every really worthwhile educational journey starts with our beginning to recognize where we ourselves are coming from on the journey, I’ll put my own cards on the table as the journey begins:

        I was raised in a family in which my grandmother had to assume the responsibility of making a living for six young children of her own and a stepson as the Depression hit and her husband died. Somehow, she did that, and she managed to see two daughters through college and to teaching careers, three more put through business colleges (two-year colleges) and in good jobs as secretaries, and a son with a solid job as a manager of a lab at a chemical company. All of this in one of the poorest states in the union, in a small town whose resources were very limited and even more so when the Depression arrived . . . .

        She did this despite the insistence of many men around her, including her husband before his death, that women’s roles and men’s are strictly circumscribed and based in the biological fact that men have a penis and women a vagina. And that women, as a result, cannot and should not do what men do–particularly, the work that men do. And that women should not vote, because they lack a penis. And that this is how God made things to be and wishes for them to remain.

        My grandmother rejected those ideas, because she had to do so. She had seven children to raise. Because she loved those children, she wanted the best for them. She had no choice but to work and to work very hard. She assumed the work that had previously been her husband’s–owning, running, stocking, doing all the labor in a small store my grandparents owned. She often worked from sunrise to sunset in that store, adding a lunch counter to it to cook lunch and supper for customers to add any income she could. She had no assistants.

        Because they saw what their mother could accomplish, her five daughters–who also played a strong formative role on my life as I grew up–similarly refused to accept the gender-based strictures (the strictures based in biology and reinforced by custom, prejudice, and religious tradition) imposed on them. When my father died, leaving my mother with three sons to put through college when she was 47 years old, and with no resources at all, she did what she had to do: she worked. She worked hard and well as a finance officer at the Veterans’ Administration, though my father had told her for years that, as a woman, she could not make a living for herself and her sons if she left him due to his philandering, gambling, and drinking.

        This is where I’m coming from on the journey you and I will take together, if we both educate ourselves about this matter and share our educational resources. I’m ready to supply you with a reading list if you’re game. Are you?

        And to receive yours, when you have it ready . . . .

      • Bill,

        It doesn’t look like we will be taking any journey together.

        I am not particularly interested in doing my own research on a topic as intellectually silly as gender being a social construct. It has no merit on its face, and you haven’t given me any reason to believe that it has merit once researched, so why do any “research”?

        I would, however, be interested in learning along with you, an objective meaning to gender, sexuality, and the sacrament of marriage. Or, I would even have a discussion regarding the the objective meaning of the Church’s teachings in these areas.

        If you wanted, I could also cite you sources that you could use to educate yourself (and me). For example, Benedict’s God is Love is an excellent starting point for a discussion about the sacramental meaning of marriage, and how you and Steve fit into that framework (which has some definite theologically based possibilities – see some of Terry Weldon’s analysis).

        I would even consider discussing where we think the Holy Spirit is taking the Church on sexuality. But, it does seem to be a waste of time to discuss how some fringe group is concerned about skirts for women.

        • I’m sorry you’re not interested in educating yourself about these issues, David, and in engaging in dialogue with me as I educate myself by reading the sources to which you’d point me in the shared journey.

          Much depends on where we start from. As my description of my starting point suggests, everything depends on whether we ourselves are the target of the biologically-based definitions of gender roles that try to confine, restrict, and rule over others by rooting what those others can and can’t do in biology.

          I’m sorry you find it silly to think that gender roles aren’t entirely determined by biology, but have a strong social dimension to them–and therefore shift from social group to social group, and are not written in stone.

          Perhaps your mother, grandmother, wife, and daughters (if you have them) would have a different perspective than you do? Or perhaps they were/are women content to be confined, restricted, and ruled over?

          And perhaps your rather flippant dismissal of the discussion of how “real” women should be expected to dress would strike an Afghan woman forced by the Taliban to wear a burqa somewhat differently. All depends, doesn’t it, on whether one occupies the seat of the ruler or the object of the ruler’s decrees.

        • Bill,

          I’m glad to see that you are backtracking on the statement that gender is a social construct.

          I don’t share the view that gender roles are clearly defined by God, and neither does the Church. Hence, I don’t understand the purpose of your post. It appears to be an indirect attack on the Church by suggesting that the Church holds the same view as a group of people who apparently hold the view that gender is a “God construct”.

          Gender and reproduction, are, for the most part, biological constructs. You and I cannot change that fact. What we can discuss, if you are willing, is how these biological constructs should influence the Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage.

          I find it unhealthy, uneventful, and uninteresting to venture off into tirades against the Knights of Columbus, the Chamber of Commerce, skirt length, and the church’s leaders. I find it to be silliness to venture into a discussion that suggests that gender is entirely a social construct, or that you feel that I am ruling over you.

          • Thanks, David.

          • Bill,

            Do you want or are you willing to discuss this further?

          • David, I’m sorry, but I’m not of the considered opinion that this is a productive discussion.

          • Bill,

            And talking about conservative Catholic preoccupation with the length of women’s skirts is worthy of a discussion?

  5. David, there’s a lack of mutuality in these discussions.

    I invite you on a shared journey to educate ourselves. As I do so, I avow my starting point.

    You refuse the invitation and you share nothing of your own starting point and commitments in this conversation.

    And then you ridicule conversation about how societies and religious traditions have used clothing as a way to control and keep women in their places, for generations? And still do, in some societies and some religious groups?

    Everything depends on where one starts from and who one is. What appears marginal and silly to you may be a life-or-death issue to someone whose place in the world depends on that marginal or silly distinction.

    Tell a woman in some Islamic countries that she should ignore the burqa requirement as silly, and you are likely to be urging her to her death.

    You speak from an unacknowledged, unexamined point of white heterosexual male power and privilege, David. Since you are unwilling to acknowledge or even admit that starting point and how it determines everything you think about these matters, conversation about them is not productive and certainly not mutual.

    Because you risk nothing in any of these conversations.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see them going anywhere. Productive conversation demands a level of honesty not apparent in your response to invitations to avow your starting points (and agendas), reflect on your unacknowledged power and privilege, and inform yourself.

    Just as you declined my invitation to a journey of mutual self-education, I must respectfully decline your invitation to keep talking in this unproductive, non-mutual way. There’s only so much time in the world, and the issues seem to me to demand something far more honest than what’s going on in these non-conversations that are about one-upsmanship. And subverting meaningful dialogue.

    • Bill,

      You didn’t invite me to a “journey of mutual self-education”. You told me to get lost until I got “educated”.

      That attitude seems prevalent throughout the Catholic Church today. Everyone is a (self-proclaimed) theologian wiling to pontificate on almost any aspect of theological inquiry, but unwilling to subject their pontifications to any critical analysis.

      I suspect that what most self-proclaimed theologians find so irksome about Catholic teaching is that it holds up so well to critical analysis, but that it seems to fail from a pastoral perspective. Unable or unwilling to reconcile the apparent incongruity in Catholic teaching and pastoral demands, these theologians invent less sophisticated, and often conflicting theological hypotheses to explain pastoral demands.

      Let me provide this example. The pastoral demands of caring for a pregnant woman lead some people to conclude that the unborn child is the mother’s property to be aborted at her will. As a pastoral proposition, there is no dispute that the child is in the mother’s care. But, it does not logically follow that the mother is free to abort. In Minnesota, a mother is free to abort a child without penalty. However, if someone else were to kill that same child the day before the scheduled abortion, that would be murder. Clearly, the theory that an unborn child is the mother’s property does not survive scrutiny. Most self-proclaimed theologians don’t care that their theology is fundamentally flawed as long as their theology survives THEIR scrutiny.

      I have no interest in being educated in the length of skirts as a measure of conservative intolerance, or gender as a social construct. I do have an interest in critical debate with unlike minded individuals, which is my attraction to Open Tabernacle.

      • Thank you, David. I haven’t found your lectures especially helpful or enlightening before–and have told you that. Nor do I still. I can find these same mindless talking points at any number of so-called “Catholic” sites that are all about lobbing bombs into respectful, productive, and much-needed discussions of theological and ecclesial issues today.

        But the bombs simply don’t seem to work. The discussions go on, don’t they?

        And you’re certainly welcome to come along on the ones I’m starting here, as I’ve told you previously–if you are willing to be honest about who you are and why you’re interested in these topics. If you’re willing to journey along.

        Otherwise, I don’t see much point to it, frankly. I’m not interested in one-upsmanship. And I’m certainly not going to stop talking because you hurl these right-wing talking points at me. You’re not about to reconsider any of your positions, because that’s not why you’re at this site. And I’m not about to concede ground to what I see, frankly, as ignorance and dishonesty.

        In a world full of problems and a church that has such need of honest, respectful conversation, why don’t we simply agree to disagree, and then pursue the reign of God according to our own lights, recognizing that our separate journeys will one day converge when we meet a Lord whose single question to us will not be whether we defended the Vatican or lobbied to prevent gay folks from civil marriage in our state, but what we did to him in the least among us?

        • P.S. Please don’t demean yourself, David, by seeking falsely to play the martyr’s role. No one told you to “get lost.” In fact, I quite specifically invited you to provide me with a list of readings about this topic and told you I’d do the same.so that our conversation would have substance.

          You declined that invitation. You clearly prefer to talk in the absence of solid information–as you demonstrated when I responded to a question of yours about the Vatican harming people by citing a list of names, and you replied that you did not know who the people were and did not regard them as significant.

          I recall that Terry Weldon graciously asked you, early in the history of this blog, to write a posting or postings of your own here, to expound on your views. You didn’t accept that invitation, as well as I can recall.

          No one has censored you. I have addressed the points you raise over and over, on one thread after another. And those conversations are going nowhere, because we’re both making the same points in each thread.

          Meanwhile, there’s much to be done in church and society, and surely we can find more productive ways to spend our time. I believe a group to which you belong, the Knights of Columbus, is heavily involved in a political drive to block a minority group to which I belong from the right of civil marriage in your state in 2012? You must have work to do right on your doorstep now.

          Let’s agree to disagree.

        • Bill,

          I think I will take up Terry’s invitation. Thank you for the prod.

          • Sounds good to me, David. I’ll look forward to reading what you publish.

  6. It might be better, all things considered, to admit that biological maleness and biological femaleness aren’t meant to be determinants of what men persons and women persons can become, essentially, in their personal lives that build on and transcend the biological determinants from which their personal lives stem.”

    Amen, Bill!! You hit the nail on the head!! I am so happy to see this because as a woman we are and have been so bitterly abused in every way conceivable by men in powerful positions and it is from this behavior from men that holds men down too, from realizing the love that they should desire, but do not seem to desire for reasons that are not that holy or derived from a divine source.

    If women listened to the men in the world, stayed in their place as men deemed was their place, there never would have been democracy in this country of the USA. I think of Molly Pitcher, and there were several of these women who met with Martha Washington at Valley Forge before the Battle of Monmouth who joined their men in battle, with temperatures over 100 degrees, against the bullies of a foreign regime who only desired to take away freedom and turn everyone into their slaves, for worldly and secular Kings or Queens in alliance with the Papacies of false teachings.

    I suggest that some readers who have not done so already should read the history of the Catholic Church by Hans Kung. As well, re-read the scriptures. There is no place where Jesus says that women are not endowed with gifts from the Holy Spirit. Despite the fact that the Bible is spoken to men and never really mentions women, I guess I should suppose that I do not fall under God’s laws because I am a woman. It seems that I should interpret the Bible to mean that I as a woman am invisible and that only men get to Heaven or can have gainful employment that reveals and produces a fruit that is good for the world and the Church. :-) Bill.

    A wonderful discourse here and I have learned much. Thank you Bill as I continue on my journey of Faith.

    • Butterfly, thank you. I’m glad you found this worthwhile. I think that one of the most significant ways in which the Catholic church undercuts its claims to keep the memory of Jesus alive in the world is through its persistent, stubborn refusal to recognize the equality of men and women in God’s eyes.

      From John Paul II forward, Catholics have become increasingly fond of the slogan, “God made them male and female,” as if that slogan automatically demonstrates to us male superiority and female inferiority, and the illegitimacy of homosexuality.

      But there’s another way to read it, it seems to me–one which subverts Catholic claims that biology determines gender roles and automatically places women in a servile relation to men. God mad male and female: and so both are from God’s hands. Both are made by God’s hands to be equal.

      Jesus himself demonstrated this theological point by the radical egalitarianism he practiced when he chose deliberately to eat with outcasts, including women, at a time and in a place when religious leaders did not eat with women for fear of incurring ritual impurity. He further demonstrated his belief in the radical equality of men and women by inviting women to be his followers, on equal footing with his male followers.

      These aren’t just abstract theological discussions these days, either. Real people’s lives are affected by gender prejudice and the anti-gay prejudice that flows from misogyny. In Minnesota, which is becoming a battle-ground state about these issues, 14-year old Kyle Rooker, a student in the Anoka-Hennepin school, district, has just told the media,

      For the last three years kids have been calling me names and shoving me into lockers, desks and walls, just because they say I am different. It got so bad that every day when the bus would arrive at the school, I would want to hide under the chair so I wouldn’t have to go into school, so I wouldn’t be called names or be pushed around and so I wouldn’t have to hear the rumors other kids were spreading about me.

      Rooker has been tagged as gay. A lawsuit just filed by current and former students of this school district say that the adults who teach in their school district and run it stand by and permit this kind of abuse to take place, doing nothing to stop it.

      When I read this story, it reminds me very much of the shameful, horrible things that were done to African-American students in my own state as the schools were integrated. Most of us in my own state now look back and shake our heads and wonder how these things could have ever taken place in America, with adults consenting and egging the hatred and abuse on.

      If I were a committed Catholic living in Minnesota right now, particularly a parent concerned about the well-being of children, I think I’d be strongly inclined to go to that school district and tell the people running to begin protecting the children in their care–all the children, gay or straight or gender-questioning. And to stop the discrimination.

      • Bill,

        If you want to learn about the situation in Minnesota – my home state – I would gladly educate you.

        • Thank you, David. Please do educate me. As an outsider to your state, I certainly welcome any and all information anyone who lives there can provide me with.

          I know only a bit from the person with whom I have shared my life for 40 years now, who is a native Minnesotan, and from his brother, who lives near us–and from my many trips to your state over the years. And I’d certainly say that the little I know is nowhere near comprehensive, so I’d welcome information from you.

          If you don’t mind, perhaps you could begin to telling me about something that is high on my list of interests: since you belong to a group called the Knights of Columbus, which has played a significant role in trying to block the rights of gay citizens in Minnesota, can you please tell me precisely how the Knights accomplish this work?

          Did your group fund the anti-gay marriage video the Catholic bishops of your state sent out in 2010? It’s widely known that your group certainly helped with the dissemination process. What has never been disclosed is who paid for that expensive video.

          As an insider to that group, you could definitely educate me in this area. Would you please share your information about this with me? Thanks.

        • Bill,

          The first thing that you should know is that the DVD that was produced was not anti-gay. I watched the DVD. It was an educational video about the (our) Catholic Church teachings about the sacrament of marriage. I don’t recall that it ever mentioned the word “gay” in it.

          I think the video was a public relations and educational failure. Very few people I know watched it. Those agreeing that marriage is a sacrament probably figured that they already knew what was in it. Those who have their own preconceived notions about the Catholic Church’s teachings (Cafeteria Catholics) probably thought that it was “anti-gay”.

          The “anti-gay” attitude seems to have come primarily from media accounts. Interestingly, there hasn’t been even one critique that I have seen in which the author has reviewed the DVD. So, before you critique the DVD I would suggest that you review it. I can arrange for you to get a copy if you wish.

          And, yes I do believe that a substantial portion, if not all, of the funding came from the Knights of Columbus. However, the content was draw from the clergy of the Church.

  7. David, thank you for your interpretation of the video, which, of course, disagrees with mine. But, then, you’re a heterosexual married man and a Knight of Columbus, and I’m a gay Catholic who would be blocked from even the civil right of marriage in your state, if the initiative the Knights are promoting succeeds in 2012.

    We see from where we stand.

    I don’t hear much Minnesota educational content in what you say, however. I’d welcome the kind of educational content I assumed you were offering me when you offered to educate me. As I’ve noted in these conversations with you in the past, they seem pointless when you point out where you stand as a privileged white heterosexual Catholic man and I respond in kind as a gay Catholic man.

    The dialogue needs content outside the he-said, you-said circle to be meaningful. For instance, you say, “The ‘anti-gay’ attitude seems to have come primarily from media accounts.”

    And yet I have read one statement after another by Catholics in Minnesota, in letters to the editor and public statements about the video, in which those Catholics state that they find the video anti-gay, hurtful, mean-spirited, and divisive of their families, when they happen to have gay children or brothers and sisters.

    And so I wonder why you happen to be right and those fellow Catholics who have (and who love) gay Catholic members happen to be wrong? Is your understanding of Catholicism somehow the only possible one in the world? Or more to the point, in Minnesota? I’d be interested in hearing more about that–with sources to back up your claims.

    • Bill,

      Do you know anyone who has actually seen the video who is commenting? I have read one statement after another by Catholics and non-Catholics. However, none of them have seen the video.

      • Yes, David. I know people living in Minnesota who watched the video. And I have read statements in the media by Catholics in your state who watched the video and whose judgment differs radically from yours. They found it anti-gay and hurtful, inappropriate for Catholic bishops (backed by a powerful and wealthy Catholic group, the Knights of Columbus) to issue.

        But why am I being asked to cite testimony, from a distance and as an outsider, when you had offered to educate me–as someone actually living in Minnesota–about these issues?

      • Bill,

        Obviously I can’t educate you about how people you know feel. (Then again, how your friends felt about the video is irrelevant to the discussion of what the video actually said.) And, I can tell you that I have not read a media account from anyone in the media who watched the video. In fact, media accounts are often the most distorted given the profit motive and political agenda of most media.

        I can educate you about the reason for the video and the actual content.

        The video did not touch upon the “gay rights” debate. It touched upon the Church’s teachings on marriage, and the reasons why, sacramentally, the Church teaches that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

        There were some references in the video to the secular movement to redefine marriage, and some references to why it was important for Catholics to fight that movement. I thought that those references overstepped what is the legitimate authority of the Church officials to intervene in secular matters. (Although it is important to note that the secular and sacramental meanings of marriage are often confusing to and confused by just about everyone commenting on the topic.)

        • David, I’m very concerned about the suicides of gay or gender-questioning young folks in the Anoka-Hennepin school district in your home state of Minnesota.

          Nine young people in two years: nine suicides in a two-year span.

          Stephanie Mencimer has an outstanding report about this at Alternet today. And about how ideologues appealing to “Christian” ideas have blocked attempts to deal with this dangerous situation, but are actually promoting the conditions causing the suicides.

          I know as a Catholic parent living in Minnesota you’ll be concerned about this situation, and concerned about the messages your Catholic bishops of Minnesota give to gay young folks and their families when they try to make gay human beings second-class citizens and send signals that they aren’t welcome in Catholic churches.

          I’d be interested in hearing what you are doing or intend to do to deal with this situation in your state, which has gained international attention.

          Nine young lives in two years. Right in your state. How can we not be concerned about this matter?

        • Bill,

          My concern is why these kids would commit suicide. They aren’t committing suicide because they are gay, or because they are being picked on. There is something much more fundamental going on here. They are taking their own lives, and ultimately, the responsibility for the deaths lies with the person committing the act. Being gay, and being picked upon probably contributed most of these kids choosing suicide as as option (although that is also unclear). But, suicide should never be an option. Where they might have learned that it is an option is my bigger concern.

          It is unfortunate that the discussion has focused upon this as a “gay” issue. Until the discussion focuses on the thinking that leads kids to choose death, there can not be a productive conversation.

          I fear, without having evidence to support the fear, that treating the suicides as a gay issue may be exacerbating the problem. There is some suggestion in some of the reports that the teenagers who are committing suicide feel that suicide is a justifiable response to how they are feeling.

          To place any blame upon the Catholic Church or the bishops is ridiculous both from an causal standpoint, and from an evidentiary standpoint. There is absolutely no evidence suggesting that the kids picking on the suicide victims, nor the victims themselves have any connection to the Church. As a scholar, you should know better than to make such silly claims.

          • David, I don’t think Bill is stating that teen age suicide is a gay issue, but he is stating suicide is a major issue for gay kids. One study found 85% of gay kids consider suicide at some point in their high school years. In my book that makes suicide a very significant issue for children who happen to be gay.

            The Catholic Church and it’s teaching on this issue is a problem for gay kids, especially gay Catholic kids. There is no getting around this fact. In their relationships with the official church gay teens see zero gay role models. That’s got to make a statement, especially when the odds are they will run into more than one priest or lay minister or choir director that trips their gaydar. This loud and clear message is that being gay is so bad, even being a chaste gay is not nearly enough to allow one to admit their truth. A celibate chaste person will still be punished for being gay. Punished, as in shunned, as in kicked out, as in treated like a leper. Punished for something you did not ask for and certainly didn’t choose. On the other hand that same gay teen will watch the straight kids violate all kinds of sexual morality knowing those straight teens will never reap the same condemnation that gay teen will for just saying the words, ‘I’m gay’. Girls who get pregnant might receive some of the same condemnation, but never the fathers of those babies.

            Unfortunately teen age thinking is prone to over generalizing and catastrophizing small events into big events, some aspects of the developing self into the complete picture of the self. A little bad becomes all bad. That just happens to be how the brain tends to operate at this stage of neural development. Like all human attributes, for some kids this is not much of an issue, but for other kids it’s huge. It prevents them from seeing any other solution other than the equally catastrophic nuclear solution of suicide.

            Unfortunately the Church’s attitude towards their gay members reinforces this catastrophic over generalizing kind of thinking as kids see gay sexual behavior is not the real issue, as most of them aren’t engaging in sex. It’s the ontological fact of being gay that’s bad. When there is no acceptable way to be gay, except as chaste and deceptive, that’s not much of choice. Given time for brains to finish developing, it does get better, but that does not excuse allowing our gay kids to do their neural developing in a cess pool of conflicting messages, deception, ostracizing, and outright lies.

          • Colleen, thanks. Yes, you’ve understood my points very precisely.

            It has long been established by one well-conducted empirical study after another that the suicide rate of gay and lesbian teens is five times that of the norm, but research published by psychologist Mark Hatzenbuehler earlier this year in Pediatrics also demonstrates a correlation between higher suicide rates for gay/lesbian teens and lack of a supportive social-religious environment around those teens.

            It is because of the significant role that communities of faith play, for good or evil, in assisting LGBT or gender-questioning youth to deal with the challenges of self-acceptance and coming to healthy maturity in dangerous environments that the National Coalition of American Nuns last year called the U.S. Catholic bishops “blinded Pharisees” for refusing to speak up when a spate of suicides of gay teens brought international attention to this problem.

            I welcome the statement of the National Coalition of American Nuns, because they are voicing the authentic Catholic position about these issues–a position that has to be about love and concern for the least among us, if we’re faithful to Jesus–while the bishops are failing to do so.

            One expects to hear that position–which has to be about love and concern for the least among us–when one listens with the ear of the heart to the anguished testimony of mothers who have lost their gay or lesbian or gender-questioning children due to suicide. I’m referring to people like Michelle Johnson, whose 13-year old daughter Samantha took her own life in 2009 in Anoka, MN, after repeated incidents of bullying because Samantha was tagged as lesbian (though she wasn’t lesbian).

            When one reads about the 9 suicides in 2 years in the school district in which Samantha Johnson attended school, and about the constant bullying permitted by the school district, and the attempt of religious and political conservatives to block programs designed to stop that bullying, one has to wonder: what difference might people of faith like the U.S. bishops make if they voiced the authentic message of Jesus here?

            Thank God for the nuns who have done this, when the bishops have failed to do so. It’s groups like the National Coalition of American Nuns who speak on behalf of real Catholicism in our culture today, and who do what the church is all about doing: keep the memory of Jesus alive in the world in which we live.

          • And, of course, there’s this, too, which makes what you have say extremely pertinent, Colleen: a poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service last October finds that most Americans think messages from faith communities are primarily responsible for the homophobia that causes suicide of gay youths.

            It becomes harder and harder for churches to convince people that they have any authentic, organic connection to Jesus–who was all about love and healing–when they’re perceived by growing numbers of people as contributing to the suicides of gay youths.

  8. You are very considerate to spend so many words on the defenders of discrimination under the disguise of orthodoxy.
    But why bother?

  9. It isn’t worthwhlle to give space to someone who so easily denies the conditions that contribute to the fatal angst of children who commit suicide, hinting that the fault is their own.

    Cold-blooded. Just like the hierarchy.
    Wilfully blind & deaf.

    Their version of “love” is inauthentic. For the good of us all, censor them.

    • Sophie,

      Part of the problem with attributing these deaths to the “gay” issue is that it ends the conversations about ALL of the conditions that are contributing factors. The issue is not predominately a “gay” issue; it is predominately a “suicide” issue.

  10. Inauthentic Christian charity because Ludescher’s argument, such as it is, places sole blame for suicide upon immoral “thinking.”
    Yes, indeed, a child in extreme duress should just say no.

    Inauthentic reflection of Jesus treatment of outcasts because it places moral absolutism above human needs.
    They don’t care about suffering; they only care that their worldview be imposed upon these children, no matter the damage it leaves behind.

    • Sophie,

      Suicide, especially teenage suicide, is a serious issue for outcasts and for teenagers that aren’t outcasts. It is a serious issue for gay and straight children.

  11. While I’m bothering, let me say that this is a fine blog. I”m not gay or lesbian; yet I find the spiritual thoughts here stimulating & refreshing. That says something about the appeal of authentic spirituality presented here.
    As an aside, I had a moment of panic at the reference to Mars Hill church. I don’t know of Driscoll, but I am a big fan of Rob Bell ,”pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church (no relations to Driscoll’s church) in Grandville, Mich., called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The book has drawn much fire from prominent evangelical leaders, with some accusing Bell of heresy.”
    There are some evangelicals like Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren, that present the Gospel in beautifully authentic & affirming Christianity.

    There are evangelicals who

    • Sophie,

      This is a fine blog. But, it can be quite myopic. The constant misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Catholic teaching is especially disheartening and unproductive.

  12. Sophie, thank you for your insightful and supportive comments. You ask why I bother to keep replying when it seems the person with whom I’m trying to have a conversation doesn’t intend to have a real conversation, and why I don’t censor him.

    I haven’t ever censored any comments here or at my own blog, with one exception at my own blogsite. I censored someone there–one time–when he persisted in crossing a line I repeatedly asked him not to cross, and attacked others (and me) over and over, using hateful language.

    I bother to keep trying to engage because, honestly, I think these topics are extremely important. And I don’t think one person owns the definition of Catholicism, though many heterosexual men who do not ever wish to reflect on their unmerited power and privilege as heterosexual men continue imagining that they own the definition of Catholicism.

    Because I know that’s not true and because I see vibrant, flourishing forms of Catholicism in many places today that reject that heterosexist, male-entitled paradigm, I keep talking, pointing to the richer diversity of the Catholic tradition at its best, and pushing back against the absurd pretensions of entitled heterosexist males to own the tradition.

    I do this for another reason: as you so rightly point out, “Their version of ‘love’ is inauthentic.” And that is beautifully put. In fact, have you noticed how little these folks who claim to own orthodoxy and “the” Catholic truth ever get around to talking about love? Have you noticed how little that word ever even figures into their definitions of authentic Catholicism?

    When it was the very center–the heart and soul–of all that Jesus taught.

    And as you say, all of this has a life-or-death meaning for young people today struggling to cope with their gay identity or questions about gender identity, often in the face of fierce opposition from the very community of Jesus’s disciples who claim to keep his memory alive.

    I wonder what those who lay heavy burdens on the backs of those young folks in the name of Christ will do or say when they face the Lord at the end of their lives, as we all do, and hear his question about how we dealt with him in the least among us. For myself, since I can only prepare my own life for that final encounter, I feel compelled to keep talking, to keep challenging the lies and misrepresentations of Jesus’s teaching and of what Catholicism really means, and to keep doing my best to build bridges between the community of his followers and the least among us–even when our own church leaders often fail to do that.

    Thank you for responding to my posting.

    • P.S. I also wanted to say, Sophie, that I hear your feedback about how some of these going-nowhere conversations may exasperate readers of this blog, and I’m sorry for my part in keeping them going.

      I will try to do a better job of disengaging from them in the future.

  13. Colleen,

    I share nearly all of your sentiments and thoughts.

    The one sentiment that I don’t share is that the “Catholic attitude” is that gays have no place in the Church or that the Church’s teaching should be a problem for gay kids.

    What is a problem for gay kids, gays, and others affiliated with the Church is putting the Church’s teaching in an understandable perspective that respects both their sexuality and their dignity without being condemning or judgmental. Presenting its teaching in a non-judgmental way is not easy. But, it is not a problem isolated to the Church either. Many denominations and those outside denominations of much more harsh and judgmental of homosexual activity.

    The second part of the Church’s teaching on homosexual activity has received very little attention, both inside and outside the Church. I think there has to be more focus on developing this part of the teaching.

    Part of the problem is that many in the Church have been “baited” by the false arguments made against the Church’ teachings. It is difficult for those interested in a full discussion not to respond to the false allegations. For example, Andrew Sullivan continually refers to the Church’s teachings by suggesting that the Church teaches that gays are intrinsically disordered. That is patently false. And, I have to believe that Mr. Sullivan knows that he is speaking as a false witness.

    In the end, that kind of false witness makes matters worse, not better, for gays. It would be much better, for everyone, if he would pronounce the true meaning of the teaching – being gay is the way that God made you. It is not wrong, disordered, or sinful. The fact that the Church teaches that homosexual activity is sinful is secondary to the teaching.

    • Colleen, if you haven’t yet read it, I think you’ll find Fr. Richard McBrien’s latest essay on the church as the people of God at National Catholic Reporter very interesting reading. As Fr. McBrien notes,

      . . . [T]the church is not only the hierarchy, the clergy, and/or members of religious communities. It is the whole community of the baptized.

      And that community is marked by a rich diversity of gender, class, education, social status, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and culture. It includes saints and sinners alike.

      And as he also points out,

      More than 20 years ago, Eugene Kennedy, the psychologist and prolific writer, addressed this topic in a memorable article in America magazine titled, “The Problem with No Name.” He wrote: “…the male-bonded culture of clerical life is in ruins because it is a vestige of the great days of privilege, not because people lack interest in ministry” (4/23/88).

      Calling the church the People of God, as the council did, means that we all have responsibility for its life and mission, especially at a time when its leadership sometimes functions as an obstacle rather than a facilitator.

      It’s an ongoing challenge, isn’t it, to facilitate conversation in the Catholic church today about how we all are the church, and what the church teaches and thinks is not confined to the privileged, all-male hierarchical elite (and the defenders of that elite, who are frequently also men)?

      It’s strange that these insights about the church as all the people of God, which were formulated by the last ecumenical council of the church–by all the bishops of the world gathered together–have still not reached the consciousness of some American Catholics, isn’t it?

    • Bill,

      For once, I think we agree on something. We are all part of the one Church, and even one humanity.

      The whole community of the baptized includes the “all-white male hierarchical elite” and the “defenders of the elite”. Regardless of whatever pejorative terms you want to use to describe your fellow brothers in Christ, they must be part of our conversation which seeks to define who and what we are.

      And, while I am at it, I should remind you that you and I are the white, male, hierarchical, elite of the Church of which you seem to have so much disdain. (You perhaps most so than I given your status as a theologian.)

    • David I really wish I could agree with you on your position. I can’t because actions speak much louder than words. Cardinal Ratzinger was quite specific in his Halloween letter, and I have never met a gay priest who cared about the impact that his priesthood had on the faith of the laity who ever said they would come out of their Church imposed closet because they knew they would be out on the street in a nano second. This phenomenon is why we have numerous gay bishops who live one life and talk as if they live another.

      This kind of game playing, this fundamental lack of integrity, is destroying the spiritual matrix of this Church and it has to stop. The deceitful nature of our spiritual leadership is a cancer on the body of Christ of which all are a part. Forget strange convoluted English language translations, and debate about pious practices from the good old days. It’s the corruption and deception in our spiritual leadership which has to be rooted out. Otherwise all the sacrifices made by all the kids, gay or straight or abused, means nothing and we adult laity have once again dropped the ball. If we can’t agree on anything else, at least let us agree on this: if we don’t deserve better and more spiritually committed leadership than we have now, Jesus does. We need to see that happens.

    • Colleen,

      You may be right about the lack of effective leadership in the area of gay issues. I don’t have much contact or involvement with the larger Church.

      I do know that on matters without a strong dogmatic component, such as social justice, the Church’s leadership is strong and Christ-centered. For example, on the issue of the American wars, the Church has taken a very strong position, which is in direct opposition to most Catholics, and most Americans. (And, like gay issues, the Church is largely ignored.)

      On the local level, I don’t see the same concerns. All of the clergy with whom I have been involved in my lifetime have been very dedicated, spiritual people. Even those with a strong dogmatic personality have placed the dignity of the people above their own judgment, or the judgment of the Church.

      It seems to me that the failings of the hierarchy of the Church are human failings. I don’t perceive that there is any attempt to deliberately attack gays, or women, or any other group. A large institution takes a long time to change, which can be both good and bad. The dogma takes time to catch up to the pastoral care implications.

      As you say, the actions speak louder than words. The Church’s actions throughout the world are, for the most part, quite in line with a Christ-centered approach. So, while the officials’ words may sound condemning, the actions are showing concern.

  14. This is a very interesting conversation here. I think that what is important is how do we support our young people. Where are the role models for our gay Catholic youth? Some 30 to 40% of Catholics priests are gay but how many of them feel that they can be honest role models for gay young people? It would be good if the Church could be more honest and truthful about this. When will that happen? I agree with a lot of what is said here. I even agree with some of David’s comments.

    • Mark,

      How would a priest (regardless of sexual orientation) who is being an “honest role model for a gay young person” act? Would it be any different than the role model for a straight young person?

      Perhaps the most supportive thing priests could do is spend more time stressing that the Church is NOT anti-gay. Period. It is not anti-sex. Period. Rather, the Church wants you – the young person – to use your sexual gifts in the most responsible manner. When and how you use those gifts is ultimately up to you.

      • David, until our gay priests can admit they are gay, they can not be effective role models for gay teens. The de facto assumption is that all our priests and religious are straight. Straight chastity is the one and only norm and the only example available. But there is also an unexamined language problem. Go back and read your own comments and see if you don’t constantly use the term ‘homosexual activity’ as your definition of a gay or homosexual person. Unfortunately for gay kids, most of them are not engaging in ‘homosexual activity’ but they still understand themselves to be gay.

        As long as our gay priests are operating under the ‘straight chaste’ assumption, gay kids have no role models–especially when they are defined as an activity they don’t engage in. They are given little choice but to see themselves as disordered in a fundamental moral sense–whether they act on their gayness or not. Being gay is not in itself a moral issue no more than it is a mental issue. It’s just another state of human ‘being’.

        This fundamental difference in perception about gayness and straightness will continue to send a very conflicted message to our gay teens. And this holds true whether there is any real animosity directed toward gay human ‘beings’ or not. By the way, I really think you care about this issue, especially as it pertains to suicide and I think you are making a huge effort to understand this issue. The question I have is can you care enough to look seriously at how you yourself frame the gay issue because it seems to be preventing you from really hearing critical distinctions.

      • Colleen,

        Sorry for the delay in my response.

        You raise a good point about the place of sexuality and chastity in our discussions.

        As a society, Catholic clerics are the only serious role models that we have of a life of chastity. Whether a teenager (or adult) is gay or straight, the decision to be be asexual seems to be the guiding sexual decision, not the sexual orientation. Perhaps the Church should spend more time educating its flock and society on asexual activity as a valid, and perhaps the most valid, decision to make with a person’s sexuality outside of marriage.

  15. “And it has pushed some Catholic men who imagine their manhood is wounded by our culture’s preoccupation with pornography, and who want to retrieve their essential manhood through orthodox theology and practice, to adopt a quasi-pornographic theology that views women as, essentially, child-bearing machines designed to pleasure men.”

    This.

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