Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Starchbishop vs. the Governor: Gay Sera, Sera

Thanks once again to Maureen Dowd of the New York Times for another incisive commentary on the sad absurdities of Roman Catholic leadership:


With his cigars, blogs, Jameson’s and Irish affability, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan prides himself on his gumption.

Certainly his effort to kill the gay marriage bill, just one vote away from passing in Albany, shows a lot of gall.

The archbishop has been ferocious in fighting against marriage between same-sex couples, painting it as a perversity against nature.

If only his church had been as ferocious in fighting against the true perversity against nature: the unending horror of pedophile priests and the children who trusted them.

(The two, of course, are intimately connected. The noise, smoke and mirrors of the attack against gays is meant to obfuscate the scandal of pedophile priests, and to create a false sanctimonious sense of righteousness. Perceptive, insightful, spiritual seekers will conclude that the religion behind such corrupt leadership cannot be trusted, no matter how earnestly some may insist that the leadership is not the church. Perhaps not, but we have 'enabled' these fools to speak in our name.)

In the second-generation round of the Church vs. Cuomo, Archbishop Dolan is pitted against Andrew Cuomo, the Catholic governor who is fiercely pushing for New York to become the sixth and most populous state to approve gay marriage.

(Thank god for Catholic governor's like Mario Cuomo, who demonstrate that spiritual and moral integrity within the Catholic tradition does not rely upon institutional power for its sustenance, but must drink from deeper springs of life giving water, not dependent upon the trappings of official ecclesiastical royalty.)

Governor Cuomo was already on the wrong side of the church for his support of abortion rights, his divorce and his living in “sin” with the Food Network star Sandra Lee. He was accused by the Vatican adviser Edward Peters of “public concubinage,” as it’s known in canon law, and Peters recommended that Cuomo be denied communion until he resolved “the scandal” by ceasing this “cohabiting.”

(Suddenly, I have an entirely new idea of the phrase, Living in Sin.)

And therein lies the casuistry. On one hand, as Peters told The Times about Cuomo and Lee, “men and women are not supposed to live together without benefit of matrimony.” But then the church denies the benefit of marriage to same-sex couples living together.

Dolan insists that marriage between a man and a woman is “hard-wired” by God and nature. But the church refuses to acknowledge that homosexuality may be hard-wired by God and nature as well, and is not a lifestyle choice.
(Despite the welcome repudiation from the JJ report of a necessary link between homosexuality and the priest pedophile crisis, the suspicion still lingers within the public at large about the presence of predatory gay priests within the clergy ranks - hence the necessary histrionics from the hierarchy against gay rights, in order to cover their profound sense of humiliation. The attack against gay rights has nothing to do with 'right's or logic or traditional Catholic moral teaching, which is why it is impervious to reason. This is all about damage control.(

Dolan and other church leaders are worried about the exodus of young Catholics who no longer relate to the intolerances of church teaching. He dryly told The Times last year that when he sees long lines of young people on Fifth Avenue waiting to get into a house of worship, it’s at Abercrombie & Fitch, not St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The church refuses to acknowledge the hypocrisy at its heart: that it became a haven for gay priests even though it declares homosexual sex a sin, and even though it lobbies to stop gays from marrying.
(The refusal is a necessary, intrinsic part of the denial. The two go together and are logically consistent, within a closed system of moral blindness. I pity any man who is elected to become a bishop these days.)

In yet another attempt at rationalization, the nation’s Catholic bishops — a group Dolan is now in charge of — put out a ridiculous five-year-study last month going with the “blame Woodstock” explanation for the sex-abuse scandal. The report suggested that the problem was caused by permissive secular society rather than cloistered church culture, because priests were trained in the turbulent free-love era. It concluded, absurdly, that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were causes.

In another resistance to reform, the bishops voted on Thursday to keep their policies on sexual abuse by the clergy largely the same, with only small revisions, ignoring victims’ advocates who were hoping for meaningful changes.
(We should not be surprised by this. It is not going to get any better. We are going to be disappointed again and again and again, if we keep looking towards the official power structure for any meaningful change. It cannot heal and reform itself. God help anyone (I really mean this prayer) who gets inducted into this power structure.)

At their meeting in Bellevue, Wash., one retired archbishop from Anchorage actually proposed an amendment to get rid of the “zero tolerance” provision on abuse so some guilty priests could return to parishes. That failed, at least.

If God and nature are so clear about what marriage is, why do the well-connected have an easier time getting the church to sunder their marriages with annulments? (Yes, we’re talking about you, Newt Gingrich.)

In his blog, “The Gospel in the Digital Age,” Dolan invokes not just God but Orwell, denouncing the “perilous presumption of the state” in reinventing the definition of marriage, which, he says, “has served as the very cornerstone of civilization and culture from the start.”

The Starchbishop noted with asperity that “Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America — not in China or North Korea,” where “communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ means.”

Yeah. Not like the Vatican.

In the same blog, Dolan snidely dismissed the notion that gay marriage is a civil right. “We acknowledge that not every desire, urge, want, or chic cause is automatically a ‘right,’ ” he wrote.
“And, what about other rights, like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad?”

And how about the right of a child not to be molested by the parish priest?

Dolan acts like getting married (when done by gays) is a self-indulgent act of hedonism when it’s really a leap of faith and a promise of fidelity.

Worn out by the rampant sexting of Anthony Weiner and the relentless blogging of Archbishop Dolan, I’m wondering if our institutions need to rejigger: Maybe pols should be celibate and priests should be married.

I was going to comment on this, but then what is there to say? Does anyone still pay attention? The depth of personal delusion and self deception reflected by such views is so profound, that one despairs of penetrating the defenses of such a mindset. One thing is abundantly clear, however: Clerical power is profoundly inimical to one's personal spiritual and mental health, as well as one's personal moral integrity. Best to stay far away from it, and to keep one's children far away from its pernicious, corrupting influence as well.  The risk is great of having them inducted into a sect like atmosphere of false idolatry.  The grace of the Spirit to heal, inspire, sanctify must be found elsewhere. 

James H in the comments section asked me this question, to which I respond below:

Let me ask you about this quote

"The report suggested that the problem was caused by permissive secular society rather than cloistered church culture, because priests were trained in the turbulent free-love era. It concluded, absurdly, that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were causes. "

Have you thought about the implications of that last line. I know its wonderful when the Dowd takes on the horrible Church for some. But just because she does that she is going to get a pass on that line?


I have no problem with the last line, since I was a little disconcerted by the JJ's inference that sexual orientation had little to do with the choice of victims, much as I welcomed the repudiation of any intrinsic connection between homosexuality itself as an orientation and a propensity to molest minor males. In fact, I believe the Church did become (and still is) a haven for a disproportionate number of damaged gay men with pedophile tendencies. But the very homophobia and the concomitant self-loathing such men had to internalize as part of their training and role identification, did significantly contribute to their inability to integrate their sexuality in a healthy manner. When one is taught by the highest moral authority of one's church that one's deepest, most intrinsic core of identity is an abomination (the language of the 30's) or an intrinsic moral disorder (the slightly less offensive modern expression), the temptation will be to cut oneself off entirely from sexual identity itself and to split it off from one's overall personality. Fortunately, most gay men within the priesthood were able to resist this  destructive teaching simply by the power of the Spirit healing them from within through profound peace and interior joy found in prayer and discernment, a spiritual peace that gave them strength in the face of oppression and  that led them to discern the sinfulness of the official teaching, founded upon a faulty anthropology.  This is not to deny the  moral culpability of the pedophile molesters or to place the exclusive blame upon the distorted teaching of the church, but such teaching was a contributing factor to the 'dissociative personality disorder' that so crippled such men. The JJ report's suggestion that greater 'availability' of male altar boys accounts for the greater number as victims (and the attraction to such victims being one of power rather than sexual orientation) only explains the crisis in part, and seemed a little too neat to me, just as neat as equating homosexuality itself with a pedophile inclination. And of course, we mustn't forget SNAP's insistence that the number of girl victims is significantly under- reported. 

Speaking for myself and many of my friends and associates, we do not find Ms. Dowd's honest, forthright reporting on this crisis to be in any way 'wonderful' at all, nor any cause for petulant, adolescent glee at 'sticking it ' to authority. Quite the contrary, I find her reportage to be utterly tragic, demoralizing, and sad,  as indeed it should be for anyone who truly loves the church as it should be. The only proper response to this crisis of moral leadership within the church is profound moral outrage, and I commend Maureen Dowd for demonstrating what should be the appropriate prophetic attitude on the part of truly loyal Catholics. 

3 comments:

James H said...

Let me ask you about this quote

"The report suggested that the problem was caused by permissive secular society rather than cloistered church culture, because priests were trained in the turbulent free-love era. It concluded, absurdly, that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were causes. "

Have you thought about the implications of that last line. I know its wonderful when the Dowd takes on the horrible Church for some. But just because she does that she is going to get a pass on that line?

Jayden Cameron said...

I have no problem with the last line, since I was a little disconcerted by the JJ's inference that sexual orientation had little to do with the choice of victims, much as I welcomed the repudiation of any intrinsic connection between homosexuality itself as an orientation and a propensity to molest minor males. In fact, I believe the Church did become (and still is) a haven for a disproportionate number of damaged gay men with pedophile tendencies. But the very homophobia and the concomitant self-loathing such men had to internalize as part of their training and role identification, did significantly contribute to their inability to integrate their sexuality in a healthy manner. When one is taught by the highest moral authority of one's church that one's deepest, most intrinsic core of identity is an abomination (the language of the 30's) or an intrinsic moral disorder (the slightly less offensive modern expression), the temptation will be to cut oneself off entirely from sexual identity itself and to split it off from one's overall personality. Fortunately, most gay men within the priesthood were able to resist this destructive teaching simply by the power of the Spirit healing them from within through profound peace and interior joy, a spiritual peace that gave them strength in the face of oppression and that led them to discern the sinfulness of the official teaching, founded upon a faulty anthropology. This is not to deny the moral culpability of the pedophile molesters or to place the exclusive blame upon the distorted teaching of the church, but such teaching was a contributing factor to the 'dissociative personality disorder' that so crippled such men. The JJ report's suggestion that greater 'availability' of male altar boys accounts for the greater number as victims (and the attraction to such victims being one of power rather than sexual orientation) only explains the crisis in part, and seemed a little too neat to me, just as neat as equating homosexuality itself with a pedophile inclination. And of course, we mustn't forget SNAP's insistence that the number of girl victims is significantly under- reported.
Speaking for myself and many of my friends and associates, we do not find Ms. Dowd's honest, forthright reporting on this crisis to be in any way 'wonderful' at all, nor any cause for petulant, adolescent glee at 'sticking it ' to authority. Quite the contrary, I find her reportage to be utterly tragic, demoralizing, and sad, as indeed it should be for anyone who truly loves the church as it should be. The only proper response to this crisis of moral leadership within the church is profound moral outrage, and I commend Maureen Dowd for demonstrating what should be the appropriate prophetic attitude on the part of truly loyal Catholics.

William D. Lindsey said...

Jayden, thanks for this great summary of Dowd's article. It's interesting that James has fixated on that same line about which he posted, under another username, at my blog today, when I blogged about Dowd's article.

Interesting, since Dowd is persistently attacked by Bully Bill Donohue, anytime she criticizes the bishops. Yet when she happens to agree with Bully Bill about gay priests and the abuse crisis (or appears to agree), suddenly she's the hero of the Catholic right?

Something tells me not to hold my breath until I see Bully Bill releasing a statement in the following week praising Ms. Dowd for this particular column. And so I think I'll take this attempt to fixate on one line in Dowd's otherwise good op-ed piece--a line with which I've made it plain I don't agree--with a big grain of salt.

This isn't about praising Maureen Dowd's perspicacity. It's about trying to divide and conquer Catholics who don't toe the right-wing line. I hope you'll shrug off this criticism, as I did when it appeared on my own blog.