Frank Bruni at the NY Times writes about the Pope’s gay panic.
I HAVE many questions for and about the âgay lobbyâ in the Vatican, but Iâll start with this: How can you be so spectacularly ineffective?
You wouldnât last a minute on K Street; the Karl Roves of the capital would have you for lunch. Despite your presence in, and presumed influence on, the upper reaches of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, church teaching still holds that homosexuality is disordered, and many church leaders still send the preposterously mixed message that while gay and lesbian people shouldnât be admonished for, or ashamed about, their same-sex attractions, they should nonetheless elect cold showers over warm embraces. Look but donât touch. Dream but donât diddle.
âItâs like saying, âYouâre a bird, but you canât fly,âÂ â cracked Sister Jeannine Gramick, an American nun who has long challenged the church on this issue, when we chatted recently.
âThatâs not original,â she quickly confessed, referring to her analogy. âItâs been around awhile.â
I called her after the news reports last week that Pope Francis, in a private meeting with a Latin American religious group, had wrung his hands about a network of gay clerics at Catholicismâs command central. âGay lobbyâ was the phrase he used, according to the groupâs notes, but it wasnât clear whether he meant a political faction per se.Â
A gay lobby that is tits at lobbying…hopeless. Why the panic then?
What was clearer was his acknowledgment â rare for a pope, and thus remarkable â of the churchâs worst-kept secret: a priesthood populous with gay men, even at the zenith. And that underscored anew the mystery and madness of the churchâs attitude about homosexuality.
If homosexuality is no bar to serving as one of Godâs emissaries and interpreters, if itâs no obstacle to being promoted to the upper rungs of the churchâs hierarchy, how can it be so wrong? It doesnât add up. Thereâs an error in the holy arithmetic.
The answer that many church leaders now give is that homosexuality isnât in fact sinful, not in and of itself, not if itâs paired with chastity, which Roman Catholic priests of any persuasion are supposed to practice. Church leaders also stress that they donât mean to disparage gay people or deny them full human dignity.
âThe first thing Iâd say to them is: I love you, too,â Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, told ABC News earlier this year. âAnd God loves you. And you are made in Godâs image and likeness. And we want your happiness.â
âYouâre entitled to friendship,â he went on, laying out the ground rules for same-sex longings and pairings. As for sexual love, he added, âthat is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.â
Oh pulease…that old chestnut about procreation…come on…we live int eh 21st century.
Letâs leave aside the legions ofÂ straightÂ people, Catholic and otherwise, who arenât tucking their sex lives into a box that tidy, tiny and fecundity-minded.
Letâs focus on something else. Thereâs no way for a gay or lesbian person not to hear Dolanâs appraisal as something of a condemnation, no matter how lavishly itâs dressed in loving language. It assigns homosexuals a status separate from, and unequal to, the one accorded heterosexuals: youâre O.K., but youâre really not O.K. Upon you there is a special restriction, and for you there is a fundamental dimension of the human experience that is off-limits, a no-fly zone of the heart.
Itâs two-tiered thinking, which is present as well in American political life, where many people who say that they have no problem with gays and lesbians and no intent to discriminate against us also say that we shouldnât be allowed to marry, because, well, thatâs the tradition, and marriage is an accommodation too far.
Head in sand stuff.