Gay Panic from the Pope

Frank Bruni at the NY Times writes about the Pope’s gay panic.

I HAVE many questions for and about the “gay lobby” in the Vatican, but I’ll start with this: How can you be so spectacularly ineffective?

You wouldn’t 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 shouldn’t be admonished for, or ashamed about, their same-sex attractions, they should nonetheless elect cold showers over warm embraces. Look but don’t touch. Dream but don’t diddle.

“It’s like saying, ‘You’re a bird, but you can’t fly,’ ” cracked Sister Jeannine Gramick, an American nun who has long challenged the church on this issue, when we chatted recently.

“That’s not original,” she quickly confessed, referring to her analogy. “It’s been around awhile.”

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 Catholicism’s command central. “Gay lobby” was the phrase he used, according to the group’s notes, but it wasn’t clear whether he meant a political faction per se. 

A gay lobby that is tits at lobbying…hopeless. Why the panic then?

What was clearer was his acknowledgment — rare for a pope, and thus remarkable — of the church’s worst-kept secret: a priesthood populous with gay men, even at the zenith. And that underscored anew the mystery and madness of the church’s attitude about homosexuality.

If homosexuality is no bar to serving as one of God’s emissaries and interpreters, if it’s no obstacle to being promoted to the upper rungs of the church’s hierarchy, how can it be so wrong? It doesn’t add up. There’s an error in the holy arithmetic.

The answer that many church leaders now give is that homosexuality isn’t in fact sinful, not in and of itself, not if it’s paired with chastity, which Roman Catholic priests of any persuasion are supposed to practice. Church leaders also stress that they don’t mean to disparage gay people or deny them full human dignity.

“The first thing I’d say to them is: I love you, too,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, told ABC News earlier this year. “And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And we want your happiness.”

“You’re entitled to friendship,” he went on, laying out the ground rules for same-sex longings and pairings. As for sexual love, he added, “that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.”

Oh pulease…that old chestnut about procreation…come on…we live int eh 21st century.

Let’s leave aside the legions of straight people, Catholic and otherwise, who aren’t tucking their sex lives into a box that tidy, tiny and fecundity-minded.

Let’s focus on something else. There’s no way for a gay or lesbian person not to hear Dolan’s appraisal as something of a condemnation, no matter how lavishly it’s dressed in loving language. It assigns homosexuals a status separate from, and unequal to, the one accorded heterosexuals: you’re O.K., but you’re 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.

It’s 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 shouldn’t be allowed to marry, because, well, that’s the tradition, and marriage is an accommodation too far.

Head in sand stuff.


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  • Kopua Cowboy

    “There’s an error in the holy arithmetic.”

    Really? I’d say the holy arithmetic IS the error, when it comes to the Catholic Church