Tag Archives: Catholicism

Catholic Cardinal Makes a [Pathetic] Apology

For those of you who missed it, Cardinal George of the Chicago diocese of the Catholic church recently made statements on FOX News comparing the QUILTBAG community to the KKK because pride parade organizers changed the parade’s route this year, meaning that the parade would pass by Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.  Because you know, marching past a church one day out of the whole year and potentially making things a bit more difficult for church-goers wishing to attend services that day[1] is exactly the same as terrorizing non-caucasian people with cross burnings and other such activities.  (For further thoughts on the Cardinal’s statements, be sure to check out Fannie’s post.)

Well, apparently that hasn’t gone well for Cardinal, (shocker, I know) because he issued the following statement on the archdiocese website:

Statement from Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
January 6, 2012

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year’s Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan.  I do not believe that; it is obviously not true.  Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I.  We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are.  I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church’s liberty.  This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

This is what some of us like to call a “fauxpology.”  Note that the Cardinal isn’t actually sorry for what he said, he’s merely sorry for the way some people interpreted what he said.  Apparently, to the Cardinal, there is some mystic context in which it’s okay to compare QUILTBAG people — any QUILTBAG person[2] — to the KKK.  A real apology would have started not with “I’m distressed that people took my statements that way,” but with “That was a rather cruel and defamatory thing I said.  I’m sorry.”

It would’ve ended there, too.  There would be no further need for an explanation or an attempt to rationalize his statements.  To be honest, the person you owe an apology to does not care why you said or did something hurtful to them. They don’t care whether you were motivated by fear, greed, or voices in your head.  They just want you to stop hurting them and make whatever restorative steps may be appropriate.

The fact that the Cardinal goes on to talk about his “motivating fears” means not only that he’s trying to make excuses why what he said wasn’t so bad, but he’s trying to make the whole thing about him.  Instead of focusing on the people he’s hurt, he’s making a shameless play for sympathy.

It’s a bad play at that.  He’s afraid of the loss of religious liberty?  Again, consider that the only “religious liberty” in jeopardy by the parade were that some church-goers might have been inconvenienced for a single service.  And while I appreciate that the parade organizers were willing to do something to mitigate that problem, such a minor inconvenience would have hardly made a martyr of anyone.  The Cardinal is simply playing into the persecution complex that his church has been well known for lately.

Recall that the Catholic church has lately been playing the martyr card because various states — including Illinois — has been telling them that Catholic Charities cannot take taxpayer money for adoption and foster care services while discriminating against QUILTBAG people.  They’ve also been complaining that Catholic health services cannot receive aid for health programs that refuse to either provide women with reproductive services or at least refer them to someone else.  It seems to me that Catholic leaders like Cardinal George only care about waning liberties when it’s their own religious liberties.  When it comes to the rights of women and QUILTBAG people that they’re religion doesn’t care fore, they’re okay with diminishing rights.

Of course, the greatest insult is how Cardinal George plays the “I have friends and loved ones who are gay” card, as if that somehow absolves him of his horribly anti-gay and homophobic statements.  I recently talked about the “gay friend” defense and will not repeat myself here.

Given the importance that the concept that repentance and reconciliation plays in Catholic theology, it seems to me that Cardinal George would do well to do a better job acting out both in this situation.

[1]  To the parade organizers’ credit, they delayed the start of the parade when the church expressed concerns about the parade interfering with church-goers ability to attend services.  In my book, they’re willingness to work with the church made the Cardinal’s comments all that more egregious.
[2]  Okay, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there’s a QUILTBAG person out there who is actually a member of the KKK.  But then, they’re sexual orientation and/or gender identity have nothing to do with the fact that they’re a racist.  And it wouldn’t be a comparison.

But I hate supporting the patriarchy![1]

I’ve had a few ideas for a post running around in my head for a few days now.  I want to explore how gender is treated in modern Paganism, how a binary view of gender[2] influences Paganism (most notably Wicca and those traditions closely related to it), and whether it’s a good or bad thing.  However, that post is nowhere near ready to go up.  However, thinking about the topic brought up a recent memory that I’d like to reflect on.

Earlier this year, Z. Budapest came to our town and held a tarot workshop at Psychic’s Thyme, in which each woman in attendance received a personal reading from Ms. Budapest.  The event was well attended and from all reports I’ve heard, it was a great success.

As the event approached, I had many customers at the shop ask me if I was planning to attend.  I’d simply smile and point out that I would not be attending, as the workshop was for women only, and express hope that they would have a good time at the workshop.

Apparently, during the workshop, one of the women decided to ask Ms. Budapest why she had made the event women only.  She started her reply by explaining that this was a special event intended to strengthen and nurture women, and that part of that was giving them a special place free with men.  I’m totally on board with her on all of those points.  While I certainly would have enjoyed to meet and learn from someone as experienced and renowned as Ms. Budapest, I agree that — especially in our patriarchal society that tends to devalue and marginalize women — it makes perfect sense to say, “some things are just for the women because they deserve it.”

The ending of her explanation was a bit more problematic to me.  Part of her argument was that men already have a “special place” that caters to them.  She went on to say that the place in question is known as the Vatican.

As I said, I have no problem with women-only events and spaces.  In fact, I highly approve of them.  However, I do take issue with the suggestion — even if done in jest — that as a man, I have my own space within the Catholic church.

The first — somewhat obvious in my opinion — with that suggestion is that as a gay man, I’m not a “proper man” in the eyes of the Vatican.  I don’t meet their understandings of what the proper role of men is, at least when it comes to terms of sexual behavior.[3]  In short, I don’t meet the Catholic standards of manhood and would find any attempt to do so terribly painful.  As I’ve heard some feminists say, patriarchy is hell on women in particular, but it’s ultimately not good for anyone.

That actually brings me to my second issue with the suggestion.  If patriarchal institutions like Catholicism aren’t good for anyone — or even if they were bad for women and perfectly fine for men in general and me in particular — why would I want to take part in it, thereby supporting its continuation.

There are a lot of patriarchal institutions out there, and the problem isn’t just the Catholic church.  Some of those institutions — like my career field — would be hard, if not impossible to simply walk away from.  I have to deal with the fact that I’m a part of them — and I try my best not to feed into their patriarchal nature and even do what little I can think of to help break it down.  But I have no reason or need to be a part of Catholicism, and I certainly don’t want to support or endorse its institutionalized patriarchy.[4]

If I’m going to seek out a male-only, male-affirming space, I’d much rather find one that has figured out how to be male-affirming without doing so at women’s expense.

[1]  And I pray for the day I figure out how to stop doing so altogether.  Even unintentionally.

[2]  Though it may be more accurate to say that polarities are discussed in gendered terms, but that’s something that needs a full post to explore.

[3]  I suspect that’s not the only place the Catholic church might take issue with my “masculinity,” however.

[4]  Plus, there’s a good bit of Catholic theology I disagree with, being a Vanic witch and all.

TV pp.10-11: But he’s Catholic

Note about page numbers:  I’m using an iBook copy of this book.  With iBook (and I believe most electronic books work this way), the book repaginates based on your font settings.  As such, I’m not sure how useful it will be to give page numbers.  For anyone who wants to know, I’m reading my iPad in portrait mode using the smallest font size, with a font setting of Palatino.  That’s how I come by the page numbers I list in the post titles.

As I prepared to discuss the next passage in Frank Peretti’s book, “The Visitation,” I was struck with how Peretti misunderstands his own characters.  The introduction of Arnold Kowalski, the custodian of Antioch’s Catholic church, makes that abundantly clear.  Arnold is a likable fellow, and I believe that Peretti takes care to present him as such, unlike the way L&J tend to present their non-RTC characters in the left behind series.  Arnold is depicted as an elderly, devout Catholic who takes great pleasure in serving his parishioners and someone for whom we are encouraged to feel compassion for as he goes about his job in pain from his worsening arthritis.

However, I’m not convinced that the internal monologue is in line with the character being presented.  Certainly, it is understandable for an old man in near-constant pain to wonder why God would leave him in pain.  If Arnold didn’t wonder that, I would wonder about his basic humanity.  Instead, what I take issue with is Arnold’s impulse to wonder how he can bargain with God:

Maybe I’m not serving God enough, he thought.  Maybe I need to work longer.  Maybe if I didn’t take any money for what I do here…

Among evangelical Christians — especially of the pentecostal stripe that makes up most of Peretti’s own environment — this line of thinking is quite common.  The idea that serving God brings on blessings and that the sign of trouble might be a sign of not being sufficiently faithful to God are common among such people.  If Arnold were the custodian of the local Assemblies of God church or even a nondenominational mega-church, the above line of thinking would make perfect sense.

But the Arnold presented in this story is a devout Catholic, and my personal — albeit anecdotal — experience suggests that this line of reasoning is not common among Catholics.  In my experience, Catholics are not particularly susceptible to bargaining with God or expecting HIm to take away their suffering.  Indeed, Catholics might be more apt to identify with their suffering and identify with Jesus.  After all, they consider the suffering of the Crucifixion to be far more central to their faith than most Protestants — especially of the pentecostal and nondenominational variety — are, hence their love of crucifixes.

Speaking of crucifixes, Arnold notices that the huge crucifix in the church appears to be shedding tears, so he seeks to investigate.  He checks out the tiny rivulet of water that is running down the crucified Christ’s cheek, verifying that it is not being sourced from a leaky roof or a fault in nearby plumbing before reaching out to touch the apparent tear, expressing some anxiety and fear:

He reached, then hesitated from the very first tinge of fear.  Just what was he about to touch?  Dear God, don’t hurt me.  He reached again, shakily extending his hand until his fingertips brushed across the wet trail of the tears.

Again, this strikes me as a case of Peretti not truly understanding who he established his character to be.  Why would Arnold fear a bit of water — even unexplained as it was — on the crucifix?  Does Peretti think that Arnold — and Catholics in general — are afraid to touch their crucifixes?  This would not surprise me, given most Protestant’s misunderstanding of how Catholics view such thing.  To many Protestants, Catholic crucifixes are seen as idols, and they make the mistake of thinking that Catholics see such idols as inherently holy or in some way magical.  So the thought of touching a crucifix — especially one that appears to be crying — would be some fearsome thing.

In my experience, Catholics are much more practical-minded than that.  While they certainly view their crucifixes as important reminders of the Holy suffering of their Savior and why that suffering is worthy of respect, honor and praise, the crucifix itself deserves no such honor.  Catholics do not genuflect before the crucifix to give honor to a wooden figure, but to give honor and respect for what is represented by it.  It’s a distinction I think that Peretti is failing to understand here.

The other possibility is that Peretti is portraying Arnold as a man who, having determined there is no “natural” explanation for the tears, now thinks it’s from a supernatural source (be it demonic or divine).  As such, his fear is regards to what will happen to hem when he comes into direct contact with this supernatural phenomenon.

This explanation doesn’t ring true to me either.  We have just learned that Arnold is in near-constant pain which has been increasing over the years.  Given his circumstances and his reluctant resignation to his lot in life, I find it strange that he’d be ready to expect the supernatural already.  I think it far more reasonable that touching the tears would simply be the next step in Arnold’s so-far methodical and common sense investigation of what he’s seeing.  At this point, he should be touching the “tears” to see if they’re actually there or a trick of the light on the grain of the wood.

It turns out, however, that the tears are indeed supernatural and they cause Arnold’s arthritis to instantly go away.  I suspect that this is the real reason for Arnold’s trepidation, written in by an author who wanted to a build a little suspense while leading up to this miraculous occurrence.  Those motives are understandable, but doing it at the expense of understanding how Arnold as described might act is problematic, all the same.