Catholic clergy, obsessed about gay rights, again shoots itself in the foot.

| March 4, 2012 | 15 Replies

I’ve known Charlie Robin for many years, so I was deeply saddened to hear that the Catholic Church retaliated against Charlie’s partner, Al Fischer immediately after the pair announced that they were traveling to New York this week to get married.

Al has done exemplary work as a music teacher at St. Ann Catholic School, a St. Louis grade school. For many years, Al and Charlie have been out in the open as a committed gay couple. When they recently announced that they were getting married, though, it was too much for the St. Louis Diocese. The Administration of the St. Ann Catholic School has been, and remains, supportive of the couple, but must now hire a new music teacher for the children, even though they already had a perfectly good music teacher.

I was raised Catholic and I know a huge number of Catholics who are completely in support of gays getting married. The upper clergy are another matter, though. I’m not really angry about Al’s firing, because this is the kind of thing I expect of the Catholic Church at this point, and I’m also delighted to see how supportive the local Catholic school has been of the relationship and proposed marriage. The Clergy, on the other hand appear to be engaged in classic groupthink, combined with a willingness to elevate a personal feeling of disgust into a dominant moral principle; and this is combined with a classic reaction formation–I’ve heard from many sources (including many men who were in the Catholic seminary) that a significant proportion of Catholic clergy are, themselves, gay.

What should Catholics do in the meantime? That’s certainly not for me to say, since I don’t believe in any of the miraculous claims of the Bible. Then again, from my discussions with many Catholics, neither do many Catholics. What they do tend to believe in is coming together as a community to celebrating their community in song and ritual, as well as maintaining an admirable commitment to helping others in need through on-the-ground good works. It is in this context that the Catholic clergy displays its ugly vindictiveness. Perhaps this self-destructive decision by leadership of an ever-dwindling church will become a flashpoint for reform efforts in St. Louis, or even nationally.  Decisions like the firing of Al Fischer, combined with many other salient moral lapses of the Catholic clergy, help explain why one out of every 10 people in the United States (22,725,000) is an ex-Catholic. Not that any of this will sway the Pope, whose constant vitriolic rants against gays strongly suggest to me his own frustrated gayness.

I often wonder whether and when large numbers of Catholics will start buying up abandoned Churches, and start their own churches.

Then again, this animosity toward gays goes well beyond the Catholic Church. Rick Santorum, one of the front runners for the GOP has indicated that, if elected, he would work hard to pass laws to un-marry the 130,000 gay married couples in the United States. Such are these times . . .

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Category: Bigotry, Civil Rights, hypocrisy, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (15)

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  1. Adam Herman says:

    I’m a bit confused about something here. I understand being atheist. I understand being agnostic. I understand being Catholic. I’m not so sure what the point of being a Catholic atheist is or a catholic who doesn’t believe in the Bible. It kinds reminds me of that one priest who said that Christianity needs to get rid of that whole death and resurrection thing because it makes it hard to attract believers. The Bible is what it is, you either believe it or you don’t. It’s a take it or leave it proposition. the Church can never condone homosexuality because the Bible doesn’t condone it. It’s a religion, it’s not a democracy.

  2. Adam Herman says:

    I agree with your sentiments about how we should engage with religious folks, but I’m not sure that asking them to change their religion in ways antithetical to their religion’s written word is helpful. To a large extent Catholicism and other mainstream sects HAVE already become pretty liberal. Which has caused massive movement away from those sects and into newer more fundamentalist churches like Calvary Chapel and the International Churches of Christ. Seventh Day Adventism is another one, one of the fastest growing churches in America, although still a small percentage of the population overall.

    if someone truly believes, they will read their Bible. And when the Bible says something in direct opposition to what others in their church believe or what’s being taught from the pulpit, they’ll move on. Like it or not, the Bible condemns homosexuality. Therefore, anyone who truly believes the Bible is the word of God will also condemn homosexuality.

    For most people born into a religion, it is as you describe. But people who are true believers, who adopted a religion by choice, it’s not just a social bonding opportunity. They believe in God and want to do what he says. Born again Christians call what you describe “churchianity”. Religion as social get together.

    As someone raised Jewish, my approach has always been to regard homosexuality as equivalent to eating pork or working on the Sabbath. I’m not supposed to do it, but if others want to that’s their business. Christians really should see it the same way. Obsession with sexual sin over all others is not healthy.

  3. Xtech says:

    Erich, my buddy is doing just that … just it’s in a barn, not a former church

    http://www.gentleshepherdrichmond.com/

    Don had gone through seminary and was just shy of being ordained when he realized his folly at seeking acceptance (he’s gay and in a committed relationship) in such a corrupt political organization. Don is one of the most thoughtful and kind people I have met. He cares for hospice patients, and is by nature very spiritual.

    There is no *good* reason for someone like him to be excluded from any organization.

    I think Don’s church is the future for many ex-Catholics.

    Myself, I am a former Catholic and as a female am mightily offended on many levels by the Catholic church and could never fathom being part of any variation of it. I also do not believe in anything supernatural, so could not be part of any organization that demanded I check my brain at the door. Having said that, there are many ‘Christian’ churches that count members who are non believers, and they are tacitly accepted. In fact, fairly often the atheist at the Sunday 10:30 is, like several of my friends were, the guy up front doing the talking. ;-) So, I feel welcome in several churches in town, and am a member of one (well, Unitarian) and attend another that is ‘culturally Christian,’ defines God in such a broad way as to be anything you want ‘god’ to be, and goes out of its way to be inclusive of any religious tradition, and sexual identity.

    Yes, I am a pro-religion atheist. I suspect this position is going to be more common and accepted.

  4. Adam Herman says:

    I am also a pro-religion atheist and I’m glad to find some fellow travelers here. But I also recognize that religion means something to its followers. Any sect that does not consider homosexuality to be a sin is not going to be accepted as real by the true believers, and they are absolutely right. You can only cherry pick the Bible if you don’t actually believe it’s the word of God. I hesitate to call a Christianity that has no practical differences with atheists other than they believe in a man in the sky to be a religion. It’s more a case of “I want a God in my life, but I don’t like the one in the Bible, so I’ll make one up myself.” This should actually be horrifying to an atheist, because at least belief in the Bible is based on things which cannot be proven. Belief in a God that condones homosexuality is belief in a God you made up. One might as well build an idol out of coke cans and say it created you.

    This is not to say that believers have it right on homosexuality. Evidently they forgot about hating the sin and not the sinner. Many of them also seem to be under the false impression that Jesus wanted them to rule and impose their views on everyone else just because they are now in the majority. It is not a threat to Christianity to have gay marriage. It would only be a threat to Christianity to force churches to accept it among their own members.

  5. Xtech says:

    Adam, pretty much all Christians, even the fundies, (and for that matter any fundamentalist that is purportedly following a religious scripture such as Orthodox Jews), are making things up to suit themselves. There is no one way to interpret the contradictory and ambiguous text in the Bible, though many have knocked themselves out trying. There is much reading of tea leaves, and projecting. And thus all the quibbling. And thus the 30,000 Christian denominations.

    (for fun, check AJ Jacobs, author of ‘The Year of Living Biblically.’ He tried!)

    There was an interesting survey done by the about what God is to Christians – there were a few distinct types that emerged; Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant. Erich wrote a much commented essay on it here on DI. Everyone seems to have their own personal take on it.

    Perhaps Christianity is a polytheistic religion, it’s just extra confusing because all the deities have the same name.

  6. Adam Herman says:

    Of course there’s a lot of that, because a lot of the Bible is contradictory or doesn’t adequately explain situations that modern people encounter(like birth control). But on some things the Bible is very clear and asking believers to set that aside because modern society has determined that morals should be different isn’t going to get you far.

    • It would be helpful if they just recognized the morality for what it is. For instance, how many practicing Christians do you know who think Original Sin as depicted in Genesis is about sex? They don’t read it. It’s about disobedience and an unwillingness to ask forgiveness, not sex. But. Along those lines, how many people believe Jesus’ chastisement of the woman at the well is about bigamy? My reading is, it’s about lying. He never tells her to divorce one husband, just not to try to deceive him anymore.

      Then there’s the one that I consider the basis for all blind obedience in christianity, Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. Most biblical types think the message is one of approval from god that Abraham would willingly do that, but a closer reading shows that to be a dubious interpretation, since everything Yahweh promised Abraham did not come to be. Abraham screwed up.

      Hence some of us have problems crediting anyone who claims biblical authority for their morals. While it may be true that there are certain worthwhile lessons in Scripture, for the most part it’s presented in such a way that anyone can take away any interpretation that fits their prejudice. And because it’s based on that Swiss Army Knife malleability, you’re absolutely right that they will not willingly give it up. Why surrender something that validates every little foible, prejudice, discomfort, and urge to lord it over others?

      That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be called on it in the name of tolerance.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Mark: One of my favorite bible stories, the “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” story, wasn’t written by any of the original authors of the bible. It was inserted by a clever scribe. Ironically, it’s nonetheless treated as legitimate by most preachers, who then proceed to ignore this excellent lesson when it comes to gays. The Bible is incredibly malleable.

  7. Adam Herman says:

    Coming from a Jewish perspective, the Torah has 613 commandments(I think. It’s close). There are volumes and volumes interpreting those commandments. So yes, there’s a lot of malleability. But the fact that men lying with men is sinful is pretty straightforward, as uncontroversial as the idea of eating pork. Women lying with women, that’s not addressed, so maybe that’s okay.

    The not throwing the first stone story is interesting, because if the one being stoned had been gay, I think Jesus would have done exactly the same thing. but let’s be clear about what came afterwards. Jesus told her to “sin no more”. I think he would have said the same thing to a gay man. “Drop all your fleshly desires and come follow me.” It’s interesting that a lot of us see the wisdom in Jesus telling the rich man to give away his possessions. But is there really a difference between the narcissistic accumulation of wealth and the pursuit of physical pleasures? Christianity and Judaism and Islam and I think almost every other religion or philosophy is based on the idea that humans can be more than just their biological desires. And even non-religious folks will agree that our biological desires and instincts often lead us to evil and selfish acts.

  8. Karl says:

    Jesus wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to tell the gay person caught in sexually illicit behavior to go and sin no more because most cultures of his day wouldn’t have allowed public toleration of such behavior.
    The enforcers of civil moral codes would only want to know if this behavior was truly what they desired and then simply have killed, jailed or banished them so they would not have open access to adolescents and children.
    The judgments weren’t so much to judge an activity as worthy of extreme punishment, but rather one of guarded concern for the hostile intent of open proselytizing of younger and younger children like what happens when a “trusted” man or women betrays that trust.
    Who in their right mind would let a serial rapist teach adolescents? What’s to keep anyone that is bent on dominating another person, for whatever the reason, from causing others the loss of their childhood just because they believe they have a right to take or give someone else physical gratification?
    Our Nation was the same until it became stylish to approve of open acceptance of sexual activity between unmarried men and woman. It then became stylish to allow openly gay individuals into schools and churches where they have ready and open access to adolescents and children. However, all of this begins by telling any kind of person with any kind of sexual orientation that they have every right to be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to looking out for the next generation.
    A society that encourages sexual freedom, will reap people demanding sexual rights. If a society says that anything that goes on between consenting non-married adults shouldn’t be a concern, it only follows that more and more adults will be drawn into non-married sexual activities simply because the desire for a larger pool of consenting adults is really the goal of enticing adolescents and young children into such activities. When this happens it is only a matter of time before the next generation is told not to be concerned about their children as well.
    This pattern has happened in society after society. It’s still happening now because the pedophiles simply will not stop looking for more and more freedom to influence younger and younger children along their desired manner of sexual activity.
    When society seems willing to let what goes on in private between adults to stay private there is a degree of ability to hold back the flood gates of sexual freedom turned into personal rights. When the privacy stuff decides it doesn’t want to stay private anymore that we start getting into grey areas of morality where anyone with any kind of a personal moral stance can be turned into a bigot and hater of people that don’t hold to the same morals.
    This is exactly what the pedophiles continue to decry as hypocrisy in anyone who thinks they shouldn’t be allowed to express what they call “love” in their form of the word.
    Why was “Don’t ask , Don’t tell” public policy for so many years? Because no one really knows for certain what really is the motivation behind prying into someone else’s personal life.
    But what is becoming more and more clear is that granting public approval for adult homosexual behavior will only serve to lower the age of socially approved sexual interactions between all three groups, that is, adults, adolescents and children.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: I think you are being ridiculous when you conflate consensual adult gay sex with pedophile activities. As long as society recognizes the concept of “consent,” it will distinguish between those who are young or mentally vulnerable (e.g., mentally incompetent) and those who are old enough to take advantage of the young and vulnerable. Gay sex between two 40 year old men is nothing like sex between a 40 year old priest and a 12 year old altar boy.

      As for gay sex, I have no interest in it. The act repulses me. That’s why I’m called a heterosexual. But that does not mean that I need to moralize or outlaw gay sex involving consenting adults. That is none of my business. I’m sure that there are people who would call YOU a pervert for whatever it is that you do (or don’t do) in your own private life, either by yourself or with consenting adults (they might even call you a pervert for obsessing about what other consenting adults do). In my view, that’s none of their business either.

      As far as gay sex leading to the downfall of civilization, I don’t buy that at all. I see no evidence for that. There has always been gay sex. People have always known about others having gay sex. Kind and decent people have always kept their nose out of other peoples’ sexual lives. The big change over the past couple decades is that it has become unfashionable, and even disgraceful, to cause needless torment to people who happen to be gay. You’re saying that this is causing the end of the world. I see no such evidence. If you don’t like the fact that some people are having gay sex, then go think about something else. There are a million things to think about in the world, and only one of those things is gay sex.

      I should note that, in my personal opinion, unbridled sexual activity is not a good thing. Sex is a good thing, but there CAN be too much of a good thing. I believe that adult individuals are the best judges of what is too much, and good judgment in that realm can only result from experience/experimentation, including some misjudgment and mistakes along with way. I will also admit that my gut feeling is that a society will function at its best when at least some sexual energy is harnessed and redirected to other activities through sublimation (e.g., to the arts and even the sciences). In short, I believe that Sigmund Freud had some interesting things to say in this regard. See here for further comment: http://dangerousintersection.org/2006/05/31/there%E2%80%99s-more-than-one-way-to-maintain-civilization-around-here/

    • The only way I could see how “permissiveness” might lead to the downfall of a civilization is if those who would normally style themselves as “responsible” use such permissiveness as an excuse to give up. But then that’s on them, not on the sex.

      Civilizations rise and fall for all sorts of reasons and to even try to credit one factor among so many as THE sign (much less cause) is displaying historical ignorance.

      But you would also have to describe what constitutes a Fall. While the world is no longer ruled by Romans, in many ways Roman civilization has never gone away, only shifted from place to place and modified itself to fit the times. IN that way, we (America) can very easily be construed as a continuation of Rome. It never “fell” in that sense. But local collapses, combining economic mismanagement, environmental decay, and growing competition from neighbors, happens constantly and as many strict societies have collapsed as permissive ones.

      One thing I will credit—nations that manage to channel popular energies into popular patriotic causes often have every appearance of vitality and growth and are usually the ones doing all the conquering. They often characterize interest in sexual pleasure as unpatriotic and destructive to national causes. I’ll agree with that as far as it goes and declare it a good thing. People who are busy making love and experiencing the joy of individual pursuits have little time or use for the jingoists and their false patriotism leading inevitably to military adventurism if not outright attempts at conquest.

  9. Adam Herman says:

    I think your issue isn’t with gay sex, but society tolerating it and accepting it. I just don’t see the problem. How can men boinking each other lead to the downfall of civilization?

    What Erich said here is interesting though: “I think you are being ridiculous when you conflate consensual adult gay sex with pedophile activities. ”

    NAMBLA was actually a member in good standing of the LGBT coalition until 1994. There were many organizations that protested their membership (mainly lesbian groups) right from the beginning. But among gay men, the idea of sex with minors, as long as it was consensual, was far from an out of bounds view. In fairness, I think that a large portion of heterosexual men have long had the same views about sex with underage girls. We act as if pedophilia is unnatural and a choice, ignoring that for most of human history men were allowed to marry girls as young as 12. The only check on pedophilia was that you had to be married. So men are just pigs all around it would seem.:)

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