Saturday, January 21, 2012

Calling out the Archbishop

If I were Obama, this is how I might answer you, Eminenza Revma, but if I were the President, I couldn’t be this snarky. But I’m not Obama. I'm just a gay man and a citizen of these United States. Once upon a time I was also a Catholic and a Jesuit.

I don’t know you and might even like you given the right social setting, church or meditation hall, provided you didn’t insist on being right. No, I’m just saying that. I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t give me the time of day, and I doubt that I'd be a "good gay" and kiss your ring. But I’ll still try not to insist on my position without being too self-righteous.

Dear Most Reverend Eminence Archbishop Dolan,

Sorry that I couldn’t find the time to get back to you and answer your provocative questions before now. As you’ve probably watched the green backs in the collection basket dwindle, you know that I’ve got real money problems to deal with too.

I hate to be so upfront, but the tone of your letter was more than a bit defensive--this is when you weren’t being mildly hostile ramping up to outright antagonistic
I can sympathize with you--really. It sucks to have your authority blasted by people who can buy TV time, or even own stations and networks, but such is life in a democratic society. When you were elected, if my statisticians are correct, you received 128 votes against your opponent’s 111 on the third ballot. I wish I only had 239 bishops to deal with. But you guys, and you are still all guys right? are making a real stab at democracy, so I applaud even small steps. It’s a major shift from the days when you could handle the opposition by sending them all to Hell, or burn them. I can’t just allow those who disagree with equality in marriage to break away and start their own religion. We already fought a civil war.  But you had the Reformation, a war without as much blood.

Don't take this as a low blow, but I have to point out that one of your complaints, that the government’s stance on contraceptive devices and the use of condoms to prevent HIV goes against what you preach, would definitely not stand if put to a vote of the faithful. It doesn’t take a statistician to see that they’ve voted with their penises, if not their feet. That collection plate take will eventually catch up with you.

Sometimes the reality of leadership is a hard road. And I'm not trying to strike a note of reconciliation to get the sympathy vote. I am obliged to make room for all points of view. My oath of office forces me to leave the eternal questions to my private time, or when I leave office, though my opponents are using them right now to weaken whatever authority I have left as president. I can only hope that your comment about creating a constitutional crisis was just an observation--that there was no threat implied in your language--I wouldn’t want to alert Homeland Security.

I recall that you call upon a Higher Power, or perhaps that is reserved to the Most Holy Father some of the times when he opens his mouth. I’ve tried the Higher Power thing too in some of my speeches, but my opponents have a real knack for that sort of thing. I feel at a disadvantage.

There was one statement that really caught my attention: “If the label of ‘bigot’ sticks to us—especially in court—because of our teaching on marriage, we’ll have church-state conflicts for years to come as a result." Apparently you think that this is a solid argument because you repeat it: "It is especially wrong and unfair to equate opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination, as your Administration insists on doing.”

Ok, let’s get real. You can hold any position you want, but the courts seem to be beginning to recognize that all men and women have a right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation, and the majority of the citizens of this country seem to be coming to the same conclusion. Everything changes, opinions change, and the teaching of your church on some matters has changed.

I mean really changed. Your church has been around for a long time and your memory shouldn’t be so short. Slavery is mentioned in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Sometimes it’s about regulations for slave owners and sometimes it’s used as a metaphor. I’ll let scholars fight about the exact meaning. However, it has not escaped my notice that St. Augustine taught that slavery was part of the natural harmony of the universe, and that at least one early synod (Gangra 340 CE) condemned abolitionists. As late as the 15th century popes owned slaves as well as accepted human beings as presents and gave them to friends in high places. That means that for about three quarters of the history of Christianity, slavery was accepted with hardly a second thought at the highest levels of your religious institution. I don’t need either the courts or innuendo to point out that you were on the wrong side of history on that one. If those attitudes existed today, you'd be loudly condemned outright. It might be considered “bias and prejudice.”

You are the spiritual shepherd of many Catholics, but you can’t dictate their votes really, can you?

Love to welcome you to the right side of this battle. It’ll be lots of fun.

With all due respect,