Posts Tagged ‘catholic church’

The Maine Issue

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

I’m told that Maine has a reputation for proud independence. They don’t let outsiders tell them how to think or what to do.

Obviously that reputation is now in tatters, and the proudly independent people of Maine stand exposed as the biggest bitches in the US. In a rare turnabout, the legislature must now be ashamed of their electorate. In April and May of this year, the Maine House and Senate showed their grit and independence when they made Maine the first state in the US to introduce gay marriage through legislative process.

This week, the electorate voted to undo that laudable work, because they were bullied into it by two well-known political pressure groups from outside the state - one in Utah, the other in Rome. Interesting fact: the Mormons and the Catholics still enjoy historic tax exemptions from back when they used to be religious organisations.

The Mormons make their donations through a shell organisation, the National Organisation for Marriage, which, in direct contravention of the law, likes to hide its lists of donors, but we all know it’s those Latter Day shits. The Catholic Church is a hate group that doesn’t care who knows it; they made their $550,000 donation in their own name.

The pro-equality side ran ad campaigns showing how real Maine families would be affected by this law. They presented the people of Maine with stories from their own neighbours, families and friends. The anti-equality side took the same lying, fear-mongering ads from their Prop 8 campaign, and scratched out the word ‘California’ and wrote in ‘Maine’. And the people of Maine fell for it like the easily punked dumb hicks they are.

I know we’re supposed to note that almost 50% of people in Maine voted to preserve equal marriage rights in the state, and we shouldn’t be angry at the whole state, but I’m sick of hearing that. Marriage equality failed, which means the whole state failed. If you live in Maine and you support marriage equality, you did not do enough. That’s a fact. The same goes for California. The same goes for the other 29 states that have voted on and voted down marriage equality.

The point that always needs to be repeated regarding Maine and California is this: the majority voted to strip the rights of a minority. That’s the sort of evil that only the truly sanctimonious could ever get behind. The law ought to protect minorities from such outrageous bullying - and that’s a fact that other minorities might do well to remember, including the Mormons and the Catholics. The biggest threat to their reigious freedom is not gay marriage; it’s the precedent set by overturning it.

A couple of other notes on Maine:

First of all; in the same election that stripped gay people of their marriage rights in the state, a measure was passed that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine. That’s a progressive cause if ever there was one. Why weren’t Maine’s progressives standing behind gay marriage in the same numbers? Where were you when we needed you, dope heads?

Second; the gay rights movement needs leadership. Groups like HRC and GLAAD enjoy their White House dinner invites too much to push for an aggressive agenda. They spectacularly failed to get President Obama to weigh on on Maine. Under their watch, Obama has proven to be anything but the fierce advocate he promised he would be for gay rights. Under their watch, it looks like marriage equality won’t even be put back on the California ballot in 2010, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will get pushed back into Obama’s second term, should he ever get one.

Stronger voices come from bloggers like Pam Spaulding and David Mixner. This week, while arguing for civil disobedience and a closed chequebook for any politican who does not support full equality, Mixner referred to the disparity in rights for gay Americans as “gay apartheid”.

The word ‘apartheid’ entered into the political lexicon because of the policy of racial segregation in South Africa during the second half of the 20th century. Since then it has been used to refer to numerous other incidences of political segregation, including the treatment of Algerians in France, the treatment of the poor in Brazil, and the treatment of Palestinians in Israel. It’s a good term. It’s powerful. It’s the sort of language we need to be using to make our case with rhetorical force.

And as soon as Mixner used it, people started arguing that ‘apartheid’ as a term should be held in reserve, in the same way that we protect the term ‘Holocaust’. (The gays did have a holocaust, of course; we call it ‘the Holocaust’.)

I’ve never heard anyone suggest that we firewall the term ‘apartheid’ before. Even Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, drew parallel between homophobia and South Africa’s Apartheid in an article five years ago. As far as I’m concerned,’apartheid’ is established political shorthand for any system of political segregation. But now the gays have used it - in a way that casts the USA in a very poor light that it well deserves - and suddenly it’s off limits.

Now it seems we need to calibrate the depth of gay suffering against black suffering in South Africa from 1948-1994, and if the social and economic disparity of marriage inequality laws in America are not found to be up to snuff (and they won’t be) gays can’t use the term. And this is a view being expressed by progressives! Maybe they’re the same ones who cherish medical marijuana but don’t give two toots about marriage rights?

Incidentally, do you know what happened if you were gay in South Africa during the Apartheid era? Homosexuality was illegal, so you went to prison. More gruesome than that; in a country where every white male over 16 was forced into military service, they didn’t have Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; they subjected suspected homosexuals to electric shock therapy, chemical castration and forced sexual reassignment surgery. As far as I can find, there has never been a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for this. And do you know what name we all used to describe that system of political oppression?

Oh, you big silly. Why would we have a name for something no-one ever talks about? We didn’t boycott or sanction South Africa because of their treatment of homosexuals! Mistreating homosexuals was normal.

And in the US, it still is - whereas South Africa passed same-sex marriage laws back in 2006.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Give: If you are a supporter of America’s Democratic party, please consider supporting this callto suspend all donations to the DNC until they enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Once A Catholic

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

It hardly seems worth mentioning that the Catholic Church is out of touch with reality on certain issues. While the debate rages on about the US Republican party’s inability to redefine and refocus its message in changing times, there is this other conservative dinosaur lumbering along beside it, and it feels even less compulsion to change. The Catholic Church is ancient and insular and does not need to answer to any human authority, so why even bother challenging its many ignorant and dangerous proclamations? As far as most people are concerned, the solution to the Church’s problems is not to change the Church, but to dismiss the Church as irrelevant.

Yet the Catholic Church can change. It has  already made some changes in the last 50 years, and if it wants to survive it will have to change further. It’s because I believe that the Church will change that I continue to call myself a Catholic, and even if former Cardinal Joseph Ratzenberger (I just can’t seem to get into calling him ‘the Pope’) were to turn up on my doorstep and excommunicate me himself, I would continue to believe myself a Catholic.

I admit, I have a very idiosyncratic view of my Catholicism. I’m a gay man who believes in contraception, euthanasia, and a woman’s right to have an abortion, so if Catholic dogma is a great shining city, I would be living in a box behind a Happy Eater on a motorway exit somewhere beyond the ring road. My Catholicism is one that is proud of its heretics. I am a terrible, terrible Catholic. I cling a Catholic identity not just because I believe the Church can change, but because I want it to change. I also believe that, since the Catholic Church shaped my spiritual identity, it bears some responsibility for the conclusions I’ve come to.

All of which is just preamble to the subject matter I want to discuss. Today I read an extraordinary story about the Church’s decision to excommunicate the mother and doctors of a girl in Brazil who received an abortion. The girl was nine years old, and she had allegedly been raped by her step-father. It was thought that carrying the foetuses to term would have endangered the girl’s life.

In that one story you have all the inexplicable, enraging horror of the Church’s backward and inhumane views on abortion. The people, the government and the medical community of Brazil have all expressed either anger or disappointment at the Church for its decision, and the Church has responded without remorse. And here is where it turns from inhumane to outright diabolical; asked if the step-father would be excommunicated if he had indeed raped his 9-year-old step-daughter, the archbishop of the diocese replied that the abortion “was more serious”. 

It is astonishing to me that a man who believes he acts and speaks with respect to God could so readily make himself a channel for man’s evil. I find it staggering that this Church, or any church based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, could be so insistent on putting judgement and dogma ahead of love and compassion. Above all else, a Church of Christ must be about love. That is what God is, and if that is not evident in a  church’s teachings and actions, then that church is not acting or speaking with respect to God.

That’s my happy-clappy hippy-dippy view of things, but if the Catholic Church doesn’t buy that silly ‘God is love’ stuff, they clearly do buy in to the idea that some sins are, in the archbishop’s words, “more serious” than others. Through a series of ecumenical councils from Nicaea in 325 to the Vatican in the 1960s, the Catholic Church has arrived at a Top Trumps of sin - one in which the abortion of twin foetuses is apparently a graver sin than the rape of a child by her guardian.

This is where the Church has proved itself fatally out-of-touch. In the past two thousand years the Church has changed and adapted with all the haste of a Redwood tree trying to sidestep a continental shift, and it probably believes it did more than enough to stay relevant with the Vactican council of the 1960s. With the speed at which ideas and experiences are propogated today, that clearly isn’t the case, and the Catholic Church is not sophisticated enough for the modern world. The Catholic Church Top Trumps deck still looks distinctly Medieval, and it is in need of a radical update.

I think there is a legitimate place in our society for a moral and spiritual organisation that stands in opposition to issues such as infidelity, promiscuity, divorce and abortion. There is a reasonable argument to be made that these things are not desirable in our society. I also think that such an organisation would speak with more power if it did not complicate matters by staking arbitrary, anachronistic and even socially damaging positions on issues such as contraception and homosexuality.

Even if the church cannot make a volte-face on these issues overnight, if it were to sensibly review its hierarchy of sin and state, for example, that infidelity is more undesirable than contraception, or that promiscuity is more undesirable than homosexuality, it would save or improve millions of lives without eroding anyone’s soul. If the Church spent more time telling people that it is wrong to spread diseases, and less time telling people that it is wrong to enjoy sex, it would become a more powerful force for good in the world.

Abortion is the hardest issue to address. The prohibition against taking life is as grave as any doctrine can be (and that ought to be a good thing - the Church’s positions on war and the death penalty are fairly impeccable). Finessing the church’s position on when life begins is an enormous challenge - even if the Church were to defer to science, science has nothing useful to say about the soul. All that said, I think there is room for the Church to take a more charitable and more loving view of the challenges facing those already born when questions arise about the unborn. At the very least, the Church might exercise discretion when questions of rape or a mother’s health are at issue.

What this really comes down to for me is that neither God nor Christ conferred on any church the authority to pass judgement in God’s name. If there is a God, then that judgement is his right alone. Christ told us so. The role of the Church should be to offer charity and counsel, and to offer encouragement over condemnation. There is nothing irresponsible about a Church that places generosity and love at the centre of all of its teachings. My Catholic Church is strong enough to believe that.