Monday, December 12, 2005

Love it or Leave it

Recently, everybody’s favorite gay, conservative Catholic, Andrew Sullivan, wrote an article for criticizing the new Pope’s position on gays in the clergy. Sullivan says that the Vatican’s pre-Ratzinger position on the issue was that homosexual acts were immoral, but homosexuals themselves were fine so long as they kept their pants on. As Sullivan writes, “in this confined and often suffocating place, it was still possible, though never easy, to breathe the love of God as a gay Catholic.” This reality seems troubling in itself, but Sullivan argues that things have gotten even worse for gay Catholics.
Even if a gay priest remains completely celibate, his sexual orientation is now regarded, according to a Vatican expert, as a threat to "priestly life." A gay celibate priest, according to the new rules, is incapable of "sexual maturity coherent with his masculine sexual identity." He has "a problem in the psychic organization" of his sexuality, barring him from priestly responsibility. Gay seminarians can be spotted and rooted out because they allegedly have "trouble relating to their fathers; are uncomfortable with their own identity; tend to isolate themselves; have difficulty in discussing sexual questions; view pornography on the Internet; demonstrate a deep sense of guilt; or often see themselves as victims." No serious psychological data are provided to verify those assertions (and many would surely apply to countless heterosexuals as well). What the new Pope has done is conflate a sin with an identity. He has created a class of human beings who, regardless of what they do, are too psychologically and thereby morally "disordered" to become priests.
I fully agree with Sullivan’s argument that under this new policy it’s rougher than ever to be gay and Catholic. But what I don’t see in Sullivan’s article is an explanation of why, after this latest round of indignity, gay Catholics continue to identify with a church whose teaching are fundamentally antagonistic to their way of life.

For those who have grown up Catholic, renouncing the Church can feel like amputating a piece of one’s identity. But I take issue with those who remain Catholics (in whatever capacity) out of a muddled sense of loyalty and tradition. Why pledge support, symbolic or otherwise, for an institution that promotes inequality based on sexual preference and gender? The decision to remain Catholic, albeit a deeply personnel one, has inescapable social implications when the Church’s hierarchy insists on passing edicts that demonize entire groups of people. For Catholics, the Church may serve as a conduit for the divine, but only the most naïve would deny that the Vatican operates like a political entity here on earth. What separates the Vatican from other political entities is that despite how unpopular its practices become, a significant amount of its membership will never leave. Not a bad deal for the Church.

If you’re comfortable with the positions of the Catholic Church then by all means, stick with it. I respect personal choice and would never suggest that people shouldn’t be allowed to practice the religion of their choice. If, on the other hand, you believe the Catholic Church has alienated you, why not turn to a more progressive church? After all, there are millions of people out there who mange to believe in Jesus without the help of the Catholic Church.

If you’re really convinced that God will speak to you only through an institution that promotes inequality on earth in exchange for bliss in heaven, you should renounce him too.