Yesterday, I noted that as some of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, look back on Benedict's papacy as a season of powerful pain, many Catholics, and especially those who occupy the bully pulpits of the centrist Catholic commentariat, want to offer the world trite pap and clubby chit-chat about Benedict's legacy. They want to celebrate that legacy without noting that there has been a conspicuous downside to this papacy for many of their fellow Catholics.
They do not intend to use even this transition moment, which opens doors to honest conversation in which many Catholic voices should be heard, to reach out to their brother and sister Catholics who find themselves alienated from the Catholic community due to the hard, exclusivist line the current pope took as head of the church's doctrinal watchdog office, the CDF, or after he assumed the papacy.
I continue to find this behavior of leading Catholic centrists baffling, since the "official" Catholic commentariat grounds its claim to be heard by all the rest of us on its superior ability to understand, parse, and represent the term "Catholic"--"a term which means, "here comes everybody." As I said yesterday, I find the assessments of Benedict's papacy which listen to the voices of the many Catholics now living on the margins of the church more honest and more soul-nourishing, as I try to think through the meaning of the historical transition through which the Catholic church is now passing.
As Elizabeth Drescher notes this morning in a moving and honest meditation at Religion Dispatches on Benedict's painful legacy, while Catholic luminaries from Timothy Cardinal Dolan to Father James Martin lionize the pope, many of us on the margins find his legacy more troubling and complex than our luminaries appear to do. Like Sister Jeanine Gramick, whom the current pope sought to silence when he headed the CDF and whom Drescher quotes, many of us on the margins have found Benedict's papacy "devastating."
As Susan Matthews notes at her Catholics4Change blog, though many of us who are ordinary lay Catholics are powerless when it comes to the making of a new pope, we've chosen to vote with our feet by walking away--because we've been given the message that we are not welcome among the righteous and the pure.
Or as Robert Mickens of The Tablet indicates, via Laurie Goodstein at the New York Times,
He [Benedict] leaves the church even further divided. He’s alienated the majority of Catholics, maybe not the bishops and cardinals who, because they’re in the hierarchy, support and reinforce what the pope says. But run-of-the-mill Catholics feel that the church is probably not going in the right direction, and they feel the division more now than they did eight years ago.
He’s alienated the majority of Catholics: Benedict's legacy has been devastating because the margins increasingly include the majority of Catholics. If the role of the pope is to be a good shepherd of the flock in imitation of the Good Shepherd whose vicar he claims to be, then the decision of our centrist luminaries to lionize this pope, when the majority of Catholics today have been alienated under his pastoral leadership, is baffling--and anti-catholic--for that reason alone. And so all the more reason we need to hear--all the more reason we're obliged to hear--the voices of the many Catholics now shoved to the margins of the church, if we care about the future of the church and about whether it adequately represents Catholicity.
(It's Robert Mickens, by the way, who began pushing the important discourse of "implosion" to describe the church under Benedict's leadership, back last November.)
Among the voices we need to hear in this transition moment are the voices of LGBT Catholics and their allies. In the posting to which the first link above points, I offered excerpts of statements that the LGBT Catholic groups Equally Blessed and New Ways Ministry (through Francis DeBernardo) have made in response to the papal resignation. Here are more statements from both Catholics and non-Catholics assessing Benedict's legacy vis-a-vis gay and lesbian human beings:
Marianne Duddy-Burke of DignityUSA, via Elizabeth Drescher at Religion Dispatches (see above for this link):
Dignity USA, the advocacy group for LGBT Catholics, has called on supporters “for a period of prayer and reflection as we prepare for the conclave” to elect a new pope who may put an “end to statements that inflict harm on already marginalized people, depict us as less than fully human, and lend credence to those seeking to justify discrimination.”
“It’s hard to identify a figure who has been more oppressive to LGBT people in the religious world than Pope Benedict,” says DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke.
From the labeling of homosexuality as “objectively disordered” and “intrinsically evil” in magisterial documents he developed as a cardinal, to condemnations of transgendered people as mentally ill, to more recent attacks on marriage equality as a deterrent to world peace, says Duddy-Burke, the current pope has actively worked to undermine the full equality of LGBT people and denigrated their human dignity. Duddy-Burke notes that the announcement of Benedict’s retirement on the eve of the Christian Lenten season provides an opportunity for deep reflection on the harm such words and actions do within and beyond the Church. She hopes such reflection will fuel action among the faithful in the pews.
In the past year, the Vatican has released a barrage of attacks on same sex marriage saying that gay people are 'destroying the very "essence of the human creature"; and saying that gay people adopting children was an 'attack' on the traditional family. While a majority of Catholics in the pews support same sex marriage, at least in America, the head of the Catholic Church and many of his American bishops have became more entrenched in harmful anti-gay rhetoric and leaving the LGBT community feeling that our lives are devalued by this supposedly pro-life Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI has been an anti-gay crusader of long standing. In a 2007 message for World Peace Day, in which the Pope had a whole range of worldly ills which stand as a barrier to peace, he singled out gay marriage as “an objective obstacle on the road to peace.” This, while the Vatican opposed a UN resolution on decriminalization of homosexuality and the removal of the death penalty for those countries which impose it. While the Vatican is credited for exerting its influence against Uganda’s Anti-Homosxuality Bill in 2010, the Pope last December met with Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, the bill’s supporter, while she was in Italy for, ironically, a human rights conference.
Ratzinger’s 1986 letter on the “objective disorder” of gay people combined with his subsequent attempt to ban all vocations from homosexuals in entering seminaries was eloquent enough about his own sexual panic.
A devastating legacy, indeed. And one has to wonder what those centrist Catholic luminaries who lionize Benedict and celebrate his legacy so fervently intend for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, about whom they write such nice articles calling for more love from the Catholic community--but whose oppression by the man they're lionizing they simply ignore as they write their glowing tributes to Benedict.
How is this catholic?