Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Credit: Creative Commons

“Accordingly, Jewish difference challenges Christians not first to speak but to hear speech not their own, not simply to love but to consent to the prospect of being loved by an other.”

Amen.

Karl Plank, a Jewish literature and thought professor at Davidson College, penned those words for his section of the book Merton and Judaism, an excellent multi-author examination of Cistercian monk Thomas Merton’s relationship with Judaism, including an examination of his correspondence with his contemporary, Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Plank is on to something mighty big with the quoted passage: namely, the strong tendency in Christendom to contort the very concept of love itself into a personal power tool. As if Person A (the high and mighty Christian) is a spiritual masterpiece, oozing with divine love, almost selfless, and Person B (Person A’s peer) is just a lowly, selfish desperado, lost and confused, and in need of Person A’s oh-so transcendent love and wisdom. Of course, the whole relationship or interaction between Person A and Person B has nothing whatsoever to do with real love, but is rather part and parcel of Person A’s gambit to assert their dominance – moral, spiritual, you name it – in their social universe.

Person B is merely the conduit to achieve that end.

Gay Catholics who are sick and tired of the never-ending “love the sinner, hate the sin” claptrap from Catholic clergymen would do well to meditate on Karl Plank’s insight into Christian-Jewish relations and, I would certainly argue, apply it to what is now and has been happening between gay lay Catholics and Catholic priests, and the bishops in particular. Namely, the former becoming nothing more than conduits for the latter’s efforts at the self-purgation of their own homosexual desires.

For sure, there have been academic studies showing a direct link between vocalized opposition to homosexuality and deep-seated homosexual desire. But anyone who survived the cavalcade of adolescent boys in junior high and high school self-purging their same-sex desires, specifically through the usage of homo-degrading language, already knew that. Academic studies merely affirm the obvious. Perhaps more mature men try to “pray the gay away.” But young men and boys who are not so prayerful don’t really have that option, so they just “fag-bash” as a way to affirm, internally to themselves and externally to others, that they’re no homos.

In recent years, much has been written and said about the “stunted growth” phenomenon of Roman Catholic priests, particularly in the context of the child sex abuse scandal, which has bankrupted multiple dioceses. I certainly don’t believe in stereotyping an entire group or profession. Indeed, I know several priests who are quite evolved on the intersection of sexuality and spirituality, and who don’t believe the Catholic church’s teachings on homosexuality.

That said, I do believe there is a clear “stunted growth” issue at play in how at least some Catholic priests, and again particularly the bishops, are going about their own self-purgation of homosexual desire.

Granted, you will never hear immature profanities coming from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, or any of the others who have displayed an obsession with homosexuality. These men will not, like adolescent boys, use words like “fag” etc. as the vehicles to prove, to themselves and others, that homosexual cravings are not part of their everyday consciousness.

And yet, by the same token, these men are not exactly St. Augustine when it comes to spiritually purging their sexual longings. In other words for the bishops, much like the adolescent boys, their self-purging has got to have social targets if it is to be effective.

Out gays and lesbians have been their targets, and if the events surrounding annual gathering of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) this week is any indication, out gay and lesbian Americans, not just Catholic ones, will continue to be their targets for some time, all the happy talk surrounding the “Pope Francis Effect” notwithstanding.

While culture warrior Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York (pictured above) has been replaced this week as president of the USCCB by an apparently non-culture warrior type of bishop, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Kentucky, the efforts of these bishops to collectively self-purge their homosexual desires on the backs of out gay and lesbian Americans of all faiths and backgrounds will not let up any time soon.

Here is some recent historical backdrop: Last year, for the first time, the USCCB announced a prayer initiative for the entire American Catholic church called the “Eucharistic Holy Hours for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty,” prayer services to be held in Catholic churches and cathedrals around the country throughout the following year and ending this month. The intent of these Eucharist Holy Hours was to conflate, in the minds and hearts of lay Catholics, the issue of abortion and abortafascient drugs with same-sex marriage equality. “Life” is a reference to abortion, while “Religious Liberty” is a reference to the contraceptive coverage mandate in ACA, or Obamacare, which is still the subject of ongoing litigation and divergent federal court rulings as to its constitutionality.

Putting aside whatever one believes about abortion rights and federal policy on abortion-inducing drugs, this much should be kept in mind in order to grasp what the Catholic bishops are up to: for many, many faithful Catholics, abortion is simply among the worst sins a person can commit. Thus, by directly conflating same-sex marriage equality with the subject of abortion and abortion-inducing drugs in the Eucharistic Holy Hour prayer services, the Catholic bishops knew precisely what they were doing: essentially defaming committed gay couples seeking civil marriage equality by expressly equating that righteous quest with one of the worst acts in the Catholic mind: the deliberate taking of unborn human life.

In other words, to conflate abortion with same-sex marriage equality – and to use the holy Eucharist to do so! – is the Catholic bishops’ very, very deft way of screaming to the top of their lungs, “Faggots!,” like the legions of adolescent boys engaged in vocalized self-purgation.

Though the election of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz to succeed Cardinal Timothy Dolan is not much of a news story – there’s nothing particularly earth-shattering about it – there is real new coming from this year’s USCCB conference: the bishops voted to extend the Eucharistic Holy Hours for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty for yet another year.

Those Holy Hours – again an attempt to conflate abortion with same-sex marriage equality in minds of Catholics – were supposed to only last a year. Now they will be around for another year. And next year, and the year after that?

Indeed, it’s hard to believe that the Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone, whom San Francisco gays like to call “Bishop Sally,” will not seek to make this totally twisted attempt to conflate love between two people of the same-sex with the tragedy of abortion a permanent feature of American Catholic church prayer life. After all, men bent on self-purging their own homosexual desires know no limits.

I would like to close by again referencing, and indeed borrowing from, Professor Karl Plank’s profound insight about the worst tendency in Christendom: the impulse to use the name of Jesus Christ, and indeed his teachings, as a means to establish dominance of some kind over others. I would encourage gay Catholics, as well as our friends and allies who know the kind of deft, sophisticated bullying the Catholic bishops are capable of, to do this with Karl Plank’s quote: replace in Plank’s formulation “Jewish difference” with “homosexuality affirmation,” and then replace “Christians” with “self-purging Catholic bishops.” You will get this sentence:

“Accordingly, homosexuality affirmation challenges self-purging Catholic bishops not first to speak but to hear speech not their own, not simply to love but to consent to the prospect of being loved by an other.”

Perhaps when these men experience true love – not the fake love of fawning social and career climbers within the Catholic world – their need to self-purge their homosexual desires will fade away.

And with it, the roundly shameful, roundly despicable absurdity that the sweet love and devotion between two men or two women belongs in the same sentence – much less the same Eucharistic prayer service – with the horrible tragedy that is abortion.

Shame on them.


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