Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Scorpion and the Frog

I blogged the other day about the pope’s visit and about the confusion so many of us have about what exactly he represents.  I admitted I find myself drawn to the man and urged others to take a nuanced view of him as both a leader of a retrograde institution and a kindly soul underneath a whole pile of crap doctrine.  He’s only human.  Big deal.  He has opinions, and once we remind ourselves that adoring crowds have chased after all sorts of men in leadership positions – such is human nature – and that he is still only human, we can get back to our coffee and our newspaper.  Computer screen.  Whatever.

I feel the urge to modify that view this morning.  According to articles reported in the Guardian, and in the American press, as well, Pope Francis actually met with Kim Davis while he was in the U.S., and his statement on the plane supporting her refusal to carry out her duties as clerk may actually have been made with some guile.  Certainly there is guile in the refusal of official spokespeople to reveal the fact for some time. 

So much for diplomatic skills and for remaining above the secular fray.  Mr. B has proven that he is a politician from Rome and need not be taken quite so seriously.  By coming down on the side of religion over secular law, he's just blown his credibility as a neutral observer.  If he ever had any.  Come on now, let’s not pretend we’re surprised!

But let’s not miss the significance of this revelation, either.  My friend Bill Lindsey, the Catholic theologian, has this to say on his blog this morning:
…if this story is accurate [it has now been confirmed – Alan], then the story is beyond disgusting. Many LGBT people and those who care about us will read this story to mean that, if the pope has "wrapped his protective mantle" around a woman who wants to claim religious grounds for dehumanizing us and trampling on our human rights, he has done precisely the opposite for us as human beings — he hs cast us off as human detritus, and given us a clear signal that the leaders of the Catholic church decisively hate us.  
Bill has also come to a dramatic conclusion:
If you're like me, LGBT Catholic folks and people who care about LGBT human beings, now's the time to give up on the Catholic church. I will never listen with respect to another word this pope says.
I've had it. 
And he provides evidence in that same blog entry earlier today that he’s in good company.  There appears to be no shortage of other like-minded Catholics for whom this is the last straw.

I’d love to be able to dance around with “told ya so!  told ya so!” but I can’t.  I didn’t predict this.  I really thought Francis might roll back the anti-Vatican II efforts of his predecessors.  I got that wrong.

My father didn't want to vote for JFK because, he said, "Catholics take their orders from the pope."

It wasn't long after that when JFK made the announcement that his first loyalty would be to the U.S. Constitution, not his religious leader or his religious beliefs.  And he kept that promise, as far as I'm able to determine, as have all Catholic leaders with a respect for the law.  Thank you, Jesus, for that familiar admonishment attributed to you that one should "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars..."

The progress we've made to rid ourselves of racism, sexism and homophobia is not complete. That's no secret. And the Roman Catholic church is known for foot-dragging all along the way. It is conservative to the core, and changes slowly. Read about the Rat Lines from Croatia to South America, as the Church helped Nazis escape after the war. Remember the prayers on Good Friday for the conversion of the Jews. Remember that to this day the church holds out against women having any real power in the organization of the church. And remember that homophobic bullies find solace in the thought that they are in tune with church doctrine. Catholic authorities may cluck over how "they went too far" in beating that poor gay kid to a pulp, but “too far” suggests going some distance is acceptable. Some will even add, "Their heart was in the right place."

I had a blow-up with somebody recently over their support for the Messianic Jewish preacher Jonathan Cahn.  If you don’t know this guy, check him out.  He digs around for hidden messages in the Scriptures and has found not one but two cows born with the number 7 on their foreheads, all of which lead him to conclude that the end of the world is near and America is going to be destroyed because it gave itself over to homosexuals.  No kidding.  End of the world.  Had no idea we had such power.

Anyway, I called this guy a jerk and suggested there was something wrong with people’s intelligence if they got suckered by his wacko notions.  Should not have insulted anyone’s intelligence.  It only makes for bad feelings. I got all riled up because I know how such rabble rousing against gay people leads directly to bullying.  After all, what’s wrong with roughing up a fag when you know he is responsible for the end of the world?  Isn’t that the least you can do to fight back?

There’s an obvious difference between beating up fags and praying for the Jews – the former is directly violent, the latter only indirectly so – but the origins of the animus are similar.

Until 1959, on Good Friday priests led their congregations in the prayer, Oremus (let us pray) et pro perfidis Judaeis. “Perfidis,” those of us who don't know Latin are reminded, means “faithless.”  We’re not actually using words like “dastardly” or “reprehensible” in referring to the Jews.  Just “faithless.” 

You can see why Jews got upset and, as with Galileo, the church has since recanted (see - it can be done) and conceded that maybe God does actually listen to the prayers of Jews   But for a time, the church dictated that one should not even kneel during these prayers because, as the Benedictine leader Dom Guéranger, now being considered for canonization, put it:
The Church has no hesitation in offering up a prayer for the descendants of Jesus' executioners; but in doing so she refrains from genuflecting, because this mark of adoration was turned by the Jews into an insult against our Lord during the Passion.  
What can I say?  This is how the church feels – Jews are unbelievers and should be prayed for.  Women are lower than men in importance and should be kept in their place. Gays are sinners.  Condoms are bad. Those are our views, says the church.  And as the gun salesman says, “I just sold the guy the gun.  I’m not responsible for what he did with it.”

Tell that to the Germans, now struggling with 55,000 refugees pouring through Munich Central Station in the past two weeks alone and taxing their services beyond endurance.  There is some serious discussion going on in Germany these days about the wisdom of selling arms throughout the Middle East.

Words have consequences.  If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have rules against shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater.  When the pope says Kim Davis had a right to follow her conscience and disobey the law, he may not be responsible for riling up the bullies – not directly – but like Jonathan Cahn, who blames gays for the end of the world, he’s certainly retarding the progress of the Enlightenment view that all  men and women are worthy of equal rights before the law.

The current head of the Roman church has disappointed many who interpreted his kindly words about the importance of pastoral care and "Who am I to judge?" to signify change.  But there is another way to look at what just happened.  Remember the story of the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion wants to cross the river and asks the frog to take him on his back.  "But you'll sting me!" the frog protests.  "Now why would I do that?" says the scorpion.  "If I did that, we'd both die."   So the frog takes him and halfway across the river the scorpion stings the frog.  As they sink beneath the waters the frog asks why he would do something so awful. "Because I'm a scorpion," the scorpion says.  "Stinging is what I do."

photo credit goes to Lexington, KY TV station WKYT, who I assume owns the copyright

This link will take you to a news video - don't know how long it will stay up - and a report quoting the chief homophobe organization Liberty Council stating, "You don't make an appointment with the pope.  The pope comes to you."  And the pope, they say, promised to send pictures of the meeting, which they will then share with the public.

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