Category: Religion

Faces of Evil

Dear Christopher,

What a terrible beginning to the New Year. The horrible events in Paris just emphasize how a small minority can cause such harm. They can kill and disrupt a country devoted to the ideal of free speech. Maybe Charlie Hebdo would not be a magazine I would subscribe to, but they have a right to exist. And they have a right to life! Protest of their depictions of religion is fine. Protest is important. Cold-blooded murder is against all religious and civilized norms.

by George Hodan
by George Hodan

But all evildoers do not wear balaclavas and carry guns. They also can have clean-cut expensive suits and wear smiles. Think of Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee. As Frank Bruni said two weeks ago in The New York Times, these gentlemen “get a special gleam in their eyes when they’re denigrating gays.” They are politicians on the national stage that spew anti-gay hate speech. I am distressed to learn Mike Huckabee is considering running for the presidency. His anti-gay rhetoric will have a public forum yet again.

I know, I know. He is not killing gay people. Nor are these other politicians. They are not analogous to the jihadists in France who wiped out a whole team of journalists. But hate filled speech empowers those who hate already. It empowers those who will bully, who will tear down those they do not understand. Perhaps if you live in a milieu where you do not have contact with gay persons (or think you do not), it may be easy to demonize. But like the jihadists, hate filled speech on public media forums can give a rationale for hateful actions. For destructive actions.

Even baby faced Jeb Bush has moderated his opposition to marriage equality. But he is quick to say religious objections must be respected. Never mind that never have gay rights activists promulgated marriage in faith institutions. They only promote civil marriage. Yet religion again is used to perpetuate bigotry. And even hatred. Evangelical Christian groups have even promoted prison and death for gay people in some African countries.

It is easy to blame religions for these promoters of hate and even of murder. But as Karen Armstrong shows in her fine book Fields of Blood, throughout history religion has been a part of society. It has been used to justify violence and lust for power because, she says, “violence and coercion . . . lay at the heart of social existence.”

It’s hard to separate Islam from the black hooded killers, but it needs to be done. It’s hard to separate Christianity from the clean-cut boys who populate our national stage, but it also needs to be done.   But never should we confuse loyalty to a religion as a reason not to speak against bigotry and hatred, no matter what head covering the spokesmen and women wear. No matter how harmless and charming they may appear.

Love, Mom

Intrinsic Stupidity

Dear Christopher

Yes, intrinsic stupidity, that is what I call it. The former Cardinal Ratzinger (now retired Pope Benedict) used faulty science to write a catechism that said gay sex is intrinsically disordered. This is from the same Church that enthusiastically burned witches and said Galileo was wrong. Such hidebound pronouncements cause pope benegreat harm. And I agree with you son, LGBT persons should leave such a Church and find another spiritual home. My dear friend, Barb, told me the other day that she agrees with you too. An institution that so disrespects you and your family is no place to be. She too has left because she feels discriminated against as woman.

However, I do disagree with you when you say all LGBT persons who stay are self-hating. It has been my experience that people have their own story about the institutions they belong to. Like Barb, many of my women friends are “recovering” Catholics who would not enter a church or attend a mass because of the shameful actions of the Church in its treatment of women. There are former Catholics who say it’s corrupt particularly in its response to the pedophile crisis. Or like you, they feel gay people are intrinsically mistreated. I can understand that approach and applaud it. Yet people stay for many reasons. They can view the hierarchy as clueless, but the people in the pews may be a support. Or their model of church is light on dogma.

I come from a people who, though Catholic, always viewed the Church through skeptical lens. Though my parents went to church regularly, their parents did not. Nominally Catholic, they only went on Christmas and Easter. Actually, Italian immigrants from Sicily often viewed the Church with distance. Italian peasants were not served by a Church dominated by the wealthy class.

Your grandma scandalized me when I was in high school, being taught by nuns, when she said she believed in abortion and no one could tell her what she should do in her own bedroom. My prayerful straight-laced mother!! I bought all the strict orthodoxy taught by my Irish American nuns and priests, till my own crisis of faith many years later. Then after leaving for a while, I became more like my Sicilian for-bearers who saw Church with a more relaxed approach. After that I took a more jaundiced view of official teaching. Then when you came out as a gay man the edifice of “dogma” crumbled even more.

When we talked about dogma it brought me back to Catholic college theology class. But after college I read a great deal on my own. History shows us that for many historical reasons the Catholic Church adopted dogmas that have turned out to be based on myth, e.g. Virgin Birth. Other dogmas have their roots in the historical and political conditions of their day such as the model of Jesus as a savior or the pronouncement on infallibility. Even the books selected for the official canonical Bible have a historical background. The Catholic Church does not have a monopoly on spiritual values. I hope your family can find a home where you are properly celebrated for who you are.

Love, Mom

Should These People Get Out? Readers Respond

Mom sent a copy of my last post to our dear family friend (and my high school religion teacher) Kathy Heffern. Here is her response to what I wrote: I’m delighted to know that Christopher cares what I think. Needless to say, I am conflicted, but not about what he is saying regarding the recent […]