"Dear Lord, please give us more Catholic Kennedys and fewer Kennedy Catholics. Amen."
This is a long one, folks, but it's necessary. So, grab a cup of tea.
Several weeks ago, I came across a piece on the Catholic Church by the woefully misguided Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. I forced myself to
Catholics, I warn you, theology and Church history as presented by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is painful to read. "Instructing the Ignorant" is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and all I can say is that JoAnna has surely burned off time in Purgatory for her point-by-point rebuttal of such a mess of an anti-Catholic piece.
Take it away, JoAnna...
[Note: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's words are represented in red italics.]
The following piece by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend appeared in The Atlantic on March 28, 2012:
The Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church
Now, right off the bat the title rubs me the wrong way. Gays are already "accepted" in the Catholic Church, as are adulterers, gluttons, fornicators, and deniers of Christ (St. Peter, anyone?), among others. In fact, every single member of the Catholic Church here on earth is a sinner! What Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (hereafter KKT) means is, "The Case for the Approval of Same-Sex Fornication by the Catholic Church."
Let's see if her argument is worth the digital paper it's published on, shall we?
The death penalty no longer applies to people who divorce or sleep with women during their periods, as described in the Bible. So why can't attitudes on homosexuality change as well?So much wrong with this one sentence. Well, let's see. First off, divorce was never a capital offense in Old Testament times. In fact, Jesus specifically mentions that it was permitted by Moses. Even today, divorce isn't a sin -- it's remarriage after divorce that is an issue, because the civil government doesn't have the authority to dissolve a valid marriage in the eyes of God (nor does the Church, actually, although She does have the authority to examine a marriage at the time it was contracted and determine if it did, in fact, occur).
As for "sleeping with women during their periods," Jewish laws pertaining to ritual uncleanliness don't apply to Christians, as the New Testament makes abundantly clear.
Moving right along...
On St. Patrick's Day I had the pleasure of speaking to about 350 Catholics who gathered together to attend a conference put on by New Ways Ministry, which is an effort to support the LGBT community in the Catholic Church."New Ways Ministry" is a giant red flag right away. This would be the same New Ways Ministry run by a dissident priest and nun who were disciplined by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (headed by then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) in 2002:
...the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is obliged to declare for the good of the Catholic faithful that the positions advanced by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area.
Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have often stated that they seek, in keeping with the Church's teaching, to treat homosexual persons “with respect, compassion and sensitivity”. However, the promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion: persons who are struggling with homosexuality no less than any others have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them. The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church.
For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.
Back to KKT:
The women and men I spoke to included nuns and priests, children who had come out and parents who wanted to be supportive. Two female priests gave me special blessing and I left the meeting inspired by the devotion of those who attended.Hey, that reminds me of a joke.
Q: A female priest, a unicorn, and Jesus are walking down the street when they see a $20 dollar bill on the ground. Who picks it up?
A: Jesus. The other two don't exist.
New Ways Ministry has a critical mission [spreading heresy is a critical mission?], since changing the Church will help those who suffer from ill treatment not only here in the United States but around the world, where the Church has so much clout. The Church has millions of members in Africa and South America, where being gay or lesbian can lead to a death sentence.What an inventive bit of fiction. As a matter of fact, the Vatican has spoken out against anti-gay laws in Uganda. But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story!
Worse, the Church's own teaching encourages bigotry and harm. Just last year, my father's memorial, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, gave its human rights award to Frank Mugisha, a gay activist in Uganda whose good friend had just been brutally killed in his own home.Putting aside the fact that the police attributed the crime to robbery, this New York Times article states that Mugisha et al blame American evangelical Christians - not the Catholic Church - for his friend's death.
American missionaries have encouraged the discrimination Mugisha suffers.Once again, not Catholic missionaries.
Refuting their religious arguments is critical [why not seek the truth instead?], and so is making a moral and religious case for gays. What we need is a transformation of hearts and minds, not merely a change of laws.Why do I get the feeling you don't say the same thing about abortion? But I digress...
The Catholic Church's attitude towards homosexuality is at odds with its tradition of tolerance and understanding.Really? Let's take a look at that "attitude."
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
Terrible! How dare that evil mean Catholic Church suggest that homosexuals be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity! Why, that sounds almost... loving.
The actual practice of the Church is true to this tradition. What other institution separates men and women and encourages them to live together in monasteries and convents where they can develop deep relationships with those who share their kind of love?I have to admit, I sat at my computer for a full minute with my jaw hanging open when I read that paragraph. Did she really just say that all monks and nuns are gay, and live together in monasteries and convents to celebrate their gayness? Really? Someone get Mother Angelica on the phone, stat!
The fight for the dignity of the LGBT community is a fight for the soul of today's Church. Some conservatives see the hierarchy's current, traditional teaching on sex as the Church's defining position.Newsflash: faithful Catholics consider the Church's teaching to be true! In our next story, water is found to be wet!
They don't really like to talk about, or even be reminded of, the Church's teachings on immigration, or protection of the environment, or the greed that produces financial meltdowns, all of which they would find distastefully liberal.Yep, faithful Catholics completely ignore Church teaching on social justice. And by "completely ignore," I mean "faithfully follow and promulgate." KKT neglects to mention that many social justice issues are ones of prudential judgement, in that Catholics can legitimately hold differing opinions on the best way to deal with issues such as illegal immigration or services for the poor. Homosexual acts, however, are always intrinsically disordered -- there's no wiggle room there.
For them there is only one issue -- sex, or pelvic politics as some call it.Because the Left isn't obsessed with sex at all, KKT. Not a single bit.
The Pope himself pointed this out on in visit to Mexico, where he said that "not a few Catholics have a certain schizophrenia with regard to individual and public morality.... In public life they follow paths that don't respond to the great values necessary for the foundation of a just society."I wish liberals would make up their minds. Either the Pope is a senile dotard who shouldn't even express his opinion on his favorite breakfast cereal, or he is, indeed, the Vicar of Christ. Too often liberals invoke his words (usually take out of context) to support their viewpoints and then turn around and loudly proclaim that no Catholic in their right mind would listen to him. Anyway, as fun as it is to pull quotes out of context to fit one's preconceived notions of reality, let's look at the Pope's words in context. It seems he was speaking in response to a question about dramatic inequalities of wealth in Latin America, not sexual issues.
In fact, in the exact same speech, he said, "The Church is not a political power, it is not a party...it is a moral reality, a moral power." (emphasis mine)
I think, KKT, that the Kennedys could learn something from the outlook that the Catholic Church is not a political party, nor a means to a political end...
If we wish to change the Church, we must first convey our views in language, images, and theology that reach people where they are.First of all, you're not going to "change the Church." The Church serves God, not the whims of man. Second of all, you should be seeking truth above all else, not striving to force people to conform to your unique and novel theology and
And secondly, we should make it clear that disagreement with the hierarchy is a critical part of our history.Sure it is... if you're Protestant.
Is KKT aware of St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church and admonisher of Popes? She said,
“When He returned to Me, rising to Heaven from the conversation of men at the Ascension, He left you this sweet key of obedience; for as you know He left His vicar, the Christ, on earth, whom you are all obliged to obey until death, and whoever is outside His obedience is in a state of damnation, as I have already told you in another place.”
So here we have a woman who told the Pope himself that he was out of line on certain non-doctrinal issues. That's what I call "disagreement with the hierarchy"! And yet she has no qualms with obeying that same hierarchy as instituted by Christ. Funny how that works, huh?
Here's what you're missing, KKT. Disagreement can't be divorced from obedience. All the saints who disagreed with the Church, or with the hierarchy, or with a Pope (and there were many!) were also obedient unto death.
The fact that so many Americans see themselves as religious, as God-loving church goers, means we have a better chance of reaching them if we use a language, a book, and symbols they understand.What condescending nonsense. "We should make pretty books with colorful pictures for the ignorant masses, because they're too stupid to understand us otherwise!"
Polls find that 85 percent say that they believe in God and 50 percent claim that they go to church every Sunday. The fact that only 25 percent do just goes to show that you can't trust everybody's self-reporting.And 47.4% of statistics are made up on the spot as well. I might also mention that you seem to trust everybody's self-reporting just fine when it comes to the statistic that 98% of Catholic women use birth control (more on that below).
In The Good Book: The Bible's Place in Our Lives, the recently deceased Peter Gomes describes interviews with 400 people who had been jailed for hate crimes against gays. None felt remorse. They thought gays were the devil, so fighting them was cause for pride, not shame or regret. Laws are important, but the moral case can be even more compelling.You know what we should do, KKT? We should get the Catholic Church to issue a document that says something like, "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs."
Hmm, seems like the Church already did that in 1986, under the direction some guy named Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a Pope more like him? Oh wait… we do.
When my father visited South Africa in 1966, he spoke with students in Cape Town about apartheid. They defended the abhorrent practice by pointing to Biblical passages that suggested that discrimination was fine. In an effort to reach them, my father asked, "Suppose you die, and you go up to heaven, and you enter the pearly gates, and suppose, just suppose when you get there, you find that God is black." Today we can ask, "Suppose God is gay."An excellent case against sola scriptura and private interpretation of scripture in one paragraph! Sad that Mr. Kennedy didn't know enough about his faith to dismantle the argument from that angle rather than using platitudes.
Moreover, race is not a disordered inclination, it's a state of being. Same-sex attraction is a disordered inclination (and it's not the inclination that's sinful, but acting upon it). Apples and oranges.
Not to mention, how exactly is an non-corporeal being who doesn't have skin or sex organs supposed to have a specific hue or a sexual orientation? But I digress...
My father grasped, as did John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, that in America the leader who wishes to enlarge freedom's sphere must appeal to an audience's religious beliefs as well as to their understanding of American liberty. This is what I wrote about in my book, Failing America's Faithful. While researching it, I gained many insights into the Church and its history of both prejudice and tolerance.You know what's coming next, don't you?
The Great Awakening of the 1740s gave people the idea that they could find God within themselves and need not trust preachers. As one perceptive British writer pointed out, if they don't need rectors, soon they won't need British rulers. Sure enough, once Americans got used to trusting themselves, they did rebel. Then the Second Great Awakening, in the 1850, instilled in Americans the idea that not only did the divine reside within them, it also resided in women and slaves. The Abolitionist movement grew from that religious revival, as did the suffragettes.Revisionist history? Check.
A few years ago, I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations [sic], and to me the biggest revelation was how misogynistic it was. That made me realize that the Catholic Church was on to something when it allowed only educated priests to read the Bible. My mother's generation was prohibited from reading the Bible, and when I told my grandmother that my father used to read the Bible to us, she was shocked, "Catholics don't read the Bible," she said.Blatant misinterpretation of Scripture and outright lies about Catholic teaching, not to mention the obligatory "but Vatican II changed all that" allusion? Check.
The Church figured that people could take passages out of context and come to unwarranted conclusions.OH SWEET IRONY.
This changed after Vatican II and now Catholic parishes offer Bible study classes.Because they never did before! In fact, Vatican II invented the Bible! Oh wait, but if Vatican II invented the Bible, why is the Bible so misogynistic? Liberal logic... breaking down... does... not... compute...
But those outrageous [outrageous!] passages did not deter either the abolitionists or the suffragettes. They boldly rejected them as cultural detritus. Instead, they asserted that the primary message was that all people were made in God's image. Thus we are born to be free.Born to be Free would be a great name for a band. Just sayin.' (Oh and speaking of abolitionists and suffragettes, I'd lay money on the odds that KKT would find some way to dismiss the obvious parallels of the abortion debate to slavery, not to mention the fact that Susan B. Anthony and other premier suffragettes vehemently opposed abortion.)
Unfortunately, a century later, in the 1970s, feminists and gay rights activists did not adopt the same strategy and tactics. I think this happened because their movement grew out of the non-religious part of the civil rights movement. Recall that the civil rights movement was split between the followers of Reverend Martin Luther King on the one hand and Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers on the other. The latter group felt that religion was weak. Why turn the other cheek? Why not fight back? This secular strain also attracted many intellectuals who were, to put it bluntly, uncomfortable with religion.Hm, perhaps because religion meant, you know, a radical conversion of heart and actually practicing virtue and all that. Not to mention all those inconvenient doctrines about chastity and the dignity of the unborn.
Happily, [or not, depending on your perspective...] that has now changed. Women have entered schools of theology [so there were no women theologians before? St. Catherine of Siena, among others, would be amazed to hear that...] and can now show that Jesus was one of the first great feminists. Mary Magdalene is no longer thought of as a prostitute but as the "apostle to the apostles." [After all, it's not like St. Mary Magdalene has been a saint in the Catholic Church for centuries or anything...] Gays, though, are still excluded. [excluded from what?]
Progressive Christian and Jewish believers have accepted gay rights. Theologians now argue that verses in Leviticus that call for the killing of men who sleep with men apply only to a particular historical moment. The death penalty no longer applies to people who divorce, curse their parents, or sleep with women during their period -- rules that are also in Leviticus.I was wondering when she'd invoke the God Hates Shrimp Fallacy. (By the way, KKT, Christian teaching on homosexuality has never rested on proof-texting Leviticus 18:22.)
And it's not altogether suprising that "progressive Christians" and "Jewish believers" (I think some Orthodox Jews would be very surprised to hear your opinion on that), who lack a central moral authority, believe that objective truth is determined by subjective popular opinion. (Does that mean that slavery was morally right when the majority of Americans considered it so?)
Obviously, some people continue to read scripture simply to sustain their preexisting prejudice against homosexuality and homosexuals. But theologians now point out that the word "homosexual" didn't even exist until the 19th century, and it wasn't included in the Bible until 1946.Oh, well, theologians. Don't bother to cite your sources or anything, KKT, I'll just take your word for it. And in all my years as a Christian, both as Protestant and Catholic, I've never once met anyone who read Scripture "simply to sustain their preexisting prejudice against homosexuality and homosexuals." Go figure.
Choose your passage. King David talks about sleeping with his friend Nathan as "better than sleeping with a woman."We can now officially discount everything KKT says about the Bible, because she just confused Jonathan, the son of Saul, with the prophet Nathan. Apparently, no one else at The Atlantic caught the mistake, either. (The verse she's talking about, incidentally, is 2 Samuel 1:26.)
The Ten Commandments don't mention homosexuality. [Actually, sexual sins are covered under the sixth commandment.] Nor does Jesus. In fact, our Lord teaches us that love of God and love of our fellow human being are the two most important commandments. He doesn't exclude the love that one man can have for another, or one woman for another.That's because love doesn't equate to sex. Love also does not equate to condoning and celebrating mortal sin. Jesus said to the adulteress, "Go and sin no more," not "Go on and keep sinning as long as you love the guy!" Jesus never mentioned chattel slavery or pedophilia, either, KKT. Can we start condoning and celebrating those, too?
The 2000-year-old passages favored by Church authorities don't hold up as being anti-gay. Not only is the hierarchy -- the Church's cardinals and bishops -- imposing its own interpretations, its views are harmful to many men and women.Wait a sec, it's bad to impose interpretations on people? Why are you doing it, then?
I would hope that the lens through which one reads scripture would be one of love and openness to others, not fear and anger and meanness.Shouldn't the lens through which one reads Scripture be the lens of truth and humility, even if the translations and interpretations conflict with your already-held beliefs?
Contrary to conservative propaganda, though, the Vatican is not immovable. It has a long history of changing position to follow new understandings of society and morality. Usury is no longer a sin. Women are no longer considered "the devil's gateway." Railroads are no longer cursed as the work of the devil, and teaching that there is such a doctrine as "freedom of conscience" does not merit censure, as it did for John Courtney Murray in the 1950s: In fact, Vatican II now recognizes "freedom of conscience." Pope John Paul II apologized for the Church's treatment of women and its persecution of Galileo. Sex between husband and a wife is no longer just for procreation but has value in itself.Every single "change" she lists in this paragraph is wrong. Every. Single. One. It's amazing, really, how little she knows about the faith she claims to profess, and it's glaringly obvious that she has no idea of the difference between doctrines and disciplines, or development of doctrine.
That history can continue with its position on gays -- and the laity has a critical role to play in pushing for these changes. As Cardinal John Henry Newman, the foremost 19th-century Catholic theologian asserted, bishops have at times "failed in their confession of the faith." There can be instances of "misguidance, delusion, hallucination." He said that the body of the faithful has the "instinct for truth."A Catholic dissenter quoting Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman? That takes guts! Newman, newly beatified and sure to be canonized, was an esteemed Anglican churchman who converted to the Catholic Church at enormous personal cost and loss of public status. He wrote the classic masterpiece, Apologia pro Vita Sua, a work of Catholic apologetics "which ends with a brilliant defence of Catholicism". (In other words, he was the opposite of a dissenter, a sort of anti-KKT.)
Guess what else Newman said?
If, again, it be said that a man may be obedient and yet proud of being so, that is, obedient, without having faith, I would maintain, on the other hand, that in matter of fact a man is proud, or (what is sometimes called) self-righteous, not when obedient, but in proportion to his disobedience. To be proud is to rest on one's self, which they are most chargeable with who do least; but a really obedient mind is necessarily dissatisfied with itself, and looks out of itself for help, from understanding the greatness of its task; in other words, in proportion as a man obeys, is he driven to faith, in order to learn the remedy of the imperfections of his obedience.
Already, I have witnessed that instinct for truth in the argument over contraception. Despite the hierarchy's position, 98 percent of Catholic women in the United States use contraception.You must have missed the memo, KKT. That statistic is false. What was that you said again about "you can't trust everybody's self-reporting"? (Nor can you trust statistics about birth control from an organization that was founded to sell it...)
I believe that Human [sic] Vitae [how did she and the editors miss that error?] was the Holy Ghost's way to teach us that we must use our conscience, and not lazily rely on the hierarchy when it is in error.Let's examine this logic. God allowed the Catholic Church to teach error as doctrine (thereby voiding Christ's promise that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church as well as the entire doctrine of infallibility) in order to teach us to use our conscience and not rely on the authority that He Himself established to bind and loose. Oh yeah. That makes sense.
At this time, when the hierarchy does not want to recognize that we are all made in the image and likeness of God,Has she even read the Catechism?
and that the one of the two most critical commandments is to love one another, it is critical to assert that God loves the LGBT community equally.I wasn't aware of any claim from the teaching authority of the Catholic Church to the contrary. Is there a paragraph in the Catechism or a document issued from the Vatican that states that God does NOT love people in the LGBT community? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Sometimes the Church moves slowly, sometimes quickly. The point is to make sure the voices of dissent are not quiet and the Holy Spirit can be heard.Yes, because the LOUDER the voices of dissent are, the EASIER it is to hear the Holy Spirit. Because it's EASY to hear God when people are being LOUD and OBNOXIOUS. Wait, what? Or maybe she is saying that the voices of dissent are the Holy Spirit?? Lord, have mercy.
Well, there you have it, folks. Exhibit A of the terrible consequences of atrocious catechesis from the 1960s and 1970s. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's "case for gay acceptance in the Catholic Church" turns out to be no case at all.
PS: If you think JoAnna is a fringe Catholic, read this.