I watched a few of the early seasons of American Idol, and while I never much cared for those initial episodes in which the patently untalented subjected themselves to the judges’ merciless wrath, I did appreciate Simon Cowell’s recurring observation that most of those earnest losers truly did not realize how bad at singing they were.
“Do you not hear yourself?” Cowell would half-rhetorically ask them, incredulous that these cretins would drain his time, and their dignity, with their ear-splitting, tone-deaf wails. Surely their lack of self-awareness could not be as profound as all that, could it?
I thought of this when I read a recent statement from Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and perhaps the most prominent Catholic clergyman in the United States, about his church’s attitude toward gays.
“We’ve got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people,” said Dolan. “And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that.”
Sounds promising so far. And how does the cardinal propose the Church rectify its undeniable “gay problem”? By endorsing same-sex marriage?
Marriage, said Dolan, is and ought to be defined as “one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life.”
Alright. How about by at least rejecting the famous injunction in Leviticus to “not lie with a male as with a woman” because “it is an abomination,” and the promise, two chapters later, that those who do “shall surely be put to death”?
“I think that we can’t tamper with what God has revealed,” Dolan explained. (He was not responding specifically about the Bible verses in question, but such an answer must necessarily include them.)
OK, I give up. What is the proper means for the Catholic Church to curry favor with the world’s gay community?
Addressing gay Catholics who would profess love for their mother church, Dolan expounded: “I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And we want your happiness. But — and you’re entitled to friendship. But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness — especially when it comes to sexual love — is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.”
I see. We are undeserving of the rights and means of pursuing happiness that you enjoy, but we needn’t fret because you like us anyway.
I gotta say, the archbishop sure knows how to make a guy feel welcomed.
It is much like Tina Fey said, playing Sarah Palin in the Saturday Night Live version of the 2008 vice presidential debate: “Don’t think I don’t tolerate gay people, because I do. I tolerate them with all my heart.”
In their assertions that God loves me, on the one hand, but that I am nonetheless a moral pariah on the other, I wonder (like Simon Cowell) whether Dolan and his ilk can truly hear what they are saying, and whether they understand how fantastically patronizing it sounds.
Of course, a very pronounced parallel to the Church’s gay problem can be seen in the Republican Party’s Hispanic problem here in the States.
Like the Church with gays, the GOP finds itself manifestly distrusted by a disproportionate number of Hispanic voters, who consider the party uninterested, if not outright hostile, to the issues they care most about—particularly what to do about illegal immigrants.
While many Republican congresspersons have implored the party to try harder to earn Hispanics’ support by being more accommodating, they have yet to square the trust circle, thanks to their demurral in changing the policies that fostered this distrust in the first place.
In viewing its mission to win over Hispanic voters as a simple PR problem, the GOP is averting its eyes to the truth of the matter, which is that until it changes its actual views—not merely adjusting the presentation of them—its interests will remain irreconcilable with Hispanics’ interests.
So it is with the Catholic Church. So long as it clings to a theology that dismisses homosexuals as inherently inferior to heterosexuals, any attempts at reconciliation will rightly be dismissed as hollow, facile and just the slightest bit insulting.
Cardinal Dolan and his church have a choice. They can sincerely welcome their gay brothers and sisters into the fold, or they can retain a doctrine that regards such folks as members of a lower, morally wanting class. They cannot have both.