Catholics for Equality: Laudable, Laughable, or Simply Oxymoronic?
Crossposted on ZackFord Blogs
This week, a group called Catholics for Equality officially launched.
Catholics for Equality empowers pro-equality Catholics to put our faith into ethical and effective political action on behalf of the LGBT community and their families.
Something about "pro-equality Catholic" just doesn't sit right with me. There's very little in Catholicism that in any way resembles "equality" and Catholicism has never been known for being pro-anything. Let's hear a little bit more from their website:
Drawing on the rich tradition of Catholic social justice teachings, grounded in the Gospel message of Love, American Catholics are among the strongest supporters of equality for LGBT people of any religious group in the U.S.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HE HE HE HE HE HE HE!! WHOO! I'm rolling around on the floor. Seriously ROTFLMFAO!!! That's the best joke I've heard all day. You can't be serious, right? I mean, the Catholics come close, but it's definitely the Mormons who are the strongest supporters of LGBT equality, by far. Oh, that's rich, or it would be if it weren't so offensive to all the religious groups who do actually support LGBT equality.
Now, mocking aside, what they're talking about is that there is a rift between congregants and the leadership. Catholics for Equality is a group designed to oppose the bishops. The Catholic Church isn't exactly democratic or egalitarian in any conceivable way, so if congregants don't want to accept what the leadership is spoon-feeding, they have to form a separate group to represent their point of view, and this is such a group.
The question here is: what does it mean to be "Catholic?"
Is it anyone who maintains belief in the holy trinity? Is it anybody who just chooses it as a cultural identifier regardless of belief? There are a lot of folks in these categories who can be heard to say, "Well, I was raised Catholic." Is it anyone who is technically still on the books as Catholic? If that's the case, then I'm Catholic too.
When I think of people who openly identify as Catholic, I think of people who are still actively participating in the Catholic Church. This seems a fitting assumption for Catholics for Equality; they want to mobilize Catholic voters, influence legislation, and even get some pro-equality Catholics into office. I don't think a lapsed Catholic (and flagrant atheist) like me would count as a victory for them.
Let's grant the premise that there is a difference between Catholics and the Catholic Church. I despise the Catholic Church, and without writing an extensive rant, I think it's safe to say that centuries of oppression of women and children, hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of anti-gay ballot measures, and the withholding of safe-sex education that would slow the spread of HIV in Africa are plenty of leg to stand on. (The fact that I was involuntarily assumed into Catholic membership is just icing on the cake for my unabashed bias.) I don't despise Catholics, but if someone is going to identify as a Catholic for Equality, that person must convince me that they are actively working against all the injustice the Catholic Church stands for. And it does; platitudes about social justice teachings in Catholicism do nothing to excuse the behemoth of bigotry that was and is the institution of the Catholic Church.
So if there are several key points in Catholic dogma you don't agree with, what does it say if you still identify as Catholic? That sounds like cognitive dissonance to me. I would ask such a person, "Why do you still identify as Catholic?" Sure, it could be for reasons I mentioned above, like it's the term that still best resonates with a person's personal religious belief or it's an ethnocultural marker (like Irish Catholic or Italian Catholic). But if you're actively participating in the Catholic Church or any of its ministries, that strikes me as a huge conflict.
The bottom line, I think, is whether or not a person contributes any money to the Catholic Church. I can get past a person identifying with the word "Catholic" and I can even keep my cool with people enjoying Mass. I think it's boring as hell (and I'm still going to challenge you on your religious beliefs), but I can at least appreciate how someone might like the pageantry and ritual. However, if you allow a single penny from your pocket to make it into that offering basket or tithing envelope, we have a problem.
Giving the Church money is giving the Church your blessing. It's enabling the Church to continue doing what the Church does. It's an investment. It's an assumption of accountability for the Church's actions. And honestly, if you give to the Church and then tell me you support LGBT equality, I will probably just laugh, because knowingly or unknowingly, you are participating in hypocrisy.
That's why I really struggle with Catholics for Equality. I want to support them; I really do. I am sure that they will educate some Catholics and make some positive change. I also truly appreciate the way they stand for separation of church (Church) and state. But ultimately, it's just political masturbation. More Catholic influence on our culture is not going to do anything to help me in my life as a gay man. I don't want more Catholics in power. As it is, I have to worry that the Supreme Court won't uphold my right to equal protection specifically because it's got so many Catholics on it. If you're supporting the Church and working against the Church at the same time, are you actually making any progress?
The whole reason I started blogging is because I saw beliefs to be the problem. The intellectual fallacies I could understand as a freethinker were the same ones I saw oppressing me as a gay man. We wouldn't have a problem with homophobia and transphobia (or heck, even patriarchy) if religious organizations did not continually push negative beliefs that ignore our modern-day understandings of sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Why should we applaud members of an organization hell-bent on resisting social justice for trying to support social justice without disavowing the very group they're working against?
Were this group Ex-Catholics for Equality or even Lapsed Catholics for Equality, I'd applaud them for organizing. But Catholics for Equality? That sounds about as absurd as Quakers for War, Jehovah's Witnesses for Blood Transfusions, or Muslims for Female Immodesty. If you want to support equality, take responsibility for resisting it in the first place.