Regular readers all know my deep and abiding feelings (mostly disgust and nausea) for Timmy Cardinal Dolan, child-rape defender and financial fraudster extraordinaire. So I find it entirely unsurprising that in his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos he said some stupid things about gay people and people with no religious affiliation.
This should come with two caveats:
1. At least he wasn’t saying awful things about these particular groups for once.
2. This is April Fool’s Day, or, as Dave Weigle puts is, “‘the internet is unreadable’ day”. That being said, if this is an elaborate prank by ABC, they did a fine job of fabricating video and I tip all of my fabulous hats to them.
Ok? We good? Moving on.
First, Dolan was asked about the Rise of the Nones and if the Church will somehow be able to bring people back in. This is how he responded.
What I’m afraid is that that’s afflicting society in general. That’s afflicting families. That’s afflicting — communities. People want privacy. People crave isolation. We’re hearing parents say that they can’t even get their kids to talk anymore. They’re – they’re tweeting one another. So, this – kinda this craving of individualism, being alone, be – aloofness, that’s afflicting all of culture, all of society. We’re feeling it in the Church, too, because we’re not about ‘me.’ We’re about ‘us.’ We’re about the ‘our.’ We say ‘Our Father.’ But society is saying, ‘It’s me, myself and I.’
Keep in mind that part of the question was about the tone-deafness of the Church, and Dolan displays a tin ear that can only come from decades of sitting through Mass.
He really, truly thinks that child rape, baby snatching, forced castrations, increasing AIDS in Africa, opposition to birth control, opposition to outspoken women, opposition to gay people (do I really need more links about this?), allowing women with difficult pregnancies to die, running unofficial prisons for people who have sinned but broken no laws, and living in opulance during a global economic catasrophe have nothing to do with people leaving the Church? Actually, that’s not a question, of course he does.
The problem, Cardinal Dolan, isn’t that people don’t want to be part of a group or that those of us with no religious affiliation are somehow poor loners who will cut ourselves off from the world in order to avoid the responsibilities that come with knowing people. In fact, this happy little atheist is more social butterfly than most of the people I know, and spends so much time with friends and family it’s often weeks before I have even a minute to myself.
No, the problem is that the “we” you’re offering is a corrupt organization run by terrible people such as yourself. Ones who prize authority over justice, ones who believe themselves above the law, ones who will pursue any ends that result in more power for Holy Mother Church. People want to be part of something larger, but the cesspool that the Church offers is not the one they choose. Instead, people find their connections elsewhere, in healthy spaces that will respect them and their loved ones. Not being part of the Catholic Church isn’t an indication of social dysfunction, it is an indication of good taste.
Next, we see Timmy struggling to deal with how the Church approaches LGBT people. Well, LGB people. As per usual, trans people aren’t addressed unless somebody is freaking out over what bathroom they’ll use.
Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, ‘I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And – and we – 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, that – especially when it comes to sexual love – that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally. We got to be – we got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody.
Here, I can only fault him with believing in something stupid and bigoted. To an extent, he’s correct. If these are your beliefs, it’s very, very difficult to not come across as if you’re against people.
I would argue that “trying [your] darndest” would be to avoid calling sex between queer people “intrinsically disordered” and describing homosexuality as a “condition” that needs to be “overcome.” Also, using Christmas to say that gay marriage is a “manipulation of nature” and calling it a threat to world peace. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Dolan is being legit and the Church really is trying not to be “anti-anybody.”
He still runs into a problem: there is no way to communicate the message that the emotional connections between people and the physical manifestation of those connections are evil without also condemning the people who have them. No amount of dancing around the subject or drawing imaginary lines between “nature” and “actions” can make a position like that anything but anti-somebody. The Vatican is trapped by their own dogma, and no brilliant theologian is going to show up and demonstrate how they can maintain their current opinions while not appearing hateful and bigoted.
People are therefore left with two choices if they disagree with that stance: stick around and hope things will change or leave. Personally, I support the latter, for obvious reasons. If your life if inextricably intertwined with the Church, especially in your community, it can be difficult to walk away, and that is entirely understandable. But if you’re going out of habit, surely you can find something else that better matches your experience of the world around you. Obviously, I’ve chosen reality, a system in which I work with the things I know and can check with independent observers to get an idea of what “truth” there is to be found. Some people prefer to think there is somehow more out there, which is fine, though I can’t imagine how much more you could want with such a universe as we can observe. Some people like the sense of community that is provided by a worship ceremony, and I assure you that there are plenty of places where you can find that without being part of the Church.
I have no doubt that there are other reasons people stick around, but I really hope they reconsider. What this interview shows us, more than any of the bigoted tirades in the past, is that the Church leadership really doesn’t get it. They don’t understand why so few of their parishioners actually agree with them, they don’t get why people have been walking away from religion in droves, and they don’t get that the way to stop saying terrible things is to abandon the terrible beliefs that drive them.
The Church is failing to reach out to LGBT people, allies, and Nones because it refused to accept responsibility for any of its mistakes and fix them, as if we still lived in a world where they are not easily found by anybody who cares to make an effort. The Church is stuck: it needs to change, but it can’t without actually changing. The question becomes, is a Church that will one day be relegated to impoverished African citizens and a handful of people on the other continents worth trying to maintain doctrinal purity? That’s slowly what’s happening. Timmy Dolan will probably not live to see the ruins left of his once mighty Church, but his successor just might, then maybe they will find their way to accepting other people on their merits, the same way they had to do for an earth that orbits the sun.
(h/t Pam’s House Blend)