Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Flag-waving, Bible-thumping


I received one of those Flag-waving, bible thumping emails today and this was my response: 
The problem as I see it is that God has been co-opted to serve the prejudices of whoever thinks they have the corner on truth. 
People of dubious faith pick and choose what parts of the bible suit them: they will use passages to condemn gays and lesbians but think it perfectly OK not to feed the hungry or clothe the naked. 
They will complain about being persecuted but ignore the treatment of blacks, Muslims, the handicapped and disabled, the mentally challenged or the disfigured, the homeless, the poor, all of whom their bible in one way or another instructs them to respect, serve and alleviate their suffering. 
They attribute to God their silly notions of using weather to punish a geographical area for some transgression or another but deny the science of climate change. 
They enjoy the privilege of health care while denying affordable health care to the masses.
I'm getting really tired of having so-called "Christianity" shoved in my face. 

And it reminds me of a re-write I did of another post back a couple of years ago. I'll insert the revised edition here:
As Published in Today's American Catholic  April 2013

A Reflection on Easter Past: The Last Station of the Cross 

by Frank DeFrancesco

I write this as one with deep roots in the Catholic tradition, but I have been cut off from the Catholic community for so long now, that I barely speak the language.  I went from Et cum spiritu tuo to being a Catholic in exile and finally to being a man without a church.  

Before I go on, you should know that I struggled, perhaps for too long and needlessly, with my God-given sexuality throughout my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood.  It was a sometimes arduous journey with confessors and penances, and therapists and tears along the way, until I was finally able to accept and fully embrace my gay identity at the age of 36. I knew then I could not sit at a communal table where I was not fully welcome.

Now, when I look at the Catholic Church from my vantage point in the secular world, I experience a brief, but telling, twinge of homesickness in spite of the fact that I notice the broken windows, the crumbling bricks and the old men in funny clothes talking about who they won’t let in.  

But I am well aware of the more mature realizations that I have come to: that I have no Ruby Slippers and I cannot go home; that my home has ceased to exist; and that perhaps that home always was an illusion.  

It sometimes saddens me that I cannot conform, or bring myself to believe any longer in the Catholic myths or mysteries.  In some respect, my life would have been much easier if I had fit the parameters of what is acceptable.  If I could have listened, prayed, communed, participated as, for example, the male head of a neat, little, nuclear, heterosexual family rather than as someone who was condemned, shunned, and ultimately exiled.  

If my authenticity and conscience had remained unchallenged, my life as a Catholic would have been so easy, wouldn’t it?  

But I have moved on, and that is good.  I now rarely see the inside of a church, except for funerals – and that only out of respect for the family of a deceased relative or friend.  I don’t celebrate the religious holydays and am less inclined to celebrate even the secular aspects of religious holidays: I no longer get ashes on Ash Wednesday nor do I weave palm fronds into crosses on Palm Sunday like my father taught me and his father taught him; I no longer fast or abstain out of any religious obligation or sit in a pew moved by the liturgy of Holy Saturday; OK, I confess that I did indulge in a chocolate Easter bunny – but that’s about it.

What Gethsemane has brought me to this place on the hill where I gaze upon a man who is broken and bloody for his message of love?

I could talk about Dignity, a faith community of Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans Catholics that I was a part of, where, for a time, I shared a wistful hope and a grounded belief that the Catholic Church might come to a new, brave and enlightened understanding of our lived experience as gay men and women and embrace us in the love of Christ.

I could talk about the Alice-in-Wonderland-Theology that, in its lack of wisdom and logic, would theoretically allow me to sin and to repent repeatedly under a great burden of guilt - but deny me the sacraments if I entered into a committed, loving relationship with another man.   

I could talk about the all too many priests I knew who, using similar illogic had “reasoned away” their commitment to celibacy, and were living in sexual relationships with other men – priests who continued to say Mass and consecrate bread and wine, while representing the Church that condemned me and my sexuality and required me to be celibate, despite my never having taken a vow.
I could talk about how I turned the other cheek, again and again, so that the Church hierarchy - its popes and bishops and priests - but specifically in the person of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, could slap me harder, and repeatedly, until the final blow, calling me and those like me “objectively disordered”, and having a “more or less strong tendency toward moral evil”.  

Those words were uttered in all seriousness and lacked even a hint of compassion.  After some reflection, and deeply hurt, I finally lost heart and walked away.

But what I really want to talk about is what I call the “New” Catholic Church – the one that has seemingly transformed itself over the past thirty years so that I no longer recognize it.  And they say the Church is slow to change!

It seems this “New” Catholic Church, has abandoned the poor, the marginalized and the victimized, all of whom, like Christ on his walk to Golgotha, have received exceptionally brutal treatment by “believers” of many stripes in recent times.  

It seems this “New” Catholic Church has been disturbingly silent on matters that cry out for love, justice and compassion but has been disturbingly vocal on issues that promote divisiveness, hate and conservative ideologies.  

Where is the voice of the Catholic Church speaking on behalf of the struggling working classes and the poor on whose backs the wealthy thrive like parasites? – a church that had always professed a belief in "an option for the poor".

Where is the voice of the Catholic Church speaking out against the hoarding of obscene wealth by corporations and individuals who hold greed as a virtue? – a church that had always professed a belief in the words of Jesus that it is “harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to go through a needle's eye”?

Where is the voice of the Catholic Church on behalf of Mother Earth, condemning the waste, the wanton disregard for the environment and the wanton use of limited resources by the wealthy few while the poor are left to subsist on table scraps? – a church that had always professed to hold creation sacred.

Where is the voice of the Catholic Church on behalf of those who have no option for health care or who cannot afford health care? – a church that had always professed that it is a work of mercy to care for the sick.

Where is the voice of the Catholic Church speaking out against the evangelization of government? – a church that had always professed a belief in the words of Jesus to "render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's".

Where is the voice of the Catholic Church speaking out against the atrocities perpetrated by pedophile priests?  or speaking with humility to put the victims of abuse ahead of its need to hide the truth? – a church that had taught the spiritual grace of humility, penance and repentance.

Where is the voice of the Catholic Church on behalf of gay and lesbian and transgender children – too many of whom take their own lives or are the victims of violence? – a church that professes an unconditional support of all life but for its own nearsighted doctrines, actually puts these children at risk rather than embrace and acknowledge them as authentic children of God.

Where is the voice of the Catholic Church rising in outrage against so-called evangelists who take advantage of the elderly and other vulnerable followers to aggrandize themselves and amass personal wealth?
Where is the voice of the Catholic Church speaking out against a fanatical so-called “christian" church that pickets funerals of American servicemen, gays and others with signs that proclaim, "God hates..."?

Where, indeed!  Instead, over the past years the Catholic Church spoke out lest women receive health services it disapproves of.

Instead they reneged on their mission and service to the poor, the sick and orphans rather than provide health benefits to legally married spouses of employees; they closed their doors rather than allow children to go to “non-traditional,” loving homes.

Instead they loudly condemn the love and commitment of two men or two women in marriage while they tolerate the annulments, divorces and serial marriages of opposite sex couples, all the while waving a banner proclaiming the "Sanctity of Marriage".

Instead they excommunicated an intelligent, dedicated religious Sister for making a difficult, conscientious, life-or-death medical decision to save a woman's life while under her hospital's purview.

Instead they denied communion to a woman at her mother's funeral Mass instead of offering the sacrament in love and compassion.

Instead they withdrew financial support from a homeless shelter because the director advocates same-gender marriage, even though they say they believe in the merciful work to "shelter the homeless".

Instead they intimidated the religious Sisters in America who have been living and working in the true spirit of the gospels and under the guidance provided by the Second Vatican Council.

You get the gist. 
It is no longer an option for me to try to "change things from within".  There was a time when I thought it was possible, when being a “dissenting” Catholic was an authentic option.  I think this is no longer the case.  The "New" Catholic Church is a different church altogether.  I do no not recognize this new heretical church and I think it has lost whatever vestige of moral authority it had left.   

I cannot help but imagine that if Jesus Christ could see his "followers" today, He would certainly "turn in his grave" so to speak. The passion of Christ lives on, but Resurrection seems highly unlikely. 

Frank DeFrancesco, critic and sometimes apologist, was educated in Catholic schools, received a BA from St Michael’s College, Vermont and an MA from St Joseph College, Connecticut.  A former member of the board of Dignity Hartford, Frank lives with his husband of 27 years and their dog Bennie who was named in spite of that other Pope.

2 comments:

Mitchell is Moving said...

Uff! From whom do you receive those flag-waving, bible-thumping emails?!? I'd mark them as SPAM and never read one again.

Russ Manley said...

You GO, Frank. Great essay, right on target.

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