Why Your Love Looks Like Hate, pt. 2

Because you can’t keep your arguments straight.

Your company line, Catholic Right, is that you oppose homosexual acts and gay marriage not because you hate gay people, but because your church teaches that any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin and gay couples, by definition, can’t be married. Because marriage is inherently procreative. In no way, you tell me over and over, does that diminish your love for gay people.

I think that reasoning is wrong, but I understand it. The problem, Catholic Right, is that so many of you don’t seem to get it.  

Maybe you’ve read about the dust-up in North Carolina at Charlotte Catholic High School; if not, Bill Lindsey has (as always) excellent coverage here. Here’s the gist: Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel was brought in to talk about the “theology of the body,” and, in doing so, she strayed far from that company line. According to students, she 1) claimed that homosexuality is caused by masturbation, pornography, and family deficiencies (such as a father’s absence), and 2) suggested that gay people are incapable of monogamy and of raising healthy, well-adjusted children.

While there is no recording of the speech, diocese spokesperson David Hains acknowledged that Sister Jane Dominic’s speech was “not the one he expected her to give” and that “[d]uring her speech, Laurel quoted studies that said gays and lesbians are not born with same-sex attractions, and that children in single-parent homes have a greater chance of becoming homosexual.”

None of that is Catholic doctrine, even by the strictest, most orthodox interpretation. None of it. N-O-N-E. There is no ex cathedra pronouncement that masturbation or bad parenting leads to homosexuality, no conciliar decree stating that gay people are inherently non-monogamous. Nor are those things objective fact—there are lots of studies, and counter-examples, that contradict Sister Jane Dominic’s reported claims. And the effect of these claims is to demean gay people and their families. In other words, even if Sister Jane Dominic’s words don’t come from a place of anti-gay prejudice, they sure look like they do. 

And yet, the Catholic Right’s reaction to this incident has, typically, framed students’ protests as a rejection of Catholic doctrine. To wit:

1. According to the Charlotte Observer, “The Rev. Tim Reid, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, sent an email lauding the nun, saying ‘she represented well the Catholic positions on marriage, sex, same-sex attraction and proper gender roles … The Church has already lost too many generations of Catholic schools students to … a very muddled and watered-down faith.’”

2. Patheos blogger Katrina Fernandez snarked, “Apparently the students at Charlotte Catholic High School had a bit of a problem with a nun teaching *gasp* Catholic doctrine.”

3. Father John Zuhlsdorf wrote, “This is the was [sic] it is going to be for a long-time, friends.  If we Catholics (read: faithful to the teachings of the Church concerning faith and morals) actual [sic] dare to speak in public about those teaches [sic] favorably or attempt to govern our lives by them, the blowback will be instantaneous, relentless, savage.”

Of course, the students haven’t been protesting the teaching of Catholic doctrine. Here’s the petition of protest written by student Emma Winter. Read it and you’ll notice that her objections are not to church teachings, but to unsupportable, non-magisterial claims that oh, by the way, also happen to disparage gay people and their families. The only two bullet points that could be construed as objections to the teaching of Catholic doctrine are the last two, in which Winter questions why the school held an assembly to “blast the issue of homosexuality” in the first place. But in that question, as she notes, she’s following Pope Francis—and obviously with good reason, since 1) much of Sister Laurel’s presentation wasn’t Catholic doctrine anyway and 2) was hurtful to some of the students listening to her.

In fact, reading that petition, it seems to me that a sincere, conservative Catholic opponent of gay marriage—one who hews to the company line I outlined above—could sign on to most of its complaints.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. Catholic Right, last week I gave you one reason why your “love” for gay people often reads as hate. This is another.

Ask yourself these questions:

When a nun used bad science to demean gays, why did a chorus of you rise up to defend that as doctrine?

How do you think it looked to the rest of us when you did that?

And how do you expect others to distinguish between your religious beliefs and anti-gay prejudice when you can’t draw that distinction yourselves?


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