A Tough Time to Wear the Cross

Last month was a tough one for Catholics in the Philadelphia area, but because their leaders tend to be tone deaf when it comes to their public pronouncements, they managed to take bad and make it worse.

First, a serious issue: a Pennsylvania court overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage. This is a controversial issue, and it’s one about which reasonable people will disagree. The leader of the region’s Catholic church probably had no choice but to speak out against it, despite the moral authority he lacks because he is the latest in a long line of protectors of child molesters.   Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput issued the following statement, as published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Today’s federal District Court decision striking down Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act is a mistake with long-term negative consequences,” he said.

“Like many other Pennsylvanians, I hope that an appeal will be made promptly. Laws that defend the traditional definition of marriage were enacted for sound reasons – namely to defend the rights of children and contribute to the well-being of the larger community.

“Marriage is more than a private arrangement between two people. It’s a public commitment of love and fidelity, and it’s ordered not just to companionship but to creating and rearing new life. This is why every child deserves a mother and a father in a loving marriage, and the child is the fruit of that love,” he said.

For starters, the idea of defending a practice simply because it’s a “traditional definition” is a pretty dicey proposition. Would Charlie have defended slavery simply because it was a well-established tradition? Would he have defended the exploitation of child labor in this country because it was so common and accepted? Would he have spoken out on behalf of the total subordination of women to society as a whole and to the men in their families? (Whoops: the church hasn’t really seen the light on this no-brainer.)

As noted, Charlie had little choice but to speak out on this issue, but in so doing, he manages even to offend The Curmudgeon, a non-Catholic. The Curmudgeon finds Charlie’s suggestion that marriage exists to create and rear new life deeply offensive. The Curmudgeon is fifty-six years old and has never been married, and he’d welcome an opportunity to change that. In the World According to Charlie, however, marriage should be no more available to The Curmudgeon than it should be to a gay couple.

So where’s the memo to parish priests telling them not to officiate at weddings in which the marrying couple is past a reasonable age for procreation?

And where’s the requirement of fertility tests for when the participants are of procreating age?

A little consistency please, Charlie.

Next, the not-so-serious issue.

In a suburb of Philadelphia, the principal of a Catholic elementary school “recalled” invitations to an Oscars-themed school graduation dance because that invitation bore the image of the host of this year’s television Oscars broadcast, Ellen DeGeneres.

Again, this is a subject about which reasonable people will disagree, and while The Curmudgeon doesn’t agree, he respects that some people believe Ms. DeGeneres to be a DeGenerate. But the deed was already done and the invitations were already out, so the principal should have just acknowledged the error internally and let it go. (But while we’re on the subject, why would a church-affiliated school have a dance with a theme involving the entertainment industry when the religious right so regularly criticizes that industry for its moral turpitude?)

But no, the principal had to apologize to her students’ parents for her lapsed judgment, and this is where she inserted her foot deep, deep into her mouth.

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer,

It was “completely wrong” to use DeGeneres’ picture because the lesbian celebrity “lives her life outside the teachings of the Catholic Church,” St. Andrew Elementary School principal Nancy Matteo wrote in an email to parents on Tuesday.

And there’s more from the principal, the Inquirer reports.

“Perhaps I was distracted by the Oscar,” she wrote, calling the entertainer a “poor role model.”

“A role model, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is a person who is unusually effective or inspiring in some social role, job, position, etc.,” the email says. “This does not describe her at all.”

The Curmudgeon knows what it’s like to feel like an oppressed minority and can tell stories about it that would leave you shaking your head. He knows that you can’t fight every battle, that you must, as Kenny Rogers once sang, know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. As the leader of a region of hundreds of thousands of Catholics, the archbishop probably had no choice but to speak out. He did so inelegantly, ham-handedly, and in a clumsy manner that both his parishioners and those who live alongside them have come to know and expect and dread. But if there’s really something wrong with putting the host of the Oscars broadcast on the invitation to an Oscars-themed dance, then the principal should have privately – and not in writing – acknowledged that she screwed up but realized that any public communication about that screw-up was going to make a bad situation worse and cast her, her school, and her religion in a bad light.

Sometimes, you just have to fold ‘em.

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Comments

  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On June 2, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I seem to recall that when a Pope Francis was asked about gays earlier this year, he replied along the lines of “who am I to judge?”– a small step forward. The church ( and the pope) have not been even that benevolent about women to date. But “who am I to judge?” Is a good start. The cardinals and others ought to take notes.

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On June 2, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Agreed. It’s amazing how perceptions can change over time. The Inquirer included an article yesterday about a man who came out of the closet more than 30 years ago and left his wife after fathering two children and was denied all but minimal visitation rights with his kids because numerous judges simply could not fathom the possibility that there wasn’t something wholly defective about the guy from which his children needed protection.

      As for the church’s attitude toward women, well, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath unless you’ve got tremendous lungs.

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