Monday, March 8, 2010

Suffer the Little Children

Still feeling under the weather, but this item caught my attention today: the Denver Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church notified a lesbian couple that their child would not be allowed to re-enroll in a Catholic pre-school he had been attending. Some school staff members expressed their displeasure to a television reporter, but they "asked to remain anonymous" -- wisely, since open disagreement with the hierarchy is a good way to lose your job. (Jesus knows who they are, though, and he's making a list.) What, you think the Roman Catholic Church is a democracy?

There is talk of organizing a protest, which is nice, but it's not likely to have any effect. "One woman leaving Mass said she disagreed with the decision as well. 'I just feel the Catholic Church is a church that should be teaching acceptance and tolerance,' Juli Aderman-Hagerty said. 'I just don't think this is an example of that.'" Naive, isn't she? The Church has the legal right to discriminate in this area as well as others, "legal experts" told journalists.

But you have to remember, the Church had only the child's best interests at heart. The pastor of the parish in question explained in his online column:
If a child of gay parents comes to our school, and we teach that gay marriage is against the will of God, then the child will think that we are saying their parents are bad. We don't want to put any child in that tough position -- nor do we want to put the parents, or the teachers, at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Why would good parents want their children to learn something they don't believe in? It doesn't make sense. There are so many schools in Boulder that see the meaning of sexuality in an entirely different way than the Catholic Church does. Why not send their child there?
Really? The Church is fulminating against gay marriage in pre-school? Still, Father Bill has a point. Why would caring parents send their child to a pre-school run by a hate group that denounces their relationship? Normally I'm not wild about terms like "hate group," but I'm using it here because non-religious groups which agitate against minority groups as the Church does against gays would be labeled hate groups in a heartbeat by nice liberals. I think that if you're going to call Fred Phelps a preacher of hate, you should do the same with Pope Benedict XVI, who has a long record of antigay bigotry, seeking to interfere not just in the lives of Catholics but of non-Catholics and secular society as well, and who can't even bring himself to denounce the pending Uganda law which would execute gay people.

I must say I don't believe Father Bill's claim that he doesn't want to put a child in a "tough position" by denouncing the lifestyle of its parents. But as David Gibson, the writer I've linked to, points out:
Still, critics wondered why any child should be singled out for rejection because of his or her parents, but also why a gay couple was being singled out given that many parents of students at Catholic schools are divorced or remarried or unmarried, or using birth control or living lifestyles that church teaching would also consider sinful.

Moreover, many Catholic schools across the country gladly enroll non-Catholic students, and in some urban areas the percentage of non-Catholic students reaches upward of 90 percent. How such families would fit into the rigorous definition offered by the Denver archdiocese was unclear.
Gibson says that those who disapprove of this decision have "little legal recourse" apart from "public protests." I suppose he has in mind demonstrations with chants and signs. That's true for the mothers of the child involved in this case, but I suspect that if enough other parents were to identify themselves as divorced and remarried, single mothers, using birth control, or practicing other naughty lifestyles that the Church disapproves, so that the school had to decide whether principle trumped tuition, it might have some effect. Or they could simply remove their children from the pre-school. Maybe that would shake things up. But maybe not. Maybe there's a long waiting list and defectors could be replaced easily. The key point is that no responsible parent, regardless of sexual orientation or religion, should be supporting the Roman Catholic Church. Every time you turn around, there's new reason to support my position.

P.S. Roy Ashburn, the antigay California State Senator who was arrested for driving erratically after leaving a gay bar with a date, has come out in an interview on a conservative radio talk-show.
“The best way to handle that is to be truthful and to say to my constituents and all who care that I am gay,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s something that has affected, nor will it affect, how I do my job.”
Ashburn has voted against a number of gay rights measures, including efforts to expand anti-discrimination laws and recognize out-of-state gay marriages. Last year, he opposed a bill to establish a day of recognition to honor slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk. ...
Ashburn said his votes reflected the way constituents in his district wanted him to vote, not necessarily his own views. ...
In the radio interview, Ashburn said he is drawing on his Christian faith, and he asked people to pray for him.
He said he does not plan to run for any public office after his term ends this year.
I do feel a little bit sorry for Ashburn -- married, father of four, 55 years old, he's been carrying a heavy burden for a long time. (I feel sorrier for his family, though. You know how politicians exploit their families to get into office -- especially right-wing politicians.) But let me see, he's served in "statewide office" for fourteen years, since the mid-90s. That's a long time after Stonewall, after Harvey Milk, after all sorts of cultural changes that he could not have ignored entirely. He was no kid when he sold himself to people who hated him, so he could be a politician. There were other options available; he chose the lifestyle of a professional antigay bigot, so my sympathy for him is limited. My sympathy and admiration have always gone to people who had the courage to go against the current, or those who suffered for it, sometimes paying with their lives, thanks in part to people like Roy Ashburn.