Fr. Bryan Massingale: ‘I come to this conversation as a Black, gay priest and theologian.’

Bryan N. Massingale is a Catholic priest who holds the Professor
James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham University.

Tom Roberts has written an excellent opinion piece in National Catholic Reporter titled It’s not about ethics, it’s about how we imagine God, on preeminent theologian Bryan Massingale’s July address in which he shifts the conversation on LGBTQ Catholics.

“I come to this conversation as a Black, gay priest and theologian,” said Massingale at a July 4 talk titled “The Challenge of Idolatry for LGBTQI Ministry,” at the 50th anniversary conference of DignityUSA, a group that self describes as “Celebrating the wholeness and holiness of LGBTQI Catholics.” DignityUSA also hosted a four-day gathering of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics prior to the conference.

Here is an excerpt from Massingale’s email and phone conversation with Tom Roberts:

The major challenge we face as sexually minoritized persons is not a problem of sexual ethics. We tend to think, and we are told, that our problems in church and society stem from our nonconformity with the church’s moral code. 

But the church has a solution for that issue. If you sin, you can go to confession. You receive forgiveness and absolution. … Our deepest problem — the one that causes us the most pain, alienation, and self-estrangement — is that we’ve been told a false story about God and have been given false images of God. That’s our problem. 

Underlying all of the struggles we endure around the world and the stories that we’ve heard throughout this assembly — stories of being kicked out of parishes, ostracized from our families, and in general being not welcome — underlying all of these experiences is a story that Catholicism tells about itself.

At the heart of this story is that to be Catholic is to be straight. “Catholic” = “straight.” Official Catholicism tells a story where only heterosexual persons, heterosexual love, heterosexual intimacy, heterosexual families — only these can unambiguously mirror the Divine. Only these are truly sacred. Genuinely holy. Only these are worthy of unreserved acceptance and respect. All other persons and expressions of love, family life, intimacy, and sexual identity are sacred (if at all) only by toleration or exception.

In effect, we are told that we are “afterthoughts” in the story of creation, not part of the original plan. In other words, we are “children of a lesser god.” … Yes, we certainly need to rethink our church’s official sexual ethics. But even more, we have to rethink God.Bryan Massingale


Trump Supporters and Dignity?

usa-election-trumpHere are two good articles that have helped me think about The Donald differently … or perhaps I should say the Trumpeters, differently. (Donald Trump is who he is.) Maybe the Trumpeters want something more from America than they’ve been getting–economically, culturally, or politically. Maybe they want their dignity back.

I’m not quite sure why, but Americans seem very willing to give over their dignity to whomever asks (as TSA pat downs  and social media shaming prove). Maybe it’s the cancerous capitalism and culture of consuming. If the market establishes the value on everything, then who am I to claim my own self worth?

George Lakoff is famous for defining conservative and liberal “frames” and the values associated with them. He says that to be effective one must argue from within the proper frame. Trump has mastered the conservative frame and is arguing brilliantly within it. Whether Trump is “conservative” or not, hardly matters.

Emma Lindsay unpacks Trumps strategic use of race-baiting to consolidate his base and confuse his opponents. In Duane Carr’s A Question of Class: The Redneck Stereotype in Southern Fiction he writes: “The practice of race-baiting by politicians, pitting working-class whites against African-Americans [or “Mexicans”] in order to control both, has been well-documented. … As [Kenneth] Stamp explains: ‘In a society of unequals–of privileged and inferior castes of wealth and poverty–the need to find some group to feel superior to is given a desperate urgency.'” Hence, seeking dignity.

1. Why Trump? by George Lakoff (Huffington Post)

Family-based moral worldviews run deep. Since people want to see themselves as doing right not wrong, moral worldviews tend to be part of self-definition — who you most deeply are. And thus your moral worldview defines for you what the world should be like. When it isn’t that way, one can become frustrated and angry.

There is a certain amount of wiggle room in the strict father worldview and there are important variations. A major split is among (1) white Evangelical Christians, (2) laissez-fair free market conservatives, and (3) pragmatic conservatives who are not bound by evangelical beliefs. …

Trump is a pragmatic conservative, par excellence. And he knows that there are a lot of Republican voters who are like him in their pragmatism. There is a reason that he likes Planned Parenthood. There are plenty of young, unmarried (or even married) pragmatic conservatives, who may need what Planned Parenthood has to offer — cheaply and confidentially.

Similarly, young or middle-aged pragmatic conservatives want to maximize their own wealth. They don’t want to be saddled with the financial burden of caring for their parents. Social Security and Medicare relieve them of most of those responsibilities. That is why Trump wants to keep Social Security and Medicare. …

2. Trump Supporters Aren’t Stupid by Emma Lindsay (Medium)

“Normally, when liberals talk about racism, they use “racist” as an end point. “Trump is racist” is, by itself, a reason not to vote for him, and “being racist” is an indicator of a person who is morally deficient.

But, if you don’t take this as an end point?—?if you instead ask “what do people get out of being racist?”?—?you’ll start to unravel the emotional motivations behind it. One of the best unpacking of this I have read is Matt Bruenig’s pieceLast Place Avoidance and Poor White Racism. To summarize, no one wants to occupy the “last” place in society. No one wants to be the most despised. As long as racism remains intact, poor white people are guaranteed not to be “the worst.” If racism is ever truly dismantled, then poor white people will occupy the lowest rung of society, and the shame of occupying this position is very painful. This shame is so painful, that the people at risk of feeling it will vote on it above all other issues.”

@Pontifex on Your Right to a Decent Job

Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis
Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis
Today Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Here’s what he said:

“… The State of social rights must not be dismantled, and in particular the right to work must be protected. This must not be considered a variable, dependent upon financial and monetary markets. It is a fundamental right for dignity, for the formation of a family, for the realisation of the common good and for peace.

Education and work and access to welfare for all are key elements both for development and for the just distribution of goods, for achieving social justice and for belonging to society, and for participating freely and responsibly in political life, understood as the management of the “res publica.”

Ideas that claim to increase income at the cost of restricting the job market and creating further exclusion are not coherent with an economy at the service of man and the common good, or with an inclusive and participatory democracy”.–Pope Francis 

Read the whole statement here: To Justice and Peace: rising inequality and poverty endanger democracy (Oct. 2, 2014)

‘D’oh! I Thought This Was A Confessional’

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, declared Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie (aka The Simpsons) to be a Roman Catholic family.

With more than 20 years of episodes under their belts, the dysfunctional working-class family whose dynamics and perspectives offer biting social critique of American society have found a home under the Vatican wing. L’Osservatore Romano wrote:

…In an article headlined “Homer and Bart are Catholics”, the Vatican newspaper said: “The Simpsons are among the few TV programs for children in which Christian faith, religion, and questions about God are recurrent themes.”

The family “recites prayers before meals and, in their own peculiar way, believes in the life thereafter”. It quoted an analysis by a Jesuit priest, Father Francesco Occhetta, of a 2005 episode of The Simpsons, “The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star,” which revolved around Catholicism and was aired a few weeks after the death of Pope John Paul II.

The episode starts with Bart being expelled from Springfield Elementary School and being enrolled in a Catholic school where he meets a sympathetic priest, voiced by the actor Liam Neeson, who draws him into Catholicism with his kindness. Homer then decides to convert to Catholicism, to the horror of his wife Marge, the Rev Lovejoy and Ned Flanders. The episode touches on issues such as religious conflict, interfaith dialogue, homosexuality and stem cell research.

“Few people know it, and he does everything he can to hide it, but it is true: Homer J Simpson is a Catholic,” insists L’Osservatore Romano.

The Simpsons even skewers its own success. See below U.K. graffiti artist Banksy’s dark satire of the sweat shops that produce Simpsons paraphernalia.

One could call it an animated reflection on Rerum Novarum: On Capital and Labor (Pope Leo XIII, 1891) and “the right of workers and dignity of work.”